Category Archives: yoga wisdom

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Report from the Implosion. Blah, Blah, Blah.

Spiritual Exhaustion

Clouds tap Morse code on the skylights overhead.

 

There’s a message I don’t bother to decipher. I don’t really even look. Peripherally aware, I let it go.

 

Last night I brushed my teeth with hydro-cortisone cream and wondered why the toothpaste tasted so bad. It took a long moment to register. And then only because I noticed that something was different about my carefully curated basket beside the sink.  In a quick glance, a painting always on my wall kind of noticing, I recognized that something was off. I’d non-habitually thrown the only thing that relieves the endless bug bites of Tennessee summer next to the toothpaste instead of on the counter where it usually sits till autumn.

 

Ask the people who know me best what comes to mind about my mind and they will tell you I don’t miss a thing. Is it stress or age or exhaustion or depression or what? I’m missing.

 

I turned on the news yesterday morning to hear the Sunday news shows. I’ve been eating a daily breakfast and dinner of world crisis and crazy election shit sandwiches. I watch like I’ll be tested. I watch like something more shocking can occur. I watch like it matters that I know.

 

I switched from one station to the next to get a taste of the offerings. I would say I was paying attention if not my fullest attention as I was making coffee and feeding dogs and putting away dishes washed the night before. But all I heard was blah, blah blah.

 

I steeled myself to the television. What was happening? Is this what they call ADHD? Why can’t I pay attention!! I turned up the volume but I could not make out the words.

 

I could blame it on a Nashville party weekend and there was that but gears don’t slip that far unless they’re totally stripped. Seems I am totally stripped.

 

I haven’t posted much about this election. I have my reasons. But I have written scores. I looked back over some musings today.

 

The phenomena of a reality T.V. figure appropriating the highest branch in the Republican family tree is shocking. How did he do it? He understood an electorate’s doubt in itself and this life. He understood how to slither between the broken shards of people’s uncertainty. Can a guy that sure be wrong? They’re mesmerized by the gold crown on his self anointed head.

 

 

Politicians speak with confidence. We’re used to ignoring them. Trump got our attention with a confidence that didn’t jive with his adolescent insecurity. He fascinates us by calling admirers wonderful and detractors nah -nah names. He reduces the gravitas of President with a combination of juvenile delinquent and Mafia Don while his fans cheer him on. While a person of conscience would have exhausted himself, Trump fueled by the disease of winning can’t stop. While anyone else would have been buried under so much awfulness, Trump’s supporters are enthralled.

Trump RNC

Perhaps they see themselves in him or want to. Maybe it feels good to let all the trappings of civilization get trod under boots thick with the mud you want to roll in. Have we been too tightly wrapped? Are we longing to be overcome and helpless? Do we lack faith in ourselves or just that much faith in the system?

 

The name Clinton no longer has the ring of progressive intelligence. It is besmirched with the wanderings of a sex addict and the hint of lawlessness regrettably tinged with boring that describes the long suffering wife. Still, there is a history there of good deed doings that Trump lacks entirely. It’s something to cling to like a leaky raft. She lacks the history of stomping on the little guy. That’s a clear difference.

Hillary

There is an ongoing history of persuasive leaders and vulnerable followers whether victims of government or kidnappers or even yoga teachers. Not all leaders are the same. Some are idealized and elevated without seeking that status. Some purposefully reach for power. Those work to convince us they know more than we do. Whether different personalities end up in the same muck given the same circumstances or character trumps circumstance is an individual thing. But power is hypnotizing. Ask Frodo.

 

More fascinating is the nature of the follower. My brain almost refuses to dwell on the topic. I want to reduce it to the word douche bag. I want to reduce all annoyances to douche bag right now. But it’s not so simple. We are one body of exhausted people who feel powerless. We are tired of struggling to keep our heads above the quicksand. We’re dying to let go. Not all of that is our fault.

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We are Salesmen

It’s a new day.  So I open e-mail even though I don’t want to because that’s what responsible people do. I’m being sold. I’m braced for the assault. Buy this, think this, try this, help this, read this. If I put this rant on my site I am selling. If I put it on social media, I am marketing. Anyone with a Facebook account is a salesman.

 

This export/import business of social media sucks a lot of time. That’s why I see some friends less unless I make the effort. Some are lost in the bazaar. They are exporting and importing, trading with friends and strangers from solitary seats. It’s a fluid life without scheduled time so these things tend to run all over the day and night. The nature of man is to ingest and eliminate and so maybe this is a natural extension but me, I have indigestion.

 

I worked for a couple of yoga studios after I left mine. The yoga scene had shifted to what would be known as modern yoga though that had happened about a hundred years ago.

 

I was told it was my responsibility to promote my classes on social media. The only reason I’d gone to a studio was to avoid self promotion. It didn’t work out. Though I am a gregarious hostess, I am more a recluse than a joiner when it comes to strangers. I am not comfortable with a disingenuous life. The act of reaching out to strangers through a black hole befuddles me. On the other hand, I have no problem presenting my work as a resume to the world. Websites seem a logical solution.

 

So What’s in a Name?

It was the late 1900’s and an entrepreneurial client had bought a website company for a hobby. He wanted to build a website and insisted it be mine and demanded I create a name for my company which was only me and gave me a computer to boot despite my protests. I didn’t give a crap about a name so I picked Active Yoga since I was teaching a physically powerful class and I figured it gave the right impression and of course it started with the letter A so that had to be a plus in the now defunct phone book. It seemed like a lame name but there were no other yoga sites as far as I knew. Yoga people didn’t have websites so it didn’t matter what I called it. Famous last clueless thoughts…

 

That website was a day-glow mess and now my “brand” was out on the new world wide net so I enlisted the young web designer husband of one of my ballerina students to give me a professional make-over. I wanted something that read like a book. He wanted flash and sizzle. We argued. I told him my students wouldn’t even know how to engage a technical site. He told me, “Your students are stupid!”

 

I told him I wanted it to be a resume of my experience. He told me, “No one gives a shit about content. You will be the only one who will ever read it!” I told him that was fine.

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In 2000 I added the domain name Rebel Yoga since that had become the unofficial title the students had given me but it was unusable in the South considering the Civil War and all. It was later the moniker of a couple of excellent yoga saleswomen from the East and fourteen years later I dumped it for a grand.

 

Active Yoga went through one more incarnation a few years ago so I could manage it myself. I leave it there for posterity though I’m told to add content every week to drive traffic. Driving traffic is a passionless activity for me so I don’t bother. Where a website was once marketing, it is now dead as a tome filed in the tombs of the library’s basement if you don’t sell it regularly.

 

Now we use our names for titles because we are our own brand. It makes perfect sense and why didn’t I think of this sooner? Every yoga teacher certainly alters the yoga they learned as it’s alchemized by individual perception. Of course my yoga is Hilary Lindsay Yoga. Why had I wished to presume anonymity when I was posting a website? I should have just shouted my name but then in those days before we became voyeurs, people valued privacy. Now I am HilaryLindsayYoga.com but it comes up as Active Yoga because like my husband’s last name, it has become me.

 

Look at the biggest salesman of all, Donald Trump! He has his name on everything and if it has his name you have an impression of it whether it’s clothes or meat or a tower or a golf course.

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Despite the image of Trump, sales are not a bad thing.  How else would we know what is out there?  I’ve been sold so many things that improve my life and I’m grateful.

 

On the other hand, social media imitates a third world open market with hawkers trying to get each others attention. Like you, I am often bored, suspicious and exhausted by it. Like you, I am lucky when a good salesman catches my eye and fortunate when I recognize a fraud. What we ingest we must digest. That’s what I have to say about shopping and buying. We are all in sales unless we can live solitary lives not dependent on others. We pick what we can assimilate. No need to apologize unless you think you are the one who can change the nature of our economy to something better but don’t try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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