A Rumination on Darkness and Light for the Solstice

A Rumination on Darkness and Light for the Solstice

A Rumination on Darkness and Light for the Winter Solstice

As the end of the calendar year approaches we on the SYF Team find ourselves contemplative, in preparation for the long inward journey of winter. As the light begins to fade in the Northern Hemisphere and days reach their shortest and nights their longest, we can’t help but lovingly explore these moments of darkness for what they can reveal both personally and collectively. 

Though we are grateful to have been able to gather in community at SYF2022 (photo above, credit to Ty Dobbs), the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic — and the seeming chasm it created in our social systems — are still real. While it’s safe to say that every generation can lay claim, in some capacity, to a tragedy or sorrow that begets collective mourning, it’s arguably been a century since the world has undergone this extent of  disruption. We need not foray into heated political discussion to acknowledge the pain and loss that has been endured around the world. 

And yet in these darker days is an opportunity to cultivate light, to not run from the sadnesses of the world, but to allow our practice to inform how we approach it. To live in the grace of our yoga is to hold on to joy and honor the collective transformation of community. It is also a practice in the beauty of letting go. 

“Grace is the intersection of that moment when you get out of your head and into your heart,” says SYF Programming Lead Reggie Hubbard. Allowing the heart to lead, to infuse purpose with care and consideration is to recognize oneness, and to take action to ensure that when darkness sets in, all people have a pathway to light. “The only way to fix the mess we’re in,” says Reggie, “is if we do it together. We need to listen more than we talk, and take action toward collective healing.” 

A Time of Service

These contemplative weeks leading to the winter solstice are prime for taking stock and exploring, and tenderly beginning to make plans with what we’ll do as the light returns. In some cultures, the weeks around the winter solstice were traditionally a time of service. According to History.com

“Yalda night” is an Iranian festival celebrating the longest and darkest night of the year. The celebration springs out of ancient Zoroastrian traditions and customs intended to protect people from evil spirits during the long night.

On Shab-e Yalda, (which translates to “Night of Birth”), Iranians all over the world celebrate the triumph of the sun god Mithra over darkness. According to tradition, people gather together to protect each other from evil, burn fires to light their way through the darkness, and perform charitable acts.

Creating the Light

To be of service is to live in grace — and to live graciously. It’s no secret that our society is polarized and discordant, and that our disagreements often seem louder and more sure than the ties that bind us. Yoga, like winter, is about the long inward journey; but it’s also about creating the change and the light we want to see. This means disagreeing compassionately, and finding empathy for one another even when we vehemently oppose certain beliefs or ideas. 

This also means creating the conditions so that all people feel seen, heard, and welcome. At the end of the day (or the end of the year, as the case may be), we’re all in this together, interconnected and interdependent. When a neighbor is hurting, the neighborhood suffers. Our community, both our yoga community and our global community, is like this. The solstice is a good time to ruminate on what you can do to bring light to those around you. How can you use your practice to inform the creation of a more just, compassionate, and kind world for all?

Non-Attachment as the Light

There’s also solstice musings in traditional yogic philosophy. In Sutra 1.36–1.37, Patanjali explores the idea of nonattachment, and how detaching from the world into the cave of the heart helps us on the path of light, toward true connection and deep, unwavering joy. When we come to meditation with the desire and striving to release ourselves from the pain (and pleasures!) of the world, we cultivate that ability to step into the light of our truest nature. To say—we all experience the darkness of ignorance, avidya. Life, and spiritual pursuit, is a long journey to transcend this darkness, and to work toward that understanding. 

This is pertinent to keep in mind as we wade through these dark weeks leading up to the solstice in the Northern Hemisphere — and as we work toward collective healing of the experiential darknesses of the past year. 

May you all find light in your personal journeys, as well as inspiration to be the light in your community. Happy winter solstice! 

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Making Plans as a Practice of Presence

Making Plans as a Practice of Presence

Why Making Plans is a Practice of Presence — and Can Bring Meaning to the Now

If you’ve exprienced or survived trauma or loss, you may be familiar with the feeling that the future feels daunting. The lessons of our yoga practice teach us that cultivating a sense of presence and appreciation for the here and now can help us to feel grounded and content, and may even help to combat symptoms of depression. And yet when we cannot think about the future, we often experience an acute sense of longing, an inability to find that feleing of grounding or content. In his 2018 groundbreaking book, Lost Connections—Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions, researcher and writer Johann Hari posits that a lost connection to the future may be one major reason we experience depression or anxiety; when our connection to the idea of the future has been severed, we struggle to find meaning in the present.

The Greater Good Science Center in Berkley, CA, backs up this idea that planning for the future can have a similar effect to our psychological wellbeing as does mindfulness practices. “Prospecting,” as sociologists call it, is different from anxiously anticipating the future—it’s a way of dreaming up possibilities. “Besides helping us make decisions and reach our goals,” writes Summer Allen in a 2019 article for Greater Good Magazine, “there is evidence that prospection may improve psychological health more generally.” 

Dreaming up possibilities in turn fosters a sense of optimism. When we view the future as bleak, without anything to look forward to, it’s much more difficult to relish the present moment. My parents used to have a saying in their marriage: Always “wreak H.A.V.O.C.” — “Have A Vacation On Calendar.” It was meaningful for them to always have something to look forward to, particularly when things got difficult. Rather than an obsolete goal or desire, making plans for their immediate future allowed them to get through challenges, motivated by a tangible reward. 

One of the most difficult things about the Covid-19 pandemic has been not only the canceled vacations and plans, but the feeling that future plans themselves are obsolete. Luckily for all of us, vaccines, antibodies, and the hard-won knowledge of the pandemic has allowed for us to again look toward the future with optimism. As such, one of the best things you can do to celebrate is to get that vacation on the calendar. 

What better way to do so than to return to mindful community presence at Sedona Yoga Festival? While May may feel like a long way off, creating the space to imagine the possibilities—and carving out the time for something meaningful to your future self—could be just the thing to help you navigate those winter blues. 

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6 Local Organizations to Consider During the Holiday Season

6 Local Organizations to Consider During the Holiday Season

6 Local Organizations to Consider this Holiday Season

Yoga asks us not only to grow and evolve toward our best selves, but also how we may be of service to others. As we move into the holiday season, the sacred practice of seva (selfless service) may look not only like time spent, but donations made. We believe in giving back to the local landscape where we are lucky enough to host our event. Here’s our roundup of spots to consider as you spread the love this giving season.

Verde Valley Sanctuary

The Sanctuary offers a safe haven for victims of family violence and sexual assault, providing shelter, community outreach, legal advocacy and education and prevention. Their Confidential Outreach Center provides confidential assistance to victims of crime who may not need emergency shelter, offering personalized case management, counseling, safety planning, and day and evening support groups. This season, the Verde Valley Sanctuary Board of Directors presents a $50,000 holiday gift match opportunity. For every dollar you give, the Board doubles your impact. Learn more and make a donation here.

Sedona Arts Center

Longtime participants will know that SYF showcases more than the practic and power of yoga. Art, and the eternal apperciation of beauty is an integral part of our mission and goal. Our 2022 festival theme, Give It Up For Grace, encourages us to seek and support the creation of art and beatuy. Sedona Arts Center is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to nurturing creative discovery, learning and sharing through arts education and artistic development. They offer free and low-cost events, classes, workshops, and exhibitions, showcasing local talent. They also offer virtual classes and workshops, as well as an online gallery. Learn more and donate here.


Apache-Stronghold is a nonprofit community organization dedicated to battling ongoing and continued colonization, the defense of holy sites and freedom of religion, and the building of stronger community through neighborhood programs and civic engagement. Their work is a spiritual journey of healing to confront the deception of the birth of America. Working from San Carlos, Arizona, Apache-Stronghold connects Apaches and other Native and non-Native allies from all over the world. Their work has been particularly poignant at Chi’chil Bi?dagoteel (also known as Oak Flat), a sacred site for our Apache people and many other Native Americans; the most recent hearing on the future of this sacred site was in October, 2021. Watch a film about their work, and then make a donation here.

Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park

Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park is an outdoor venue for prayer, meditation, and the experience of peace, and has hosted some of SYF’s most memorable experiences. Welcome and open to people of all faiths, in addition to the Amitabha Stupa, you’ll also find another Buddhist stupa, a Native American medicine wheel, and a beautiful mahogany statue of Shakyamuni Buddha along with walking trails and numerous quiet spots for meditation and quiet contemplation. The Park is supported by visitor donations — learn more about this sacred place and make a donation here

Free Soul

Long a friend of SYF, Free Soul is an educational nonprofit that shares skills and educational materials that help people be their own best spiritual teachers. With special programs for veterans and survivors of PTSD, Free Soul helps seekers connect with their inner wisdom with programs, tours, and vision quests in the Sedona area. Founder Pete A. Sanders, Jr. offers virtual retreats and programming to fit many budgets, and has been a proven starting point for many to being deep personal healing. Donate directly through their website here.

Sedona Recycles

Since 1989, Sedona Recycles has been providing a place for community members to drop off hard-to-recycle items like Styrofoam, batteries, packing materials, printer ink cartridges, and egg cartons. They also offer custom tours, lesson plans, classes, and presentations for schools and other educational facilities, by sending a Sedona Recycles rep straight from the source. This helps to ensure that the work they do is not only affecting the immediate present, but creating an impact for years to come. Their A-Z Reuse & Disposal Guide provides useful information for all, even outside of the Sedona area. Help keep Sedona green by making a year-end donation here.

* Please note: This is not a sponsored piece, and SYF does not, as of publication, have formal relationships with any of the listed organizations. We just truly believe in supporting local nonprofits and sharing the SYF love!

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Give It Up for Grace

Give It Up for Grace

Give It Up For Grace!

Sedona Yoga Festival is back. We couldn’t be more excited to gather with you, and to welcome our community back to Sedona for our 2022 event. While our themes typically revolve around personal transformation and spiritual evolution, this year we’re encouraging the contemplation of outward motion. We’re Giving It Up for Grace for the 2022 festival — throwing our hands up exploring what it means to return to joy, to celebrate safe and intentional community, and to cultivate grace and gratitude.

We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to throw our hands up and dance. We’re ready to lift our voices, both individually and collectively, and tune into the small beauties and bounties of the world that make life inspirational and magical. This may feel like the synchronicities of bodies moving together in asana flow — in the fresh air of the great outdoors — or the resonance of a whole-hearted Om. It may feel like the transcendence of breath filling our bodies with power, or the softness of sinking into an expressive kirtan. It may be the enthusiasm we feel after a particularly inspirational talk, or the motivation of education after a particularly resonant course. 

Because yoga, at its core, is truly about seeking, encouraging, and creating light in the darkness. It’s about prioritizing the bliss that is one’s birthright — both for yourself, and all living beings. 

Having said that, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that the past couple of years have been tough. In her seminal book, “When Things Fall Apart,” American Tibetan Buddhist scholar Pema Chödrön writes: 

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

It’s apt advice to keep in mind as we return from the past two years: years of great upheaval, transition, and healing. Some would say that 2020 and 2021 have prepared us for an awakening, that the disruptions we’ve experienced — as a global, national, and yoga community — have primed us for a greater understanding of our humanity, and have paved the way for a healing that will transcend even the parameters of that upheaval. In these cataclysms we’ve experienced loss, but we’ve simultaneously created room, as Chödrön would say, for that joy that we’re seeking as we come together in celebration of community and practice.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali instructs surrender in the fifth of the niyamas, Isvarapranidhana. The idea is to give it up to the divine, to release the need to hold on and control, even in the midst of what seems impossible to let go. As we prepare to intentinoally and safely gather, we’re leaning into not just the “practice” of yoga, but what it means to live in our yoga: to softly lay down the burdens in favor of wonder and delight. We’re leaning into what it means to be in grace, and to live grace with those around us — even those with whom we may disagree. 

Whatever it is that helps you Give It Up for Grace, we want to find it with you this May.

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Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga

by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Don’t settle for only experiencing a fraction of the yoga benefits that ARE possible for you. Learn “Yoga of the Soul” (Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Classroom 4). As an M.I.T. Honors Graduate in BioMedical Chemistry and Brain Science and a Mind/Body/Spirit Teacher for close to 50 years, I look forward to sharing with Sedona Yoga Festival participants, “Secrets from Science” for going BEYOND their current level of yoga.

Superstrings Physics states that you exist in a minimum of 10+ dimensions. Just as only a fraction of an iceberg is above the water, so too, you are much more than your physical body. What keeps most people from tapping that beyond are the anchoring effects of the Limbic System of the Brain. That Limbic Brain, not only keeps even spiritually minded people from fully Soul Soaring, it automatically creates life crushing dis-stress.

A major benefit of yoga, is that it partially soothes those negative limbic effects, but often only temporarily. When you know the Stress Reduction and Soul Tapping techniques I will be teaching in the Yoga of the Soul Workshop you can: 1. deeper your experience as you do yoga, 2. have a methods for getting yoga’s benefits even when you can’t be doing yoga (at work, driving, in tense family situations, etc.) and 3. more fully connect with ALL of you dimensions beyond and life purposes.
Sedona’s Vortexes are amplifiers that (when you know how to tap them and which ones are best for what needs) can further cleanse Limbic Distress from your aura and body. The Vortexes can also help you get new insights for how to develop “Your Own” best yoga practices and send reminder energies home. As part of my “Scientific Vortex Information and Yoga of the Soul” Workshop I will be sharing: 1. the science that explains the Vortexes (and why they are NOT electric or magnetic) 2. which Sedona sites are best for what, 3. how to find Vortexes in your home area, and 4. how to create you own Yoga Vortex wherever you are.

If you can’t be at the Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Workshop in Classroom 4, my books “Access Your Brain’s Joy Center” and “Scientific Vortex Information” are available thru www.freesoul.net or as E-books. Both books will also be available at the Festival Bookstore.

Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Pete A. Sanders Jr. is an Honors Graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with principal studies in Bio-Medical Chemistry and Brain Science. Accepted to attend Harvard Medical School, he chose instead to pursue independent exploration of Mind/Body/Spirit potentials for developing THE FREE SOUL METHOD, “Inner Technology” Techniques and “Secrets from Science” for Creating YOUR OWN Enlightenment.   www.freesoul.net

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Vedic Astrology for The Weekend of SYF2019

Vedic Astrology for The Weekend of SYF2019

by Sam Geppi

On the weekend of March 14 Mercury and the sun will cross at the junction point between Aquarius and Pisces. This is where we see our social self releasing into our cosmic self. For many of us that means our sense of wanting to make the world a better place and “be the change” we want to see in the world – elevating to an even higher vibration, that divine being that is not even of this world at all.

To be honest, most of us do not really conceive of our metaphysical being at all. The culmination of our life usually revolves around some utopian vision of the world that we have helped to create that makes us feel good and that aligns us with others and everything externally in some way. But that is not the metaphysical self of Pisces. That being is a transcendent, universal entity, a being of energy and light without form. It is our soul nature.

According to Vedic/Indian philosophy, that energetic, non-localized being, incarnates in order to experience the things need for greater self-awareness and the greater clarity of that souls energy and its facticity. Stated more simply, we have incarnated because we do not embody our divine nature yet. Life on earth and our descent into form is so we can encounter those limitations and evolves them toward that higher, metaphysical self.

We can see this evolution of that higher, worldly self into that cosmic metaphysical self in this transition between Aquarius and Pisces.

Also, we will see the moon moving from Gemini into cancer over the weekend of March 14. Gemini is where we gather more information, become playful and curious, like a child exploring its environment. But eventually all of that exploration and curiosity must be anchored in the heart, and integrated into our soul matrix (cancer), otherwise it is just data, disconnected from the heart.

This is the other big transition of the weekend of March 14.

Those who attend the Sedona yoga Festival will surely be under the influence of such celestial vibrations.

I’m thrilled and happy to be presenting a workshop on “yoga and Vedic astrology and 2019 predictions” at the festival.


Originally Appeared On: https://vedicastrologycenter.net/sedona-yoga-festival-3/

Sam Geppi

Sam Geppi

Sam Geppi (Sadasiva) is the author of “Yoga and Vedic Astrology” and “The Ascendant-108 Planets of Vedic Astrology”. He is the founder of the American Academy of Vedic Art and Science – which offers level 1-3 Certification programs in Vedic Astrology. Currently the Academy has more than 120 students enrolled. Sam is certified level 1 and 2 through ACVA and CVA and was hired by Dattatreya Shiva Baba to teach the first Astroved Vedic Astrology Certification Program in 2010.

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