In the midst of this holiday season, with the spirit of giving in the air, I wanted to share with you some incredible people and organizations who are contributing in amazing ways to their communities. These are people and organizations who have truly warmed my heart over the past year. I want to share their stories with you today because they serve as an inspiration to me. If you are also touched by what they are doing, then I encourage you to visit their websites below to learn more.
Willka T’ika Children’s Fund
Carol Cumes is the lovely lady behind the Willka T’ika Children’s Fund, providing educational resources to the Quechua children living in the isolated mountain villages of Peru. I had the pleasure to meet this amazing woman and visit one of her schools on my recent trip to Peru this past May. The sweet children there had organized a special program for us, including a song in Quechua and in Spanish. They also took us on a tour of their Cuyeria, where they learn how to raise guinea pigs, as well as of their greenhouse. These children literally walk two hours one-way to attend school daily, wearing only rubber sandals for shoes. Donations to the Children’s Fund provide these children with school desks and supplies, daily lunches, emergency medical services, and more.
The Roots of Music
This organization is founded by one of my absolute favorite bands – Rebirth Brass Band! You may remember them from my August 2014 Blog. I love their music, and I love them even more for this fantastic organization that they created! The Roots of Music provides after-school tutoring and music education to the youth of New Orleans. This program offers children a safe space, emphasizes education, and promotes music as a positive force in their lives. Here’s a video with more about what they do; it absolutely touches my heart and makes me want to fly down there and meet these amazing and talented kids!
This local organization is based out of Silver Spring, Maryland, where they have created a museum for meditation! What a novel concept! They provide the communities of Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia with a multitude of workshops and programs on meditation and practical tools for daily living. Sister Jenna, the founding director of the Museum, is a beautiful soul who embodies peace. In addition to being the director of the Museum, she also hosts the America Meditating Radio Show, which can be heard at anytime day or night by downloading the Pause for Peace app. And, my favorite event is their Karma Kafe Conversations, where they take spirituality into local coffee-shops and community gathering spaces with the simple goal of raising awareness through dialogue.
I love this! My dear friend, C.Mae Jones, is the brainchild of this fantastic up and coming organization! Cruelty-Free Kitchen is a pop-up vegan café in Hampton Roads, Virginia. C.Mae is a compassionate individual and an amazing vegan cook. She holds monthly pop-up vegan meals in local homes or community spaces with the intention of increasing awareness that compassionate eating is not only possible, but also delicious, creative, and fun! All of her meals are donation-based, with the donations going toward a different animal rights organization each month.
I always love to hear about amazing people, doing inspirational things by following their passion and creating some pretty awesome karma in the world! These were just a few of those people and organizations that touched my heart over this past year. Do you have any similar stories that you wish to share? If so, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your story in the comments section or send me a message.
Peace and love through this holiday season and beyond!
The Yamas comprise the first of eight limbs on the path of Raja yoga, as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Generally, the Yamas are viewed as a guideline for our interactions with the external world. In my recent contemplation of the Yamas, I have taken a more inward approach by examining how they can be applied to the intimate relationship with our self. Since our external relationships are reflections of our inner state of being, it is vital to first apply these concepts to our self.
The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa, defined as non-violence or non-harming. In our current society, we are bombarded with images and advertisements that send messages of all the ways in which we are lacking. This constant barrage of misinformation can easily lead us down the road of negative self-talk. Negative self-talk creates thought patterns that eventually lead to depleting our energy and even causing physical illness. The practice of ahimsa teaches us to work on changing this negative inner chatter into positive. In other words, we learn to be kind to ourselves. The messages that we receive from the external world are blatant; the messages that we offer are ourselves are subtle, yet far more powerful. So, this is the first place to practice ahimsa – in working to create positive, energy-giving, non-harming thoughts toward our self. The beneficial effects of this single practice naturally carry over into all other aspects of one’s life.
The second of the Yamas is Satya, defined as truthfulness. What does it mean to stay true to yourself? Each one of us may have a different answer to this question based on our individual needs and preferences. A universal situation in our current lifestyle in which the practice of Satya can be applied is when we take on more than we can handle. Are we practicing Satya when we take on that one extra project even though we know that we already have too much on our plate? We live in a time when being incredibly busy and over-stimulated is considered the norm, but are we really being true to ourselves in doing so? Are we maximizing our potential for optimal health and well-being? By staying true to our needs, we act in non-harming ways toward ourselves; so, the practice of Satya can also be considered a practice of Ahimsa.
The third and fourth Yamas are Asteya and Aparigraha, non-stealing and non-hoarding. I often discuss these concepts together because the practice of non-hoarding is a practice of non-stealing. When we hold onto memories, images, emotions, and attachments, we steal from ourselves – we take away our own peace, happiness, joy, time, and energy. In hoarding past resentments, regrets, and fears, we steal from our present moment and future potential. As a result, we cause harm to our self and are no longer practicing Ahimsa. Asteya and Aparigraha also require being true to our self and so an understanding of Satya is needed.
The final Yama is Brahmacharya, which is often defined as celibacy and has also been described as moderation. However, my favorite explanation, and perhaps the most accurate, is “to walk with God.” This definition is based on the Sanskrit translation where “Brahma” means God and “Charya” is “to walk with.” These three seemingly different descriptions for Brahmacharya can be combined and interpreted as: In practicing celibacy or moderation with our indulgences, we conserve our energy so that we may walk with God. So, for this Yama, it is important to consider our indulgences. For example, I love vegan chocolate cupcakes (shout out to Sticky Fingers Bakery in DC that supplies these yummy cupcakes to my local Whole Foods Store!). Nothing tastes quite as good after a long, hard day at the office. But, how do I feel after indulging in this chocolaty goodness? Generally, I feel great at first! But, after the sugar rush diminishes, I feel sluggish and as though perhaps I am not able to “walk with God” with my full attention. So, Brahmacharya is practicing moderation so that we may spend more time in our awareness and direct perception of the Divine presence.
There you have it – a brief summary of my personal interpretation of the Yamas. I invite you to consider these concepts yourself. Do these Yamas hold value to you? Do you find utility in applying these concepts in your daily life?
If you are interested in exploring these concepts further while also soaking in the beauty of Costa Rica next summer, then consider registering for our upcoming Disconnect to Reconnect Retreat. Early bird pricing is available through the end of this month.