Tag Archives: American Culture

Is Your Relationship to Your Fellow Man Making You Sick?

Five thirty A.M. the reporters at NPR assault me with the news of the deadliest mass shooting in our history. I am awake.

My tired mind forces a memory scan. Who do I know in Vegas this week? It seems just yesterday my friend Holly said she is going there for something. Shit. Was it this week?

Disaster comes upon disaster, one shoved down as the other surfaces coming with more and more frequency.  The Trump disaster overshadows all. Hope is slipping.

The webinar I watched on Alzheimer’s hits my frontal lobe. The doctor listed the places on earth called Blue Zones where people have the least medical issues including Alzheimer’s. In the U.S. there is one place. It is Loma Linda California. He says it is not any particular diet as much as a clean diet devoid of alcohol and smoking that keeps them healthy but there is more than that. There is community. Love and charity prevail not instigated by crisis but on a regular basis. It is the basis.

We cannot thrive on a daily diet of grief. The stress is killing us as fast as fast food, climate disasters and drug overdoses. Stress corrodes the brain.

We live in a war zone. We are at war with each other. We are at war with our President. We are at war with our own failings.

My husband notes on shooting a documentary about Trump supporters that the commonality is the question, what about me? He perceives an overarching narcissism that trumps empathy.

Put on your own oxygen mask before your children’s. Who doesn’t know that? You need to love yourself before you can love someone else. That’s common knowledge too, right? Charity begins at home. We are advised to look after ourselves in order to become. But how do we know what is too much charity and what is too much self interest.

After all, for true self interest we should be concerned as much with the people around us as ourselves. They are our environment. They are the fabric of our lives.

There is a social implication of controlling others or overwhelming them which is described in the yoga text, Yoga Sutras as bramacharya. This does not define dictatorship versus charity but allows us to consider staying in our own lane either way. However bramacharya does not stand alone. It co-exists with a call to kindness, generosity and contentment with oneself and one’s lot.

 Insecurity is the enemy.

Are we stuck between those that wonder what about us and those that worry what about me? Do we rail against what seems an extreme of one or the other? There is so much need for those outside our pack and also so much instinct to gather the loved ones and shut the door.

A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine daughter started kindergarten this year. She invited the class to her daughter’s birthday party and only a handful of people responded and came. She found out another girl whose invitations went out later had a party the same day and that’s where most of the class had gone. They hadn’t invited her daughter and they hadn’t responded to her invitation though the policy at school is for invites to go through the school and to everyone. My friend had an emotional crisis. Why was her daughter shunned? And then she got sicker than she’s ever been. She tells me it’s the flu and she felt like she was dying.

I write this because it seems a metaphor for all our sickness, this social disease. This dis-ease.     My friend is used to a strong community. She is an outsider here. What does this do to our bodies?

Today another person went off the rails and unloaded bullets into strangers. We don’t know why yet. There will be demands for better mental health screening, for gun control and for tightening up against terrorism if they find any links to a terrorist group outside the U.S. I doubt any of it will successfully happen.

Human beings need a chance to work a job that allows them to care for themselves and their children. We need to be educated. We need to eat and drink cleanly. We need to have fun. We need time to have fun. We need to live a life beyond survival. We need time and space to be charitable. We need friends and family who are not crazy to care about us. We need to feel secure.

Tech life allows us to find new avenues of isolation and rudeness.  The benefits of information at a fingertip seem small compared to the disruption of our social lives. There’s no turning back but there has to be some measure of discernment and that is the problem. There is no true north. That star there? It’s fake. It’s that easy to dismiss something that is accurate.

We are untethered. Fact has become opinion even to its face. There is no moral anchor. Where will it come from? I don’t know. I know for a student of yoga the moral restraints and observances as described in the Sutras is a useful checklist, as useful as any commandment from the bible.

If it seems I’m saying that yoga will save us think again. I know lots of morally bankrupt yoga folks. No one is exempt from hypocrisy. This is a think piece. I’m thinking out loud. Hope it gives you something to consider about yourself as it does for me. And if want to read the basis of modern yoga’s moral system, this is a good place to start. And by the way, I don’t know that it was written so much as a moral system as a way to manage personal energy so that me, myself and I can find peace within whatever situation I’m in. If it is a way of separation, it is at least a separation that leaves room for inclusion. Now go figure that riddle out.

 

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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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Filed under American culture, new age enlightenment, politcal action, social action, social commentary, yoga and blogging, yoga wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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