Journey to Machu Picchu – Yoga, Adventure, Transformation

Journey to Machu Picchu – Yoga, Adventure, Transformation

Day 1- Day 2

Friday, September 13- Saturday, September 14, 2013

 

Flying into the belly of the mountains. Cuzco

Flying into the belly of the mountains. Cuzco

Flying over incredible mountains we swoop low and begin descent. Peering out the window, wide-eye and full of joy, the plane takes an immediate turn to the left and I view the Valley of Cuzco. Flying right into the belly of the mountains I can barely contain my joy in my heart. My first time out of the United States, floating from my pervious travel experiences and deep commitment to my personal yoga practice, into the Sacred Valley of Peru. This world is beyond magical! An effortless arrival to Hotel Encantada by a taxi, thanks to the amazing Giancarlo and Hawah, who create an amazing retreat experience but not thanks to my short breath and badly acclimated lungs to the mountains.

 

View from Hotel Encantada

View from Hotel Encantada

Day Two: After an evening of a hot stone massage, sleep, delicious food cooked by Giancarlo, and cocoa tea, I awake fresh and new ready for a beautiful yoga experience facing the mountains of the valley. The sun shining so beautiful and giving me more vitamin D, which according to my doctor I need more of at all times. Please let me oblige, I am not called a sun chaser for no reason! Hawah leads a beautiful practice each and every time I step to the mat in his workshops, classes, and now this retreat. Feeling the connection in my soul, breath, and body we embark upon a journey to discover the town of Cuzco.

 

 

First is the famous church in the main square, Cathedral of Santo Domingo. I am not one for touristy type locals and of course my attention span grants me many diversions off the main path. In true amazement I gaze upon the old part of the church which the ancient Incans created, not the part that was embellished upon by the Spaniards, I am not impressed by their work. The Incans on the other hand stacked stones together without any mortar. I notice the number 3, 4, 5, 7, and 12 appear in many different forms.

Random fact: I like counting and noticing numbers. I drew something in the ground at the rainbow room. I am not sure why but here is a picture.

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Following this expedition the bus takes up high up on the mountain more, the altitude sickness kicks in hardcore for me at this moment. All the cocoa leaves can’t help this headache, the pains, and shivers going through my body. This is no joke! I keep up with the group as we hike further up the mountain, go through caves, and explore the Temple of the Moon, Sun, and Monkeys. By the end of the day I am so ready to curl up by this fire in the pizza joint, eat some bread, and relax. However at some point after dinner I regain my composure and I am ready to go out on the town! Hawah, Mayrose, Giancarlo, Ameilia and I rock it out in the San square with drums, flute, hoops, dance moves, joy and laughter. An amazing way to complete the evening and I even stumbled upon the famous 12 angle stone on this wall in downtown Cuzco. Here is a picture of me fluting, serenading the ancient Incas and more importantly the women in the street selling the local wares.

12 angle stone on the street of Cuzco

12 angle stone on the street of Cuzco

 

Day Three

Sunday, September 15, 2013

 

Waking up this morning with the new resolution to not partake in cocoa leaves and just learn to acclimate myself is fresh on the mind. I feel so great today. I think my body prefers hot tea and just delicious food over cocoa leaves. I do not partake in many stimulants and I think the leaves are throwing me a little off kilter. We shall see how this theory works throughout the day since we are hiking up high into the mountains in Pisaq but not before a visit to the animal sanctuary. See photos below:

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Our arrival to the quaint town of Pisaq on a bus is easy and the beauty in this town is phenomenal. The town is a locals town, there are tourists, but we are not all over the place. Our bus takes us to our accommodations for the next four days, Melissa Wasi. This place is so beautiful! More like a retreat center than a hotel. Ameilia, my roommate for the entire trip, and I set up our little cabin room. It is quaint, cozy, and rustic with large windows facing out in the Eucalyptus tree forest overhead and beautiful tended grounds with flowers, grass, and birds chirping in harmony and glee. Hawah leads an invigorating and leg focused yoga class on the backyard lawn of the main house. This makes me happy because my legs are my weak point in yoga. I focus on that area a lot to gain more flexibility. I am still trying to get my head to my knees, a new goal from just touching the ground with my hands. Not to mention we are about to embark upon a hike for the remainder of the day up the highest mountain/elevation so far in the trip. Higher than Machu Picchu and there are still Incan ruins at the top. After a delicious lunch by Ginacarlo, which let me take a moment to say how grateful and amazing this trip is to have our own Peurvian chef creating native delicacies in a vegetarian format, we start the hike. This hike doesn’t start at the base of the mountain rather at the retreat center. We walk to town, through town, and then to the base of the hike. By this time, I am starting to realize going up is going to be challenging. Bracing myself for a long climb I start up the mountain. The side we chose to begin on is the side most people go down. There were many steps, a bridge, and growing terraces of ancient Incan agricultural plots. There are couples laying out in the sun on the terrace, locals descending down the mountains with wild harvested herbs, cactus, and flowers. Next time I come, I want to be with a lover, having a picnic, and enjoying staring down on the town. Hopefully I will be more knowledgeable about local herbs and will harvest some of the beautiful plants available at such a high altitude.

Panoramic View of Pisaq Climb

More panoramic views

More panoramic views

After a slow ascent to the top, taking in such amazing views, me and some of the slower hikers,  make it to the top and meet up with the rest of our group. The ruins at Pisaq, the view, and this mountain climb is so beautiful. Each step towards the top is invigorating, providing me with fresh crisp air. As a group we circle up just before the sunset to share our gratitude, challenges, and love for the moment. Being around the amazing humans on this trip is truly a gift. As I watch the sun set behind the mountains, listening to the group, each person teaching me valuable lessons of myself, the world, and the beauty of life.

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Sunset Circle of gratitude

Sunset Circle of gratitude

The group prepares to turn around and make the descent down the mountain. I slowly follow behind, not sure if I am ready to come down the mountain yet. Less than halfway down a bright start comes into the sky and I am frozen in my tracks.

Saturn and Mountain

Saturn and Mountain

Sitting down I start to wonder so many questions, am I selfish for wanting to stay on this mountain? Am I being a good person in the group? Who cares what I want to do and is it really valid? Am I going to ruin the whole group experience? I notice the group is getting far ahead and begrudgingly I begin to descend down the mountain again. I walk towards Hawah waiting for me to come back and hike down the mountain, each step a tear comes to my eyes. By the time I am standing next to him, I am in full cry mode. Where did this come from?

 

Side story: Just recently I experienced a moment where I broke down in a sob, tears, a real hardcore cry. I realized in that moment that even though I cry more than most, because I like to let go of the emotions that create this reaction in my body, that I do not nearly allow myself to let go and sob. I couldn’t remember the last time I allowed myself to just let go, not worry about what any one thinks, not worry about what I think most importantly, just let go and sob hysterically. From this experience I learned for myself I allow society to dictate my comfort level with allowing my inner emotion to shed light on the true feelings within. Something I thought I was good at, but obviously not. Due to this experience, I took a glance in Hawah’s direction and said, “I am not ready to come down this mountain. You can leave me here. I promise I can make it back safe, but please allow me to stay.”

 

 

On the side of the mountain the stars start peeking out one by one just like the doubts, questions, and concerns for who I am as a human being. I sit atop that mountain with Hawah, discussing down falls, or ways I do not think I am a good person, words a friend spoke to me recently that stir emotions deep within on my values, the ability for me to be a team player, and the lone wolf within. This leads into a silent meditation off alone confronting my inner demons, how I operate in group settings, the way I create distance in my life from everything, experiences, people, and nature. This moment sitting here faced to face with the mountains surrounding me, La Luna gracing me with her soft delicate power, and stars blinking bright in the sky. Stars that do not look so far away, the lessons of the mountain echoes through the soul, through one of the best moments on the mountain, realizing the “star” that initiated my curiosity to see the rest of the night sky on the mountain, is actually a planet as Hawah mentions. I am sure this planet is Saturn, the ruling planet of my zodiac sign, Capricorn, the teacher, the taskmaster. We watch this planet set in the mountain range and disappear. I realize the lesson of the mountain, time moves so much faster on top of a mountain. When we are down low we think the mountain is moving slow, but the reason why mountains can be so big, stay for so long, and have such an impact on the world is due to the fact time moves faster on a mountain, making days and years seem to fly by and not noticing how slow in relation you are moving. You see the sky move by faster, the sun set sooner, the moon rise, the stars fly by at a pace that makes you realize how fast we are actually moving in this galaxy, the universe, the expansiveness and relatedness of time is evident in this moment. The lesson of the mountain: hold your ground, stay true to your soul, life is moving fast and each second is so precious. Remember that once you climb there is always more to go, more ranges, more valleys to dip into, more mountain peaks, higher and higher, lower and lower. There is no end, there is no time, but there is infinite time.

 

I want to stay but hunger, thirst, and longing to be a part of the group wins out. Next time I plan on spending the night or more time on this mountain. I think staying on a mountain in Peru is a must in this lifetime. Watch the full spectrum of night, morning, day, and everything in between occur on top of  a mountain. As we climb down the mountain this time smiles grace my face. I am forever transformed and grateful for the friendship and support within Hawah for accompanying me on this journey and the group for understanding. Best part is coming back to Melissa Wasi and the group being happy to see us, cheering, and so happy to hear the tale. I love this group!

Mysore Magic

Mysore Magic

A couple of weeks back I was doing my due diligence and scouring YouTube for yoga videos and I looked at my favorite intermediate Ashatanga primary series video for the umpteenth time. I just adore how flexible and strong the yogi(ni)s are in the video. I practiced a couple of times before, watched countless videos, printed out the series, and attempted poorly to try to learn on my own. That night I had a dream that Kino McGregor was in DC at this house I walked into sitting at a round table with a lot of other smiling faces, whom I did not know. I was so happy to see her, sit next to her, smile, and think about beautiful yoga. I woke up that morning thinking, I am going to do it, I am going to jump into Ashtanga yoga, but where to begin? Coming from a lineage of Sivananda Hatha Yoga, I enjoy set postures, discipline, and routine. Moving to DC I was looking for a place to practice yoga early in the morning before my early start to work and didn’t require a lot of talking from the teacher, not that early in the morning. Later that afternoon I get a message from my friend Autumn who I met briefly in San Francisco linking me and Jen René together, stating that Jen is an amazing Ashtanga yogi in DC who teaches Mysore at Flow. Life is grand in that way, supplying what I request shortly after I make the decision.

 

 

I woke up at 5:50am on Wednesday morning prepared to make it to class. I set out and signed up for the class. I walked in not sure what to expect, but knowing that I do not know the full sequence. Greeted at the door Jen knew it was me from the messages and smiled warmly. The heat in the room warming my cold bones from outside, the breathing from those other yogis who were already well on their practice hit my ear, I naively thought I was going to be really early before most arrived. I rolled out my mat and stood in samasthith, waiting patiently for direction on how to begin my practice. I knew going to class that no matter how many years of experience of yoga, the teacher decides how far along the sequence I progress. This is fine with me. Although doing yoga for 8 years I am still unable to fully get my heels down to the ground in downward dog and head to the knees in standing forward fold, or any fold for that matter. I welcome moving at my own pace and advancing slowly but quickly. I learned the first part of the sequence and after three full weeks, missing a couple of days at the studio, but practicing at home in the morning in spirit, I am at navasana (boat) pose. I do not think I am far along, but the changes in my practice, in my body, and my mind are extremely noticeable. My heels come closer to the ground, my breath is fuller, and my focus is sharp. I cannot speak highly enough of the teachers at Flow. For the first time I found a morning practice that really gets me going. The heat that I create in the body, the dedication, concentration, and lightness in the room is so empowering. Doing the practice at home is still just as profound, but being in the room with the Mysore crew and teachers is inspiring and comforting. I do not know most of the people in the class but I do feel a connection, a sense of belonging, a home within in the DC Yoga community. Thank you Jen, Peg, and Sandy for creating a playful, warm, sanctuary to practice in the morning and look forward to many more sweaty mornings coming out into the cold, feeling light and warm internally.

 

In love, sweat, magic, and peace,

APRIL RAMEÉ

How Can I Serve?

How Can I Serve?

After a morning of fulfilling yoga I realized I had a full day to play. I wanted to do anything fun but ended up going to my Mom’s to chop wood. Her backyard looked like a graveyard full of tree trunks chain sawed vertically exposing the inside of the tree, TREE GUTS! As long as I can remember I have had a deep respect and fascination with trees. I get lost in forests, speak to trees, and cry every time I see too many trees chopped down violently for the sake of progress.

My respect and love for trees and my task to split the freshly fallen were at odds as I turned on the gas powered machine that uses hydraulics to apply heavy weight to a tree trunk and force the split of this living organism. To deal with the massacre, I zoned out on the pattern of the tree rings, how they were formed, and how one ring represents a year in the life of a tree. One tree trunk had a deep indigo color on the left about halfway in and there were numerous rings that were afflicted by this deep indigo color. What happened to the tree on that one side for so many years that created the deep indigo color? Gus, my Mom’s boyfriend, said it must have been natural gas. I do not know much about natural gas and its effects on nature, but I was deeply absorbed in samyama, meditation and bliss, over the tree stumps. I noticed that some rings were larger than others, some had more width between each ring on the left or the right, one tree trunk even had a triangle pattern etched through the whole stump as if someone took a sharp knife and just put a light pattern into the tree over years and years of growth. There were even stumps that had little holes all together that showed that a family of slugs or some type of animal lived in that section of the tree for many years. As I parted from the graveyard with deep respect and gratitude for my grand lesson I could not help but smile and give thanks that today I decided to do manual labor and help my mother outdoors in nature.

The next day I went to my first DC Satsanga hosted by Gopi Kinnicutt and Rukmini Walker. According to the description on the DC Satsanga Facebook Page, “Sat means Truth, and Sanga is a gathering of friends… so a Sat-sanga is a gathering of friends to discuss Divine truth and support each other in our spiritual journeys.” Rukmini spoke of a story that formed a connection of the tree, jiva, and dharma.

This story begins with a deep still pond tucked away deep in the forest. Imagine you are at the edge with a collection of pebbles. Throw a pebble into the center of the pond and concentric circles will ripple out peacefully. Throw pebbles here and there with no rhyme or reason and the concentric circles will ripple into each other creating interference and no peace. These concentric circles reminded me of the tree rings. What are tree rings but concentric circles formed over a long period of time from a point of focus? A point that is jiva, “immortal essence of a living organism which survives physical death” (Wikipedia). As Gopi Kinnicutt stated, “Focus is one then in harmony.” The indigo color from the tree, the holes from the animals, and the destruction of the tree’s connection to the ground are all interferences. Yet the tree grows so slow and leaves behind a documentation of its history proving that a deep inner focus and strong core, although there are many interferences, creates longevity and a model to live after. The tree is a natural guru of dharma and jiva. Dharma is the duty or innate service path of a living organism. The tree lived a long time and served the world (dharmic path) with fresh air by taking in pollutants, provding a home for animals, and now it will provide warmth in a cold winter by being consumed by a fire. This tree never thought about its dharmic path it is being dharma. The tree is a gift for us to learn how our nature is created to BE not think. Thinking and analyzing is not necessary to follow our dharmic path, it is our jiva, our immortal essence. Our dharmic path is special and unique like fingerprints and is our gift to the world. If we look close enough to nature and trees we can learn the following lessons and more:

· Adapting to interference while focusing on jiva.

· Offer what you do to something bigger than yourself.

· Expressing gratitude to all those that have shaped you in your growth by their interference.

I will leave this post with one final thought that Gopi brought to my attention that has forever shaped my concentric circles; if someone does something wrong to you, influences you, or attempts to pull you away from jiva, your dharmic path, then ask yourself, “what can I apologize for? How can I serve?”

In deep service,

April

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