Sanders, Trump and Yoga

There is a murmur in the corner of the not so tiny yoga community about the state of affairs of yoga.

Bitchin Yoga always weighs in as vigorous claims interest her. For her, what was once surprising is not now. Age teaches. The state is adrift at the surface which is why she’s keen on learning high wire skills. Beneath the surface not much has changed.

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Consider this in terms of this election year. An unsettling season of ferocity seems normal these days. What once seemed weird or alternative or unlikely now seems a solution as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rise in the polls. Judgment of some kinds ceases as the Status Quo fails to deliver. Unconventional organizers ascend and division is clear.

The time is right for the once strange of yoga to increase in popularity, attract developers and further divide in these days of radical unrest and financial uncertainty.

Yoga practitioners with a pre-modern yoga history had little to distract us from the practice as it wasn’t tied to livelihood or even solutions to specific social problems. Modern yogis have a different experience to reckon with. Survival is paramount and so is unleashed creativity if they want to stay in what has become the game.

 

Yoga isn’t fringe anymore and “mindfulness” has pierced the commercial world. Yoga class as a *“mindful” exercise isn’t necessarily entirely different from a yoga classes twenty five years ago but as an increasing component of the public domain, it is presented differently. Now it is subject to regulations enforced by an outside source. That changes the flavor of things. The outside source used to be the first and second limb of yoga.

 

Before blogging there was a book on the state of yoga in America. Hearkening back to the chapter I wrote for that book, I still think that the first limbs of yoga are the key to the state of yoga and most things in America right now. Attraction or willful rebellion to those guiding principles of ethical restraints as well as the interpretation of those principles shapes the character of our choices. We are flailing wildly perhaps not realizing we are looking for direction. But we look for structure nonetheless.

 

To put it simply, the first limb describes the social offenses to avoid if one wants a peaceful life. The second limb describes the components of that life. In short, if you are doing the right thing you will sleep at night and want to take the next breath in the morning. But what is the right thing if not an opinion these days?

 

Look at the followers of Trump and Sanders and a yogi will notice that what looks like non-violence, honesty, lack of greed or gluttony and overstepping one’s power is not the same for everyone. Perception comes from individual experience of life. In fact there are a disturbing amount of stories of power abuse in yoga studios though the owners seem clueless. How interesting that a major goal of yoga is to break through this veil of perception to see truth.

 

What truth is has become one of the paramount questions of our time. Politicians tell their truths. It is different for each of them. They inform and influence the greater group. The group has shared truths. Some things become evident and absolute but often the case is not closed. This is the state of the yoga studio and teacher as well.

 

Discontentment’s fire fuels us and the West becomes a Wild West again. We will survive at all costs. We will sling guns where we want. We will break boundaries in relationship to all things whether it is sex, drugs, rules, racism and yes yoga. Political incorrectness has become correct. Survival comes first. When you open doors it is interesting to see who and how we choose to walk through them.

 

Is the yoga being taught now working? I’m sure it is working for some students because the interest in walking through a door that advertises illumination is to want that. So if the student keeps walking in and the teacher is at least conveying that yoga is the practice of self awareness or discipline or kindness then some yoga is being taught. Perhaps it is enough if the student recognizes there is work to do and because we are hard working people we can embrace that. We are the work we have to do. Perhaps that is the surface we want to scrape.

 

As for the financial survival of the teachers it is like other businesses today. The price of everything except salaries is going up. Perhaps that’s why so many teachers use yoga as their hobby or second business. Still, more people are putting hard earned cash into teacher training that won’t pay them back in much more than a brief education. There must be some pay off for them. That says to me their yoga experience has got them hooked, hopefully on more than ego. That’s not a bad thing.

 

It is a long time since I had a studio. I was lucky to be part of our local ballet company and my rent was cheap. I did not hire or fire. There were no Groupons and for that, there was no competition. We had punch cards and an honor system and a yoga family that lasted longer than the average attrition rate now. I am grateful beyond measure for that beautiful experience. I cannot say I know the state of yoga now but I know one thing for sure. It is a changing status while beneath the surface the seed of yoga is not.

 

*This is noted because I don’t like the use of the non- word mindfulness when thoughtful worked just fine. I used it here because it is part of yoga culture now.

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Everything Will Be Alright

 

She approaches me after class. Tells me she’s in law school. She and her peers are suffering from P.T.S.D. she says. From life.

She’s responding to a comment I made in class. I consider it pure luck that I have a positive position on the life we share at the moment.

Things need to break. The shit storm of happenstance and wrong actions that are instigating an onslaught of information on disaster is also precipitating a wellspring of solutions. That is a wellspring of love. That is the breath we choose.

Hilary Lindsay-one precious life

Hilary Lindsay-one precious life

The human condition shifts with awareness and it changes with our reactions. I see many hopeful reactions despite the barrage of sorrowful scenarios. We are looking for ways out. We are wielding sledgehammers. We are scraping peeling paint.

As radical politicians move the conversation from the usual banter, awareness grows. As spokesmen, leaders and newscasters inform people on pollution, poverty and violence against each other and the planet, quiet numbers choose to make things better in small and large ways.

It’s a life of small steps. We just step faster now. Diverse paths are rapidly emerging.

Some of us will be sacrificed no doubt. It was never easy to be aware.

But it would be less glorious to not be.

To blame nature’s weather or planets for our discomfort is shortsighted as well. Instability is nature itself. The perfect day will not last no matter how we pray for that.

Welcome to your place in the world. To smash and break it until it is right for you without harming any creature is artful. Perhaps that’s why the arts sustain us through hard times.

Remember, we are all artists. Your expression inspires mine. This is a beautiful instability.

Even trauma can generate beauty.

 

 

 

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Simply Complicated

I can’t remember where I read this mother’s account of her son’s last words: “It was all so simple. “ He was referring to life.

 

I stopped reading though her account had just begun. For the profundity of his finding in that moment took me aback where in another time it might have just seemed another hackneyed observation. And also, because I am a mother of sons.

 

But that statement indicates that there is no reason to worry. It disrobes the drama that is worry. It implies that everything is O.K. while these days it definitely feels like everything is certainly not going to be O.K.

 

It’s simple, eh? We are here to love and be loved. That is simple and beautiful enough. But I have rarely heard of a human life unfolding seamlessly.

Cheekwood optic fiber cotton candy Bruce Monroe by Rob Lindsay

Despite a desire to love and be loved or because of it, when someone doesn’t treat us well a worm of doubt assures us we are not worthy and the bad feelings get paid forward in future relationships.

 

Evolution as actualization begins at birth. In spite of the immense beauty that surrounds and buoys us, it is discomfort by way of desire or avoidance that keeps us moving.

 

Beyond that, we do not live to love only. We live to survive and survival comes first. In a system that demands we compete to survive love can get lost in the shuffle. And the shuffle has gone beyond our inside circle. Our connectivity is both support and pain.

 

Memory says that things are not O.K. We wrestle the future. We enter the news and become part of the stories that shock us. Acts unspeakable and not understandable are committed by people who are like us in most ways. Mutation happens within our tribes. We are tribal. In small ways and large, people act badly. Equilibrium abides because in small ways and large, we also act kindly.

 

We extend a helping hand to nations beyond ours but our service is a form of dominance and the seeds that spawn the grain are tainted. Our produce is a reflection of corporate power. If we enjoy the agricultural that created a Honeycrisp apple we can’t be surprised that technology also brought forth monster seeds. It comes at once. A revolution of technology followed a revolution of industry and fostered worldwide revolutions of disgruntled reactionaries who keep our hair raised and our fear at code red.

 

Nothing is simple. Or is it?

 

Spirit guides point me to a commonplace hearkening I’d become deaf to. Turn the other cheek is not so different from love your enemy or even love no matter what. No matter the circumstances, the human is urged to act alone as an act of rebellion. Defy fear. Do not hate. Love despite all. The act of loving oneself and one’s testy neighbor is revolutionary. That is the telling of non-reacting that is yoga washed in Buddhism.

 

In this midnight awakening it seems true and possibly simple. If we only loved from the first consciousness there would be no fear. Without harm or threat of harm things would be less complicated. But we messy human beings came wired for fear. We come with internal landmines that might or might not be active.

 

 

The wrestle with demons is the fable of heroism, the story of good v. evil we crave. If it is not in our own lives we seek it in stories of others. Perhaps that is what was and is so simple; To know our own nature and abide calmly in it.

 

 

 

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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.

Sleep

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.

Noise

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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