By Autumn Feldmeier 

When I hear the term ‘Conscious Evolution’, I picture a group of hippies eating expensive organic foods, singing Kumbaya and focusing on little more than their own immediate orbit. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good group hug or eye gazing, but I believe our world is in distress and it’s time for a more active revolution!

I knew Sedona Yoga Festival was going to be different when I looked at the line-up and saw that my hero Tao Porchon-Lynch was presenting. But I was not prepared for the real, RAW lessons I learned from the festival.

Some of my favorite presenters were Paisley Close who taught a workshop on Trauma, Tension and Triggers. Firefighter and EMT Essie Titus talked about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and gave tools for building resilience during stressful times. And then there was the surprisingly funny Acharya Shunya Practichi Mathur talked about Aryuveda Psychology. Acharya taught in this beautiful and sometimes silly way with the great advice that really resonated with me. She said: “Have a love affair with yourself!” She ended her workshop by saying, “If you’re not getting enough, you’re not giving enough.”

There were also some great lessons in recognizing thought patterns from MIT educated biochemist Pete Sanders, Jr., who gave a very science-based talk on Yoga for the Soulexplaining the limbic system in the brain and how it keeps us ‘hamster-wheeling’ into negative thought patterns. The best take-away lesson I received was from Peter, who said to make life a “quest not a test.” It is this idea that we can choose between a quest and a test. A test is a struggle, a quest is an adventure.

‘The Night of Inspiration,’ was just that! All of the speakers were amazing. I was very inspired by Molly Birkholm and her work with yoga and PTSD. Molly is a bad ass, working with victims of child trafficking, the sex trade, war veterans and servicemen to create meaningful change. But, while her great works seem unattainable for the average person, she empowered us all by explaining how we can take all take action by looking within ourselves. She explained that if you look within yourself at where you’ve been hurt, and you start to heal your past trauma, the you can then start to help others. “The problem creates the path,” Molly said. It is addressing our instinct to run from pain. It is in the friction, where we will find the most meaning. Molly has taken her trauma, healed and has used this experience to work with a population she’d never expected to work with.

And just when I thought I couldn’t be more inspired, I heard the famous photographer Robert Sturman discuss his theory on how to change the world. As his stunning photos were shown, he explained how he uses talents to create “Positive Propaganda.” We saw images of injured vets doing asana,  prisoners doing yoga, scarred breast-cancer survivors in poses and so many more inspiring images. He shared that, “Once you start helping,  it’s all you want to do!” Robert is far from being just a guy who takes photos, he recognizes that the camera is a tool to show people they are OK, by reflecting back to them their true beauty. Scars are beautiful, dignified and it is OK to be proud of them. For me personally, as someone who struggles to accept scars I sustained in a traumatic accident, his lesson on celebrating scars versus carrying shame with them was beyond powerful.

Robert also offered advice on conscious photography. He talked about how we are in a photographic society, and for many our main form of communication is in posting pictures. He said that we have a choice in what pictures to post. We can do it with mindfulness!

‘The Night of Inspiration,’ ended with my hero Tao Porchon-Lynch. A woman filled with 98 years of life and yoga.  


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