The Commune Blog

On Set with Bhagavan Nityananda

the lab Jun 15, 2020

Where does wisdom come from? Who teaches the teachers who appear in Commune courses? And what is the root source of their insights? 

This week we are filming a new breathwork course with Scott Schwenk and he showed up on set with an extra special guest…

“I bring him wherever I teach to remind me that I don’t own the energy of the work. It’s not my work. I am a steward of the work. And to remind me also that if I get lost or confused in a moment of teaching to come back to the focus of surrendering to the energy of wakefulness that moves through the lineage.”  ~ Scott 

Who have been your teachers? How do you remind yourself of where your own knowledge comes from?

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Granny Annie’s Gardening Story

the lab Jun 11, 2020

Julia and I recently had the great relief of unloading our gardening woes into the caring hands of Schuyler’s mother, Ann (aka Granny Annie). 

Ann was homesteading outside of Sebastapol, CA long before I was a glint in my mother’s eye, and upon hearing of our mangled cucumbers and decimated kale, she leaned in and with a dramatic whisper told us, “I have a story for you.”

Here it is, transcribed (and lightly edited) directly from her archives. I hope you enjoy, “Advice from a Polish Gentleman,” by Ann Grant:

I’ve got an enormous garden: a veggie garden that yells at me starting in early spring and continues loud well into fall. 

Then I have a landscape garden. I like to think that of this as an “estate.” Not quite as overweening as the garden of some Englishman’s castle, a lord or a duke, and being the inheritor of generations of such folk. No, I don’t pretend to that degree of “estate.”...

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7 Ridiculous Exercises We Made Up on the Commune

the lab Jun 06, 2020

I danced classical ballet for 15 years before I took a yoga class. One lithe sport to another — easy transition, right? A decade later I now explain it like this: In a professional ballet company the only thing that matters is how it looks to the audience (and, really, the artistic director). In yoga, the only thing that matters is how it feels to you. Like the political spectrum, which arcs around until the extreme right and left seem more similar to each other than the middle, yoga and ballet are so different that they start to look a lot alike.

It has been a long journey from caring about form to valuing function (and fun!). Now I value how a movement feels, and what it does in my body, not how it looks. 

Which is an extended way of saying, Julia and I like to make up weird exercises. Out here in the mountains, who is to judge? 

Here’s what we’ve invented recently, from least strange to strangest:  

#7 - Make a Rectangle

Why do chaturanga after...

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From Commune to COVID Unit

the lab May 29, 2020

It’s easy to forget where Julia is going when she rolls out of bed at 5 in the morning and disappears into the sunrise. Birds chirp outside the yurt. I make tea. 

Meanwhile, my partner is preparing to rebreathe her own carbon dioxide all day under 3 layers of face protection in the COVID unit. 

In my world I do weird yogic hyperventilation, bake bread, and open my computer to answer emails. 

In her world she is caring for patients she can’t touch, who have a disease with no cure.

At the end of my workday I putter in the garden.

She ends her day stripped down and showered before she can hug anyone. 

Back together, I give her all the support I can. Kittens are a secret weapon. And a lot of listening. 

I hope this recording helps all of us better understand what nurses are going through, so we can be there for them as best we can. 

P.S. It’s a good sign when I receive midday nurse memes from Julia. That usually means things are going OK....

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Sing Along to the Super Potato Song

the lab May 19, 2020

It’s 5pm and all the adults must now leave the yoga studio…

At a moment when global forces have wiped away all pretense of routine for Jeff and Schuyler’s two youngest daughters, they have created a small sacred ritual of their own here at Commune Topanga.

Every day 12-year-old Ondine teaches dance class to 10-year-old Micah, and together they choreograph elaborate recitals complete with costume changes and spanning a wide array of musical styles.

For the most part, these performances are kept strictly secret until showtime, but I caught wind of this particular song and dance while washing dishes with Micah and convinced her to give us an early showing. 

So without further ado, here is Micah’s Broadway-style rendition of the Super Potato Song, (originally from Peppa Pig, I believe): 

Do you have a favorite vegetable song? Post it in the comments!

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What Do Beekeeping and Laser Hair Removal Have in Common?

the lab May 12, 2020

An idyllic beekeeping scene, moments before disaster...

It felt like a good time to finally let the new queens out of their cages. Sunday morning yoga complete and plenty of gardening ahead — but first, the queens. 

Eli the beekeeper pulled up in his truck and I donned my bee suit, covered from head to toe, minus the gloves. I’ve been apprenticing with Eli as he manages 12 hives on property, and he encourages bare hands as a way to work gently and precisely around the bees. You get stung occasionally, but you learn to coax rather than manhandle.

Today we were releasing the queens we had introduced in tiny cages 4 days ago, a straightforward procedure.

Like most accidents, several factors overlapped. Eli moved to a different hive with the smoker. I didn’t notice the hive next to me was aggravated and swarming. And as I mentioned, no gloves. Boom, boom. Two stings on my hand. No big deal, I’ve been stung before. But then three more in quick succession,...

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How Commune Does Sourdough

the lab May 04, 2020

Here at Commune, we have not escaped the bread-baking bug, though we would have tested positive well before 2020. 

As millions of Americans turn to their ovens, they have been particularly drawn to sourdough — mixing flour, water, and salt not with a purchased yeast packet, but with a living, breathing sourdough starter.

Our starter comes from Schuyler’s mother, and like any faithful pet, a good starter becomes a member of the family. When my 4-year-old cousin learned it was alive he named it “Minky” and bawled the first time my aunt made bread, “I DON’T WANT TO EAT MINKY!” In fact, there is no limit to how long the culture can survive — this loaf was baked with 4,500-year-old yeast from Egypt, and there are archival libraries of starters. But if you want to start your own, it’s not too hard either (though somewhat tedious), as water and flour will naturally ferment on your counter. You can also buy one on Etsy. This ...

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Take a Tour of Commune Yurt Living

the lab Apr 27, 2020
We were just finishing our first property visit of what is now Commune Topanga when the real estate agent said, “You know, there’s one more area I should show you, but it’s kind of overgrown.” 

We hadn’t even noticed the offshoot when we drove in — decades of sagebrush narrowed the dirt road to a thin trial, but we scratched our way uphill in spite of the July heat. At the top, the road abruptly flattened into a lovely nook overlooked by old oak trees. 

Surveying the thigh-high dried grass, Jeff joked: “Jake, this is where you can build your yurt!” We all laughed and moved on, but the seed was planted, and that seed grew into a home.

So, why live in a 314-square foot, off-grid yurt? Let us count the ways...

#4 - Living in the Round

Yes, living in the round requires asking your woodworking friends to build you custom countertops, but there is something delightfully organic about a circular home. Lying in bed,...

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How Not to Name New Kittens

the lab Apr 23, 2020

Three things we’ve learned while fostering these 3-week old furballs.

When you learn to look, our world is full of mutual need fulfillment. The tree needs the microbes for nutrients and the microbes need the tree for sugar. The chickens eat our table scraps and we eat their eggs. And when you have a house full of socially isolated pre-teen girls, the animal shelters have a surplus of abandoned kittens to foster!

One rainy day last week, we got the call: “Two black kittens, three weeks old, can you pick them up now?”

Within thirty minutes Julia and I pulled alongside a lone gray Pathfinder in an empty parking lot.  We had a box, the masked man had the kittens, syringes, and nipples. No paperwork. No physical contact. A moment later and we were driving home with a lapful of mewing miniature cats.

So it goes, fostering kittens in the time of COVID. 

Here are three things we’ve learned as a community while raising kittens:

  • Young kittens need help...

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Take the 5-Minute Shake Challenge!

the lab Apr 14, 2020

Bonus points for how big you smile...

Ever since I first heard Chubby Checker sing “Let’s do the twist” at a second-grade sock hop, I’ve loved songs that make you shake your body until you can’t breathe, or stop laughing, or both. 

Shaking just feels right. Happy, wet dogs wading out ponds and tiny kittens trembling for a warm touch know what I’m talking about.

This where I could point you to ancient qi gong shaking practices or the groundbreaking trauma work of Peter Levine, but I don’t feel the need for a hard sell here...

I don’t need to teach you any poses or positions. has no special equipment to sell you.
Carpet or hardwood, it’s all good.
No partner required. 

Welcome to the perfect social isolation self-therapy.

Turn on some music.
Set a 5-minute timer.
Don’t. Stop. Moving! 

In this little timelapse, Julia and I were listening to:

What is your favorite shake soundtrack? How did you feel after...

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