Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Postcard from Beichuan by Scott Wong

The following is a letter from my dear friend Scott, who recently took a trip to the Sichuan Province in China. This was the main epicenter of May's devastating earthquake. I found his words to be impassioned and powerfully moving, personalizing this disaster that most of us cannot even fathom. Below, I share his letter with you. He's included photos as well, which depict the incomprehensible loss of life and home, but also the sustained spirits of the survivors.

If you are so inspired, please seek ways you can be of service, whether by sending donations (perhaps via Children's Hope International), offering prayers, or sending healing energy. At the very least, perhaps you can pass this blog along to continue awareness that many of our brothers and sisters still need a huge amount of help.

:: Lokah Samasthah Sukhino Bhavantu ::
:: May all beings everywhere be happy and free ::

Leah xo

I have just returned from an emotional trip to Sichuan Province, the main epicenter of the recent May earthquake in China. I was invited by a close local Chinese friend of mine to see the earthquake damaged areas and to assist him in a few days of volunteering. He himself has been stationed there for over a month, overseeing a daily series of "outward bound" style programs and activities for the earthquake affected youth.

A friend and I met up with Jia Guo Peng in Mianyang after flying 3 hours from Beijing. It took about 1.5 hours by car to reach Beichuan, not including the amount of time to switch to a locally hired van who is unrestricted to enter the quake area. Beichuan is a remote area in Sichuan that became well known after the earthquake for being one of the most heavily damaged counties. As we approached the neighboring villages, it became clear from the roadside refugee camps and leftover landslides that 2 months after the earthquake, the infrastructure had yet to see any improvement. Before reaching the actual villages, we stopped at some of the refugee camps where thousands of families were living in less than ideal temporary tents.

Upon reaching Beichuan, we were greeted by our local tour guides, some high school students who Jia Guo Peng had taught recently and were home for summer vacation to be with their families. As we walked through the piles of rubble and remnants of family possessions, I tried hard to imagine what this village looked like before when all the buildings were standing. It is estimated up to 10,000 people died in Beichuan. The entire area looked like a scene from a war zone that was just bombarded. With less than fluent Chinese, I was given detailed accounts of how this school was here and this many students died, or how these parents lost their daughter or son, or if you were lucky, the entire family survived but everything else was gone. In order to keep a positive spirit during our visit, I tried not to think about the fact that these people had very little before and now have even less.

Moving inward, refugee camps were spread everywhere and fortunately families have clean water to drink and food seems to be readily available. But the estimated time to rebuild the county is 3 years from now and therefore these tents, plotted on simple dirt and mud, will be many people's homes for a long time to come. The Government is providing immediate assistance, in part by doling out 10 RMB (a bit more than 1 US$) a day to help the victims of the earthquake and by providing safe and temporary shelter. Some people have taken it in their own hands and are digging out re-usable bricks from the rubble to help re-assemble other buildings and homes.

But in all of this darkness, there is a significant amount of hope that exists in the community and particularly the young people who are becoming accustomed to this new way of life. Outside volunteers like Jia Guo Peng, as well as some of the other local volunteers are everyday heroes, helping to bring back a sense of normality and community to the lives of younger and more vulnerable people. The students who showed us around demonstrated immense courage and maturity to deal with the earthquake and its aftermath and make-shift schools have been put in place to educate them. Business was brisk for those few stores and restaurants still operating. Spiritually, the community is rebuilding and I'm happy to see their determination to move forward.

For many of us, we have largely left this news to rest, desensitized to the images on our TV and internet and all too ready to move on to some other headline news story like the Olympics. However, I am one of the fortunate ones, reminded that there is still much to be done.

As many of you are aware and have seen days after the earthquake, more than 70,000 people, many of whom were children, died in this natural disaster. Some of you have kindly responded to the earthquake by providing donations. Thank you, if you have.

There are certain trips and experiences that shape our lives for the better; this one has left a deep and lasting impression on me. For some of my trip photos including brief captions, please click on the link below and run through the slideshow.

Regards from Beijing


Saturday, July 19, 2008

20 July 2008: 108 Sun Salutations

A few weeks ago, I participated in my first ever yoga fundraiser, organized by Yoga Aid. Yoga Aid hosts The Yoga Aid Challenge in venues across the globe (in the US in September), in an effort to spread the love of yoga and to raise money for various charities. This year marked the first Yoga Aid Challenge held in Hong Kong, at the Asia Yoga Conference. Starting bright and early at 6:30 AM, a couple hundred yogis gathered together for 108 Sun Salutations led by teachers from around the world, including one of my main teachers, Bryan Kest from Santa Monica.

In short, I felt truly honored to be a part of this beautiful event.

Each of the 12 teachers led us through a set of 9 Sun Salutations with their own personal touches. Generally speaking, each Sun Salutation was a traditional Surya Namaskar sequence, which goes something like this: Tadasana :: reach for the sun :: Uttanasana :: Crescent with knee down :: Plank :: Chattarunga :: Cobra :: Down Dog :: Crescent with knee down (opposite leg) :: Uttansana :: reach for the sun. A few teachers broke this mold, most notably my beloved teacher Bryan, who was the only teacher to bring us onto our knees (met by a unanimous sigh of relief) and the only teacher to not teach one traditional Sun Salute. It made me smile, and I think everyone’s wrists appreciated the reprieve. Two other teachers stood out to me personally: Duncan Wong, who led us through his Yogic Arts - Warrior Flow, which was the only time we turned around on our mats to face the back of the room or made a sound other than “Om”, and Jules Febre, who counted the transition from Tadasana to reaching the arms up as one Sun Salute, making me laugh out loud in glee and gratitude.

108 Sun Salutations is a LOT of yoga. I made it with the help of Child’s Pose and by dedicating my breaths to the children supported by my charity of choice – the India Heritage Research Foundation – and to those of you at home for your love and support. Below I’ve listed personal thank you’s to everyone who donated, representing both coasts of the US, Europe, and Asia! There are also a few yoga-related companies represented; please check out their sites if you’re looking for yoga clothes, accessories, or downloadable classes. Thank you so much, brothers and sisters. Because of your sponsorship, I was one of the Top 10 Fundraisers. I got to stand up and take a bow and everything! ;)

This month has been a powerful and abundant one for me. In addition to the yoga fundraiser and having Bryan in town (which in and of itself was such an amazing gift, representing yet another nudge of support from the Universe), I moved into my new home, visited family in Seoul (happy 80th birthday, grandma!), and booked my flight to the States for my first visit back in over a year. That’s right, this month marks my 1 year anniversary of moving to Hong Kong!

Giggling with glee and gratitude,


Big thanks and big love to…

Allison :: Annie :: Becky :: Bernadette :: Christina :: Dcho :: Em :: Frank (naturalhighlifestyle.com) :: Gilly :: Irene :: Jay :: Jimmy :: Karen :: Kyle :: Mark :: Michelle C. :: Michelle H. :: My Soy :: Nan :: Rich :: Rob :: Ruben :: Sara (yogichocolate.com) :: Silas :: Steph :: Steve :: Susan (yogitoes.com) :: Thomas :: Yen

in California :: Denmark :: Hong Kong :: NYC

…for your overwhelming, heartwarming, and inspiring generosity! How incredible to have a global network of support!

PS It’s not too late to donate! My page will be live and collecting donations through the end of July. Or better yet, sign up to participate at one of the next Yoga Aid Challenges!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Yogi Chocolate is Yummy" indeed

article from Elephant Journal:

"Yogi Chocolate gives you downloadable yoga classes by donation; millions of health & social conscious individuals practicing yoga at thousands of yoga studios worldwide; Ideal bite and free eco-living tips; featuring great teachers like Kathryn Budig, Laura Downing, Bryan Kest, Jay Co, Leah Kim, Sara Levere.

“Yogi Chocolate exists to bring all the yogis and yoginis together worldwide…They believe in the power of the people, in the power of connection, in the power of the ability to heal and nourish the self and thrive through being yoga… Yogi Chocolate.com runs on donation basis - Simply put: The act of giving…Their teachers put a lot of effort and love into creating their classes for you. Yogi Chocolate.com is committed to using their earnings to better the world. The majority of classes are hatha yoga of all different styles; you’ll also find live kirtan chanting recordings and guided meditations. 99% of downloads are currently audio, but video is available with more coming soon! They have received 800+ downloads to date! They currently have 850+ members from all 35 countries including Vietnam, US, UK, Tanzania, Spain, South Korea, Slovak Republic, Seychelles, PuertoRico, Portugal, Poland, Philippines, New Zealand, Mexico, Lithuania, Korea (North), Japan, Israel, Ireland, Indonesia, India, Hungary, Hong Kong, Greece, Germany, Georgia, Denmark, Costa Rica, Colombia, Canada, Brunei, Austria, Australia, Argentina, Algeria. There are 47 teachers with classes in Spanish and Russian. Three charities are supported through their site. Teachers have the option of giving their portion of proceeds to charity. They get to choose the organization. Yogi Chocolate.com plans on having a “Future of Yoga” exhibit at Yoga Month Celebration in September, Downtown, LA. Their 1-year anniversary will be in just a few weeks in August 2008.”

It’s so great, I’ve become a part of YogiChocolate. You can find me in their teachers search and practice yoga with me in Spanish, all you have to do is write “Yeye”, and click “search”. Which reminds me a conversation I had this morning with my boyfriend Satchel and him saying to me: “It does not seem right to me that you review a site that you are part of”, to validate his point I say: YOU should try it and send us your review!"