One Precious Life in The Third Act

 

I am not a religious person

I don’t speak of God

But sense the order of things

The smallness or bigness of things

 

In meditation I hear myself say;

I don’t want to contribute to society

It’s a reaction

To the onslaught of opportunities flung in the face daily

Through the electric waves

That scream aimlessly from every wired port

 

Electricity is appealing

Particularly in storms

Last night the storm scared the pants off people cowering in their beds

And burned my friend’s folks house down

I stood naked in the brilliant night

Comfortable in the lightening

A sense that lightening makes me strong

This electricity

 

Not so much the metal messengers when

They carry shock waves of disaster, fear and demand

Lightening may equal disaster and fear as well

So perhaps the relevant word is demand

 

 Through the internet they beg; know this, learn this!

So often it would be better to learn what I have forgotten

Like shopping in my own closet

I think I need a new blouse

But here in the back is one I’ve forgotten

I don’t need new things

I will not bury myself under but

Pull from the treasure of my past

Piling on others things

Isn’t this the definition of gluttony?

One must be discerning to keep exhaustion at bay

 

I do not react to ‘contribute’ in the apparent way

And consider as I hear it

The small ways

In the beauty of the garden

The delicacy of the dinners

Helping students find their way

Placing the flower in the vase

The conversation with a friend

Efforts for those I love

And for those I do not

But who need me none the less

In which one cannot be other than in service

 

Mary Oliver’s question lingers;

What will you do with this one wild and precious life?

This is not the first or even the second act

I now know the curtain will go down

How many years are left in wholeness?

Where wild youth did not care

Or believe in mortality

Now wild stays under the skin

And less inclined to engage beyond;

I will not be bullied into the pen

 

Join this

Fix this

No and maybe

I see ways small and quiet

To offer this one precious life

To both of us

 

What is undone here?

Really, not all that much

I notice things are big and small

Endless urgencies press the swollen gates

I hold my ground in quiet ways

To save this precious life

 

Author’s note: Contribute is the word that came to me but it held more meaning than to help. I’m reworking my website and have been given suggestions on marketing that include a slew of social media sites. And I don’t want to have to contribute so to speak, to that life in order to create mine. And there is the weariness of being inundated daily by requests to sign on or up or give signatures, money etc. and no sooner do I acquiese than there is an additional request. It’s not just the endless information that comes at us but the time spent sifting through it. Where do the days go?

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YOGA PH.D. – A Review

 Critical Thinking is Critical to Spiritual Pursuit

Cover photo Yoga Ph.D.

Carol Horton; doctor of philosophy, social scientist, research consultant and academic is no stranger to critical thinking.

But she was an innocent and cerebral guest in her own body until she brought that body to yoga class intent on adding something new to her fitness regime. What ensued was an enthusiastic quest for uncovering the history, the mystery and the totality of yoga. When an inquisitive scholar scrutinizes a mystery it is bound to be more than a superficial embrace. As superficiality is contradictory to yoga, it does not seem incongruous to me that an intellectual found herself absorbed in every aspect of the enigmatic phenomenon called yoga. However Yoga Ph.D. begins with the premise that this was an unlikely or at least unexpected coupling. As complex a subject as yoga and its effect is, perhaps the irony is not that an academic embraces yoga but that anyone with less than an intellectual interest is willing to pursue it at all.

 

In a mere 150 pages, 8 short chapters and three sections; Historical Reflections, Personal Reflections and Sociological Reflections, the author manages to paint a comprehensive and succinct picture of the history of yoga, offer a well told tale of an accidental pilgrimage into a mysterious practice, and contribute to the notion that there are no longer yoga people but people who do yoga and these people have created a definition of what modern yoga is.

 

I met Carol Horton through her blogging where I was often the commentator responding with apocalyptic and jaded observations; yeah people are weird, so what. But she is the rare bird who is not rattled but buoyed by a challenge.

Her cool demeanor and ability to take on any controversy without vitriol is unusual. It is not surprising that what may appear to be just another yoga book amongst many is not. It is social commentary, history, politics and America in the context of an autobiography that is meticulously documented and informs with remarkable clarity as she organizes her thoughts for the reader’s greatest benefit. Horton plumbs the depths of the subject of yoga with an objective and calm approach while revealing her own journey with a dispassionate tone that will resonate with a wide audience.

 

I read the book as a galley before it went to press. Carol published the compilation 21st Century Yoga first and by the time I’d read and reviewed that I was a bit weary of the yoga discussion in general and took a break from thinking about yoga except where it was me doing it or teaching it. When Ph.D. was later published I set out to read it again for the sake of a review but life got in the way and it sits on a great stack of deliciously anticipated reading by my bed. It has occurred to me that a book reviewed long after it has been read is a brilliant idea. After all, when it comes to a scholastic work (which I consider this to be) it’s not in the reading but the retention that one fully comprehends the meaning of the written word.

 

The take away from Yoga Ph.D. is this: Here is a concise and tidy history of modern yoga. Beyond that is a well told tale of a person who finds another dimension to herself. Finally and perhaps most relevant is that this is a book that opens a discussion of modern yoga and the humanity that embraces it.

Where some embrace the popular notion of the poet Rumi that there is a field beyond right and wrong where we should meet, this author believes that yoga has the potential to, if not level, then even the playing field.

 

 

In the last few decades it is common for what once seemed unlikely candidates to become yoga enthusiasts Where yoga was once a pursuit of the fringe, eccentrics and earnest young rebels it is now the exercise program of choice for countless professionals; CEOs, doctors, lawyers, engineers as well as the playground for people from all walks of life, all manner of profession. Many great and curious minds have been blown by body/mind experiences that expose previously conceived concrete reality as no longer absolute.

 

What makes Horton’s experience singular is that she wrote about it, gave it context, history, and a long view that includes the implications of how society affects and alters the things it claims as its own. A study of modern yoga reveals that who does yoga eventually will define what yoga is. An individual stamps and creates the practice once the practice has left its mark. With Yoga Ph.D., Carol Horton leaves her mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She Moves In Mysterious Ways. It’s All Right.

Or Is It?

 

This pear is too pretty to eat but there’s an order to things

Fulfill your purpose or rot

So I do the thing that makes sense

To me

Kiss it

Take a picture, say goodbye and thank you

Cut it up and eat it covered with shiny flax seeds and sprinkled sprouted almonds

What would you do for love?

beautiful pear

 

I used to kiss my knees every time they rose to greet me in a yoga pose

Just a yoga teacher doing what came naturally and I taught them to do the same

I didn’t second guess myself

Some of you remember that

Would you do that for love?

 

I rode a wild horse through the woods that bolted and charged for the stable

Fearless friends raced to save me but that horse threw me hard as it could

I didn’t move for a long time

They thought I was dead

Bounced and bounced and still

I didn’t bother to get checked out

It made sense to me at the time

In hindsight, to you, it may sound foolish

You may be right

Or not

 

 

I took an untamed path down a ski slope and landed on my shoulder

My arm hung suspiciously behind me and refused to move in any way for many days

I didn’t bother anyone about it

Which made sense to me at the time

I was young and wild

I didn’t noticed that shoulder was wrong till a yoga pose brought it to light

But it didn’t really bother me for almost 40 years

Till a foolish yoga teacher brought me down

 

I hold the pose called mountain

Eyes closed I notice I’m not standing on my bones

My muscles are doing the bone’s job and I’m getting exhausted just standing here

I lack the grace that is balance

How long has this been going on?

 

I think of the poses that aren’t in this plane

You know, the cockeyed ones, the twisty ones, the ones that turn part of your pelvis forward and part of it back

I wonder what’s happening to my spine and am I standing on my bones or are my muscles being used badly

What would you do?

 

I want to live a fearless life, like you.

I won’t know the consequences till I make the action

Your body is not mine

You may suggest something to me but you don’t know for sure

I may suggest something to you in your wild life

But you may not listen

Here in zero gravity we are trying to hold on and we are hoping to let go and we never know for certain what will happen before we jump

 

You are a mysterious person, doing mysterious things

Like motherhood

Every child different and you don’t know how to be but there’s an order to things

You do what you think best so they don’t go bad

You are trying to affect energy you’ve never seen before

It moves in mysterious ways

You will become energy you have never been before

It moves you in mysterious ways

 

We are all kin and sometimes I am the mother and sometimes the child

In all ways the student and mostly the teacher

But no matter

Mystery is when you don’t know the outcome

What would you do?

 

This pear is too pretty to eat but there’s an order to things

Fulfill your purpose or rot

What would you do for love?

rob lindsay photo, roblindsaypictures.comP.S. When my husband Rob Lindsay takes a picture of something he loves, he turns it into art. :)

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Not Ready To Be Born Though This Endless Winter

Two o’clock and dark as dusk;

 I sail home on flood waters glacial and grey

 A furious sky banished the sun

It tries to crush us

Rush into the house grasping wet packages bursting with promise

I light the hearth and organize the groceries

Admire the warm lamp light on blue walls and

Red tulips in a silver vase

The house soon saturated with spice and vanilla to keep the damp dripping at bay and give the oven purpose

 

My dog dances under foot as he knows the last walk waits for the waning sky and too late will be too dark for a decent outing

In luck as the sky pauses for breath, we race into the bracing wind without worry

Packed in ice

No flame or fire touches once aching limbs heavy on warmer days

Now weightless

Fluid duck feet scoot me through a silken pond

 

A pack of deer pause; ghostly shadows frozen in the fog

They neither fear nor welcome us but take us as passing phantoms

We stare back and wait till they float across the field as one spirit

 

No cars pass

No others walk past

I am all sense but no sense to stop though the light is waning

Enchanted in this mist

It is my dog who finally stops and looks up to say it is time to turn back

I hadn’t realized we’d gone so far

 

It will be pitch before we see home and now it begins to rain again; a grisly rain to bow our heads

Though soaking feet are no pleasure the sunless sky and solid air have a hold on me

Don’t pull away from me

You are not ready to move on

 

It is true

Once the clock passes midnight of the old year the promise of renewal comes quietly

The light begins to shift

The plants move under the ground

That promise of renewal means rise to the occasion!

I am not ready

 

We do not stop

We did not stop

Our phones attached to our bodies

Our computers ever clanging

 

We raced around and braced against nature

To keep our pace

To hold our schedules

 

Where once one was unlucky enough to just try to survive

Now ease becomes burden as survival is assumed (though not for all)

And the icing on the cake is now the cake

And the sweetness becomes cloying

Choking

 

Here this life of unchanging pace is not the survival of life against death

But the gruesome survival of transformation not subtle but violent

And coming every quicker

 

No time to check the tide of rising power of those drunk with self interest

As the forward thrust of high, always high tide threatens to swallow us

Clashing humanity clawing, advancing was ever so and there is no complaining

 

And so

This night as every night

When I slip into heated sheets in a room kept purposefully cool for nothing less than my pleasure

The habitual smile as I slip into the cocoon

Is the relief of one who knows that hibernation must be embraced in small ways

 

Stay the tap- tap- tap of doing

To melt into the cocoon

To pause in this transitory bliss

A moment is not too short for gratitude

 

There are only many moments together

In this endless winter

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Do These Pants Make My Ass Look Fat?

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Caution: This material contains some judgment.

The CEO of Lululemon sportswear attire aligned his company with the yoga community years ago in a successful effort to corner the yoga apparel market. The society of yogis fell prey to the promise of promotion, free swag and membership to an elite community; their own, as re-gifted to them by the long arm of  a clothing chain with Mafioso chutzpah.

Lululemon has been cited for one questionable act after another but if the yoga public flinched it didn’t show in sales records; not until the company made a pair of yoga pants that woman complained were too sheer.  And CEO/founder Chip Wilson countered that their fat thighs were responsible for burning those threads bare. Not his fault; they were not his targeted clientele. You know, not everyone looks good in his yoga pants.

He’s right and not every company caters to every body.  It’s the only thing I’ve heard him be right about since his company starting getting bad press but that’s what took him down. Don’t fuck with women’s self image. We are too insecure to handle that. Take advantage of Chinese workers. Brainwash and manipulate your employees. Just don’t say that our asses are too fat. That is our moral breaking point. That is our moral outrage.

I’ve said my piece about this company long ago. I don’t give a rat’s ass what they do with their bad luck upside down horseshoe branded clothing. That’s how this country’s commerce works. You do what you can to make a buck and let the buyer beware.  Lulu was deep in the drink by the time they came to Nashville. I’d never heard of them but it didn’t take long to see they weren’t “yoga people” (whatever that means now) but people selling pants; period.  And they knew how to work a system that was increasingly commercialized and dependent on its own sales.

I was under the impression that most folks don’t know anything about Lululemon’s policies although it’s probable that anyone on the yoga blogosphere does. I didn’t see the company’s stock plummet when the internet was alive and aghast with the underpinnings of the company’s philosophy; survival of the fittest and no tears for the losers, the CEO’s outspoken defense of employing Asian children at a pittance or his delight in creating a name for a company that would sound funny when Asians tried to pronounce it. How many folks quit wearing the clothes or detached themselves as ambassadors when they discovered that the company’s staff training extended into their personal lives? And will the yogis aligned with the company bail because of a fat ass attack where a manipulative people baiting money making machine was not reason before?

The attempt to blame shoddy workmanship on the consumer was stupid. Chip Wilson is smart enough to be a millionaire entrepreneur but it took a clueless pot shot at women’s bodies to show that he is nothing more than a guy with an opinion that most guys know not to share. Any guy who’s known a woman knows if a woman asks: “Do these pants make my ass look fat?” the answer is no.

Is it possible that people who knew the company was un-cool turned their heads until insulted by the implication that their bodies weren’t hot enough to turn someone else’s?

Why are we undone by some pants maker’s opinion?  Surely clothing designers everywhere have these conversations behind closed doors.  Did Lululemon so successfully run a clothing sale campaign that we believed they were an entity interested in our well being, not just our attire?  And why the indignation when it comes to our looks more than indignation about a company that inserts itself into the local chapters of our business?

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What Will I Do With This Awareness?

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In this season of silver grass and sharp light I reflect on the shadows that do not reflect but absorb light.

I am a yogi, a yoga teacher, a teacher of clarity; of awareness sustained, of purpose defined and attitude checked.

Yoga teacher:  One who shines light?

Light shone at light makes a blind spot. There assumption may ripen.  Shine light at darkness to reveal what was not there before.

Embrace the yogi who points to the darkness. Do not tell her about the poverty of negative thinking or that her vision reflects her soul. She calls attention to the unattended which even if born of light is not always bathed in it but sometimes hidden in shadow.

And what will I, the yoga teacher, shedder of light, do with my own awareness?

Will I find happiness or comfort? Will I be better off?

As the day dawns on another threat of a government shutdown I ponder the little project I just signed on for; teaching a tiny segment at an event to bring yoga to the warring tribes of Africa.  The video that persuaded me to participate indicates that yoga has had a positive effect on a few thousand people and the hope is that it will enhance the opportunity for peace. I see no harm in it but I wonder at yoga’s effects on our own warring nation.  In fact I see that Lululemon seems to have some part in promoting this event, a business known more for the havoc it wreaks than any humanitarian bent.  And indeed I am aware that some yoga community politics are in play even here.

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The fragmented tear sheet of harmony amongst us is a scrapbook that sits on the shelf of hard covered hard edged, dusty tomes that set the tone of both our doing and undoing despite our best intentions. Still, we cannot stop doing. It is what we are.

That is why yoga has begun an evolution as a social service for the at risk and less fortunate who are more than the churches can handle, more than the families can handle while the government; an overwhelmed, ungainly lumbering beast rumbles through the mist trampling delicate underlings in its myopia.  It is a noble thing to help others find peace.

Here’s a news clip that shows a line of very overweight people waiting for free food boxes. The correspondent reveals “all sorts of things to keep a family going: donuts, pancake mix, white rice, pasta, commercial peanut butter and mayonnaise”.

We are unevenly informed even if we share a heart. Our perceptions are different even when we are evenly informed. We are a diverse, disparate people. We will not storm the gates together. Our greatest cohesiveness is majority vote. Cohesion is a patchwork quilt of mismatched swatches.

If awareness is turned inward so that we might discern what to let in and what not to let in, will the world wait for us? How many invitations to save the world, how many pleas, invitations, how many e-mails, texts, tutorials will wait as we contemplate?  Eyes and ears tuned to beauty, love and light will give respite though we cannot remain there without pause or interruption.

1694 Golden Grass by Rob Lindsay

I am teaching a class at Vanderbilt. People are losing their jobs en masse. We share our thoughts about why, when and who.  Extending the conversation from the astonishing to the absurd, one of my students evenly says, “My new yoga mat can cause cancer”. The room of scientists, researchers and medical professionals are aghast.

She hands me the cardboard wrapper from the yoga mat bought at Wal-Mart. The label says; this product contains one or more chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.

The mat is named “Lotus”.

I think back to a sign I saw posted outside the walls of the new age/yoga Chopra Center in Carlsbad last month. Chemicals used in this facility have been known to cause cancer, birth defects…….

My cancer causing mat owning student says she was born in the 70’s and purposefully stays there. She lives in the country, listens to old rock and does not watch the news. She describes herself as a woman of faith who keeps her eye and mind on the good words of the good book. She says nothing about returning the cancerous yoga mat she is lying on. She picks the battles she feels she can win.

I asked my students what yoga does for them. I want to know if the work has the desired effect of creating awareness and if heightened senses bring peace or agitation. They tell me that they come to class frazzled and leave refreshed; that yoga helps them manage stress more efficiently for about 24 hours.  Then they do it again. I think of a friend who has just confided that she’s taken a pill every day for 10 years to keep her positive. She’s afraid to go off.

We are so aware that we can’t handle all that confronts us. Nothing in this life will let us go back to sleep. Is yoga a break, a temporary fix with a cumulative effect? Perhaps that is enough. But as the yoga teacher, it is not a break but a constant call to awareness that has no filter.

Cheekwood optic fiber cotton candy Bruce Monroe by Rob Lindsay

I am driving from one job to another and traffic is not on my side. I finally get around the driver with a handicapped badge on his rear view mirror who drove with infuriating exactitude 10 mph below the speed limit. I have reflexively unwrapped the chocolate bar I’d stashed for the infusion I’ll need three hours from now. It’s still early in the morning.

I look at the old gentleman beside me in his upscale car and careful attire, well groomed hair. I imagine him a native to this once sleepy Southern town; a man who has deep roots while all around him is changing as immigrants like me have changed his home. I imagine him gracious about that, generous in his acknowledgement of the good that has come with the traffic, crime and bad manners.

I see a picture from my childhood; a picture that is a feeling collage more than one image. I am relaxed. Life is good in my 50s middle class world. There is slowness.  There is quietude. There are friends and there is time and there is a wide open empty highway in the darkness that two headlights pursue in sureness toward a promising destination. It is gone. Maybe it was never there.

 

What will I do with this awareness? Will I live like a prisoner making paper dolls? Will I storm the prison walls?  Or will I expand my revelation that silver grass in light sharpened by a darkened  sky  is the field of all of us.  I choose always to be reborn by this temporal  beauty as the mud beneath and the sky above will shift and shift again.

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The Others

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I am the others.  Hours waiting in a medical facility on the North side, the side for people without health insurance, without money, without connections, I am privy to the service of the underprivileged.

I am a white middle class statistic without health insurance with a shoulder that was hurt in a white middle class Iyengar studio and a fused sacrum that’s becoming more troublesome.  I cannot do my job as well as I need to. I am in pain and I am a lucky one because I am allowed free medical attention through an effort called Art Docs which is to alleviate the suffering of starving artists.

Turning the corner into the hospital parking lot I pass a shoot -out at a pawn shop. The parking garage that is the only option for General Hospital is full. I make several passes before parking several floors above ground and my instinct in an unfamiliar setting tells me to take my chance on the stairs. Do not get into an elevator in a parking garage in the hood.

The entrance and alien waiting area is stripped down and I think of an army triage in a war zone. The place feels abandoned but for the gentle mannered young girl behind a plastic window who takes my name and steers me to the elevator toward my destination. It smells of cigarette smoke and despair.

I enter the next waiting room and then another. I have not seen another white face. I have seen the legless, the toothless, and the hobbled before old age, the starved and overweight, the overburdened and the other world.

The nurse who checks me in laughs when she weighs me and tells me of her battle to lose weight. She takes my input and seems bemused that I have nothing to note but an allergy to Sulfa. Do you drink, smoke, suffer abuse; any meds, surgeries or accidents?  No, no, no and I know how lucky I am to be a rare statistic here. I am sensitive to being out of place; an observer who can walk out through the worn doors to freedom.

Two hours later I’m seen by a kind very young doctor who attempts to use each of the hand sanitizer wall dispensers which are empty. He quickly rinses his hands at the sink and thoughtfully extends one to me with his introduction. He has me go through some mobility tests. He tells me that MRIs and X-Rays are expensive and he doesn’t think I need surgery so why bother. He gives me exercises to do that I have in fact been doing since last November and suggests I double up on anti-inflammatory meds.

I ask him about my displaced sacrum and he says he doesn’t know what to make of it but I can tell my time is up. Relieved, I thank him and head quickly out the door catching the eye of a woman in another room. A scarf covers her head. She sits on the table with her husband in a chair by her side and casts me an imploring glance, making a gesture of helplessness with her hands.  She calls softly; I have been here such a long time. No one is coming.

What can I do but smile to say that I get it. No one is coming feels like the banner for the poor.

I stop at the plastic window to have my parking pass validated. There is a distressed young man, a dark skinned foreigner with poor English accompanied by a parking garage guard. His car has been towed. He didn’t understand the sign; explains that he doesn’t read English and now his car is gone and the powerless clerk behind the plastic window just repeats again and again; you parked in veterans parking. There is a sign. I can’t help you.

He gestures for me to hand him my pass. I am the lucky one. For this guy… no one is coming. As I walk away I hear the guard asking the hapless desk clerk what he should do. I wish I had the money to get this guy’s car back but I’m dealing with first world problems that leave me no resource but my prayers for the helpless.

I live in the light, where civilization seems to flourish but I know it’s an illusion. The leader of our country wants to punish Syria for spraying poison gas on its innocents while Monsanto is allowed to poison our innocents and those we import our produce to. We pick and choose who we will champion based on its bang in our bank and how it might affect our future. We mandate equality for all and demand societies whose constructs we do not understand to follow our moral code while our people go hungry and illiterate and our financial leaders dictate our compass.

We are not protected. The leaders may think themselves immune but few can stand the allure of Tolkien’s ring. My precious will ensnare all who come in contact; that can touch the power, feel the power, be befuddled by the power.  We are pawns on that board. Our future hangs in a precarious balance; all of us.

Still, some of us have a better cushion than others; a bigger space between us and the grit. Some of us are lucky. I am the lucky one. It’s up to me to pay that forward. I began today with a greater effort, extended myself purposefully into the discomfort where I can do some good as I’ve done before but confess to being so often relieved when my extended hand is not taken. Today I did not take silence for an answer but kept pushing.

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