Touching the Hearts of Our Local Community
By Blanca Amezcua

If you read our recent Community Development Department newsletter, you know that exciting steps have been taken towards our goal of integrating the Hridaya Yoga Center with the local Mexican community. This interconnection was part of Sahajananda’s founding vision, and as the school has grown since its inception in 2012, so too has our capacity to reach out to our neighbors. With the help of sangha members such as Dee, Alba, Beata, and Sunny, our Community Development Department has created relationships with members of the local community that have expanded our understanding of the culture and allowed us to begin to share the non-dual teachings that we hold so dear.

The Vision of the Community Development Department Is Two-fold:

  1. To create strong relationships with the local community, touching their hearts by showing interest in and care for their lives.
  2. To share the teachings of the Heart. This sharing can be formal (classes) as well as informal (modeling what it means to “Live with an Open Heart”).

Manifesting Our Vision

So far, our vision has led us to reach out in the following ways:

  • Educando el corazón (“Educating the Heart”): This program in the local schools teaches children to connect to their inner spiritual compass, giving them tools to thrive in school as well as in life. Read all about our work with kindergarteners here!
  • English Classes: The large number of international visitors who flock to this tropical beach town means that a grasp of the English language is a must for locals who work in tourism. Based on this need, we offer regular English classes for adults at the library in San Agustinillo.
  • Literacy Classes: As reading and writing are a challenge for many, we also offer weekly literacy workshops.
  • Heart-based Projects: Over the last two years, our sangha has joyfully contributed to over 25 different initiatives supporting the local community. These projects have included fundraisers, yoga and meditation classes, environmental cleanups, and more.

What’s Next?

  • We are currently collaborating with local leaders to identify the biggest challenges facing our greater community and are committed to focusing our actions in line with those needs. At this point, it seems the most pressing issues are environmental and economic empowerment, so future projects will likely center around those exigencies. Stay tuned!
  • As we want everyone at the Center to be good neighbors, we are actively educating our students about respecting Mexican culture and encouraging them to engage appropriately with locals.
  • We will soon invite the global Hridaya Community to make financial contributions to worthy projects in the state of Oaxaca.
  • We are creating a dedicated Community Development Department page on the Hridaya website. This page will feature information about our outreach efforts as well as links to blog posts and videos about the causes we are supporting.

Any Ideas?

Do you have a great idea for how Hridaya can better impact the local community? Feel free to leave a comment below. Or, email us with your suggestions or to find out how to get involved.

 

Blanca is a Hridaya teacher and our Community Development Department Coordinator.

By Sunny Rucker
 

“The gift to each child in the world should be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.”
–Rachel Carson

Educating the Heart

Our Community Development Department shares aspects of the Hridaya teachings in local schools via our Educando el corazón (“Educating the Heart”) initiative. We visit students at the kindergarten, elementary, and middle school levels, touching the hearts of 175 students each week.

Kindergarten Program: Heart-Centered Teachings for 3-6 Year-Olds

hridaya-heart-school
Our Kindergarten Program has a natural openness thanks to the children’s profound and wonderful instinct to live with open hearts. Our weekly classes aim to plant the seed of the awareness of the Spiritual Heart and empower the children with the tools to live from a place of love, centeredness and calm. The kindergarteners are 3-6 years old, so the program requires plenty of imagination, creativity, and fun! Students send “heart rainbows” to family and friends and have written unique songs that generate healing energy for themselves and others. The children have also learned sun salutations and nadi shodhana pranayama.

Program Curriculum: Connection, Engagement, and Lots of Fun

Each class begins with everyone coming into a circle in a playful way. We share how we are feeling or, perhaps, a favorite memory or the most delicious food we’ve ever eaten. We share about what excites us and what we love doing most.

Program Curriculum

Then, we begin passing love through the circle. This may be by passing a squeeze of the hand, doing a massage train, singing songs, or blowing love into our friends’ hearts. Once we’re all sufficiently connected to each other, we start bringing our awareness into the Heart. We have learned the Sufi technique of “Blowing upon the Embers of the Heart,” and if there is a more restless energy in the room, we may send blessings or become aware of our heartbeats.

This is when we bring in the physical body with partner stretches or sun salutations set to an engaging song. We always encourage the children to stretch their bodies intuitively as well.

 

 

Sometimes we’ll throw in our fun asana cards—each one is associated with an interesting animal that we can discuss. When we’re feeling extra brave, we bring in a chakra-themed class. When the class is calm, we incorporate a few minutes of pranayama. Nadi shodhana, sama vritti, and maha yoga pranayama are the more recognizable “pranayamas” that we perform, but we also breathe into different body parts and fill them with love and light. We also blow bubbles, blow out candles, and count seconds on our fingers.

To cultivate a love for meditation and, more simply, concentration, we practice bringing our attention to the space between thoughts. We also do Tibetan micropractices such as evoking the experience of being “wide open like the sky,” “shining like a flame,” or “radiant, lucid like a crystal.” We’ve even done trataka on a candle flame!

To inspire the imagination, we visualize the sun in our chest or a healing light moving through the body. We use blindfolds and identify objects and smells. We imagine ourselves as animals or plants and we draw our emotions or sensations in correlation to where we feel them.

We round off the curriculum with a few holistic add-ons, including social skills, hand-eye coordination, and environmental awareness—bringing attention to the Earth that supports our lives. The class always ends with a short shavasana, a Yoga Nidra session, or a goodbye song.

Get Involved!

If you feel inspired to support our Kindergarten Program by sharing your time and skills or by contributing financially, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

support hridaya yoga

By Sunny Rucker

Hridaya Yoga has been based in Mazunte, Mexico since 2012. It’s so beautiful here—the stunning land, the breathtaking sea, and the warm people. As we have gone deeper in the Heart, we have felt the longing for a more profound connection to everything around us. This yearning has led us to become more transparent, available, and active in the local community. These efforts began a little over a year ago, when Alba started teaching yoga to local children. Beata continued this service, and now there is a department of the school devoted to community outreach. I serve as the Community Bridge, guiding this work, and I’m joined by Hannah, our first Karma Yogi (whose position will be up for grabs in April). Connecting in this way has been very beautiful and we are excited to share what’s been going on!

School-Based Service

We currently work in three local schools. At the Mazunte Kindergarten, we present meditation and yoga in a very dynamic way. We teach children aged 3-5 to recognize the Heart and encourage their bodies and minds to become more transparent instruments. We’ve been sharing with the children here for over a year and are now offering yoga classes to a very happy group of mothers and teachers.

hridaya-yoga-schoolAt the San Agustinillo Primary School, we do values workshops with kids aged 6-10. Through activities and discussions, we feel into goodness, gratitude, aspiration, compassion, empathy, perseverance, humility, etc. When we begin to experience these qualities personally, it naturally follows that we want them to be more prevalent in our lives. Therefore, it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do these explorations with children, who are intuitively connected to the essence of these values. Parents have not only been pleased with the effects the workshops have had on their children, but are curious to experience their power themselves. So, they have decided to begin their own values discussion groups after Semana Santa.

Our work at the primary school level has been so transformative that we will soon offer values workshops at Mazunte Primary as well.

At the local secondary school, we’ve started a language/culture exchange program with students ages 11-16. Three times per week, members of the Hridaya Community visit English classes and work with small groups of students. The number of volunteers means that each group has only 2-5 students, which creates an intimate space for sharing, learning, and confidence building. We share English, they share Spanish, and we all laugh a lot. This has proven to be a very positive way for people of different cultures to interact. And, since these students are likely to be the next generation of local leaders, it’s great that they can experience foreign visitors as kind and eager to share with them. We love learning from them and their sweet ways as well! As our relationship with the school deepens, an afterschool yoga course or activities with parents and teachers may be organized.

Other Community Projects

In addition to our school-based outreach, we do many other things in the community:Hridaya Community

  • Every Seva Day we collaborate with the health clinic to provide whatever support they need.
  • We keep our list of local accommodations up-to-date in order to advertise those that don’t have a web presence.
  • We are getting to know the elders—recording their stories for an oral history book.
  • We have put on several workshops at the library, with topics ranging from caring for the environment to movement and music.
  • We are learning from and collaborating with Piña Palmera, a local non-profit working with the disabled population.
  • We play our part in local festivals, helping to set up, cleaning up afterward, and/or offering yogic teachings.

Offerings at the Hridaya Center

At the Hridaya Yoga Center, we are also trying to become more aware of where we are and to offer more to the local community. During every Hridaya Module course cycle, we present a brief but power-packed talk about the current and past realities of the local area, the state of Oaxaca, and Mexico in general. Local Nawat experts are also sharing with us, and we are trying to learn the wisdom of this land and incorporate it into our teachings.

We have expanded our course offerings, with meditations and Hatha Yoga drop-ins now regularly presented in Spanish. Our 3-Day Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreats in Spanish are increasingly popular and Valentina will offer our first 10-day retreat in Spanish from April 27-May 6, 2018. As we are aware that members of the local community may not have the resources to pay our regular prices, all Spanish-language offerings are donation-based. To support our foreign students’ integration in the community, we also host weekly Spanish Circles for both beginners and intermediate speakers.

We continue to expand our list of Seva Day tasks so we can be more active in the community. Participants in the Karma Yoga Immersion Course are doing 12 hours of direct service towards this goal as well. Additionally, we sell locally-produced items in our new store at El Corazón and are creating biographies of each artisan to accompany their products. We are also planning a Mothers’ Day brunch for local women as well as more open-house type activities. Finally, we are working on developing a “Hridaya Kids” curriculum so that these teachings can be shared with children everywhere.

So much awesomeness! We are enjoying following the Heart and experiencing its light in all, co-creating opportunities for sharing and blossoming. Stay tuned, as this department keeps evolving, offering more ways to get involved…

 

Sunny is a Hridaya Yoga teacher serving as our Community Bridge.

 

local community hridaya yoga

By Sean O’Donnell

The Hridaya Yoga Center in Mazunte is set in a really beautiful environment, where tranquility and intensity are seemingly engaged in a neverending dance. While you can enjoy witnessing the rise and fall of these energies, you may also savor interacting with and connecting to the sea of samsara by answering the call to go play at one of the many beaches located just steps away from our oceanfront home.

Like many of the most powerful things in life, playing in the water near Mazunte is not without risks. The dance of tranquility and intensity is often reflected in the behavior of the waves and riptides on this part of the Oaxacan coast. Even experienced swimmers and surfers know that they have to be fully aware of their surroundings and the changing currents in order to be safe in the exceedingly powerful Pacific Ocean.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses the five kleshas, or obstacles to liberation. The fifth klesha, known as abhinivesha in Sanskrit, deals with the fear of death. Surely, overcoming this subconscious obstacle is a fascinating contemplation for any practitioner, but not one to test while in the Pacific—always try to make loving, respectful choices about when, where, and how to play with Nature. The beaches surrounding Mazunte, including Zipolite (“Beach of the Dead” in the Nahuatl language) and Mermejita, are well-known for extremely powerful riptides that have caused many fatalities over the years. Other beaches in San Agustinillo and Mazunte, while slightly less notorious, but are also subject to similarly life-threatening currents. Although you want to be free from fear and able to enjoy the invigoration and purification that comes from submersion in the Water element, it is best to do so with the understanding that an individual is no match for Mother Nature.

How Can You Be Safe at the Beach?

Please keep in mind the following safety tips whenever visiting the beach:

  • Always go to the beach with a friend and keep an eye on each other.
  • Observe the currents and waves for at least 5 minutes before entering the water, and only enter when you see that there are no big waves or strong currents.
  • When entering the water, be aware of rocks and be careful not to step on manta ray’s tails.
  • Always be aware of the waves. Watch other swimmers and how they react to large waves. Learn to dive under the waves. Leave the water when it is too dangerous!
  • If you get caught in a strong current, swim with it instead of fighting against it. Try to edge towards the shore and exit the current when you get the opportunity.

Volunteer Lifeguards: Supporting Beach Safety

Ultimately, though, no matter how much respect you give the sea, accidents can still happen and conditions can change very quickly. Of course, you don’t want perceived dangers to cause you to avoid going in the water. So, luckily, our neighbors in Mazunte have formed a volunteer lifeguard crew. Crews like these have significantly reduced the number of ocean-related fatalities over the past few decades, though beach safety is still a very real concern. This essential task is left up to a handful of very well-trained and skilled lifeguards. With the main tourist season approaching and the number of visitors dramatically increasing, there is only so much ground the volunteer lifeguards can cover. Only four positions are paid by the government, and there are very limited resources to train new volunteers and provide essential equipment that will directly contribute to Mazunte safety and provide a sense of freedom for everyone who wants to enjoy these wonderful public beaches.

mazunte lifeguards

What Can We Do to Improve Mazunte Safety?

As the Hridaya Yoga Center continues to evolve and expand, we are more connected to and have a bigger impact on the town of Mazunte. At the last public assembly meeting, there was a direct plea for resources for lifeguards. In addition to more trained help, they require funding for basic needs―uniforms, stretchers, radios, cold drinking water, and wages, to name a few. In addition, having a vehicle capable of patrolling the beach would greatly enhance the ability of a limited crew to provide life-saving support in time to make a difference. In many other parts of the world, these services are taken for granted. In Mazunte, help is needed. There is a willingness in the local community to do this selfless service with pride and expertise. But, most of the visitors are transient and there is little awareness of the lack of support that the volunteer lifeguards receive. As permanent neighbors in Mazunte, Hridaya students, teachers, and staff benefit tremendously from these services, and are in a unique place to pool resources and energy to make a big difference―likely saving lives and providing a safe, natural space for everyone’s benefit.

Donate Now!

This holiday season, please consider making a donation in support of Mazunte beach safety. Funds can be put into action right away, as the town and beaches become saturated with eager vacationers. Please donate via this link. All money received will be used to buy items that support the selfless crews that help save lives in every day in Mazunte.

Sean is a Hridaya Yoga student and a frequent contributor to our blog.
You can read all of his blog posts here.

By Sean O’Donnell

In the month of September, Mexico suffered two devastating earthquakes. The first, on September 7th, was a magnitude 8.1 and was centered off the coast of Oaxaca and Chiapas. The second occurred on September 19th. It was a magnitude 7.1, and its epicenter was in the state of Morelos. It was much more well-publicized as it caused significant damage in Mexico City. The Hridaya Yoga Center in Mazunte has personal connections to both disasters.

Earthquake Relief in Mexico: Aid to Oaxaca

Many of us in the Hridaya Community are acutely aware of the earthquake that struck off the coast of Oaxaca on September 7th, but news of that tremor did not spread very far and it was quickly overshadowed by the Mexico City quake.

In Mazunte, there was some damage to buildings and roads, but the concerns were minor compared to what was experienced in other parts of the state of Oaxaca. Many buildings were toppled, many more were damaged to the point of being unsafe to inhabit, and over 60 people were killed―including at least 36 in the city of Juchitán de Zaragoza. This municipality continues to be underserved as far as aid in supporting recovery from the disaster, but the surrounding villages are receiving even less attention.

At Hridaya, a connection was made through a long-time employee whose family from San Pedro Pochutla was involved in bringing supplies to one such town: Union Hidalgo, located about a 30-minute drive east of Juchitán. Many people in Mazunte were able to contribute canned and dry food as well as money for tents and temporary shelter soon after the earthquake. However, damage to the town church left it uninhabitable as an emergency shelter and there is still a need for supplies both for temporary shelter and reconstruction materials.

Earthquake Relief in Mexico: Aid to Morelos

While Southern Mexico was still reeling from the September 7th earthquake, the earthquake in Morelos made headlines around the world. This earthquake was publicized for affecting Mexico City, where the damage and loss of life was extensive, but many surrounding towns and villages have also suffered and are receiving much less aid.

The Hridaya family has a presence in Morelos, where Tara (Giselle) Trimmer and Paul Baxter run the Sahridaya Refuge in the valley of Tepoztlán, one hour outside of Mexico City. Tara and Paul have been focusing intensely on relief work in their area and their efforts present a unique opportunity for the greater Hridaya community to provide resources directly to the people and places that can use them the most. Hridaya has used their reach to help the cause in Morelos, and Tara has generously taken the time to answer a few questions in an attempt to explain first-hand what it was like to experience this traumatic event, what it has been like trying to repair the damage, and what the outlook is for the future of the area.

Sean O’Donnell: What was the experience of the earthquake like in Tepoztlán as it was happening?

Tara Trimmer: I had just returned home when it happened. My baby daughter Uma Sophia, my partner Paul, my mother who runs the Refuge with us, and John―a guest―were all at home at the time.

When it started we felt that it was very intense and clearly trepidatory (when it is up-down in motion rather than left-right). The tiles started almost falling on mine and my baby’s heads. We all came out into the garden immediately. We located a safe spot and placed ourselves there waiting for it to pass. Tepoztlán, Morelos is just 56 miles (90 km) away from Axochiapan, Morelos—the epicenter.

Trepidatory earthquakes are the most destructive. I was familiar with this, having grown up in Mexico City, a very highly seismic area, with a collective memory of the tragedy that occurred in 1985.

My first thought was: WHAT IS GOING ON IN MEXICO CITY? I thought that if we felt it that strong in Tepoztlán, it would definitely be stronger in the city, as earthquakes don’t normally come from Morelos, but from Oaxaca or Colima. There was a fear of what this meant for them. Was Mexico City still in existence?

Before this fear, though, was the immediate insight that I wanted to anchor my frequency in love. We decided to bring our hands into the center of the chest and just ground ourselves in the Heart at that moment, when we didn’t yet know the consequences of this movement for the rest of the country.
Spanda was felt very clearly.

SO: After securing your family, how did you go about finding out what kind of help was most needed, and where?

earthquake

TT: In the immediate aftermath, we all took care of our families and intimate relationships and the following day we went to the plaza to meet with the resistance movement here in Tepoztlán. We linked with them because we knew they were an ethical source (non-governmental). We started receiving donations almost immediately, as well as the support of people volunteering to go into the affected communities. It was a very spontaneous, community-involved organization, initially without central management.

We all took our cars and the first thing that happened was there were a lot of WhatsApp groups formed. I was put into one for the coordination of civil movements in Morelos. So basically, we were receiving real-time information about resources, transport, food, and materials. They sent me a contact in Morelos and that’s where I organized a brigade of seven vehicles to go. It was all members of the community and volunteers from Mexico City. Everything was very spontaneous and organic.

You saw everything from mothers cooking to other people just going into the streets to remove stones―all of the town was working. But, there was no government presence. It was all personal, private cars driving private aid. We started getting money immediately which was almost entirely used for fuel for cars for the convoy from Mexico City and for buying tarps for temporary shelter. This was the initial effort and it was all very chaotic.

We spent the first week going on brigades to all the towns every day, helping with the emergency. But then we realized it was a bit chaotic. They were flooded with food and not with materials to remove all the things that fell or professionals to classify the structural damage. We had to learn on the spot—it was like an experiment in self-organization and collaboration without hierarchy, in a way.

SO: What is the current status of relief efforts? Are things stable? And, what is the long-term relief effort going to require?

TT: Our organization now involves taking care of human rights, putting pressure on the government, coordinating emergency aspects (food, shelter, etc.), and finding reconstruction alternatives that are sustainable and loving for the Earth like adobe, super adobe, and other eco-conscious techniques. It’s a way of bringing awareness to these other aspects of a New Earth, even building sustainable communities and connecting.

Other proposals include building community shelters to be used in future emergencies as well as places to host civic organizations that can start organizing and building the foundation for further collaboration.

On a deeper and subtler level, there are many others who feel and know in our hearts that this is a pivotal moment, a turning point, that we cannot look back, but need to see what is spontaneously arising and noticing what is truly important and what truly matters, which is human collaboration, service, compassion, love, and kindness.

earthquake mexico
SO: I really found it amazing how you came back to the Heart immediately after this moment of fear, feeling spanda and centeredness. Can you say more about how a spiritual practice and Hridaya teachings helped guide your reaction in this intense situation?

TT: I realized that that initial impulse of centering in the Heart―it was like channeling into action. Most people were driven from a spontaneous, collaborative, and compassionate state. Everybody forgot about their jobs, money, and anything that may have mattered before―to help others. The whole community here in Tepoztlán was paralyzed, everybody was doing something to relieve this. So, it was impressive to see everyone waking up.

Many people who were not so much into spirituality were realizing this spontaneously and intuitively—I have seen people, for example, the shopkeeper on the corner, that you would never have expected doing amazing, amazing, conscious work directly with the community.

How to Help

Supporting these relief efforts is a long-term project. Hridaya Yoga is accepting donations for this purpose, which can be made here. Money collected by Hridaya will be shared between efforts in Morelos and those in Oaxaca and given to citizens who are directly involved in providing aid, using 100% of the proceeds to benefit earthquake victims.

Sean is a Hridaya Yoga student and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of his blog posts here.