Energy Exchange

DSC_9336.jpgLet’s Stretch our limits 16×40 Oil

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”~Buddha

If you have been practicing yoga at Moksha Yoga Calgary North, you may have noticed the changing art on the walls. I am the Artist and also a fellow yogini. Since the studio opened I have been doing an energy exchange- art for yoga.  The perfect trade!

My love of art and yoga has always had a way of overlapping in my life. I knew from the first day of my 200 hour yoga teacher training that even though both activities are very different, they have many similar philosophies.

Coming from a fitness background… somewhere along the line I decided that teaching yoga would be more sustainable to teach while I continued to pursue my art career.  I thought I would not be so tired.  WOW- I was in for a rude awakening.   I had only a few downward dogs under my belt and barely knew what a sun salutation was…let alone teach it to someone else. My poor teacher, he had his work cut out for him and truth be known, so did I!

I remember very clearly that exact moment in time, sitting on my mat, writing in my journal…it was my big “AHA” moment.  I realized why I was in the training. It was not about the perfect downward dog.  It was not to save the world, heal others, share my dimming light…it was to save me, heal me and make my light shine brighter.

In my heart, I felt like I was home.…The practice has a perfect way of meeting us where we are at…

A year later, I finished my training and that day I began my practice. I practiced everyday for 40 days. It changed my world. I surrounded myself in community and was blessed to have many great teachers. There was never a day that I did not walk out of a yoga class feeling lighter and more whole. Over 10 years later, many trainings and a lifelong commitment, I still feel the same way.

I admit that many times I fall off the train. But just like falling out of a tree pose, or being too busy to paint, I remember why I made the commitment and that I can make the choice to step back on the train at any time.

I began my yoga practice with intention to help others.   I now realize that finding the practice of yoga was a gift to me.   The gift of community, with the bonus of keeping my body strong, my breath flowing and my mind clear.   The beauty is, with the clarity and strength I gained from the practice, I can help other by sharing what I have learned.

Whether I am doing a headstand or holding a brush at my easel, I am very aware that both are rare opportunities to really be awake.  Present moment awareness – was the common feeling for me.  The feeling I wish to share.

“Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.” ― Amit Ray

Present moment awareness-I know this feeling intimately. It happens when I paint well, listen intently and practice with grace.  To me… ‘Waking up’ means being present enough to feel, be authentic and to gain the capacity of responding rather than reacting.

It is what I love and why I have made both painting and yoga a consistent practice in my life. It is where I get to feel most alive.  My career as an artist is growing and these days I spend my days painting, teaching art and sharing my yoga practice in my art camps and retreats.

I am honored and grateful to share my art in such a sacred beautiful space where it can be seen and felt.  It is the perfect energy exchange.

Namaste,

Michelle

http://www.michelleausten.ca

 “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”~Walt Disney

 

 

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Beneath a Coat of Snow

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“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am officially calling a sick day. My head is full of cold and my feet feel like they are full of cement.

As I sit on my couch in my fuzzy red comfortable robe at 2pm, I am watching the snow fall gently onto the earth. I am not feeling at all guilty to be taking a sick day. There is a lightness in the air, objects are slightly blurry and the colors I see are mostly soft and covered in white snow. It is quiet and I am grateful to have a day of rest and reflection.

Almost a year ago, I planned a trip to Virginia to see my cousin and her family. The trip was perfectly planned around the famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.   I packed my sketchbook and paints and was set out to have an art adventure, to be inspired by new sites, especially of the beautiful spring cherry blossoms that I have heard so much about.   I LOVE to travel-it is eye-candy for the senses. There is also the unexpected. Many times things do not go as planned yet when you learn to embrace the present moment, they can still go perfectly as intended…   Don’t fight the process.

On my first day in Virginia, I awoke to a similar scene as I am looking at today. Snow was gently falling and there was a chill in the air.

My cousin, Alexis and I are 7 years apart and really had only met each other less than a dozen times in our life. Yet, I felt like I was home, we shared the same grandmother, pictures in her home and stories we shared were familiar to me. We also both loved going for coffee and eating similar things. It was easy and fun to be with her.

She was a gracious host and showed me all the sites.

Despite the cold, cool temperatures we bundled up and headed out to see the memorials in Washington, DC. It was apparent that I needed a history lesson (or to watch more TV) when I pointed to a large pencil like structure and asked “What is that?” With huge eyes and a sly smile she replied “The Washington Monument.”

And so began my tour…

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Disclaimer: Just to make me feel better – I did recognize the White House immediately. I am also happy to say I can name all the memorials now when I see them in the movies. The bonus of travel for a visual person is education.  Did I mention that I am Canadian?

National World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial

Korean Monument

Korean Monument 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

We made our way through the memorials one by one. Alexis was being an amazing tour guide. Explaining to me that the Korean memorial was her favorite. as it touched her and her family. They really are amazing to see in person. There was a shallow pool approximately 2 ft deep surrounded by granite with engraving that said how many soldiers were killed, captured, missing or wounded. I was looking all around taking pictures, feeling somber and reflective, when the energy changed.

I hear someone shouting- Lady in the pool!! I take a deep breath, turned around to see that my dear cousin had taken one wrong step backwards and over she went, catching her foot in granite that actually said “wounded.” Weird coincidence? Hmm, not sure. The world seemed to stop for a moment. As I pulled her out of the pool , others were most concerned about the fact that her brand new I-phone was laying peacefully face down on the bottom of the pool. “The phone!” strangers screamed. I looked at the pretty salmon colored case face down in the pool and thought, “I need a stick”. I look up and a woman is waving her cane. We make eye contact – A little miracle- an angel sent her- I am sure. I borrowed the cane and pulled the phone close enough for a kind boy with long arms to reach in and retrieve her phone, complete with instructions on what to do to recover the phone.   The concern for the phone was a little alarming actually…I was more concerned about my cousin.

I look over at her, she is dripping wet, shivering and totally in shock. We walk over to sit down and reassess the situation.   Breathe….

We broke out into laughter. I had learned in yoga, The vibration of laughing and crying is almost the same, the release of energy in the body is what is important. We chose laughter.

Did that just happen? Was that for real? Was that a bad dream? Gut rolling laughter was what emerged right before survival skills kicked in.  A cab ride, extra layers of clothes, a cold pack, motrin and a few bloody mary’s later. We had reflected, laughed and ended up with a free desert at the restaurant in honor of the Best story of the Day. She was my hero that day.

She's a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

She’s a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

The next day while icing her elevated ankle , we wondered, “What was the purpose of that? “

Maybe we needed some comic relief in our somber moment? Not sure. We both agreed the spirits got a good giggle. (about the present moment awareness, not about her injured ankle.)

Maybe we needed to feel the kindness of others?     Not sure.

Maybe we needed to be here right now!    

That is for sure!

With Lightness and Love and Gratitude for family and travel,

Michelle

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial. I HAVE A DREAM!

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial.
I HAVE A DREAM!

Ps/ And for those concerned about the phone- it worked perfectly- Magic!

Creating Community Gardens

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When I reflect on Summer Camp 2014, the general theme that stands out for me is COMMUNITY.

Whether you are painting, doing yoga, working or going to the movies…the energy of group work raises the vibration and magic moments naturally occur.  My week spent with 8 young artists was full of Exploration, Inspiration and FUN!

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The end result was alot of amazing ART, but that is not what I remember even hours after the final Art Show.

What I remember was the process, the JOURNEY.  

Just like any creative project…IMAGINATION sparks an idea that STIRS the SOUL…

We seek out tools, canvas, paper, brushes and teachers to fill our tool box….CONFIDENCE is gathered to explore something new.

Set quickly into ACTION- otherwise known as PLAY MODE.  Avoid thinking and start doing.

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CONNECT, get involved, share with others, WONDER, get frustrated, cry, SMILE, Feel ELATED or deflated, scared or EXCITED. FEEL more.  Move through, move on and WONDER what the next journey will bring…

In the end after the canvas has been long forgotten we remember EACH OTHER.  The good times and the bad.  Maybe we remember sticky fingers from the fruit bouquet or how we felt when our final project turned out better than we imagined.  

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Regardless, I will treasure this week for all the SMILES and HUGS I received and I will PAY them forward.

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Bouquets of Gratitude,

Michelle

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”~Mother Teresa

MIND THE GAP

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I LOVE travel.  Small things always stick with you.  Today I remembered the saying “Mind the Gap”.

More than a few years ago, on a trip to London, England, was where I first heard the saying “Mind the Gap”.

“Mind the Gap” is a warning to train passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform.  The voice played over and over again.  The message was clear.  Pay attention.

The voice did not say “Do not Cross” or “Stay on your side of the line”.  It just reminded you to be mindful when you cross.

It is hard to step on the train with one foot.  The end result would be a physical disaster.  Split in two- not a pretty sight.

Yet in my life the things I really LOVE, I carefully place one foot in.  Soon, I begin to feel split in two.  Trying to be the best at everything ( gift and curse of a perfectionist) eventually not doing anything well and feeling drained and frustrated.  The other foot I leave in familiar territory, my comfort zone.  The place I know well.  Even when this place is no longer serving me, I feel safe here.  This split causes me great suffering.  It is hard to be pulled in many directions.

This summer I spent a few days alone in Victoria, wondering what I was doing there.  Reminding myself that I was there to take time for me.  So I sat on a rock for 4 hours in contemplation.  With an amazing view of the ocean.

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I realized that I needed to JUMP.  Both feet in!  What would that feel like?

As a child swinging off a rope into a safe pond-Jumping is exhilarating!  As an adult with responsibilities and preconceived ideas of what is right and accepted…the thought scares the crap out of me…Yet I suffer.  Complain…excuses, always excuses…all to familiar with this pattern.  Not going there.  I realize to end the suffering I need to jump into my life fully committed.  Good thing I was wearing my purple favorite Nikes.  JUST DO IT.

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It was in that moment that I decided to just step fully into my authentic life.  Stop hanging on to the edge.  Let go.  Be Clear-Set my intentions.  Be my own captain.  Steer my ship.

Mind the Gap.  Eventually to get to your destination you must step on the train.  With BOTH feet.  It is not that scary when you have someone to walk with.  We can lean on each other.

Let’s walk together….

Michelle

“There are always two choices. Two paths to take.  One is easy.  And its only reward is that it’s easy.”  ~ Unknown