Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sedona Yoga Festival

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is falling onto your face in an arm balance and 10 is experiencing enlightenment, the 4th Annual Sedona Yoga Festival ranks a 10 in my book.

I come from a background where I took my first yoga class 10 years and am currently less than 2 months away from becoming a yoga teacher, myself. Yoga is a very important part of my life. This festival only added to my love for this beautiful way of life. Over the course of the main Thursday-Sunday festival, participants had the opportunity to go to workshops, lectures, presentations, meditations, and other classes. These varied in theme from physical alignment to psychic/intuitive practice to Ayurvedic health to so much more. At the end of the conference, I honestly drove home with my head swirling with so much new information. As my husband was taught in the marine corps, everyone has a tool for you and it is up to you to decide which are useful for you. At this conference, I was given an abundance of tools from all presenters and participants I met. I am so excited for these next few weeks and months where I will now be able to sort out the tools. I will pick out a few at a time that I want to focus on sharpening and really allowing to integrate into my life.

The festival began on Thursday night with a medley of presenters at the Amplify session around the theme of "Release." We learned of the energy vortex around Sedona, of the story of Ganesh (the patron saint of yoga), received techniques on releasing part of the brain that make you struggle unnecessarily, and the night finished off with some devotional chanting. Each subsequent day included a period of time to gather and explore various topics. Friday was about "Gathering", Saturday was on "Integration", and on Sunday morning, we had a special world peace meditation led by a monk. These were usually held in a panel discussion-like setting and were amazing opportunities to hear wisdom from a variety of experts.

Though this was my first Yoga Festival, one of the reactions I heard from almost all returning yogis was that they were thrilled all the events were at the same hotel property this year. I can definitely understand why this makes such a huge difference. The days were filled with various classes, workshops, and lectures that participants could take. With all these being at the same location, it was easy to transition in between classes in the allotted time.  These classes were absolutely the best part of the festival for me. Participants could register for classes ahead of time. These classes ranged anywhere from a movement class to a psychic development to Ayurveda health. By the end of the weekend, my mind was absolutely swirling with new information and ways of viewing the world.

Now for a a few experiences in various categories:

An Experience that Made the Weekend Memorable

This would definitely be the sunrise yoga classes each morning. I went to 2/3 of these practices at 6:00 am. I came with a jacket, a scarf, and wool socks. Even though it was obviously spring, mornings were so cold that we could see our breath and there was frost on the grass each morning. The first morning (Friday) had over 50 attendees. Each morning thereafter lessened, with there being 12 on Saturday and 6 (plus the instructor) by the end of the practice on Sunday. It was a unique experience to be queued to keep our hands in our pockets during Warrior 1 rather than raising them upwards. Though it was cold, it was worthwhile and memorable! I can't wait to do sunrise yoga practices in the true summer, though!

 An Experience Completely Individual to Me

There were a few times on the weekend that the class I actually signed up for was different than the class I thought I signed up for based on the title of the class. One such class was called "Developing Your Intuitive Gifts." I thought this would be a class about developing talents that are unique to you so that you can fill your dharma, or your life's duty. This class actually taught by a Psychic and was about the spiritual gifts such as clairvoyance. It was my first experience with hearing from this type of subject at all. The most interesting part for me was in hearing about how she first found out that she had these gifts stronger than many people. Well this story continued later that day in a different venue when I was standing by the vendor tables while I was waiting for a class to start. I happened to notice that this one particular table was about another Psychic. It included several stones, books he had written, and advertisement for classes he was planning. Having just heard the story of the presenter, I asked him to tell me his story of how he first began to develop his intuitive gifts. He told me the short story and ended up giving me a copy of his book with the full story entitled Seeing Through Spiritual Eyes: A Memoir of Intuitive  by Tom Jacobs. I hold this experience very dear to my and am excited to read it and learn more about the psychic realms. To learn more about him, visit his website here.

The Most Unique Style of Yoga I Came Across

This is another instance of my reading the wrong thing into the title of a class. I was interested to take BREAKasana because I thought it would be some sort of exciting break from the rest of the festival. Really, it was break-dance-styled-yoga. Though it was pretty tiring, it was a fun new adventure to try something so different. The exciting part was getting to see two yoga break dance performances that very evening back in the main ballroom. Coming from a dance background, this was absolutely thrilling to see.

My Favorite Class of the Weekend

For me, this would be the "Yoga In Action" class taught by the motivational speaker India Lee and Dr, Melody Moore, the founder of the Embody Love Movement, which is about helping women improve self image. In this class, we made ourselves very vulnerable as we discovered various truths about the participants. We went through various exercises and eventually had a meditation where we were asked what about the world makes you most mad? This was the last class of the weekend for me and it was a perfect finale for me with my mind so swirling with health, peace, and happiness. Knowing I would soon be going straight back to normal life, I wanted to find out a way to make sure I was different from having attended the festival during the weekend. This was the exact question I needed. I can make a difference in the world. I can be a force for good. And having to pinpoint exactly which parts of the world make me most angry is the key to focusing my energy on the thing that matters most to me.

I would highly recommend this event. What you put into it is what you will get out of it. As I came in wanting to receive direction and purpose for my life as I will soon graduate from my yoga teacher training, I received an abundance that can be considered life changing. If you are on a budget and wish to attend this festival in 2017, there are two ways to receive cheaper tickets. Firstly, you can purchase "early-bird" tickets for the cheapest price for the week. If you plan on attending the full 10 day program including Post Traumatic Stress Training, use the keyword "heartstorm" when checking out. Finally, if you sign up to be an Angel and work a total of 15 hours you can get a greatly reduced ticket price ($77 for the main weekend in 2016). Check out the facebook page for Sedona Yoga Festival or the website for more details!

Comment below with your unique experiences from the festival!

Monday, March 7, 2016

West Side Story: Albuquerque Little Theater

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is being a short person in the chair behind the tallest person in the theater and 10 is a production so good it makes you want to drop everything and become an actor, The Albuquerque Little Theater production of West Side Story scores and easy 8

This production was chalk full of pleasant surprises. From the skill of the dancers and singers to the outstanding lighting to the props and acting, everything about this show exceeded my expectations. Though this show may not be appropriate for extremely young children, I would absolutely recommend it to the adult crowd of the area.

West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare's tragic play "Romeo and Juliet" but is set in New York in the 1950s. At that time there were many immigrants coming to New York from Puerto Rico. Thus, it made historical sense that the two gangs in the play were The Jets (the white teenagers who were at least 2nd generation citizens) and the Sharks (first generation US citizens from Puerto Rico). These social issues therein are neatly weaved into the play, especially through witty songs such as "America."

The play began with the audience becoming aware of the feud between these two groups fighting over the same "turf" in the city. The real trouble, though, started after Tony, one of the key members of the Jets, dances with and kisses Maria, the little sister of Bernardo who is a leader of the Sharks. This couple quickly falls in love which leads to terrible contention as gang members find out. Besides Maria and Tony, no one else will even take a second to consider such a mixed relationship, which means the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet became a possibility.

Initially, it didn't make sense to my why Michaela Bateman, an actress of Asian descent, was chosen to play Maria, a Hispanic character. The reason for this thought is that in the highly successful 1961 motion picture adaptation of the play, it was very controversial that only 1 out of all the Sharks was actually of Hispanic descent. All the rest were white actors and actresses who used makeup to darken their skin and who spoke with a practiced Spanish accent. Thus, to me it seemed almost ironic that Bateman was chosen for this part. At least that is what I thought until she opened her mouth and sang for us. At that moment the decision became crystal clear. She had the perfect soprano voice for the part and I could listen to Bateman's operatic voice all day long. When Bateman hit the high notes at the end of the duet "Somewhere," it was some of the most beautiful notes I have heard in my life.

When speaking of the outstanding talent portrayed, one cannot miss the outstanding dancing skills of Courtney and Louis Giannini during the high school dance scene. Their jazz and sing dancing partnership with lifts, kicks, and spins was so intoxicating, it was difficult to take one's eyes off them.

Likewise, the acting of Stevie Nichols in the gang rape scene was unbelievably heart wrenching. She enters the scene at Doc's Drug Store demanding to see Doc so that she can deliver the promised message from Maria. In trying to protect Tony, and also out of hatred for her race, they overwhelmed her and held her down. The simulated gang rape was just about to occur until Doc broke it up. In this moment, the audience truly understood her loyalty to her friend, her fear at being violated, and her broken spirit. We understood exactly why, when she finally got the chance to deliver the message, she lied about Maria's well-being. I applaud her performance.

One of the biggest lessons for me came at the moment when Doc proclaimed to the teenagers that "you make the world lousy!" Their immediate rebuttal was that "we didn't make it, Doc." To all who feel victims to the circumstances they were born into, this scene alone should be sufficient to make you rethink your position. Of course they made their life exactly what became of it! They chose hatred and non-tolerance. They chose the war council and violence. Though they couldn't choose the eventual consequence of three deaths on their hands, they made the choice that led to it.

Last but not least, I wouldn't feel right in ending this review without mentioning the amazing lighting and props onstage. As the audience entered initially, it was impossible to ignore the chain link fence at the front of the stage. This did a phenomenal job of setting the tone for the play. When the show began, as much as we wanted to watch the great jazz choreography in the style of Jerome Robbins, this task was made difficult by the breathtaking beauty of the backdrop. I don't know how they did it, but the lighting and scenic directors (and possibly others) made a fantastic backdrop. It simulated the look of the sky during all times of the day. Lights in the windows of buildings created the feel of actually being in New York City. Because of this type of beauty, those hard at work backstage deserve obvious credit!

Thank you Albuquerque Little Theater for such a great performance!!

 224 San Pasquale Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87104

March 4 – 26, 2016
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm;
Sundays at 2:00 pm

 Adults, $24
Seniors (65+), $22
Students (13 – University), $20
Children (12 and under), $14

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Knowhere: UNM Faculty Dance Concert

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is stepping on a tack and 10 is a performance worthy of a 5 minute long standing ovation, the UNM Faculty Dance Concert rates a high 8.

In the world we live in today, it is so easy to live a numb life where you never take time to think about what we truly feel and why we do what we do. The Knowhere Faculty Dance concert was so thrilling to attend because it made me feel wonder at seeing beauty, it made me feel uncomfortable at times, it made me believe in the power of numbers, and it made me want to trust others better. You know it is a great performance when you leave with a desire find a way in which you too can add beauty to this world.

As UNM is the one university in the United States to offer a full bachelor's degree in the dance Flamenco, it was delightful to see that three out of the six performances were of the flamenco style. The first, "Talegoneando" was the most traditional of the flamenco pieces. It featured live music with a Spanish guitar, a singer, and a person clapping out beats (palmas). The dancers were very precise and the use of space kept the piece lively.

(The pieces described below are not in the order of the program)

Flamenco was originally created by gypsies as a way to artistically express the frustration of an unfair life. Gypsies have constantly been rejected by society because of their nomadic lifestyle and different traditions. Their history includes many violent acts toward their people.

The piece "Omega" was perfectly reminiscent of this history, but with modern music by "thrash metal musician" Lagartija Nick from Spain. This piece featured dancers in individualized long, shredded skirts reminiscent, perhaps, of what the gypsies may have worn. Besides the powerful music (sounding at times if a voice was echoing in the canyons and developing into more of a beat with electric guitar), costumes, and dancing, the lighting is what made this piece phenomenal. In the beginning, the purple and green hues gave the stage a sickening feeling as if they were in a toxic environment, which was true of the gypsies almost wherever they turned. The dance included gestures as if they were choking and the music cried out, "Dios!" as if they were praying for help from a distant God. Eventually, the lights turned to red as if they had enough repression and violence. The dancers repeated many times a 1-2-triplet foot pattern back and forth as if it was building up into a war cry. These dancers became not the Spanish matador, but rather the bull. Finally, the lights turned to purple, the color of power. The dance finished with all but one leaving on stage right. The last made a powerful pose and then the lights dimmed.

The third Flamenco piece, "Fandango", was just as intense of an experience as "Omega" for me because of the number of dancers and the masterful use of space. It began with a line of dancers and their footwork upstage. Eventually the group gathered together in one bunch as they simultaneously spun, leaned back, and would look directly into the audience at the same time as if willing us to look and understand. This group expanded outward and lines would rotate between lines. At times dancers would be accomplishing same footwork with some facing forward and others backward. Jumps and arms spinning like a windmill portrayed such power. As the music stopped, all dancers looked intently toward the audience. Person by person began to continuously click their heels until all had joined in and the stage was rumbling with the power of the group. Then with snapping, the group began to leave to stage left.

Though flamenco was the opening and the grand finale of the show, the modern dance pieces by Vladimir Conde Reche, Donna Jewell, and Fall 2015 Artist in Residence Tomaz Simatovic certainly brought a variety of emotions to ponder over.

"if i could only reach you" was definitely a piece that, in making me uncomfortable at times, allowed me to think more deeply about the experience of being in love. It begins with dancers slowly wandering the very foggy stage. Eventually one dancer drops to the ground and all hell breaks loose as dancers writhe uncontrollable all around the stage. This eventually comes to a halt. As these six original dancers do nothing but stand still and stare at the audience for minutes, they are eventually joined by many other female dancers. Queen's song "Breakthru" begins to play and the new additions to the stage find themselves dancing in a playful, quirky way. One by one, they break the trance of the original six, though the last (the woman who dropped to the stage previously) regains movement by screaming as she falls to her position on the ground once more. This piece was intended to embody the many "awesome" and strange emotions that are love.

Here is a YouTube video with some rehearsal clips from this piece:

Conde Reche's "Search for the silver lining" brought dark, eeriness to the stage as if the dancers were currently passing through a very difficult struggle. Their black leather uniforms with cage like lines around the belly brought a repression to the stage. The choreography was full of jumps, spins, unnatural curling of the back, extensions, and gestures of all height levels. At one point, it appeared as if the dancers were worms on the ground. As silence pervades at the end, the dancers make gestures as if they were cleaning their hands thoroughly. This begs the question that if all of your pain and suffering could be taken away from you, would you choose that options to wash your hands of the experience? Or is the washing more of a healing process in the end?

Finally, Donna Jewell's "Superior Temporal (higher up and off to the side)" contained a fascinating excerpt in the program describing the following excerpt from The Aesthetic Brain by Anjan Chatterjea:

"Visual processing starts in the retina of our eyes... Visual information is sorted in different regions (of the brain)... the shapes of things, their movement or color, are processed in different regions. ... off to the side... and higher up is an area that processes moving bodies or biological motion. So, we have a visual cortex that has specialized modules to process places, faces, bodies and different objects. Is it a coincidence that much of visual art is about landscapes, portraits, nudes, and still lifes? Is it also a coincidence that we have an area specialized for biological motion and that dance is such a popular form of art?"
This piece is performed by MFA student Kelsey Paschich and UNM Assistant Professor Vladimir Conde Reche. The dancing of this piece was of the highest quality. The story that seemed to be told was of a girl who is noticed by a boy. He literally lifts her put in various powerful and high lifts. But she always seems to be trying to getting away, and at one point even limps away from him. He tries to hug her, but she escapes again. Eventually, the piece ends with Paschich allowing herself to be supported on him. The lights go out as they make walking finger gestures on each other. To me, this piece is about developing trust and how that is a process. One may need to pass through many personal encounters and even quirky times (like the quirky gestures they made at times). But in the end, the vulnerability that comes with trust is beauty.

I highly recommend this show before it is over forever!

Tickets are various prices depending on if you are UNM faculty or a student, but general adult admission is $15 per person.

Friday, March 4, 2016

PostSecret Live Event

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is finding yourself locked in the bathroom on a bus and 10 is the feeling after a first kiss, going to the PostSecret Live event at the University of New Mexico was a strong 10.

If you have ever kept a secret; if you have ever felt like no one understands you; if you need more compassion in life; if you feel the need to hear the deep and dark secrets of others (be them hilarious, heart breaking, or anywhere in between), then PostSecret Live is a perfect event for you. I truly believe this project can change the world for the better, making it a more peaceful, compassionate, and understanding place to live. It already has helped the world strive for this in many ways.

This event is an hour and a half long presentation by Frank Warren, the founder of the world's largest advertisement free blog in the world, His PostSecret journey began in 2004 when he decided to print out 3000 postcards which were blank on one side and had these simple instructions on the back:

Warren tells of going to the "darkest streets" of Washington DC (because that's where the really good secrets can be found) and passing out these cards. Not everyone supported him or really even understood why he was doing this. But the postcards started coming. In some of the first weeks, he barely had enough new post cards sent to him to post the 10 new cards every week on his blog. And there were only a few visitors. The idea soon went viral and he began receiving cards from outside of Washington DC and outside of the US. His blog visitors soared from 100 one week to 1000 the next to over 4 million weekly viewers now, 12 years later. Warren explains this process as having "accidentally" tapped into a a stream of mystery and wonder.

PostSecret has made a huge difference in the world as they have raised over $1,000,000 for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. It also has sparked the idea for other websites such as

Through the night, Frank Warren used a multiplex of post cards he has received, audio recordings, stories, and even a secret of his own to help explain what this process has been like for him and what he has learned along the way. I loved that he took the time to hand selected a few extra posts about the Albuquerque and New Mexico area from the PostSecret App (which lasted for 3 months in 2011-2012) to share with us. The process has been extremely enlightening to him. Here are some points he has learned which really stuck out to me:

  • There are two kinds of secrets: those we hide from others and those we keep from ourselves. 
  • Secrets inside of you are like a wall. As we share them with others, we realize they were really a bridge the whole time connecting us to others and to our deepest self. 
  • In Hebrew, the word for secret means "to come closer."
  • It is an illusion that we are alone in our secrets. 
  • You earn your soul through your suffering. Through them you begin to discover talents and gifts. We have gifts that the world is waiting for us to discover. The world needs these talents and gifts.

At the end of the night, Warren allowed individuals in the audience to share a secret over the microphone with others. One person shared her story of transferring schools in high school because everyone told her to kill herself. Another person said that he hasn't made it through a love song in months without crying. Another shared his story of growing up in the system and feeling unburdened by the need others feel to seek out lost family relationships. One man told a hilarious story of how his brother used to tell him that cob webs belonged to cob spiders, the deadliest spider on earth. If a web touches you, the cob spiders will find you no matter where you are on earth. A few hours later, this man walked through one and thought for sure that he was going to die. He couldn't sleep for weeks. My favorite secret shared was of a man who always used to pass a stranger on campus who would vibrantly say, "hello." They both knew that they didn't know one another, but they began creating a secret handshake and and stories about how they met to share with the friends nearby. He hasn't seen that guy in quite some time and he misses him.

Warren left us with his memorable testimony about how his life has been changed so much since PostSecret began. If he could go back in time to the worst memories of his life and erase all the pain and anguish, he wouldn't. Every part of his past was vital to leading him to exactly where he is today. He repeated several times his belief that there are a thousand other ideas just as good as PostSecret which are just waiting for one of us to discover and give a life to. I left the event feeling very contemplative about what my true purpose is. What is it that only I can give to the world? This is an event I would recommend everyone go to at least once in their life!

Visit to learn about upcoming PostSecret Live Events! Also, comment below about your experience with PostSecret or PostSecret Live!

Also, if you want to learn more about how keeping secrets can physically change your body and your perception of the world, read this research article: