Archives for 2020

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A Thrill of Hope

If ever the world was weary, this is the time. Universally there has been pain, frustration, fear and grief wearing us down in 2020. Alongside this is the universal message of peace and good will that is celebrated in numerous traditions worldwide at this time of year. Many great teachers, saints and sages perpetuate the important lesson that without inner peace or peace of mind, world peace will always be elusive.

One of the upsides of the “stay and safer at home” mandates has been a surge of downloads of meditation apps.

 “According to a new report from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the world’s 10 largest English-language mental wellness apps saw a combined 2 million more downloads during the month of April 2020 compared with January, reaching close to 10 million total downloads for the month.”

This brings a great thrill of hope to my mind and heart. From my experience, if one sincerely practices meditation, one cannot help but to experience less internal conflict, more peace of mind and the desire to extend that into the world. A question arose in my mind one day during a particularly peaceful practice.  “Does Peace have a cause?” Or is it an underlying universal state that is revealed when we settle down and calm our minds? To me, it feels like an inherent gift of the Divine, perhaps it is our original nature. It is never imposed upon us because, well it is PEACE and would never be inflicted against one’s will. We are free to cover it over with all of the world’s distractions for as long as we choose.

A very simple and time tested meditation practice is repetition of a word. One with meaning to you is the most helpful when training the mind. Repeating it mentally one time while inhaling, and twice while exhaling has been shown to benefit higher heart rate variability (HRV). According to Harvard Health Publishing, “ Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease. People who have a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and be more resilient to stress.”

I use the mantra “Hari OM” (the divine word) on inhale and “Shanti, Shanti” (Peace) on exhale. A word or phrase from your faith tradition or simply the word One in a sincere practice will garner the many benefits of meditation. There are many paths to peace of mind and from the many the great hope is that we will find our common good.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All,
Namaste and Love,


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Father Joe Revisited

Greetings Friends of Yoga,

As summer wanes and the saga of 2020 continues, strategies for coping with the shorter days and more time indoors are more important than ever.   I recently took an 8 day online pranayama and meditation course with Fr. Joe Pereira from his lockdown position in Vasai, India.  The sequence has been a godsend for these times and has become a daily must for me!  The daily program is one hour but taking any one or two of the practices in the sequence daily will provide much needed peace and courage of heart.

(Photo: Fr. Joe and Lynne at KRIPA headquarters in Mumbai, India,  1998)

Many of you are familiar with his work as we were fortunate to have him facilitate several yoga workshops in Anchorage in the 90’s and early 2000’s.  For those unfamiliar,  here is a brief synopsis of his work.

Fr. Joe is an Indian Jesuit priest who began taking yoga classes with BKS Iyengar in 1968 after becoming intrigued by a remark by the violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin that he was, “his best next violin instructor”.   Fr. Joe’s calling as a priest working closely with Mother Teresa melded with his yoga training in developing a ministry for alcoholics, drug addicts, sex workers and people living with HIV/AIDS.  In 1981, he and a recovering addict in his parish started the KRIPA (Grace) Foundation.  It has since developed into one of the largest NGOs in India with 30+ centers throughout the country and offices in Germany and Canada.

Jim and I were fortunate to have stayed for several weeks in two of the centers in 1998.  After one of Fr. Joe’s visits to our home, he and Jim cooked up the idea of installing a solar powered water pump for one the center’s that was running out of stored water due to loss of power to the pumps.  That is another story, but our time staying at the centers was so rich in experience and the palpable power of yoga and love to heal, “the poorest of the poor” (M. Teresa) and the “poorest of the poor in health” (Fr. Joe) that it left an indelible imprint on both of us.

You can join Fr. Joe LIVE later this month via Zoom.  Here is the information.

Courage of the heart
Offering with Fr. Joe Pereira
hosted by Leigh Anne Milne  Senior KFIY teacher, British Columbia, Canada

Join Fr Joe from your own home as he guides us with yoga and love.  Fr. Joe has a way of weaving spiritual teachings into practice, drawing the listener into a meditative mind.

A recording of this workshop will be made available for seven days following this event for those who are registered participants.

September 25th, 26th, 27th (Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
6 AM to 8 AM PDT
$105 Canadian

Register here:

I am assuming that it will be a condensed version of the 8 day program, but don’t quote me!

Here is the link to the 8 day recorded program and a pdf of my class notes. This class is being offered free of charge although  I do not know how long it will be accessible.

If you decide to take this RECORDED class, please consider making a donation to KRIPA Foundation:

My notes on the sequences are included below.   Fr. Joe’s rapid delivery, accent, and use of Sanskrit may be challenging for some.  There are a few phrases I did not catch and some that I’m not confident I got right.  I have interpreted and translated from my understanding of the concepts in the hope of adding to your understanding.





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2020 Vision

What more can 2020 throw at us? There are so many issues converging at once. I have genuine hope that we will access the strength of spirit and community to find and implement some lasting solutions. Setting the pandemic aside, the issue at the forefront of this moment is racial equality, justice and reconciliation. Abraham Maslow famously said, “ When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. I pray that this is the moment we set the hammer aside as the main tool used to nail racial inequality. Long lasting solutions will require every tool we have. I for one, have so much to learn but I know I am capable of learning if I have the right tools in my toolbox. I love Emmanuel Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”. If you haven’t already checked it out, visit

Here are two more resources that I found helpful:

Talking about race: from the National museum of African-American history and culture

Trevor Noah on George Floyd, Minneapolis protests, Ahmaud Arbery, and Amy Cooper

I’d love to hear of other resources that you have found helpful.

Yoga classes in America have yet to become a bastion of racial diversity. I have had only a handful of black students over the years. My eyes and heart were opened by one beautiful black student in the early 90’s who told me one day over lunch how she never entered a room without first scanning everyone in it to feel if there was any danger to her. It should not have been a shock to me, but it was at the time. I never had to experience that level of heightened alertness simply because of the color of my skin.

I’m currently reading The MindBody Code by Dr. Mario Martinez, subtitled, How to change the beliefs that limit your health, longevity and success. One of his main premises is that the cultural foundation of our beliefs has not been emphasized enough and that it is the link between cultural anthropology and psychoneuroimmunology in how our beliefs effect our health and well being. He argues that we all suffer from archetypal wounds of shame, abandonment and betrayel that are unique to our specific culture. We are seeing how a heavier burden of these wounds are inflicted on people of color in our society.

He continues to say that:
– Honor heals Shame
– Commitment heals Abandonment
– Loyalty heals Betrayal

He offers exercises, clinical studies, and evidence of positive outcomes from applying these principles. That sounds like a recipe for reconciliation to me or at least a start. It will take practice on a personal and collective level. MLK declared, “demonstration must lead to legislation for there to be reconciliation.” I’m excited about the possibilities to grow as a culture and as a democracy.

My yoga teaching schedule is on hold until further notice. The website workshop page will be updated as we evaluate our health and safety requirements moving forward.

I wish you all good health and well-being. Please take care of yourselves especially in enclosed places with groups of people.  We now know that, ”it’s the air we share” that is the main culprit in the transmission of COVID-19. I just heard the heartbreaking fact that 400 healthcare workers have literally sacrificed their lives to treat the infected. We wear the mask to protect them, your families and ours. And of course to look this cool!

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Yoga, the Stress Response, and a Healthy Immune System

We can’t really know certain things by talking about them alone.   Love, happiness, grief are only truly known through experience.  No one needs to hear a verbal definition of stress right now.  One new virus has given us all the experience we need.  As yoga practitioners, I know that you have had the experience of the well being, calm and inner peace that yoga can provide.  If you are on this mailing list, I don’t have to sell you on that.  But it may be a time to strengthen your resolve to practice in order to help get you and your loved ones through this trying time. (This too shall pass).

Why yoga for the immune system?  The immune system includes the tonsils, adenoids, thymus gland, lymph nodes, bone marrow, white blood cells, spleen and appendix.  Immune cells are circulating constantly throughout the body and some are stationed permanently in organs and tissues.  A competent immune system needs healthy skin, lungs, and gut which all rely on a healthy circulatory system.  Immune cells travel through the blood stream and lymphatic system.  The heart provides the pump for blood circulation, but the lymph system has no such pump and must rely on our daily movement to circulate properly and deliver immune cells to their proper checkpoints and target sites.

Yoga asanas move the body in every direction, stretching not only muscle but also skin and organs.  They squeeze and soak the tissues providing healthy circulation of nutrients, hormones and immune cells to every part of the body.  Committing to as little as 10 minutes of daily asana practice that includes a pose from each class of asana (standing pose, forward bend, backbend, twist, side bend, and inversion) can improve circulation and range of motion.  Practicing as little as 10 minutes 3 times a week can provide improvement in overall posture and thus circulation.  I happen to live with someone who is proof of the latter and will probably agree with me!

Perhaps even more crucial in these times is to mitigate mental stress with deep breathing and meditation.  How we react to stress has more influence on immunity than the stressful event itself.  Shallow, agitated respiration is read as danger in the body.  Studies have proven over and over, as I hope has your own experience, that deep, paced breathing and relaxation break the stress response and stimulate the relaxation response. The stress response triggers the adrenals, suppressing the immune system and causing one to feel as if everything is a crisis.  Taking some deep breaths breaks that cycle and brings about the dominance of the rest and digest response.   A 5 minute daily practice (2 minutes of full deep breathing and 3 minutes of sitting ENJOYING the quiet effect) can be a life changer, and maybe a life saver.  Of course these would be the minimum daily dosages.   When you have time for more, the benefits will multiply…but please DON’T stress over it!

Stay well, Be Well




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Memories of Mom

 Lynne and her 4 siblings collaborated on childhood memories and Lynne delivered this eulogy at their mother’s celebration of life.

I think we can all agree on two things about Mom, Lil … that she loved to laugh, and that she exceeded our expectations on her longevity!

And those two may actually have a lot to do with each other. We know that laughter is the BEST medicine and mom always took her minimum, and often maximum daily required dosage of laughter right up to her last waking day.

She also inherently knew a truth that I believe comes with wisdom, that there are IMPORTANT things in life but very little that needs to be taken SERIOUSLY. She could laugh at herself and frequently did. In fact, in our last conversation on the telephone she did just that.

My call woke her up and she was disoriented. “What happened to me?”, she asked. Cindy had mentioned that this could happen and how to prompt her to feel safe, so I responded, “Nothing happened mom, you’re in your room. Do you see the family photos on the wall?” She said, “ oh yes, I see my daughter”. I said, “yes and soon someone will come to help you get dressed, and then Thom will come for a visit and take you out of the room for awhile”.

She paused and then said with a laugh, “Well I guess I’m just NUTS!” And we both started to laugh so hard that my husband Jim caught the vibe from the other room and started laughing too.

Mom liked to make others happy. From surprise birthday parties to surprise gifts, to fun family vacations we, her children , benefited from her desire to make us happy. Just one of many stories is from my younger sisters, Julie and Margie. It was a hot summer day in July , about the time when they were in middle school and some vacation boredom had set in. They were out in the yard talking to a teenage neighbor who was out sunbathing. Mom came out with a big brown grocery bag. She, reached in, took something out and hurled it at Julie. The bag was filled with snow balls that she had kept in storage in the freezer from the previous winter. You can imagine what happened next, the unarmed neighbor may not have appreciated it quite as much as mom and the girls did ;-).

Mom was resilient. All of us at one time have commented that mom was such an inspiration in her ability to never complain. She would pick herself up and take charge of her life despite having MS or in the face of the difficulties and adversities she faced in her lifetime.  I recall one conversation from when mom found herself middle aged and single. She said, I’m going to travel. I want to go to Hawaii and China and I’m going to date for a while but within 5 years I’m going to meet someone for a serious relationship and remarry. She did all of those things! (the latter, more than once!)

Mom could be endearingly spacey.  When she finally got her first cell/ flip type phone, she was caught in frustration trying to get it to respond to her commands. Julie looked up and was able to clear up the problem by telling her, “Mom, that’s the TV remote.” Well who hasn’t done that right?

Mom was creative. She played piano and cello, and brought an artistic sense to our home and childhood. The first house that I remember living in, in Hales Corners had a basement play room. It was your typical cement brick walled Midwest basement with exposed pipes. Mom spruced it up with a hand painted mural depicting the counting nursery rhyme. See if you remember this: One Two….buckle my shoe, three, four…shut the door, five, six…Etc. Did I mention, that mom was a kindergarten teacher?

And, If you happened to be on the Christmas Card list, you may remember her hand drawn cards with our cut out heads attached (an early version of Jib/Jab) that we all loved until the ‘tween years when they were EVER so embarrassing.

Mom was supportive. She encouraged our individual interests and studies and celebrated our successes. From dance, to travel, to horses, to swimming, to scuba, to starting a business she was our cheerleader. I can remember several times being woken up after my bedtime because there was a program that mom thought would inspire me to further pursue a current hobby. I remember getting excited watching Juliet Prowse dance on a late night program. Sadly, the dream of professional ballerina did not pan out for me.

Mom knew when to set boundaries. We didn’t get away with being rude, or lazy. Household chores were always part of the weekly routine with a family of 7. The want ads were on display the year we each turned 16. We WOULD find a job.  Although we may not have been grateful at the time, we all grew up to be independent and self reliant as a result.

Mom was a beautiful woman. Lilian Fuss, Kosikowski, Cole, Geisler says it all. She was never long without male admirers or attention. Right up to our wonderful friend and her beloved companion Thom. She didn’t come off as needing the attention, she enjoyed it, but her genuine ability to make her companions feel happy in her presence and her delight in them, drew them to her.

Was she perfect? No, but who is? And today, we’ll forget any imperfections, because we want to remember her and send her on her new journey lightly and unencumbered by heavy thoughts. Let’s take a moment in silence to send her our unconditional love, and know that she is both receiving it and sending it back to us. (Moment of Silence)

Mom was fun. And she loved to Laugh. So, although we’ll have lots of tears today, we’ll soon remember the laughter and join together in that laughter in the memory of our mom and friend, Lilian.

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