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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!

A Midnight Ride Into History (give or take 10 hours) April 18, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri and Ridván.

 

 

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Not going to lie: It’s been hard getting geared up to talk about American history today. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to appear to glorify treason and insurrection. And, since I set my own curriculum, I can (relatively easily) change my lesson plan on any given day. However, that can sometimes be hypocritical. It would especially be hypocritical today, because (as I have stated before), I believe in history, I believe in context; and I believe in things that are true. And those are the very reasons why I started teaching today’s theme in the first place.

Remember, April is poetry month and while there’s a plethora of ways to write a poem and any number of reasons why someone may write a poem – let alone why they might write it a certain way – a poem is a form of expression that can tell a story in a way that is both memorable and easy to remember (which are not necessarily the same things) and also inspirational. This fact alone, the overall staying power of a poem, is why Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and why he wrote it the way he wrote it. It’s also the reason I originally chose to highlight the poem: Because it’s a really great example of well-written propaganda that shaped history by shaping the way things are remembered.

We are, once again, at a critical time in history – a time that will be remembered. And, once again, we run the risk of getting so caught up in the momentum of the moment that we forget the importance of how today’s story will be is being told. Yes, I changed the tense there, because the poems, songs, essays, articles, visual and performing art – as well as news stories and texts books – that tell the story of today are already being created. And, thanks to the internet, some are already being “published” and heralded as truth. Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, also known in English as “George Santayana,” famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, let’s take a moment to consider why things are remembered the way they are remembered.

“With wonderful deathless ditties

We build up the world’s great cities,

   And out of a fabulous story

   We fashion an empire’s glory:”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

[The remainder of this post is part of a 2018 Kiss My Asana offering.]

 

Listen, my children, and you shall hear… something new and yet, very familiar. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known poem about the events of April 18, 1775 reads like a historically narrative when, in fact, there’s a lot more going on between the lines. To understand what’s going on and why Longfellow may have fictionalized parts of the story, we have to go back… not only to 1775, but also to the 1860’s.

First, a little about the poet: Longfellow was a successful poet during his lifetime. His success and popularity among readers and critics alike was notable not only because of his poems, but also because his popularity rivaled his British contemporaries. In fact, he was one of several New England poets referred to as Fireside Poets, because his poems served as family entertainment around the fireside. Longfellow recognized that he could use his platform not only to entertain, but also to educate, guide, and inspire. He also recognized that he could best convey his messages if they were served with a Romantic hero.

Enter Hiawatha (1855), Miles Standish (1858), and one Paul Revere (1860), to name a few.

Historians note that when he died, Paul Revere was remembered as a successful silversmith and a good friend. He was not celebrated as the midnight rider until Longfellow’s poem, which is curious unless one considers the discrepancies within the poem. For instance, history reveals that Revere was responsible for sending out the lantern signal, not receiving it. But, seeing the lantern is a much more romantic idea than receiving orders and firmly establishes Revere as receiving the “hero’s call” – which is critical to the hero’s cycle/journey.

Also, Revere was one of three riders who alerted the colonists about the arrival of the British army, the referred to as the Regulars. William Dawes and Revere were both instructed to ride from Boston to Lexington (via different routes) and then on to Concord, raising the alarm along the way. They were eventually joined by a Dr. Samuel Prescott, but then all three were detained by British troops. Dawes and Prescott escaped. Revere was escorted back to Lexington, at gunpoint. Ultimately, Prescott was the only one to make it all the way to Concord. Yet, Longfellow never utters the names Dawes and Prescott.

Another curious note about Longfellow’s poem is how he switches back and forth between past and present tense – seeming to tell it like it was (in 1775), but also like it is (in the early 1860’s). In both time periods, the country was headed towards civil war. Longfellow changing between past and present tense moved readers back and forth between the American Revolution and the Civil War (between the States), and reinforced the message that both civil wars liberated people within the continent. Since he was, essentially, issuing a battle cry to other abolitionists, Longfellow needed a simple story with a simple hero, preferably one whose name had a certain ring to it, a name he could easily rhyme.

“A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo forevermore!

For, borne on the night wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Did you catch that? Back in 1860, Longfellow wanted people woke, and the message (when you bring it forward) is not about the British coming, it’s about the coming danger to life, liberty, and freedom.

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, April 18th) at 2:30 PM, for an experience. 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 this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Sunday’s playlist is ONLY available on YouTube. [Look for “04182020 A Midnight Ride”]

If you prefer using Spotify, check out the “102020 Pratyahara” playlist.

 

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’re interested in a more philosophical take related to today’s date, check out my 2020 Kiss My Asana offering.

 

“He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm’”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

### SOMETHING’S DEFINITELY COMING ###

The Order of Things (with all due respect to Michel Foucault) April 17, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri.

“The discrepancy between faith and the facts is greater than is generally assumed. The art of biography is more difficult than is generally supposed.”

 

 

– Brother Juniper in The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder, born in Madison, Wisconsin, today in 1897, wrote a lot of biographies. I mean… a lot of biographies. Granted, he mostly wrote biographies about fictional people, but that didn’t stop him from creating (and then recreating) the layers and layers of these people’s lives – and, in doing so, highlighting cause and effect.  In fact, that process of deep diving into someone’s personal history in order to better understand the end result of their history is Brother Juniper’s primary motivation in The Bridge of San Luis Rey (for which Mr. Wilder won his first Pulitzer Prize).

Ten years after winning that first Pulitzer Prize (in Fiction), Thornton Wilder won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Our Town, a play that not only highlights cause and effect, it includes a scene where a woman (Emily Webb) gets to playback a portion of her life. He would win his third Pulitzer Prize (also in Drama) in 1943, for The Skin of Our Teeth – a play that is notable for being out of sync and full of things that are out of time. In addition to his three Pulitzers and numerous other awards, Mr. Wilder won the 1968 National Book Award for Fiction for The Eighth Day, a multi-family biography disguised as a murder mystery. Or, maybe it’s a murder mystery disguised as a biography of two families. Either way, it highlights a sequence of events and how they are connected.

“This is a history.


But there is only one history. It began with the creation of man and will come to an end when the last human consciousness is extinguished. All other beginnings and endings are arbitrary conventions – makeshifts parading as self-sufficient entireties, diffusing petty comfort or petty despair. The cumbrous shears of the historian cut out a few figures and brief passage of time from that enormous tapestry. Above and below the laceration, to the right and left of it, the severed threads protest against the injustice, against the imposture.

It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.”

 

 

– quoted from The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder

What we find, in just about every work by Thornton Wilder, is that there is always a time and a place, but our understanding of the time (and the place) – as well as our understanding of ourselves – changes based on where we start and how the story unfolds… or, more specifically, how the story is told.

As a writer, Mr. Wilder decided who knew what when for his characters and also for his readers. According to Patanjali, our brains are like the author: showing us different things at different times and, also, not showing us things that other people see/understand with clarity. Additionally, things play out in a certain sequence. Yet that sequence is not always the sequence we (individually and/or collectively) experience or understand.

It can all get quite confusing, which is why (on Monday) I asked the question “Where to begin?” – because where we begin establishes a sequence of events that is paramount to our understanding of cause and effect. Remember, as Edward Norton Lorenz established with chaos theory, changing the beginning of the sequence can change the end results.

Yoga Sūtra 3.13: etena bhūta-indriyaşu dharma lakşaņa-avasthā- pariņāmah vyākhyātāh

 

– “In this [one-pointed] state, [the mind] passes beyond the three kinds of changes which take place in subtle and gross matter, and in the organs: change of form, change of time and change of condition.”

 

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.14: śānta-udita-avyapadeśya-dharma-anupātī dharmī

 

– “A compound object, containing the attributes, and is subject to change, either past, present or yet to be manifested.”

 

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.15: krama-anyatvam pariņāmah-anyatve hetuh

 

– “Change in the sequence of the characteristics is the cause for the different appearances of results, consequences, or effects.”

Swami Vivekananda illustrated Yoga Sūtra 3.13 by describing the changes in form, time, and condition of a lump of gold. For a moment, let’s apply the same thread to water. Water can be in the form of liquid, solid, or gas and it can be pure or sullied or in the process of running clear or becoming muddy. Additionally, water can take the form or shape of its container – whether that is a shoreline or a mug – and can also absorb vibrations in a way that changes its form. All of this happens through spans of time and, under certain conditions, includes a decrease or increase in the volume of water. When we apply this same line of thinking to our thoughts and the fluctuations of our mind, we begin to see how meditation works.

 Of course, for the process of meditation to “work,” we must practice in stages and be willing to let go of previous layers of thought, sensation, and understanding. We must, as Thornton Wilder indicates, move around and view the landscape from different vantage points – which we can only truly do if we practice non-attachment and are willing to see everything (including ourselves) from all sides. This requires a bit of that same suspension of disbelief that we engage when we read a book or watch a movie; it requires us to focus and be fully engaged in the present moment as it fluctuates between the past and future moments.

“‘My friends,’ continued Chrysis, turning her eyes slowly from face to face….

 

‘Suddenly the hero saw that the living too are dead and that we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasure; for our hearts are not strong enough to love every moment. And not an hour had gone by before the hero who was both watching life and living it called on Zeus to release him from so terrible a dream.’”

 

 

– quoted from The Woman of Andros by Thornton Wilder

 

 

“EMILY: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

STAGE MANAGER: No. [Pause.]The saints and poets maybe – they do some.”

 

– quoted from Our Town by Thornton Wilder

 

One of the side effects (some would say “benefits,” others would say “disadvantages”) of this type of practice is the awareness that things are the way they are and work the way they work, because of a very specific sequence of events. If the sequence of events changes, the outcome changes; however, to change the sequence (in order to change the outcome) we have to know where to begin.

Yes, yes, we are back to that – and back to the butterfly effect. Of course, since we cannot go back and change what has happened in the past, we can only move forward. Moving forward with awareness – awareness of how and why things are the way they are and work the way they work – requires understanding cause and effect.

In The Essence of Chaos, Edward Norton Lorenz emphatically argued for believing in free will and wrote, “Before proceeding further, we need to consider the question of free will of human beings, and perhaps of other animate creatures. Most of us presumably believe that the manner in which we will respond to a given set of circumstances has not been predetermined, and that we are free to make a choice…. Our behavior is then a form of randomness in the broader sense; more than one thing is possible next.” However, according to Eastern philosophies like Yoga (and current events), we are conditioned to “respond to a given set of circumstances” based on our previous circumstances and our understanding of those circumstances (i.e., our samskaras, layers of mental impressions). Therefore, while I agree with his basic premise and overall idealization of free will, our behavior might be better described as a form of “random chaos” – in that there are multiple outcomes, but those outcomes are limited by our ability to see the choices within a given situation and the possible outcomes… and our ability to see clearly is limited by the situation and by our previous experiences.

 

“STAGE MANAGER: Wherever you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense….”

 

– quoted from Our Town by Thornton Wilder

 

 

“ANTROBUS: …. Oh, I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for — whether it’s a field, or a home, or a country. All I ask is the chance to build new worlds and God has always given us that second chance, and has given us [opening the book] voices to guide us; and the memory of our mistakes to warn us. Maggie, you and I must remember in peace time all those resolves that were clear to us in the days of war. Maggie, we’ve come a long ways. We’ve learned. We’re learning. And the steps of our journey are marked for us here.”

 

 

– quoted from The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, April 17th) at 12:00 PM, for an experience. 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 this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Saturday’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.)

 

 

“Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.”

 

 

– quoted from The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

 

 

### ABJAD 21 ###

Dwelling in Possibilities April 14, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri.

I dwell in Possibility –

A fairer House than Prose –

More numerous of Windows –

Superior – for Doors –“

 

– quoted from the poem “I dwell in Possibility (466)” by Emily Dickinson

Introduced in 1996, National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry organized by the Academy of American Poets. Each year, I offer a class focused on poetry (in motion). If you are interested in reading more about some of the poets that I reference (in April and throughout the year), you can check out my 2018 Kiss My Asana offerings – starting with the blog post from April 1, 2018.

“Even when a man takes revenge on others who hate him, in spite of him not hating them initially, the pain caused by his vengeance will bring him inevitable sorrow.” (313)

“When a man inflicts pain upon others in the forenoon, it will come upon him unsought in the afternoon.” (319)

– quoted from the English translation of the Thirukkural (Sacred Couplets) “Aesthetic Virtue” heading “1.3.8. Not Doing Evil” sampled as the Tamil lyrics of the song “Ahimsa” by U2 and A. R. Rahman, featuring Khatija and Raheema Rahman (translation from IntegralYoga.org)

Please join me today (Wednesday, April 14th) 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, playlists, 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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

DON’T FORGET! Next month’s “First Friday Night Special” will be May the 7th, which this year falls during the month of Ramadan, in the Muslim tradition.  In the Jewish tradition, it is “forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer” and a time when people will be focused on “Bonding in Bonding.” [If you received a class recording this week, you can obviously see that I got my months mixed up; however we will still consider what holds something together. Time and additional details will be posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar soon!

### PEACE IN, PEACE OUT ###

Reaching for a Higher Plane April 13, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri and Vaisakhi.

“There’s a higher place that I have no illusions about reaching. There’s a sophistication and aesthetic about composers who only write only for the music’s sake.”

– Bill Conti

My current teaching “week” runs Saturday through Wednesday. So, this “week” of April, which is Poetry Month, I started with people who might be viewed as opposites, but actually have a lot in common about the way they move in the world and work in the world. I continued with that thread on Sunday and, in some ways, had intended to use that as the over-arching theme of the week. I often think of such themes as a good lens through which to view our own encounters with our own opposites. However, it is hard to stay light and sunny and optimistic when people are CLEARLY NOT GETTING THE MESSAGE!

Sorry, sorry, my apologies; I don’t often yell – on paper or off.

However, consider how all those capital letters made you feel. Consider the emotions, even the visceral sensations that arise, when you hear someone yell – at you or around you. Consider what you experience when you yell… or want to yell. We may, in the aftermath of such, experience a bit of catharsis, but the experience itself is stressful (as is what most often leads up to the yelling) – and isn’t the best means of bringing people together. In fact, I would argue that yelling is like building a brick wall. Consider, for a moment, the things that can bring people together… even tear down walls. Consider, for a moment, what sooth a savage Breast, – music… sweet music.

“All you have to do is open up a little bit and then you’ll be experiencing a part of that person’s soul. It’s just there – in the presence of a beautiful painting, a creation, something created by someone else. This is insight into not who they are physically, but who they are on this other plane. So, what makes it magical, always, is to hear music performed live.”

– Bill Conti

Born today in 1942, Bill Conti is an Italian-American composer and conductor known for soaring scores that inspire (underscore) the indomitable human spirit. He won an Academy Award for Best Original Score (for The Right Stuff) and five Emmy Awards for Outstanding Musical Direction for three (of his nineteen) Academy Awards ceremonies. He has also been nominated for a plethora of Academy, Emmy, and Golden Globe awards; has had his (television) music on the Billboard Hot 100; and was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008. He has written jingles and themes for every human emotion and a variety of situations in which we humans continuously find ourselves. He believes in the power of music to bring people together and, in composing music that brings people together, he composes music that opens us to possibilities… music that elevates us.

All we have to do is listen. All we have to do is listen – to the music and to each other – that’s how we open, that’s how we come together.

“When the audience and the performers become one, it is almost nearly divine, where this oneness can actually meet in some, not physical place, but in some spiritual place, in the middle, not the performers performing, not the audience receiving, but all of a sudden that contact is made and it becomes wonderful.”

– Bill Conti

Please join me today (Tuesday, April 13th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom. 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.

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.)

“In the back of your mind, when you say you want to write music for the movies, you’re saying that you want a big house, a big car, and a boat. If you just wanted to write music, you could live in Kansas and do that.”

– Bill Conti

If you’re interested, here’s my 2019 Bill Conti-inspired blog post (with a little more yoga-specific philosophy).

### LET’S KNOW MORE LOVE ###

Where To Begin… Understanding How Things Work (a “missing” post for a missing class) April 13, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan.

[This post is related to Monday, April 12th. Although I cancelled class last night, you can request a substitute audio recording 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.

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

“Today it’s going to cost us twenty dollars

To live….”

– from the poem “How Things Work” by Gary Soto

Where to begin? That’s a question that applies to the series of events that led me to cancel class Monday night’s class AND also a question that can be asked in relation to any other series of events, on and off the mat. Sometimes we start at the end and work backwards; sometimes we begin in the middle. Other times, we find ourselves at the beginning, but out of context….

Take the first little bit of the poem above. If you read it a year ago, five years ago, twenty years ago, you would wonder about the rest. ‘Where is (s)he going with this?’ you might ask as you scan the rest of the page, looking for the rest of the poem. Reading it today you might think it’s a reference to George Floyd.

Just to be clear, it’s not a reference to George Floyd; however, the poem is about cause and effect. So often, when we take the time to consider cause and effect, we look at the most immediate action or sets of actions – we look for direct causality. However, as any mystic (and definitely any yogi familiar with the sūtras will tell you) seeds planted today may come to fruition tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week, or the next month, or the next year, or the next decade. That doesn’t mean that an exercise in causality is an exercise in futility. It simply means we need to consider where we begin and recognize that even the beginning – that we are calling a cause – is also an ending – in other words, an effect.

“As far as I can tell, daughter, it works like this:

You buy bread from a grocery, a bag of apples

From a fruit stand, and what coins

Are passed on helps others buy pencils, glue,

Tickets to a movie in which laughter

Is thrown into their faces.

If we buy a goldfish, someone tries on a hat.

If we buy crayons, someone walks home with a broom.

A tip, a small purchase here and there,

And things just keep going. I guess.”

– from the poem “How Things Work” by Gary Soto

Gary Soto, who was born April 12, 1952, is an award-winning Mexican-American poet and novelist whose work includes sixteen collections of poetry, over twenty young adult and children’s books, the libretto for the opera Nerdlandia, and eight memoirs. He’s also an award-winning professor, and film producer whose work has been translated into French, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. He’s received the Discovery-The Nation Prize and the California Library Association’s John and Patricia Award (twice). In addition to earning a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, he was once named NBC Person of The Week (1995). In answering a question about what inspires him, Professor Soto wrote, “I’m also a listener. I hear lines of poetry issue from the mouths of seemingly ordinary people. And, as a writer, my duty is not to make people perfect, particularly Mexican Americans. I’m not a cheerleader. I’m one who provides portraits of people in the rush of life.” And, in writing about people’s day-to-day experiences, he writes about cause and effect, and about “how things work.”

Several years ago, when I picked Gary Soto as one of my “April is Poetry Month / Kiss My Asana” poets, I picked two poems illustrating cause and effect in a really bright, sunny, lighthearted way. However, life is not all sunshine, white blossoms, geraniums, and goldfish – and neither is that all one will find in work written by Gary Soto. He has written about the “Sudden Loss of Dignity” that comes with aging as well as about the heartbreak of first love (and the heartbreak of not making the team) and about the decisions people make when they are bullied (as well as when they are the bully). Even when he writes about romance within the context of the afterlife, he writes about cause and effect.

So, we can consider the “good” that trickles down from a single action and also the “not good” that sprouts from a single action. The point of the practice is to bring some conscious awareness to how things are connected, one and off the mat, so that we become more conscious about how our thoughts, words, and deeds affect us and the people around us. Then, not only do we begin to notice “How Things Work,” we also begin “Looking Around, Believing” that we can make a difference – because we DO make a difference. The question is: What difference are you making?

“How strange that we can begin at anytime.

With two feet we get down the street.

With a hand we undo the rose.

With an eye we lift up the peach tree

And hold it up to the wind – white blossoms

At our feet. Like today, I started”

– quoted from the poem “Looking Around, Believing” by Gary Soto

There is no playlist for the (Monday) Common Ground practice.

If you are interested in my previous Gary Soto-inspired musings, here is a 2018 blog post about vinyasa and vinyasa krama and 2019 blog post about why we begin where we begin.

### BEGIN HERE! BEGIN NOW! ###

The Emptiness That Is Full April 11, 2021

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[This post is a partial re-post of a 2018 Kiss My Asana offering, which you can find here. You can find a related 2019 KMA offering here. Thinking about these two poets, their differences and their common themes, I started thinking about the idea that nothing/emptiness connects us – and that that is everything.]

“In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.”

– from the poem Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand

Misuzu Kaneko (b. 1903) and Mark Strand (b. 1934) were both born today and were both considered literary celebrities during their lifetimes. However, they (and their poetry) lived very different lives.

Born Tero Kaneko, Kaneko was able to attend school through the age of 17, despite most Japanese girls of the time only attending up to 6th grade. Her poems started to become very popular when she was 20 years old. Unfortunately, her private life as an adult was so tumultuous and tragic that Kaneko committed suicide just before her 27th birthday. At the time of her death, she had published 51 poems.

When Strand was born in Canada, four years after Kaneko’s death, Kaneko’s poems had been all but lost.

Strand grew up moving around the United States, Columbia, Mexico, and Peru. Raised in a secular Jewish home, he went to a Quaker-run college preparatory school in New York; earned a BA at Antioch College in Ohio; moved to Connecticut to study art and graduated with an MFA from Yale; studied poetry in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship; and finally attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (where he received an MA in writing) before teaching all over the East Coast and spending a year as a Fulbright Lecturer in Brazil. In addition to ultimately teaching all over the U.S., Strand won a Pulitzer Prize, served as U. S. Poet Laureate, and was honored with numerous other awards and titles. At the time of his death, at the age of 80, he had published at least 21 collections of poetry, plus three children’s books, several books of prose, and served as editor and/or translator for at least 13 more publications.

To my knowledge, Kaneko never left Japan.

Despite the wildly different details of their lives, both poets wrote about loss and darkness, belonging vs. being alone, how personal perspectives create our world, human’s vs. nature, and personal responsibility. They may use different words, but they seem to share an underlying idea: True power comes from being present with what is despite our desire to possess, change, and understand everything around us.

“Are you just an echo?

No, you are everyone.”

– from the poem Are You An Echo?  by Misuzu Kaneko

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, April 11th) at 2:30 PM, for an experience. 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 this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Sunday’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 cannot say that emptiness is something which exists independently. Fullness is also the same. Full is always full of something, such as full of market, buffaloes, villages or Bhikshu. Fullness is not something which exists independently.

The emptiness and fullness depends on the presence of the bowl, Ananda.

Bhikshu’s look deeply at this bowl and you can se the entire universe. This bowl contains the entire universe. This is only one thing this bowl is empty of and that is separate individual self.

Emptiness means empty of self.”

– excerpt from Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh

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.

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“Missing” Steps to Change April 10, 2021

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“Children must be taught ‘that we are one human race. We have a lot of different ethnic groups, cultures, nationalities, but only one human race … and that human race began in Africa,’ [Dolores Huerta] said. ‘So we can say to all of those people in the Ku Klux Klan, the white nationalists: You’re Africans. Get over it.’

 

That, Huerta said, means ‘We’re all related.’ She invited delegates to take the hand of the person beside them and say, ‘Hello, relative.’

 

‘You’ve got to start spreading this message,’ she said.”

 

– quoted from “Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta: We need spiritual guidance and spiritual activism – United Farm Workers co-founder addresses Dioceses of Los Angeles convention” by Pat McCaughan (as posted on the Episcopal News Service website Nov 19, 2019)

 

It is easy, way too easy, to overlook the obvious when you are overwhelmed or distracted… by other things that are overwhelming and/or obvious. It’s easy (and way too obvious) to (dis)miss how Dolores Huerta and Anne Lamott are related, because some of their differences are so obvious. For example, many people automatically think of Ms Huerta as an activist and Ms. Lamott as a writer – yet they are both both; even though they write very different things. Ms. Huerta has way more schools named after her and Ms. Lamott has published way more novels. Ms. Huerta has called herself a “born-again feminist;” Ms. Lamott identifies as a born-again (evangelical) Christian. Also, in 1988, Ms. Huerta experienced police brutality at a presidential protest that led to a subsequent judgement in her favor; a change in policies within the San Francisco Police Department; and, most likely, a different viewpoint about current events. (NOTE: A key element of her attack was that it was videotaped and broadcasted on the news.)

We could spend all day cycling trivialities; however, the fact that they share a birthday (today) gives us an excuse/reason to start considering their similarities. For instance, although born decades apart – Ms. Huerta in 1930 (Dawson, New Mexico) and Ms. Lamott in 1954 (San Francisco, California) – they have ended up walking through similar spaces. They share the vocation of teaching and they are both activists, strongly passionate about progressive ideas and having the gift of words that inspire others. They both self-identify as feminists and also hold views which fit firmly into Ms. Huerta’s description of a feminist (see below). They both have older brothers; know a thing or two about single mothers; and they both believe in what Ms. Huerta once called “spiritual guidance and spiritual activism.” They also both know a thing or two about pushing through overwhelming challenges and (in some ways) give similar advice: as Ms. Lamott famously wrote, taking/organizing things “bird by bird.”

When we go deeper, we are reminded that nothing – especially people – is one dimensional. Everything and everyone, philosophically speaking, is considered a “compound;” made up of a combination of elements or matter in various energetic stages. You think of these energetic states in terms of physics (considering the movement of atomic particles) and/or you can think of them in terms of the guņas (“attributes” or “qualities” which can be described as active/passionate, stable/passive, and neutral/harmonious). When it comes to people we must consider genetics and history and the layers and layers of samskāras (“mental impressions” based on experiences) that make up a person’s perception of reality and, therefore, their actions. We must also consider how things, even thoughts/perceptions change in form, time, and condition and that we may not always be aware of the fact that change is happening, constantly.

Yoga Sūtra 3.11: sarvarathatā-ekāgrata kşaya-udaya chittasya samādhi-pariņāmah

 

 

– “When all mental distractions disappear and the mind becomes one-pointed, it enters the state called samadhi.”

 

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.12: tatah punah śānta-uditau tulya-pratyayau chittasya-ekāgratā- pariņāmah

 

 

– “The mind becomes one-pointed when similar thought-waves arise in succession without any gaps in between them.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.13: etena bhūta-indriyaşu dharma lakşaņa-avasthā- pariņāmah vyākhyātāh

 

 

– “In this state, it passes beyond the three kinds of changes which take place in subtle and gross matter, and in the organs: change of form, change of time and change of condition.”

Remember, as one focuses on a single point, over a long period of time, the level of awareness changes – and it changes repeatedly from that 12 second mark (that establishes concentration) all the way through the five hours, forty-five minutes, and thirty-six seconds mark (that establishes “unwavering absorption” or nirvikalpa samādhi). However, in the middle of the practice we are not noting the time – that would be distracting and totally defeat the purpose! Also, we are moving deeper and deeper inward and therefore not tracking changes externally. All of that means we cannot pinpoint the changes as they are happening. Swami Vivekananda uses the example of a lump of gold to explain the changes that occur in form, time, and condition. Note that underlying this example is the idea that (a) a change in form can occur when something is being used a new manner; (b) a change in time is independent of any action taken by an individual; and (c) a change in condition may occur because of a change in form and/or time and may also prompt action on the part of an individual. All of this can be applied to the mind-body.

Consider Rip Van Winkle, again, who experiences all of the aforementioned changes while he is sleeping and then experiences them a second time, on a different level, when he awakens and can note the changes around him. In this sense, we almost all begin like Rip Van Winkle; the practice enables us start the waking up and wandering phase of our experience. The practice is also the work.

When we move through the stages of the practice and reach the point in where we are able to focus-concentrate-meditate on the rising and falling of our own thought waves – and then experience those thought waves collapsing and converging into themselves – we may find that we cannot identify the exact moment or point of change. We may not even, according to Patanjali, be able to pinpoint and/or describe the catalyst that brings about the change. However, we must note that there is a catalyst: something that creates change, but does not itself change.

Yoga Sūtra 3.14: śānta-udita-avyapadeśya-dharma-anupātī dharmī

 

 

– “A compound object, containing the attributes, and is subject to change, either past, present or yet to be manifested.”

In the Yoga Sūtras, Patanjali is specifically referring to an internal (and eternal) attribute common to everything and everyone. The practice is about setting aside the layers and layers of change until one reaches that which does not change: the true Self. The underlying idea being that it is existence of the true Self and our own personal desire to know our Self that sparks the change. This, then, is one of the key elements of the practice.

It is also a very challenging (and sometimes overwhelming) part of the practice. This level of introspection and self awareness is particularly challenging and overwhelming when we are facing critical times in history and/or our personal lives. It is sometimes (slightly) easier to look at some external factors that have served as catalysts. We can, in our own lives and the lives of public figures, catalog pivotal moments that brought about change and a different way of viewing the world. Keep in mind: Here I am talking about external factors that tap into am internal experience, self-reflection, and then spark a change in both external and internal engagement. This change affects how someone moves through the world – even the spaces in which the move – and can possibly change the world (or, more specifically, others’ perceptions of the world).

One such example for Dolores Huerta was when her parents divorced, yet still maintained their commitments to grassroots community building and activism. Another example was the realization that came from being falsely accused of cheating in school and being unfairly graded. Then, too, there was her realization, as a teacher, that teaching hungry children is an exercise in futility. For Anne Lamott, loss is often the catalyst for change – this includes the “bird by bird” story about her brother, which can be viewed as a loss of control. Another example, she has said, was feeling a personal “relationship or friendship with Jesus, a connection.” Finally, her faith changed her view of herself and the world in a way that helped her overcome her addition to drugs and alcohol as well as an eating disorder – all of which further changed her view of herself and the world.

“To me, a feminist is a person who supports a woman’s reproductive rights, who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, who supports LGBT rights, who supports workers and labor unions, somebody who cares about the environment, who cares about civil rights and equality and equity in terms of our economic system. That is a feminist. And of course we know that there are many men who are feminists as well as women.”

 

– Dolores Huerta quoted in the Time Magazine (03/28/2018) article, “Pioneering Labor Activist Dolores Huerta: Women ‘Never Think of Getting Credit’ But Now That’s Changing” by Lily Rothman

 

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, April 10th) at 12:00 PM, for an experience. 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 this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Saturday’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.)

 

For more about Dolores Huerta, Anne Lamott, and how they fit into the practice, check out my April 10, 2019 Kiss My Asana offering.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

 

 

– excerpt from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Ann Lamott

 

 

 

### “When I get there I’ll know / ‘Cause I’m taking it / Step by step, bit by bit” ~ WH ###

How One Does Their Duty April 7, 2021

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“Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he

That every man in arms should wish to

be?”

 

– quoted from the poem “Character of the Happy Warrior” by William Wordsworth

It’s unlikely that you’ve heard someone referred to as “America’s Lord Nelson.” Unless, of course, the person being referenced was a member of the peerage whose name was Nelson. However, several modern politicians – including Minnesota’s own Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. (the 38th Vice President of the United States) and Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. (the 47th Vice President and 46th President of the United States) – have been called “the Happy Warrior;” because their personal constitutions fit the poem “The Character of the Happy Warrior” by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth, born today in 1770, wrote the poem to eulogize (& idolize) Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB – whose views on slavery are currently under much scrutiny and debate.

“Whose high endeavors are an inward light

That makes the path before him always bright;”

 

– quoted from the poem “Character of the Happy Warrior” by William Wordsworth

Please join me today (Wednesday, April 7th) 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.

 

You can find my 2019 post related to The Happy Warrior practice here.

 

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, playlists, 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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

DON’T FORGET! Next month’s “First Friday Night Special” will be May the 7th, which this year falls during the month of Ramadan, in the Muslim tradition.  In the Jewish tradition, it is “forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer” and a time when people will be focused on “Bonding in Bonding.” [If you received a class recording this week, you can obviously see that I got my months mixed up; however we will still consider what holds something together. Time and additional details will be posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar soon!

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Reaching… grasping the Truth (post & music links) April 6, 2021

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Please join me today (Tuesday, April 6th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom. 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.

 

If you are interested, please check out my 2019 post about the Dandi Salt Satyagraha!

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.)

 

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…Waiting for Change (music and links) April 3, 2021

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“Happy Passover/Pesach and Happy Holy Saturday,” to those who are observing!

 

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, April 3rd) at 12:00 PM, for an experience. 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 this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Saturday’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.)

 

You can read my date-related post from 2019 here and a Holy Saturday/Easter/Passover theme-related post from last year here and a second post related to both the day and the theme here.

 

### Don’t Fall Asleep When… ###