Champery, Switzerland

I'm in Champery!

A very old and charming village located in a huge skiing area of Switzerland. Despite the modern-age it has still maintained its old world charm of wooden chalets, flower window boxes and the rugged mountains as the backdrop. The contrast between the lush, green mountains of the late summer turning to autumn mixed with the coming of winter and the snow-capped mountain tops is stunning. Being here made me wonder how it would feel to open my door each morning to such a spectacular view. Another life, another time and certainly another idea on what's it all about.

Why does it take, however, looking at nature to remind 'me' or anyone of the continuous beauty around us and move away from materialistic thoughts. My mind races to think of what I am doing later and what I didn't get done before we left. Mountains have this wonderful way of getting you to stay present in their majestic beauty. They sort of seem to say very astutely, "I am here." Yogananda Paramahansa used to say that when most people see a mountain they see a mountain. But when he sees a mountain he sees God.

Did some negative conditioning toward 'enjoying' yourself get wedged under our skin and we hardly noticed it? One should be working, producing and doing something good for the world instead of staring at mountains! However, the over glorification of being busy has ruined the simple appreciation of watching a bird fly, a sun set and a mountain top glimmer in the sun.

These great mountains are the perfect reminder and the gift of the universe. It is not outside of us, but inside of us. And for me, when I see this is as God, I feel pretty good. What is also lovely is that this little are is actually called "Les Portes des Soleil" (the gates of the Sun).

A main highlight of the town is the old stone church (1702), which is located right on the street corner. When I saw it I thought of my mom who loves stone churches. It's not often you see a real stone church.

This area of Switzerland is also French speaking so I wore my beret! Hats are lots of fun and with 
a closet full of them why not wear one!?  A personal but universal lesson is to enjoy what 
we have, where we are and whom you are with. Dipa Ma (a Buddhist meditation teacher) said, "it is not what the world is but what we bring to the world." Everything in life she felt was useful, usable and we should make the most of it while we are here, while we have time and energy. Dipa Ma went on to say 
that not doing so was a waste of our human birth and missing the true purpose of our lives.    

Dream Castle of Walt Disney Land

I'm in Germany driving to an 18th century castle!  

It was a terrible rainy day. It rained just once and for the whole day. Actually, my husband said it as we drove along in fog, rain, sleet and haze. None of this stopped us from heading to the beautiful castle in Germany that inspired the replica in Walt Disney Land. In fact, that wasn't even a second thought.  

Called Schloss Neuschwanstein, the castle was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria and the home to Richard Wagner (a German composer and theater director). It houses beautiful paintings, a grand piano and much more.  

The castle is only reachable part way by car. The rest is either on foot or the romantic way in an old historic horse and carriage ride. Now, I have to say it might have been until you sit with 10 other tourists, their children and at the front. Having a front row view of the scenery was also a front view of the horses asses who were blowing gas and taking a dump on the way. One father took a freak, which we thought was a bit over the top, because at the end of the day we are riding with a real animal not a machine. 

This father's reactions was like the many people who love the puppy but can't stand the shit. They love the package but don't like the work behind it. In the 'real' world we need to learn to take the bad with the good and the good with bad. That means the cow dung, the horse shit and all that other garbage, which is also by the way good nutrients for the soil makes the plants and flowers grow.  

This is how the castle looked when we were there. It was also under-construction 
Because of the fog it didn't look much like the picture below, which is an ariel shot. 
What an awesome scene, which is a picture of a picture (re: a poster). 

I drove to Graz, Austria

I'm in Graz, Austria!

A fabulously old, charming and beautiful city. The drive from the house in Southern Germany is about 800 km's. My husband and I shared it, which made it easier. It was my first time on the Auto-bahn (Germany's highway) and doing a speed of 190 km. If you are not familiar with German rules there are  long stretches of the highway where there is no speed. A large white, round circle with a line through it indicates you have entered the 'unlimited speed' zone.  I drove 400 km's, which is the furthest I have ever driven in one shot.

It was also my first time going through tunnels. There are a lot of tunnels in Germany. In Europe in general there are many undergrounds carved into the mountains, which range from one km to many more! We lost track of them but we probably went through at least thirty tunnels during the entire trip.

       View from our hotel room in Graz, Austria. 

The highlight of the Graz (the second largest city next to Vienna) is Schlossberg (meaning the castle on the mountain). I walked up the 260 steps, which were built by the Russian prisoners and the Austrian pioneers. I had to say I sighed and paused a bit as I climbed the stairs thinking of how many of us enjoy these steps today but really from the suffering of others. I just wanted to take a moment to think about that, because history does matter! 

    View at the top of the mountain castle. 

On the top of the mountain are cafes, gardens and restaurants. There is also a terrific view of the city, which is overlooked by the protective Clock Tower. Such a glorious view. I didn't notice at the time (no pun intended) but the hands of the clock are actually backward.

Earlier in Graz time was only on the hour. The second hand was added later (and I guess by someone who figured it was any which way).

The more I tired to learn and understand Graz's history, the more the city amazed me of its deep history. And the more I walked through old alleys of the city and landed in gardens and courtyards the more there was to learn, know and discover. I sometimes feel that there is no much to learn there is hardly time. So, I was reminded of our permanent state while alive.

Dancer posture (Tripura Harasana)

The statue of Natarajasana (Shiva) says it the best.

Being both wise and ignorant.

Hoping to be exclusively wise is probably not possible.

Being closer to ignorance seems more realistic since life is so vast.

The dancer pose is the best illustration of the one leg of Shiva stepping and dancing into cosmos while the other is grounded.

It symbolizes the ability to be awake and aware while rooted in this time sphere, but being part of another. It is also symbolic of maya (illusion), avidya (ignorance) and the covers (koshas) to uncover.

                                                         Dance (Tripura Harasana)
Dancing right along another highlight of Graz was buying chocolate truffles at a shop that was once part of old cathedral. Check out the ceiling (below).    

Next to this highlight and perhaps more sur-real was the coffee and cookies at the King's Bakery. We enjoyed lovely, small cookies called 'panthers', which were once served to the King himself. The bakery store front is decked out in wooden frames with a glided crown dating back to 1569! You cannot miss it as it stands out like a great wonderful piece of the past. This was the only place where the King bought his baked cookies and each of the chefs were hand-picked by the King.

Graz is so full of glorious architecture, street artists, pretty box flowers and the view above the city is like no other place else. It cannot be rightfully compared to any other city or town. It's just Graz.

This picture says it all.


Is Love Enough?

I'm in South Germany near the Swiss border. This is a poem sent to me by a martial artist.

The power of love is often underestimated.

Love has great tranformative power,
it has great protective power,
it has great healing power!

It is not a quick fix, but it has a deep and lasting effect.
It requires patience and perseverance.
It requires the ability to see beyond present circumstances,
to the inner circumstances,
to the vision of perfection that is flowering in your heart.

The world will not always support your endeavor to love.
It will often seem to turn against you, to try and thwart your efforts.
Certainly you will be judged.

It is simply not looked upon as normal to rely on this great power.
People will question you (though they are really questioning themselves)

"Is love really enough?"

Their minds are already made up

"No, it is not enough."

They will give you all the REASONS why.
You'll get all the "other things" that are required.

How can you argue? It will be hard to argue because their ideas come from knowledge.
But the idea that LOVE IS ENOUGH comes from knowing
a sense deep in your being
a voice calling out
an inner certainty.

How can this be proved?
No, it must be felt.

Once felt, no argument
no matter how logical, practical nor persuasive
can ever convince you otherwise.

Yes the power of love is often underestimated,
but we can at least demonstrate our knowing
through our thoughts, words and actions.

As time goes on this will leave the residue of love on the world
and it will change.
One day humanity as a whole will embrace love
and know that it is enough.

Written by Vivek (a Ninjustu artist and teacher) 

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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