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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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Feet to the Milk White Sky

Feet to the Milk White Sky

Feet to the Milk White Sky

 

Warm legs slip from tangled sheets at dawn

The shock of cold air is a sweet relief before it assails

 

Enfolded in fleece

I put the coffee kettle on

And head to the office to push this button for later

Set the day

 

Coffee steeping and my house sleeping

I slip off the robe, flip onto my head on the red living room rug and send my feet to the ceiling

A forest falls from a milk white sky

Spidery black branches are pen and ink paintings on the emptiness

Cool air caresses skin warmed too much too quickly despite the morning chill

 

Temperature control is random these days

Mine moody as the climate’s changes

Record highs, record lows

 

Upright again, the groundswell assaults me

THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON DOWN HERE

Chaos below with my head in the clouds

Infinite space with my feet in the air

 

Is it true the sky is falling?

Chicken Little!

Cautioned a cup- half- full mother to a nervous child

 

I learned to pull my work boots on

And pulled my head from the sand

To notice the beauty in chaos

To modestly wade knee deep and do what one does for love

It muffled the alarm that rings through my sleep

 

 

But should all fail and the sky fall

Uncharted at dawn by even the birds

I make peace with the milk white sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Will I Do With This Awareness?

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In this season of silver grass and sharp light I reflect on the shadows that do not reflect but absorb light.

I am a yogi, a yoga teacher, a teacher of clarity; of awareness sustained, of purpose defined and attitude checked.

Yoga teacher:  One who shines light?

Light shone at light makes a blind spot. There assumption may ripen.  Shine light at darkness to reveal what was not there before.

Embrace the yogi who points to the darkness. Do not tell her about the poverty of negative thinking or that her vision reflects her soul. She calls attention to the unattended which even if born of light is not always bathed in it but sometimes hidden in shadow.

And what will I, the yoga teacher, shedder of light, do with my own awareness?

Will I find happiness or comfort? Will I be better off?

As the day dawns on another threat of a government shutdown I ponder the little project I just signed on for; teaching a tiny segment at an event to bring yoga to the warring tribes of Africa.  The video that persuaded me to participate indicates that yoga has had a positive effect on a few thousand people and the hope is that it will enhance the opportunity for peace. I see no harm in it but I wonder at yoga’s effects on our own warring nation.  In fact I see that Lululemon seems to have some part in promoting this event, a business known more for the havoc it wreaks than any humanitarian bent.  And indeed I am aware that some yoga community politics are in play even here.

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The fragmented tear sheet of harmony amongst us is a scrapbook that sits on the shelf of hard covered hard edged, dusty tomes that set the tone of both our doing and undoing despite our best intentions. Still, we cannot stop doing. It is what we are.

That is why yoga has begun an evolution as a social service for the at risk and less fortunate who are more than the churches can handle, more than the families can handle while the government; an overwhelmed, ungainly lumbering beast rumbles through the mist trampling delicate underlings in its myopia.  It is a noble thing to help others find peace.

Here’s a news clip that shows a line of very overweight people waiting for free food boxes. The correspondent reveals “all sorts of things to keep a family going: donuts, pancake mix, white rice, pasta, commercial peanut butter and mayonnaise”.

We are unevenly informed even if we share a heart. Our perceptions are different even when we are evenly informed. We are a diverse, disparate people. We will not storm the gates together. Our greatest cohesiveness is majority vote. Cohesion is a patchwork quilt of mismatched swatches.

If awareness is turned inward so that we might discern what to let in and what not to let in, will the world wait for us? How many invitations to save the world, how many pleas, invitations, how many e-mails, texts, tutorials will wait as we contemplate?  Eyes and ears tuned to beauty, love and light will give respite though we cannot remain there without pause or interruption.

1694 Golden Grass by Rob Lindsay

I am teaching a class at Vanderbilt. People are losing their jobs en masse. We share our thoughts about why, when and who.  Extending the conversation from the astonishing to the absurd, one of my students evenly says, “My new yoga mat can cause cancer”. The room of scientists, researchers and medical professionals are aghast.

She hands me the cardboard wrapper from the yoga mat bought at Wal-Mart. The label says; this product contains one or more chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.

The mat is named “Lotus”.

I think back to a sign I saw posted outside the walls of the new age/yoga Chopra Center in Carlsbad last month. Chemicals used in this facility have been known to cause cancer, birth defects…….

My cancer causing mat owning student says she was born in the 70’s and purposefully stays there. She lives in the country, listens to old rock and does not watch the news. She describes herself as a woman of faith who keeps her eye and mind on the good words of the good book. She says nothing about returning the cancerous yoga mat she is lying on. She picks the battles she feels she can win.

I asked my students what yoga does for them. I want to know if the work has the desired effect of creating awareness and if heightened senses bring peace or agitation. They tell me that they come to class frazzled and leave refreshed; that yoga helps them manage stress more efficiently for about 24 hours.  Then they do it again. I think of a friend who has just confided that she’s taken a pill every day for 10 years to keep her positive. She’s afraid to go off.

We are so aware that we can’t handle all that confronts us. Nothing in this life will let us go back to sleep. Is yoga a break, a temporary fix with a cumulative effect? Perhaps that is enough. But as the yoga teacher, it is not a break but a constant call to awareness that has no filter.

Cheekwood optic fiber cotton candy Bruce Monroe by Rob Lindsay

I am driving from one job to another and traffic is not on my side. I finally get around the driver with a handicapped badge on his rear view mirror who drove with infuriating exactitude 10 mph below the speed limit. I have reflexively unwrapped the chocolate bar I’d stashed for the infusion I’ll need three hours from now. It’s still early in the morning.

I look at the old gentleman beside me in his upscale car and careful attire, well groomed hair. I imagine him a native to this once sleepy Southern town; a man who has deep roots while all around him is changing as immigrants like me have changed his home. I imagine him gracious about that, generous in his acknowledgement of the good that has come with the traffic, crime and bad manners.

I see a picture from my childhood; a picture that is a feeling collage more than one image. I am relaxed. Life is good in my 50s middle class world. There is slowness.  There is quietude. There are friends and there is time and there is a wide open empty highway in the darkness that two headlights pursue in sureness toward a promising destination. It is gone. Maybe it was never there.

 

What will I do with this awareness? Will I live like a prisoner making paper dolls? Will I storm the prison walls?  Or will I expand my revelation that silver grass in light sharpened by a darkened  sky  is the field of all of us.  I choose always to be reborn by this temporal  beauty as the mud beneath and the sky above will shift and shift again.

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Total Recall

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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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Sandbagged by Shadows.

from the Journal Pages of Active Yoga

 First posted on Monday, August 3, 2009 – 8:34 am

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Teaching yoga in a windowless loft bright with fluorescent lightI glance up as I assist her into camel pose, shins and knees pressing into her arched backHands stretching open her shoulders, as a shadow crosses the room.A cloud passing over the sun and I instinctively look up to the skyBut I’m surrounded by walls and no sky and the shadow is a mystery.

Days afterward shopping for groceries, she’s there.

Tells me of her rage, how she destroyed her bedroom after yoga class.

Tells me of her addiction, her therapy, her bulemia.

She’s afraid of the yoga, afraid of what it brought up.

I tell her to keep it moving.

Come back.

She does.

So many years later she’s a shiny, happy mother and wife.

Healed like a warrior.

She did the work and cleared the darkness in the arms of an army of supporters.

And me?

Supported or set up?

I feel the shins and knees in my own back, friends whispering into my ear, things that will hurt me.

Things I will have to clear.

Knee or is that a knife?

Face and heart thrown up to the light I’m

Sandbagged by shadows that slip through my porous, not holy heart

and drop to a rootless floor.

Until I recover.

Until I dispel the cloud.

Teaching yoga in a windowless studio last week and

A shadow flits through the room.

I recognize it.

Who’s in trouble here?

Is it me?

No, I don’t think so

And I’m vigilant to protect the group.

Still, the shadow world is not all bad as it offers fertile ground for progress.

It’s there one identifies the monster in the night.

Shake out the people, the memories, scenarios that drown out the light.

Make peace with the land and keep growing.

Hilary


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Keep Your Chum Away From Me. Om Varunam Namah

 The_MG_1953Hil_new year's 2011_cropped_websize Chopra Center set camp on the grounds of my parent’s home by Encinitas at the La Costa Spa. I dropped in for a yoga class. I figured it would be Svaroopa style as that’s the last thing I knew about the practice Chopra had aligned himself with pre Tara Stiles. But I wasn’t there for the content as much as for curiosity so I took the class which, like all the classes there, was called the Seven Spiritual Laws. Chopra’s same named book was displayed for purchase at the room’s entrance.

There were only three people in the generous space including me and the teacher announced that she was a sub but would follow the general form. This is not a review of the class or teacher.

What forces my hand here is a mantra repeated toward the end of the class.  Though the class began with a different mantra set to a pattern of repetitive postures, I don’t remember much about that except for the awkwardness of asking three scattered spa people in an oversized room to repeat mantra without much discussion or connection or background.

It was the repetition of Om Varunam Namah which she repeatedly translated as; I am aligned with the universe that got stuck in my craw.

I am a patient person. However, this was nonsense and as we rose and fell again and again in a sun salute prompted by the mantra, I wondered what universe she was talking about and what I’m supposed to be aligned with.

Don’t throw your chum into the expanse of my ocean sister! You cannot bait me with a hook! If you want to say something about a universe or alignment you’d better bring your best game. This is just new age jargon that you forgot to pack up with the 70s and now you’re baiting an overactive mind.

I’m deep into the solid, no chance of subtle as I catalogue every question I’ve ever had about why I am here and what I am doing and what is this thing; this universe!

Whose universe, what universe!

Am I aligned with reality? Whose reality would that be! Am I aligned with the politics of the day, the business of the day, the social network? Am I aligned with you there in the universe or you there because you and you are not the same!  Am I aligned with the planets? Are saying go with the flow because lately the flow seems to be circling the drain. I’m starting to get bored with all my machinations.

Aum Varunam Namah, not.

 I am aligned with the universe:

Are we talking a shared vibration because I’m being shaken senseless by every blip beep bump crack crash shift slide and shimmy of the shit and I’m not looking to ride that out through the sun salute today. I need a break. Every hurricane, death, birth, shadow and sunray is using my ghostly sheath to shortcut through the next soul. Everything feels like my complicity in not fixing what is broken here, allowing myself to be as defenseless as an ice flow to stop the changing tides.

Aligned implies alliance. I don’t think that way. I am not aligned with the universe. I am inside the universe. The universe is in me.

JeffFarsaiPhotography.com

JeffFarsaiPhotography.com

Maybe she would have done well to offer a suggestion from the poet Rumi instead:

    “Stop acting so small,

    You are the universe in ecstatic motion”

On this day of December 9, 2012 I am claustrophobic with humidity lodged in my pores, frizzing my hair, closing my sinuses. Thunderous rain shook the house clammy with 70 degrees in what respectably should be freezing temperatures and a snow storm. There is a mosquito hovering in the corner and I was guaranteed a break from the miserable beasts by pitching my tent in a town that winters over.

Whether aligned or one with, the vibration is not comfortable these days.

There is a vibration of poverty of despair and yes the vibration too of love and birdsong and tree sway but if this vibration is what I’m to conjure up in my yoga practice I will devolve into a puddle of huddled masses  powerlessness cowering in the corner until the vibration levels, until the rainbows stay without rain and the earth’s fissures softly close to hold a humanity fed natural food, dancing to native song, holding itself and each of its people close but not too close; just close enough to find an infant’s new legs. This is not an alignment but a coming into oneself which is not just self but everything everywhere from all the times. And this is too huge to be tossed out like a Hallmark greeting in an un-tethered yoga experience.

 

Oh Chopra. You who gather so much useful information to share with others should realize how sensitive we have become and give your teachers careful invocations. But thank you for the class. You brought cautionary advice to me! Words have power. The powerful should remember to choose them carefully. I am careless too at times. Thank you for the slap on the wrist. But also, thank you for the yoga offering; it’s my opinion that any yoga is a good thing as there is always a pay off.

This was re-posted on elephantjournal as Om Varunam Namah. You Are Aligned With the Universe, Yes?

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