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Sangha of an Open Heart

April 24, 2016

Community is rad. The desire to connect with other people is strong within all of us, even if the level and style of connection we desire varies between us. In Sanskrit we call this “Sangha”.


I moved to Portland, Oregon about 2 years ago from the area of Detroit, Michigan where I had spent the first 27 years of my life and had found myself a part of a wonderful community. I had friends I’d grown up with, I’d only ever really practiced yoga at my home studio where I was trained as a teacher, and I was really close with my family. I came to Portland knowing pretty much no one – no friends, no yoga sangha, no ties to the community. It was hard, but I was really happy because I was living an adventure in a fun new place where I saw a lot of great opportunities beginning to present themselves to me.


However, there was one really big problem I was having. I had eczema on my hands for years with varying degrees of severity that had now gotten so bad I often couldn’t practice yoga (sometimes couldn’t perform basic daily self-care tasks). At one point it blew up all over the soles of my feet as well so I could barely walk. I’m a really active person, so this was really hard for me to deal with — oh, and I was in terrible pain all the time.


The two most common explanations for the cause of eczema breakouts are allergies and stress. So, I locked down on my food allergies and went hard-core to make sure I wasn’t eating anything that didn’t agree with me.


Stress? What stress? I had plenty of money saved to get me through a few months of unemployment while I figured out new studios to teach at (which was already going well) and spend all my time basking in the west coast sunshine, taking dance classes and exploring my new world. The world was my oyster.


Turns out, the problem was that it was a different oyster.  Hell, a different ocean.  I’d spent all my life with deeply rooted connections to the people in my community, and here I was in a new city with only seedling connections (if any at all).


I’m a pretty science-y person; logical, fact-based in my beliefs. So I’ll concede that there’s probably a lotmore we don’t know about eczema and what my issue was, but I’ll tell you what– I stopped eating my allergens for weeks with little to no improvement, until something pretty awesome happened.


I found my sangha. I started working with some really great studios, started making friends, found my teacher Audra (whom I now have the good fortune of teaching with at her studio Love Hive Yoga) and even found a sangha in dance with PDX Dance Collective.


It’s been almost 2 years now and my skin has been great. I’ve got more to say about connection and community and how much these things can benefit us in the video. Check it out, connect and do some yoga with me! After all, Yoga is the “Great Union”, the joining together. Even if you’re only practicing at home by yourself, yoga is an opportunity to connect with the self. And, when we are deeply connected with our own selves, thats when we are best able to connect with others.



So, a few things I talked about in the video…


OMG LIVING YOGA! It’s this totally rad group of people who have this operation here in Portland that brings trauma informed yoga into underserved areas of the community — prisons, rehab centers, children in at-risk environments.   These people volunteer their time to bring those experiencing trauma a resource to pursue healing and connect more positively with their world through practicing yoga.  Has yoga changed your life?  Help change someone else’s too by checking out their website and FaceBook and seeing how you can offer your support.



Oh!  And all those books I used…

Here’s a little note about each, as well as a link to buy the book on Amazon.  But also, you should check out your local library system because libraries are amazeballs.  I am often finding such great stuff that I’ll return it half-way through and buy the book to finish it so I can share it with others.  Yay, books!


“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell
This is where the story of Roseto is from, but there’s also a lot of really interesting discussion of how environment prepares for (or hinders) success.  I keep bringing up points from it in classes and I’m not even finished yet – never been so excited to read about hostile takeover law practices and air traffic control.


“Hey Nostradamus!” by Douglas Coupland
Poignant look at the lives of members of a community where a school shooting takes place – the day of, and continuing to many years after the fact.  I thought Coupland did a really nice job making the perspective of the characters vivid and understandable.


“Boy 21” by Matthew Quick
Haven’t actually started this one yet but it’s by the same guy that wrote “The Silver Lining Playbook”.  That one didn’t really grab me but I’ve read most of his other stuff and I really like the way his characters learn to embrace their vulnerability and humanity.  “Love May Fail” is actually one of my favorites.


“Anarchy Evolution” by Greg Graffin and Steve Olson
I don’t know how I’ve been a fan of Bad Religion for most of my life without knowing that the lead singer is also a biology professor and has written several books about science and his naturalist philosophy.  Griffin makes some really interesting points about how important it is to interact positively with our world and proposes that our point to being “here” may be to do our part to make “here” better.


“Great Tales of Horror” by H.P. Lovecraft
Jam-packed anthology of creative, totally messed up (in an awesome way) short stories from the dark mind of one of Horror’s great masters.  Re-Animator, anyone?  Cthulhu?


“Edgar Allen Poe: Selected Works”
Another anthology from a true master of macabre literature.  As I’ve mentioned before in a previous episode, one of my favorite Poe works is “The Tell Tale Heart”.  Oh and my favorite Simpsons episode is the first Treehouse of Horror where they did “The Raven.”  I was already a bookworm obsessed with spooky stuff back then.


Good grief, you’re still reading this?  Holy crap dude, thanks!  Hope you enjoyed the video and all of my ramblings here.  If you wanna do something else really cool you could comment on YouTube and maybe even subscribe to the channel.  Then maybe share this with your friends?  You know, involve that sangha in the magic of yoga!

Thanks for being a part of this sangha here with me 🙂

~~~Cheers, yo!



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