Your Loveliness is a Mess

Your loveliness is such a mess. 

I’d rather not clean it up.

Like a work of fine art, you tear me inside out.

Each time I look at you
I am frenzied to the caliber of a madman.

Laughing wildly
At everything that makes a sound.

When I dream of you, I wake up smiling, 

Or sometimes crying. 

This too, is a good thing.

Other times you keep me up all night knocking at my chest,

Beaming Your Beauty
And all I can do is stay up like this writing poetry.

And I've learnt to live with it, I've learned to like this.

Your loveliness is such a mess And I'd rather not clean it up. 

                                                                                                                                 Jayananda

hayley tennyson
Kali; the Goddess of Transformation

 

“Om Namo Kali Kali Om Namo. Om Namo Kali Kali Om Namo. Oh Sweet Mother, we invoke you in this space. Take away our pain and fill us with your grace….”

Singing to the Goddess Kali as we let go of our fears and challenges, reverently giving our offerings to the fire, on another bright full moon night. Sitting together in our ceremonial space, aptly named the Kale Cave on this cool evening, we take our time to share reflections of the past cycle together, the moments of growth, the difficulties, the joys and the sorrows as the flames flicker and dance in front of us.

We do this quite often at The Yoga Forest; coming together to share and celebrate with the lunar energies of the universe. While the New Moon offers us a time for planting seeds of intention and manifestation, the Full Moon allows us to reflect upon letting go, releasing that which no longer serves us; old patterns and beliefs and an opportunity for resetting the script.

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As I looked upon my offering of flowers and forest objects, I felt it was a pivotal moment for me this time. With countless Full Moon Ceremonies behind me, the letting go process a favorite of mine, I knew this particular one was monumental for my own transformation. I chanted to Kali repeatedly, asking for her guidance, her fierce love to help me take the steps for full release.

Kali is portrayed as the fiercest of the Hindu Goddesses; her eyes are red with intoxication, and in absolute rage, her hair is disheveled, small fangs sometimes protrude out of her mouth and her tongue is lolling. She is often depicted naked which symbolizes her being beyond all illusion as she is pure being-consciousness-bliss, while standing or dancing on a seemingly dead Shiva, her dark color contrasting with his white covering of cremation ashes. She is always shown as dark, usually blue or black, representing the void state, where all else falls away; she has no permanent qualities—she will continue to exist even when the universe ends. It is therefore believed that the concepts of color, light, good, bad do not apply to her—she is the pure, un-manifested energy. Since the earth was created out of darkness, the dark black color of Kali symbolizes the color from which everything was born.

My own journey over the last few months had been a process of inner revolution, a personal transformation of my own psyche as I recognized the need for many old structures to be swept away. Two years after the opening of The Yoga Forest, a Conscious Living Retreat and Transformational Learning Center, I had created a successful business with beautiful external structures set into majestic natural beauty, yet we faced a challenging community environment due to a lack of clear systems and well built internal structures. So much of my energy had been spent creating the external retreat space, yet I could now clearly see that the real work still lay ahead, with the harmonization of the internal operations within the community.

A combination of Goddess energy had blessed the journey thus far; Lakshmi’s heart centered flourishing of abundance and Durga’s warrior style leadership had enabled me to arrive to a point where I could now recognize the need for a new approach, and the dramatic transformation of leadership required for the sustainability of our community. I needed to let go of control. It was time for the destruction of the “I”, the “me” and the “mine” when it came to The Yoga Forest. Instead, I needed to learn to co-create the “We” that would empower people within the community, and eventually free myself from it also. It was time to call in Kali.

The severed head that hangs in Kali's hand is a symbol of the Ego and the bloody sword which she is holding in another represents Divine Knowledge. Kali is understood to be a protector of humanity; she has the power to destroy all negativity and ego with her sword. Ultimately, the ego must be slain by Divine Knowledge in order for us to attain Liberation. And this is what I felt I was facing. I needed to understand empowered leadership. It was time to break down the existing pyramid structure of management, which was causing a bottle neck of information, frustration for staff and for myself with constant knockings at my door and a multitude of questions as communication was not free flowing. I needed to learn how to empower the people more than myself.

I had to learn to ask for help. This retreat community had begun with three people and within two years exploded into a much bigger project with around 10 resident staff, 20 local staff and up to 25 guests. It was now beyond my capacity and I humbly asked close friend and Kula Collective brother Zachary Towne-Smith of Caracol Consulting for his professional help in beginning a Creative Community Envisioning process with us.

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Together, first with the management council, and then with the entire team, we began to assess the challenges we were facing at The Yoga Forest. We discovered many issues that were linked by several key areas; a lack of flow of communication and access to information, lack of cohesion between staff and no central intentions that held us together. We identified our main challenge to be that we had no common strategy or clear guidelines that enable collaborators to work and play interdependently toward a shared community vision.

After months of preparing my inner psyche for this process, I was excited that we were beginning to do the work together, and I felt confident with Zach’s leadership and approach to help us solutionize our issues. We decided that our solution should tackle the challenge head on with rude curiosity and develop clarity in strategies and guidelines within the community. We wanted clear picture transparency and prosperity beyond ourselves. We dreamt and envisioned life at The Yoga Forest without our present challenge and journaled and reflected in circle what each of us saw within our visions. I felt completely overwhelmed by the work that I saw ahead on top of my already completely full work schedule, but I had faith that we were beginning a new process that would empower us. So I chanted to Kali for extended periods whenever I could.

Kali wears a necklace of skulls representing the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and the liberating power of mantra. It is often said that you should “Never invoke the name Kali if you wish to remain the same”. I wished for clarity and peace. I humbly asked Kali for a drastic shift in perception that would allow us to create autonomy and stability, that would value and empower everyone within the community. I repeatedly chanted her invocational mantra - Om Aim Hrim Krim Chamundayei Vicche Swaha – and observed as things shifted and really did not remain the same.

We began the work of establishing a clear Vision, Mission and Community Guidelines. This co-creation was written on the wall, allowing our intentions to be public and accessible to all, within our handbooks, as well a public Community Living page on our website, so that even before people join us in community they can understand our intentions for living, playing and working together. This process has had a profound effect of creating cohesion for the community, perhaps its not something that you can see, but it is something that we can feel at the forest.

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I am learning how to listen, to ask for feedback, and to allow people to share and be heard. And I am actually taking their considerations onboard. I may sometimes think I know better based on my experience, but I now recognize that I must honor people’s experience of what is, especially what is working and what is not. Together ‘we’ can know better, many minds simply mean more creative ideas and solutions. And the real joy is in the co-creation. It means I am no longer asking people to obey and enforce my rules, but we are learning to co-create the guidelines that together, we will hold one another accountable to.

My role is shifting. For me it is an inner revolution of letting go of old ways. True leadership to me now means conscious facilitation and creating space for the “we”. I find myself inspired to try new ways and feel ready to look at how we find balance between conscious business and community living; how the two balance and provide for each other when we co-create. Shifting the paradigm, we explore new strategies for business, work and play to harmonize, putting the needs of the people first.

In spite of her seemingly terrible form, where she is seen as a great protector, Kali Ma, Mother Kali is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. According to Ramakrishna;

“My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is Akhanda Satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same; The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali.”

Honoring MahaKali, the Divine Mother as the force of transformation behind spiritual awakening, I offer my bundle of flowers to the fire under the magical Full Moon. I know the fierce love and ecstasy Kali offers us can set us free. Burn it all away, burn it all away. She burns away everything other than our true essence, that which cannot be destroyed, the eternal Truth and Spirit within. Om Namo Kali Kali Om Namo. Look to your challenges as opportunities for growth and allow drastic shifts in consciousness. Don’t be afraid to call her in, but know that an inner revolution may indeed follow, life may never be the same again.

Blessings,

Saraswati

 

 

hayley tennyson
Saraswati; the Goddess of Insight, Wisdom and Sound

Saraswati had been whispering to me for well over a year. So sweet were her whispers that I could no longer ignore it, and I realized it was time to honor the essence of ‘The Flowing One’ in ceremony one beautiful Caribbean coastal night.

In the beginning there was the word. In Hindu mythology this word is understood as the sound of Om, the fundamental vibration of creation. The root myth of Saraswati describes the creation of the universe as the moment that she emerged out of Brahma’s mouth; riding a snow white swan (hansa), carrying a lute (veena), glowing with radiance and beauty, her very essence reverberating with the mantra Om. That sound carried on Brahma’s breath would eventually manifest as all the worlds.

Saraswati is the active energy and power of Brahma, the Creator, she is the embodiment of creation itself.  She embodies the creative flow through language, speech and sound. She also embodies the power of discernment (viveka) to understand to separate our lower self impulses from the ones that come from the higher Self, represented by her vehicle, the swan. In Hindu mythology, the hansa is a sacred bird, which if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. It thus symbolizes discrimination between the good from the bad, the essence from the superficial, the eternal from the evanescent. The swan is also symbolism for spiritual perfection, transcendence and moksha.

I feel the energy of Saraswati as the power of insight, music, learning and the ability to manifest my dreams into reality. She has long been my favorite form of the goddess. She is a part of the trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, (the consorts of Brahma, Visnhu and Shiva), each the active power behind their husbands cosmic functions of creation, maintenance and dissolution.

To continue the tale, upon her emergence from his mouth, Brahma takes one look at her and falls wildly in love, like so many of us do with our own creative power. He grows a fifth face in order to look at her and take in her incredible beauty. In one version of the story, she curses him for this act of primordial sexual harassment and says that no more temples will be built for him - perhaps one of the reasons that we only see two temples dedicated to Brahma in India. In other more accepted versions of the story he joins his essence with her. Together they create Manu, who does the actual task of overseeing the entire evolutionary process.

Other stories tell that Krishna divided himself into male and female – Purusha (pure spirit) and Prakriti (the energy that will become matter) His feminine takes on five forms, one of which is said to be Saraswati.

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So popular is this goddess that Vishnu also claims her story as a co-wife to Lakshmi, perhaps representing the age-old duality of the sensual versus the spiritual, or bhukti (enjoyment) versus mukti (spiritual liberation). Jealousy eventually makes Vishnu divorce her in favor of Lakshmi, and I have heard it said that one should honor reverence to Saraswati before Lakshmi, as she is more jealous by nature!

So much of my own life was governed by the sensual before I allowed myself to open up to the peace and wholeness of the spiritual path offered to us in yoga. Indeed spiritual transformation is the earmark of the goddess. As awakeners of Spirit, the goddesses embody transformative power, especially the power to kindle the spiritual in each of us.

Interestingly, the Brahma story also ends in divorce, and Saraswati again ends up alone. More interested in her own spiritual pursuits than that of being a devout wife, Saraswati represents the essence of all seekers of truth, and the tenacity required to live a life dedicated to spirituality. I hear this and honor it deeply. The fact however, that all the stories end the same way gave me years of hesitation to honor her essence within me as one and the same. During my recent journey to Costa Rica to facilitate a yoga teacher training, I repeatedly received messages in various forms to integrate her teachings deeper within me. Resisting for a long time the idea of taking a spiritual name, her whispers kept getting louder and louder, until I could no longer ignore the sweet message that I was receiving in my heart. So one night, after the last confirmation I seemed to need, I stood up in sacred ceremony, honoring the truth I felt within me, and repeated to the world, “I am Saraswati.”

hayley tennyson
Embodied Birthing; the Power in the Process

“Pick up your baby,” our midwife Luz stated simply and directly. It was the most intense moment of my existence as I stared into the water in amazed wonder at the baby that had just swooshed out of me and into the bathtub. Had she not told me to do so, I now wonder how long it might have taken me to register that I needed to gather my child from the waters and into the new atmospheric existence with us. This moment remains frozen in time for me as a pause between breaths, between worlds, between periods of incredible effort and surrender, between maiden and motherhood.

This moment was an incredible gift; not only the meeting of our first child Elijah Rumi, the ancient wise one now held in my arms like a slippery fish, but the gift of empowerment our midwife offered to us in that very moment. She gave us a chance to do it differently; to claim this new being’s birthright, to take the power back into the hands of the mother as the first one to touch her own child. I now clearly see how this moment was her greatest gift to me.

The magic of home birth is a right of all women to choose how, where and when we wish to birth, to not be told by the current institutional idea of how it “should” be done. With more than 85% of hospital births here in Guatemala ending in cesarean, we chose to abandon a system that would surely abandon us. Living at Lake Atitlan we are 90 minutes away from the nearest emergency service in our little village, yet I knew that my own mother far away on the other side of the world had more anxiety than any of us present.

Instead we simply chose to trust. My only intention was to remain at home, and although one can never know what may unfold throughout the birthing process, I believe that deep faith in the wisdom of the female body and trust in our inner strength and capacity are our greatest allies. We are the product of a “100% success line of natural birthers” Luz reminded me in one of our initial prenatal visits. It is in our bodies, our blood and of course, our ancestry to know how to give birth naturally.


It began on a Friday afternoon during a magical massage at home with a trusted friend. I began to feel the ‘expansions’ and knew my journey was about to unfold. The light rushes of energy continued into the evening and my beautiful partner Jaya and I laid down to get some rest knowing we were possibly in for a long night. We didn’t sleep, perhaps too excited, and observed in amazement as hours passed and each rush of energy turned on the outdoor sensor light on the other side of our bedroom wall. Divine energy was moving through me, pouring into our little house filled with love and the light from many candles of blessings and supportive intentions from our closest friends.


After the first eight hours the rushes were now intense enough that sleep was no longer an option. I began sounding out loud and Jaya matched my voice, toning together the entire night. Through each expansion he held and rocked me in his arms beside the crackling of the fireplace until the sun dawned a new day.  Soft music accompanied us in our intimate ceremony bringing new life into the world.

Our midwife Luz arrived around breakfast time finding me half naked leaning over the dresser and swirling my hips through the expansions with a hot water bottle balanced on my lower back. I was by this point very happy to see her. She told us we were in active labor and began to settle in for the day with us. The day was long. I spent an hour in the shower rolling on the exercise ball, then moved back and forth from the bed, onto the jungle gym of yoga mats on the floor, to the sofa, back to the ball, and to the fabrics hanging from the roof over and again. At one point we moved outside into our garden but I felt too exposed and uncomfortable knowing our fencing was not private enough for my need to feel free to express in each intense moment.

I wanted to be in the water. With all my being, I longed for the comfort of a bathtub of hot water. But Luz wouldn’t let me until I was further along, worried it would slow the process down. So I went back to the shower. Jiya, our beautiful doula and Kula sister must have massaged my lower back for hours on end. She stayed with me through each moment, holding my hands as the water rained down on me providing some relief. The entire experience was surreal. Absolute presence with body and breath, yet I was also somewhere else in my own journey.  A journey of complete surrender and dynamic inner revolution, allowing my own self to become known as mother, yielding to my body, my baby and my capacity to let go of it all, to allow it to unfold as it needed to be. 

Now I won’t say that it was an “ecstatic” birth and I sincerely wouldn’t recommend that anyone hold an expectation for some fantastical orgasmic experience. There was pain. In fact, there were 22 hours of what felt like someone literally drilling with machinery into my lower back at five minute intervals. Indeed I howled. My neighbors knew the exact moment my son was born. Yet the practice of yoga has taught me time and again that, “this too shall pass”. Pain does not need to be suffering and by allowing breath, sound, and movement to be powerful tools we can move through each experience with the grace of empowered embodiment.  Between the expansions, I purged everything that was not in resonance with what was being born, and in that there was little rest. Dissolving all that would not serve me, I released and purified time and again into my bucket.

 

A few hours after dark Luz and Jiya looked like they were settling in for the evening and I thought I would not bear another whole night of this. Close to despair I told them I was going to need some good news soon. Moments later my waters broke and drenched the sofa; I was now allowed to get into the bath tub. “Thank god, thank god, thank god, thank god”. Relief was coming. We transitioned, now fully dilated and I got into the tub. Luz, Jiya, Jaya and our dog Indy present as each expansion now drove a new energy through me, pushing with the force of the universe this new being into my pelvis and out into the world. It will always be the most intense and beautiful experience of my life. I remember how the wind howled moments after Jaya shared a beautiful prayer to welcome our son into the world. I remember each sensation as my pelvic floor expanded beyond what I could have ever imagined possible. I remember Luz calmly slipping the cord from around his neck after he had crowned, I remember our son was asleep and peaceful as I lifted him into my arms. And I remember Indy’s confused expression as Elijah sang his first song into the world. Together in the bath Jaya and I celebrated our new parenthood. I sipped raspberry leaf tea, while he held his son for the first time, and my placenta floated above the bloody water in a bowl between us. Life in its fullest expression is bountiful, blissful and beautiful. My beloved Jaya had been intensely present for 30 hours, holding and rocking me through the journey. I am forever grateful for all of the loving care I received from him, Luz and Jiya.

Having the support of an amazing community, our friends brought us delicious nutritious meals for the next two weeks. We stayed home in bed for days and delighted in the perfection of our little Eli. Jaya doted on us as I recovered the strength to get up and down the stairs. I was able to integrate the experience completely at home with Luz’s support and advice, as well as her wonderful Moxa and cupping treatments. I honored my body with massage twice a week, and a series of abdominal massages for my womb from local Mayan midwife, Dominga, and her protégé Mariú, drank herbal teas and elixirs like Dong Quai gifted from loving friends, and later incorporated treatments for both Mama and baby from our wonderful neighbour and pediatric chiropractor Amy. 

Each day we continue to fall more in love with this perfect un-traumatized being. I am eternally grateful for the blessing we have had to be able to bring him into the world in such a peaceful and natural way. I am grateful for the miracle of life itself, for our incredible capacity we as women have to birth. I imagine it will forever be the most empowered and embodied experience of my life. 

Let our prayers be to bring our babies into the world consciously and free. May all women feel empowered through their births. May this world be a birthing place for a new humanity.

hayley tennyson