David McAmmond Passes

My most influential teacher (slightly edited from original posted on Sept 30, 2021)

2006 –
me demonstrating a safe form of halasana
with David McAmmond’s guidance

David was my teacher from 1998, quietly there whenever I decided to practice with him.

His dear friend and collaborator, Anita Sielecki, kept some of us informed as he recovered from June’s open-heart surgery for problematic valves and other issues surgeons discovered during the procedure. He hadn’t been sleeping well when I saw him at the beginning of an on-line gentle yoga and meditation retreat he co-led with Kavindu Alejandro Velasco in July. Lo and behold, two days into the retreat, he was sleeping normally again! it seems that sharing yoga sustained him. Or rather, sharing yoga, his lovely wife, Tu, and riding his bicycle, which he had resumed ardently.

As a matter of fact, David led an in-person retreat in Edmonton just this past weekend. For a variety of reasons I didn’t attend. However, I imagined the practice room and my long-time yoga friends many times over the course of those days. Even now I hear the words, see the movements, feel the energy of being there. I probably had been on seventy to eighty different retreats and workshops with David over the time I knew him. Osmosis happens. I can’t help but be informed and influenced by his simple presence.

There’s much to be said about this man who , while not a saint, was remarkable in so many ways. A couple of years ago the YAA asked me to write an article about David. Here’s a link to The Bridge; the article starts on pg 29.

Image of the beginning of my 2019 article about David, published in the Yoga Bridge

Although I know in my bones that David’s passing marks a time of huge transition, I am not sad. I feel satisfied with the time I spent with him and believe that he shared what he was meant to share in all the right ways and places.

Jai! Om shanti, teacher.

Coming to Trust Your Inner Wisdom

Most people will face at least one time when everything they depend upon either falls short or is irreversibly altered.

Consider for a moment the assumptions we have about institutions, social mores, job, family, beliefs, and varied personal capabilities. Is it not the case that we rely on these seemingly steadfast constructs to guide our way, to help us make decisions, and to provide a sense of ground and security?

While some of us may have been attuned to the inconstant nature of life, this time of COVID has forced virtually everyone to question what previously was taken for granted.

I am reminded of the end of my father’s life. Dad was known to be agile, powerful, and bright, an avid puzzle-solver who was a champion Scrabble player, crossword afficionado and Sudoko wizard. He especially loved to play golf, often venturing out in bad weather to play 36 holes by himself.

We knew something had gone awry when, at age 70, Dad suddenly started to take wrong turns, drop items for no reason, and struggle with signing his name. The medical people thought he had dementia. That he was having intense headaches made them examine further, leading to an eventual diagnosis of extensive cancer that had metastasized to his brain. His prognosis was grim.

In the short term, heavy-duty steroids and painkillers miraculously restored some of Dad’s previous abilities. But over a couple short months, everything by which my father could be defined was taken away from him. He was reduced to a barely-functioning mind in a failing body.

Dad had always been a jovial and caring fellow who worried but kept his concerns to himself. Despite his rigorous Catholic upbringing, most would not have considered him to be a spiritual person. I was taken aback, therefore, by his answer when asked what advice he had now that he was at the end of his life. He responded, “Be kind to everyone,” and with an arresting look in his eyes, he emphasized, “and I mean EVERYONE.” I couldn’t help but feel that he had tapped into the unity of the universe. His simple response restored my faith in the goodness of the Essence from which we all arise, in which we all live and to which we all return.

“Be kind to everyone,” and with an arresting look in his eyes, he emphasized, “and I mean EVERYONE.”

Yoga often brings to mind pretzel-like poses performed by lithe and serene-looking people. But, in my estimation, it really is about remembering who we truly are and to more and more rest in this truth . Formal practices and spontaneous life events can precipitate and encourage abiding in such recognition. Grace lands and enlightens even, and sometimes especially, in the darkest and most dire circumstances.

What do you know to be true when all has been stripped away, when you drop agenda and simply rest in BE-ing? Might you ask yourself this at every possible moment?

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

. . . make lemonade.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Live and let live. Or, live and let die.

Neurons that fire together wire together.

Do you live by slogans? I tried these popular words of wisdom on for awhile, a few times. I still catch slogans landing in my thoughts, as if by rote. I suspect we all depend upon these catchy sayings to a certain extent. They can get us through difficulties, help us to maintain focus on something-other-than-default way of being.

Those of you who are members of Twelve-Step groups may recognize that slogans are significant tools in those programs. Over time, through involvement in one such group, I discovered that I had to switch from one slogan to another to another as circumstances shifted. In the final analysis, I realized that, individually, slogans do not stand the test of change. Even used together, they are too simplistic to serve as reliable guides through the complexity of life.

Essentially, slogans are encapsulated beliefs.

Essentially, slogans are encapsulated beliefs. Beliefs are enduring “statements of ‘fact'” that we take to be true. When we believe something is stable, we cling to it as foundation, as reliable.

Then there are times in life when everything falls out from under us, times that are especially challenging occur when our beloved beliefs related to how life should be, how events should unfold, are called into direct question.

. . . there are times in life when everything falls out from under us.

We are facing, collectively, such a time, precisely and to a degree not likely to be seen again in our lifetime. What are we to do?

Transformation

When we perceive everything we encounter as grace, as gift, all beliefs are potentially true. The paradigm gets turned on its head, and beliefs become pointers or messengers that remind us of the Great Mystery – the one truth on which we can rely.

How do we shift our perception to “see” this way? Some call this pure perceiving the contemplative stance, others, “Interior Freedom,” yet others, “Presence.”

. . . an almost-childlike willingness to experience life first-hand . . .

Integrative Restoration (iRest)(R) provides an empirically-validated, modern, Westernized framework for nourishing this way of approaching all of life, including welcoming challenging material. You might consider the first step to be an almost-childlike willingness to experience life first-hand, fresh in each moment.

From time to time I offer experiential sessions, teaching sessions, and one-on-one co-meditation employing iRest principles. Join my mailing list to find out when these events are happening.

The Unlikely, Yet Actual Gift, of On-line, Interactive, Live Yoga

HeIlo, friends. It’s been awhile. I have held you in my heart, regardless.

My hope is that you are finding your way through this crazy, confusing, confounding time. Perhaps you have even found some gift in all of it. I know some people have had significant additional challenges to navigate in the midst of it. No two people’s experience will have been the same.

I do know that the practices and attitudes that I have cultivated over the last four decades have held me in good stead. It may be unbelievable, but I have felt largely at ease during the last six months, filled with ease and gratitude for all the grace and goodness I have in life. And yet I know it could just as easily be the opposite.

In spring, in addition to pivoting private clients to on-line meetings, I offered on-line group yoga via Zoom to a small number of students a couple times a week. This quick alternative provided all of us with

  • social connection,
  • a sense of purpose,
  • regularity in schedule,
  • connectedness with the body, and
  • effective action to meet the stress of a virtual lockdown.

I didn’t offer too much group practice over the last couple of months because summer found me wanting to have the freedom to garden, hike, and practice for myself.

View from Eiffel Lake Trail toward Fay Glacier and Moraine Lake

At the end of July, instead of traveling to California for a ten-day silent retreat, the instructors offered a week-long virtual retreat with no silence required. There were differences from my experience of last year’s live event but I think I liked the on-line offering even better!

Some of the 30 or so participants in the July Advanced iRest Retreat, this year offered flawlessly on-line.
some of the 30 or so participants in the July Advanced iRest Retreat

Advantages to on-line yoga, meditation and spiritual direction are many.

  • Generally, the technology works pretty well.
  • No travel hassles or costs. So there is less fatigue. And less time expended due to not having to travel.
  • Use common items from your home as props and for comfort.
  • No social need to shower or fix yourself up beyond the basics. You can even use highly-scented products if you want and you won’t affect others!
  • If you are feeling grouchy or tired, you can choose to keep your interaction to a minimum.
  • You can turn off your camera if you don’t feel like being seen and your microphone if you don’t want to talk. These mean that you can cough, go to the bathroom or have a beverage or eat without disturbing others.
  • With exceptions, you may not have to resort to babysitters or pet care.
  • You can practice to your capacity if you are feeling unwell, without exposing others.
  • You will not be exposed to outside people who may be unwell.
  • No imposition on your personal space and vice versa.
  • On-line we can still chant and actively work with breath but during COVID-19 relaunch we couldn’t if we were together live.
  • Develop your own home practice through the process; incorporate the learning right into your life!

And there are a few downsides or extra effort involved in participating on-line. Here are some of them:

  • Occasionally the technology is splotchy on the receiving or sending end.
  • You may have to learn how to use the technology (although it is getting more intuitive all the time and there is lots of help available).
  • You need to determine how to configure a space for practice.
  • You may need to spend time experimenting with your computer / device so the camera captures your full figure (in the case of wanting feedback from the teacher).
  • You need a degree of privacy and quiet in your space.
  • You need to have even more respect for your physical, emotional and mental limits as the teacher is not as able to sense what is going on for you.
  • You may have to reign in your attention from distractions of home.

No Recording, for your privacy and comfort.

To honour privacy of participants, I largely have decided not to record Zoom offerings. However, do know that Zoom recordings only include the active screen which presenters can set up as only their own. I also ask students not to record audio, video or to screen shot anything that involves other students’ images, voice or text.

Ready to take the plunge?

So are you ready to join me?

I am planning gentle yoga / meditation classes

  • 10 – 11:30 Tue mornings and
  • 7 – 8:30 Wed evenings

From Jan 5 to Mar 31, 2021

Spring Class Registration Now Open

Yes, spring is in the air here in Calgary.  Now is the time to break out of the cocoon and lighten up. . .New Life

YogInsight is offering regular classes and a monthly series of Monday-evening 2-hour retreats, as well as private sessions, that may be just what you need.

Spring 2016 weekly registered classes will start at the end of March / beginning of April.

  • First Monday nights of the month will feature 2-hour, retreat-style classes.  Sign up for one, two, or all three.
  • Wednesday night’s Yoga Balm for Backs  is a popular class with many regulars, so register soon to hold your spot.
  • Tuesday and Thursday mornings we delight in caring for ourselves with gentle, energy-shifting yoga and fellowship.

Click on any of the blue links for more information.

If a private session for yoga, wellness coaching, spiritual direction or Reiki seems more appropriate, I would be happy to talk with you about any of these.

FYI, we’ve been noticing that the downloadable registration forms weren’t working too well for everyone.  So you can contact Lonnie who will email one to you.

David and Kavindu offer Another 5-Day Retreat in Edmonton

This might be the perfect chance to nurture yourself and learn to meditate or deepen your existing practice.  I will be there!sunrisemountainbhavana

LATE SUMMER RETREAT

Providence Renewal Centre Edmonton

August 26, 3:00pm – August 30, 12:30pm.

Mindfulness Meditation, Yoga and Silence Retreat

AWARENESS OF NOW:  THE FREEDOM TO BE

AND THE BLISS OF NO STRESS

David McAmmond and Kavindu (Alejandro Velasco)

$495 for current YAA members (non-members add $30) in double rooms with private bathroom (or a single room with shared bathroom for an additional cost of $60)

In this retreat we will examine, learn and practice being aware of the now. This is the incisive aspect of mindfulness meditation, which will allow you to recognize the flexible, changing, and open nature of being.  This is the inherent sense of freedom at the core of our sense of self, when it is recognized as empty of any fixed definitions.

Awareness of now entails sensing the three faces of impermanence: arising, changing and releasing in the six sensory fields. The practice allows the brain to reset its body map, dissolving away the emotional stress. In humans, stress lingers on triggered by the illusion of permanence and solidity of thoughts about events, to the point of harming the body. Insight into the impermanence of events releases us from the spell of this illusion.

The meditation practices will unfold alternating with mindful movements and yoga asana. This combination can deepen the release of somatic tension patterns while optimizing the balance of energy.

Contact me if you’re interested and I will send you contact information for registration.

Special Yoga Offerings this Fall

Yoga for waterFALLsmalla Healthy Heart

Sat, Oct 18, 2014

1 – 4 PM

Hillhurst United Church

click here for more details.

Special Class this Thursday Evening

In addition to regularly scheduled evening classes on Monday and Tuesday this week, Lonnie will be offering Life Force Yoga for Mood Management Thursday evening at Shaganappi Community.

Space is limited to 10 yogis. Contact Lonnie to hold your spot.

7 – 9 PM    Thur     Oct 9