Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sustainability Begins Within – How Yoga Changed My World View. By Nizhen Hsieh

My growing up years was spent being disillusioned with the world and life-at-large because of the kind of bad things I witnessed happening to good people in beautiful places. Over time, I overcame the inertia of my disappointment by engaging in small daily acts of kindness and goodwill although there was uncertainty over what the definition of benevolence really entailed. Regardless, at an early age, I knew that however my life panned out, it would staunchly be rooted in meaningful purpose that would go beyond myself, something that would resonate of a beauty pageant participant’s clich├ęd answer “make the world a better place.”

During University, I was clueless as to what the future held. Everyone else seemed to have a vague notion of a career goal – law, medicine, journalism, as I bore the weight of getting a clue pronto. So I flitted from job to job that ran the gamut from writing for magazines, research producing for variety television, and crewing for theatre, to reading the bible for blind Jehovah Witnesses and teaching poetry workshops to medium security prisoners, all in the hope of finding something that would confidently stick, click and fulfill that ‘meaningful purpose’.

After spending 8 months journeying solo in the Middle East where conflict and crisis seemed to be the prevalent subject of many a random dialogue, it inspired the decision to do work that would make an impact i.e. stop bad things from happening, or at the very least, take care of the good people these bad things were happening to. Thus began my fervent search for a suitable non-governmental/non-profitable/charitable/social entrepreneurial job that would check all the utopian boxes. Instead, it

led me to a tumultuous series of (mis)adventures that will remain unforgettable – teaching English in an earthquake-afflicted village in the NWFP of Pakistan, general managing an eco-resort in a Palawan coastal town, overseeing a reforestation initiative in Inner Mongolia, working in a China-based environmental consultancy that collaborated with multi-national businesses and local communities, etc. Each experience while unique and rich with lessons learned all ended with something in common: utter disenchantment. It was hard to swallow that even the best of intentions could result in the most negative of impacts, or else less than savoury agendas came under the guise of a seemingly righteous cause. For these reasons, the term sustainability, which was often bandied about in my line of work, felt nothing more than a feel-good buzzword with very little substance.

Frustrated, I turned to Yoga, initially with the concern of easing the stress, repairing the damage done by a careless lifestyle to my physical body and calming the agitated mind. I had taken Yoga classes before but youthful complacency that my health would be eternal had kept me at bay. What I ended up receiving was not just a slowdown but an elevated awareness that much like the original meaning of sustainability, I lacked the ‘capacity to endure’, both physically and mentally. As my practice grew deeper, it seemed logical to pursue my Yoga Teacher Training. So I headed to Nepal for 2 months with the intent of taking my practice to the next level.  

On a visit to a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the middle of my Yoga course, I came across the wise words of the Dalai Lama painted along the side of a wall overlooking Kathmandu Valley: Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard of before but never had it struck so profoundly as it did then. During this Yoga journey, it took much self-inquiry to shift the focus from my disenchantment towards the failure of the systems I had experienced in my social work to the failure of my own system of being. In other words, how could my psychological imbalance, unhealthy routine, unresolved issues, let alone my sense of entitlement to this pervading frustration render my actions anymore wholesome than the organizations I had worked with? I may have been doing all the right things on the outset but I was certainly mired in a vicious cycle of emotional duality.

What came out of my Yoga Teacher Training in Nepal was the understanding that true sustainability or benevolence begins within the self. If we don’t unlearn our bad habits that arise from the acceptance and understanding of our unsustainable behaviours, we will always be hindered from achieving the kinds of changes we want to create.

As my Yoga teacher and mentor once said when I regaled to him my epiphany that compassion if misguided has the potential to be poisonous, “This awareness you just discovered for yourself is one of the most [essential] qualities (if not the most important) of a Yoga teacher. If you are technically sound but emotionally [out of control], what do you think you will pass on to your students? It is a paradox of our time when too many supposedly great gurus end up in scandals… i.e. any yoga system can be developed from the imbalance of its founder. There is no comfort [in] the yogic path...that’s why we do not teach on a warm beach of a protected resort in Thailand where you can see poverty only from your window.”

Until I can change myself, in how I view and live within the world, while consciously acting on my own inner being i.e. being good to myself by getting rid off bad patterns, whatever difference or impact I’d like to make will not happen, and the karma I accrue will be passed on accordingly. Yoga has given me an internal sustainability that not only allows me to maintain and cultivate a sense of wellbeing, but it also encourages my energy to be extended to my surroundings and community, beyond the window to this world and life-at-large.  

Nizhen Hsieh hails from an eclectic social entrepreneurial experience. Previously employed in the environmental field overseeing an education initiative and projects involving Corporate Social Responsibility as well as NGO capacity building, she came to the realization that true sustainability comes from within our own personal development to inspire change in action. A budding Yoga teacher, she has been a committed practitioner for 10 years, and is affiliated with Yogi-Nomad (, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding consciousness through Yoga worldwide.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Development of a Yogic Mind, by Kristine Storer

The Development of a Yogic Mind

There have been many transformations within myself since I have started practicing, thinking and feeling this gift that is yoga. Perhaps it started when I was 16 and went to my first yoga class. I remember being so shocked at how great simply breathing in and out felt, the first connection of the body and the breath.  Perhaps it was later on as an adult when I would seek out quiet stillness, even for a few minutes a day to return to centre, to calm the never-ending energy that was spilled out for every little thing. Maybe it was when I committed asana practice to my life and felt myself growing, opening and evolving. Slowly I started seeking out more knowledge than I could obtain on a sticky mat in a studio.

In hindsight I really have no idea what really led me to a Yoga Teacher Training in Nepal? I had no thoughts in mind about what I wanted to learn. I had no idea what yoga was really about besides asana practice. There was no real expectation about becoming a yoga teacher. The only thing I knew was there was a desire to know more. A draw for knowledge that I dove head first into, and what a beautiful dive it was.

It is hard to put words to the many things that I learned (and am still absorbing) from Nepal. Yes my asana practice is stronger and more advanced, yes I spent many hours practicing pranayama and meditation, and yes there were mantras, kirtans, shatkarmas and karma yoga. All of these are wonderful things that I learned and grew from. However, they are not the things that I brought back into my world.  They are just components and tools to a bigger picture. The primary change that I have noticed has been a shift of mindset in the way I see and think about things. There is still vagueness to this, however I feel that it is becoming more focused and understood with each day, act and breath.  I know in my soul that I am moving in the right direction.

The development of a yogic mindset will go into depth about the expansion of awareness, overall acceptance for the way things are and a new attitude for life that is strong, graceful and resilient. The bliss of no expectation will be explored with the search for peaceful satisfaction and contentment in life. The power of positivity is explained showing how it can infiltrate your entire life. Next is the opening of the soul and a radiant shine of oneself that is fearless and powerfully revealed. All growing, evolving and developing into a life long path of happiness.

Slowly, day-by-day I am practicing, living and learning this mindset. I am standing tall, keeping the eyes and heart open and a steady breath of inward flowing life and outward flowing release. There is strong days along with weak ones, positives along with the negatives, joy along with struggle… Everyday presents itself as a new challenge, whether is a blessing or a hindrance. Regardless of the result, with this growth and mindset, there is nothing in this world that I cannot approach, accept and learn from.  It is a beautiful awakening of the self in an ever-changing world.

Awareness, Acceptance and Growth
The first step in the process is simple awareness. The Jnana Yoga inquiry of “Who am I”? Who is this sprit inside this physical space? Is it a comfortable old friend that I know well? Is it a confused stranger that I hold at arm’s length? Or does it simply depend on the day or the circumstance?

Once this relationship with the self (all aspects of the self: the good, bad and everything in between) was established and acknowledged, I started to understand that all my positive and negative attributes are the building blocks of who I am. They are the essence of my being. I need to love and accept all the components of who I am and focus positive energy into them if I want to see a positive change within myself.

This is the egocentric view of awareness, however it can also be applied to the larger picture in the way we view and accept our friends, family, community and lovers. To first be aware of both the positive and negative attributes the relationship holds, then to love and accept them for whom and what they are. Accepting the negatives with as much grace and compassion as the positives. Once acceptance is obtained, one is able to clearly focus on the changes they are seeking and put positive loving energy into them.  I find this to be a healthier approach to growth and change rather than applying guilt ridden and toxic energy into the search for a positive change.

We all have the individual power to choose our approach to life. Whether it is a positive outlook or negative one. We are the only person steering our ship. Awareness of the self and the world around you can lead to acceptance for all things on all levels, which is then transformed into positive action and change. If that is the direction you wish to take it. A new outlook of positivity in the way we exist and evolve.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own and you know what you know.  And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.” –Dr. Seuss

The Bliss of No Expectation
By increasing awareness and acceptance for things as they are, I have been led to a satisfied peacefulness within myself and within my world. I have primarily noticed a change in the expectations that I hold for myself and the expectations I hold for others. Having always been a stressor and worrier about most things that were generally out of my control, I am finding less energy being spent dreaming, planning and manipulating how I want my future to be. Although it is a slow evolution, there has been a beautiful stillness to all the hopes, frets and never ending energy that I would throw into things. 

I now find that I am floating along throughout my days with more trust as to how things are right now. There is more faith as to where things are going and an overall acceptance for the future outcome (whatever that outcome may be).  So long as I refrain from attaching unneeded thoughts, expectations and desires to future events, there will be no disappointment to the outcome.
Put as simply as possible: To accept all things and outcomes for what they are, you are left with nothing but satisfaction. For all thoughts and feeling there is acceptance and contentment.

The Power of Positivity
From grounded peace to the lightness of no expectation comes a radiant power of positivity, almost in an addictive state.  One positive thought or feeling spills over and manifests itself into a different and new positive thought or feeling. This positivity grows and grows until it is hard to see anything else.

This idea of positivity was once explained to me as a garden. Our life, our world is our own little garden and we are the master gardener. Anything we plant and put energy into will not only grow but flourish wildly beyond our imagination. By planting, sowing and harvesting positivity in our lives, positivity will thrive. Slowly and steadily growing until positivity takes over the whole garden. Even when pesky weeds or thistles sprout up, the positive growth will overcome the negative.

This can also work in the opposite direction. Negative thoughts and feelings that are planted in our garden/life will steadily grow and thrive in accordance to the energy we give them. The longer we allow this negative growth and feed it, the stronger it will become. Eventually the negative growth will overtake the positive that tries to grow, but will continuously get shut down.

Each soul is its own master gardener. We must plant our seeds wisely, love and nourish them every day, with every thought and action in order to watch our radiant positivity grow. Growing and growing until it is hard to imagine anything but the good in all things.

The Awakening of the Soul
The next step in this journey of a new mindset is the awakening of the soul. By finding peaceful acceptance and implementing positivity as part of your life, the soul opens up, radiating from its originated home. This soul now shines forward as your true essence, your true being, a beautiful expression that you might have never shown before.  Dr. David Frawley explains the soul as our deeper identity in life. 
“The soul itself is like a sun, a source of light. Each individual contains such a secret sun in its heart as the soul force behind its being” - Yoga & Ayurveda, David Frawley.

There have been times in my life when my soul has been hidden by false expectations of what I should be, self doubts about what I am and what I am not, embarrassment or rejection of who I am but don’t want to show… The excuses and never-ending layers that I used to cover up myself, to cover my soul weighed heavier and heavier until I was completely bewildered as to whom I was and the soul that I possessed buried and lost.

By using awareness, acceptance and positive growth as building blocks to happiness and self-discovery, the ice that has froze around the soul starts to melt. I safely and slowly let it thaw, drop-by-drop until there is nothing left to protect, nothing left to lose. I am who I am, simple and beautiful. There is nothing left to change, nothing left to manipulate. All that is left to do is simply breath in life and exhale the unnecessary. By letting the inner essence shine through, there is happiness in just being.

The inner light within me was so buried and disguised from myself that I was not even able to recognise its opening at first. It seemed to be more noticeable to others who would make comments like “You always have a smile on your face.” and “Are you always this cheerful?” I started to think… Well, yes I suppose I am! I know that I have not always been this way, but my soul is evolving, opening and shinning. Most days I am blissfully content and happy. And it shows!

So what has changed? Personally, I feel that it is the realisation that negative thoughts, feelings and emotions are not worth my time or energy to stew on. It is a choice that I make. To accept things as they come to me, being thankful and by positively embracing this experience that we call life. I prefer this to being grumpy and focusing solely on the negativity that life holds.

Now don’t get me wrong, life is hard!! There is no doubt or avoidance to that. However, by being honest about the problem, accepting all aspects of the issue, and seeking the positive solution for change, we are able to grow from the experience and develop a silver lining to the negative things in our life. Perhaps we learned a valuable lesson? Perhaps we were humbled? Perhaps it gave us courage and strength we did not know we possessed? Good things can grow from the bad cards we are dealt in life. We just have to be able to see the blessing in disguise.

Challenges push us past our comfort zone and help us grow and develop into the people that we are. I find that the bad things in life are only bad if we let them be. Once again from Dr. Seuss - “You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” To accept the negative for what it is and grow from it. To find peace and let it shine fourth. This sure beats the alternative of letting negativity define your spirit, your soul, and forever hold you down. Allow your soul to happily move forward confidently and fearless

The Path of Happiness
The problem that I feel most people have with happiness (including myself at times) is seeing it as a goal that we look towards, far from our reach. We make excuses to explain our unhappiness such as: I could be happy if I had more money, if I liked my job, if this would or wouldn’t have happened, if I was or wasn’t this way… This frame of mind is not only endless, but counter productive. The thought and feeling that happiness is out of our reach (for whatever reason), leaves us feeling sad, yearning and unsatisfied with the life we have right now. This negativity then weighs on our thoughts, spirit and actions, reversing the direction of happiness. 

Everyday is a journey that takes honesty, courage and focus to confidently move forward in the direction you wish. Some days we progress in leaps and bounds, other days we may take one step forward and two steps back. In my opinion happiness is not an end point that we arrive at, it is a direction that one moves toward continuously. Happiness is a beautiful journey that should be enjoyed with each step, each turn, each fumble and fall. Happiness is a daily practice within our thoughts, relations and actions. It is beautiful path with no end in sight. 

The Arrival of a New Mindset 
To love and accept peace within the self… To focus on what the heart and soul needs to open and evolve… To move energy and positivity in the direction of my destiny, my svadharma… The journey of yoga begins. I realize that this shift in awareness, acceptance, positivity, happiness and the awakening of the soul has led me to the beginning of my journey in yoga. It was not traveling to the other side of the world. It was not the impressive asana practices or a recognized certification. It was simply a change of mind. A new thought and attitude of what this life is, what I want it to be and how to move towards it.

Breath-by-breath my life fills with positivity, light and joy. My spirit has met a quiet peace within itself. I am no longer afraid of the spirit within my space. I am traveling happily on my path and looking forward to the journey.

With love in my heart and peace in my mind - Namaste- 

Kristine Storer is from Ketchum, Idaho, USA. After 10 years of yoga practice, she completed her Yoga Teacher Training and Thai massage Certification with Yogi-nomad in Nepal. She is also a full time server/bartender, teaches snowboard in winter and garden in summer, loves rafting and outdoor sport in general. Kristine's Love, Energy and Kindness are highly contagious!
For questions to Kristine, please contact her directly at:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Yogi-nomad's selection for an Indian journey

India is not just another country, with over a billion people, 35 states, twice that many languages and an exotic transportation system, traveling in India can be challenging, but it can also be the journey of a life time. 

This is what YN suggest, there are of course many more place we have not been...

Himachal Pradesh / Dharamshala:
Uttar Pradesh / Varanasi
  • Talk a city tour with Varanasi Walk 
  • Hang out in Asi Ghat, reading Banaras, City of Light by Diana L. Eck
  • Get your breakfast at Om Cafe and learn the latest about the city with Sivani
Uttar Pradesh / Other
    • Of course Agra and the Taj Mahal
    • We have not been but would recommend some time in Vrindavan the City of lord Krishna

    Bihar / Bodh Gaya
    • Walk with the pilgrim at 4am listening "sangham saranam gachami"
    • Learn Tibetan Buddhism at the Root Institute 
    • Visit the vulture cave, home of the famous "Heart Sutra"

    Bihar / Munger

    Tamil Nadu
    • Learn Ayurveda
    • or do a full Panchakarma
    • Enjoy the beach!
    Rishikesh (that if you really must go)
    From Nepal, you could follow the Buddhist trail
    • Lumbini, Buddha's birth place
    • Kushinagar, Buddha's Maha Samadhi
    • Sarnat, Buddha first teaching after enlightenemnt
    • Bodh Gaya (see above)
    Read (do not go for guide book, real real books!)
    • Are you experienced by William Sutcliffe
    • A Search In Secret India, by Paul Brunton
    • Banaras, City of Light by Diana L. Eck
    • Seeing Spiritual India, A guide to temples, Holy Sites and Tradition by Stephen Knapp
    And many more to come... we will complete as we go, this is just a start to wet your appetite.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Zen and the art of non-doing. By Shannon Lough.

    There is a talent in achieving a day, an hour, or even a moment of non-doing. Our minds are constantly churning thoughts and plans. Even when we’re not thinking actively, thoughts still subliminally steal your peace by popping up: things you have to do, judgments of what you see, expectations of others or yourself. Then we give ourselves a day off from work, or socialising, but we still do things. We’ll clean the house, exercise, watch TV, and catch up on gossip - all acts of doing.
    I have met some people in my life, who are skilled in the ways of non-doing as though they were born that way. It’s like the Jerry Seinfeld skit where the woman asks that man, “So what are you thinking?” and he replies “Nothing.” I never believed that, until I met people that I’ve asked that question to and they replied with “nothing.” How can you just be sitting there, not doing anything, and not thinking anything? Even when I’m sitting, and it looks like I’m relaxing, I’m planning out my entire routine for tomorrow, or inventing a new meal, or allowing the past to plague my present, the 'what ifs’.
    Zen taught me the art of non-doing. To spend countless hours and days sitting, and actively non-doing is a talent. A skill that must be fostered and practiced to achieve. It’s a skill that some are born with, and others must work toward, like those who are natural at sports, and others whom are a bit awkward and have to practice daily to achieve even the simplest act such as catching a ball.
    A prime example of non-doing is at the end of every yoga class: savasana. This is a state of non-doing. You are lying passively, absorbing the benefits of the practice as you let go of all the tension in your body, and ease the tension from your mind. You keep the mind focused on the breath, or you let it release from its activity and just be.
    Start small. Spend five to ten minutes a day in a state of non-doing. Even if you think you’re meditating, try to see it differently. If you think of it as an action, then you’ve already begun your expectations of how it must feel, and how empty your mind must be to achieve a successful meditation. Instead, just sit, or stand, or even walk, but don’t... think about it, just enjoy being, in your breath, in your movement, in your body.
    Work yourself towards a whole day of non-doing. Of course the basic necessities are important, like eating and drinking, but don’t think too much about it. Don’t fill your space with texts, calls, reading on your tablet, or watching TV. Make a conscious effort to just be with yourself and fully present. When you wake up, lay in bed, and find comfort in the peace of the moment, rather than waking up and thinking about what you have to do for the day. Hang out in your place for the day. Don’t worry about getting things done. Leave the bed unmade, the dishes in the sink, the emails unanswered. Just let it be, and find contentment in the non-doing. Give yourself a full day to recharge. Instead of giving only twenty-percent of yourself to five different tasks, give yourself fully into one.
    We all need a day off from time to time. Our definitions of what that day entails varies, but try to find yourself in a state of non-doing at least once in a while. Create a retreat atmosphere and try to experience the benefits of not speaking, of not writing, reading, watching, listening, and withdraw from the senses and spend time inward. Eat simply, digestion is work for your body too. Think of your breath, your movement, your being, and notice where the thoughts go in the silence, to the outside noises, to the past and future, and let them dissolve as you acknowledge them.
    The art of non-doing may seem boring to some, but what is boredom? Why are we so afraid to be with ourselves? Why do we create boredom only to exist in the state of disappointment in our present moment? Boredom is a state of mind that we believe exists, but we make the choice to relish in it. Instead, use your time to renew and give yourself a break from all that doing, and find peace in the art of non-doing.
    “He who is yoked, having relinquished the fruits of action, attains ultimate peace.”
    -Bhagavad Gita, 5:12

    Shannon Lough is a 200RYT, who completed her yoga and Thai massage training with Yogi-Nomad in Nepal.  She practices daily, and follows the principles of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, after traveling to India and living in Japan for three years.  She is a marathon runner, a hardy backpacker, and an avid writer.  If you have any questions or comments please email her at 

    Monday, May 27, 2013

    Buddhist studies in Kathmandu

    Dear readers,

    I have had several requests about what Buddhist studies are available in Nepal, here is the result of my research:

    (Kagyu lineage)
    The center offers BA and MA and is recognized by Kathmandu University (
    The course take place in the Rangjung Yeshe Institute  ( 
    Where: in the Bouddhanath area of Kathmandu, a very lively Tibetan community

    (Sakya lineage)
    Several "one month" options from May to September
    Where: Bouddhanath area

    (Dzogchen, Nyingma lineage)

    They have a 3 month winter-spring program (already full for 2013!)
    Where: In Pharping, a small village a few miles west of Kathmandu

    (Gelup lineage)
    Many option but the most popular is the one month Lam Rim course in November each year. 
    Where: A few miles north of Bouddhanath

    (Kagyu Lineage)
    A very popular 2 month program from Jan 7 to March 7 but also a 5 year philosophy program for the more advanced students!
    Where: In Tinchuli, a few minutes walk East of Bouddhanath

    (Nyingma lineage)
    A 9 year program (MA and PhD equivalent), for serious students!
    Where: In Bouddhanath area

    Let's turn the Wheel of Dharma!
    With Love and Light

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Gosaikunda, the power of the Himalayas. By Gaby

    Bharaivkund lake frozen

    It is difficult to express fully the experience of walking to Gosaikunda and my experience may not be that of everyone as I have cultivated a life long relationship with the mountains but with the Himalaya and its connection to yoga even more so recently. 

    Gosaikund is not like any place, it is a sacred place and has been fed with people's faith, imagination and myth as much as with water form the glacier of the Langtang region. 

    Gosaikund is born from the Trishul (trident) of Lord Shiva, after he had swallowed the poison liberated from the churning of the Ocean of Milk (see Samudra Manthan) Lord Shiva felt so thirsty that he needed fresh water immediately, he poked his Trishul into a mountain and drank from the water springing forth. The same spring created the lake known as Gosaikund. It is believed that both sacred river of Kathmandu Valley the Baghmati and the Vishnumati, originating form the Sivapuri hill, north of the city, get their water from Gosaikund. It is also said that the area has 108 lakes...

    The lament of the lakes in their prison of ice echoes the lament of my soul in its prison of flesh
    In December the lakes are frozen. At dawn or dusk, with change of temperature the ice dilates or retract and cracks. As a result, the lake is chanting and the sound is like the chants of the whales or a musical saw. The first time I heard I was struck: the complaint echoed in the mountains around, something out of this world. I had to listen many more time to figure out what it was. The next day we walked to see as many lakes as possible. We reached a point were we were surrounded by 4 lakes, Gosaikund, Bharaivkund, Kyumachkund and Chandrakund. In the early morning, all the lakes were chanting like talking to each other, each with a different voice. As I sat in silence listening, feeling the vibration deep inside my chest, I had the feeling that the lakes were speaking to me. Not me as an separated individual but me as a part of the universe. The moment was powerful and emotional, at this moment he above words came to me: the lament of the lakes in their prison of ice echoes the lament of my soul in its prison of flesh.

    Silence is one, undivided, eternal
    Beyond the lament of the lake their were few noisy distraction: the place was amazingly silent. Almost no wind which is rare at this altitude and season. They were moments of silence so deep that your breath and heartbeat became the most noisy part of this universe. I started to listen with concentration to the silence and here too I heard these words: "I am the silence, I am you, you listen to me with your ears but I am also inside of you. The silence you hear now and the silence you seek in meditation are one. Listen to me and you will know what to look for. Listen inside you, you will find me there too."

    Between Infinitely big and Infinitely small
    Nothing seems to be at human scale in the Himalaya. The sky and mountains are humbling in their size. Almost nu human or animal life, like an invitation to turn toward the small. It is a feast for all the senses here, we walk on plants called Sunpati (the Tibetan burn them in honor to the Gods) and their spicy smell is entrancing, the symphony of color is amazing bright yellow, orange, red, gold... the lichen, moses, flowers, grass offer all kind of textures for the touch from the smooth ice, the rugged rock, the soft cotton like flowers. All these details seems to tell you to turn away from the gross and to focus on the subtle, another form of inner journey.

    A dip in a holy (and icy) lake is always a transformative experience!
    Spiritual inclination
    All through the journey I had this quote from Albert Einstein in mind: "Do not look for miracle, your entire life is a miracle". From the lake echoing the lament of my soul looking for freedom, to the silence mirroring the silence of meditation, the infinitely small grabbing your attention to look inside, all these messages made the trip so magical. My meditation up there was like the lakes, profound and still, it was different, there was a deeper clarity about it.

    If the mind is talking but it cannot resist the transformation process that is taking place, much beyond the mind, it is making an ultimate attempt to resist but it already knows the silence that is coming.

    Love and Light from Kathmandu!

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Don’t panic, you’re free, the sky is limitless. By Shannon Lough.

    Everyone once and a while someone will tell you to “have a little faith” and for a moment you release into the hope that yes, everything will work out. Even with all the uncertainties, and the slight knot of panic that burrows inside when you think about the future, you submit yourself to that little bit of faith.

    Faith, a word that denotes God, the Divine, or complete spiritual devotion in intangible concepts. You don’t have to be religious to have faith. It’s simply an act of submission. An act of complete trust in someone or something without any expectations or demands. 
    In Yoga, there are specific rules of conduct to follow called niyamas, as compiled by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Of the five niyamas, the first four being purity, contentment, austerity, and self-study, the final is the most abstract at first: Isvara Pranidhana, which asks for complete surrender to God or the Divine to achieve Samadhi. Through this surrender you can achieve an elevated state of consciousness when you connect with the universe. How does this apply to our lives?

    Isvara Pranidhana is the faith that we need to embrace. When the present becomes disturbed by thoughts that drift into apprehensions about the future, allow yourself to open up to the idea of surrendering. We cling onto our structured lives, the safety bubble that we lock ourselves into because it seems like a sure thing. Sometimes we find ourselves outside of that bubble, whether you’ve just finished university, a contracted job abroad, or a career. You’ve been released from the safety net that let you sleep comfortably at night. You’re like a free bird that doesn’t know where to find its flock. Don’t panic, you’re free, the sky is limitless. This is the best time to listen to the wind, and the signs that the universe lays out before you and invites you on your path. 

    The concept of the Divine turns some away. It seems too religious and enigmatic for the secular world we live in the West today. In regions of India and Nepal, you can witness daily rituals by the locals, surrendering to their definition of their Divine, through puja’s or acts of worship. They ring bells, light candles, chant mantras, send silent prayers to divine images and maintain their altars. In Japan, you see the locals walking in silent meditation through the forest as they sweep the path, or standing before the a temple, and washing themselves in the ash of incense and removing their shoes before prostrating themselves before the Buddha. These are acts of submission, of humbly disrobing the ego-self and embracing the divinity in themselves.

    Even in a secular society, we can let go and search for the divinity inside ourselves by connecting to the universe. It’s all about perspective, and how you choose to define the Divine. Instead of thinking of a theoretical being, identify it with what you know. The miracles that are already present inside our own bodies, our beating heart, expanding lungs, our untapped mind. The miracles around us, in nature, the cycles of the moon and the pull of the ocean’s tide, the smell of the forest and the shelter it provides for so many beings, a rolling field of flowers and the powerful presence of a mountain range. Even the miracle of our technology, in the brilliance of the city lights, the sound of communication in the buzz of a mobile phone, or laptop. In moments of obscurity, instead of being the rock, allow yourself to be the stream. Listen to the flow that moves within and outside of you. If you let go, and give trust to surrender completely into universe, it will guide you. Listen to it’s presence and you will find your way.

    Cherry blossom petals are falling
    Beautiful like snowflakes.
    The remaining rest do cling.
    Without knowing their destiny. (Zen proverb)

    Shannon Lough is a 200RYT, who completed her yoga and Thai massage training with Yogi-Nomad in Nepal.  She practices daily, and follows the principles of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, after traveling to India and living in Japan for three years.  She is a marathon runner, a hardy backpacker, and an avid writer.  If you have any questions or comments please email her at 

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Self Love for Valentines day! By Shannon Lough.

    Happy Valentines Day everyone! A day of roses, romance or repulsion. If you’re with someone, it’s full of expectation that your special someone has to do something for you, or else they don’t really care. If your single, you cringe at the excessive PDAs (public displays of affection), overplayed diamond ads, and gaudy material items being sold at every corner. 

    This year, instead of loving or hating Valentine’s Day, I’m going to use it as an opportunity to foster my yogi values from the great Patanjali. Ages ago, this legend compiled the Yoga Sutras, and set out the foundations of yoga philosophy. One of the keys to reaching liberation and clearing the mind is to overcome the Kleshas, or afflictions of the mind that make us suffer in this life. I want to focus on two of these Kleshas.

    Raga - desire, wanting. That which makes us chase only what is pleasurable in our minds, and makes us want to repeat the experience continuously. Like, having a wildly romantic romp with your lover, after a candle-lit dinner followed by chocolate dipped strawberries. Every year, you want this experience, or better, and you’re drawn to this particular date because it’s a special time when you can relive that moment. 

    Dwesha - repulsion. The opposite of raga, it makes us run from the undesirable and unpleasant. It’s full of disgust, negativity, and blocks us in moving forward. So you hate the idea of anything that screams lovey-dovey, because you might throw up a little. It makes you despise this particular holiday because it makes you feel nothing but hurt and disappointment inside.

    The Kleshas are afflictions of the mind. Not the heart. Valentine’s Day is just another day that we decide whether we like it or not. The day itself is just a perception that we have created in amongst our many afflictions. We suffer because we allow this day to take on an importance in our lives. We are stronger than that. We don’t let society create our expectations. Instead, let go and let it be as it is. It’s a day of love, so love fully and consciously. 

    I’m usually the cringing type that loves to bad mouth February the 14th, but secretly I always hope something special and unexpected will happen. Which again, is an expectation, and therefore will ultimately lead me to suffer in my own disappointment. 

    This year, I’m going to fight the Kleshas, those petty afflictions, and embrace the day as though it’s a greater excuse to send all my compassion to everyone I meet. To those I don’t see, I’ll be sending some your way too. It will also be a chance to focus more on self-love. Why not? Who said that Valentine’s Day is only about love for another. How about loving yourself first? I think that means I have an excuse to eat some dark chocolate, and then some.

    I dare you to try: Watch your mind, and see where it goes when you see a cheesy advertisement, or when you go on a date with your partner. Try to stay present and embrace every moment as it comes, without expectation, clinging, or wanting more. Everything you need is right there, so enjoy it. 

    Only think or say positive comments towards yourself all day. Avoid the negativity that you hold on to. Take a break for at least one full day. So instead of saying “I like” or “I don’t like” try to stay neutral.

    Love yourself and love others with the fullest of your compassionate heart. 

    The Rose
    Misery and joy have the same shape in this world:
    You may call the rose an open heart or a broken heart.
    -Dard (Sufi wisdom)

    Shannon Lough is a 200RYT, who completed her yoga and Thai massage training with Yogi-Nomad in Nepal.  She practices daily, and follows the principles of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, after traveling to India and living in Japan for three years.  She is a marathon runner, a hardy backpacker, and an avid writer.  If you have any questions or comments please email her at 

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013

    Home is... By Shannon Lough.

    I’ve called many places my home. A two-story home in a small-town subdivision; a single flat for staff housing sandwiched between a petrol station and bar in a glacier tourist town; a trailer adjacent a raging river, and within the facilities of a popular backpacker hostel; a holiday-home in a popular extreme sports tourist town, at the base of mountain; a tent, in my hobo days; the first story of a duplex; an ex-communist student dorm; a tatami-floored Japanese apartment in a mountain village between Fuji-san and Tokyo; and recently, at the Yogi-Nomad’s home in Kathmandu valley full of budding yogis. I use my grandfather’s expression, that “home is where you hang your hat.” It could be in the back of a car, a beach along the Sea of Japan, or a 200Rs monsoon-sodden bed. But is this home? 

    A forest dweller's home
    Home is a concept that many of us get attached to. It’s a place where you store your stuff, and your memories. It gives one a sense of security, that after the day there is a place where you belong. A place where loved ones can greet you. A place where you can unwind and feel protected from the world out there. This is the tangible ‘home’ that many people associate with. 

    This material place called home also becomes a nest of insecurities, as all attachments do. It’s full of possessions. Expensive or invaluable items that for years have been collected and arranged in your space, and create your sense of identity. With attachment comes fear, that you may lose one of these items, or someone may steal them, or the house could burn down. But you go on vacation and pick up another souvenir that will look great on your shelf, so when people come to visit they think how amazing your life is, and how beautiful your collections are. The ego stays ever present, and grows with each new piece of clothing, or decoration in your home. You build and build this material world around you and call it home. Until, you have to move. 

    Nepali homes
    Last year, one night I was sitting in meditation, I realized that my time in Japan was coming to an end in less than six months. I had too much stuff. I tried to find my concentration, and I ended up with stress about how I was going to take my snowboard with me. Where could I send it, if I didn’t know where I was going to be? I filled my head with worries over all that winter clothing, jackets and my closets packed with more clothing. Then I realized that I was stressed about stuff that had defined me somehow. I was a snowboarder. I was a hiker. I was teacher. Yet, I knew I had to let it go. I couldn’t admit it to myself. A special person said to me, “remember that a tool is only good when you are in need of it, if you carry it unnecessarily with you all over it will become a burden and keep you attached to this world.” I knew that he was right, and I was set on letting go of my attachments. I sold or gave away all my gear and clothing. Steadily, the burden lifted, and I felt freer. 

    It is a process. I traveled to India and Nepal with a 60L backpack, that I crammed till it bulged and spilled out from the top. I had given up my so-called sense of security by ending my contract, leaving my apartment, and sending half my things to Canada, half to Thailand. I had minimized my home to a backpack, which I still managed to overburden myself with. I felt awkward every time I left a new place, and had to swing it precariously up over my shoulders, and waddle to the bus stop, or shove it into an auto-rickshaw. I met a guy who was traveling the boundaries of India with only a school-sized backpack. He inspired me. He was so light, and carefree. He probably only had one outfit, and a few accessories to change up his style from daytime to nighttime outings, like a scarf or a hat. He didn’t have a lot to worry about, and he seemed happier because of it. While I sweat, and toiled with my pack, he strolled effortlessly as we both walked the streets of Dharamkot looking for accommodation after we left the Tushita meditation centre. Again, I had to rethink the concept of home. 

    My backpack home

    While we had been in the ten day Tibetan Buddhist retreat, we watched The Nature of Mind the teachings of Tenzin Palmo, a female monk who had spent twelve years living in a cave up in the Himalayas. Whatever she had discovered while living in the ten by six-foot cave, was apparent in the spark in her eyes and the command of her words. I wrote in my notes in brackets “(blowing my mind)” because she did. She said: “the mind is our true home, but we don’t clean it, get rid of the junk, exercise it, or air it out” I had never considered my mind as my home before. As a wanderer, a global nomad, I had always considered my home to be the place where I hung my hat, not inside the place where I wore my hat. 
    Once you realize that your home, your true home, is your own mind, then you begin to feel a sense of relief. Everything that you need is right here. We are capable of complete happiness, if we know that we already have that light inside of us. Once we embrace that concept, then we let go of our fears of losing the external home. Whether you’re crawling into a sleeping bag, in a one-man tent, under a starry sky, or you’re nuzzling next to your partner in a king-sized bed, in a prefabricated home in the suburbs, you take that moment for what it is and enjoy it fully, without the worry of losing it tomorrow. 

    My school-sized backpack friend told me to read Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Professor and author of discovering mindfulness in the West. While I was trekking in the Annapurna region, I read his book Wherever You Go, There You Are. I found nuggets of wisdom throughout the text. Especially in his concept of home. Let me share with you what I discovered during intimate moments of reading in the freezing cold guesthouses that I stayed at along the route.
    So why not let go and admit that you might as well be at home wherever you are? Right in that moment, you touch the core of your being and invite mindfulness to enter and heal. If you understand this, then and only then will the cave, the monastery, the beach, the retreat center, offer up their true richness to you. But so will all other moments and places.

    Somehow, through all the places I’ve called home in my past, I have arrived back in the place that I called home while I was growing up. From childhood to young adulthood, I was in this place that I had so many different emotions and feelings in. I have felt a welcoming, a familial love, warmth, protection, but also dread, disappointment, the feeling of being trapped and lost. How can one place harbour all these opposing emotions? The answer is that it was never my childhood home, the tangible one in a small suburban country town that fostered these forces, it was my mind. I am capable of creating all these conundrums. But I am also capable of contentment, of finding that place of acceptance and awareness in the present moment, and to embrace it fully. 

    On a January day, in the beauty of the snow melting under heavy rain, birds seem unaware 
    of the elements as they perch on a feeder, and children play outside in the slush with rubber 
    Yogi home
    boots under soggy snow pants. We have the power to chose how we see the world. I now clean my home daily. I give it a time to unwind, to rest. I guide it towards those I love, those I don’t, and those I don’t know. I send my compassion to them all. This morning I did a guided meditation with Yin yoga guru, Bernie Clark. He finished off the session with: “Breathing in, breathing out. Right here, right now, I am alive, I am breathing, I am home.”

    Take a moment, and consider, where is your home?

    Shannon Lough is a 200RYT, who completed her yoga and Thai massage training with Yogi-Nomad in Nepal.  She practices daily, and follows the principles of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, after traveling to India and living in Japan for three years.  She is a marathon runner, a hardy backpacker, and an avid writer.  If you have any questions or comments please email her at