Five Thousand and Two Species Ten Thousand and Four Eyes ~ Terrorism and Extinction

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There have been five mass extinctions. This one is man-made. We are losing animals at a rate we haven’t seen since the dinosaurs died thanks to climate change and habitat change.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore looks into the eyes of animals and I’m spellbound by the expressions of the innocents. He is dedicated to dispelling ignorance in order to save species by his documentation. You cannot turn away when you are faced eye to eye with a soul that you unconsciously recognize.

animal eyes

I am watching the news. I am looking into the eyes of the young woman Nohemi Gonzalez my youngest son’s age of 23. She is extinct now, her life annihilated by a terrorist who did not know her. Political climates shift. Cultural habitats are threatened. Extinction is a purposeful vengeance of fear turned to hate. The fifth estate is dedicated to dispelling ignorance by broadcast. Look! Look at the life here and here and here!

nohemi gonzalez


I rarely rant against guns or war these days. I have given up hope that my fury will change a thing. I sign petitions and occasionally send checks but I’m not fooling myself. War and ruin seems to be a human condition not happenstance.

I recall a recent news story about a Catholic priest who dedicated himself to uncovering Jewish mass graves in Russia that were the previously undisclosed result of the holocaust. He spoke to villagers who were young witnesses to the carnage. When asked what his take-away was from his investigation he said that he discovered that people find satisfaction in watching the destruction of other people as long as those people and not they are the victims. I wondered in disbelief. Could it be that though we shed tears of empathy for strangers we stay glued to stories of devastation for that unconscious reason? Nothing could be more distasteful. I am fairly certain that this is not the case for all humanity but nevertheless it is a chilling thought.

I teach yoga and yoga is considered a vehicle for change toward enlightenment whether it be self awareness or greater awareness but you who’ve read my work for the last seven years know I don’t see it as a panacea for amity or world peace.

A process of internal reflection will often reflect what one perceives as truth and beauty through narrow lenses. We are so many islands in an elaborate chain.










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The Smell of Sea Water

We’re waiting at the baggage carousel in the San Diego airport. A small boy, perhaps two years old is playing on the floor by my feet. He’s engrossed in his game as the automated exit door behind us opens. His head whirls toward the door, a wide grin on his face. He shouts to his parents. “I smell sea water!” The homing instinct of such a young human is astonishing. Visions of ghostly grey people walking out of the ocean and onto the land confront me.

In the post dawn silver light I roll over and see my reflection in the mirrored closet doors of my parent’s home. In this gentle radiance I look ageless as if by design the house will allow no feelings that are not pleasing. I think of my invincible aging parents who the night before stood in the kitchen, my mother leaning into my father’s chest, his arms around her, their teasing and loving banter, the familiarity of 65 years.

I throw on my clothes, start the coffee and open the door to the garden. I’m drawn forth by the delicate breeze and bow my head to take in the scent of the first rose bush. Though the many varieties are remarkable in their size and beauty they do not all smell. It is the roses with the strongest scent that capture me. Mere beauty does not stay in one’s mind. It is the limbic emotion and connectivity that holds one to both object and person.

I save the visit to the plumeria bushes for last. It is the smell, the taste of coconuts and pineapple. It is the memory of Oahu and Kauai. It is the memory of my new husband and me newly pregnant in bed in a tree house in the mountains, staring out a window wall into a jungle 27 years ago.

I walk into the front yard where the wind carries the scent of sweet alyssum. I inhale it like my last breath wanting more than my lungs will allow. I walk down a street lined with orange and lime trees drunk on the perfume of citrus blossoms. I bury my face in a tree and wonder if passersby will consider me mad.

A ten minute car ride brings me to my beloved Moonlight Beach. Here I walk the shoreline abandoned by all but a few seabirds. I note the red plastic feet of a lone pelican who strangely shares the halting walk I’ve adopted with my graceless hip. I walk like a pelican! I put my feet in the surf and scoop up a handful of sea water to smell it. I’ve been thinking about the little guy’s sea water since I left the airport. I taste it and rub it into my face. Why? Sea water is our blood. It was in the veins of that child and I feel it inn me. I never leave the ocean without wondering how I can live away from it.

Rock piles that rise randomly from the shoreline resemble Buddhas from afar. Stone outcroppings reveal the faces of creatures rising from the sea. I train my eyes to see patterns in the sand, catch the meter of the waves and study the movement of the birds.

I climb the cliff and drive a few blocks into town, the windows down. I catch a whiff of meat cooking on an open grill. Though the thought of any creature murdered for the meal of another makes me sad, I love this smell. It is the smell of Aspen Colorado on a cold snowy day. It is the smell of my feckless and fabulous youth or at least three years of it. Memories of hippie culture among a collection of fascinating and disparate people from a fantasy world in a magical place long gone to me now rise to please and tease me.

I turn back to the present and sea water. Though the ocean is where time began, it also has a quality that informs one that time does not end nor like to be measured in between. Grateful for the steady hand of the ocean breeze on my shoulder I slow my step and cast my eyes backward to the vast and empty horizon. It’s too easy to fall into the senseless rush of minutia when senses turn away from one’s nature and into the fray. I recall the child’s delight in coming home.


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Success and the Price of Physical Beauty

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference ~ Serenity Prayer

Inspired by a news story on the premium on physical beauty in Seoul

Today’s news story on a pretty 26 year old South Korean girl points to the mindset behind an anxious society. She looks like a teenager. But she says she looks haggard and wants fat injected into her face so she won’t look so old and worn. The doctor accommodates her in what is a fairly benign surgery for her carefully saved $1800.00. The result is the plump ageless face of a newborn. She is happy. The doctor reports that in an over saturated, competitive work force, good looks are a necessity to ensure employment.

Americans are anxious as well. When it comes to a competition of beauty, income disparity creates an uneven playing field in this country. On one end are folks who don’t know how to care for themselves and at the other end are folks who can’t afford the cosmetic enhancement they desire. In between is the discontented general public that can’t beat its habit of wrong eating or lack of exercise.

Dressing for success is simplicity compared to the choices we have now. As modern science develops we are given choices to change our appearance beyond straightening teeth with braces and taking bumps from noses or removing moles. Those choices are adding to the complicated issue of self esteem and worth in the market place. There is an escalating pressure of vanity as we are offered a soaring amount of services. Looks reflect status. We represent a picture. A picture is open to judgment.

I was raised by folks who insisted there was no excuse for being less than your best though I did my best to disregard that. I hated the idea of struggle as far back as memory serves. I wanted to be acceptable without challenge. I suspect I really didn’t want to try much at anything. If they had let me slide and told me I was fine the way I was I might still be lying on the bed of my childhood home reading novels. Tough love kicked my ass in infuriating ways but I owe my inability to be comfortable with less than my best to the parents, mentors and teachers who didn’t accept anything from me as good enough. That was a show of confidence even though I just wanted to be left alone. It saved me. It also left me anxious.

Fifteen and Furious

Fifteen and Furious

I was raised by a mother who was raised by a father who did not believe in ugliness. I couldn’t tell you why except he was impatient with the concept of some things being beyond one’s control. I think he just hated quitters. Therefore his wife and three daughters did all that modern science could offer to never grow old or live with a feature they could not stand.

Long after my grandfather died a too early death, ignoring his own heart attack to finish operating on a patient, my grandmother, not to be leveled by pancreatic cancer had her hair coiffed, made herself up, donned a lovely bed coat, propped herself up on a freshly made bed in her striking red and purple bedroom and died sitting up. My family suspected she had made a call to her cousin the pharmacist for assistance to leave the planet on her own terms.

Now in their 80s my mother and her sisters like their parents are still unyielding beautiful skillful people who run their lives with precision. They keep their hands in their grown children’s lives as well. All of the offspring are highly accomplished financially successful professionals except for me. I was stubborn. While my multi-talented middle brother was shoved towards perfectionism and my little brother was sent to board at the Hyde School which aimed to make champions of reluctant students, I chose to be a loser in an attempt at a hassle free life.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that I eventually ended up in a job where the wardrobe was T-shirts and pajama bottoms and the beauty regimen was cleanliness. (Before the yoga standard had become one with mainstream). Yoga shaped my life as the practice of responsibility seasoned with compassion that’s come with some forty years enfolded in yoga and a yoga adjacent life. The key word is practice. I fail myself with regularity. I am irresponsible toward my future. I lack compassion for my failings. I unfailingly demand more of myself without proper regard to the balance of energy taken to energy replenished.  I watch all the stories of daily life that I can fit in a day and don’t know who I am in it or what to believe.

So I understand the desire to throw money at an issue that stands in the way of judgment and just let it be done. I don’t stand in judgment of the people who do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves. It seems rather straightforward. But even if money grew on trees it would not be that trouble-free for some of us to keep pace with the life we were born to.

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Stories From the Tunnel or the Rise of the Yoga Professional

A coffee cup in my waking hand, I invite newscasters into the kitchen. Some stories bear repeating if you’re a person, with a mind, on the planet. Stories of the life are a teacher’s palette. Modern life is a tunnel that provides quick passage. These are news stories from the tunnel. Inherent in the problems are glimpses of light. Those are reflections from your own story.

One is on sleep. One is on noise. One is on work.


is a precious and finite commodity. Without it you are functionally disabled. Since your sleep debt is a nation’s decreased productivity, it is a national crisis. Someone has written an interactive book for parents to read to their children to help them both relax. It is a form of yoga nidra. It is not too early to teach a human to unwind.

Makes sense when you put a cell phone and video pad in hands as soon as eyes can see and hands can hold.


comforts the lonesome. Henceforth, a restaurateur in Manhattan has construed that the perfect dining experience is also a financial win when the restaurant is stripped to bare floors, walls and ceilings. He turns up the music. You must scream to be heard. Now it’s a big party. Lonely souls wander in. Everyone is a party guest. The playing field is level.

I went to such a restaurant in Manhattan this week. The noise was an assault. STUPID is the only way to describe it. The waitress screamed the menu. I held my hands to my ears to stave off anxiety. There was no digesting that food. It was a pricey battlefield.

Though I was in bed at an unusually late hour I had to read that night to unwind. It was not a book to hypnotize me to sleep but it did the trick nevertheless. But the problem isn’t falling asleep when you’re tired; it’s staying asleep when your mind is just dimmed like the lights. Then noise is no memory but patterned in a brain that cannot decipher day from night.

Dress Code

at a Silicon Valley tech company is non-existent. Millennials ride scooters around artsy work modules surrounded by community play areas with ping pong tables and random games. They wear play clothes. It looks like kindergarten for grown-ups. Adultgarten. It looks like fun and it has to be because the CEO says work never ends even when they go home. This is wholly accepted.

Do they prowl the hip stripped dining scene to feel connected when they leave that office? Is it weird to be free? Is there always one eye wandering to the cell for messages? I wonder how they sleep at night. Maybe they nap like wild creatures when the need hits. Maybe they can sleep with the full light of day on their faces, ear buds piping music to the brain, fully clothed in jammy clothes.

Yoga is medicine for man mad illness. We require more waking hours to undo ourselves. We need more hours to take the cure for sleep, social pressures or work. Yoga class is purposeful rest, music/dance ritual and work as play. Maybe that explains the rise of the yoga teaching profession. Is it a panacea for the disenfranchised? Perhaps I have buried the lead: Explaining the Rise of the Yoga Professional.

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Robocaller in Your Head

Robots hacked your home phone. You know, that old clunker nailed to wall that you keep for the last touch of we’re a family here. You keep it for your mother and you keep it for midnight emergencies next to your head in the bed. It’s got a virus called robocall.

woman on phone

It’s the automated voice in your head that beats you down by repeating the same things over and over even though you’re not buying, even though you will never close that deal. It doesn’t respect your busy day or your need for dreamless sleep. It’s the ring of a new world, the world which agrees that it’s fine to call anyone at any hour for any reason. It’s the ring of limitless which you thought was freedom but is someone else’s freedom to imprison you. That someone else is you.

You could press #1 to take yourself off the list but you don’t because you’re afraid you might miss something. You’re a hoarder.

“We rarely hear the inward music

But we’re all dancing to it nevertheless.” ~ Rumi

You don’t notice that the words to the song or jingles contain some lyrics of your stuck life. You don’t recognize that repetitive ruminations abide because you don’t confront them.

You have to pick up to take yourself off the list. You have to agree to not be called again. You have to know what is valuable and what should be thrown away.

Be still. Have a seat or lie down with yourself. Robocaller is waiting and ready. It knows when you are home. Pick up and listen. Why were you marked for this call? Robocaller has your number. Do you? Think about the incoming message. If you don’t need to hear it again press a key and get off the list.

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Music and the Bomb Shelter of Your Heart

Thanks to my failed relationship to all things virtual connection, I had lost much of my cherished music in a wrong attempt to switch I-tunes to my new computer. In the resulting fit of pique in I had foregone music in class for the better part of a year and turned to my left brain teaching mode but I need music tonight so I plug this vintage I-pod in knowing that what will or will not play is a mystery.

I’ve got a play list running that had been shot full of holes in the firestorm. Tonight I’m checking this out to see if something destroyed has been impossibly recently resuscitated by my I.T. guy. I’ve desperately missed conducting movement to music which was lost in tandem by my crapped out hip and my crapped out I-pod. The students trickle in. I decide to let untested music ride as class begins.

As we settle down it’s apparent that the song playing is a bit intense. The list is called Alternative. It was arranged to tear your salty heart from a bomb shelter and restore it honey dripping to an emerald cave.

“Hello friends. I’m running a questionable play list which is an interesting choice right here as I don’t remember what’s on it and I don’t know most of you. Music is personal. Something here might urge you to run screaming from the room. I want you to do this (hand raised) if a song makes you nuts and I will cut it off. If you agree, we’ll continue this experiment together. I hope it serves you well.”

A room of faces unanimously smiles. So that’s that. Thanks guys.

I match the class to the intensity of the lyrics. This is my wheel house. It’s what got me on the map so to speak. I’m here too many years teaching and too many years on this earth to be accused of baseless vanity. The rust falls off the wheels. The list seems intact and it appears to be lifting the level of concentration, fueling hearts. An hour later the track is still uninterrupted. It seems the hour plus play list has indeed reappeared intact. The music seems to agree to follow the now downward flow of the yoga class though I can’t be sure.

Notice where the attention is drawn, I ask them as they enter savasana. What does at tension depict in the muscles and mind? I ask them to describe sensation and thoughts with silent words until there are no more. I tell them that these are the places and ruminations crying out to be noticed.

By the noticing they calm and shift.

Ed Sheeran has begun to sing, “Give Me Love. The class is well into the work of savasana when the volume rises and the song takes a dangerous turn. Lyrics screech a repetitive desperate demand.


The calm is assaulted. This invasion has torpedoes aimed for the heart. It will test the student’s nerves. I rush across the long room to turn it down even as it’s coming apart, winding out from the tantrum to murmer; m-my my, m- my my, m-my, my oh give me love,lover.

Damn! “Give Me Love” just delivered the gist of my directions though I didn’t consciously plan it or the in- your- face full frontal. Not a likely vehicle for savasana, it was nevertheless powerful. I closed with a lesson offered there.

You cannot avoid pain by ignoring it. It will continue to knock on your door or climb in your window when you ignore the door or finally blow the roof off if you lock the window. Discomfort is comforted by the act of seeing it and that is an act of self love. Give all the words you have to all the ways you feel with abandon to let your SELF know you are listening.

Here’s a lesson to help you listen in savasana.


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The Donald’s Dismantling of the Party Could be the Country’s Political Trump Card

Election years used to be somewhat exciting and at least entertaining. I’m glued to the news as I am with disasters of all kinds. Election years are not unlike disasters.

But even the disasters have become predictable with the similar bunch of political hacks spewing the same empty phrases excluding Bernie Sanders since he’s claimed that nothing less than a revolution is called for at this moment.

Donald Trump gets my attention. He’s the car wreck you have to glance at even as your mind is screaming, “No, No, No, NO!” TrumpAnd like the rest of the country, I am paying attention because I’m amused. For whatever reason he’s got other folks attention, at least they’re tuning in and maybe participating in the political process for better or worse. Trump is making his fellow partiers dance with his loaded pistol at their feet. He’s keeping them off balance. He’s managing the conversation.

Senator and presidential wanna- be Lindsey Graham’s leveling tactic was to further lower the new indignity of the highest office with his speedily public commercial of himself as a purple faced reactive adolescent GETTING EVEN by smashing his phone after the Donald gave out the number. I wonder if this was the unleashing of the bulls that allowed Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee to think it prudent to release his Hakuna Matata end-times spot. As he pulls the others into the insane asylum with him, Trump has even forced Fox news commentary toward occasional reason.

Donald Trump is a unique solution for transparency in politicians where all parties are commonly shrouded in illusion, hypnotizing with repetitive empty phrases.

Thanks Donald, you’ve got people watching the political process even if it’s for the wrong reasons. It’s a start. You’ve got the talking heads off automatic and showing a bit more of themselves than they might have bargained for. You are exposing more than a weak party. You are exposing a broken people.Please don’t go yet. We’ll let you know when you’re fired.

Author’s note: Yoga is the study of human behavior. Politics is the action of human behavior. Yoga is exploration of one who becomes the many. Politics is the exploration of the many who become the one.

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