Deep Yoga Retreat in San Miguel de Allende, April 5-12, 2015

Join me in welcoming spring during our next eight-day Deep Yoga Retreat in historic San Miguel. We’ll again be staying at Kate Joyce’s fanciful Casa de las Ventanas with its romantic rooftop patio and panoramic views of this gorgeous colonial city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the mountains of central Mexico. IMG_0061You’ll experience the bold colors and soft golden light that have drawn painters and photographers for decades as we greet the sun each morning with gentle Deep Yoga Flow. After a day of guided sightseeing, shopping, painting, snapping photos or writing, you’ll move at sunset into Deep Healing Yoga, a restorative practice that closes with the complete relaxation of Yoga Nidra.

Kate’s warm and welcoming casa, in the Mexiquitos neighborhood, is a 15-minute walk to La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the city’s iconic neo-Gothic church, and El Jardin, where townsfolk, ex-pats and tourists merrily mingle. It’s a five minute walk to the delights Aurora Fabrica, a converted textile mill with 66 art galleries and studios, two excellent cafes, and irresistible design shops. Image 1

Activities and Prices

The fee for eight days and seven nights includes: 14 Deep Yoga classes; a full breakfast each morning; a Monday evening fiesta featuring chef-cooked regional food and wine for us, neighbors and local Yogis; two guided tours of the city, one for its architecture, one to explore its most creative sites and hangouts.  Mid-week maid service is part of the package. Also available as an optional (and inexpensive) add-on is a day in nearby Atotonilco where story-telling folk murals cover the walls and ceilings of the village church, where ceramicist Mayer Shacter’s gallery of Mexican folk art amazes, La Gruta thermal spa relaxes and the upscale restaurant of Nirvana makes for a day of rich contrasts. I will make these arrangements for all who are interested.zIMG_0006

The five-bedroom Casa de las Ventanas—each room with a private bath and verandah—can accommodate as many as nine people when each of three rooms with a double bed is occupied by a couple. There are two bedrooms, each with two twin beds in addition to the three with double beds. The single-occupancy fee for the week, breakfasts, the fiesta, all Yoga and activities described is $850. The double occupancy rate is $700.

(Not included are land transfers, which I will arrange, most dinners, and plane fare to Leon in the state of Guanajuato. The sooner flights are booked on Volaris, the less expensive they are, as low as $275 from Tijuana, returning to San Diego, round trip. I can provide details.)

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This is my fourth trip to San Miguel and the warm embrace of its sights and amazing people. It truly deserves its reputation as a magical and seductive place. If you’re interested, you can find more photos from the first two Deep Yoga Retreats on my main Facebook page and/or my SWAY: Saraswati Writing and Yoga page. Scroll down to April, 2014 for the first retreat, and June of 2014 for the second.

Contact

Please contact me at 858.456.5205 or annemariewelsh@gmail.com for further information or to reserve your spot.

 

 

 

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Yoga, Cooking, and Bliss Beneath the Tuscan Sun:

A medieval gateway from the walled village of Radicondoli to the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Two years ago I led my first retreat in the magical medieval hill town of Radicondoli just west of Siena in Tuscany. If paradise has an earthly habitation and a name, Radicondoli is it. Here’s the announcement for our next dream week there this fall:

Yoga Cucina: A Dream Week in Tuscany with Il Campo founder Marlane Miriello and Deep Yoga Instructor Anne Marie Welsh, September 21-28, 2013.

Join us for a week of morning and evening yoga, Tuscan cooking classes, rural hiking, a spa day and excursions to Siena, San Gimignano and around the enchanting village of Radicondoli. Il Campo/Cucina founder Marlane Agriesti Miriello and I have created this special week as a journey to nourish body and soul.

I will offer gentle sun salutation Yoga each morning and restorative classes closing with the guided meditations and complete relaxation of Yoga Nidra each late afternoon. My Deep Yoga classes are designed as a pathway to personal healing, creative inspiration, and true happiness. Marlane, a former editor turned writer who came to Tuscany to learn firsthand its traditions and recipes, will lead you through the kitchens, gardens and forest trails of her beloved, adopted village, Radicondoli.

The week includes pickup and drop off in Florence, all local ground transportation, deluxe lodging in an eco-sustainably restored Tuscan farmhouse, twice daily yoga sessions, three cooking lessons with engaging local chefs, a spa visit at a nearby thermal spring, a wine tasting, excursions to famous Tuscan villages, guided hikes, all meals and English speaking tour leaders. You do not have to be an experienced yogi or cook to participate and to reap the benefits. After one week of Yoga Cucina, you will return home revitalized and refreshed, with a new yoga practice, new recipes and an open heart.

Price: $2,995 per person double occupancy; $3,495 for a private room and bath.

Tuscan Yoga Sunset

Anne Marie offers sunset Yoga near the pool at Bel Canto -- every evening of Yoga Cucina.

The Tuscany retreat is sponsored by Il Campo Italia, a project of my friend Marlane and her village cooking school. Far more than a school, however, her enterprise offers, as she puts it, “a cultural exchange in which the people of the village open their doors and hearts to the stranieri (foreigners) and show them that everything they need to be happy can be found in their own back yards.”

Marlane’s website has many photographs of the fabled region, and the farmhouse rooms and apartments at Bel Canto where Yoga Cucina is headquartered.  http://www.ilcampoitalia.com/

I am happy to answer any other questions about the retreat and my Deep Yoga classes at 858-456-5205. To see my detailed itinerary for Yoga Cucina , click here.

For more on my Deep Yoga classes in La Jolla, see Yoga. And there are Testimonials about my retreats at the bottom of my Workshops Web  page.

 

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Step Into Yoga: The Mind-Body Path to Healing and Happiness

June 8, 1-4 p.m.,  La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla

My next Yoga Workshop is coming up soon; here’s the announcement from the La Jolla Community Center where I teach every Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 11:30 a.m..

Yoga and its sister science, Ayurveda, are the world’s oldest holistic system of mind-body medicine. This three-hour workshop explores how you can embody this ancient wisdom in your modern life, at any age. You’ll learn breathing practices that lower blood pressure and relieve stress; physical postures that improve flexibility, strength and balance; meditation techniques that still the busy mind—and other methods to access your deepest resources for healing and living fully in each moment. No yoga experience necessary. $25 for members of the La Jolla Community Center; $30 for non-members.

Instructor Anne Marie Welsh, Ph.D., RYT, has been teaching writing and arts-related subjects for four decades and practicing yoga for 14 years. A graduate of the Deep Yoga School of Healing Arts, she is certified as a teacher by the Yoga Alliance. You can pay the day of the workshop, but pre-registration required: call the Center at (858) 459-8301 or call Anne Marie, who can also answer your questions, at (858) 456-5205.  Below is Shiva at Sunset meditating on the Ganges in Rishikesh, India, Yoga’s spiritual home.

Yoga masters the breath to master the mind.

 

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Welcome to The Saraswati Way

I left my job as theater critic for the San Diego Union Tribune five years ago, and soon became hooked on Yoga as a physical practice which had amazing health benefits to body, mind and spirit. But when Deep Yoga founders Bhava Ram and Laura Plumb became my main teachers, I began to discover the deeper aspects of this mind-body science. My life became more integrated, my writing flowed, my heart opened, and soon I was seriously exploring the relationship between the ancient wisdom of Yoga and creative expression.

Eventually I developed an approach to writing called SWAY: Saraswati Writing and Yoga, and I now lead workshops that emphasize the qualities of mind and heart, as well as the practical techniques and tools, that Yoga can bring to writers. My goal is for each participant to establish a writing practice centered in the deep, calm focus that opens the creative channel and makes artistic discovery possible. Deep creative work is a spiritual practice that we can aptly call Sadhana, whether it includes the physical practice of Yoga postures or not.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the discoveries I’ve made and experienced with my students and clients. Today, we’ll look at a few of the parallels between a serious Yoga practice and the writing process.

Union and Presence

Yoga, a philosophy and a science, means yoking or union—of body, mind, and soul within the individual as well as union with the larger soul, or universal energy, or all that is.  By mastering the breath we begin to master the mind and thus achieve stillness, the prelude to union, the bliss of pure being. Yoga emphasizes being in the NOW (“the past is history, the future a mystery,” as one guru likes to say). It is about being present, mindful, fully awake in this moment.

Creative writing requires a similar yoking—of feeling, imagination, knowledge and skill igniting the creative act in the now. Creative work also requires smooth sequencing and balancing of right brain and left brain activities, so the shaming internal critic does not take over and interrupt that flow of inspiration in the now. We can learn this openness to the universal flow and other ways of staying present on the mat, in meditation or by chanting mantras — and then take these skills into our lives and our creative work.

Saraswati, goddess of wisdom, language and the arts, is usually seen holding prayer beads (sacred wisdom) and books (secular knowledge), while she coaxes harmonious sounds from her plucked instrument, the veena.

Mindfulness and Focus

Yoga, including meditation (dhyana) and mantra, cultivates mindfulness and focus (dharana), the ability to go deep into the self and to stay there for long periods of time, dissolving limitations and boundaries to plunge into the creative source, or in Western terms, the unconscious. Yogis then become co-creators with that source, channeling powerful feelings, vivid memories and/or inchoate thoughts into expressive form.  Focus facilitates flow.

Stillness

Yoga cultivates stillness. The physical postures are both a metaphor and technique for stilling the fluctuations of the mind, which is how the founding texts, including The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, define Yoga: “restraint of the fluctuations of the mindstuff.”

Writing requires mental stillness amidst imaginative agility and flow – or as Wordsworth described poetry: “emotion recollected in tranquility.” Keats described this quality slightly differently in his famous negative capability letter, describing the tranquil creative state as one in which the artist can “be in uncertainties, doubts, mysteries without any irritable reaching after fact or reason.” The true artist, he writes, “takes as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen— for they both lead to contemplation.”

In daily life, Yogis cultivate this prasadanam or undisturbed calmness by maintaining an attitude of friendliness toward the happy, delight towards the virtuous and disregard for the wicked in “real” life, even as we may choose to write about all kinds of people on the page. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way offers similar insights into how writers, especially “recovering creatives,” need to nurture their art by exercising discretion. She cautions creative people to ignore the wet blankets who negate or block their flow, to avoid spending time with people whose dramas are toxic. They make good stories, not good companions.

Many more Yoga-derived ideas animate The Saraswati Way. I’ll be discussing several of those in the next post. If you’re wondering about the strange name: My method honors Saraswati, the Indian goddess of sacred and secular wisdom, language, and the arts. In the Vedic texts and Tantric tradition, when Saraswati’s consort Brahman wished to create the material world, he did not know how to give form to the formlessness in his mind. So this powerful river goddess whispered to him the seminal sacred sound, AUM (also spelled OM). Saraswati’s name means “the flowing one.” May your inspiration flow.

 

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A Stellar “August: Osage County” at The Old Globe

 

Director Sam Gold’s staging of “August: Osage County” at the Old Globe closes with the quiet Native American housekeeper Johnna standing at the top of a steep staircase that leads to her attic room. Below her is cruel, cancer-ridden Violet, struggling up step by awkward step, desperately seeking human connection. For more than three hours we have watched this vicious Violet hasten the ruin of her own family. So we’re pretty sure that what she’s actually looking for is someone to abuse.

Johnna just stands there, not responding, patience personified. Hanging around her neck is the Cheyenne talisman she’s had since birth – her own umbilical cord in a pouch “because if we lose it, our soul belongs nowhere and after we die, our souls wander around the Earth looking for where we belong.” Violet, on the other hand, is already a restless ghost, alive but long soul dead, harrowing and haunting.

I sat there looking at Johnna, thinking of Dilsey in “As I Lay Dying.” Faulkner’s sweeping novel about the disintegration of the Compton clan closes with the help, too — the black housemaid Dilsey, her once enslaved family surviving when the Comptons don’t. Surveying her employers’ ruin over thirty years, Dilsey knows she and her family have “endured.”

It’s rare that a recent American play brings such long and literary thoughts to mind. Rarer still that such a challenging script – especially outside of London, New York or maybe Chicago where Osage originated in 2007 at Steppenwolf—gets a production as brilliant and satisfying top to bottom, beginning to end, as this one.

I’ve been reviewing theater since 1976, but only twice before have I experienced the minute-to-minute vibrancy and eyeball-searing truth that gripped me at the Old Globe, making time fly.

One of those other times was during the Almeida Theatre revival of Eugene O’Neill’s similarly big-cast epic “The Iceman Cometh” with Kevin Spacey on Broadway. Four hours after the curtain went up on Harry Hope’s saloon with its down and out regulars (played by Paul Giamatti, Tony Danza, Robert Sean Leonard among others), I was still on the edge of my seat, hanging on their every word, every pause. I could have watched those people (and that’s what they seemed, real people, not characters or actors) talk, drink, deny, reveal, then lose their pipe dreams all night long.

Ditto for Pina Bausch and the multi-talented dance actors who collaborated in creating her “1980,” a bitterly funny, more than four-hour long talk-dance that played Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. The midnight hour struck and those artists could have gone on telling their dark tales all night, the ensemble itself had such vitality and the work such truth and urgency.

The ensemble vitality of the Letts-Gold production provides all those things and a gasp-inducing, chills-and-thrills good time as well. And “August: Osage County” is not that long, about three-and-a-half hours, uncut Shakespeare length.

Set in the nowhere land of Osage County, Oklahoma during the sweltering dog days of August, “Osage” unfolds as both a tragic family drama like O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” and a pitch black dysfunctional family comedy like Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” or “A Lie of the Mind.” But if Osage isn’t as emotionally profound as “Journey,” it does have greater political resonance and it also possesses the psychologically rounded characters missing in Shepard. It’s no knock-off, or even homage.

Many of its satisfactions come from old-fashioned, melodramatic turns of plot — surprises and revelations engineered into its structure. In his blood-soaked earlier potboiler “Bug,” Letts played with psychological horror, exploring the seeping contagion of a paranoiac who has infected his girlfriend. But “August: Osage County” is of another order of magnitude, the suffocating inbred viciousness of unhappy Violet spiders out through three generations and seems emblematic not only of a family but of a country that has lost its way.

Unable to love without hate and greed, the Westons’ implosion took me back, though subtly, not only to Faulkner, but to the early days of the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq when the swaggering President declared, as Violet does, (Phyrric) victory among the ruins. But that’s a different post.

A master of pacing and pause, telling gesture and spontaneous-seeming effects, director Gold wrings shock from every hair-pin turn of tone in Letts’ script. And because the casting is pitch-perfect at the Globe, those moments feel natural, not manipulative. You sit there wondering, what can possibly be worse than that. And sure enough, something is – usually from the flame-throwing mouth of Violet, though every character gets his or her due, a shot at soul-baring self-revelation. Sometimes the densely-plotted piece feels so emotionally fraught it seems an ensemble opera, aria succeeding aria.

But there is a center to this. And actor Lois Markle (pictured above) holds it. She’s beyond good as Violet, really frightening as this guilt-provoking, slash-and-burn, drug-addicted “mother.” Gaunt, nearly bald from chemo, chain-smoking, slurring her words, staggering about in a flimsy nightgown, she takes no prisoners. Her proudest boast is that no one slips anything past her, including her three grown daughters who have gathered at the rambling homestead because their father, an award-winning poet whose voice was long ago silenced by drink, has gone missing. One-by-one, Violet eviscerates them — with truth, or her version of it.

Like Shakespeare’s Richard III, she takes pleasure in exercising her power to destroy – and she shares that pleasure with us. She’s a monster, all right, but she’s also human, broken and bleakly hilarious. When she shows up conservatively dressed, wearing wig and make-up, Markle’s Violet briefly evokes pity for her and her family’s fall.

We meet missing husband Beverly only in a prologue during which he hires Johnna (Kimberly Guerrero) to cook and drive Violet to her doctor appointments. But he also lays it on the line. Violet takes pills; he drinks. That’s their marriage contract. Beverly also ponders the lives of three modern poets he admires — John Berryman, Hart Crane and T.S. Eliot whose lines from “The Hollow Men” frame the evening.

But much as he loves Eliot’s work, Beverly prefers the character of the other two who checked out of the world on their own suicidal terms. Eliot placed his problematic wife in an institution and got on with his life “brilliantined and double-breasted and Anglican.” And that’s the last we hear from Beverly and from the utterly convincing and sympathetic actor Robert Foxforth who plays him.

Each of his daughters has reacted differently to parental absence and dysfunction. Barbara, the oldest and now menopausal, married a college humanities professor and has a teenage girl, a smart aleck pothead. The husband Bill is with them, but only for comfort and show; he’s had an affair with a student and the couple has separated. In a richly impressive performance, actor Angela Reed spirals downward and out of control as Barbara, for “home” exerts an inevitable pull. Raging at Bill and her daughter, flailing through an intervention with Violet, she’s inexorably driven to become what she hates — her mother.

The plain middle sister, Ivy, age 44, stayed close to home and works at nearby college. She’s not just self-effacing, but self-erasing. Yet she’s embarked on a secret affair (and has hatched an escape plan) with her similarly afflicted, ineffectual cousin, Little Charlie. Letts gives even Ivy, in a wrenching turn by actor Carla Harting at the Globe, one sibling scene of searing insight and another of tragic dimension.

The youngest Karen, blond, bubbly and babbling with false optimism, arrives with an oily new fiance who markets some shady contracting service in the Middle East. One look at this Steve (actor Rober Maffia), and you know the guy’s a pervert. And that Karen’s been ricocheting from man to man, self-help guru to Scientology for the ballast she never got on the primal scene back in OK.

And then there’s Violet’s sister Mattie Fae, blowsy, nearly-normal it seems and long married to the genial Charlie, a ray of sunlight in this Gothic hothouse. Actor Robin Pearson Rose, a Globe associate artist seen there often in depressive roles, just shines as the exuberant Mattie Fae. No point in revealing the twists we don’t see coming from this live-wire character, whose meanness extends to mocking her own son. But I can say that actor Guy Boyd, as her sweetheart of a husband, twice brings lighthearted comic relief to the family dinner table until Violet takes aim once again.

All thirteen actors are excellent. To single out every one of them and all the collaborators who worked on this thoroughly unified vision of the script would only result in a repetitive litany of superlatives. David Zinn’s atmospheric, subtly changing set does deserve mention. A book-and-clutter filled three story construction, it’s open-faced like a doll house or glass-fronted ant-farm, telling us much that we need to know about the Westons—then and now. Fitz Patton’s sound design brings a swarm of locusts ever closer during the play’s three acts, a plague upon this house.

What a play. What a production. What a community of artists. I’ll never forget it. San Diegans will be talking about it for years. Need I say, see it.

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Welcome to The Inward Eye

The title of my blog comes from William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” more commonly called “Daffodils.” The popular 1804 poem closes with lines that sum up, in simple language, his notion of poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that Inward Eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

My mother recited that poem and many others as she performed her daily tasks. And soon, as a mimicking child, I had memorized it too. By college I knew all about Wordsworth and his theories of poetry. By graduate school I had rejected most of that, along with my mother and her taste in verse. “Daffodils” seemed too simple and unsophisticated for my then darker, more ironic sensibility. Nature poetry? Dancing flowers? Come ’on.

That’s the wonder of  poetry, though, of all good writing. It offers a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected differently at different (st)ages. As I slide into late middle age, newly awakened to an artistic life, I find that I love the poem “Daffodils “ once more. I see its meaning anew and the wisdom to be drawn from “that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude.”

With my children grown and a writing career launched outside the confines of daily journalism, the poem seems much less about dancing daffodils, heart-gladdening as they may be, and much more about what yogis call the third eye, the place of insight and intuition.

I hope you’ll bookmark The Inward Eye, check in now and again, and perhaps comment about what flashes upon my inward eye—and yours.

And if you don’t know the poem, here are three favorite renditions:

This read by Jeremy Irons

This satire with Peter Cook as Wordsworth, intro by Dudley Moore as Beethoven.

And a jaunty hip-hop mashup by MC Nuts on You Tube

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