Jonathan Foust

December 27, 2008

A Year of Living Mindfully begins in March, 2009

Filed under: Dharma — jonathanfoust @ 1:07 pm


Some YLM Members at a Recent Retreat

Some YLM Members at a Recent Retreat


I’m now taking applications for the second Year of Living Mindfully course, which starts in March.

I’ve fallen in love with our Year of Living Mindfully group and find it hard to think that our course will be coming to a close in three months.

The Year of Living Mindfully is an inquiry into the nature of awakened heart and mind.  We gather for weekend and daylong retreats, monthly gatherings and monthly interpersonal meditation.  For me, there is nothing more potent than aligning myself with like-minded people and sharing an ever-deepening inquiry into what it means to be alive and awake.

You can read an overview of the program here and download applications (in MS Word here and a pdf versions here.


Off to the New Year’s Retreat

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 8:20 am

Off to the New Year’s Retreat.  We have 100 people participating for five days of silent practice.

Retreats are busy times for me – in the best possible way.  I’ll be leading movement twice a day, doing interviews and giving an evening talk.  

Being around like-minded people engaging in authentic practice is my idea of heaven on earth.  I am honored to be serving and to be part of this.

May you be filled with happiness and joy as we transition to a new year.

December 23, 2008

Season’s Greetings

Filed under: Humor — jonathanfoust @ 8:15 am

Gotta love this.  (Thanks, Archie!)


The Prayer of St. Francis

Filed under: Dharma, Quotation, Video — jonathanfoust @ 7:17 am

In the Monday Night class at St. Mark’s Episcopal last night we explored Buddhist and Christian contemplative traditions.  Collie read the St. Francis prayer, pausing to let each line be an object of meditation and reflection.  I was quite moved by the play of phrases and silence.  

I’m in the middle of writing a talk for the upcoming New Year’s Retreat on the Path of the Bodhisattva and am struck at what potent words these are as we look to a new year.

Here’s a rendition of the St. Francis Prayer by Sarah Maclachlan:

The words:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

December 21, 2008

Happy For No Reason, Part V

Filed under: Humor, Video — jonathanfoust @ 11:07 am

I am so out of it.  I had no idea that this clip was a cultural phenomenon.  If you’d like to come up to speed with the rest of the world and indulge in a few minutes of happiness contemplation, check this one out.

A story in The Believer (June/July 2006) explored the song’s spread and global homogenization, while arguing that Brolsma’s video

“singlehandedly justifies the existence of webcams . . . It’s a movie of someone who is having the time of his life, wants to share his joy with everyone, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks”.


December 18, 2008

Yoga and Stress

Filed under: Dharma, Health — jonathanfoust @ 11:58 am



Leading Yoga on Retreat

Leading Yoga on Retreat

My first yoga class changed my life.  I was a freshman in high school when I stumbled into a yoga class offered by one of the teachers.  During the yoga nidra, or guided relaxation, I felt a conscious shift in my perception to a spaciousness and relaxation I hadn’t quite felt before.  Soon after I learned Transcendental Meditation and I was hooked.



Since then yoga and meditation have been an integral part of my life, either practicing regularly, teaching or training others how to teach it.

I’ve practiced most of the flavors of yoga, from intensely challenging postures that cultivate strength and concentration to practices that are a bit more in alignment with how I teach now – cultivating more of the surrendered, open and yet embodied presence.

The following is an article from Psychology Today which corroborates the effect of this practice.

Yoga: The Strongest Stretch

An ancient tradition, yoga gains modern muscle.


After the tsunami ripped through Southeast Asia in 2004 came a tidal wave of psychic devastation. The depression and posttraumatic stress that ravaged many residents of coastal villages from India to Indonesia provided a living laboratory for testing the most powerful cures available. What wound up providing the best help to some of the most afflicted refugees? Yoga.

Yoga is an age-old practice with roots in India—bas-reliefs depicting yoga asanas, or poses, have been found on 5,000-year-old archeological artifacts—but yoga as most Americans know it is only part of the picture. The hatha yoga popular here emphasizes the exercise element. There are many forms of yoga and all share an attempt to create a state of blissful enlightenment, called ananda. En route, specific forms of breathing and exercises encourage physical purification.

As a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College who studies the effects of yoga on posttraumatic stress, Patricia Gerbarg seized the opportunity to test whether it could help tsunami survivors in India. To one group of 60 victims she gave a four-day yoga breathing course. Another group of 60 survivors was given the yoga course along with psychological counseling. A third group served as controls.

All the yoga users experienced a huge drop in scores for posttraumatic stress disorder and depression after just four days. And the effect was so persistent that Gerbarg and her team introduced yoga to those in the control group too. Counseling provided no added benefits over the yoga training alone.

While some forms of yoga have long been shown to reduce hypertension, cholesterol levels, and other signs of physiological stress, the effects of the ancient practice on psychological stress have been less studied. But a slew of research published in peer-reviewed journals in the U.S., Europe, and India is documenting the ability of yoga to decrease mood disturbance, reduce psychic stress and anxiety, and reduce PTSD symptoms. Effects have been seen within days of initiating instruction, and have been documented up to six months after a course of yoga training.

You don’t have to weather a natural disaster or receive a clinical diagnosis to benefit from yoga, says Lorenzo Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Calling it “the quintessential mind-body practice,” Cohen predicts that yoga “can and will be shown to be helpful for managing the stress and mild anxiety we all experience in daily living.”

A group of healthy senior citizens in Oregon embodies Cohen’s claims. They experienced improved energy and a greater sense of well-being after six months of yoga training. The study was particularly valuable because it compared the yoga group with seniors engaging in walking exercise classes. The non-yoga exercisers reported no such benefit.

In her yoga course, Gerbarg trains trauma sufferers in four types of yogic breathing that range from focusing on slow, complete exhalation to taking 30 breaths a minute. She and her husband, psychopharmacologist P.L. Brown of Columbia University, have found that yogic breathing physiologically affects the nervous system to produce profound changes in emotional states.

It acts via the vagus nerve—the “rest and digest,” or calming, pathway of the autonomic nervous system extending from brain stem to abdomen; when activated, it slows down breathing and heart rate and increases intestinal activity. It not only carries signals from brain to body but ferries signals from the body back to the brain. “Your breathing pattern changes with emotional reactions to things,” Gerbarg says. “Well, it goes both ways: If you change your breathing pattern, you can change your emotions.”

Lynn Waelde, a psychologist at Stanford University and a yoga teacher, explains yoga’s mind-body benefits in more metaphorical terms. “When we teach yoga, we teach people to let go of physical tensions,” she says. “When you sit them in a chair in meditation, they get it. It’s an easy step to see how you can breathe and focus on emotional or mental tension and let it go.”

Could yoga save the world? It improves fitness, it doesn’t cost anything, it has minimal side effects, it acts quickly, and the benefits endure. The advantages are especially important when applied on a large scale to impoverished people. Gerbarg and Cohen believe the value of yoga is just beginning to be documented. “We’re in the early phases of something very exciting, and there’s a lot more to learn about it,” Gerbarg says. “This is not something you need to religiously incorporate into your daily life and do for years before you start to feel the benefits.”

By Paul Tullis

Last Reviewed: 29 May 2007

Psychology Today © Copyright 1991 – 2008


December 16, 2008

Happy for No Reason, Part IV

Filed under: Humor, Video — jonathanfoust @ 8:03 am

If you liked the original Bobbie McFerrin version of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and are a sucker for cute animal shots, then this one is definitely for you.

December 15, 2008

What The Bleep Am I?

Filed under: Dharma — jonathanfoust @ 8:44 am


What Are You Really?

What Are You Really?

Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of India, once said we could understand our true nature by asking two questions.  “Who Am I?” and “What do I really really want?”

All spiritual practices come down to this question.  As the mind settles, awareness turns to itself.

I’m excited to be offering a daylong retreat dedicated to delving into this inquiry. 


The process we’ll be doing comes from the tradition of the ‘Enlightenment Intensive,’ developed by Charles Berner, who is part of the lineage of the ashram where I lived for many years.  Thousands of Enlightenment Intensives have taken place since the 80’s when Charles introduced them to the public.  I led a variation of this form for years, but the classic Enlightenment Intensive uses dyads, or partners to go deeper and deeper into this transformational exploration.

In the inquiry process itself, you sit across from a partner in the spirit of what I call ‘interpersonal meditation.’  When your partner asks you, ‘Please Tell Me What You Are,’ you invoke a true sincere and authentic quality of inquiry as you open to the question. You reflect internally and pay intimate attention to what arises.  Then, to the best of your ability, you articulate what is present.

I’ve done a number of the classic three-day retreats and find them sometimes excruciating but always rewarding.   First I tend to get bored with myself, which eventually inspires a deeper listening … and at some point I start to sense who I am beyond the mind and my collection of stories.  It’s quite magical.  A deep sense of intimacy builds as I find myself touched and inspired by those around me who authentically seek to know their true nature.  I’m always inspired and moved by those around me as a sense of who we are – transcendent of our stories – grows, deepens and expands.

This retreat will be one full day with breaks for movement, meditation, rest and rejuvenation.

 I deeply love this level of exploring and sharing with a group of like-minded people.  This is rarified air.


The daylong retreat is January 10th at the Carderock Swim Club.  Enrollment is limited, so you might like to reserve early if you are interested.  If you’d like to download an application, you can click here.

December 11, 2008

A New Phase of the Fast: Colon Cleansing

Filed under: Health — jonathanfoust @ 10:55 am

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this 29-day cleanse.

Over the first three weeks or so I eliminated the following foods, which I’d already been eating in moderation (or rarely at all):

  1. Caffeine
  2. Dairy products
  3. Wheat
  4. Sugar or artificial sweeteners
  5. Alcohol
  6. Red meat (chicken once a week)

I have been eating:

  1. Fruit smoothies (or soups) made with apple, ginger, banana, spirulina, whey protien, cashews
  2. Vegetable smoothies (or soups) with apple, ginger, carrot and celery and other greens
  3. Potassium broth (carrots, potatoes, beets) with miso 
  4. Steamed cabbage and greens with rice
  5. Kitchari (basmati rice, mung beans and spices)

I’m now completing the five-day colon cleanse phase.

One thing I like about this program is that you moderate your food intake during the 21 days.  It’s flexible and encourages you to listen to your body and be intuitive.  The more raw you go, the deeper the cleanse.  Sometimes raw felt great and other times I felt a bit weak or spaced out or headachy at which time I’d shift to cooked food like a meal of steamed cabbage, raw organic olives, olive oil and rice.  

The colon cleanse phase calls for juices and raw food.  

I had one colonic on Tuesday, and it was fantastic.  Robert Jordan has a new colon cleansing machine (Colenz) which is remarkably gentle and easy.  You administer it by yourself.  (I caught up on a whole episode of ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ on my iphone while relaxing on my back and letting the water flow and ebb all by itself.)

After the colon cleanse I felt amazingly light, nimble and clear.  I went on to lead the Tuesday Movement and Meditation class and I must say I felt as flexible as I did in my twenties.  I was inspired (and giddy) enough to demonstrate my one ‘show off’ yoga posture.

The main part of the colon cleanse includes taking a digestive stimulator once a day and every three hours a small packet of psyllium and bentonite, a clay that helps clean the colon walls.  Yesterday was an apple fast.  All I had was apple juice, some apple sauce and a little banana.  I felt great all day and with the psyllium filling my gut, I also felt quite full.

I’m doing another day of just liquids and tomorrow I go in for my final colonic.  Then I start the transition back to more solid food again. 

I highly recommend this cleanse.  I feel great. My eyesight has improved quite a bit and the TMJ I had is better, too.  I’m much more flexible.  My head is much clearer.

The product is Blessed Herbs.  I got it from Robert Jordan Health Services in Rockville and had my colonics with him as well.

I’m happy to support you if you have any questions and are considering something like this.

December 8, 2008

Happy for No Reason, Part III

Filed under: Cool Things, Humor, Video — jonathanfoust @ 12:50 am

This clip is quite absorbing.  There is deep happiness and presence in these images and sounds.

This is from a series done by a fellow who records street musicians around the world and edits them together.


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