Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Being A Good Student

Lately the subject of studentship has been on my mind.  What does it mean to be a good student? And who gets to decide? 

Several months ago I hit a slump in my personal practices. My yoga practices had fallen off and the only herbal medicines I was making were for other people. I would spend hours preparing classes for my training programs and because I was flipping though books and writing questions, I'd think to myself, "this is how teachers study." What I didn't realize was that my inspiration for my work was slipping away because I was not making the time for myself and the subjects that I so deeply love.

It was around  Day 5 of a 40-Day Yoga Challenge in October when the first switch flipped. I had organized a 40-Day practice group to help people get back on their mats. This was something I wanted for myself too but to be honest, I wasn't sure if I had the time to do it.

On Day 5 I found myself doing a handstand without the aid of the wall and for the first time in a long time, the fire was re-lit. I thought to myself, "I love yoga! Why haven't I been doing this all along? I teach other people how to do the practice but somewhere along the line I stopped teaching myself!" This was the start of some big changes in my life. I wanted 'it', and wanted 'it' bad.  I wanted to learn more about yoga, myself, and plant medicines. I realized that no one was going to teach me unless I really wanted to learn. I saw that unless I really dedicated myself to these fields that time was just passing by and I would simply be left maintaining the knowledge I already had. And I wanted to grow.

"I saw that unless I really dedicated myself to these fields that time was just passing by and I would simply be left maintaining the knowledge I already had. And I wanted to grow."

As a child, being a good student meant getting good grades and staying out of trouble. In graduate school being a good student meant asking smart questions and turning in thick papers with references in the correct APA format. Now being a good student has a whole new meaning.

Being a good student these days means studying myself, my motives, and keeping myself engaged in the things I love. It means paying attention to the flow of Tao, or of nature itself and never working against it, since that would mean working against myself. Being a good student means that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY LEARNING.  No one can make me learn or can take me away from the subjects I am committed to studying.

"Being a good student means that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY LEARNING."

Most importantly, being a good student requires self-discipline. It requires that I choose wisely in every moment of my life. I can play on my phone/computer or I can pick up a book. I can  fill my schedule with things to keep myself busy, or I can keep my time open for walks in nature and gardening. As a student of life I can choose to be a victim of time or an artist of creation. It has never been so clear to me as it is right now, life is short, and there is so much to learn.

As a lifelong student of yoga, herbal medicine, and ethical business practices, I am happy to say that I am now practicing and studying in a way that is very nourishing and supportive.  I've continued on with my daily yoga practice and will be signing up for a 500-hour yoga training course in 2014. I've started drinking daily herbal infusions and am reading herbal books every morning with my tea. It is incredible how the plants are already providing me with so much support.  I went out in the rain and started planting bulbs at our new house and am envisioning an herbal oasis here where I can deepen my connection with the plants and share them with my students. I also plan to attend more herbal webinars with the teachers who inspire me most, Matthew Wood, Julia Graves, Susun Weed, Isla Burgess, among others. And last week I started a one year astrology course with the best learners I've ever met, Adam Elenbaas.

"It is incredible how the plants are already providing me with so much support."

On the business front, the opening of our new Sky House location next month will feature Seva Sundays, where all Sunday yoga classes, workshops, and consultations are free! Any donations that come in from these free classes and workshops will go toward charities who are aligned with our spiritual, social, environmental, and ethical beliefs.

Lastly, being a good student means knowing who your teachers are and acknowledging them. This week I sent out thank you cards to my teachers thanking them for their time and dedication to their craft. I don't think it's a mistake that my favorite teachers are also some of the best students in their fields.

"I don't think it's a mistake that my favorite teachers are also some of the best students in their fields."

Being a good student can be fun! What do you want to study? What is one small step you can take in that direction? You can challenge yourself in the areas where you know you need work and then you can congratulate yourself with a big smile and high-five! Start somewhere, and you might be surprised at where your learning takes you!

Studying my yoga from the mat, to the books, to the garden, and to the community,~Ashley

Friday, September 20, 2013

Practicing Happiness

Everyday I get a little better at being happy. It is a practice that I consciously choose. I know there are opportunities to be happy in every moment. The breeze blowing through the trees outside my window and the squirrel running along the power lines makes me smile, and I choose to be happy.  Today is a good day to practice mindful happiness :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dreams & Reality: Meditating Next to Scat

Dreams and reality....can they be synthesized? How do we maintain our inner landscape filled with visions of our ideal future and at the same time stay in touch with the actuality of what is here now? I'm not sure I have the answer, but the other day in the woods, I was taught a good lesson by mother nature herself.   Read on to learn more....

So there I was (see the photo above), meditating on a log deep in the woods on a beautiful overcast day, surrounded by beautiful birds singing and plants waving in the breeze. As I settled into my seat, I could feel the tension in my shoulders dissipate and my mind relax. I started to look at the present uncertainties in my life. As I sat on the smooth flat log I began to envision my life unfolding exactly how I wanted it to.

And that's when it hit me, the wretched smell of feces.

At first I ignored it. I went back to my serene inner space. I envisioned the perfect home, the large garden I've always wanted, the sound of feet pattering through our new studio space, and that feeling of happiness that comes over me when I start to relax in the arms of nature.

And then I smelled it again. Carried on the wind, undeniable like an ugly billboard. I couldn't ignore it. I was definitely meditating next to animal scat.

As I looked around it didn't take long to spot the culprit. It was right next to me, a nice palm-sized mound of animal poop covered in flies.  My first instinct was to move, to escape it's awful smell and get back to a pure, clean, and serene place in nature where I could go back to my important work of figuring out my future.

But I didn't. I decided to stay.

So I sat there, next to the poop and flies, took deep breaths, and let the wafting smells of decay, death, and life's waste materials, wash over me. That was when I understood.  Poop is a part of life. I could see how my visions of the 'ideal future' did not account for the messy reality of life. When we run away from the 'poop' and the challenges that inevitably come up when we are pursing our dreams we are missing out on reality. 

My willingness to stay in a place that was less than ideal taught me a great lesson about dreams and reality. When I made friends with poop, I made friends with uncertainty, messiness, and hardship.  Each of these are becoming my allies on my spiritual path rather than things I fear or reject.

So the next time you find yourself sitting next to something, someone, or some thought you find repulsive, stay.  Sit there and meditate with them, even try to become their friend. You may be surprised to find that they are an integral part of making your dreams come true.

Cheers to All Things Fragrant and Stinky,


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Everyday Plants for Power: Using Plant Medicines for Health & Personal Power

Many people ask me about my favorite plants.  That would be like asking a chef what their favorite dish is, or a chemist about their favorite element.  In my world plants are like friends and as I mature it is less about favorites and more about knowing the unique qualities and gifts of each of these important friends.

Over the years it has happened very naturally that I've made better friends with some plants than others.  This does not mean that they are my favorites, it just means that like a chemist or chef, I am more familiar with the intricacies of them because of a natural affinity I have toward them.  At the same time I always have my eye on the periphery of the circle in hopes that a new friend will find her way in.

In this video I cover the very basics of working with plants and how we can use our natures to better understand the natures of plants. From here we can walk beside plants in a way that goes beyond understanding just their chemical properties. I hope you enjoy this video and perhaps you will meet a few new friends who you feel a natural affinity toward :)

Live Green...Love Green...Heal Green...


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Co-Creating A Community

It is amazing to reflect on the past year and to see the growth, the joy, and the community that has arisen since the birth of Sky House in January of 2012. From the early days of visioning this space at Abby's breakfast table to my current seat in the Deep Green Apothecary, so much has happened.  And it happened because people believed in what we are doing.

This month Sky House is kicking off our first annual donation fundraiser. We are partnering with Nightlight Astrology in hopes to raise money so we can continue to offer donation-based programs, workshops, classes, and fund some new projects.

We've been doing some big visioning over these winter months.  Our largest projects are setting aside money for scholarships for our yoga teacher training and herbal apprenticeship programs, setting up our new student herbal clinic to provide herbal services free of charge, the production of training materials, and new herbal brewing equipment.

This year our goal is to raise $10,000. Each year we are able to offer our donation based rates to those who can't afford full prices because of the generosity of our clients who can afford to donate more. We hope you'll check out our offerings and contribute whatever you can toward our 2013 goals. Like a seed loves every drop of water, we are grateful for any amount that you can contribute! Some people donate $100 and others donate $10, we acknowledge every contribution and know that every bit helps!

We are ever thankful for your support and we hope to keep offering the highest quality holistic services in the most down to earth, warm and homey ways!

We look forward to continuing to offer unique and soul-centered workshops, events, training programs and more. Thanks for being a part of what we do!!

To donate visit this link to our directions & donate tab and check out our thank you gifts.

Much Love,
Ashley Litecky
Director/Co-founder of Sky House Yoga

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sugar Free = Happy Gums!

This afternoon I went to my dentist for my 6-month cleaning and after she did all of her tests she was amazed at how healthy my gums were!  Over the last few years my 'gum numbers' (the mm of inflammation that they measure from the tooth to the gum line) have been increasing.  If you are familiar with this tracking method, you are always happy to hear 1, 2, or 3's.  In the last few years my number of 4's were increasing, not good!

So today, when I went for my check up, I told my dentist that I took sugar out of my diet and that now when I floss there is NO BLEEDING!  I really like my dentist so it was really excited to share this with her.  So sure enough, she did her tests and my gum numbers were down and I had a 30% decrease in gum bleeding!  The only change I have made from my last visit is the removal of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.  I am pretty sure it is the sugar that made this shift!  She made the comment, "wow, so if sugar is inflaming your gums, imagine what it is doing to the rest of your body,"  excellent point good doctor, excellent point.

So next time you floss, think about how happy your gums will be if there is no sugar causing them to inflame and how happy your teeth will be to not have sugar to break down your enamel!

Hope that motivates you toward another day of sugar free living!  I am off to smile my big happy gummed smile!! Yay!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Boldest Resolution

I've always found myself conflicted with the concept of 'New Years Resolutions'.  What makes January 1st a better day than any other to do something good for your health, or to make an allegiance to some great concept? It had been a long two weeks since I had taught my last class and I was struggling for something meaningful to say to my students about the new year. As I sat in front of the class and looked into the sea of familiar smiling faces I decided to go for it.  I pulled out my book of yoga inspired poetry, randomly flipped to a page, and started to read. As I read the poem "Maybe Not" (see below) by fellow yoga teacher, Danna Faulds, I got goosebumps.  It was perfect.

I continued to read this poem in classes throughout the week my appreciation for it grew. I wondered how many other people had taken the faithful leap to do something big for the new year, and how many had already fallen short of their idealist view of that change. This poem seemed to offer a new perspective. Maybe faltering and falling short of our ideal is part of an even deeper kind of spiritual growth

I started to think about how common it is for discomfort, doubt, and fear to be seen as enemies of willpower. But what what if each time we experience these discomforts they actually have a strengthening effect on our courage and resolve. Even the word re-solve gives us the clue that it is not something that we do once.  Perhaps it is the constant faltering and daily doubt that create lasting internal resolution and not because we 'like' it, but because it is required.

It takes a lot of courage to begin again after we have failed. I remember learning to snowboard and how many times I fell. Yet every time I stood up, dusted myself off, and tried again (...also a great line by superstar Beyonce) I felt stronger and more confident. Before long I was standing longer than I was sitting. I was never guaranteed a smooth trip down the mountain and there was no sure result that I'd ever make it down without falling, but I aligned myself with resolve and when my instructor said I had "the tenacity of a jack russel terrier," I owned it. As Danna says, "the secret is you can begin again at any time." How refreshing.

So whether you have a spotless new year’s record or if you've fallen off the wagon a few times we salute you.  Change isn't always easy and maybe that is a good thing.

Here at Sky House we are taking on the challenge of a 90-day sugar cleanse. If you want to join us, send us an email and we can send each other encouraging words as we go. We know it is not an easy feat yet each day when we wake up we are committed to starting again and are learning to face the temptations with even greater resolve.  We are also happy to be putting more of our good energy into the things we love.  This season you will find a new Sky House Yoga Class Schedule, Full Moon Ceremonies, A Special Dream Tracking Workshop, The Artist's Way, and an invitation to join our upcoming Herbal, Astrology, and Yoga Training Programs.

Wishing you a wonderful new year and may good health be your faithful companion, peace your guarded ally, and love your perpetual guide.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I Dream of Plants

Last night I had a dream that I was looking for plants. I was reading a book which explained where I could find nettles. I followed the directions to a bathtub (I know...strange) and in the bathtub there were two plants growing. I recognized one as nettles although it looked more like seaweed and had a rubbery consistency. Next to it was a plant that I called 'false nettle' (although in my waking life I had never heard of such a plant). They looked identical and were both rubbery with small leaves but I 'knew' they were different. I had the image of pulling them up and using them to scour pots and dirty clothes.

When I woke I opened up my books to research this plant for my plant spirit yoga class and found that nettles, like rubbery seaweeds, are high in iodine and are often used for the thyroid (an organ I am personally healing) and are used for strengthening tendons and ligaments (I just noticed yesterday my knee was feeling weak). Nettles are also aid detoxification and scour out the kidneys and add minerals back into the body. I will be applying a nettle poultice to my thyroid and will be drinking the tea daily. Maybe applying the tea to my knee if needed.

Later today I came across false nettle on Jim McDonald's website. It IS a plant! Boehmeria cylindrica, false nettles are native to this area and looks identical to nettles but doesn't have the spikes containing the 'sting'. This plant is contains an antibacterial alkaloid called cryptopleurine which works intensely to kill off candida albicans a bacteria that can overgrow from an over consumption of sugar (Adam and I are doing a sugar cleanse). So it looks like I will be needing some false nettles too! Anyone know more about this plant and where I might find it?

It is amazing that we can learn about plants, planets, patterns, people, and the universe through the dream space. I am deeply grateful for all the herbalists out there who teach the interpretation plant signatures. I have been dreaming about plants for years but I never fully understood them. Now I feel like I starting to learn a new and at the same time ancient universal language. I have such gratitude for herbalist Matthew Wood for legitimizing the dream world as an important classroom.
"All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together." ~ Jack Kerouac