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Another Midnight Ride Down the Mental Highway (give or take 12 hours) April 18, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“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.”

 

– from Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear…something very familiar.”

– the beginning of class on April 18th (starting ~2012)

 

The story of today, April 18th, is immortalized in a poem – which is a great reminder that, despite everything that has happened (and is happening) April is still Poetry Month and a poem is a wonderful way to tell a story. It is not, necessarily, the first way most people think of telling a story. After all, in this modern era we tend to equate the telling of a story with prose. Yet, if you go a little deeper you will find that there was a time when every good story was told in meter and rhyme.

(Did you see/hear what I did there?)

As I mentioned yesterday, the thing about a good story – regardless of the manner in which it’s told – is that it leaves an impression. Bits of it stick. How many times have you found yourself remembering a message or a situation from a story even when you don’t remember the title, the author’s name, or (sometimes) even the name of the main character? Something sticks. And, when the story is told well and with strong imagery, like that used in Longfellow’s poem, we believe what we are told. When the story is repeated, throughout our life time, certain things are reinforced…even when they are wrong. Authors, after all, are sometimes more focused on telling the story than on telling the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, Longfellow’s poem is a great poem: it’s dramatic, it’s visual; it sounds and feels like you’re riding with Revere; there’s a little bit of suspense (even when you know what happens); and – most importantly – it’s memorable. At least, some parts are memorable. Some parts stick. But, now that I’ve planted the seed of doubt about what is fact and what is fiction, how can you be sure if the parts that stick are the true parts? And what happens – specifically what suffering happens – when we believe something that is not true?

The nice (and I think cool) part about what I teach – and even the way I teach it – is that yoga is simultaneously embodied and experiential. Each person is encouraged to see if what the teacher (or anyone else) says is true. Adding the story just makes the experience richer. It’s another layer of contemplation (as Saint Ignatius would say) or another level of svādyayā (“self-study,” as Patanjali would say). You can’t necessarily go through your day doing Warrior and balancing poses whenever you need to tap into your strength, courage, wisdom, and balance. You can, at any time, however, tap into the story – and, if you practice yoga with the story, you now have an embodied experience. So, when you tap into the story, your muscle memory kicks in and you tap into your body.

At least, that has been my experience.

The tricky part about what I teach and the way I teach it is that a lot of Eastern philosophy (like yoga and Buddhism) focus on unpacking the stories we/our minds spin and finding the grounded/centered space where we are not constantly creating more illusion (i.e., more story). There’s a fine balance there; because even the aspect of non-attachment that is no-story is a story.

Yes, I know, it’s a bit of a quagmire and we are running concentric circles around it and into it. But that feeling of running around and around until you wind up running into the boggy land, where the ground slips out from under you, is the very nature of philosophy – and, can be, the very nature of life. Maybe that exact aspect of the human experience is why no-story/non-attachment is a story millennia of people have found eases or eliminates suffering.

 

Yoga Sutra 2.15: pariņāmatāpasamskāraduhkhairguņavŗttivirodhācca duhkhameva sarvam vivekinah

 

– “The wise person sees everything (all worldly experiences) inevitably results in pain, suffering, and sorrow, because everything is subject to change, distress, karmic impressions (samskaras), and natural opposition of characteristics.”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.16: heyam duhkhamanāgatam

 

– “The pain (suffering) that has not yet come can be avoided or discarded.”

 

There are different ways to look at Yoga Sutra 2.16, which will be our focus today (Saturday, April 18th). One way to look at this is to consider something I say often in class: What happens to us/our hearts in the past informs this present moment; how we engage our hearts (what happens to us) in this moment informs the future moments.

This is a basic way of looking at the law of karma. You don’t have to believe in past lives to see the validity of this. You can just think back to what you ate or drank (or didn’t eat or drink) two days ago and notice the effect that has on you today. Now, consider how the way you feel today (based on the decisions you made two days ago) and how the way you are feeling today informs what you eat or drink (or don’t eat or drink) and how that is going to affect you over the next two days. That’s still the law of karma.

Getting back to how this connects to today’s sutra, consider that you can’t go back and change what you ate or drank (or didn’t eat or drink) two days ago or how it has affected you. If, however, you are “the wise person” who is tuned into how you feel and is able to consider the cause-and-effect of how you feel, then you may be able to make a decision today that keeps you from continuing to suffer over the next two days.

Now, consider the wider implications of that lesson.

In Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere warns the colonists about how the British are approaching so that they are prepared to avoid/end their colonial suffering. As you move through your practice, or even through your day, consider the sensation/information that warns you about the possibility of future pain and suffering. What if you consider (as YS 2.15 suggests) that everything will invariably lead to pain and suffering? As you consider cause-and-effect, consider how you make decisions in this moment and how they will affect your next moments.

I mentioned earlier that poetry “is not, necessarily, the first way most people think of telling a story.” Yet, a song is simply harmony added to the melody that is the poem. Please join me today (Saturday, April 18th) at 12 Noon, for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, featuring songs inspired by the events of “the eighteenth of April, in (Seventeen) Seventy-Five.” Some of the new Zoom security protocols are definitely kicking in; so, please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems. Saturday’s playlist is ONLY available on YouTube. (Too many songs from my list were not available on Spotify.)

If you are following the Orthodox Christian calendar and would like a recording of last week’s classes, please comment or email me.

If you are interested in combining a physical practice (yoga or weightlifting) with the Counting of the Omer, you can purchase a copy of Marcus J. Freed’s The Kabbalh Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment.

Kiss My Asana is starting next Saturday, April 25th!!!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, part of my offering to support Mind Body Solutions this year will be to tell seven special stories, your stories! Check out yesterday’s post and then you can either email me or comment below.

Founded by Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions helps those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. They provide classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long. Seven days, at the end of the month, to do yoga, share yoga, and help others.  By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days

Tell me your Kiss My Asana story!

You don’t need to wait until the end of the month, however, to consider how you might participate. Start thinking now about how you can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day, how you can learn something new about your practice, or even how you would teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 18th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 18th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 18th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

A Poetry Practice

A Preview of the April 17th Practice (see “A Poetry Practice” link above for an actual preview)

 

 

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Comments»

1. Eileen O'Toole - April 18, 2020

Can’t wait to join you!❤️ 🧘‍♀️

ajoyfulpractice - April 18, 2020

Yes! 💞🧘🏾‍♀️


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