Archive for Spirituality

Finding Peace During Stressful Times (Pandemic, Election) Through Nature & Sacred Activism

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this post finds you safe and well, and finding some peace and tranquility in the midst of these surreal, intense times. If a novelist wrote a book about what we are experiencing, critics would say it was too unbelievable. No wonder we are charged up, yet simultaneously exhausted. It seems every day, moment by moment, breaking news about politics, the election, the pandemic, the environment and climate, gets more distressing and anxiety-provoking.

And yet, we can, and hopefully do, experience moments of transcendence during our days during our spiritual and artistic practices, walking in nature and parks, listening to beautiful music, observing flowers and  plants, watching the sun set and the full moon rise, connecting with loved ones, joining with others towards a mutual goal, and many more ways. 

I always find it amazing that we can experience seemingly contradictory emotions during stressful times. However, it is a reminder of how multifaceted we are, and that situations are more fluent than we may realize. During challenging times, it helps to realize how resilient we truly are.     
Photo by Melissa Elstein
In terms of finding a more spiritual perspective even for our country’s upcoming election (which is a stress trigger for me), I have found the courses and meditations by David Nicol, a sacred activism author and teacher, very helpful. I have signed up for a daily meditation that arrives in my email box from entitled “May Wisdom Prevail in the USA”. Click here to join in these beautiful, transcendent meditations.

July 2015 – Personal Independence & Freedom

Wishing everyone a Happy 4th of July, and that you enjoy a safe and relaxing holiday weekend!

In thinking about what personal freedom means, aside from political freedom, I believe that the yogic principles directly apply. In yoga and other spiritual practices, we seek to undo the layers and layers of conditioning that bind us to repetitive thinking and habits. That conditioning mostly comes from our family environment, and even if our caretakers have wonderful intentions, we as little child sponges do soak up the norms, behaviors, and viewpoints of our family environment. Later, as we age, we also become conditioned by society – our friends, schools, media, etc. We continue through our lifetime to be exposed and conditioned by that which surrounds us. Though, as we age and mature, we begin to notice and perhaps question these outside influences. We can become more discerning and notice the effects of our family and societal influences on our selves. In our spiritual practices, we seek a liberation from these external influences so we can at least glimpse who we really are under all those conditions layers. Many of us have had moments, fleeting as they may be, of such peak transcendent experiences. Those moments are glimpses into who we really are – our true essence. For me, the more I can connect to the unconditioned self, my spirit or soul, the more I feel free and at peace. The paths to these momentary awakenings can be varied – yoga and meditation, qigong and tai chi, dancing, walking in nature, chanting, praying, jogging, being with animals or children, listening to music, connecting to art, and many more possibilities. When have you experienced this type of personal freedom?

Also, my wonderful Tai Chi Easy teacher, Roger Jahnke, OMD, will be teaching July 9 – 12 at The Open Center! Many of you have asked about studying this form of tai chi and qigong, and now is your opportunity. Thursday night, July 9 is the free intro and Friday – Sunday is his training. I highly recommend studying with Dr. Jahnke! Check out for more info.

October 2014 – Overview of Climate March with Yoga and Spirituality Group

I hope you are P1120802enjoying this beautiful Fall season.  I am headed to Omega for a 5-day retreat, and am looking forward to visually feasting on the vibrant hues of the Hudson Valley’s Fall foliage, and taking long walks in the crisp country air. 

Tonight, as I took a break from packing, I uploaded my photographs from the People’s Climate March this September 21 in NYC.  It is hard to believe that less than a month ago, 400,000 people from all over the world came together to march peacefully in defense of clean energy policies, and a non-toxic, safe, and democratic planet.  Organizers had expected ¼ of the attendance, and the crowds were so large that those of us who were gathering towards the end of the waiting areas along Central Park West did not start actually walking until after 2 pm – over 2.5 hours from the start of the March at Columbus Circle, where UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon was marching alongside Mayor DeBlasio, Al Gore, Leonardo DeCaprio, and my personal favorite, the anti-fracking activist and lovely actor Mark Ruffalo.  Indigenous people were part of the groups leading the March, a large number of City Council members marched at some point behind them.  Labor unions and inter-faith groups gathered in large numbers, and were involved in the organizing of the March from early in its’ inception.  What struck me as I spent the day walking amidst the colorful crowds was how diverse the March was in all respects.  It was a true melting pot of humanity, and an example of how people from all walks of life can peacefully join together and act towards a common goal – and yet have diversity within those goals too.  There were many anti-fracking signs, divest from fossil fuel banners, flood wall street art, signs promoting socialism, marchers seeking a ban on mountain top removal coal mining, marchers carrying flowers and seeking protection for the bees and butterflies, beautiful artwork depicting the planet, puppets embodying the greed and destructive practices of certain corporations, people seeking climate justice for island nations and victims of hurricanes, protestors seeking bans on oil and gas pipelines and LNG ports, posters demanding clean, renewable energy policies and implementation, and so much more! 

The Yoga & Spirituality Contingent started our March with a powerful meditation at 10 am.  At that early hour, we were a small group of six who sat in a circle on West 83rd Street and Central Park West listening to the Sri Shankar meditation that was being broadcast all over the world simultaneously on cellphones!  It was a very beautiful meditation for peace and unity, as Sept. 21 was also World Peace Day.  After our meditation, the crowds started forming and our group was joined by many of you – yoga practitioners from many studios and ashrams, such as Integral Yoga Institute, Sivananda Yoga, World Yoga, UWS Yoga & Wellness, and others.  Some people had instruments and we created a large circle on the street for a high energy “call and response” kirtan.  In keeping with the democratic theme of the People’s Climate March, we took turns leading chants and even my Omega friend, Izzie, who happened to be walking by joined in to lead a 60s’ song!  We sang, danced and chanted until everyone began lining up preparing to walk.  Then came the 2-minutes of silent contemplation for the victims of climate change.  The energy was intense as hundreds of thousands of people stood still with hands raised over head and joined together in mindfulness.  The stillness was moving and profound;  it felt as if we were all breathing as one.  After our 2-minutes of silence, a wave of sounds started from the front of the march and cascaded to the back in beautiful discordant harmony.  

In Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, Yoga means “union” and “to join”.  Yogis recognize the underlying unity of life, the interconnectedness of all, and that we are One.  At this pivotal time in history, spiritual practitioners, joining with political, environmental and social activists, and others, and are being called in many ways to protect Mother Earth.  One such way, was on September 21, 2014, when we left the yoga studios, meditation centers, and ashrams and marched on the streets of NYC, joining our voices with hundreds of thousands of others in seeking government and corporate energy policies harmonious with the planet and all beings.  On that historic day, many of us felt more connected to one another, to the earth, and to our true selves as we joined this vibrant example of the best of humanity. 

It was a March filled with such beautiful and creative art, joyful music, festive colors, and good vibes that it was almost hard to believe we were basically marching for our future and next generations’ futures.  Usually, contemplating the seriousness of what humanity is facing is discouraging.  That people still have to advocate for their rights to clean water, land and air, and now additionally to prevent climate catastrophe is daunting.  Yet, on this very special day, the mood was so positive and elevated, it made one feel that real, positive change is possible.  The People’s Climate March was Day One towards a better future.  It has changed the conversation, and now we will continue with our next “steps” on the long and every day march towards a just and safe future.      


Why this yogi is marching in the People’s Climate March

Hi everyone,

I have created a Yoga and Spirituality Hub on the People’s Climate March website for
Yogis and spiritual seekers – let’s join together to create the high vibration “Yoga & Spirituality Contingent” at the planet’s first ever People’s Climate March this September 21 in NYC!

One of the main tenets of yoga is ahimsa – the practice of non-violence and non-harming.  For thousands of years, yogis and spiritual seekers have studied and followed this ethical principle.   As present-day yoga and spiritual practitioners, we continue to study and shape our lives based on ahimsa. Because we understand that the material and spiritual worlds, mind and matter, are connected, we seek non-violence not only in our actions, but also in our words and thoughts. We seek to live in harmonious alignment with one another and Nature.

As such, we cannot ignore the great harms being inflicted upon the Earth and our fellow sentient beings (whether they are personally known to us or not) as a result of man-made climate change. Such harms include the loss of human, animal, and marine lives, as well as damage to property, due to extreme weather patterns, super storms, drought, floods, fires, receding glaciers, and the rising levels and acidification of the oceans.

Climate change is linked to the Industrial Age – present day increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which is linked to industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels. Many extreme methods are currently being used to extract such fossil fuels from the Earth. Such extreme energy extraction practices include explosive mountain-top removal for coal; “fracking” for methane gas by exploding chemicals, sand and our precious fresh-water into shale rock; and tar sands oil mining.  Drilling by-products, such as toxic frack waste water, are injected deep into the earth through injection drilling wells – linked to toxic water contamination and earthquakes.  These methods are acts of violence against the Earth, and clearly not in harmony with the natural world.

Yoga means “union” and “to join” in Sanskrit. Yogis recognize the underlying unity of life on Earth.  When leaking gas and oil wells pollute groundwater, contaminate farms, and poison animals, we are all harmed.  When an oil rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil tanker sinks in Alaska, or a gas well leaks methane and chemicals into a Pennsylvania farmer’s water well, we are all negatively affected – no matter how far we may be living from those communities’ devastation. This is because we see one’s Self in all beings, and we feel compassion for the suffering of others.

And so, at this pivotal time in history, we are called to protect Mother Earth through our karma yoga or seva– compassionate, selfless service to others and the common good.  By volunteering and joining the People’s Climate March, we are joining a movement and a cause greater than ourselves.  With consciousness and compassion for all, we seek to spread the principles of non-violence to the planet.  We seek a sustainable and safe energy policy from our governments, the United Nations, and countries all over the world.  And we seek a life-sustaining society for ourselves and for future generations.

Our current way of life and corporate-influenced government energy policies are no longer life-sustaining. The rapid clear cutting of our forests, and the slashing and burning of our planet’s rainforests are resulting in the rapid loss of our Earth’s “lungs” and the mass extinction of species.  Our planet’s pollinators – bees, Monarch butterflies, birds and bats are currently being threatened and dying off.  Water sources are polluted by man-made toxins and chemicals – many a by-product of the fossil-fuel industry’s extraction practices. There is rapid depletion of our natural resources, leading to population displacement, starvation, and wars. Agricultural areas are reduced. Plastic debris (made from oil and gas) pollutes our oceans. Island nations are at risk due to rising sea levels. Carcinogens, such as benzene, and other volatile organic compounds pollute the air near fracking sites, causing major health issues and emotional trauma.

Because we understand the interconnectedness of life, we cannot accept this devastation to our planet as the status quo. We know this is the time of a global shift in consciousness: the understanding that all is one, and everything is connected. We see that science is beginning to support spirituality in that regard, and vice versa.

So on this historic day, we come from spiritual centers, sanghas, and yoga studios all over the world in defense of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants.  We yogis and spiritual seekers will gather mindfully and peacefully in New York City, focusing our energies together in seeking an enlightened future!

This is the spiritual revolution of our generation. The evolutionary shift has begun. Let’s join together September 21, 2014, and take our spiritual practice off the yoga mats and meditation cushions and bring it to the People’s Climate March!

May the light of all truth overcome all darkness; may the Universe be filled with peace, joy, love, and light – Jai!

Melissa “Mati” Elstein
Good Energy Movement and Wellness
Aug. 19, 2014