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Posts Tagged ‘Anusara’


I love Joseph Campbell. I think his writings and his philosophies were and continue to be brilliant and thought-provoking, and when I read his works it is clear to me that he was tapping into a deeper, ancient fountain of wisdom. “Follow Your Bliss” is one of his most famous statements. We all know what that means: follow what it is that brings you true joy, and you will find true happiness at the other end. While I agree with that in part, the problem is that we humans tend to take it too literally. What do I mean by that? Well, here’s the thing: if you are living a full life, there will be dozens if not tens of dozens of things (hobbies, activities, careers, etc) that bring you Bliss. So how do you know if you are following the right one? 

When I was a kid, like many little girls I dreamed of being a dancer. If I had followed that Bliss, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have turned out very fruitful for me. But would it be because I didn’t try hard enough or that I didn’t set a strong enough intention and stick with it? Nope. Not at all. It would in fact be because I don’t believe I was good enough. I loved to dance, but truthfully I was only an average dancer. And as I watched the top students go on to be stars in the Nutcracker, I knew they had something that I didn’t. They were born with a talent that I knew I did not possess. Was I being too hard on myself and giving up too easily? Nope. Even as a child I had enough wisdom to know that not all dreams are meant for all people. Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve met a woman who is one of the soloist ballerinas for the San Francisco Ballet. When I watch this woman move, it is clear to me that she was born with a true gift: she was born with this special talent, but she was also born with the perfect stature and grace to be a ballerina. I was not. I believe this was her Calling. And I know that it was not mine.

Later on in life, in my late 20′s I found myself writing an extensive thesis to President Bush about all that was wrong with our foreign policy. Even as I wrote it, I found myself wondering “Wow, where is THIS coming from?” I was passionate about foreign affairs. So following that Bliss, I quit my job in Boston and moved to Washington, DC where I enrolled in a Master’s program in International Affairs at George Washington University. I was going to solve the Middle East Crisis, that was my goal. I was following my passion, my Bliss, so surely I was on the correct track. Right? Wrong. It didn’t take me more than one semester in Washington, DC to realize that I was NOT a bureaucrat, that the life of a government employee would not in fact bring me Bliss, that it would instead bring me soul-numbing frustration. So I left graduate school and gave up on that dream and went on to another. One could read that and tell me that I had simply quit, that I had given up. But here’s where they’d be wrong: one major mistake that we make as stubborn human beings is not knowing WHEN to give up, when to change gears. I did not quit. I simply was aware of the sign posts, and when the sign said “turn here” I paid attention and turned instead of wasting more time on what I knew was the wrong path. I had followed Bliss, but it was the wrong Bliss.

That experience of dropping out of graduate school was a perfect example of trial and error and this is what I think is so important with helping us to truly find the Bliss that we are meant to find. Many of the things that we LOVE to do, that truly bring us Bliss, are not in fact our true Calling and would actually be better simply as hobbies. This is what I realized about foreign affairs. I realized that I could simply read The Economist weekly and engage in intellectual debates with my like-minded friends. But it didn’t have to be my career, my livelihood. It could instead simply be a hobby. Years prior when I had been a Zoology major and was determined to fulfill my childhood dream of going to Africa to save all of the endangered species, I was disappointed to find myself earning C’s and D’s in the challenging science classes: chemistry, physics, etc. This brought me the same realization. I could love animals, and I could volunteer my time and donate money to animal charities (which I do), but it did not need to be my career. I knew that that path was met with too much challenge for it to be my true Bliss.

As we are such a stubborn race, so many of us foolishly cling to false ideas of what we think is our Bliss, and instead we lose the opportunity to be open to something that we never might have imagined. Several days ago someone told me that they had followed their Bliss to be a musician, but that it had only led to a life of pain. I would then argue that that was the wrong Bliss, and not the one that was truly that person’s Calling. When you’ve found your true Calling, it is true that the Universe conspires to help you: doors that were previously shut tight suddenly blow open for you, the right people show up into your life to help you at exactly the right moment, and magic happens. I know this because this has happened to me since I started writing. And here’s the beauty in this statement: I never in my life wanted to be a writer. Looking back, it would never have been my Bliss. So how can I then say that I support the idea, even somewhat of “Follow Your Bliss“. Because writing actually IS my Bliss, I just hadn’t yet discovered it. There was a whole path out there that I never would have considered for myself, one that I never would have imagined would bring me Bliss. So how could I have found it? I couldn’t have. I had to be OPEN to IT finding me. And once it did, that’s when I knew this was a Bliss I could follow. And just as with the trial and error that I had tried previously, I tried this path. And that’s when the doors started blowing wide open.

Peter Tileston, my high school band director

Life is not meant to be difficult, and so often we waste so much time swimming upstream, and we fail to recognize that the fact that we are being met with nothing but obstacle, challenge and uphill battles is actually the Universe trying to hit us over the head and tell us that we are on the WRONG path. And if we would just let go, and let the current take us downstream, we would find that life can be so much easier, and beauty that we never would have imagined will come to us. So many of us are clinging to ideas that we THINK are right, but we are too afraid to let go and surrender to the idea that there may be something entirely different meant for us. What about that person who had followed their Bliss into a life of pain as a musician? Perhaps, their TRUE Bliss would have been not in being a performing musician, but rather as a teacher, bringing the magic of music to others? I was blessed with an incredible music teacher and band director in high school. This man had gone to school for music and I’m sure at one time or another thought that his Bliss was to be a professional musician. But I can tell you that from the 1,000s of students lives he has impacted, and the beautiful and life-changing lessons that he instilled in all of us, that this man had found his Calling as a teacher.

What about the person who is clinging to the idea that they are meant to be an artist, they are trying to follow their Bliss, but instead it has led to a life of struggle and destitution? That is not true Bliss. Perhaps if this person opened themselves up to other ideas, they might find their true magic in doing art therapy with disabled children. Perhaps the person who is certain that they are supposed to be a famous, published author, is actually instead meant to be the one-of-a-kind, special teacher who nurtures and mentors the NEXT Nobel Laureate. Or perhaps it’s something entirely different than what we want and imagine for ourselves. Perhaps the person who insists that their Bliss is to be a filmmaker is actually meant to be an internationally-renowned Yoga teacher? This one is actually a real-life example of which I just learned. When I was living in Los Angeles, one of my earliest yoga teachers who inspired me onto the path of yoga was this fabulous teacher named Tara Judelle. She is an internationally-renowned Anusara yoga teacher who travels the world leading workshops and now lives in Bali teaching yoga in paradise. I did not know this about Tara, but just the other day she posted this message: “9/11 marks the 10 year anniversary of my decision to stop making films and start making change as a yoga facilitator- be the change.” I was shocked because I had never known that she had previously been a filmmaker. All I knew of her was that she made magic on the mat as a yoga teacher. It is clear to me now that by releasing her career as a filmmaker, she was able to find what I believe is her true Bliss, her true Calling: to be a soulful, beautifully impactful yoga teacher who spreads light, and Bliss, all around the world.

Tara Judelle

So how do you find YOUR Bliss? Trial and error. Try lots of different things, explore all of the different activities and adventures that bring you Bliss. BE OPEN: Be open to the idea that any one of those examples of Bliss may in fact be better meant as a hobby and not actually as your Calling. BE ATTENTIVE: If life is too difficult and wrought with challenge, and is not simply flowing, the Universe is trying to tell you something. Listen. BE FLEXIBLE: When you get these blaring sign-posts from the Universe be willing to change gears, be willing to give up what you are doing and turn to the right and try something else. Be like the water and go with the flow. BE BRAVE: Be willing to try something completely new, something you never would have imagined. You just never know what Calling may find YOU.

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Cathedral of Cusco

I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. We were walking through the main square of Cusco, Peru, towards the majestic Cathedral glistening in the afternoon sun, when Danielle said to me, “It’s all perfect Jeannie. You are simply in the gestation period, things are incubating. You are getting ready to have a rebirth.” Who is Danielle and to what on earth was she referring? Danielle Hougard was the Anusara Yoga teacher who was leading me on my first ever yoga retreat. But she was not just any yoga teacher. Danielle is one of those special “Earth Mother” types, the type of woman who exudes love and motherly instincts from every cell of her body, the type of woman who is truly in touch with her intuition, the Spirit of Earth and Sky, and the energies of every living creature around her. This is a wise women who just seems to “know” things, and somehow when she says them you just know that you can trust her.

Danielle was responding to my story of how my life had fallen into ruins: I had moved across country to fight for love, only to find myself rejected and abandoned. If that wasn’t enough I had arrived at the beginning of the recession and was thrust headfirst into months of unemployment. Running out of money and desperate for work, I was compelled to take a minimum wage job at a retail store. It was depressing enough that I had gone from a successful, high-paying management career in Washington, DC, to making minimum wage, but in the depths of my own heartache, I was now forced to endure hundreds of happy couples strolling about arm in arm as the irritating Christmas carols pumped out incessantly through the loudspeakers of the shopping mall. But worst of all, every day I lived in fear that the man who had broken my heart would stroll in with HIS new girlfriend on his arm. This was my rock bottom. If there is a Hell on Earth, this was definitely it.

Fortunately through a stroke of “luck,” I was finally able to find a “real” job. Things were looking up, I could finally leave my minimum wage job and get back to building my career….Or so I thought. Sadly my luck would not last and I was laid off several months later, and found myself yet again in a period of protracted unemployment. So here I was in Peru, six months after having been laid off and I hadn’t had a single bite to the hundreds of resumes sent. My life was completely stagnating. I was having no luck on the job front, no luck on the love front, every cell in my body ached and mourned for the loss of my best friend, and I was depressed to the point where I did not want to get out of bed in the morning. The only thing I could feel in my life was a palpable feeling of stagnation. I was completely stuck.

Danielle’s response to this story was a friendly smile and a reassuring nod, telling me that everything I had just described was actually “PERFECT,” that although on the surface it felt like things were stagnating, that actually behind the scenes there were forces at work, and that I was simply in the gestation period…that I was simply getting ready for a powerful rebirth. Though to my rational (and depressed!) mind this sounded a little bit unusual and way too good to believe, the certainty with which she spoke these words gave me a momentary peace. I prayed that she was right.

By now you may be wondering what I was doing in Peru after the story I just described and given my obvious state of unemployment. Well, call me a risk-taker, but when life gets really dark and gloomy, that’s when something deep inside of me says “SCREW IT” and propels me to go do something incredible and adventurous, to try to drag myself reluctantly out of the muck. All of my life I had dreamed of going to Peru. When I was in high school Spanish class, my teacher would show us pictures of Machu Picchu and I just knew that I had to go there one day. So when I found myself in the midst of my “dark night of the soul,” and completely stuck, I knew I had to do something to try to unstick myself.

Several days after walking through that square in Cusco, we found ourselves on the very tip-top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, high above the breath-taking, mind-boggling and awe-inspiring creation that was Machu Picchu. This masterpiece defied human logic and comprehension. Its ruins were perfectly intact, each of its thousands of individual stones stacked so flawlessly and at such exquisitely engineered angles that they would remain intact and stable for hundreds of years of enduring the elements. There are honestly not any words I could ever use to adequately express what it felt like to be standing up there at 8,920 ft, literally on top of the world. As I looked around us, I was overcome with goosebumps at the beauty of the jagged, majestic mountains that shot dramatically up into the heavens, hugged and nurtured by the blankets of fog. If there was a God, he/she was certainly here. I felt the great Spirit of the Earth in the wind that whispered into my ears, in the Sun that warmed my back, and in the solid stone beneath my feet, stones that had held the weight and cradled the souls of hundreds of thousands of humans across the centuries. I was awed to my core. Standing up here at this great height, surrounded by the magic and mystery of Mother Earth, I knew I was being supported.

Me on top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, with Machu Picchu far below

At the end of our 10-day journey, completely moved and humbled by the Grace, beauty and humility of the Peruvian people, we returned home to the States, and I back to the chains of stagnation in Los Angeles. The minute I touched down in Los Angeles, I knew I had to leave. I am a stubborn person. And because I loved Los Angeles and felt a profound spiritual connection with her, I had previously been determined to stay there, despite the fact that the signs seemed to point elsewhere. But now the Universe had given me a breadcrumb to follow. You see, this yoga group, led by this sweet soul Danielle, was actually from San Francisco, and I only found them through an “accidental” twist of fate through a web search. Nobody on the trip could figure out why I was staying in Los Angeles after the horror I had described. They encouraged me to move to San Francisco. Considering that my life was completely stagnant and that I had already lost everything of importance that I could possibly stand to lose, I decided it was time to break free of my prison.

This is when Grace took over. Only five days after moving to San Francisco, for what was intended to be a one-month temporary sublet to test out the waters, a job offer had fallen unexpectedly into my lap. Over the weeks that followed, I frantically looked for a permanent apartment in San Francisco, searched desperately for someone to take over my lease in Los Angeles, packed up my entire one-bedroom apartment in 24 hours and drove the entire load, by myself, the six-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and then started my new job the next day. Just like that, my life had shifted dramatically. Danielle’s words about an impending “rebirth” were ringing in my ears. But what I didn’t know was that this was just barely the beginning. I was only in the earliest contractions and still had over a year of “labor” ahead of me.

17 months later, after months and months of undue stress and anxiety in my corporate job, I was let go. Bowled over by the unexpected blow, I picked myself back up and threw myself immediately back into the job search. But the minute I did so, another breadcrumb was laid down for me. I had written my very first blog post, about my journey of healing through yoga, and it had felt good. But not only did it feel good, it got a good response. Somehow, as if in a daze, I suddenly found myself with my own blog and I began writing. Never having had any interest in being a writer, it was as if a higher force had suddenly taken over and was simply pulling my puppet-strings and moving me along a new and unexpected path. But this path felt right.

Now only eight short months since losing my job, I have over 20,000 beautiful, bilingual fans in 35 countries around the world, my work has been published in several different publications, I am now a regular contributor to Elephant Journal, writing in both English and Spanish, I’m about to be featured in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine, and I have just completed and submitted my very first book proposal, with the hope that I will soon be a published writer. I couldn’t have imagined this dramatic turn of events in my life even eight months ago when I lost my job. In fact almost daily I look back and scratch my head with delight and wonder. But there would be no way in my wildest, craziest dreams that I could have imagined this, as we walked through that square in Cusco talking about my impending “rebirth.”

A few weeks ago we had a reunion from our Peru trip, now just past the two-year mark since we took our trip, and I was reminding Danielle of this moment from Cusco. Danielle then told me something that I hadn’t yet known, something that made this entire experience even more unbelievable and magical to me: the name Cusco means “navel of the Earth.” Danielle had been right, I was in the gestation period and I was getting ready for a “rebirth.” What I hadn’t realized was that I had to go to Cusco, the “navel of the Earth,” in order for the “rebirth” to begin…

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They say that during your toughest times, you find out who your true friends are. I am learning that this is also true during your best times.

In recent months I have begun to see positive movement forward in my writing career and while most of the people in my life have truly been avid cheerleaders, and for that support I am eternally grateful, others have been noticeably silent. They have made no acknowledgment of my successes, have offered no kind words of encouragement, and frankly have offered no words at all. Some are very simply jealous, envious of the success I am seeing, others disapprove of what I am doing or how I am doing it, while still others think I have simply gone off the “new-age deep-end”. At this premise I simply have to laugh because for one, what mainstream society unwittingly calls “new-age” philosophy is actually based on ancient wisdom, wisdom as old as the stars. But secondly, even if inadequately named, to this notion I would have to respond, “Yes, proudly. ; )” But I digress..

When I was younger and I would express to my Grandmother my distress about friends who were being unsupportive, she would simply say to me, “Oh nevermind.” I now realize how much wisdom was held within that simple statement. For I have realized that it doesn’t matter what any of those detractors think of what I am doing. If they choose to be unsupportive or disapproving, I have realized that that is their problem, not mine. And it is not worth a moment of my precious energy trying to please them.

All of my life I have cared way too much about what other people think of me. I don’t know where this personality trait comes from, but even from a young age I have always been a people-pleaser. Whether I was trying to please my parents by getting the best grades, or trying to please my teachers by being the model student, if I wasn’t doing perfectly and making people proud of me, I was not content. As an adult I carried this into my professional life by always striving to be the top employee and climb the corporate ladder. But I have realized that over the years I have acted this out to a fault: I have spent years walking on eggshells, agonizing over my choice of words, and ensuring that I did or said the right things in order to not offend or upset the people around me. And while that was always from a place of good intention, and there are certainly moments when being a diplomat is the right course of action, as a whole I have realized that trying to please everyone else is a futile effort and frankly a waste of my valuable time. Simply put, it does not matter how well-intentioned I may be, or how hard I strive to act from a place of highest good, there will always be people who are unhappy with me. Being a writer has forced me to face this reality, and for this I am grateful. I know that no matter what I write, no matter how sincere or heartfelt, that there will be people who hate it, people who are enraged by my words. And so I realize, yet again, that that is their problem, not mine.

Oprah Winfrey spoke on her final show about the idea that everyone on this Earth has a calling:

“Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing. We saw it in the volunteers who rocked abandoned babies in Atlanta. We saw it with those lovely pie ladies from Cape Cod making those delicious potpies. … We saw it every time Tina Turner, Celine, Bocelli or Lady Gaga lit up the stage with their passion. Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

As I watched Oprah beautifully express her final soliloquy, her words came out of the television screen and enveloped me. I was moved to tears and goosebumps ran up and down my spine. As she described what it means to have found your calling, I knew that I had found mine. This message further reverberated with me only a few weeks later when one of my yoga teachers was talking about the first time she stepped onto the mat, and how she knew immediately that it was her calling to be a yoga teacher. As I sat on my own mat, legs folded in a seated meditation position, I resonated with everything my teacher was saying, and I felt exactly what she must have felt that day she realized her own calling. I too realized that I had found my calling.

This life has the possibility of presenting us with profound spiritual experiences, experiences that allow us to expand our consciousness and to access our deep, inner truth. By living through one of these experiences, and going deep into the recesses of your spirit and your higher consciousness, you are able to access ancient wisdom. And if you are open enough to “see”and brave enough to trust what lays within, you may be fortunate enough to find your calling. This is exactly what happened to me. The type of life experiences that can lead to such a powerful opening and awaking of consciousness are often experiences of the most painful and tragic kind. Traveling to such profound levels of grief can allow you to blow wide open. This is exactly what happened to me when I lived through my “dark night of the soul“.

I went into my “dark night” having been a manager in the .com world. To my surprise I emerged a writer. As I listened to Oprah Winfrey’s experience, it struck me that often times we have no idea of what our calling will be. We may think that we are supposed to be a doctor because society says that is the best career, or a lawyer because we come from a long line of lawyers, but the truth is that what we think we are supposed to be doing, may in fact be the farthest thing from the truth; it may have nothing to do with our calling. Never in my life did I want to be a writer. It was never remotely a thought in my head. I was not the kid in English class dreaming of being a literary master (and believe me I know plenty who were!). I hated writing. Hell, I even avoided certain college classes because there were too many required research papers for my taste. But when life happened to me, and I suddenly found myself placed on the path of the writer, without having any idea of how I had gotten there, that’s when I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

This brings me back to those people who are being less than enthusiastic about my new-found path and reminds me of another story. Earlier this week my yoga community was celebrating the 14th Birthday of Anusara Yoga. The same teacher I mentioned above was giving a tribute to Anusara founder, John Friend, and she was telling us that when John Friend first started what was a brand new branch of yoga and a new lineage of teaching, while he was blessed with the support of many, he also had a number of detractors and was met with some criticism. Of course he was, he was doing something different from the mainstream. He was taking bold actions to develop a brand new style of yoga and this was threatening to the “old guard.” But as my teacher reminded us, John had already found his inner truth and he knew that he was on his true path, that he had found his calling. Despite the criticism, he knew he had to stand in his truth. Now, 14 years later, Anusara Yoga is one of the fastest-growing yoga movements on the planet, and John’s teachings have profoundly and beautifully impacted and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (I am one of those!). John Friend was right to trust his inner guidance and to stand in his truth.

I was lit up as my teacher told this story. As seems to happen more often than not, I felt that her message was magically directed straight at me. I knew immediately that I am no different than John Friend. I have accessed an inner truth that has given me 100% certainty that I have found my calling and that I am on my truth path on this Earth. My journey is to write inspirational stories from the heart, stories of hurt and healing, of betrayal and triumph; to help others with their own healing, by writing about mine. And as I move forward and I am inevitably met with additional criticism, I will always remember the wise words of my Grandmother, “Oh Nevermind.” And I will stop trying to please everyone around me, and instead I will STAND IN MY TRUTH because I know that as long as I am on my true path the rest will follow…

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As previously featured on http://bayshakti.com/

In 2007 a profound betrayal and subsequent loss of my best friend plunged me into the darkest years of my life. Despite my anguish, I somehow mustered up the strength to make the bold (or arguably stupid!) decision of moving across country to Los Angeles, in part to fight for love, only to find myself rejected and abandoned, jobless, friendless, and completely alone. The years that followed can only adequately be described as a truly “dark night of the soul”.

After almost a year of endless tears, sleepless nights and an inability to eat much of substance, almost as an act of desperation, I dragged myself into the neighborhood yoga studio. I had actually been looking for a pilates studio since yoga had always aggravated my rotator cuff in the past, but in a twist of magical synchronicity, the only studio I could find that was walking distance from my apartment was City Yoga, an Anusara yoga studio. “What on earth is Anusara?”, I thought to myself. I’d never heard of it, but decided to give it a try anyway.

That step was the beginning of what would metaphorically save my life. For most of 2008, the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning, was the yoga. The people in the studio were so at peace, so Zen, so warm and loving…but I was not. I was drowning in pain and anguish, and as I went through the motions of the different yoga poses, often on the verge of bursting into tears, I found myself wondering if my teachers could sense my sadness. Every day that I went to the yoga studio was an effort. I had to drag myself out of my apartment and force myself into class, despite my incessant feelings of hopelessness.

Then one day, something inside of me started to shift. While I still felt intense grief on the surface, deep inside of me a profound feeling of love was starting to stir. So I kept on going to the yoga. With each class, the powerful feelings that surged within me began to rise further up to the surface, beginning to slowly, but surely push the suffering away. And I began to notice that when we’d chant Om and the Anusara invocation, that my body and spirit would hum. I immediately recognized the value and power of sound mixed with silence and so I began my own meditation practice to supplement the yoga. Further emboldened by the warm and loving energy of the Anusara Kula, I began to soak up the vibrations during our group chanting, letting it wash over me.

I continued to go to yoga, and as many of my fellow Anusara yogis can attest themselves, magic began to unfold. I began to feel strong, full of light, and I began to have a more powerful and profound capacity for love than I’d ever felt before; a type of universal love that I find myself at a loss to explain to people outside of the yoga community. I would leave the studio feeling complete Bliss and as light as air. And as I continued to do the difficult personal work that is both necessary and ultimately enlightening, when one walks through a “dark night of the soul”, I began to feel that I embodied the energy of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. It was palpable. And as is one of the main intentions of Anusara, I knew that I was stepping into the flow of Grace.

Magical things began to happen. I began receiving psychic messages and I received a very powerful epiphany which revealed to me a major insight as to my life’s purpose on this earth. And so I continued to go to yoga. Grace continued to flow and the different aspects of my life all began to align in synchronistic perfection, culminating into the move to my new life in San Francisco. Since that time I have expanded my circle to become part of the wonderful San Francisco Anusara Kula, and with the help and guidance of my wonderful teachers, I continue to expand my awareness and my heart.

In the Anusara I have discovered a “magic bullet”. I now know that no matter what life throws at me, no matter how difficult are the challenges that present themselves, no matter how tragic or debilitating, that I can find peace, strength, harmony and ultimately bliss, through Anusara. Armed with that knowledge, I have risen from the ashes and fly boldly into 2011.

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