I hope that this message finds you well at this extraordinary moment in time. I hope it finds you well – despite the pre-holiday rush and all the madness that can ensue; and it is extraordinary, just like every other moment in time – because you are here, and it’s a miracle to be alive, and so much more is possible now than ever before. Extraordinary because 2012 was, as I have often written here in this newsletter – such a wild ride!

Last night I addressed a stellar collective of dedicated students in the East End on the subject of using our yoga practice for down-regulating the nervous system and staying grounded this time of year. Because now more than any other time of year – we get ungrounded. We spend the whole month working harder, staying up later, eating less optimal foods, attending less yoga class, and drinking more alcohol than we do at possibly any other time of the year – and then at the end of the month, once our nervous systems are good and jangled, and we are in a state of exhausted hyper-arousal…

then what do most of us do?

We go and spend a few quiet days, sometimes in remote settings, with the most triggering people in our lives.

Of course, many of us do have wonderful relationships with our family, and the holidays are indeed a very nourishing time. I do wish to honour, however, that for many people, this season brings up some sad memories; for folks (like me) who come from a divorced family of origin, or folks who have divorced families themselves – for people who always have felt out of step with their family, or who don’t see their families very often – or who might be estranged from their families… this can be a high stress period of time. Even when the familial relationships are fairly light-hearted and fun, or feel ok on the surface – sometimes inside, possibly on a more subtle level, we have a whole emotional tide rising that we only experience when we are in their company. And for parents raising young families, just the stress of providing the under-tree surprises can be an added challenge. Regardless of our personal story – the winter holidays can be freighted emotionally in many ways.

Saliently, I was speaking to my outstanding therapist, who is also spiritually awake, on the subject of speed of awakening process. I was recalling how another of my teachers, Hareesh Wallis, had taught me that the medieval texts of the nondual Shaiva Tantra tradition state that the awakening process, once begun, provided you do the practices, should not take more than a handful of years on the outside. ‘Oh, sure,’ my therapist said, ‘They did say that in those days.’

‘Huh!’, I started in surprise, ‘So you think that human consciousness has become denser or more convoluted through the ages?’.

‘Oh, no,’ he replied in his characteristically subtle tone, ‘Consciousness is not more convoluted. But the human nervous system is.’ (Italics mine)

Hasn’t that just opened an interesting line of thinking for me? And it’s obvious, really – because, of course, so much of what we do in the yoga room is geared to the down-regulation of the nervous system. The conscious ability to down-regulate your own hyper-activated nervous system at any moment is both the first step and, from this perspective on awakening, a key goal of expanding into the fullness of your true Self. Here’s the challenge: on top of all the plain old-fashioned karma (which is one yogic way of talking about that family stuff that gets kicked up at Christmastime), at this moment in time, we have the further hyper-stimulatory effects of the Information Age embedded in there.

This week, I am reminding people of the solace of the full, steady breath, and the amazing fact that the ground is always under us, resourcing us, even at our most challenging moments. I am encouraging people to take the radical step, if they get triggered, of going into another room and trying to lengthen the hip flexor muscles and take a few deep breaths. (think pigeon thigh stretches, lunges with the back inner thigh lifted high and a big back waistline breath, or laying on your back, interlacing fingers around your thigh bone, and pressing that thigh bone into your hands).

And I am offering a loving remembrance to those in our community for whom this time of year brings back challenging memories and uncomfortable feelings. I know that the yoga practice, and other great healing modalities I have learned, offer radical and highly effective ways to shift even the most entrenched emotional holding, and completely re-pattern the beleaguered nervous system. And I also know that, as I often like to say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Stuff comes up until it is complete, and sometimes, even the seasoned practitioner finds herself face to face with an old demon we thought had long taken leave of our inner world.

Whatever comes up this Christmas, may you continually move into that beautiful, unshakeable centre of yours. May you know that solid ground under your feet mirrors the very ground of your own awareness; unshakeable, ever-present, never-changing.

I am working on 2013 intentions. Are you?

I am excited about upcoming offerings. I hope you can come and play with me.

Please read on for information on New Year’s Day events, upcoming Shakti Shops, Body Rolling workshops, the Practices of Freedom and Wellbeing Immersion, and a new amazing healing circle to be held in my home…

I am, as always, sending you great love. Please let me know how you are doing – what the holidays mean for you; how you resource yourself at this time… I love to hear from you.

With Deep Respect,

Leila xxx