Wednesday, June 20, 2012

HARPY EAGLE!!!!!

Grace happend today and resulted in my third wild sighting of a Harpy Eagle. This time I saw it from in front of my room here at Refugio Amazonas. The Harpy is one of the largest eagles in the word with talons large enough to slay a howler monkey and that are as wide as a man's wrist at the ankle. The earth almost seems to shake when they press off of a perch to take flight. 

The sighting came about as a result of observing the signs correctly: 
1) It started raining and then the sun came out so it became a sun shower; 2) I look out the back of my room and notice I bit of a rainbow forming in the fine spray of raindrops:
3) I think to myself, hmmmm maybe if I step outside of my room and get more space in front of me I will see and even bigger rainbow!;
4) I recall the rainbow halo of many bodhisattvas;
5) I step outside and after taking 5 steps for some reason I look up in the opposite direction of where the predicted rainbow was supposed to be:
6) I see a HUUUUGE HARPY EAGLE flying to a Brazil Nut tree just on the edge of the lodge's clearing and I see it fly just moment there is a gap large enough for me to see it, identify it, and think OMFG that's a Harpy Eagle!!:
7) TIME STOPS;
8) This is one of the 1000's of reasons why I LOVE the rainforest: when you contemplate the sighting of rare and majestic creatures and the perfect serendipity of the experience, it stuns the mind with the beautiful perfection of it. 

Amazonian Yoga.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yoga and Conservation in the Tambopata-Candamo of the Peruvian Amazon


Raw. Freshness. Change, unfolding like the stamen and pistol inside a bright yellow flower opening its heart to the world—a trumpet calling us to wakefulness if we look with the right eyes and proper attitude.


I’ve made it to the Amazon and I’m overjoyed to be here.  After a five and a half hour flight from Miami I arrived in Lima, and the following morning I flew to gateway of the Southern Peruvian Amazon, Puerto Maldonado.

Not knowing quite what to expect in terms on living conditions and work, I have now come to feel grateful for what I’ve found: community, soul, permaculture, and a sincere commitment on everyone’s part to discover what it means to live sustainably with Mother Earth.

I am currently living in the outskirts of Puerto Maldonado. I teach yoga with 2 ecolodges and work for a conservation organization doing program support and environmental economics/biological research. The region holds some of the most pristine tropical forest with some of the highest records of butterfly and bird diversity in the world. The region is teeming with wildlife, including the famous Giant River Otters, Tapir, Jaguar.  

The conservation organization is called Fauna Forever Tambopata, and I connected with them initially when I was in the region back in 2007 doing my master's research. Here's a nice promotional video about the environmental education component of the work (http://vimeo.com/30094489), and this is the website: http://www.faunaforever.org/

For the second part of my work there I'll be teaching yoga with these lodges and helping to develop their infrastructure to more readily handle retreats/immersion experiences. Kapievi Ecovillage (doing a massive update to the site): http://www.tambopataecotours.com/about-us.html. Kapievi is a small ecovillage specializaing in the “homestay experience” and experiences with plant medicine. Refugio Amazonas (deep in the Jungle, a 3 hour motor canoe up the Tambopata river from Puerto Maldonado) http://www.perunature.com/refugio-amazonas.html has pristine rainforest, brazil nuts, amazing lakes, a canopy tower, and world-class guides and accommodation.

The initial contract for this work is 5 months, so please come and visit me! As the marketing material for this yoga program gets put together (integrating conservation, sustainable development, and yoga) I'll be sure to share the fliers. If you want to stay in touch with other than just emails I invite you to join my newsletter list on my website, The Ashtanga Tree -- or just let me know and I will add you. No SPAM I promise. 

I’m leave for Refugio Amazonas lodge on Friday, June 15 for the next 10 days where I’ll be teaching yoga to travelers from all around the world. After this I’ll return to Puerto for another 10 days and then I will be heading to the field for a stint of research and to make a promotional video with the Fauna Forever team.

I teach daily at 7am for an hour and then I head off to the all-vegetarian kitchen to eat the usual assortment of fruit, granola, yogurt, eggs, bread, tomatoes, avocado, and, of course,  delicious coffee. After what usually amounts to about an hour of chatting and eating I walk next door through a regenerating forest, over a line of leaf-cutter ants, under a few cecropia trees, to arrive at the Fauna Forever house/office/think-tank/conservation powerhouse/research center and get to work.

In addition to teaching, proposal writing, and conducting research, I am supporting an initiative to bring more yoga to the Amazon. We are interested in sharing the powerful energy of mother earth, supporting sustainable development, healing, and facilitating awakening experiences in this heart center of the world. We are striving to bring international yoga attention to the region as well as fostering the development of yoga in local community. Grassroots style. 

If you have any interest in visiting, please let you know ASAP and I will be able to arrange accommodation for you. We will be able to make a special experience integrating yoga and the finest rainforest experience you can imagine. 

My heart sings in this place, but it is muffled by my wishes to see you all and longs for the next time our paths cross.

Yours,
Matthew

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meditation provides one with the ability to choose; to look at what is arising and decide "yes I want to work with this," or "no, it is not necessary to work with this." I experience this when I suffer from insomnia, where thoughts are churning out virally and preventing sleep. In learning this type of discernment we free up vast quantities of energy that allows our mind to function more efficiently and to naturally be more easeful. In this sense, it gives our experiences more space, more of a balanced context from which we can perceive emotions, thoughts, and feelings for what they really are. It also supports us to see what we need (if anything) from this patterned unfolding of the vibration (or the vritti).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dark

...our mind still has its darkest Africas, its unmapped Borneos and Amazon Basins.
-Aldous Huxley

Tropical Dharma

Urania Moth,  Madagascar

The wisdom of the middle path is illustrated nicely by how biology responds to the middle lands of the equator. The vast and kaleidoscopic emergence of life will emerge metaphorically in our yoga practice if we cultivate the middle path, the sweet and honey'd middle, free from extremes. With tropical 12-hour days and the balance of light and dark (prana and apana) in our own, internal planetary microcosm of the body a sort of metaphorical life explodes in response. This is the highest yoga tantra and the realization of indra's net. This is the gateway to the unlocking the ecstatic energy in the body, and for me, the beauty of the tropical landscape is an undeniably ecstatic, obvious manifestation of kundalini (even though she is everywhere).  The stillness of the weather patterns, too, over the equatorial portions of the tropical seas (the doldrums) reflects what happens when the mind is absorbed in the central axis of the body equanimously. It is the same stillness (sama), which crippled trade in the days, when the seas were only traveled by sail. The stillness that forced our predecessors us to halt and consider their place in a vast whole. It is a stillness bursting with energy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Tangled Bank

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
-Darwin

Highest Yoga Tantra

"Taking pleasure of beauty of nature is the most profound yoga, if no one is there to capture the perception of it."
-Daniel Odier

Gratitude

I am grateful 
for the way my soul is sometimes 
drawn to move with other souls and then separated 
from them. I observe here a law of soulmaking 
with exciting possibilities for 
understanding. 

Scenes of how it operates appear: People in arctic cold, others in the tropics. Oceans, high desert canyons, wooded valleys, all in harmony with “the One who has no partner”. There is a group that sings and moves in pure joy; another is quiet in the midst of tremendous grief and carnage. A tree bristling with thorns: jealousy, meanspirited revenge. Then the white jasmine 
flowers bud, open, and drop the 
gift of themselves. 

Why are we shown this? 
So we can appreciate the whole as given. 
When I am grieved and without hope, I accept that 
as grace, as well as the removal of pain. A deep 
knowing comes as we are shown, receive, 
and grow to love both. 

Bahauddin (1318–1389)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Split Open

--------------------------------------------

The depth of the heart can only be matched by the expanse of the universe.
Dive, or better yet surrender into the core to be shown. 

Compassion birthed from the immediacy of our own conditions of anguish,
and knowing those feelings dwell in others.  

Compassion arising from the recognition that we are all family,
and that we share the same desires for happiness, fulfillment, agency, and freedom. 

I am split open and the light comes pouring in.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scientific Litteralsim

Science is only one way of knowing, and its purpose is not to generate absolute truths but rather to inspire better and better ways of thinking about phenomenon.
-Wade Davis

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mulabandha


This doming principle, which is so perfectly embodied by jellyfish, is what creates sustainability in our yoga posture. Create this feeling in the pelvic floor, the soft palate, the palms of the the hands and soles of the feet, the root of the throat,  the armpits, and all the major joints of the body. Embody how the jellyfish looks, feels, and moves (the pulsation) in these energy centers and the posture will feel lighter and more joyous. It may take slowing down at first to begin feeling in this way.



photo source: http://pixdaus.com/single.php?id=120690&from=email and http://www.flickr.com/photos/cronos/

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shift Towards Relationship

"We have to shift our attitude of ownership of nature to relationship with nature. The moment you change from ownership to relationship, you create a sense of the sacred."
-Satish Kumar  





Friday, September 9, 2011

Lineage and Orientalism


I wonder about yoga teachers who don't have a teacher, or have a mystery somebody, somewhere, from a mystical foreign land. Where is the root, baby? I don't think yoga needs to derive power or legitimacy through an outdated orientalist notion of the "magical East." If you are claiming a lineage, what is the basis for that claim?


Don't get me wrong. I place a lot of value on teachers from the East (Tibet, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, etc.) but the value they've given me has to do with the here and now, and I maintain transparency about that. You study with me, I tell you who I studied with. If you want to go study with them yourself, then by all means go! I'll even tell you the texts that I read. But for god's sake, why do we need to create "legitimacy" from East. We are applying these teachings wherever we are, and this moment is just a rich a field for realization as was a moment in the past. Or a moment in India. Just like the veins of a leaf, the lineages of true yoga practice remain connected to central vein, or impulse. To take the metaphor a step further, just as each vein needs the other vien's support to maintain flow and vitality of life force in the leaf, so too do the various yoga schools need each other in order to keep the entire weaving, or tantra, alive, grounded, and engaged.   


Some folks think that because they studied with someone who studied with Krishnamacharya that they can consider themselves a student in the "Krishnamacharya lineage." Ok, think whatever you like, I am just wondering why you think that claiming this somehow empowers or legitimizes your studentship when you haven't even studied with the master himself. Why isn't it enough to say, I practice in the lineage of Pattabhi Jois, or BKS Iyengar, or Desikachar, who are actually legitimate students of Krishnamacharya. Can we consider the system to be valid if it's not linked somehow to a more ancient root? To what extent have yoga schools and philosphical systems emerged from historical contexts in the past and claimed themselves to be different? I think quite a lot. And I think this is good. Multiple schools bring us multiple visions of the Supreme. The Buddha did this. Gaudapad and Shankara also did this. It is good, clearly, but these schools emerged from realized beings, who had a clarity of seeing that many of us simply do not have, or do not have yet!


I say go ahead and make your own lineage for the sake of business, but know you're doing for that reason. Please don't overlay your notions of spiritual grandur on a system that you've created to make money from. Please continue to pay respects to your roots, to those that came before you. Please continue to pay homage to the lotus feet of the teachers, and the teacher's teachers that walked this path before you; that proved it to be functional and of lasting value. Please be humble enough to acknowledge your roots. Business is good for yoga and as a result of well-direct business initiatives many thousands of people have been effected by the power of yoga. However, if your business and the accompanying model of yoga that is being taught, has been made up because its gonna give you firmer abs or a tighter ass, or more muscular arms, or because its gonna make you sweat, please call it something else other than yoga. Perhaps a calisthenics would be more accurate. Why are you sequencing the postures in that way? Why are you doing them so quickly or slowly? and is this practice facilitating Awakening? What matters is the persistance of inquiry without becoming paralyzed by it. Continue to ask why throughout your practice in the spirit of continual awakening. A continual checking-in process; if not with your teachers then with your self and your true intentions. Yoga is not acrobatics. Yoga is not just posture. Yoga is not just breath. Yoga is not all happy and not all sad. Yoga is not limited one school or another. Yoga is arrived at through a process of inquiry and through a reminder of the process of the Upanishadic "neti neti" or a "not this, not this" analysis. If you put a box around it the spacious effulgence of the energy of awakening is lost. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walk Your Path


Lotuses in the same pond don't grow at the same pace. While some are blooming, some are still in the water, and others are at the level of the water. You should do what you can according to your abilities. If you wait for the other, you might be eaten by the fish and turtles.
-Ajahn Chah

Monday, May 9, 2011

Las Tablas Finca, La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, Costa Rica

This is a composite image to two shots that were spliced together using photoshop. The exposure was not adjusted to reflect the true softness of the early morning light and the stark red of the tree's tissue. Take note of the bromeliads and other epiphytes growing in the branches.  The yellow flowers are from an Oncidium orchid. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Like to Sit

An embodiment of the Bodhi Tree along a riverbank in Costa Rica

Meditation provides one with the ability to choose; to look at what is arising and decide "yes I want to work with this," or "no, it is not necessary to work with this." I experience this when I suffer from insomnia, where thoughts are churning out virally and preventing sleep. In learning this type of discernment we free up vast quantities of energy that allows our mind to function more efficiently and to naturally be more easeful. In this sense, it gives our experiences more space, more of a balanced context from which we can perceive emotions, thoughts, and feelings for what they really are. It also supports us to see what we need (if anything) from these patterned unfoldings (the vritti). I need to meditate more.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weave a Nest for Yourself: seedling on a palm frond


Weave a nest for yourself in the depths of my eyes. O your slender body that resembles a young tree growing from the garden of my heart. At the sight of a bead of sweat on your face I may suddenly die.

- Ali Shir Nava'i of Herat, 14th century Turkish Poet

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Costa Rica: Home for the Next 3 Months



Hi friends. Many of you know that I have been intending to go to India to continue my yoga studies and take some well deserved rest. The fates, however, had something else in mind when last Thursday I received word from a friend and colleague about an opportunity to spend the spring working on a project in Costa Rica; the very same project that I worked on in February earlier this year. While this is an exceedingly last minute change of plans (that even required the cancelation of my ticket to India), I believe this decision will lead to balance. Had things unfolded as originally planned, I would be boarding a plane today for India. The entire architecture of the spring changed in a blink. A breath. Change can come that fast.  

After so much running around in the last 4 years of my life, taking this three months to learn, hike, practice, mist net birds and bats, and to be still in the beauty of nature will be a medicinal downshift. The research I am supporting is subsumed under Stanford's "countryside biogeography" project, which endeavors to understand the dynamics of human land-use patterns on bird and bat communities, and to quantify the ecosystem services provided by forested areas in the Las Cruces area of Costa Rica. 

I am thrilled to be a part of this project, and equally excited for the opportunity to spend my time with really great people and to practice my Spanish in one of the most bird rich, beautiful landscapes in the world. Here is a link to some of the results that have emerged from this project. 

Lastly, I am cognizant of the fact that Yoga does not need the boundaries of a yoga mat in order to be practiced, and in fact the practice is truly tested when we bring what we learn on the mat out into the world--when the mandala of the sacred space is destroyed to reveal that its true nature is the nature of everything. The practice will always continue and I commit to being aware of the continuous unfolding of the opposites, of prana and apana, in the radiant dynamism of the natural world for the benefit of all beings. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wisdom vs. Knowledge: a Proposal


Knowing something does not give you power over it, nor does it make you somehow more in control of the situation. Can you allow your knowledge of the said thing to provide you with insight into the fabric that weaves together the subject and the object? Can you allow your knowledge to actually make you more tangibly aware of your own vulnerability? To co-opt facts for the ego's benefit will only add strength to the fires of samsara.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Misty Morning Raven


An old raven speaking the wisdom in the guttural way that they do. Location: Berkeley Hills








Sunday, May 16, 2010

YOGA PRIVATES

Do you feel like your practice has plateaued, and are you looking to advance? Are you lost in your yoga classes and looking for clarity? Do you have nagging aches and pains from your practice that you just can't move on from? Do you want to know how to develop a sustainable home practice and have the support to make it happen?

Are you seeking a mentor to support you in your journey towards manifesting your teaching capabilities?

I am now available for for both periodic and ongoing private yoga instruction and yogic mentoring. Let's take it higher together!

Location: SF Bay Club or your personal practice space.
Length: 1 or 1.5 hours.
To reserve a session call 415-612-0190, or email matthew.champoux@gmail.com