Poetry/Prose

Great Glass Walls

Image credit: Mine, Beijing 2010

Image credit: Mine, Beijing 2010

Dear Anonymous,

I tried to write a note to you today but when I was about to send it, I thought of all the synapses that would fire in your brain and cause you to respond in the way that you would, because you think the things that you naturally do.

And I wondered in that moment, how many people I have loved had wanted to write to me but couldn’t because they knew the same …

… that some strange volition within me would take the purity of their words and feed an ego that just couldn’t know better at that time.

How many?

I wanted to tell you so many details. Things that would get lost on the way to your deeper wisdom. I have tried this before. I know. They will.

So now I will send you nothing at all–something more pure than the ego can touch. Something so subtle it overwhelms the world. Something that will never be said but somehow be known until the moment before we die or almost do–what is real, what is true.

There is no me. And there is no you.

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Poetry/Prose

Sheet Music (stream of consciousness)

In the West, all notes must resolve by the end of the piece—what goes up must come down and must be justified by a partner note that balances it, somewhere, even miles ahead, in the movement. Perhaps this is the case in Eastern music as well, but the way of achieving this for both ‘ends’ of the Earth is radically different.

In the end, our life is but a single symphony, among many. Reborn into different initial notes, we must resolve, again and again, what we embody different recognizable shapes of flesh, bone and nerve to do.

When the last note is played, the book is set down, and another is lifted to the pedestal. We will do it all again, starting on a different note, in a different hall, in a different city, with a different crowd. Again.

I don’t care anymore who says we are living just one life and going to heaven or hell—it is clear to me that we create these things on Earth anyway. And we must soon all take responsibility for our part in their manifestation!

You are in the midst of this particular life. Your eyeballs reading this screen here in this patch of time, before you see it on glasses, and then contact lenses, and then through a chip in your brain and then not at all because you just know it because you are a cave person in an unsettled land on a newborn habitable planet, and on and on the future unfolds and unwraps beyond our imaginations.

You see anyway, when you realize this life is but one of yours, that the smaller few-day spans of time, that used to cause us such agony in unknowing and anxiety in the unforeseeable, become way more bearable, even laughable. Detaching just enough, we see how life rolls. Yet this will never preclude the stark reality that we must get in there–lest we be thrown in– to role around with it too … we are part of the orchestra after all. We cannot escape, or we will be politely yet firmly invited to face, again, those parts of the music.

When we loosen our bow ties or exchange our heals for soft soles–walk swiftly to the parking lot with instruments slung over our shoulders–what do we feel following behind us? What is our legacy? Even through perfect execution of notes, we created some drama—and we are left with the residual. It accompanies many of us to bed. It greets just as many first thing in the morning. This symphony. This melodrama.

And in the end, who the heck cares what any of it means so much as how you behaved?! Were you giving props to the guy on the tuba? Did you work with the first-seat violinist? Did you see your role within all of it? Try to expand it? Max out your power to add value? Or did you fight and yearn to break out of it? Did you play your part, let others play theirs? Did you feel the applause deeply and take it on as yours? Did you let the glory live in your heart and the modesty sit in your mind—the knowledge always that you were just practicing, like any other day … that you are always just practicing?

Did you see the times you want to repeat again, make just a bit better, just a bit sweeter, just a bit more true to the moment, and eventually more … heavenly?

Because without your decisions, it’s only sheet music.

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Poetry/Prose, Yoga & Spiritual

All Together Now

472424a-f1.2If there was a checkbox for me, to choose, I would tick undefined. But somehow in this world we must define ourselves. What on Earth kind of paradox is this? How do you define a human being?

Tags, IDs, social security numbers … sounds tidy, as per the usual epic fail.

How then? Writer, lawyer, teacher, occupational therapist, plastic surgeon, engineer, scientist, tour guide, relief worker, programmer, dentist, DJ, circus performer. Really? Is that really who you are? What about yogi? Honestly, it’s time we all got a life.

Yes, I spend time practicing yoga and teaching it–learning just as much each time I do.

What I’m trying to get at here actually, as I sidewind my way into the point, is that just because I do this, doesn’t mean that a lot of other things people glue to these termed-yoga activities are true. Same with any title–they’re all about as misleading and temporarily reassuring as a Klondike at 2 a.m. when you’re trying to lose a few pounds.

So many people look at me as someone who has some answers. Someone who can help them. And to a degree I can, but only to the point that guides and demonstrates how they can help themselves. Because it is through these practices that we “yogis” do just that, for ourselves.

Specifically, we bend, stretch, open and, basically, tenderize ourselves. We aim to explore ourselves and interact with the world from a more raw yet deeply faithful place. It’s like moving into high def about life, yet developing, through, shitloads of practice every day, more wherewithal and strength to detach and realize it’s just a TV and all of these melodramas are inevitable programs.

The challenge is that, with this perspective, we have to get real grounded into the role we play in whatever series we find ourselves. It’s not an escape. There is no escape from what we were born to do.

This, in a very crude nutshell, and in my humble opinion, is the pursuit of someone practicing yoga in a deeper capacity.

And yet!

Expectation hangs in the air–that I have it all together. I get it from guys I date, friends who are just getting to know me, people who just discovered my classes. I’m the lady who has it together and will teach people how to have it together. It’s really interesting. I bet a lot of people, in other healthcare professions, know exactly what I am talking about, too.

This month I hit a new personal record on things I thought I could accomplish. I will spare you. Just imagine James Bond is a woman and she’s in Doha and it was so intense that it could only be handled moment by moment, with the big picture in mind. My gears all but burned out … and my composure let in some light through a few cracks toward the end of it all.

Last night I realized–over a glass of wine at a party–that I don’t feel home anywhere and at times totally rely on the logic and reason of people I have grown, over years, to trust to tether me to the closest idea of home a person can ever truly have–human connection.

Yes, I am a practitioner of yoga. But this month really waved it in my face that this life is not at all about having it all together.

Newsflash: you only think you do–stop thinking that for just a second … before life forces you to do it … to see something important.

This gig gets really good when get a sense of when to be strong and when to be vulnerable. When to take care of ourselves and when to surrender to the love around us, the help of friends.

When to get it together. And when to get it all together.

I looked into quite a few eyes over the past week and was utterly rocked by all of the comfort, understanding, deep perception I saw. The few words spoken in passing to help me along.

The grace and elegance that people demonstrate when they reach out to help you is one of the most incredible displays of magic and beauty I know. I drove through the city–sensing the pulsing clubs and house parties at full throttle yet enjoying the quiet roads–totally baffled by hindsight reflection on the loving tentacles of spirit that reached out to grab me lately, despite my dire need to be a strong, yogi, leader type.

So many people smiled and said: relax, relax, relax … like the cheer lines along a marathon.

We are so much alike. The differences so slight, only made bigger when we think and believe we have it together and always will. Ha! Well, honey, you will see it all for what it is when you don’t. When you’re truly tied to everyone you’ve tended to loving, or the people in the institution paid to love you.

For life, it seems, is designed to teach you what it really means to have it all together.

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Yoga & Spiritual

Your Guru, Your Gita~transcript excerpt from Krishna Das workshop, April 25, 2014

Krishna revealing his infinite power to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita

Krishna revealing his infinite power to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita

Krishna Das [KD]: All we do is think about ourselves, all the time.

If we thought about other people one millionth of the time, we’d probably …

… if we could treat other people, the way we want to be treated, we wouldn’t have a problem in the world.

So love is the Guru, real love is the Guru.

When we are not thinking about ourselves all of the time, we might notice that we can feel that love. But if we are only thinking about ourselves all day long, there’s no space for love to shine in. So somehow we have to calm those thoughts.

So what we do when we practice [mindfulness/kirtan/meditation], you know, we’re trying to catch raindrops. You can’t catch raindrops like this [turns palms down]. You catch raindrops like this [presses sides of palms together with them facing up], you can like this.

So after a while, you get some water here.

Audience Member: I guess I ask the question because I’ve heard it said that you have many teachers, but in the physical form you have one Guru … and not two, and that’s why I’m asking your specific take on that. Just curious.

KD: Well, I’ve met Babas who have consciously taken new bodies. One Baba I knew left the body when he was 250 years old. Didn’t mean that his physical body was 250 years old–that was his third body. He consciously went into … he was born, reached a certain stage, wanted to finish his work so he needed a new body, did it again, three times. He died in ’89 …

So if they can do that they can do anything. They can take a body right in front of you right now if that’s what you need. Do you understand? A real Guru has one motive only: connection. They don’t need anything. They don’t want anything. They’re only available for us when that’s what we need, when that’s going to be the best thing for us. And it’s not about physical time.

… For a being like that there is no physical. But for us there’s physical. And the idea is you have one Guru, that’s the idea. But the physical part is a misunderstanding. That Guru can come to you in every form, every shape. A bird. A dog. All these …

 

 

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Music/Book Reviews, Poetry/Prose, Yoga & Spiritual

‘On Being Spiritual’– transcript excerpt from Krishna Das workshop, April 25, 2014

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Krishna Das (right) and his drummer, Arjun–what an honor to sit close to him for the afternoon

Audience member (AM): Hi.

Krishna Das (KD): Hello.

AM: My question is: Do you consider yourself as a spiritual person? Because, I would say that your sense of humor, seems to me quite cynical for a spiritual person.

[Audience breaks out in laughter]

KD: It’s me, it’s not you.

AM: I wouldn’t expect that …

KD: Would you define spiritual person since you don’t think I am one?

[More laughter from audience]

AM: A spiritual person in my mind …

KD: Wears white, talks very sweetly …

AM: … Yeah!

KD: Those are the people who wind up … [hesitates, looks down and smiles]

AM: … About unconditional love and …

KD: Those are the people who don’t have any shadows in their life, and they’re happy all the time, well then that’s wonderful, but that’s not me.

AM: Like, would you … uh … think of changing that in you? Or … like …

[Laughter resumes loudly throughout audience]

AM: … Some person to be spiritual.

KD: I’m not concerned with whether I’m spiritual, or worldly, or anything like that. There is no … those words mean nothing to me. I am looking for love. I am looking for unconditional love. Everything in my life is leading me toward that place of unconditional love that is God, that is the Guru. And that’s what my life is about. I don’t define it any other way … whether it’s spiritual or not.

I can say shit and fuck and all that stuff and still be perfectly happy. [Loud laughter from audience, especially me;)] My Guru said that as well … so.

AM: You seem to be too realistic.

KD: I don’t think you can be too realistic. If you don’t deal with reality, it’s going to deal with you. You need to be honest with yourself about who you are and what you are, and you can’t tell stories to yourself, because you have to live. And if your lying to yourself about who you are, what’s going to happen? So I try to deal with myself with as much honesty as I can.

Because lying to myself, why? Why would I do that? Who does that hurt besides me? It hurts everybody around me if I’m not honest with myself. So I try to be honest with myself and I lean toward the cynical side [big grin spreads across his face] for a little self protection. It keeps people a little further away, because they look at me and go ‘he’s not spiritual’ and then they go away, and I love that.

[Laughter and applause erupt from the crowd]

KD: My Guru never put us in any shape. He never made us wear white clothes and be good little boys and girls. The beauty was that he loved us as we are. That was so liberating and so wonderful, because he knew everything [whispers:], everything–and he loved us, just as we are. So that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to love myself as I am. Not some fantasy about what spiritual is or anything like that.

(I will post more bits from Krishna Das’ talk during the workshop over time and publish excerpt sound clips on YouTube.)

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Yoga & Spiritual

Devotion (Everyone’s Magic Power)

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Was just talking with a dancer the other night, and we discussed how interesting it is that people get starstruck about what we do.

We talked about how we’ve gotten caught in a cycle of being used or using this. Suddenly an onlooker wants to get to know us better, really bad. But to evolve past this point (rather than try to parry the person off or, worse yet, engage them for utilitarian reasons), I have grown to realize that it’s important to deflect that person’s ambition so that it points toward their own life.

It’s only natural that people would think “wow, how do they do that?” But I’m here to say that such a question, in my mind, is quite mislead.

The real question rather is “what would it take to do that?”

It’s the same with parents of healthy, happy kids. I don’t have kids but when I see these parents with their kids I think “what would it take to do that?”

This question represents a powerful shift from wonder to action planning. And if you don’t want to do exactly what is before your eyes, you can at least imagine how far you’d go with your own pursuits if you chose. None of us are more endowed with magic powers than others.

When you shift the question, you acknowledge that you could do it too, given that you apply what it takes to do it.

In the case of advanced yoga, dance, being a parent, knowing a second or third language, the key to doing any of these things is devotion.

The moments you catch someone in these moves, poses, or interactions with their healthy, happy kids, it all looks kind of easy and straightforward. But when you try it, you see it is not. You’d never be dropped into any of this, however. It’s a gradual progression to get to it. Some days, some practices, some performances are better than others. The point is that you consistently give what it takes.

Magic is the product of devotion, it’s that simple. And we, my friends, are magic if we so choose.

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Yoga & Spiritual

Go Deep: Kapotanasana

I love how Yoga Journal describes this one as a ‘chance to lift the spirits’ … I mean, that’s totally true, but. Let’s just say that it’s really, really challenging to do right and get to that bliss/natural point.

Today though I had a bit of an epiphany while doing it and felt the need to share. If you’re working this one, all of what I say will make sense. If not, bookmark this and save it for when you get there.

So the key among keys with this one, to avoid injury, is to focus on the integrity of the pelvis and the downward tilt of the pubic bone combined with the upward scoop of the coccyx–this energetic balance is absolutely crucial to avoid crunching the lumbar and getting injured over time. To get in touch with this, start with camel and really focus in on that area, pushing the pelvis forward and lifting up out of it.

Head into Kapo gradually–do it at least three times to make all that opening/negotiation with the body worth your while and to get to that zone where the head rests in the soles of the feet.

So you hang out with the hands up, exhaling and reaching back and down–ahaaaaaa! Then, and this is key, when your hands hit the mat behind you, walk them in and keep lifting the head off the floor. Do not plop the head down and drag it toward the feet. Instead walk the hands toward the feet slowly and zero the attention in on the strength residing within the pelvis. Use all of the strength down there, the Mula, the balance between pubic bone and coccyx, to lift, from there. Lift, lift, breath! Walk the hands, keep the head off the floor and keep going like this as long as you can. I started to feel really, really great in there, actually.

Then, when you get the head hanging above the feet, lower the elbows, lower the crown of the head and keep tightening between the legs and in the quads: this is your stability, this is where the Asana is focused. Look into the bottom section of Yoga Journal’s description. What do you see as the organ of benefit? Uterus. (Sorry guys but then again, it’s good for you, too, you’ll see!!)

As an aside, and as I mentioned before in an earlier post, this pose has reduced cramps so much for me that I barely take pain meds. So there is really something to it.

I am writing this because I think people get really hooked on Kapo because it is, as YJ rightly puts, super uplifting. But there are so many ways that it can go wrong in terms of repetitive stress injuries. You gotta keep the spine long in it and you have to start somewhere in stretching it as you bend it. Start with the pelvis. Get in touch with Ms. Mula. Go deep and find her there, waiting to make your poses a lot more enjoyable.

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Yoga & Spiritual

Stagnation, Imagination and the Inner Puppy

This installment of epiphanous ramblings is brought to you by a morning Mysore that started out in a semi-hopeless state.

I was sick this weekend with this kind of virus-express thing that’s going around whereby you get this headache at 8 a.m., a sore throat at 10 a.m., a lot of lethargy at all stages, another headache by noon, a swollen throat after a nap, a seeming moment of wellness, another headache, a sweaty night’s sleep, a wake up to an almost closed throat and a repetition with a little less intensity before the thing seems to start to disappear at the end of day two. Mysterious and a bit confounding–I mean, if you exercise, work or have a life, the virus isn’t really telling you whether to call your routine off or ignore the symptoms and fake it till you make it … or what?

Anyway, I avoided strenuous activity yesterday until last night found me really pent up and lethargic. So I put on my vibram five toes and took a swift jog around the villa only to find the virus totally back off and seem to surrender. Woke up again this morning feeling bleck but decided to kick out a practice.

I wasn’t sure. I felt tired, a bit heavy, soggy if you will, in spirit.  Yet the moment I did a dive into the first uttanasana, I was able to see my body come  alive like  a puppy that wanted to go out for so long that it got frustrated and was just sitting still, zoning out, pouting. The chance to go woke my body up and over the course of a few salutations I felt surges of energy I hadn’t felt in weeks. Of course I was excited and rode them all the way through the end of a solid practice. Dripping wet, I sat in lotus, said my intentions for the day and went off to get some stuff done around the house.

I’m writing this mainly as an example that a lot of what we think in terms of how tired we are, how much energy we have, is limiting. The mind is so black and white about the body’s storage of energy–you are either tired or not, exhausted or not. But the more I practice Yoga, the more my body–as if it were a puppy, whining–gets in on the conversation and says “you know what? I’m actually NOT tired, okay? I’m feeling like crap because nobody took me for a jog today and it’s depressing!’

Sure, there are times when you are downright exhausted. Take a small jog or start a practice and after ten minutes you will know definitively what is going on.  My point is to avoid ruling yourself tired or sick if the symptoms represent stagnation more than anything else.

Stagnation, what a hugely powerful concept! And a completely practical one for someone cultivating a Yoga practice, a running routine around a long race, or even a regular workout routine. In fact, knowing about this concept is the difference between succeeding and achieving goals and considering one’s self unable to do them at all.

I learned about stagnation first at my acupuncturist in Wisconsin. One time, after many sessions with him, I had an appointment over an exam day. That day, I hadn’t slept the night before, I hadn’t eaten much and the majority of the day was spent either sitting and crunching for the exam or taking it. I showed up at my Dr’s. office. He checked my tongue and put me on the table and started putting the needles in per usual. It was a totally different experience than what I was used to–I mean, oh did it hurt–so bad! The needles were not the cause, though. They were hair thin, and I knew it wasn’t poked nerves that I was feeling, it was the area around the needle and the energy that was lacking there or stagnant there, being forced to move–the pain was dull yet strong on many points. He put on the relaxing traditional Chinese music, turned on the heater and left.

I laid still on that exam table for 40 minutes, looking at images of flowers and butterflies on the ceiling, and sometimes the insides of my eyelids, as the needles redirected energy out of my belly to my limbs. By the end of the time as he removed the needles, I felt no pain and was totally energized and clear headed.

I realized right then that energy can find itself trapped in the body so deeply that it can fool a person, often, into thinking they are tired or even sick–such was the transformation in my energetic state after that session.

Try this: next time you feel tired at the office, stand up. Put your hands over your head, exhale as you swing your torso and outstretched arms down toward the floor, bending the knees slightly. Inhale as you role back up and straighten the legs and swing the torso and arms up–repeat this a dozen times … on the exhale, even sigh audibly if you are alone or comfortable.

This or a brisk walk will show you the magic of the concept of stagnation. Many more times than not, you’ve got a lot of gusto just waiting to be used.

Next time you’re not sure if that workout is in order, if you are up for it, just try, just put yourself there and feel that feeling of how you get after you are done, before you even start. Go for it and you might just be shocked that there was a puppy’s worth of energy stored up, just waiting for you to open the front door.

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