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TAKE A DEEP BREATH! April 3, 2009

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Fitness, Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Yoga.
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Smile. You may not know it, but your life just changed.

Skeptical?

Take another deep breath. Now, deepen your expression.

Whether you are new to yoga, a dedicated practitioner, or just someone trying to sort out all of the hullabaloo (and not call it “yogart” in mixed company), a joyful practice can help you find things you didn’t know you needed – and explore gifts you didn’t know you had to offer.

Still skeptical? That’s cool. It doesn’t change the fact that somewhere between that first deep breath and this next one (Inhale….Exhale.) your brain chemistry changed!

And just think, you didn’t even have to step on a mat.

Namaste!

One Mou’ Time November 23, 2020

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“‘People who eat too much or too little or who sleep too much or too little will not succeed in meditation. Eat only food that does not heat up the body or excite the mind. When you balance and regulate your habits of eating, sleeping, working, and playing, then meditation dissolves sorrow and destroys mental pain.’”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (6.16 – 6.17) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

Consider the human body. It is designed to change. It grows, expands, shrinks, and processes a variety of materials – using what is useful and discarding what is not. The human body has ways of healing itself; this is a proven and accepted fact, as is the fact that certain things can help the healing process – while certain things might help… if they don’t kill us first. When you look back through the history of the human race, and take into consideration all the different cultures and climates, you will find that every culture, in every climate, has had some kind of understanding about the way the mind-body works and some kind of medicine to help sustain, retain, and repair/enhance the vitality of the mind-body. In traditional and indigenous medicines, the proof was in the fact that people survived. In the modern world, however, research and empirical evidence (above and beyond survival) become critical and it’s not enough to know that something works; modern scientists want to know why something works.

Three things always stick out to me when I compare different types of medicine. First, I am struck by how much health care practitioners don’t know. This is not a criticism or intended as an insult, this is just fact – even modern scientists don’t know everything there is to know about the mind-body. Researchers are constantly discovering new ways that our mind-bodies work and don’t work; new organs; new treatments; new ailments; and they are continuously “discovering” the benefits of traditional and indigenous medicines.

“Normally, the body of an unenlightened person is like a dead wood, covered with a blanket of unawareness. For most people, the internal awareness is almost zero, unless there is pain in the body. Ordinarily human awareness keeps itself fully busy with the external environment.”

– quoted from OM Sutra: The Pathway to Enlightenment by Amit Ray and Banani Ray

The second thing that always sticks out to me is that the systems with which I’m familiar all involve an energetic mapping of the mind-body and its organs. The mapping systems are not the same, but there are similarities. For instance, in “Western” science (or modern science) the operation of the body relies on electrical signals transmitted to and from the brain traveling along neural pathways and through the central nervous system’s network of nerves connected to the spinal cord (in the center of the body) and the peripheral nervous system’s network of “unprotected” nerves and ganglia (bundles of cells).

As I am keeping this simple, let’s just say that there are 30 nerve-related segments of the spine, divided into four sections, that connect to every part of the body and that the peripheral nervous system is divided into two parts – the autonomic nervous systems (which is further divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic) and the somatic nervous systems. Also, important to note is the fact that some ganglia are bundled along the outside of the spine (hence why I refer to them as “unprotected”). Additionally, there are, of course, some reflex movements which can occur independent of the brain, but these still require connection to the spinal cord.

“Enormous activities are going on in our body; in our brain, in our heart, in our digestive system and in every cell of the body. Few people are aware of their physical beings. Body is the starting point in the spiritual journey.

The dynamic play of the energy of pure consciousness is taking place in each cell of our body, in every moment. The subtle vibrations and the movement of the energies in the body are the doorways to realize the Divine union.”

– quoted from OM Sutra: The Pathway to Enlightenment by Amit Ray and Banani Ray

In Eastern sciences, like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Āyurveda, there are also energetic mapping systems. The former, for instance, involves meridians that it is believed are located in the deep tissue and fascia or connective tissue. Yin Yoga, which is based on TCM, focuses on 12 primary meridians connected to 12 organs. Unlike an early British doctor I once read about (who believed the meridian system was based on traditional doctors not knowing where organs were located) the TCM focus isn’t on the organs as much as it is on balancing the flow of energy to and from the organs. Particular attention is paid to the joints and various points along the meridians as this is where energy can become blocked, stagnate, or overactive – and these are also the points/places where the energy can be accessed. TCM meridians are paired with each other, specific organs, emotions, time of day, seasons, colors, minerals, elements, and types of energy – and there is a pair that runs down the central part of the body.

One of my favorite meridians is the Kidney meridian as Kidney energy is related to overall vitality and starts with K1, which is sometimes referred to as “the Well Spring of Life” or “Gushing Spring.” Along with Urinary Bladder meridian, Kidney meridian regulates the flow of water in the body and, as we are mostly water, it becomes critical to not only physical health but also mental clarity and emotional well-being.

In Āyurveda, Yoga’s sister science, the energy of the body is mapped along nādis (which I was taught means “rivers” or “channels” but can also be translated as “nerves” or “tubes”). Similar to the (pressure) points along the TCM meridians, there are marma points (marmāni) described in Āyurveda; however, most people in the West are more familiar with the idea of chakras (energy “wheels”). Marma literally means “a point that can kill” and they are the points where flesh, veins, arteries, tendons, bones, and joints come together. In other words, they are the points of life. In all, there are 107 marmāni (11 in each limb, 12 on the front of the torso, 14 on the back and 27 on the head and neck), with the mind being the 108th marma. There are at least 10 methods to promote good health and well-being by stimulating marmāni, including various types of massage, binding, and application of oil, paste, and/or various temperatures. Additionally, meditation and breathing practices can be applied.

Ancient Indian texts reference thousands of nādis throughout the body – and many of them intersect. For instance, some sources say that there are a 108 nādis that intersect at the heart chakra. (Others say 101.) Normally, however, when people (especially in the West) talk about these energy channels, they are referencing the three primary nādis that overlap at the center of the body (right around the same area as the spinal column), creating a spiral shape often compared to the double helix shape of DNA and/or the caduceus symbol associated with the medical arts.

Like the TCM meridians, the primary nādis are paired with specific types of energy (i.e., “Ida” being lunar, cool, feminine, left, yin energy; “Pingala” being solar, warm, masculine, right, yang energy; and “Sushumna” being non-dual, divine energy). They not only overlap in the same general area as the spine, some people have associated the location of those overlapping points – the chakras – with the basal ganglia (which are bundled along the spine). Like the TCM meridian pairing referenced above, chakras are also paired with emotions, colors, minerals, and elements. They are associated with parts of the body, functions of the body, and various aspects of our lives.

“If you believe you are a body, then you are consenting to the belief that you are your ego, which is the root of all your suffering. Bodies age and get sick. They experience aches and pains and have many limitations. Bodies are confined in time and space and, if all that weren’t proof enough, bodies eventually die.

If you believe you are a body, then you believe you’re a temporary being that is weak and subject to age, illness and death. Of course, yoga teaches us that we are not the body, but this is a difficult case to make when it feels so real to be in this body. It’s hard to say, ‘The body is an illusion,’ when your head hurts or your stomach is upset.”

– quoted from Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

The third thing that always sticks with me is how traditional and indigenous sciences always seem to treat the whole being, while – up until recently – Western science focused on a single aspect of the body. Not even the mind-body… just a single part of the body, or a single part of the mind. What we find again and again, however, is that disconnecting the mind from the body leads to more discomfort, more dis-ease, and eventually death. Separating each part of the body from itself creates imbalance, which must be addressed in the rest of the mind-body.

The Sanskrit word yoga means “union” and the practice (physically, mentally, and energetically) is a way to address the whole mind-body and cultivate balance in the whole mind-body. It is a philosophy, not a medical science as we think of it today, but definitely a science of being. Dr. Amit Ray calls it a “science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.” As such a science it can be applied and paired with traditional, indigenous, and/or modern medicine to promote overall well-being.

“When we are aware about our body’s sensations, we can release physical pain, tensions or stress through slow movements.”

– quoted from Yoga The Science of Well-Being by Amit Ray

Tonight (Monday the 23rd) I taught my last (scheduled) Movember class of 2020. I choose poses B. K. S. Iyengar identified as being good for Kidney health and sequenced the vinyāsa practice with an awareness of the Kidney and Bladder meridians in TCM. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

(Practice Note: There’s no music on Monday nights so the content sync up with the Movember playlists, but it will still make sense if you decide to use music from one of the earlier practices.)

The 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice, in the spirit of generosity (“dana”), is freely given and freely received. If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.

“I want to be present and really in my body, grounded and open minded and open hearted, no matter what the conflict or the crisis is. And if I am numbing myself with food and with alcohol, I can’t then know that my emotional response is going to be authentic, is going to be in truth. My guess is that it is going to be reactive.”

– quoted from Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn


### SLÁINTE ###

This Room, This Music, This Light, This Darkness: This Dance November 22, 2020

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“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why. Not until the future eats the present, anyway. We know when it’s too late.”

– quoted from 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Life changes in a moment…in a heartbeat, in a breath. Sometimes we don’t even notice the change until it is coupled with a bunch of other changes. Every once in a while, however, something makes us pause, stop in our tracks, breathe, reflect. Sometimes we pause because of something breathtakingly beautiful. Other times, our breath is taken by something heartbreakingly tragic.

Today in 1963 was a Friday, and a little girl missed her first sleepover. Had she been any other 5-year old girl, nobody would have cared or even noticed, but the reason this little girl missed her first sleepover is the same reason high school, college, and professional football games were cancelled or postponed. It was the same reason people all over the world were glued to the radios and televisions. Today in 1963, a wife lost her husband; three children (that five-year old girl, her almost three-year old brother, and her yet to be born brother) lost their father; and the whole world paused, stopped, as a Nation lost – and then gained – a leader meant to usher in a new era of civil rights and environmental conservation.

Today in 1963, at 12:30 PM (Central Standard Time), President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade drove down Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Governor of Texas John Connally – who was riding in the motorcade with his wife Nellie, President Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and two members of the United States Secret Service – was seriously wounded. A bystander was also injured by a ricochet.

“We did not ask for this room or this music. We were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces to the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. We have been given life to deny death. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance.”

– a poem by Stephen King and Bridget Carpenter, featured in the miniseries 11.22.63

President Kennedy was not a perfect man, but he remains a key figure in American history and, for many, a symbol of democracy and “American” ideals. He was the first Catholic president; the youngest person to be elected president; and the sixteenth U. S. Senator to serve as president – one of three people who moved directly from the Senate floor to the Oval Office. He was also the fourth sitting United States President to be assassinated (by gunshot, although one could argue that Presidents James Garfield and William McKinley could have survived with better medical attention). Many people saw President Kennedy’s assassination as a moment when Americans lost their (collective) innocence and many felt his death as a personal loss, as if they had lost a member of their family or a dear friend.

Whichever way you see it (or him), President Kennedy’s death was the middle and the beginning of a cascade of events that, arguably, changed history. It also started the domino effect on conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Many people have wondered what would have happened if he had not been assassinated.  As he was beginning to campaign for a second term, people have theorized what the country would have been like if he had run and won – or even had an opportunity to deliver either of the speeches he had written for events scheduled on November 22, 1963.

“For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.

So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause–united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”

– quoted from a speech President John F. Kennedy had planned to deliver to the Texas Democratic State Committee in Austin, Texas, in the evening, on November 22, 1963

Historians and political scientists have likewise contemplated what would have happened to the country if his brother Bobby, who served as Attorney General and as a U. S. Senator, and/or Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been assassinated. After considerably research, Stephen King wrote a novel about a man who goes back in time with the intention of preventing JFK’s assassination. Of course, as is always the case when dealing with chaos theory, things are not as simple as changing one thing and moving forward.

There is always an inner ripple and an outer ripple; there is always a sticky domino; there is always a butterfly – and, in the case of 11/22/63 (which was turned into the television miniseries 11.22.63), history pushes back. We may not like how life unfolds, collapses, and converges, but we must sometimes consider the words of Namagiriamma Krishnamacharya, who said, “Maybe this situation has happened for a reason. A reason that will unfold later.”

“My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions – it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations – it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

– quoted from a speech President John F. Kennedy had planned to deliver at the Trade Mart in Dallas, Texas, in the afternoon, on November 22, 1963

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, November 22nd) at 2:30 PM. I am in the process of updating the links from the “Class Schedules” calendar; however, the Meeting IDs in the calendar are the same and are correct. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is in effect. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“Dear Mr. President

Thank you for walking yesterday – behind Jack. You did not have to do that – I am sure many people forbid you take such a risk – but you did it anyway.

Thank you for your letters to my children. What those letters will mean to them letter – you can imagine. The touching thing is, they have always loved you so much, they were most moved to have a letter from you now….

But you were Jack’s right arm – I always thought the greatest act of a gentlemen that I had seen on this earth – was how you – the Majority Leader when he came to the Senate as just another little freshman who looked up to you and took orders from you, could then serve as Vice President to a man who had served under you and been taught by you….

But of course [Jack’s ship pictures] are there only waiting for you to ask for them if the walls look too bare. I thought you would want to put things from Texas in it – I pictured some gleaming longhorns – I hope you put them somewhere –

It mustn’t be very much help to you your first day in office – to hear children on the lawn at recess. It is just one more example of your kindness that you let them stay – I promise – they will soon be gone –

Thank you Mr. President

Respectfully

Jackie”

­

– excerpts from a short letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson, written by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, dated “November 26 Tuesday” (the day after JFK’s funeral)

“All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today.

The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Today, John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen. No words are sad enough to express our sense of loss. No words are strong enough to express our determination to continue the forward thrust of America that he began….

We will carry on the fight against poverty, and misery, and disease, and ignorance, in other lands and in our own. We will serve all the nation, not one section or one sector, or one group, but all Americans.

These are the United States: A united people with a united purpose.”

– quoted from the “Let Us Continue” speech delivered to Congress and the public by President Lyndon B. Johnson, November 27, 1963  


### “Life turns on a dime” again and again (11/22/63, SK) ###

Mo Betta Asana November 21, 2020

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“According to Krishnamacharya, practice and knowledge must always go together. He used to say, practice without right knowledge of theory is blind. This is also because without right knowledge, one can mindfully do a wrong practice.”

– A. G. Mohan

A couple of my early yoga teachers (and my substitute Gaelic teacher) really got me thinking about what we’re “practicing” in any given moment. To break down several different encounters, let me just boil the ideas down to this: If you have anger issues and someone tells you to hit a pillow, you are practicing violence. You may argue that hitting the pillow is better than hitting a wall (which might result in damage to you and/or the wall) and that hitting a pillow or a wall is preferable to hitting a person. But, the bottom line is that you are still channeling your anger towards a violent, potentially harmful act. So, according to this premise, there is really nothing, in any given moment, that prevents you from accidentally or intentionally hitting someone – because you are preparing yourself for the moment.

In some ways, this is the whole idea behind self defense classes. You want to practice and integrate, integrate and practice, until your reaction to a dangerous situation is automatic and almost instinctual. Keep in mind, in self defense classes, you are taught defense: how to escape, evade, and defend yourself. The offense actions you are taught during a self defense class are related to awareness; because, ultimately, you are not practicing how to engage, pick a fight, and beat someone up – you are practicing and integrating how to stay safe: which is also what you’re practicing in yoga.

Yoga Sūtra 2.48: tato dvandvānabhighātāh

– “From that (perfected posture) comes lack of injury (or suffering) caused by the pairs of opposites.”

Vinyāsa is a Sanskrit word that means “to place in a special way.” It is a technique that has also become a style in yoga. But, one of the tricky things about practicing the style is that many people don’t understand the underlying theory or concept that is the technique. They think vinyāsa is what happens when they move from “high to low plank, Up’dog, Downward Facing Dog” – and that, is, in fact, one example of a vinyāsa. The reason why it is an example, however, is two-fold. First, you are linking your movement with your breath. Second, instead of moving randomly, you are moving in a way that mimics your body’s natural reaction to the breath: extending (and rising up) on the inhale, flexing (and getting closer to the earth) on the exhale.

Sometimes, like with the inclined series described above, it’s really easy to see the special way things are placed. In other examples, however, it can get a little trickier. What does “one breath, one motion” really mean? What do you do when you’re standing still, i.e., holding a pose? What do you do when some movements are big and some small? Where is my focus when different parts of my body are doing different things? What if it doesn’t make sense for my body to move like that? Can I take an extra breath?

Let’s start with the last two questions and work backwards. Yes, yes, take an extra breath if you need it, but be mindful of why you need it. Do you need an extra breath because you’re not actually breathing fully and deeply or is it because the move is too big? Bringing awareness to how you are breathing brings your awareness to the important parts of your practice. Once you focus on those important parts, you start mastering those parts. Part of that mastery is knowing when something is not an appropriate move or not an appropriate move for your body.

“Teach what is appropriate for an individual.”

– Sri T. Krishnamacharya

The physical practice of yoga (haţha yoga, regardless of style or tradition) is sometimes described as a practice of the spine and one of the foundations of vinyāsa is the idea that the spine naturally reacts to the breath in a very specific way (see above) unless something gets in the way. So, first and foremost, consider how each transition is reflected in the movement of the spine and hips. Next, consider how the movement is reflected in the movement of your big joints. Once you get an understanding of how the body moves, you bring more awareness to what is appropriate (in general and for you specifically).

Note: there are times, when you may find that a sequence moves around a joint you weren’t expecting. For instance, there are some lunging sequences where the front knee bends on the exhale and extends on the inhale – which brings focus to stretching the back of the front leg. Other times, the same sequence of poses is performed with the front knee bending on the inhale and flexing on the exhale – which brings more awareness to the spine and the hips. Keep in mind, the same parts are being affected, but in a slightly different way – and that way can make all the difference.

When you are matching the movement to the breath, with an awareness of how the body moves, then you start to mindfully and intentionally engage the muscles and the joints so that you are following the pace of the breath. This means that while an inhale from a forward fold to Mountain Pose will take the same amount of time as an inhale from forward fold to a “Half Lift,” you have to change the way you move your body by slowing down or speeding up the movement (while keeping the breath long and fine and deep). Similarly, when you are holding a pose, there is an opportunity notice how you are creating space (with the inhale) and engaging space (with the exhale). Early in your practice you may actually “do” things while holding a pose. Once you’ve mastered a pose, you may find that your awareness is drawn to what happens as you relax into the pose; letting gravity and your breath take you deeper.

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

– “[The way to perfect the seat or pose] is by relaxing [or loosening] effort and by merging with the infinite.”

Ashtanga Yoga was one of the first vinyāsa practices introduced to the Western world and it’s where most people get the idea “one breath, one motion.” The Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced sequences feature vigorous continuous movement which can be incredibly therapeutic or incredibly dangerous – depending on how you practice. The sequences were set with an awareness of vinyāsa krama (which is a step-by-step progression towards a goal) and, therefore, even when one practices a “short form” your body is prepared for each subsequent pose until you reach the end. Each sequence is often taught in the West as a whole, but traditionally each sequence was taught piecemeal – meaning a teacher would give a student the beginning and the end of the sequence and only introduce new elements once the original elements were mastered.

Practicing Ashtanga in the traditional way can create an opportunity for great strength and flexibility. However, if enough attention isn’t paid to alignment and an individual’s needs, it becomes a recipe for injury. Additionally, if you study alignment and study the Ashtanga sequences, you start to understand that no matter how vigorous and challenging the sequence gets, the body really isn’t making big moves. This is why Seane Corn advises that if you are going to practice any kind of vinyāsa you should also practice an alignment-based style of yoga, like Iyengar. Combining the awareness of alignment with the awareness of breath also allows you to actually practice āsana, as opposed to just posing.

“Stability and comfort go hand in hand, allowing us to remain relaxed during the peak moments of the posture.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.47 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, November 21st) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for 07112020 An Introduction”]

“I had come to understand that yoga has never been about the stretch; it’s always been about the reach. And if I could use my reach to bring yoga’s healing powers to people everywhere and my influence to raise awareness and funds for social causes that alleviate suffering and separation, then I was all in.”

– quoted from Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn


### INHALE, EXHALE ###

My apologies for missing some blog weirdness November 18, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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Please note that as I was rushing to post today I missed the fact that some names were truncated and some of the post was missing. The original post has now been corrected (as far as I can tell). The changes will appear automatically if you are on WordPress, but if you are an email subscriber don’t quote (or forward) the email.

Peace to you and yours, Myra

More Sitting and Breathing November 18, 2020

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“Teach what is appropriate for an individual.”

 

– Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Yesterday I took a moment, on the blog and in class, to talk about āsana (“seat”) and how we practice poses. But, taking a look back at some of the origins of the poses, is not the same as looking at the origins of the practice or how the practice came to those of us in the modern world – especially the western world. I mean, think about it, how did we come to practice elements a thousands of years old philosophy that the Buddha didn’t think was practical enough for householders?

According to Hinduism, Shiva is the same as God (whatever that means to you in this moment) and creator of the universe. However, in the Yoga Philosophy, Shiva is Adiyogi – the first yogi – and creator of yoga, who experienced enlightenment/stillness through movement. The story of how he came to teach what he learned is very similar to the story of the Buddha and his first students. Also, similar is the idea that the first students or adepts were ascetics or renunciates. But, I have heard that the Buddha, having studied Yoga, decided it wasn’t practical (enough) for householders and proceeded to outline a (very similar) path that anyone could practice, regardless of their station or creed. I would argue, that Yoga was (already) the path the Buddha was seeking, but I can’t argue with the fact that it wasn’t being practiced by every day people – or even, really, by women.

The perception and reality of who practiced the physical elements of Yoga changed in part because of a teacher named Sri Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari. Sri Brahmachari was married and had three children, but he taught in a remote cave at the base of Mount Kailash, a mountain sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bön (a major Tibetan religion). His students would spend years studying with him and, as was the tradition, repay him with a gurudakshinā at the end of their studies. This traditional form of payment could be a monetary donation or the fulfillment of task(s). In the case of one student, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the repayment for seven and a half years of intensive instruction was three-fold: look for a lost sacred text written on palm leaves; get married and have a family; teach yoga.

“Maybe this situation has happened for a reason. A reason that will unfold later.”

 

– Namagiriamma, Sr. Krishnamacharya’s wife

Born today in 1888, Sri T. Krishnamacharya not only found, translated, and transcribed the lost Yoga Korunta, which is believed to be the basis of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, he also married, raised children, and spent most of his adult life teaching some of the most influential yoga teachers in history. Known as the “Father of Modern Yoga,” Sri Krishnamacharya was a scholar of Sanskrit, Ayurveda, and all 6 of the major Indian philosophies (Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta). He said, “Practice without right knowledge of theory is blind” and that practicing in such a way leads to “mindfully [doing] a wrong practice.”

Sri Krishnamacharya not only taught the Mahārājas of Jaipur and Mysore, he is credited with the resurgence of the practice of yoga in India (in the early 20th century). He also taught the teachers who would eventually bring the physical practice of yoga to the Western World:

  • Indra Devi, the first Western woman to study yoga and and one of the first Westerners to be instructed to teach. She practiced and taught until the end of her days (at the age of 102), and towards the end of her life practiced 5 poses a day.
  • T. K. V. Desikachar, Sri Krishnamacharya’s son and one of the primary caretakers of Krishnamacharya’s legacy.
  • B. K. S. Iyengar, Sri Krishnamacharya’s brother-in-law, who was a sickly child and became known for a prop-heavy, alignment-focused therapeutic yoga practice.
  • Pattabhi Jois, who started practicing when he was a very active 12-year old and became known for the very vigorous Ashtanga Vinyasa.
  • A. G. Mohan, another of the caretakers of Sri Krishnamacharya’s legacy, he was once caught rolling his eyes during a lesson about “32 variations of headstand.” The then 85-year old Sri Krishnamacharya proceeded to school his young pupil.
  • Srivatsa Ramaswami, studied with Sri Krishnamacharya for 33 years and is a teacher of vinyasa krama (the art of sequencing).

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 18th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for 07112020 An Introduction”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“Yoga is awareness, a type of knowing. Yoga will end in awareness. Yoga is arresting the fluctuations of the mind as said in the Yoga Sutras (of Patanjali): citta vritti nirodha. When the mind is without any movement, maybe for a quarter of an hour, or even a quarter of a minute, you will realize that yoga is of the nature of infinite awareness, infinite knowing. There is no other object there.”

 

– Sri T. Krishnamacharya at 100, in an interview with A. G. Mohan

 

[Please practice responsibly….]

### HOW DO YOU PRACTICE? ###

“The Most Intense Part of Your Day” November 17, 2020

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“Let us first teach little children to breathe, to vibrate, to feel, and to become one with the general harmony and movement of nature.  Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child. [Friedrich] Nietzsche has said that he cannot believe in a god that cannot dance.  He has also said, ‘Let that day be considered lost on which we have not danced.’ But he did not mean the execution of pirouettes.  He meant the exaltation of life in movement.”

– Isadora Duncan (b. 05/26/1877)

According to Indian mythology, Shiva created the world with a dance. Some say it was a dance with 108 steps or poses (others say there were over 8 million). Can you imagine? People have and it always seems quite intense.

Paul B, one of my first yoga teachers, said that our yoga practice should be the “most intense” part of our day. Some people hearing that or reading that might find that really appealing, “Ooo, I want that kind of practice!” Others may be immediately turned off – for the exact same reason others get turned on. But, the practices with Paul B might not be what either group expects. In fact, his classes were the reason I always wanted to go deeper.

Take at face value, surface value, the statement seems to indicate a need for a physically vigorous or strenuous practice. But, what if that’s not what you need? The physical practice of yoga (haţha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) was originally taught as an individual practice. Yes, it’s true that people might have practiced in a group. However, each person practiced in a way that was appropriate for their body with the awareness that the physical practice was preparing the body for deep seated meditation.

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

– “[The way to perfect the seat or pose] is by relaxing [or loosening] effort and by merging with the infinite.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.48: tato dvandvānabhighātāh

– “From that (perfected posture) comes lack of injury (or suffering) caused by the pairs of opposites.”

Patanjali’s instructions for the third limb of the Yoga Philosophy, āsana (“seat” or pose), in some ways relies on the foundation of the first two limbs, the ethical limbs of yama (external “restraints” or universal commandments) and niyama (internal “observations”) – which require, nay demand, that we turn inward. To truly practice āsana there has to be an awareness of what the body needs and what is appropriate for the body. There also needs to be breath, and the awareness of breath, which is practiced with prāņāyāma (the fourth limb). One could argue that if you are not truly aware of your life force, you are not extending it (the other aspect of the fourth limb) and, therefore, you are not actually practicing yoga.

Classic texts like the Haţha Yoga Pradīpikā (15th century) describe 84 “seats” – and they are, in fact, mostly sitting on your sits bones poses – but not all the texts from the 10th through the 17th centuries list the same 84 (although, there is some general consensus). Light On Yoga (Yoga Dipika) was first published in 1966 and lists over 200 variations. Others will tell you there are thousands, millions even – especially when you consider different variations of a similar pose to actually be different poses. So, perhaps there are 84, perhaps there are 2 or 200, perhaps there are over 8 million, or several billion. Who can know? Ultimately, it’s not what you practice; it’s how you practice.

Over the years, Paul B’s words have echoed in my brain; but I don’t take them at face value. I recognize that sometimes I need an intensely physical (and vigorous) practice and sometimes I need an intensely relaxing practice. Sometimes I need something that is mentally intense – not so much in that I’m constantly thinking, but in that it engages my mind – and sometimes I need something intensely energetic and/or spiritual. Sometimes I need all of the above. My guess is that if you practice regularly you will discover the same truth: your yoga practice must be the most intense part of your day.

“Stability and comfort go hand in hand, allowing us to remain relaxed during the peak moments of the posture.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.47 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 17th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will do what we do. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“We are living in a body imbued with vast potential, and yet our mental faculty is so dull and dense that we are only dimly aware of its internal dynamics.

We have become disconnected from our body’s intrinsic intelligence. This dims our recognition of our inherent beauty, charm, vigor and vitality, and healing power, and eventually blocks their flow completely. As a result, our ability to be happy with what we are and what we have, our ability to embrace all and exclude none, our ability to cultivate and retain a robust and energetic body, and our ability to heal ourselves and each other plummet. This disconnection also disrupts the incessant flow of information among the body’s various systems and organs, and so they begin to function chaotically. This is how we become unhealthy and succumb to disease.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.46 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD


### JUST SITTING & BREATHING ###

Oh, Brother! (or, Light On Siblings) November 16, 2020

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[“Happy Diwali!” to anyone celebrating! May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise!]

[The 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice, in the spirit of generosity (“dana”), is freely given and freely received. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“Yama said: ‘The good is one thing; the pleasant, another. Both of these, serving different needs, bind a man. It goes well with him who, of the two, takes the good; but he who chooses the pleasant misses the end.’

‘Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to a man. The calm soul examines them well and discriminates. Yea, he prefers the good to the pleasant; but the fool chooses the pleasant out of greed and avarice.’”

– quoted from Katha Upanishad (Part I – Chapter II, Verses 1-2) translated by Swami Nikhilananda

The final day of Diwali, the 5-day festival of light celebrated throughout India, Southeast Asia, and the diaspora, is a day devoted to siblings – specifically the bond between sisters and brothers. Sisters, who celebrate today in this way, may give a puja (“offering” and prayers) on behalf of their brothers – that their brothers may enjoy a long, healthy, and happy life – and then will host a dinner in honor of their brothers. But, it’s not just a matter of creating a feast with their brothers’ favorite food. No, in some traditions, a sister will hand feed their brothers. (Yet another tradition when people will have to be creative in order to observe this year.)

I have two brothers, with whom I have very different relationships, and while I never wish either of them harm, it is sometimes a lot easier to wish the best for the one that is my favorite. (To be fair, my favorite is also my other brother’s favorite sibling). But, having “a favorite” kind of flies in the face of much of Yoga and Buddhist philosophy. It creates and perpetuates suffering. While others with siblings might say, “Yeah, but it’s human,” my relationships with my brothers makes me wonder how this final day of Diwali became associated with siblings. What, after all, do brothers and sisters have to do with light symbolically overcoming anything?

“Yama said: ‘The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at and which men desire when they lead the life of continence, I will tell you briefly: it is Om.’”

– quoted from Katha Upanishad (Part I – Chapter II, Verse 15) translated by Swami Nikhilananda

There are actually a couple of different brother-sister stories associated with this final day of Diwali. One, in particular, resonates with me because the brother and sister have a difference in opinion that causes a great deal of strife. While I can’t really relate to the subject of their argument, I can definitely relate to the feeling of being at odds with one’s brother.

According to the legends, Yami (also known as Yamuna) and Yama are twins, born to Sūrya (the Sun) and his wife Sandhya. If, like me, you’re familiar with another set of twins in Indian mythology – Nara and Nārāyaņa, who are identical except that one is in a physical-corporal body and one is in a spiritual-energetic body – then you might be expecting a twist. Of course, in the case of Yami and Yama the twist is a doozy. You see, in  the 10th hymn in the 10th book of the Rigveda the twins have a falling out because Yami wants to marry her brother, but Yama points out that not only is incest forbidden – there are health-related reasons behind it being forbidden.

Health and well-being are underlying elements throughout Diwali. Part of the focus on health comes from the fact that Lakşmī, the goddess of joy, prosperity, and wealth, is also the goddess of fertility. More importantly, however, she shares a birthday – the first day of Diwali – with Dhanvantari, the god of medicine (Aryuveda). In my mind, the fact that they both rise from the churning of the primordial “Ocean of Milk” on Dhanteras makes them energetic siblings (at the very least).

“Within the Waters – Soma thus hath told me-dwell all balms that heal,
And Agni, he who blesseth all.
O Waters, teem with medicine to keep my body safe from harm,
So that I long may see the Sun.
Whatever sin is found in me, whatever evil I have wrought,
If I have lied or falsely sworn, Waters, remove it far from me.
The Waters I this day have sought, and to their moisture have we come:
O Agni, rich in milk, come thou, and with thy splendour cover me.”

– quoted from Rigveda (Book 10, Hymn 9. 6-9) translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith

Remember, also, that Yama is “Death” and appears in an earlier Diwali story about a young prince and his very clever wife. Even though “Death” is conquered in that story – and even though 2020 is a year where I can’t blame anyone for vilifying death – Yama is not always portrayed as evil incarnate. Everything changes, everything ends. The problem is not the end – as it is also a beginning; the problem is how we deal with the end of something. How we let go of something that isn’t going our way or ends before we are ready for it to end.

According to the legend, Yama is the first mortal to die and so becomes the ruler of death (as well as dharma, South, and the underworld). His twin, Yami, does not handle his death well. In fact, she seems to be on a never ending downward spiral of grief, because (to her) her brother (and the love of her life) just died. At this point in the story, night (darkness) is created so that Yami can experience the passage of time and, therefore, the healing that comes from the passage of time.

“Yes I understand
That every life must end
As we sit alone
I know someday we must go

Oh, I’m a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah, others they got none

Stay with me
Let’s just breathe”

 – quoted from “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

“‘The knowing Self is not born; It does not die. It has not sprung from anything; nothing has sprung from It. Birthless, eternal, everlasting and ancient, It is not killed when the body is killed.’

‘Atman, smaller than the small, greater than the great, is hidden in the hearts of all living creatures. A man who is free from desires beholds the majesty of the Self through tranquility of the senses and the mind and becomes free from grief.’”

– quoted from Katha Upanishad (Part I – Chapter II, Verses 18 & 20) translated by Swami Nikhilananda


### OM OM AUM ###

Light On Love November 15, 2020

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[“Happy Diwali!” to anyone celebrating! May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise!]

“Embrace me completely

just as a creeper completely embraces a tree

May you be the one loving me only, not another

may you not go away from me”

Atharva Veda 6.8 (translated by Dr. R. L. Kashyap)

In India and Southeast Asia, Diwali (the 5-day festival of lights) is celebrated by a very diverse group of people. Not only religiously and spiritually – as it is a tradition for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists – but also culturally. So, as you can imagine, there are lots of different ways that people tell the story of light overcoming darkness, good overcoming evil; life overcoming death, wisdom overcoming fear; love overcoming hate; hope overcoming despair, and knowledge overcoming ignorance.

For instance, in some rural parts of north, west, and central India, the fourth day of Diwali is a day people observe Govardhan puja, an offering to honor the legend of Krishna saving the cowherds and farmers from the rain and floods by lifting Mount Govardhan. People build miniature-sized mountains out of cow dung and also “build” mountains of food and mountains of sweets. There is also thanksgiving, especially around the purchase of staples, like salt, which are considered essentials to life.

“with my mind I attract you

just as a bird on the ground beats its wings to go up

May you be the one loving me only, not another

may you not go away from me

Atharva Veda 6.8 (translated by Dr. R. L. Kashyap)

The main day of Diwali, yesterday, is often associated with the part of the epic poem the Rāmāyaņa when Rāma, his bride Sītā, and his brother Lakshmana return home after 14 years in exile. According to the legend, their homecoming is met with brightly lit candles, lamps, and fireworks. The homecoming, and the light festivities, marks the end of darkness that represents the jealousy which led to the trio’s exile and Sītā’s kidnapping during the exile, as well as the doubt and fear felt by some of the characters that appear throughout the poem. The light symbolizes the couples love, devotion, and faith in each other; Lakshmana and Hanuman’s devotion to Rāma; and victory over those who tried to defeat them.

Ergo, for a good majority, this fourth day shines a light on love, relationships, and devotion – especially between husbands and wives. In some areas, husbands give their wives gifts and other areas parents treat their newlywed children to a feast (which also involves gifts).

In addition to telling those aforementioned parts of the Rāmāyaņa, people will also celebrate the story of the defeat of the evil King Bali. Sometimes the story is related to a husband and wife (Shiva and Pārvatī) playing a game of dice on a board with twelve squares and thirty pieces. Every element of the story is symbolic – including the fact that it is a “strip” version of the game and the husband ceremoniously looses all his clothes.

One of my favorite husband-wife Diwali stories is actually associated with the first day; but I also tell it on this day. It is the story of a clever wife who uses light (and all the properties of light) to “defeat” Death (Yama, in the form of a snake) when he arrives on the fourth night of her marriage in order to take away her new husband, the prince. The legend always reminds me of Scheherazade, in that the wife in the Diwali story also spends the night telling stories and singing songs in order to extend life.

“I go around your mind just as the sun[light] goes around heaven and earth

May you be the one loving me only, not another

may you not go away from me”

Atharva Veda 6.8 (translated by Dr. R. L. Kashyap)

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, November 15th) at 2:30 PM. I am in the process of updating the links from the “Class Schedules” calendar; however, the Meeting IDs in the calendar are the same and are correct. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is in effect. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Diwali (Day 4) 2020”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

An extraordinarily beautiful version of love from Atharva Veda 6.8 (which is only on the YouTube playlist)

### LIGHTS ON! DANCE, DANCE, DANCE! ###

There Was A Light November 14, 2020

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[“Happy Diwali!” to anyone celebrating! May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise!]

“oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tat savitur vareṇyaṃ

bhargo devasya dhīmahi

dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt”

 

[Conscious, subconscious, unconscious mind, and every plane of existence, we meditate on the (adorable) Light, that it may inspire us, enlighten us, and remove our obstacles.]

 

– “Gāyatrī Mantra” from the Rig Veda (from Mandala 3.62.10)

During the darkest times of the year, people all over the world celebrate light. In each culture’s stories and traditions, light overcoming darkness is a metaphor for good overcoming evil; life overcoming death, wisdom overcoming fear; love overcoming hate; hope overcoming despair, and knowledge overcoming ignorance.  This year, the celebrations kick off with Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

Diwali is a five-day celebration which takes its name from Deepavali, which are rows and rows of lamps. It is a lunar calendar based holiday observed throughout India, parts of Southeast Asia, and the diaspora by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Newar Buddhists. Each day has different rituals and customs, which may vary between religious, cultural, and regional traditions. But, the common threads are the (clay) lamps and other great displays of light; pujas (“offerings”); feasts and sweets; epic tales of heroes and heroines prevailing; and a focus on relationships and also on wealth.

Today (the third day) is the biggest day: Diwali! It is a day that is normally marked by people getting together, feasting and celebrating. It is a day of new beginnings. It is a day, once again, when 2020 and the pandemic require people to figure new ways to honor old customs. People, once again, are finding their way through the darkness and into the light.

“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

 

– quoted from “Tryst with Destiny” address to the Constituent Assembly of India in New Dehli, August 14 – 15, 1947, by Jawaharlal Nehru

This year, the primary day of Diwali coincides with India’s Children’s Day (Bal Diwas), which is observed every year on the anniversary of the birth of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s First Prime Minister. Prime Minister Nehru was born today in 1889 and was a prominent figure in India’s independence movement. He was known as “Pandit Nehru,” because of his Kashmiri Pandit heritage, and had such an affinity for the children of his country (and they for him) that Indian kids called him Chacha Nehru (Hindi for “Uncle Nehru”). He advocated for the rights, care, and education of children – who are the light of the world.

So, in honor of all these convergences, here‘s a quick lesson about light… and the laws of motion: light moves and light bends, just like us.

Want a little bit more? OK. Think about Newton’s first law of motion (also known as the law of inertia), what happens if the object in motion is a wave of light? Just like anything else, it will keep moving until it meets with resistance. Then what? Does it stop? Not really. Instead of stopping, light bends.

Well, technically speaking, light waves do more than just “bend.” It also bounces, or changes direction; which is what happens when it hits a reflective surface and it skips (over and around things).

Refraction is the most common term used when light bends and it applies to the change in direction that takes place when light waves (or other kinds of waves) move from one type of surface to another. Typically these surfaces would be transparent – so, think of how a straw in a half full (or half empty) glass of water appears above and below the water line. The optical illusion that makes the straw appear disjointed is refraction caused by the difference in density between the air (in the top of the glass) and the water (at the bottom). Optical fibers, glass lenses, and crystals or prisms are the types of objects used to create refraction. In fact, “correcting” someone’s vision with eyeglasses or contacts is a practical implementation of refraction. Dispersion is a special type of refraction that occurs when different wavelengths are refracted different amounts; which is how we get rainbows. Finally, diffusion is a softening effect created from dispersion.

On the flip side, diffraction occurs when light “bends” around or through something. For instance, if there is a wall with a partially open window and light is shining on one side of the wall, that light can be seen through the glass of the window and through the part of the window that’s opened.

Sometimes, when we move through the physical practice, I will suggest visualizing the breath as light. Of course, to really focus, concentrate, meditate on your breath as light, you have to understand how light works. In other words, what happens to the light when you bend forward, back, and side to side? Does it reflect (bounce)? Does it refract (bend) – and if it does, is there dispersion or diffusion? Where does it diffract (or skip)? Finally, where does it seem like the light ends, because it’s completely blocked (and did you block it on purpose)?

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

 

– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”

 

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

 

– “[The way to perfect the seat or pose] is by relaxing [or loosening] effort and by merging with the infinite.”

Jumping off from last week, this week’s sūtra takes us a little deeper into the practice of āsana. It explains that while we need effort to get into the pose, once we are there, mastery (or perfection) comes from “effortless effort” and the ability to focus the mind on something that does not end – like light. While some translations specifically reference “effortless effort” (that concept that pops up again and again in Taoism and Buddhism), other translations refer to “special stress-free effort.” If you’ve practiced with me, you’ve heard me refer to that “balance between effort and relaxation.” Maybe you’ve thought you need to have as many parts of your body relaxed as you have engaged. Well, yes, and no…. Ultimately, you want everything simultaneously engaged and relaxed. However you describe it, you want to find that state where you are creating inertia.

I know, I know, “creating inertia” sounds a little weird if you take it out of context. But, if you think about it in terms of basic physics and the laws of motion, you are finding Friedrich Nietzsche’s definition of happiness: cultivating a state whereby you continuously stay in motion (and/or stay still) by overcoming resistance.

When you engage your muscles, by contracting (or shortening/tightening) them, there is resistance. When you “stretch” or lengthen the muscles, which is another form of engagement, there will ultimately be resistance – unless you can relax into the pose. Once you can relax in a pose, you eliminate fatigue and “our ability to be happy with what we are and what we have, our ability to embrace all and exclude none, our ability to cultivate and retain a robust and energetic body, and our ability to heal ourselves and each other” rises. Once you can relax into a pose, the only resistance you meet is the ground and gravity – both of which you can use to go deeper. (Which, in this case, is softer.)

“Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And [Arnold Joseph] Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junk heap of destruction.”

 

– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)

 

“Oh, my friends, it may be that Western civilization will end up destroyed on the highway of history because we failed to dim our lights with the great light of love at the right time.”

 

– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/10/1957)

 

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, November 14th) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Diwali (Day 3) 2020”]

“There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses. But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent….

 

 

And is this Power benevolent or malevolent? I see it as purely benevolent. For I can see, that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good.”

 

– quoted from Young India issue dated 11-10-1928, by Mahatma Gandhi

 


### “There will be light.” (B-G 1:3) ###

Here’s To Those Who Serve(d) November 11, 2020

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“Compassion. Respect. Common Sense.”

– Retired Marine Staff Sergeant Time Chambers (a.k.a The Saluting Marine) when asked what he wanted to inspire in people who see him standing/saluting

At “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” Paris time, 1918, all was quiet on the Western Front. At least in theory, it wasn’t as neat and tidy as it sounds; however, there was an official cease fire, an armistice that was scheduled to last 30 days. It was, for all intensive purposes, the end of World War II. Exactly a year later, Buckingham Palace hosted the first official Armistice Day event in England – and, thanks to the suggestion of South African author and politician Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, people around Europe began observing two minutes of silence in honor of those who had died during the war and those who were left behind.

The practice of observing two minutes of silence (in honor of people lost during conflict) had started as a daily practice in Cape Town, South Africa beginning in the spring of 1918. Today, those two minutes are one of the rituals shared by people who are observing Armistice Day (in the Britain and the Commonwealth, France, Belgium, and Poland) and Veterans Day (in the USA and Canada). These observations are sometimes, like in the case of England, focused on those who served and were impacted by World War I. However, in the United States and Canada it is a day to honor all veterans and their families. (The UK, USA, and Canada all have separate days to honor those who died while serving in any military conflict.)

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”

– “Ode of Remembrance” quoted from the poem “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, published September 1914 (in honor of the casualties of the British Expeditionary Force in the opening action of the war on the Western Front, WWI)

We have so many rituals and traditions around remembering those who were lost during conflict and tragedy. But, consider how we honor the living – those who return with wounds we can see, as well as wounds we cannot. Because today is a day, in the United States, when we remember all those who served – living and dead – it is a good time to really consider the experiences and challenges of those who return home different from the way they left.

During Movember classes, I talk about mental health and the fact that middle aged white men make up the highest percentage of suicides in America. Add to that, the increase in the percentages when someone has served in the military. Every 72 minutes, a veteran or active service member takes their own life; that works out to ~17 – 20 people a day or ~140 a week. These numbers do not include people who attempt suicide or consider it.

As I’ve pointed out before, we must keep in mind, that there are a lot of different things people feel when they consider suicide. It’s emotional. There are, also, a lot of different things that pull people back away from the edge. It’s personal. Some people may not want to talk about the details of their service and the things that they experienced. They may, however, want to talk about something else. We can honor them by listening.

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 11th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING.


### PEACE IN, PEACE OUT ###