Mandala House, the ashram's main building (image via yasodhara.org)

Hola from western Canada! I fled Montreal just before the heat wave hit and have been enjoying the cooler climate of British Columbia (where it’s unseasonably cool and rainy). I just spent a few days at the beautiful Yasodhara Ashram, where I had the full intention of blogging and taking pics. However, I had limited wifi access and a full schedule of karma yoga (selfless service in action), enjoying nature, thinking about my life and reconnecting with old friends. My photography ambitions were thwarted when my camera battery died and I realized that I’d forgotten my charger.

Yasodhara Ashram is a spiritual community on 120 acres of woodland resting on the shores of Kootenay Lake in southeastern BC. Founded by Swami Sivananda Radha (a disciple of Swami Sivananda and one of the first western women to be initiated in the yoga tradition) in 1963, the community continues to uphold her teachings while staying relevant to modern life. The ashram is run by initiates, but these are swamis who wear cardigans and khakis and pack around laptops. Rooted in tradition and simple living, the community also thrives on innovation and progressive ideas ~ collaborative working styles, sustainable building design, integrated food systems, new business models. The ashram has won provincial sustainability awards and aspires to be carbon neutral by 2013, when it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »

The Core yoga mat organizer in action (image via wired.com)

In a recent blog post, wired.com introduced the world to a new concept: the “Yoga Smugness Quotient (YSQ).” Apparently, the best way to to up your YSQ is to “pile on the hippy credentials” by using the Core yoga mat organizer, a triangular-shaped water bottle and small canister that screw together and fit in the centre of a rolled up yoga mat.

Sigh. My YSQ must be off the charts because when I look at the Core, I see a little bit of entrepreneurial chutzpah (after all, it was designed by a Slovenian teacher who enjoys hiking and singing), but I also see an unnecessary plastic product to take to yoga class, when my regular stainless steel water bottle and pockets will do the job just as well. All that to say that I might just be so yoga smug that I wouldn’t even buy an eco-friendly plastic container to show off how eco-friendly I am.

What’s your Yoga Smugness Quotient? Any other tips to up one’s YSQ?

A couple of blocks from my house in Montreal is a field, one of the few remaining undeveloped pieces of land in my neighbourhood. It’s a wild space, an abandoned space, a reclaimed space, a politicized space and a contaminated space which is also an oasis of biodiversity. Formerly owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, the field was purchased by the city of Montreal with the intention of being developed, despite resistance from the community.

As a free and unregulated space, it goes by several different names including the Maguire Meadow or, my favourite, Le Champ des Possibles: The Field of Possibilities. I have spent a lot of time in this field. I have sat and thought about my life, talked about life, set intentions for my life. I have run, drank wine, made wishes, made out and danced in this field. I have planted seeds, pulled weeds and picked up garbage. And for the first time, I’ve taught yoga in this field. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to part two of my conversation with Frank Jude Boccio – the dharma teacher who is so punk rock, he doesn’t even need to call himself punk rock! In the second half of our chat, Frank Jude graciously answered my pesky questions about some of my pet interests, including personal branding and making a living. This is stuff I’m trying to figure out for myself, so I find it fascinating and refreshing that Frank Jude is able to get his work out to the world without feeling the need to trademark his ideas or even have a functional website.

What does it mean to be independent and yet connected? How does personal branding contradict the “radical identity politics” of buddhadharma? How does trademarking and branding foster a “cult of personality” among some yoga and dharma teachers? Do business models and corporate structures takes away the intimacy of practice? And what about the environmental impact of the travel schedules of high profile teachers?

All this and more, in the second half of this feature conversation! And if you haven’t already, be sure toΒ read part one of the conversation with Frank Jude Boccio.

Welcome to a new experiment on it’s all yoga, baby: feature video conversations with awesome figures in the yoga community! And first up is one of my favourite dharma and yoga teachers, Frank Jude Boccio, who graciously accepted my invitation for a Skype call. Basically, he was my guinea pig as I figure out how to ask questions, be on camera and edit video.

Frank Jude Boccio lives with his wife and baby daughter in Tucson, Arizona, where he teaches yoga, works on building sangha and is writing his next book. He is an ordained Zen Buddhist teacher, Interfaith Minister and a lay brother in the Tiep Hien Order established by Thich Nhat Hanh. While rooted in the Tucson community, he also teaches retreats and workshops around North America and is faculty on the Moksha Yoga teacher training program. His first book, Mindfulness Yoga, is considered essential reading for aspiring yoga practitioners.

I appreciate Frank Jude’s integrity, breadth of knowledge and ability to keep it real. Also, he’s so punk rock that he doesn’t even need to call himself punk rock. In this two-part conversation, we discussed the trials and joys of building community, the unifying threads in his eclectic background, a secular approach to zen practice, resisting the uniform of personal branding and making conscious choices.

The whole interview is almost half an hour long, so here is part one. The second part will be up on Monday!

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