The Buddha Spotlight introduces Hawah
HawaH is an artist, author, educator, yoga teacher and community organizer. In the year 2000, he co-founded One Common Unity, a non-profit organization that inspires a culture of non-violence through arts, media and music. He has released four books, two musical CD’s, and produced three documentary films. His fourth book, The Poetry Of Yoga, is a 2 volume anthology set featuring the writing of 300 yogi poets from 19 different countries and contain special forewords from Shiva Rea and Sharon Gannon. You can join him on his 2014 international yoga retreat and Buddhist pilgrimage to Nepal by visiting www.YogaNepal.com.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: Tell me about the retreat you’re apart of in Nepal.
(A) HawaH: This retreat in Nepal is a pilgrimage to some of the most breathtaking, beautiful monasteries that you’ll find in all of Asia. The scenery is majestic with the tops of the temples literally scraping the clouds. The pilgrimage will include morning and evening asana and meditation classes with me (approx. 3 to 4 hours a day). More exciting though is we’ll have audiences and direct teachings from Tibetan Buddhist masters, learning about this remarkable branch of Buddhism. People from all over the world are signing up for the retreat (we only have 6 spots left—-it’s capped at 16 people), and this is my second time teaching yoga in Nepal. My friend Marty Kravitz is the organizer and she’s been living in Nepal for many years, and brings in different teachers every year for yoga “Nepal”. I’ve personally been to Nepal 3 times in my life and India more than a dozen. My first time in Nepal, I did the Mt. Everest Base camp trek. It was an extraordinary, once in a lifetime journey.
(A) Goddess Mena Love: Is this retreat for all levels?
(B) HawaH: It’s for people that have been practicing some form of asana. You don’t need any Tibetan Buddhism background at all. This is a great introduction to Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. The yoga portion does require you to have at least six months of asana practice, so that you’re familiar with basic poses such as, downward dog, up dog, and warrior one. You also have to be in enough physical condition to where you’ll feel comfortable hiking a bit at high altitudes.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: When is the yoga retreat to Nepal?
(A) HawaH: The retreat is October 27 – November 7, 2014.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: Where can people get more information about this yoga pilgrimage to Nepal?
(A) HawaH: www.YogaNepal.com and on the home page you’ll see my retreat called, “Awakening to Freedom.” If you decide to come, we’ll be picking you up from the airport!
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: What style of yoga do you practice?
(A) HawaH: I was initially trained and certified in Sivananda over 10 years ago, which was my first deep immersion. My second certification is in Jivamukti yoga; in addition to that I’ve been training and studying for close to 15 years now. I’m versatile, the other styles of yoga that I incorporate in my teaching practice are a little bit of ashtanga, iyengar, and vinyasa flow.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: What is the best thing about teaching yoga?
(A) HawaH: The best thing about teaching yoga is that I’m never teaching yoga. Yoga, to me, is more of an exchange, it’s interaction with other spiritually inclined, and motivated individuals who desire to penetrate into deeper levels of consciousness and awareness. For me, every time I step into the classroom, I don’t consider myself a teacher. I consider myself a tour guide, guiding you through the natural flow of movements with breath. Some people might view me as a teacher, but I don’t see myself as a teacher. I see myself like a partner in this journey with you.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: When did you fall in LOVE with yoga?
(A) HawaH: Yoga, in the philosophical and Bhakti sense, has been apart of my life since birth. My mom is a Bhakti yogi, meaning she practices prayer, devotion, and chanting for hours every day. She’s been doing that for as far as I can remember. When I was growing up as a child, I was frequently taken to India, which exposed me to many of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Vedas. My uncle who resides in India now is a revered Swami. So, from a young age, I was exposed to his teachings, as well. In that sense, I think yoga is just apart of my blood. I think in another sense, yoga, as we know it as asana, is something that I kind of came around to in 1999 or 2000. These were pivotal years; I was first introduced to asana practice by my friend Terence Ollivierra.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: What is your daily spiritual practice?
(A) HawaH: I give thanks and gratitude, which is the anchor to everything that provides me joy and happiness. Before every meal, just stopping for a few minutes, closing my eyes and saying a silent wish for an end to suffering. I spend about 1 – 2 hours a day in my meditation and yoga room sometimes just staring at a candle. Working with kids is also another spiritual practice for me, and probably the compass to all of the above.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: Do you have advice for anyone interested in starting a daily meditation routine?
(A) HawaH: Yes! It’s a 5 letter word, “S-T-A-R-T”, start! It’s one of my favorite words in the English language. Sit down and close your eyes for 5 minutes a day. I can give you all these tools, but it’s all meaningless until you just sit down on your mat (or cushion), close your eyes and just see what comes up, watch, and observe. I would start right there! Take time out of your day to make time for yourself, and until you start that process it is all just procrastination. Once you start creating that time for yourself, there’s no wrong way, as long as you’re exploring and curious. A curious mind… is the best mind to have. Also, find teachers that you gravitate toward. Zone in on what kind of practice you’re into: a Bhakti practice, or a sitting meditation practice. Are you more drawn to an asana practice? It’s not all asana, in the West — yoga has been diminished and reduced to these hot yoga classes that are a real small fraction to what different paths people are on to attain a deeper spiritual realization.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: You mentioned being born in this type of lifestyle, but what was the turning point for you to get started with your existing spiritual way of life?
(A) HawaH: By getting on the mat everyday my life was transforming, and changing rapidly in a positive way. I was more calm and happy. I found a deeper level of contentment, less stress and anxiety, and found myself becoming more focused and creative. Sometimes I was amazed that I could do the same amount of work that use to take me four hours to, now in one hour! That was really powerful to me! I was witnessing one hour a day of my meditation and seeing results that it actually allowed me to accomplish so much more! All of those things contributed to my commitment to being disciplined in my practice.
(Q) Goddess Mena Love: Are you a vegetarian? Have you been a vegetarian all of your life?
(A) HawaH: I personally don’t like labels, but yet I would consider myself extremely close to a vegetarian. I was brought up in a vegetarian household. The first time I had meat was probably in 6th grade. I remember the first time I ate Ham, and I had no idea what it even really was. But we were at a weekend camp on a school trip and everyone else was eating it for breakfast in the morning and so I figured I should just give it a try to (partly at that time to fit in)… I started eating meat regularly around that time, not in the house, only at school, because of the lack of variety in school lunches. I continued to eat meat through college, until my junior year. This is a loooong story, but let’s just say that I was face to face with a chicken while in Vietnam, staring at her in the eyes, and I couldn’t bring myself to actually kill it. I had the knife in my hand, in a small hut staying with a family on the Mekong Delta, and they gave me the knife as an honor to kill the animal. I froze there with them around me and was like, “Oh my God, what do I do!” I was scared, and didn’t kill the chicken that day, and never ate a land animal again ever since. It wasn’t because of what I learned about the environment, and how much better it is for world hunger, not because of exercise or hormones, it was because I couldn’t consciously bring myself to eat something I wasn’t willing to kill with my own two hands.
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