Your Power Pill: Sankalpa

IMG_5420Imagine a power source (that is neither toxic, costly or gimmicky) that helps you ignite your deepest determination while effectively training your mind to streamline, and focus, your actions towards this deep determination. Would you want to connect to this power source? You can. This source, this power pill is called Sankalpa.

You don’t need equipment or expensive coaching to work with this power; instead you need to clearly articulate, and own, your resolve and take about 3 minutes, a few times daily, to nourish it.

SANKALPA is a sanskrit word comprised of two root parts:

San: connection to higher truth

Kalpa: Solem vow

When we quietly recite our sankalpas we are inclining  our hearts and minds  upon a clear purpose; a  purpose that fuels our determination to take actions that seed and nourish this deep, unwavering determination.

The purpose of sankalpa is not to fulfill desires, but to create strength in the structure of the mind.   Sankalpa can create a direction for your whole life if you use it wisely.The purpose of sankalpa is to influence and transform whole life patterns...”  ~~Swami Satyananda Saraswati from his book titled: Yoga Nidra

I’ve found that when I’ve kept my sankalpa as the clear directing force in life, my actions, and the results of those actions, have an inherent grace to them. This is not to say that things come easily (they rarely do) but the actions I take- that are congruent with my sankalpa -tend to be fruitful.  Strong discernment is a by product of strong sankalpa. The internal truth and BS  detector that a sankalpa practices builds, gets pretty good at waking me up when I’ve sailed off into my ocean of distraction. And I can sail away into distraction and procrastination so easily.

A sankalpa practice is not a self help practice and it is not about perfecting oneself into some bigger, better fantasy self.

So how do you “do” this sankalpa thing?

It’s very simple but you have to be consistent. Very consistent.

Nobody hears you do this. You do this inwardly while in a quiet, relaxed state. A sankalpa made in the midst of psychic pain does not penetrate as deeply as one made when one is clear-eyed and settled. Once your sankalpa is made you trust its power to direct your actions and you return to it, again and again, throughout your daily life. With time we build a kind of internal structure that nudges us away from unfocused actions and back towards clear, directed actions. And being focused and aligned with a Sankalpa does not take any of the spontaneity, joy and playfulness out of daily life; it deepens it.

A few guidelines:

When you are alone, maybe walking, sitting or laying down, ask yourself, your heart, what you absolutely must do with this life energy you have. Don’t push for a quick response.

Be patient and listen. Keep listening. If nothing comes or what does come up feels old, tired and not quite right then don’t worry about it. Keep at it and one day your sankalpa will crystallize, you will know it and there will be no second guessing.

Do a little internal editing to ensure that your sankalpa is articulated in a concise, unequivocal manner and state it in the present tense. 

State it first thing in the morning and then several times throughout the day.

Keep it to yourself. You don’t need to be explaining it to others or seeking anyones approval.

Some days you might find yourself quietly reciting it like a mantra over and over again. 

 Don’t get discouraged by setbacks and sails into that enticing ocean of distraction. It’s no big deal to get lost now and again. In fact, the getting lost can refine the workings of the compass bearing that is your sankalpa so while I suggest you take creating your sankalpa seriously, I also suggest you bring a light heart (and sense of humor) to the practice. No fuss. No magic. Just you, your strengthening mind and your power pill. 

Questions, comments or  anything you want to share? I’d love to hear from you. Just hit the contact button up top.

(If you wish to be  guided into a yoga nidra practice simply visit the iTunes Store, Amazon or cdbaby and download my recording: Yoga Nidra: Total Relaxation Practices for Adults and Teens)


Falling Into Place


Falling Into Place

(Photo of Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park  Photo by Donna)

You don’t intend to but you just do. You fall in love. You fall deeply, but not madly, in love. Loving a PLACE produces no madness. Falling in love with a PLACE is blissful, exquisitely somatic and “holy shit!” humbling. PLACES don’t court you; they grab you without sizing you up. There is little room for mind, will or volition to get too full of itself; instead you contract (into your smallness) and expand (into your vastness) while being sung to by a muse named Wonder.

Place can root you down into direct sensation so quickly, so thoroughly that before you have time to step back into the world of concept you are deep inside the pink/gold/tangerine sky and seal heads surfacing sunset over Race Point.

There is little lens and (even less if your phone is put down) and there is no desire to relay the stun of it all. You give up on hoarding the experience because beauty, wonder and nature’s multitudes won’t be hoarded. There is just the melting into PLACE and any wistfulness that sneaks through the membrane of the raw moment fades as soon as you own it, name it and see if for what it is. Desire and the desire to grasp.

Waves loosen grasping. Dunes shift it and the light that plays with cloud, sea, sun, and refraction whispers, “You don’t stand a chance; you are not solid,  so let this love you.”

What? Let it love me?

Human to human love is astoundingly strong and complicated. Personality, desire, projection and expectation can’t help but mix to make relationships, of all sorts, fraught.

Love of PLACE is not necessarily fraught with the sword wielding “I, Me, Mine”. Love of PLACE is complex, multi-textured,  layered with both solid and frothy memories but it is not complicated. Complexity and complication are different.

Letting a PLACE love you turns you into a steward. Stewardship is not just doing the right thing by caring for a PLACE; stewardship is the result of being loved by a PLACE. 

‘What, you might say, the ocean, rivers, beach, forest and lake do not- and cannot- love you! What an idiotic human- centric thing to say! “

And my response to this might be:

“Stop thinking like an idiotic, human-centric human and let a PLACE infuse your being! Be still. Don’t utter a word. Without trying too hard, allow yourself to empty out of yourself. You might tell yourself that you are loving a PLACE but the truth is that the PLACE is loving you.

Do the tidal flats hold any awareness of Donna? No. Do the banks of the Hudson feel my presence? No. Do the elks feeding up on the alpine plains in Rocky Mountain National Park care about me? No.   But the fact is, this all exists and because I am receiving this wondrous beauty, I am experiencing unfettered love. The permeable membrane of this here Donna woman is being embraced in PLACE and it won’t let  me go. And I want to hold it with something that feels less like grasping and more like miles deep gratitude and protectiveness.

Is Stewardship the result of loving a PLACE or being loved by a PLACE?

What PLACES have held, or hold you? If you want to share a photo or a few words about a PLACE that nourishes you, please contact me. Stay tuned as I move my new project   Sparks In Action ( from inspiration to execution. SIA site is under construction. Want to get involved? Contact me.

Until next time,





Wired & Wayward


Addiction comes in many forms. Our neurotransmitter (including dopamine) driven brains seek novelty/desire and our devices -and their capacity to “alert”- are siren songs luring us into a churning ocean of promising new hits of pleasure in the way of notifications. But are those hits of distraction really pleasures? Much contemporary neuroscience thinks not. I think not. What do you think? How do you stop, or indulge, the addictive and wayward reward system  that our devices tease us with? Please know that I am not above any of this, I, like everyone else, deliberately work at keeping my device distraction to a minimum.

Multi-tasking in our digital age is creating in us a kind of hungry beast that is becoming addicted to new information. In his book The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD writes: “Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisolwhich can over stimulate your brain and cause mental fog and scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine –addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”

Rewarding our brains for losing function? Yes. Uh oh!

And, to add to this concerning state of affairs, is some science that suggests that when we do what we might call”multi-tasking” we are simply “switching” our attention back and forth between tasks which fractures our focus on all tasks which significantly compromises our overall quality of attention.  And, to add even more disturbing considerations to this phenomenon we mistakenly call “multi-tasking’; there seems to be evidence that “switching” ( checking email while studying)  causes the new information we are learning to be stored in a region of the brain that is NOT the region that stores and strengthens our explicit (facts/ideas/events) memory. Proper memory consolidation demands our full, undivided attention. Uh oh again!

Creating and sustaining more discipline with our devices is up to us because our burgeoning, amazing technology is not slowing down any time soon. Aside from our purposeful unplugging, there are things we can do that help to repair and rejuvenate the brain/mind and body that becomes lost and fragmented in digital space.

This brings me to my favorite, most effective, means of returning homeostasis to our complex nervous systems and this number one practice is called Yoga Nidra. Information about Yoga Nidra it is on the post below this one so do scroll and read. (So long as you are within your designated on- line info gathering schedule!)

My second favorite treatment is a combination of yoga (in all it’s branches, not just asana) and mindfulness practice, which includes formal seated practice and informal (employing it during all moments of ordinary life) practice.

All this said, I am  offering some antidotes to you:

My recording Yoga Nidra: Total Relaxation Practices for Adults and Teens (Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby- see links below. CDs available directly through me. Plain and simple: It works.

I am  also inviting you to join me in my next four session series titled: Introduction to Mindfulness  Practices and Stress Reduction In Everyday Life. The series begins on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 and meets for the following five consecutive Tuesday evenings 6-7:30 pm  at The Living Seed (link below). I’ve been teaching this user-friendly series for many years now and it gives me great joy to witness how integrating attention practices can create long- term positive changes in peoples lives.

If you want me to come to your school, business, organization or want a private or small group series, I’m available for that. In fact, I am more than available, I will joyfully arrange it with you!

I’ve a lot I’d like to say but I don’t want my post to eat up much more of your time so I’ll end with this:

From a neuroscientist: “ We are what we attend to.”

From the Yoga Sutras:” The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga”

Join me and learn to train your attention while restoring homeostasis to your nervous and endocrine system.

For Yoga Nidra info contact me here.

For Mindfulness in Everyday Life series contact:

Ultimate Recharge and Reboot

WHAT is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a guided therapeutic practice that induces calm, mental clarity and a deeply relaxed, vitalized body. The term “nidra” refers to a specific kind of resting state that is not a sleeping state as we know it, but a deeper, dreamless resting state that is particularly restorative for the nervous system and mind. There is no drowsiness upon arising from a yoga nidra process- the vast majority of people who experience the guided practice describe experiencing a profoundly relaxed body and notably increased mental acuity.

WHY listen to Yoga Nidra?  Because it works and it’s therapeutic benefits occur effortlessly  while you lay on your back or recline in a comfortable position.

 HOW it works:

Yoga Nidra directs awareness into the body in a way that down-regulates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system which naturally decreases physical and mental agitation. This recording skillfully guides your entire being into deep somatic relaxation while it cultivates a still, refreshed mind.  My recording has three tracks which consist of a brief introduction, a longer 36 minute guided track, a shorter 16 minute track.  Soft, deliberately created music accompanies each track. Both tracks are designed to be suitable for adults and teens.

HOW Yoga Nidra has become a staple of my personal and professional life:

I was introduced to this yogic practice back in 1990s, by my yoga teacher, Parvathi Nath Saraswati. I lay down on my mat, pressed go and my first yoga nidra practice commenced. When the recording stopped and I opened my eyes and felt a level of quietude and clarity that I can honestly say, I had never experienced before. Since that time, yoga nidra has become my go to tool for calming my body, quieting my mind and settling my nervous system.

I had been working as a licensed clinical social worker/psychotherapist (MSW,LCSW) and soon introduced yoga nidra to many of my clients who were experiencing acute anxiety, chronic anxiety, mild depression, poor concentration, chronic or acute pain and other health and mental health concerns. The feedback I received from clients was remarkable; most found the guided practice extremely beneficial.


In 2009, when I  was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I experienced the sharp anxiety that most people feel. My thinking mind ran wild with worry and my body became agitated with a steady pulse of fear coursing through it.  During the aggressive phase of treatment it was yoga nidra that I kept pulling from my therapeutic tool kit. A consistent yoga nidra practice allowed me to move through cancer treatment with my mental and physical internal reserves intact.  I decided back in 2011 that I would make a recording when the time was right. 2015 was the right time.

I am delighted to share this practice, and it’s therapeutic benefits, with you. If you have any questions or simply want to share, just hit the contact button.

Deepening peace and vibrant health to you! ~~ Donna~~~

Direct links for purchase, and reviews, below.


Some reviews from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby

” Donna is a masterful teacher of yoga and mindfulness. Her delivery of Yoga Nidra reflects a rare combination of serious study…years of clinical experience and comprehensive training in mindfulness skills.” 5 stars

“…a great day to deal with the constantly encroaching anxieties of daily existence…I will make it part of my routine.” 5 stars

“…leads you into a profoundly relaxed state from which you somehow emerge, a short time later, settled and refreshed. Refreshed as in not at all groggy. It’s pretty amazing.” 5 stars

“….soothing and reassuring. She invites her listener into a relaxed state that is in the moment comfortable and ultimately restorative…this will be  a cherished addition to my mediation library.” 5 stars

“Excellent!!! Donna has a beautiful speaking voice and her caring and expertise come through clearly…..This recording is calming, clear and effective. Highly recommend.” 5 stars

“….did the trick. Her voice is soothing and she guides you patiently. I instantly felt better.” 5 stars

Links for digital downloads:

Direct Amazon link below:

 iTunes direct link below:

cd baby:

CD discs easily available through me. Contact link on menu bar, far right above.

The recording includes three tracks. Soft music accompanies the tracks.


Please contact me with any questions. Contact button on upper menu bar, far right.

Your Freedom Zone

Dear Yoga Students,

Trauma can show up in many forms. One need not have lived in a war zone to know the reality of a traumatized brain and body. Small hardships can morph into full-blown stress reactions and, conversely, full blown stress reactions, can, with time and practice, weaken and be replaced with greater equanimity. The word here is plasticity -neuroplasticity- the brains ability to form new neural connections and rewire itself.

The yogi’s of the past- who were sophisticated psychologists without the benefit of tools such as fmri (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and other brain mapping techniques- understood a great deal about human emotion and the inextricable relationship between emotional states, physiological/somatic reactions and the nature of mind.

Sam- to join together

Kara- action

The yogis, through inward based inquiry, understood how thought, action, word, experience and behavior could join together and cause psychological conditioning. If the brain’s executive function is not able to discern a past trauma from the reality of the present moment, the body moves into a hyper aroused state where danger is over- perceived. Hyper arousal causes  dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system and increases our suffering.

Neuroscientists act on the proof of the Hebbs principle that neurons that “fire together, wire together”. If fear gets activated over and over again, neural circuitry links together and the fear stimulus will gain traction. Sounds a lot like samskara to me.

Yogis cultivated a refined understanding of the reality of human software; and, modern science is giving us the gift of more precise insights into the working of the hardware. Call it what you will, I find it wondrous.

Fact: 30 minutes of daily meditation for only 8 weeks showed a reduction in gray matter (neural connectivity) in the threat detection areas of the brain including the amygdala and hippocampus.

The good news is that the innate neuroplasticity of a healthy brain is ready, and willing, to get rewired. Yoga practice, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra and other attention/awareness practices will help you build a more supple brain.

In class, as we move through asanas we are literally creating breathing room in our bodies and brains. We are encouraging our nimble and supple selves to grow stronger.  When life puts the squeeze on us (which it will until the end of our days) we can rail against it or learn to live with it.

A warrior does not necessarily need to fight or freeze when a foe shows up. A warrior can try widening into the difficulty, act with suppleness, maneuver with practiced skill and in doing just that, she just might find that she can dance her way through the mud.

We have within us what I have come to call a “Freedom Zone”. This is the sweet spot where insight and action meet and we decide that we don’t have to give credence to the old samskaras. This freedom zone is waiting for us to notice it and walk through its doors. Bodies are resilient. Brains are resilient. When brains and bodies are not blindly following the wayward directions of old, tired patterns they find the place where the refresh button is waiting to be pressed.

The yogis knew it. The neuroscientists in the labs know it. When you are practicing genuine yoga, you know it.

Yours in practice,


Speaking Gratitude

It’s a raspy, gravely voice which works well if I want to do my pirate impersonation. Can’t project it out but that will come. Sing yet? No way.A return to the world of conversing with others is imminent. In fact, it has begun and will take some more time to return with full function.

Thank you for your support, books, cider doughnuts, apples, spinach lasagna,chicken soup,other assorted and delicious soups, salads, poached pears, art supplies, custards, prepared dinners, recorded songs, noodle kugel,  check ins, e mails, private fb messages, public fb messages, goofy gifts that made me crack up, humor, laughs and mostly, thank you for your simple presence.

The world is spinning in a crazy orbit of destruction, fear and bewilderment right now but it seems to me that along side this wacky orbit there is a wide net, a net of sanity and humanity, that is swooping up the shattered shards of light, collecting them so they can find each other to coalesce and find strength. Here’s to that force.IMG_2802



Unspoken: Speaking About Not Speaking

It’s been since October 22 that I have been without a speaking voice. If you are reading this, and we are FB friends, then you know I was sick with a virulent infection that included a bout of what is called “community” pneumonia. Community pneumonia simply means it was not picked up in a hospital and I could have been picked up absolutely anywhere. Crappy luck.

Being without a voice is an interesting kind of liminal space to be in. Of this world 100% but absolutely unable to vocally react or respond to anything and finding myself behind this veil of silence is both liberating and frustrating.

Funny thing: I’m a long-time yogi and practitioner (and teacher) of meditation. I know the world of retreat induced silence and the benefits of withdrawing from speech now and again. But this current, unintended retreat bears a very different kind of fruit from intentional silent retreat. The primary difference being that this time, I’ve got no choice. This silence is foisted upon me and because of that, there is an even deeper surrender that is taking place. There is also the added: “Will my voice return? How? When?” Soon enough an appointment with an ENT specialist should answer those questions but it is a funky, sharp edged unknowing that I am living with. Kinda scary but not full out scary yet.

The liberating part:

No automatic speech means less reactivity. I can witness habits of speech getting weaker and weaker from lack of repetition. There is a cool principal in the field of neuroscience called the Hebb principle: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Keep activating the same neural connections and the behaviors associated with those connections keep gaining traction. Now, I get to experiment with how language plays into this undoing of habits.

Loved ones call to chat, I simply listen and offer no responses. I am hearing them with much less self-agenda rising up. Interesting. If I need to share some information with my husband, I write a few choice words on a pad and leave all commentary out. An opinion arises in me, a reaction to a current political or social event and, I can feel, think and experience my reaction but it does not fly out of my mouth. The thing is, I am not missing hearing my own voice. Not yet.

I am not pretending that much of this does not suck but it sucks so much less than I would have thought had you told me I would be without a voice for two weeks and counting. Anticipating not having a voice would have created much more freak out than the reality of having no voice.

Six years ago I encountered voicelessness after surgery for thyroid cancer. Six years ago the experience was so layered with other issues that I was not able to surrender like I am now. I pushed for speech. I croaked and whispered through my recovery and did not fully bow to the experience. Not this time. Now, I am practicing a kind of patience that I was not able to fall back on before. I like this more patient me. Let’s see how much it spills out into all aspects of my life or how long it takes – when my voice returns- for me to get right back into my hyper verbal mode. Maybe there will be some permanent change. Maybe not. All will be revealed.

If you care to communicate with me, I would love it. Communicating via writing (so last century!) is rich so if you want someone to do it with, here I am!