Tag Archives: Yoga Sutras

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.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under American culture, Healing, new age enlightenment, politcal action, social action, social commentary, yoga, yoga and blogging, yoga and politics, yoga and religion, Yoga History, Yoga philosophy, yoga practice, yoga teaching, 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. :()

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under American culture, politcal action, social action, social commentary, yoga, yoga and politics, Yoga History, Yoga philosophy, yoga practice, yoga teaching, yoga wisdom

Sanders, Trump and Yoga

There is a murmur in the corner of the not so tiny yoga community about the state of affairs of yoga.

Bitchin Yoga always weighs in as vigorous claims interest her. For her, what was once surprising is not now. Age teaches. The state is adrift at the surface which is why she’s keen on learning high wire skills. Beneath the surface not much has changed.

_MG_3997_Radnor_Winter_Pond_6x9_small

Consider this in terms of this election year. An unsettling season of ferocity seems normal these days. What once seemed weird or alternative or unlikely now seems a solution as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rise in the polls. Judgment of some kinds ceases as the Status Quo fails to deliver. Unconventional organizers ascend and division is clear.

The time is right for the once strange of yoga to increase in popularity, attract developers and further divide in these days of radical unrest and financial uncertainty.

Yoga practitioners with a pre-modern yoga history had little to distract us from the practice as it wasn’t tied to livelihood or even solutions to specific social problems. Modern yogis have a different experience to reckon with. Survival is paramount and so is unleashed creativity if they want to stay in what has become the game.

 

Yoga isn’t fringe anymore and “mindfulness” has pierced the commercial world. Yoga class as a *“mindful” exercise isn’t necessarily entirely different from a yoga classes twenty five years ago but as an increasing component of the public domain, it is presented differently. Now it is subject to regulations enforced by an outside source. That changes the flavor of things. The outside source used to be the first and second limb of yoga.

 

Before blogging there was a book on the state of yoga in America. Hearkening back to the chapter I wrote for that book, I still think that the first limbs of yoga are the key to the state of yoga and most things in America right now. Attraction or willful rebellion to those guiding principles of ethical restraints as well as the interpretation of those principles shapes the character of our choices. We are flailing wildly perhaps not realizing we are looking for direction. But we look for structure nonetheless.

 

To put it simply, the first limb describes the social offenses to avoid if one wants a peaceful life. The second limb describes the components of that life. In short, if you are doing the right thing you will sleep at night and want to take the next breath in the morning. But what is the right thing if not an opinion these days?

 

Look at the followers of Trump and Sanders and a yogi will notice that what looks like non-violence, honesty, lack of greed or gluttony and overstepping one’s power is not the same for everyone. Perception comes from individual experience of life. In fact there are a disturbing amount of stories of power abuse in yoga studios though the owners seem clueless. How interesting that a major goal of yoga is to break through this veil of perception to see truth.

 

What truth is has become one of the paramount questions of our time. Politicians tell their truths. It is different for each of them. They inform and influence the greater group. The group has shared truths. Some things become evident and absolute but often the case is not closed. This is the state of the yoga studio and teacher as well.

 

Discontentment’s fire fuels us and the West becomes a Wild West again. We will survive at all costs. We will sling guns where we want. We will break boundaries in relationship to all things whether it is sex, drugs, rules, racism and yes yoga. Political incorrectness has become correct. Survival comes first. When you open doors it is interesting to see who and how we choose to walk through them.

 

Is the yoga being taught now working? I’m sure it is working for some students because the interest in walking through a door that advertises illumination is to want that. So if the student keeps walking in and the teacher is at least conveying that yoga is the practice of self awareness or discipline or kindness then some yoga is being taught. Perhaps it is enough if the student recognizes there is work to do and because we are hard working people we can embrace that. We are the work we have to do. Perhaps that is the surface we want to scrape.

 

As for the financial survival of the teachers it is like other businesses today. The price of everything except salaries is going up. Perhaps that’s why so many teachers use yoga as their hobby or second business. Still, more people are putting hard earned cash into teacher training that won’t pay them back in much more than a brief education. There must be some pay off for them. That says to me their yoga experience has got them hooked, hopefully on more than ego. That’s not a bad thing.

 

It is a long time since I had a studio. I was lucky to be part of our local ballet company and my rent was cheap. I did not hire or fire. There were no Groupons and for that, there was no competition. We had punch cards and an honor system and a yoga family that lasted longer than the average attrition rate now. I am grateful beyond measure for that beautiful experience. I cannot say I know the state of yoga now but I know one thing for sure. It is a changing status while beneath the surface the seed of yoga is not.

 

*This is noted because I don’t like the use of the non- word mindfulness when thoughtful worked just fine. I used it here because it is part of yoga culture now.

4 Comments

Filed under American culture, Buddhism, new age enlightenment, politcal action, social action, social commentary, yoga, yoga and blogging, yoga and politics, yoga and religion, Yoga Class, Yoga History, Yoga philosophy, yoga practice, yoga teaching, 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.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under American culture, Buddhism, Healing, new age enlightenment, poetry, politcal action, social action, social commentary, Uncategorized, yoga, yoga and blogging, Yoga Class, Yoga philosophy, yoga teaching, yoga wisdom

How Do We Labor: A Yoga Labor Day Muse

How Do We Labor? A Yoga Labor Day Muse

How Do We Labor? A Yoga Labor Day Muse

 A noteworthy section (the Eight Limbs) of a major yoga text, The Yoga Sutras, offers specific components of a worthy life. We yoga teachers wear the heck out of it because it’s a tidy template; relatable, easy to apply to asana and by extension behavior off the mat.

 

Herein is advice to keep fire, the manifestation of desire, under one’s feet. One is also advised that contentment is essential. Beyond that, keep your sunny side up and your eyes open is what I’ve extrapolated from the word cleanliness.

Ascetics wrote this body of work which I reinterpret for our times; times of “it’s all good”, which it is not. People like to pretend.

It’s tidy that the author or authors thought to group fire/desire, contentment, positivity with reflection and tied them together with the suggestion of surrendering to a higher power. I mean when you try your damndest and this life still acts like a bag full of cats it’s nice to have that to fall back on.

 

And it was never going to be easy in a world in which everyone’s and everything’s survival depends on eating someone or something else. The map points to a rough road. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

There’s a warning watch list of qualifications, of things not to do in order to make those components of a happy life possible. The list is called Just Don’t Do It. I made that up. They called it Restraints. It’s also known as the first limb of yoga. Number one: Don’t be an ass and you won’t feel guilty. If you don’t feel guilty you’ll have more energy toward positive things, like keeping your sunny side up while you bust your butt in happy endeavors that satisfy you. That’s in the second limb. Keep climbing. You can be an ass by being a mean, stealing, jealous, arrogant hoarder or any of the above. So it’s easy to be an ass at least once a week if not once a day or an hour.

 

In a country where kindness has one leg out the window and common courtesy is standing on the ledge, where the population suffers from epidemic attention deficiency it’s tempting to be an ass as it’s practically become acceptable but it’s also tempting to ‘give it up to God’ as a vacation from effort.

 

I’m reminded of a car I steered clear of because the bumper sticker said that Jesus was driving. Poor Jesus comes back and the best job available for someone of a certain age is to chauffer a guy who’d rather take the back seat. Yes Jesus, my friends and I are having big birthdays. We get it.

 

I saw the show Sunday Morning today. It is Labor Day weekend so there were three separate segments on employees in this country. One pointed out that only three out of ten people like their jobs. A second revealed that if you take your entire tiny handful of vacation days, 15% of your employers will think you’re a slacker and 10% will overlook you for a promotion. No problem, most of you don’t have the money to go on vacation anyway.

 

The third was like baby bear’s bed; just right. A bit of socialism in a company goes a long way. When the employees are treated like worthy individuals of a shared community, productivity goes up and happiness reigns for all.

 

This is the best we can offer in a shared experience of humanity that is an ongoing experiment in survival. What does it take to treat someone like a worthy individual if you are not the boss? What does it take for happiness created to translate to personal happiness?

 

Here’s a radical concept of authenticity: Manners might be the answer. Manners are not superficial but I think quite the opposite. Manners say that I see you beyond your facades and treat you as I would have you treat me. Manners are my restraint; as I don’t honk my horn at you or flip you the bird, as I do not put my cell phone on your dining room table, as I honor the acceptance of your invitation by showing up as planned. Manners mean I have reflected. Manners mean I understand Namaste.

 

There is no template but the vastness of everyday life. In this life where we cut and eat someone or something to stay alive even a silent thank you for that in the presence of ourselves might be the beginning of a labor of love on a planet where:

“We’re all just walking each other home”

                                                                                                                                ~ Ram Dass – author of Be Here Now

                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under allegory, American culture, Buddhism, meditation, new age enlightenment, politcal action, social action, social commentary, yoga, yoga practice, yoga teaching, yoga wisdom

Dog Shit, the Gita and the Circle of Like

‘There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.’ – Hermann Hesse

A while back a social media savvy friend advised me to “like” my own posts because it raised my profile or visibility or something.  At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be more visible and I wasn’t sure I didn’t feel stupid praising my own and every declaration in the media but I gave it a shot anyway and found a certain and unexpected sense of gratification upon clicking “like”. More significantly I felt a sense of closure that appeared to come from feeling appreciated. My approval had more merit than I had realized.

Sweet Emily, my social media guru came by today to help me create a Facebook page for bitchin yoga. I clicked the “like” button when the page went up and nothing happened. Emily said;

“Hmmm, I don’t think you can like yourself”.

What! That is unacceptable.

I had grown accustomed to myself.

I’ve been taking notes and taking note for most of my life, a small notebook usually in my pocket or purse since my teens. My comments have given me immense satisfaction; for no eyes other than mine.

I don’t know why I was recently reminded of a note I made a lifetime ago on a hot day outside my third floor walk- up by the East River in Manhattan.  But it came on the heels of feeling lousy that some pieces I’d posted recently on Elephant Journal hadn’t gotten much attention.

Taking out the garbage on that Manhattan morning I’d been assaulted at the foot of the stairs by wet summer heat and a fly covered sweating baggy of dog shit perched on the lid of the garbage can. New York City law obliged you to clean up after your dog but in that moment I noted that the terrible offence of baking plastic covered dog shit tossed in my way was far worse than something left unadorned on the tired patch of grass beside it.

It was nothing much; a moment, a remark in a worn red leather notebook but I thought it was funny and I enjoyed it. What if I had published that observation and no one got it? Or thought I was insane or weird?  What then of my satisfaction? What of the satisfaction of a lifetime of commentary?

I considered the verses on Karma yoga in the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, that are an admonition to do the work suited to one’s essential nature without attachment to the results. In a new world where one is measured by virtual visibility and the barometer of one’s importance is called status and determined by numbers it is easy to be uneasy.

Writings and posts liked or commented on gives instant pleasure but liking them oneself gives what Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describes as santosa or contentment. And contentment absolutely trumps pleasure’s fleeting vanity. It took some experience to understand that in the context of internet interaction but the lesson is learned.

Bitchin yoga declares itself content and contented.  The circle is complete but wide enough to embrace you. Welcome.

13 Comments

Filed under new age enlightenment, yoga, yoga and blogging

Entwined; Eight Limbs and Us.

Blogging is good for those recluses who need interaction to retard intellectual apathy. Well, it’s good for me, anyway……..sometimes.

This is a thank you to a cyber soul named “David” whose heart is one of many hearts that make writing into the ether rewarding.  His latest thoughtful response to a bitchin’ rant instigated my response which was the absolute surety that Thoreau hid out at Walden to prevent himself from becoming an asshole as assholes are born of society and rarely alone. I’ll add this link as a footnote to that as it points to genetics and oxytocin as markers for social behavior.

And that inspires this take on the Yoga Sutra’s eight limbs which are known as the system of astanga yoga. Yoga practice which incorporates these limbs is sometimes referred to as kriya yoga.

The eight limbs go from the gross to the subtle from the surface to make a deeper pile; they interface like yarn on the knitting needle; knit one, pearl two, one step forward and backtrack, pick up and thread and go again to weave a cloak that covers all. The threads are only elements on their own and by relationship become whole: This is the action and interaction called kriya.

Yama is ethical observances. This first limb deals with relationship to others. Don’t be an asshole.  It begs the question: Am I an asshole?

Niyama is personal observances. This second limb deals with relationship to ourself. Respect yourself. It begs the question: Who am I and what am I doing?

 Asana is physical practice. It deals with relationship to others in the template of body organization and effort. Relationship through adversity becomes clear. It begs the question: Do I see this body as a cooperative or do I see starving slaves and gluttonous lords? What serves what and who serves who?

Pranayama is the control of breath. The fourth limb is relationship between our life force and THE force. It begs the question: am I part of this energy (as breath) or am I separate? Do I receive energy like oil on water or wind on water? Do I return it enlivened or exhausted?

Pratyahara, the fifth, is relationship of the senses through absorption. It begs the question: Am I absorbed or spaced out?

Dharana,the sixth, is the action of absorption with intention. It is concentration. It begs the question: Can I pay attention?  Can I direct my mind to this task or do I lack the fire, the desire, the discipline?

Dhyana, the seventh, is the relationship of the body to the senses, to the mind and to the present. We are committed, clear, calm, steady and strong. We are receivers. This is meditation.

Samadhi,the eighth limb, is the absorption of the self into the whole. There are no questions. Some call it bliss.

2 Comments

Filed under yoga