Do Your Damn Dharma (Or, Chakra-Guided Reflections on a Very Yogic 2014)

Ah, the end of the year.

It’s a time of stressful travel, forced intimate social gatherings and obligatory gift giving (and receiving), all in a mad rush that happens so hurriedly that the imminent New Year is welcomed with open arms!

Sayonara, 2014. We hardly knew ye!

Playful cynicism aside, the end of the calendar year truly has felt a bit hectic for me. I probably didn’t help myself by overfilling my calendar this December, though, between…

  • Setting off on a mini vacation to Washington D.C. with my lady,
  • Taking on lovely new Story Shine clients,
  • Signing a contract on a new book and building a new website for The Literati Writers,
  • Teaching plenty of yoga and growing my Creative Flow class, and
  • Gathering momentum on new creative projects to debut in 2015…

Okay, okay. This “end-of-year craze” is all on me. I admit it!

Getting swept up in a holiday rush wouldn’t be a problem if this time of year wasn’t such an important time for reflection. How can we expect to move ahead into the New Year with warrior-like, soul-aligned determination without remembering where we’ve been over the last twelve months?

The familiar saying comes to mind, “Look back to move forward.”

Since 2010, I’ve tried to do just that, writing long personal audits on my blog that reflect on the year-that-was before springing forth into what’s next.

I started writing these reflection pieces or “audits” in a public forum so that readers could take a peek, seeing one more example how they could perform simple self-assessments to nurture stronger awareness of one’s own soul-work, professional work, or the mission to live one’s best life.

While it’s tons of fun to look back and reflect on favorite moments and accomplishments, these annual review posts aren’t just for show.

Every year, it’s writing one of these pieces that helps me drive home the most important lessons that I learned along the way.

These audit pieces allow me to bring sure-footed closure to the calendar year before starting anew. Reflecting through storytelling on what I’ve learned and overcome and assessing what I can do better moving forward, each audit allows me to launch forward into the New Year with confidence and determination.

It’s my own personal opportunity to write the conclusive story of what my year was. No one else can do that for you.

It’s interesting to look back at my 2010, 2011, and 2013 annual reviews (I skipped my annual review of 2012, but have a whole book that tells the tale of that year, instead) to see then what I thought was most important and why. Together, they kind of tell a tale on their own.

This year, of course, the tale is quite different.

Here in my 2014 Annual Review, it only seems fitting to tell the story of my year with the Hindu chakra system as my guide.

tumblr_m7hzjfaunh1rskgyto1_1280After all, 2014 was a year in which I graduated from 200-hour yoga teacher training, became a yoga teacher and even traveled to India.

I spent my year entrenched in yogic philosophy, applied to modern-day life. I read Hindu mythology, made soul-siblings with fellow teacher training students, did my puja at historic temples in Northern India, and damn near lived at my local studio all summer.

It was a very yogic 2014, indeed!

Enter: the chakras. The traditional Hindu chakra system is a complex and beautiful philosophical understanding of the human body that intertwines the physical plane (the human body) with the mental, emotional and spiritual realms of a human being. Rather than looking at the body as separate from these other aspects of a human being, the chakras integrates physical health and well-being with mental-emotional health and the spirit.

I used to think that the chakras were purely metaphorical, or, worse, some hippy-dippy nonsense.

But after studying the chakras in 2014, they’ve become an important framework for my understanding of my Self work, and have taught me how to better relate my understanding of the physical body to the subtle, subconscious, energetic body.

And this ancient system is now being substantiated by modern scientific studies and medicinal understandings of the human being, for instance, how the location of the seven major chakras correspond with the endocrine system of the human body. Vital organs overlap with the areas said to contain a chakra.

Perhaps these energy centers located up and down the spine aren’t just hippy-dippy speculation after all.

Regardless of your personal understanding or beliefs about the chakras, it does present a great framework for personal analysis and understanding the basic requirements of a human, much like Maslow’s heirarchy of needs.

Today, I present to you my 2014 in review–with the help of the chakras to guide me.

It begins with the root–the base, the earth, the ground–and gradually ascends up the spine through sacrum, solar plexus, heart, throat and third eye to the crown in seven sequential steps.

To begin, we start from the ground up with the root chakra.

1) The Root Chakra

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Rainy Wednesday in New England. And deep into course development. Writing as sacred ritual. Writing as a way of being. #TheLiteratiWriters #ComingBackSoon     a09cd2a6a89d11e383b2126340ea88a9_8

Set Feet. Create a Home. Get Grounded.

The root chakra (or Muladhara chakra) represents the element of earth, and a human being’s basic needs for safety and survival.

Early in 2014, I set my roots in my home state of Rhode Island. The decision came after months of deliberation. I debated moving back to New York City in 2014 with my buddy and fellow life-philosopher Jacob Sokol, but came to realize that everything I would be looking for in New York City was already quietly waiting for me here in Little Rhodey.

The revelation marked a big shift for me.

After several years of living in different cities and a year-plus of globe-trotting over 38,000 miles, I stopped my blind pursuit of “starting a life elsewhere” to build a life that was already happening here–if I changed my perspectives a bit, and slowed down enough to see it.

With family nearby, a wonderful local yoga community and the opportunity to train with two favorite yoga teachers, I committed to rooting in Rhode Island to build something here– while still using my online platform, writing and personal missions to serve others outside of America’s smallest state.

It’s fitting that my 2014 began by honoring this first chakra: grounding my feet into the Earth, getting settled into a new apartment, and finding some vital stability that a comfortable, nurturing home provides.

A Saturday in late September.     Rainy Wednesday in New England. And deep into course development. Writing as sacred ritual. Writing as a way of being. #TheLiteratiWriters #ComingBackSoon

After many months of traveling, journeying, maneuvering and not knowing “what comes next,” it was setting this new foundation that promised to give me physical, emotional and mental stability–more peace, space and opportunity to deeply question how I wished to carry out my work, relationships and thrive in this lifetime.

I fell in love. I published another book. I became a yoga teacher. And I (still) traveled more than 29,700 miles in between.

One of my yoga mentors and friends, Coral Brown, says that every yoga pose or asana starts from the feet, up. “Start with the base,” she says. As a teacher, queuing the position of the hands, torso, arms or head will not make the asana safe and sustainable if the base is not set and aligned, first.

In 2014, I set my feet more securely than they’ve been in more than… probably a decade.

By establishing a root in 2014, I was able to build a life in a community around me–that base-level nourishment fueled the artist, entrepreneur and leader within, and encouraged me to push my work and mission to new levels.

I used to think that “settling down” meant settling for less.

Settling down, though, is not settling for less.

For me in 2014, settling down gave me the chance to stop rushing to wherever I wasn’t, and find myself waiting wherever I already was.

Writer in training.     Aerosmith, book work and candle fire on a rainy Friday the 13th.

I tended to my roots in other ways in 2014…

— Business roots: I debuted a new website design to relaunch my online home here in January, thanks to my talented friend, designer Paul Jarvis. My new-and-improved online home brought a remarkable turnaround for readers’ experiences here in 2014: the bounce rate (or, the percentage by which online readers leave a website after landing on any given page of a website) dropped from nearly 80% to an incredible 1%(!) throughout the entirety of 2014.

Readers like this place. Suffice it to say, it’s a foundation to keep building upon!

— Writing roots: I committed myself to writing new essays for a brand spankin’ new blog every week, and did. After 52 weeks of essays, my tally shows:

  • Approximately 97,000 words published on DaveUrsillo.com
  • Over 70,851 unique readers from 196 countries

Thank you, as always, for reading :)

— Creative roots: In 2014, I played with creativity beyond the singular tradition of my nonfiction writing. Spending more time with personal journaling, building an artful, colorful home, returning to my poetry writing and spending ample amounts of time reading (which is always a struggle for me), I also explored the parallels between creative energy and body movement–a trend that will continue in 2015.

— Family roots: I tended to my Root chakra in 2014 by taking care of family, friends and community–without those, my foundation would be shaken. I spent time visiting my parents (and mooching dinners off of them), family (again, the food-mooching), made great friends and spent days on end tending to my yoga community however I could. In a day and age that constantly pulls our attention elsewhere, it can’t be overstated how important it is to remember those who are around us.

2) The Sacral Chakra

#Skandasana at Walden Pond, former home of Henry David Thoreau in Concord, MA.   Now I want a paddle board. And for summer to last until.... February?

Wednesday's office. #bookisdone #launchdayseptember2 #startthenextone   3 years into my yoga and I'm still working to press strong and through core/inner legs into unassisted #AdhoMukhaVrkasana or #HandstandPose. That's Day 4's #letushinethru! #laughingelephantyoga

Feel. Own Your Desire. Find the Flow. Become ‘the Vase.’

The sacral chakra (or Svadisthana chakra) represents the element of water, and a human being’s emotional states, including desire, nurturing, socialization and sensuality.

A more yin or feminine energy center, the sacral chakra relates to the dynamic movement of water, which takes any form it fills, and represents feelings like pleasure, wanting, and honoring your desire.

Some say the second chakra is a creative energy source because of its location at the genitals (thus, literally, representing biological procreation). While I believe that creativity is fluid and water-like, I feel that creativity, artistry and self-expression more reside in the fifth throat chakra.

To me, feeling, desire and wanting (none necessarily needing to be sexual in nature) best represent in the second chakra.

That said, desire and wanting are vital to how anyone ultimately lives one’s life.

After satiating what’s needed on a base level with the root chakra, you’re given the opportunity to feel, understand and decide what is wanted. 

If you don’t know what you want, it will be trying to understand who you are and what your purpose is. This is why we have such a cultural obsession with following one’s passions. Passion, wanting and desire lead us to a higher state of Self, and then states of leading, serving, sharing, etc.

I spent a lot of my 2014 honoring my wants, desires, and feeling, from…

  • Keeping actively social by discovering a new community of friends locally in Rhode Island that I always wanted but never had before.
  • Changing the direction of my work when I felt called to evolve or change it, including shifting my 6-figure business plan in the spring and temporarily shelving my writers’ group offering until this coming 2015.
  • Sharing creative workshops in the U.S. and Europe, a true desire-turned-reality, thanks in large part to the help of my generous friend Jana Schuberth, who invited me to lead a workshop at ALIVE in Berlin in May, and Betty Jean Bell, who hosted me in Austin, Texas.

I started to say that being creative, artful or feeling-oriented means embodying the fluid, malleable qualities of water.

So too is living well, making your life’s journey your reward and “living your purpose.”

These paradigms for living the best life that we possibly can hinge entirely upon being like water.

There’s a Zen Buddhist saying that comes to mind, When the water enters the vase, it becomes the vase. Fluid, maleable, taking the shape of whatever comes , the idea of being like water has always called to me. The parable in life is that the “shape” of the vase is whatever unchosen circumstances, trials or hardships befall us–the plans that don’t go as planned.

Throughout 2014, I felt called to the shores of oceans and inlets more than ever, and spent time in and around the water all year long, like…

a) Spending time at the beach every week, relaxing or for yoga

Consulting with my spiritual guru / direwolf.     10514636_10152341637229607_320487318399425133_n

Napping with Moses the Yoga Dog (September); striking Bird of Paradise pose (August)

b) Learning stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga

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Bakasana and chin stand in Wickford harbor (Wickford, R.I.)

c) And “baptizing” myself in the raging currents of Ma Ganga, the holy Indian river, at Devprayag, where the river is formed from two others:

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Water, water, water.

Beach, paddle-boarding and sacred traditions aside, 2014 altogether represented an important time for me to honor my relationship to the Svadisthana chakra, and my desire, feeling, wanting and emotional self.

In tune with these feeling states, the water of the second chakra ascends to meet the fire of the third chakra.

… and the True Self, ignites.

3. The Solar Plexus Chakra

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U be u, sayeth Santa Monica Pier street graffiti.      Today in India, we drove for 5 hours (edging hundred-foot cliff drops) to meditate and swim in the historic, sacred place where two glacial rivers converge to form the holy Ganga river.

Feed Your Fire. Fight for Self. Be Unapologetically YOU.

The solar plexus chakra (or Manipura chakra) is located above the naval and represents the element of fire. This chakra is said to contain all of the energy of physical (digestive) fire as well as mental-emotional fire: what feeds an individual’s individuality.

The Self resides in the third chakra, and no one else can touch or stoke the fire in this sacred space but you.

The third chakra also represents drive, self-esteem, self-confidence, and is said to hold the power of your inner warrior.

Fire is transformative. It can destroy obstacles and hindrances with ferocity, but is also nurturing and nourishing (think of warm tea, or sitting around a camp fire). In the body, fire reduces food into vital nutrients.

This fire requires a delicate balance.

Too little fire and you’ll freeze; too much fire and you may burn out.

     Embers like fireworks

Without a fire burning in your belly, you lack the willpower and self-esteem to take charge; too much fire turns a good soul into an egomaniac, blind to anyone else’s concerns or needs but whatever greed will keep his or her all-consuming and dangerous fire burning.

My 2014 debuted this new website with a longtime personal slogan of mine, Be Unapologetically You, featured more front and center. My year thus began with my hope of more directly bringing my readers and visitors to a stronger, healthier place of personal resonance with their third Manipura chakras.

I have long held dear the value of self-reliance and the power of choice, and yet I still find myself learning, exploring and understanding every day, such as…

  • Self-Awareness :: To look within and practice awareness over oneself. A discipline in observing mind, body and spirit. In yogic philosophy, we might refer to this self-study as svadhyaya.
  • Self-Activation :: To choose yourself. To call upon oneself to act, decide, commit, step, move, or journey–not because you know where it will lead with certainty, but because choice is divine. No one can take your choice from you.
  • Self-Realization :: Gradually grasping the brilliant (and perhaps daunting) understanding that we are infinite by our nature, and recalling this knowledge of self–whether in the pursuit of one’s full potential, making a life for one’s family, or serving the broader world in some way.

These values are etched on my heart.

In 2014, I fed them in new ways.

I began to feed my knowledge-fire with ancient wisdom of yogic philosophy, Hindu mythology, learning from teachers I absolutely revere and crossing paths with some highly respected yoga teachers of our time.

Yoga teacher training began in January and was a 200-hour, six-month commitment to learning a storied healing art, inside and out–all alongside a few dozen other souls who I had barely known.

Friendships were born. Love was born. Stories were shared. Tears were shed. We picked one another up. We carried each other. Healing happened. Doors opened. Wings sprouted. We took flight.

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Everything yoga fed my fire all year long…

From reading and studying…

Yoga teacher training. Final weekend.     Yoga teacher training, hours 60-80. #ObeyThePinkLady

…to graduating, and teaching.

#Virabhadrasana II, Warrior II, today's #letushinethru.     Had 17 students in my first class today!! Thanks @gennamarie444 for taking a few photos :)

From workshops and seminars with Seane Corn (left), Shiva Rea (right) and Saul David Raye (sadly, not pictured!)…

Thank you @seanecorn for giving so much to us at #laughingelephantyoga this amazing weekend. I'm ready to dig deep and serve. #yoga #rhodeisland #vinyasaflow #seanecorn     Yoga party with Rhodey's special guest Shiva Rae

…to yoga in Los Angeles, Texas, Amsterdam, Brussels, India and beyond…

Warming up on the lawn before our next Sean Corne workshop with #ParsvaVira #letushinethru PS: please note @yogadebbie's face.      Yet another pose of the day for #letushinethru is #Natarajasana or #DancerPose, featuring some of my favorite local graffiti.

…and Friday potlucks and front-lawn hang outs and drinks on the weekends.

Yoga teacher training reunion.      Yoga mat selfie with @mallcorn, reunited 3 months later! There was cake, booze, and laugh. #laughingelephantyoga

I swam in all things yoga in 2014.

Philosophy, spirituality, history. Energy, soul-work, dharma. Friends, family, relationships.

Speaking of relationships, what about the relationship to my-Self?

In 2014, I spent plenty of time with myself, my thoughts and looking deep within to get to know my-Self better–and more truly. I detailed some of the tougher moments in stories and reflections throughout the year.

But I also got to know myself better by spending some time remembering the kid I used to be.

Silly though it may seem, I spent 2014 looking back at old pictures and home movies of myself as a kid–more than I probably ever have before, really.

And in these genuine and honest (and often embarrassing) looks back at the soul I was (before ego, before “growing up,” before ulterior motive), I discovered in 2014 a side of my truer self that I’ve hidden in the past: a naturally playful, even goofy, fun-loving and light-hearted side.

#tbt to a simpler time     Ecstatic and indifferent swinging, guest starring @biancaursillo #tbt

I still smile like that in photos, too. #tbt with cuz James, sis @biancaursillo, and holding bro Dan's head like a maniac     Because the USS Constitution will never be an uncool thing to wear on your sailor cap. #tbt

Just being a joyful kid.  

These years later, and with bouts of depression under my belt since these photos, some side of me might sooner downplay a childlike nature. Say it’s too immature. Irresponsible. Not “serious enough” for adulthood.

In 2014, I began to question, “Is it really, though?”

What harm comes in embodying playfulness–especially in a world that sometimes feels far too dark, too stern, too serious, and too disconnected from joy?

I don’t want to be afraid to live joyfully. Or laugh at myself to fear that others won’t take me or my work seriously.

I decided instead to show my colors, and have fun doing it.

Breaking out the color for my last night in Rishikesh. Jai Hanuman!     I got a Spider-Man hoodie for Christmas. Thanks @tvyogagirl @yogadebbie @laughingelephantyogausa!

I decked out in colorful garb on the streets of India, don my Spider-Man sweatshirt with pride, make stupid faces, stick out my tongue with a 106-year-old yoga teacher and have a damn fun time doing it!

It seems to me now that joy, playfulness, and keeping a lighthearted nature are great magnets that attract more of themselves into my life.

10735519_289601057902996_1474504791_n     Dave wuz here.

Thank goodness for that. 

Because this world of ours can seem a little dark, sometimes.

Flattered that they erected a neon sign for me!    Practiced ma photobombing this weekend during teacher training. #namaste

What opened the door to a silly 2014 was an April Fool’s Day prank that I had been wanting to try for a year or two.

Featuring a faux book cover (that depicted me wearing an empty Baby Bjorn and feeding an empty baby bottle to an empty stroller), the parody of my first book, Lead Without Followersstartled my closest family and friends, and caused a hilarious little stir amongst my readers.

I received texts from friends asking if I had lost my mind, and hilarious emails from readers who loved the depth of the parody.

square    pwoc-books-sm

My fake book, Parenting Without Children, was the most widely read piece I wrote all year long. Go figure!

As a former client of mine, Levi, told me of the parody’s success, “People like funny.”

I agree with Levi’s sentiment.

People do like funny.

But what I’ve learned is that there needn’t be a choice between funny and serious. Mocking or genuine. Playful or sacred.

If laughter lightens the spirit, it helps us travel more deeply into our hearts…

4. The Heart Chakra

10838585_1521798188090237_104944918_n     Cinnamon hearts. Awww

Break Yourself Open. Dare Yourself Vulnerable. Bleed Love. 

The fourth chakra is the heart chakra (or Anahata chakra), and represents a large jump up the “chakric chain” from self-oriented chakras (root, sacral and solar plexus) to elevated energetic states. The heart chakra moves away from individuality and evolves to represent others-oriented qualities like love, compassion, empathy, service and giving.

The heart chakra’s element is air and represents the buoyant, uplifting qualities of loving kindness. When we love, we can feel this sort of lightness bubble in our chests.

Seems easy enough. Seems natural enough.

So, why does living with love come so “late” up the chakric chain?

There’s a struggle when it comes to opening ourselves up to even something as natural as love.

If you’ve ever been hurt, you know why.

Love means vulnerable.

When we open ourselves to love, we’re naturally exposed and vulnerable to hurt, heartbreak, pain and suffering. Of course, that’s just life. But especially if you’ve been hurt in the past, we fear this inherent risk of being “too vulnerable” to love, and might sooner close our hearts off to protect ourselves–preempting hurt or pain or suffering before it happens.

If love means vulnerable, to prevent love means strong. Protected.

…right?     

Of course not (speaking from experience, here).

Sealing ourselves off from love isn’t how we protect ourselves from hurt; it’s how we insulate ourselves from our own humanity. The qualities of compassion, empathy, philanthropy and kindness are what make us human–beyond human, even. They make us divine. They are the qualities of God, the Universe.

In the book that I released this year, Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight SunI share how in 2012 I discovered my own unconscious pattern of closing myself off to love after being hurt–and how I vowed to change it

Even if it meant making myself vulnerable to breaks and bruises. Because pouring more loving kindness out into the world is a beautiful and divinely rewarding risk.

It’s heroic. Super-human. Warrior-like. Championing the noblest of causes: one another.

While traveling in India, I became infatuated with the Hindu deity Hanuman, a mythological warrior monkey-man who is widely revered in modern India.

Hanuman could fly and fight demons, but is best known for pulling his own chest open to expose his heart–all to prove his devotion to his lords and saviors, whom he served.

Now that’s heart-open, Hanuman.

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I have a new superhero to aspire to, clearly!

Throughout 2014, I tried my damnedest to live “heart-open,” beginning with a hope I carried with me into the year.

The hope was a new-ish idea for me. What if I tried dating someone… who I could actually date? Like, live near? And spend proper time with?

For years, even dating back to college, all of my relationships had involved distance. Distance in many miles. So, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate the distance and experience an actual relationship in close proximity?

In the opening days of my yoga teacher training, I met a bright-smiled, blonde-haired bartender. A few shared smiles turned into shared car rides on frigid winter days. Those shared car rides turned to passing witty notes on yoga training weekends and exchanging sarcastic Valentine’s Day cards. Notes turned to dates. I’m now lucky enough to call her my girlfriend.

Although neither of us were much to talk about our new dating lives together, the jig was officially up in April when the two of us were caught canoodling on a 3+ hour broadcast of a Boston Red Sox game:

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Can you see us waving in the top right corner?

I’m so grateful for you, Meg, and everything we shared in 2014. I love you. And I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings us.

10410741_10201830960601918_3830778051280090289_n      

     Cheesing with Megs pre Shiva Rea workshop a few weeks ago.

Throughout a very love-filled 2014, living heart-open meant…

  • Following a hunch, and falling in love
  • Sharing more and more personal stories, and remembering the importance of being seen,
  • Offering listening ears to friends enduring hardships and difficult times,
  • Risking heartbreak, being heartbroken, sitting with sadness and accepting what was,
  • Reminding loved ones that they are loved, needed and supported,
  • Standing before a room and sharing a message, offering or advice that might help them live their lives better

…including spending time with family and friends…

IMG_5913     @biancaursillo and me on Christmas day

Giana and Kendal love their rudraksha seed mala beads from India!     

…and loving on my yoga family.

Three Thanksgivings ago, I walked out of a yoga class. It was the third I had ever gone to-- the second I was attending on my own. The class was too crowded, and so rather than fitting myself in, I left altogether. The teacher, Debbie, saw me leave, followed me out of the studio and onto the street and talked me into coming back. Nearly three years later, now I'm a certified yoga teacher. And, today, it was she who was the one to officially invite me to join the staff at Laughing Elephant Yoga this summer. I cant really believe it myself. Thank you, Debbie, Lori and Coral!     Afternoon jaunt in the park with Mother of Elephants, @lizalokich and Moses the Yoga Dog.

Much love and thanks to you, family and friends!

Meanwhile, as a ‘yoga family’ we raised $1,618 for One Girl in October, and put 5 girls in Sierra Leone into school in 2015…

Prepping the yoga troops.     dave-teach

Small amounts of giving make a world of difference to those who need it.

And we travelers to India carried socks, gloves, yoga mats, rechargeable flash lights, clothes and school supplies to disadvantaged kids in Rishikesh…

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…where we were lucky enough have them sing and dance for us with grace, style and in total joy.

That’s how love makes you feel, isn’t it?

It makes you feel like singing.

Which brings us, appropriately, to the next chakra, which resides in the throat..

5. Throat Chakra

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Speak Up. Speak True. Again. And Again.

The fifth chakra is the throat chakra (or Vishuddha chakra) and represents truth: speaking truth, living truth, sharing truth. The association with the throat chakra is sound or vibration, and can embody speech, song, music, conversation, dialogue, verbal communication or even written communication.

The throat chakra is all about speaking up, speaking your truth and sharing that truth again and again.

About 4,300 words into this single review of my 2014, you can probably guess that my throat chakra is feeling pretty exercised right about now.

But, in earnest, I really do resonate most with the throat chakra–ironically, as someone who had tended to prefer being pretty quiet and introverted throughout my teenage years and into my twenties.

I’m a listen first, think second, speak third personality.

My relationship to writing empowered my relationship to Truth, and how I strive to speak it.

Speaking aloud began by learning how to speak quietly–in written word, in private journaling and thoughts to myself, and then eventually in writing shared with others.

It’s still funny to me to think about how often I now stand in front of a room to teach yoga, present a workshop, or speak about a new book that I’ve published, as I did locally in Rhode Island this September when Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight Sun released:

Last book launch soirée montage-- thanks again for coming everyone! Find my new book on Amazon or in the link in my profile.

Thinking out loud is not natural for me.

It still doesn’t feel like “me” to stand in front of a room to teach, share, offer or give.

But I know that’s just one of the stories I keep telling myself–like how I might tell myself the story of how I’m not an outrageously silly child at heart.

Speaking before a room does feel more natural than it ever has, and my relationship to writing is what taught me how to understand why it was so important to speak my truth–in whatever the form.

I really remember why I love speaking Truth every time that I finish teaching yoga or leading a workshop.

Talking storytelling and values at last night's meetup with 25 great people last night in Brussels!     berlin-workshop

It’s because speaking truth–from sharing advice on writing, to queuing the alignment for anjaneyasana–offers an invitation for more truth to be felt, acknowledged, and shared.

Speaking true brings beauty to the truth that’s sometimes hiding in plain sight–and to call it by name, and to describe it to a friend or loved one or a soul who needs the reminder.

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That’s a pretty special thing.

All it really takes is a little speaking up.

I did plenty of “speaking up” this year.

(Go figure.)

With workshops in Texas, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, a new book published (fun reader photos below) and teaching over 42 hours of yoga in 2014, in 2015 I hope to continue these “Vishudda chakra” trends.

Reader photo! It's @yogadebbie reading her copy of "Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight Sun." Take a pic and tag me! #BABSMS #books #rhodeisland     Reader photo! Where's your copy of "Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight Sun"? Find #BABSMS on Amazon. A portion of proceeds will be donated on my back to a children's school Rishikesh, India.

Had a second signing last night for "Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight Sun." Thanks for your support everybody-- find all my books on Amazon, just search my name. :)     IMG_5759

For starters, by…

  • Bringing yoga and creativity workshops to new cities in the U.S. and Europe
  • Publishing a new book (at least one), including more poetry and maybe a short story
  • Continuing to teach yoga as much as I can, because it is truly a joy

While you’re here, here are some of favorite pieces on DaveUrsillo.com for you to check out:

Readers’ Favorite Essays in 2014

  1. Parenting Without Children (Happy April Fool’s Day!)
  2. Overcrowded Yoga, Pink Hair and an Ounce of Kindness: A Story
  3. Why You Do and Don’t Want to Quit Your Job, from a Guy Who Did
  4. A Reminder for When You Don’t Know ‘What’s Coming Next’
  5. How a Workshop for 5 People Shelved My 6-Figure Business Plan
  6. How to Make Your Story Shine
  7. How to Turn It All Around, Starting Today
  8. Be Seen: Why It’s Scary, and How ‘Seen’ Means Taking Ownership Of Your Life
  9. Why is Miss Smith Crying?
  10. 7 Business Failures and Creative Flops (And How They’re Still Helping Me Succeed Today)

Top 10 Countries of Readers in 2014

  1. United States (55.94%)
  2. United Kingdom (7.39%)
  3. Canada (6.04%)
  4. India (5.46%)
  5. Australia (3.50%)
  6. Philippines (2.16%)
  7. Netherlands (1.27%)
  8. South Africa (0.94%)
  9. Singapore (0.84%)
  10. Germany (0.81%)

Speaking up is a practice in self-trust.

Which means that every time you speak true, you’re affirming to your-Self that you trust yourself, trust your intuition and follow your instinct as it guides you.

Which leads us to the energy center of intuition, faith, self-truth and instinct–the third eye.

6. Third Eye Chakra

Morning meditation on the holy Ganga = playing with rock art. Surrender to the stones. #engagesurrendertransform #rishikesh #india     Rocking out.

Imagine. Dream. Trust.

The third eye chakra (or Ajna chakra) is located at the third eye, just above and in between the eyebrows through the forehead. It is said that this chakra represents dreaming, intuition, instinct and self-trust.

Every time I teach yoga, I like to tell students something like this…

Our dreams and visions and what we imagine all happen out of thin air. They’re ethereal. Ephemeral. Fleeting. Invisible. Intangible. Our imaginations capture these thoughts, ideas, visions, dreams, goals and plans like they’re floating invisibly in the Universe. They all happen and reside here in the third eye.

In child’s pose or wisdom pose (balasana), we connect the third eye center to the earth, grounding the intuition center of the body with the physical plane.

This movement represents dragging the spiritual plane–invisible dreams, hopes, wishes and thoughts–onto the physical plane of earth, where our lives are lived out.

Connecting the third eye to the earth is like taking the seeds of intuition that reside there, and planting them into the ground.

Nourish them. Nurture them. And watch what takes sprout.

7. Crown Chakra

Meditate. Move. Forget. Remember.

The crown chakra or (Sahasrara chakra) is located atop the crown of the skull or is sometimes depicted as a floating halo. It is a thousand-pedal lotus flower representing the absolute connection that we as energetic beings have to all things, people and otherwise, throughout our Universe and beyond.

The crown chakra represents connection, and is a reminder of our divinity.

Grand Place, one of the most renowned squares in the world.     Path, journey, how you walk it, etc. #MosesTheYogaDog

To me, life is best lived when we remember our connections to the earth, to others and to the cosmos.

It’s easy to forget these truths of life, but it’s difficult to feel unhappy, burdened, sad or confused when we remember them.

In 2014, I traveled some 29,700 miles and spent time with thousands of people, whether in workshops or conferences, yoga classes or in passing on the street.

In between a jazz festival, trying local flavors from Côte D'Ivoire, a hippie "DIY" art show and (of course) Belgian waffles, I've already fallen in love with Brussels.     You are the artist, it says.

Travel is the surest way I know how to forget “what I think I know” and, with the gift of seeing through new eyes, remember our inherent connection to one another.

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At home and abroad, everything I hoped and tried to do in 2014 was a testament to this spiraling ascension from a base-level of living to the highest form of living that I can possibly attain–a gilded, shining crown that represents not conquering, winning or success but connection to the truths of our world.

The clouds came. But the sun said, "Encore," and left a trail of glowing star dust in its wake.     A day of poems in India, part 4: writing against the sunset. Sinking into smog. A puppy followed me home. #ADayOfPoems #rishikesh #india #engagesurrendertransform

Catching the sunrise high in the mountains, through an Om sign in the fence, naturally.     2013-04-03_1365011067

It is where I aspire to reach, every day.

And yet most days, sometimes for months on end, I’m stuck elsewhere on this chakric chain–just trying to survive, or just making a buck, or just writing a book that I’m not sure is any good or not.

That’s just life. That’s the challenge before each of us.

Whatever comes in 2015, I know the direction in which I need to keep reaching.

 

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The purpose of life may be the beauty that it should exist at all. Living our best, serving others, being joyful and sharing truth–these are a few ways to be thankful for this gift, every day of this New Year and beyond.

Happy New Year to you.

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