Category Archives: yoga

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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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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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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Wonderful and Terrible

I teach yoga to the veterans and when they don’t show up I hang out in what stands for their lobby given the coffee maker and odd array of stained chairs.

I chitchat with the mostly old guys who come to Operation Stand Down for companionship and shelter.

 

A radiant sky turns black. Gale force winds swiftly strain branches and rain ricochets to the sky from the murky pavement in waves. A roomful of heads turn.

Wire rimmed granny glasses and a head of brown curls frame the face of an ageless fellow with an unwavering grin. He regards the storm and me.

“It’s wonderful and terrible! “

 I concur.

“I want to get out in it”, he says.

I agree though neither of us makes a move toward the blitz.

 

And then it’s over as quickly as it began.

I’m left with the joyful resonance of wonderful and terrible.

 

Our unavoidable political process

My youngest son

The yoga business

The animals that eat and get eaten

We people that love and hurt and hurt each other

Abundance and the fear of loss

Poverty and the hope of redemption

The rush tinged with terror

A placid pond with vicious mosquitoes

The lightning bolt in a purple sky

The earth’s thirst quenched and the choking flood.

 

From my singular position to the macrocosm I suddenly realize it’s all the same.

At once and always

 

This is the beautiful wonder-filled life we were handed

This is the one we were born to love

To want to get out in it no matter its nature, is ours.

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Nowhere Man

I’m awake which sucks because it’s almost dawn and if I slept it was fitfully. Frustrated, I hurl myself out of bed, poetry writing itself in my head.

 

Writing words that no one will read

Painting pictures that no one will see.

Huh.

I take stock of my thoughts. Plainly I’ve got work to do.

 

I am way overtired. We’d been to a party of dear friends. We party like it’s a job interview that we will kill. We celebrate with abandon which despite our lovely lives is not our lot.

 

It’s too early and even for a morning after I know I will suffer too much. I make a play for sleep again and it comes though an hour later my new pup wakes me with a muscular swipe at my face. I roll out of bed and throw on my robe as a song starts playing in my head.

He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land…. Oh you’ve got to be kidding.

 

In the 70’s Lennon told Rolling Stone Magazine how he conceived The Beatles song Nowhere Man. “I was just going through this paranoia trying to write something and nothing would come out so I just lay down and tried to not write and then this came out, the whole thing came out in one gulp.”

 

I get that and thank you John for helping me to believe I may be more like you than just the lazy creative free procrastinator I  imagine myself right now.

 

And then there’s the nagging realization that most beautiful creations will go unnoticed. They come from souls who no one will know. But that doesn’t mean they’re nobody.

 

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Breathing Bough Ballet of Love

I eschew my habit of the morning news and take my coffee to a rough hewn wooden swing that hangs thirty feet from a bending bough. I am a rumpled figure tossed from bed to this field by my love for a girl named Layla. Swaying in the wind I rest my head against the heavy rope in the vanishing dawn light leisurely lulled to consciousness.

 

These seven acres behind my house are home to a couple of bird dogs who’ve opened their hearts to embrace my four month old pup. Breakfast fed, they are waiting for her by the fence gate. Little Layla launches herself through the first crack and the three of them hurl down the hill in a flood of fur as our old Red hovers.

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It’s not the best time for a new pet. Domestic life had slowly settled from a circus of kids and animals into one man and one woman and one easy old dog. I would paint, read and write more. We would be centered on ourselves, slaves to no schedule or obligations other than work. There are those so disciplined they would keep their eye on that ball no matter the distraction but that’s not me. Like Layla, I am easily diverted by distractions. They are potent with possibilities.

 

The trick is to seize the thing with gusto no matter that it took you off course. No human can chart a course with impunity anyhow. That’s a set-up for disappointment as the nature of a life is interference. Should you find the thing untenable you can always change course again. There are ways.

 

I don’t go with a flow I hate. That’s for swimming upstream. But when life hands you love you say yes.

precious pup 2016

 

 

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