Category Archives: social commentary

Ask Alice How She Feels Right Now.

EAT  ME

 

My body is sensitive to drugs, to food, to thoughts and so is yours but you may not notice. So many of us have trained ourselves or been trained to disassociate from discomfort that when asked how we feel we have no words. Perhaps we realize we feel nothing but confusion. It’s a modern malady. But then in an industrial world resting or too much self care is viewed as self indulgent or weak.

 

I took CBD* oil (Phytocannabinoid Diol)combined with other hemp plant compounds for joint pain and began to notice I was mellow in the way I felt after yoga and bodywork.  I hadn’t realized how anxious I’d become. The nation is suffering from the effects of the last election and maybe that’s it but yoga wasn’t fixing it except for moments.

 

We live in a garden of plants that support the health and longevity of our human bodies. The fountain of youth is a dream or nightmare but there is some basis to believing in its existence.

Though I primarily use plants for medicine, this plant provided me a lesson in personal power. It is challenging to regulate how much I need of it day to day or even hour to hour by how I feel. In a world where even we yogis hand over the power to a doctor when our bodies concern and confuse us, this substance requires you to FEEL in order to self-regulate. This creates a healthy dynamic in the relationship between doctor and patient. This is personal power beyond moving the body or centering the mind without sickness. While I am a patient that goes to a doctor armed with information, I still have doubt about what does and does not work in many circumstances. The use of this oil demands I trust myself. (I am compelled to issue a disclaimer that if a person needs help and does not have the ability to self regulate, a doctor’s advice is essential.)

 

This is both yoga and beyond yoga where yoga binds consciousness to spirit and matter using the body as the vehicle. That vehicle is an energy system in a state of

Flux,

Imbalance,

Movement,

Motion,

Change,

IMPERMANENCE.

 

When we become sensitive to our bodies,

When we become intimate with ourselves in relation to other,

When we are able to sharpen our attention to choose happiness,

We may find ourselves living in yoga.

 

 

*CBD is a molecule in the hemp plant whose cannabinoid system like cannabis supports human receptors in the brain and body called endocannabinoid receptors. The plant and we share a genetic code in some way.

Please do not run out and buy CBD. Hemp is not very absorbable and you will waste your money if the product does not have a carrier for the blood system. Also, make sure you get a product where every batch is tested at a reliable lab. Organic does not mean clean.

 

 

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Go Ask Alice Why Yoga Isn’t Enough.

“This one makes you taller and this one makes you smaller.”

 

I began this post a month ago and like many of my projects it went the wayside. It was a view on taking CBD oil and personal power. I learned something I want to share about that. I will make that a separate post to follow this.

 

I picked this up because Michael Stone the Buddhist teacher, yoga teacher, activist died suddenly. I knew him from his writing and from reading a manuscript that was an intimate look into the soul of the man through his ongoing correspondence with a friend. I could feel his broken heart. He was so smart, so clear and yet lost. It’s hard to explain. I never knew him but I felt like I got him. Maybe I recognized something I knew from myself. Maybe I’m not alone. He had thousands of followers and friends.

He was broken for the last time and in trying to put himself back together seemed to make a desperate choice to take a street drug. It killed him. He had bi-polar disorder and apparently had tried many avenues of treatment over the years to manage it.

 

I write this now because this morning I recalled my first friend in Nashville who was a yoga teacher of great skill and lineage. I remembered her shock when I told her I was getting a massage which I did a few times a year as a treat. She asked me how I could do yoga and not get bodywork as she did every week. I was surprised.  Although I taught and led strong classes I didn’t feel like I wanted bodywork. I didn’t need it. And I wondered why someone doing yoga was so needy for outside help. That circle of yogis engaged in a practice of psychotherapy as well. They were upturning stones for answers at a time I was not questioning much.  I was content.

 

I eventually got hurt which lead to compensation that took me down a rabbit warren I couldn’t retreat from. I understood the need for help. I couldn’t see myself objectively. I just felt pain.

 

That pain correlated to what I felt was the degradation of the practice of yoga in a place that had been the Holy Grail here in Nashville.

My physical pain became tied to emotional pain that never resolved except through acceptance which in my opinion is limited.

 

So I’m publishing this with a different bias. My thirty years of experience working with people through movement and yoga revealed that people come to yoga to be unbroken. Yes, they come to be fit but in my experience, in my classes even in the day they were pure power, I found hunters looking for sustenance.

It aggravates me to see the sea of mainstream conclusions written about yoga and meditation solving the human condition. I do both and I advocate both. Yoga and meditation make profound shifts in our consciousness toward awareness. I’m a fan of awareness but it’s not always pleasant and a person who is awake can also be hyper sensitive.  Sometimes yoga is not enough.

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Samskara and the Witness: Yoga’s Value in the Time of Trump.

Samskaras are impressions that form our unconscious thoughts and actions.

Bramacharya is the tempering of excess.

 

I have a failing dog whose cries sound like a bird that has newly taken residence in my yard. He falls and the puppy runs in to tell me. Is it him or a bird? I jump up now when I hear the bird. I am confused and it’s corrupting my concentration. My impressions are nervous and exhausting. I recognize that something must change. My choices challenge me.

 

Obstruction of justice, Russia, agenda, fake news, collusion, credibility and incompetence represent the concepts that frame America this day of June 8th. James Comey, former FBI Director will be heard. The moon will be full. The pundits will interpret and Americans will take sides.

 

Here in Nashville, the city is teaming with tourists for Bonaroo and CMA week. Music fills the air. The town is charged with love for our hockey team the Nashville Predators who will compete for the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh tonight. They are my clients. Music is much of my moving life. I am not entirely distracted by politics today.  I throw my thrown gardener’s back into the mix. I am in pain so I’m already irritated. Just these things create a background for my impressions of the news today. This is a molecule of what informs my consciousness. The rest is my history. And yours.

 

I remember saluting the flag with pride. I remember a country that made me feel safe. I remember a mannered country even if it was only the surface. I remember feeling the grownups in charge would take care of me. But then I was raised kindly in a safe and privileged place by two grownups who are together 64 years today. I have an impression. I am loved and I love easily. I was raised by people who took care of those weaker or less fortunate. I believe in entitlements which I think is a horrible word for helping those less advantaged. I have traveled and felt the sameness of folks from different worlds. I embraced the alternative world of yoga and shunned the status quo as a young adult. It was a time that embraced that.

 

I know to listen to the opinions of people who think differently than I do because I am aware that my impressions color my views.  I admit to rage over what I perceive as deeply cynical or naïve views. I can barely stand to watch Fox news though my husband insists we do to understand what we’re dealing with. But I see obnoxious. And I know those people see MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and the newspapers that once had the greatest gravitas the same way and worse.

 

How do we witness objectively? How do we begin to lose our impressions and be an unbiased jury?

 

We listen to the words out of people’s mouths without interpreters. We come from kindness to embrace all living creatures and this earth. We look for credible evidence which means it can be proved. We choose to withhold absolute opinion. If we’re lucky we feel what feels right according to the rules of right and wrong we learned at home, at worship houses, at school.  If we had none of that we look for something to trust. Something of love. Something of light.

 

In yoga we breathe gently with consciousness in rhythm with movement. We hold our attention to the sensations of the moments. We try to lift the cloud by being patient. We hone awareness. When confronted with truthful feelings we examine them. It’s not foolproof but it’s what yoga offers.

 

My impression is that both the words liberal and conservative are good in context. Liberal when it means generous. Conservative when restraint is called for to reign in incorrect generosity. That concept is covered in modern yoga as bramacharya.  Modern yoga philosophy recognizes the other factors that allow us to recognize bramacharya in our own lives.

 

This is not a tutorial on yoga. It is to say that yoga is needed more than ever in these days of confusion. When right and wrong is no longer absolute, when facts are called fake, when robots are manipulating our impressions for gain, it is imperative that we find a way home.

 

Author’s note: this is truly a blog post written quickly and as ….. an impression. :()

 

 

 

 

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Follow the Money

There is no yoga here. It gets a place on bitchin yoga because bitchin yoga is me.

I wanted a job in the film industry and was sent to interview with Augusta Dinardo at Jenkins Covington Newman in Manhattan.

It turned out that Gus was the bookkeeper and wanted an assistant to be the production bookkeeper. I told her I had never  passed a math class and sorry for the wasted time but no thanks.

I don’t know why but she called me for weeks trying to convince me to take the job. She told me that it didn’t matter what I was good at because I could already do that. I should become good at something else. I finally caved because I needed the work and she was relentless.

On my first day she said to me, “Everything in a production comes through this office with the money you track in the actuals. If you follow the money you will understand this job better than any producer working here.” She was right. Producing on budget was later a game I excelled at.

So I’m watching the new Trump presidency. He is about the money. His cabinet members are for the most part wealthy. There is a new model that moneymaking is the most important thing a president can do for the country. I will follow the money.

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I’m watching to see how many dollars go into regular folk’s pockets and for how long. And how many dollars go somewhere else. And how many dollars come out of regular folk’s pockets to pay for things he wants to buy. Like walls.

“Let’s make a deal” is the motto now. Somehow  I suspect the dealer always wins.

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In the Age of Trump, is a Protest an Act of Sedition or Civil War?

 To resist a new regime is to revolt against the countrymen who unwittingly sold souls to create it.

The goal of yoga is to lift the veil of one’s ignorance, to see, to feel, to know yourself. I am a yoga teacher but whose ignorance have I helped to lift?

Certainly not the guests I sat with at the last dinner party who were on the surface a like minded circle of liberals. When a millennial guest sitting beside his soldier partner told us that his sweet country mother voted for Trump because she was angry that Obama used the company plane to go to Hawaii, tongues clucked in sympathy. It wasn’t her fault that she’s a simpleton. Sighing empathy all round.

I wanted to slam my fist on the gloriously set table and scream. Fuck that. There is no excuse for that level of ignorance or pettiness. Your mother is an asshole and so are you for not shoving facts in her face.

Hell, I did it to my mother when he won the Primary and it took a week of arguments before she came to her senses blinded as she was by the glorious image of the sparkling Von Trump children gracing a stately White House. She has always been a cup full full kind of dreamer. She’s also a bit vain despite her social work background and was infuriated by the sight of Hillary Clinton’s pant suits. And she doesn’t realize she was raised to believe that men are men and there is no excuse for a woman who doesn’t learn to manage that situation with wit and she still believes that. She would deny all of this but I know it’s true.

In a new nation where facts are considered opinions by some and fake news has no rival for others, it is near impossible to have a rational conversation with someone who voted for Trump these days. In fact it’s even hard to have an agreeable conversation with anyone but the most like minded people. My dinner party hostess told me later she thinks it’s pointless to try to convince people of anything.  You can’t change anyone’s mind and it’s not your place. I told her to tell that to Martin Luther King.

mlk

No one was hurt when Clinton was loose with her mail. But Trump stole the tuition of innocent working folks at Trump University. In this, his defenders say Clinton is the crook. They know the word e-mail. They seem to think that’s enough.  Argue with them and you’ll want to put a bullet through your head. I had a client tell me that Clinton had people murdered and though I countered, look at the person’s history and judge if that is likely and by the way that was fake news, she was unmovable. She said the two candidates are equally bad. When I hear that I want to sling shit like a caged ape.

If half the country is the other halves adversary or enemy, is it an act of sedition for one half to march against the other or is that a call to civil war?

what-is-the-true-cost-of-war

He will become President.  A march in protest is a march against the people who voted for him and the people who didn’t vote. That is more than half the country but it matters.

I do have friends who voted for Trump. I love these people though I disrespect their willingness to deny facts and worse, to defend their beliefs with twisted logic. I have to look at what I love about them and stay the course. And I have to speak my mind and also listen to them or they are not my friends.

Still I know that my protest is an act of anger against them. Any protestor denying that is simply afraid to see the truth because it is painful to fight with the people you love. Maybe worse, it’s painful to think that the people you love don’t respect you either.

Trump has initiated a fight with the people who share his country and the countries that share our interests. He is a fighter. That is what he does. He describes it one step past that. He says he is a winner. We can stand down or express our concerns. Will that initiate a civil war? I’d say the war has already begun.

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Awareness Hides in the Riddle of the Step Gone, Not Gone

 

Written on a laughable day last week. I didn’t bother to post it as is my habit these days of why bother. I’m posting for the yoga lesson included which makes none of this dated.

 

Trump is the president elect. Hope dies harder for half the country as he appoints each post.  Today Rick Perry was marked to run the department of energy, a department he tried to disavow with his own failed run for presidency years before.  Under the pressure of a debate he could not remember its name. He is famed for being stupid. The meanest witch that ever competed on Trump’s reality show is on his transition team.  The Apprentice was designed to pit colleagues against each other. No competitor had sharper teeth than Amoroso. Sociopathic ambition impresses Trump. So do sycophants.  Here she’s invited demented Kanye West to the Tower for a narcissist coupling with the boss. What the Hell could they be talking about in any non-acid dropping universe?

 

 

I’ve been choking on the news but this latest pile of impossible releases the catch in my throat.  I take the breath held this year long and laugh. All scenes of Trump dynasty are absurd. That is if you forget for a moment that you and your children and everyone you love will be destroyed.

cimg1877b

Election 2016 is a collaboration of We the people.  Stage lights illuminate the terrible, impossible truth of this black comedy we created by ignorance or complicity or apathy. It took generations to get here.

Time gone is not a word called history but a void of unfinished, tangled events.

 

Then again it is the same day the news exposes the dire straits of Tennessee’s children. They are failing. There is nothing funny about that. Halt the rise of charter schools officials say a bit late to the game! The bulk of Tennessee’s population lives silent lives below the radar. The jewel of Nashville is worse than the rest of the state. Here in Nashville those that can, go to private schools that were the once the sanctuary of Whites against integration. It took generations to get here.

Time gone is not really gone but lies like a film of unsolved problems on the windows of our collective home.

 

I enter the University with a heavy heart. I have a class to teach. And a bad case of I don’t give a shit about a yoga class. Though it’s after dark I have not washed my face. I am wearing the sweats I threw on to walk the dogs this morning. The grey day lingers inside me.

CRW_4484

I have the feeling that I no longer have a country or free will that matters beyond the choice of food I eat which is still a lucky choice compared to much of the world. That might not seem like good inspiration for a yoga class but it is.

 

Where is the awareness in a yoga pose? The correct movement of skin requires refinement of the senses but reflection comes in the wake. Realization comes in the limbo between forms. This seeming inaction sometimes feels like the step not taken or the slide backward. However it is here that the yoga manifests awareness in totality.

 

The effect of the action of the skin is clarity.  Hopefully it is the awareness of peaceful space. But strong actions in new territory often result in the awareness of discomfort. The actions seemed correct at the moment but whether clouded judgment, group pressure to perform or confusion prevailed, we are hurt or at least uncomfortable.

 

Time gone after the pose is not a measure of finished business but the space for unfinished business.

This reflection births the next move. When we don’t recognize the gift of that moment, we squander it. Mistakes are repeated or we fail to reap the full pleasure of good space. Either way, lack of recognition is a disservice.

 

The riddle is that recognition is subject to one’s past and perceptions. It might seem like a no brainer that we would recognize truth except that truth is strained through the screen of our individual experiences and subject to distortion.

 

How does that relate to the choice of this man for President? We’ll see.

trump-rnc

In the meanwhile, we might recognize our part in all of this. This is the step backward. It will seem to be gone with the next one forward, but that is an illusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stupid, Useless, Guilty! A Tribute.

My friend died.  I hadn’t seen her in awhile as we travel in different directions most of the time. She had spent much of the last years caring for her sick mother and sister a few hours away in Birmingham.

I took a too rare trip to my yoga home a few months ago and she was there.

“It’s been too long, how are you?”

“I just found out I have stage four cancer! Can you believe it?” She waved her hand over herself. “Me!”

She didn’t whisper as people with horrific news often do. She shouted it out as if to dispel it by force. We are all friends there after all.

She was astonished by the possibility of a clean life fostering that disease. She is a calm and capable and happy woman. She teaches restorative yoga and heals students with singing bowls. She is a painter, an artist who lives an artful life. Who lived an artful life.

She had digestive issues and found there was cancer there that had metastasized. She felt so fine I think she believed she would denounce that cancer and send it running. I believed that.

She suffered through chemotherapy, lost her hair, kept going to the studio and kept teaching her own classes. Her hair grew back. She had another art show.  She had departed from her signature work to something more formed, brighter and simpler. She offered a spread of the same favorite foods she always served. Other than the show being in her yoga studio rather than the usual gallery, all seemed status quo. She was lively, resplendent.  I thought she was mending.

A month or so went by that we didn’t cross paths again.

I got the news by a group mailing. At first it seemed untrue. Surely I would have known a different way. She and I had shared yoga time and painting time and healing time together. My bookmarks are all the birthday cards she made me over the years.

She had been on my mind daily as it’s the Jewish holidays and she is an observant Jew, one of my few Jewish friends who feel what I feel right now. This is a heavy holiday as it heralds a week of reflection and forgiveness. I can’t say why I felt it portend to something heavy with her but I did. She died on the Jewish New Year.

I chanted all I could remember of Yizkor, the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead. Yizkor means remember. I lit a candle beside a wool basket she had made me filled with her signature painted sculptures.

I called a friend who was her student to tell him. He already knew.

I said, I don’t know what to do. I feel stupid and useless and guilty.

Chris, always a wise guy said, hey that’s a great hook for your business card.  

I was grateful for the laugh.

And the perspective.

I have the flu. I thought I was past it but a night of grief and memories left my lungs with lead weights and a brain sodden and spongy. I will blame my self deprecation on that.

I am not stupid or useless. And maybe I’m guilty of not living a life as full of potential as she did and as she saw in me. And maybe I was guilty of believing she would live and not sending her flowers or cards as I did my last friend that died in a similar way. I had a heads up with that friend that she was not for this world. I had heard Kaaren was challenged again but I knew she was still teaching and wrongly assumed she would go on.

It’s still hot in Nashville. There’s a dry breeze in the slowly dying trees that tells us things have changed despite the temperature.

I slowly walk my dogs on fully stretched leashes. The puppy is pulling me forward. The elderly dog holding me back. This feels like limbo and I note the irony of my observation.

So much more time is behind than before me. To move directionless is wasted time. It is a prison.

What could be crueler than to be a being conscious of your own inevitable demise? We are all on death row. We know the history of death. But all of nature screams keep moving and to scorn that is to scorn life itself.

When loved ones pass they leave us the gift of gratitude for each free breath. Yizkor also upholds that the soul gains additional merit if the memory of its, of her, good deeds spur loved ones to improve their ways.

Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, you continue to inspire me as you always did. Though life ends, the legacy of you who nourished everyone you touched lives on with us.

May you rest in peace.

 

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