Tag Archives: Buddhism

Find Me In the Bardo

I am sick; stricken completely dumb with laryngitis and not at my best. I’m certainly not meant to be teaching a yoga class, that’s for sure. If you wonder how important a teacher’s words are to her craft try taking yoga from a mime. It’s not that satisfying.

But it’s Christmas week and near impossible to get a last minute sub and besides, I’m teaching at the facility whose parking lot was the target of my vandalized car and since no one has offered to help me pay for the damage, I’m working overtime.

My joints feel poisonous and I make the mistake of not giving a shit that I’ve chosen a play list that is completely horrendous. I have no idea how I have this on my I-pod but it says Holiday and Spirit and Jai Uttal is singing something Adonai and that’s the best of it. My body wants a couch and this music will not inspire the rush of endorphins that I’ve relied on in times of inertia and bad attitude past to make me powerful beyond this body. It’s fair to say that in this moment, the once renowned rebel yogi who could move an auditorium of students by example has lost her groove. And I suspect it’s more than this passing illness. Or is it?

“We do not see things as they are.

We see them as we are.” ~ The Talmud

 

The bardo is a Buddhist term for the place between lives that Christians might equate with Purgatory or Limbo. Depending on how you’ve managed your life, you might spill from the bardo toward the light or you might not. It is a purification ground and can be a painful process. One thing is for sure, you aren’t in Kansas anymore. And you might not immediately recognize that you’ve left.

There is a point in life in which you realize you are not the person you always knew. It seems like it happens overnight but it doesn’t. You don’t think the same way. You don’t like or feel the same things. You don’t teach the same way. How did this happen? That’s always the question. The answer is you stayed alive. The answer is you stopped or were stopped to notice what was inevitable. In the stopping comes the temporary pain of knowing, the sweet realization that you are more real than ever and the power of choice.

It’s the bardo time of the year though we have just passed the darkest day. We barely notice under the glare of holiday lights. We make a purposeful choice as a community to herald the darkness by laughing at death on Halloween and later hoping for life with the Christmas messiah and Hanukkah’s message of eternal light. Too busy to notice the boogeyman, we are uncomfortably comfortable in an accelerated life that does not allow for time off anyway. We run through and from the darkness. It is our nature to be afraid of anything as still and dark as death. The year begins with bold declarations and resolutions that come less from stillness than the ceaseless adrenal rush of hope and denial.

Still, transitions happen. Bridges to somewhere else abound. It’s not just an age thing but the many cycles of a life. But what might seem less profound in younger years is undeniable when no longer camouflaged by youth’s intensity.

Sickness stops us when all us fails but I am not it’s servant and in 25 teaching years have only one memory of stopping for one day for illness. I pride myself on racing through the bardo of viral war, wielding my sword of energy born of yoga, dance, chi gung, plant medicine and defiance. It has worked to pull me quickly from the abyss without a blip.

Now dumbstruck with the viral beast I’ve still ploughed on in surety that ignoring it will dispel it but laying limp on the couch follows every effort. Still with every burst of renewed energy, I’ve driven myself forward like this foolish rhododendron in my garden that has been sneaking forth blooms with every thaw since the first frost, well before her time. No wonder her flowers are frostbit and limp. Can I not see how alike I am?

If ever nature screamed: SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP, it is now but I declare, I AM NATURE TOO AND I WILL DECIDE WHAT IS NATURAL FOR ME!

I spent years unaware in the bardo expecting the same students, the same appreciation. When old students reappear decades later, I am sure I will fail them now. I will not be giving that exact thing they loved, like that favorite food they remember from their mother. I have changed and that might disappoint.

No fan of marketing, I would not reinvent myself by anything other than the quiet way I have done it but still, when students ask if I will teach my old dance class or talk about me, in front of me, as the teacher who did this and that, I feel a bit un- tethered. I have run ceaselessly to avoid the darkness and for all of that, must deal with the bardo as I can say with surety that I have long been its guest.

Is this too melancholy for this joyous time of year? No, it is perfect timing. This purification is not really painful but wistful and I think done for now. Anyway, I’m a mournful poet. Sorrow is just so beautiful. And hope is the unseen side of sorrow.

If you are looking for your old teacher, come find her in the bardo. She’s on her way out.

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Filed under American culture, Buddhism, metaphsyics, nature, new age enlightenment, social commentary, yoga, yoga and blogging, yoga and religion, yoga practice, yoga teaching, yoga wisdom

Total Recall

_MG_1953Hil_new year's 2011_cropped_websize

In the worst of winter you recall a child;

 

A simple creature who did not rush

But digested the life; one thought with one action.

Not parsing time or pausing to weigh the worth of a task

But wholly absorbed as only one who has nothing to answer to can be absorbed.

 

Who asked for what was wanted without assuming the answer

Who ate only when hungry and drank from thirst not habit

In the times before moral outrage

The short window of innocence

When you constructed your dreams from nightmares;

Manifested desires in fantasy that went unchecked.

 

Before you were restless,

And burn -out became numbness.

 

Remembering what you turn to others to teach you now            

Before you ran to textbooks and spiritual guides

Before you quoted others to make your point

And distractions replaced your memory with advice that crowded out the cells that knew before.

 

When stacking stones was holier than parent’s handclapping at your grammar school play

No one told you consciousness creates matter

But you expected that.

In the days before the whirring machine blocked the flow of your thoughts;

Your fancy created the world

Just hand from pen to paper.

 

You were fertile

But not yet fertilized.

 

Child hood ripostes were correct but you were not so clever yet.

Protected by the castle walls, you could not yet comprehend the battlefield

While chanting songs to ease the smart of other’s glances:

I Know You Are But What Am I

I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks back on you.

It takes one to know one.

You had the words but no comprehension to back them up.

The knowledge you had, had no words to describe.

You made no choices but time chose for you. It would not stop. 

Inner guides met outer guides and plotted to keep you and those did collide at the first reckoning

But age made you sober;

For better where collusion carved awareness

 And worse when you forgot yourself.

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Filed under Buddhism, new age enlightenment, poetry, social commentary, Uncategorized, yoga, yoga wisdom

In the End It Is the Same.

 _MG_1953Hil_new year's 2011_cropped_websize

Morning meditation and a minute in when you whisper:

 

Let go of being right, let go of being wrong.

The unsolicited lesson is plain as the bare daylight that’s new by the calendar but not new yet for me.

Being right is an endless defense.

Being wrong is guilty or stupid.

 

I didn’t realize that took up so much room until

A knot in my belly I hadn’t noticed before abated with those words and

I realized I’d been tossing other people’s problems for them lately but forgot to let them go.

 

Isn’t there always something to be right or wrong about?

Life is a continuous wheel of riddles.

Opinions of right and wrong are essential in knowing how to proceed but

If right thought creates right action the gloating might choke you.

If confused thought creates wrong action the guilt might kill you.

 

If I am right without desire to defend that, if I am wrong but carry no shame

I cease to be a storage unit.

And then it’s largely opinion anyway.

 

Let go of being right. Let go of being wrong.

Who said that? I don’t have a face for the messenger in my head.

Overstuffed from a feast of yesterdays, this body is instantly and unexpectedly swept bare.

Conversations past and battles gone by, go by now.

 

And today you whispered; despite and because.

Two sides of the same coin have the same worth and pay the same bill.

Whether heads up or heads down may seem to make a difference,

In the end it is the same.

 

No memory comes but I am aware of itching angry gnats under my shoulders.

I pour imaginary water over them and sense them sink and disperse.

What difference is it what flame beneath the skin pushes us forward?

Positive or negative may be mute where reaction to either compels us to choose the same path.

In the end it’s the same.

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The Life Before Us Is Disappearing

Photo courtesy of Lin Tun – Buddhist Temple

Where Is the Forest?
It Just Looks Like Trees.

Slung over this desk,
phone on shoulder and hands on keys
in the fourth waking hour of a day
marked by earth shrieking heat,
I’m Shiva the destroyer,
an octopus of intentions and limbs.

The time thief plied me with good coffee
and a careless hour of early morning comfort
then stole the rest from me.

What you engage, you will become:
A web.
Flimsy, unsubstantial,
covered in dust for the sitting too long,
you are a trap for thoughts
you can’t digest.

Scanning the web;
watch out for the links.
No way am I going down that foxhole.
That’s how daylight is lost.
Open no link until the reading’s done
or disappear on Riding Hood’s scavenger hunt
bewildered in the woods
forgetting where you started,
wandering exhausted and hungry.

Don’t kid yourself.
You can only do one thing well at a time.
You won’t remember what you were reading
before the first link is done.

Words, so many lovely words
shove their way onto this tiny screen;
I anxiously scan them for the sake of time.
But my head turns just slightly north
to the horizon beyond this window
and at once there is no rush
or refusing the invitation
for wordless thoughts.

Here time is not clipped
but expansive as the horizon
till I turn back
and all is compression.

And what are we talking about?
It seems there are two topics.

One: We are fucked and this is why.
Two: We are perfect
and life is beautiful
and this is why
and this is how.

Guess I know which this one is.

Link it, like it,
share it, pin it,
tweet it, stumble upon it,
tumble over it and sell it;
especially sell it.

And what changes while we’re talking,
I wonder.
Perhaps time will tell.
That’s what we people say
when we don’t know.

Perhaps the leadership of this planet,
that behemoth global constipation of intransigence
will shift as a result and meanwhile……..
Busy so busy. What a joke.
How’ve you been?
Oh man, I’ve been so busy!
Oh really?

Task: Another name for burden.
We are multi-burdening.
Buried in burdens
multiplied by complicity,
we do more than we want to
and agree to do all halfway well.

We have made a new agreement.
If we are to succeed
it will be in partnership here.
That partnership does not rest
to wake at dawn
but never stops.

Who is leading this dance?
What consciousness created this?

Awash in this confounding confusion
of metal and plastic bits
that I can’t touch
and that I can’t really know
despite all its offering,
Has allowed access
to souls I have touched
or been touched by
and how much I have learned
even if most is forgotten!

This world is open wide
and I might be wise to stay the course.
But the life before me
is disappearing.

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Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Thirty some years ago I began a life in Manhattan.  I don’t remember how we were friendly or even why but a couple of folks dragged me to a mysterious meeting. They said it was a cool group of people who got together to create prosperity or something vaguely like that and suddenly I was shoeless in a spacious, barely furnished living room sitting in a huge circle of undernourished looking folks who reminded me of the Macrobiotic crowd from my old Aspen days.

I went just once and I don’t think I continued that friendship as I have no memory of the faces or names of the people who brought me but the bulk of the evening centered on an unforeseen event which was the seemingly ceaseless chanting of “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”. The reason for chanting was money. You could chant in cash. It was a sure thing. There was proof. They said so.

It was my first encounter with what looked to be Buddhism. It didn’t seem too appealing. I can’t pretend I remember any details but I’ll take writer’s license to say that I thought it was a real turd fest.

I had forgotten about that until I read this piece in the New York Times about the Buddhist folks who decided to retreat to huts that looked like crypts and tombs including a couple of them who appeared to have lost their minds and died.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, it turned out, is not a chant for money but roughly translates as a call to devotion from the Nichiren Daishonin Buddhist sect in hopes of attaining happiness and fulfillment. I am no Buddhist scholar so forgive me if this is not accurate or complete. I guess the folks running that group years ago narrowed the meaning of the chant for their own purposes; probably because they needed money and they believed it worked. I don’t think that sounds reasonable but someone reading this does and you may or may not be right.

It seems there may have been some tweaking of the chassis of reality within this recent Buddhist group and I don’t find it surprising. They were free.  They made a choice. Perhaps they narrowed the field to accommodate the vision or desires of the group. It’s nothing new that people stretch or mold what the larger population calls the truth to make all the pieces of their own puzzles fit.

Is it cliché to talk about the surprise of someone who was “such a nice boy, such a sweet girl, from such a good family” going wrong? Sometimes there is no apparent reason; no abuse, no poverty, no divorce, no chemical imbalance or disease, no obvious thing that would point to a person’s reactions. I think reactions before behavior because isn’t our behavior usually a reaction to something even if it’s not something immediate?  What that is may be a result of something we can’t fathom. That’s the crap shoot of humanity. You just don’t know.

      Where did that come from!

     But I raised both of them the exact same way and ….

Any kid on the playground has seen what happens when one kid becomes a self proclaimed leader and a break out group follows. But what they see is in the eye of the beholder and there it is.

Now people have joined another cult of their own free will as they have before and will again and things have unsurprisingly gone wrong. Get rid of the cult and you eliminate the symptom of human confusion but not the cause so that cause may just slip in the back door to stir up something else, somewhere else.

If we had genetic markers for harmful behaviors like we do for diseases, we might prevent behavior from surfacing as symptoms. The symptoms are many but they all beg the same question; why and how can we prevent them.   There is a common genetic marker for humanity that says there is a pre-existing condition for confusion.  We keep coming up with methods of sobriety and reasonableness to prevent us from doing harm to ourselves and others.  They are not infallible. And there is a choice not to use any of them. And there is chance that they will be reinterpreted. There is Yoga is among them.

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Filed under Buddhism, cultism, new age enlightenment, Uncategorized, yoga

Blind Faith and Anusara: Ain’t Nuthin’ Wrong with Yoga. It’s User Error

Whenever I think that the computer is trying to fuck me up and kill my time my husband assures me that it is user error. The computer is intuitive. I am not using it correctly. Maybe I just shouldn’t use it because we are not aligned in this timeline, this space continuum, this energetic bubble. But everyone uses a computer; I need to get on board. What if I am left behind alone in a vacuum of stupid?

Now, you thought of doing yoga because everyone’s doing yoga and it’s the new black for Chrissakes but look at all the press about yoga that indicates that yoga is full of douche bags who would probably follow Charles Manson if he had a harmonium and yoga is full of sex fetishists and holy rollers and it will kill your body and it might cost you your savings. If you don’t do yoga you will be left behind. Do yoga and you will possibly become one of the douche bags even if you are dying to look hot in yoga clothes, even though you are looking for an excuse to brand yourself with that sexy tattoo like your friend has.

Yoga is a set of beliefs that come with a toolbox.  How you use it is subjective.

There are different sets of directions depending on what company you buy it from. There are different architects who will direct you on how to build your house. So you might have directions from one of Krishnamacharya’s students who will teach you Iyengar, Astanga or Viniyoga and you might have directions from a Sikh leader and you might have directions from Sivananda’s crowd and so on. So your yoga will look different even from the same set of beliefs and the same tools.

Of course you may choose to hammer with your screw driver and you may use your screwdriver as a can opener and you may use the nails as scrapers. Or you may be that creative kid who made Legos without following directions at all.

And maybe you made a summer camp bunkhouse and you invited the color squad in but you also got the creepy counselor sneaking in at night.

And now you don’t like what you built and you don’t like your life in it. But your friend has one and so you bought it too and so (if your friend jumped off a cliff……)

But what you built doesn’t change Yoga.

She’s hiding behind the door giggling at this latest dust storm. She has a carving of three monkeys on her desk depicting ‘hear no evil see no evil do no evil’ that was a gift from her cousin Buddha but she knows that’s not the way. She’s sitting up there on your dashboard next to plastic Jesus reading church signs, looking at yoga studios. She knows that all eyes are turned to one bloviated fallen yoga folk hero but the story just begins there. She knows that overshadowed old school teachers cloaked in the white of their Eastern sisters have sent their flying monkeys forth to stir the wind and set things right. Some have been sacrificed for the cause but what the heck, it’s in Yoga’s name; or is it? She knows that where there’s smoke there’s fire but small fires burn unnoticed.

Yoga doesn’t care, doesn’t need your opinion, and doesn’t die one single death because someone misunderstood her.

She is a system, not a pep rally, she is a philosophy, not dogma, and she is a tool, a thought, a guide, a memory. Numbers don’t impress her. She does not exist for the poll takers. Half a million born again in the name of one architect or another is just a nag champa smokescreen.

Someone once told me that Judaism was not for kids. It’s too complicated. They get the allegories but can’t understand the depth. And yoga is the same way. You can make it mommy and me playtime, you can turn it into summer camp, you can sing about it, tell stories, memorize her language but you don’t get her just because you studied her in school.

Not everyone needs the same set of beliefs though everyone has to believe in something. We have the same rules cause that’s the thing about rules; they have to apply to everyone but they may not be chiseled on the same tablet. Yoga may not be the practice that suits your lifestyle but if you try it and it doesn’t work, try a different direction or forget it but don’t blame the yoga. It’s user error.

I’ve waded through an army of yoga teachers over thirty years never stopping to set up camp. The idea was to learn, not to pitch a tent. I don’t understand the student who complains about the teacher, the teachings, and the trappings. Assimilate what they have to teach you and move on for God’s sake. When did yoga become the place for people to get stupid? Can’t we do that in enough other places? I did not stay for one second longer or engage in anything but learning with teachers who perfumed the air with arrogance or irony. Many famous teachers are self deceptive power trippers and who cares. Come for the education. They studied where you did not. Then get out and use what you know to add to your practice or share with others. Anything else is something else. I wouldn’t pay one minute of attention to a teacher who told me what I could or could not think or do. Why would you?

When yoga goes wrong it’s a good indication that people are thinking wrong.

We have enough of that already. Yoga used to be a method to go against that grain. What if we get on board yoga so we won’t be left alone in a cloud of stupid and we end up in a cloud of stupid’s dysfunctional family? Seems like a lot of sorrow to me.

cross-posted to Elephant Journal

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Put That Down! We Can’t Afford It.

You may have had a yoga teacher ask you to set an intention for your practice. It wasn’t me because in my experience this narrows the avenues of exploration in both meditation and hatha yoga as these are specific endeavors aimed at expansion.  But setting an intention for how you want to practice life, which begins with expansion, might not be a bad idea. At the core of contemporary yoga philosophy is the intention to dispel the veil of illusion that diffuses truth which takes a real magician as truth is cagey. The sword and shield for that is the practice of non-violence. So an objective of yoga is to banish ignorance and one might notice that gentleness begets an open mind. That’s considerably harder than it sounds. Or we may be considerably more ignorant than we realized.

I recently read the Time’s piece on barely paid Chinese factory workers who uniquely excel at suppressing their humanity to make electronics at record speed so that we consumers can have spectacular products at low prices and the suppliers can accrue millions. It’s a win/win for everyone if you discount the Chinese people who are living sub-human lives as sorrowful as dogs in puppy mills.

Consider the Republican cry to deregulate and unleash the private sector as a means to make money flow in this country when you read that an Apple executive said that although Apple makes attempts to reduce the painful conditions of Chinese laborers who make their products it is just too easy to get away with it.

Think of the cry against the business of spending more than we have that precipitated a housing crisis and the habit of credit card debt that fuels our economy, the habit of government debt and borrowing so that we can keep spending and consider that we cannot afford the real cost of all the crap that we want in five minutes.  We are getting some of it at the cost of other people’s lives so that we can have it cheaper and faster than if we would if it was produced kindly. It is being gotten by violence. It is being used in ignorance.  And what’s the damn hurry, anyway! Was there hardship without the I-Phone 4 or the new I-Pad, for example?

I think I’m a nice person, a person who would not do this but in ignorance I’ve been a party to it by unwittingly purchasing blood products. To be gentle of spirit and not be an ignoramus is harder than it seems.

 

You are Us, We Are You; Now Set Your Intentions

 

From the first breath in and out the breath has traveled in time to join one breathing creature to another through the exchange of breath. Even if we are not exchanging breath we are matter and matter is energy and the mind is energy and the breath is energy and that energy that is you is part of the connective tissue of the planet that is me. As I write this, flying in this bumpy seat over the Rockies, I look down at mountains and bodies of water, at the snow, at the clouds, at the wing of this plane, at the man beside me and I feel no division.

I heard a curious thing at a tender age from a Macrobiotic chef who gave cooking lessons to the staff of our little restaurant in Aspen.  Cook with a peaceful attitude because the food will absorb your energy and that will affect those who eat it. I hadn’t thought of that.

 

Another guru taught me that you absorb the energy of the animals you eat and if an animal dies in fear and pain, it becomes yours.  I didn’t eat meat but I didn’t know that either.

And I’ve since paused to change an impatient or angry attitude so the food I’m serving will be infused with love. And though I quit eating meat as a kid my desire to proselytize (to mostly annoy) friends and family to not eat meat was heightened after considering an animal screaming at its end; its sorrow and fear becoming a part of another.

But I have been complicit in the suffering of animals too, complicit in my ignorance of how dairy cows are treated, in my ignorance of how chickens are treated.  It took me more than a quarter of a century from the time I stopped eating meat and more from the time I became conscious of what emotion I was cooking into my food  to discover via the internet the cruelty that afforded me the eggs I baked with and the lovely gourmet cheeses I adore.

I’ve learned the cotton I thought was the natural choice for my clothing is grown with earth murdering pesticides; the natural products I’ve used for my bath and body are packaged in plastic bottles that release unwanted by-products into the earth and into me. I didn’t know how toxic batteries are in a landfill and I didn’t know that fluorescent lights were noxious also.

I have been complicit by ignorance. Things often have a cost we didn’t suspect. We cannot be aware of everything. This is the cost of living. To be aware of every transgression and to make it a business to fight every transgression is a full time and sorrowful job. As students of yoga we are bound to consider the effect of what we do and of who we are. And then not go crazy. Conscious thinking and moving, studying human nature and past and present history, mentored by those who thought this through before we were in this time and place, prepares us better than some others for the not going crazy thing. Taking action with the choices we make and communicating our feelings to those in positions of financial and government power is something we can do that makes a difference.

My intention is the same failed intention I always have. Don’t hurt anyone, don’t be a dumb-ass. I fail at this remarkably well but I keep trying.  Now I’m wondering if I am absorbing the pain of Chinese laborers when I use my I-Pod. I tell myself it’s not my fault as it was a recycled gift from a client but I still feel guilty. I make a note to not let this stuff make me crazy. But I think we cannot afford to pay the price of another’s suffering.

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