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From the Office of the Scholar August 31, 2020

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“We are all strangers

We are all living in fear

We are all ready to change”

 

– quoted from The Air I Breathe

The movie The Air I Breathe is partially inspired by the idea that human emotions are like fingers on a hand. In fact, the primary characters in the movie are named (or referenced as) Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow, Love, and Fingers. The movie presents extreme depictions of each emotion as a life experience. The idea behind the inspiration is that to be fully human, to live a full life, we must experience all of the emotions – or, that as we are living our lives we will experience all of emotions – and that the emotions are interconnected: like fingers on a hand.

So, consider a hand. You can think of my hand, your hand, the hand of your favorite person or your least favorite person. You can think of someone who works with their hands, someone who is constantly working on their hands, or someone who does both.  It doesn’t matter; in fact, think of all the different kinds of human hands. The typical human hands (like the hands of some other primates and even some frogs) are different from the extreme appendages that other animals use to pick up things, appendages we often refer to as paws, because we typically have opposable thumbs. These thumbs, along with the fingers, enable a person to not only pick up a plethora of objects, but also to use those objects as tools. Our thumbs and fingers give us a level of dexterity that affects the way we interact with the world.

Now, let’s say that you were missing a piece of your hand or a portion of your hands function. Maybe you were missing a fingernail or a tendon. Maybe you were missing a finger, a thumb, or maybe a whole hand. Maybe no one else is missing what you are missing. Or, maybe you are surrounded by people who are missing what you are missing. Either way, it may change the way you interact with the world. It may even change the way you eat, create, or put on a mask – because your mind-body will recreate different muscles to do what you need to do. The question then, isn’t how the body functions without the missing piece. The question is: How do you function?

Does the missing part change the way you think of yourself? Does it change the way people think of you of you and then, therefore, how you think of yourself? Does the answer depend on how and why you are missing the piece or the function? Does the answer depend on how obvious it is that you are missing something? Does it matter if it is inside or outside? Does it even matter?

“It is one of those fables which out of an unknown antiquity convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end.”

– quoted from the 1836 “The American Scholar” speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have known people who would answer “no” to all of those questions; however, I also have known people who would answer “yes.” And, there is a part of me that thinks maybe these are the wrong questions. There’s a part of me that wonders at what point we start thinking of ourselves (and others) as a single part of ourselves (especially a missing or different part). There’s a part of me that wonders when we stop (or start) thinking of ourselves as a whole. Tied to that last piece of wondering is the acknowledgement that when we consider ourselves as the whole, we are no longer missing…anything.

Today in 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered “The American Scholar” speech to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard College. The students invited Emerson to speak after the world’s powerful reception to his 1836 essay “Nature.” The speech was an introduction to Transcendentalist and Romantic views on Nature, as well as the American scholar’s relationship with and responsibility to Nature. It garnered him more accolades and more invitations to speak. It also made people think about the way they thought. In particular, it made people think about the way they thought about themselves.

“The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man,—present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But, unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk and strut about so many walking monsters,—a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.”

 

– quoted from the 1836 “The American Scholar” speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now, following Emerson’s logic, we can see a lesson that also appears in the Upanishads: the Neti neti, “not this, not that” lesson pertaining to the nature of the Divine. The parallels in the argument are no accident. Emerson was in fact stating that if we focus too much on one aspect, one nature, one ability, then we lose sight of ourselves as a whole. The same can be said of an individual and their mind-body, as well as of an individual and their whole society. We are, after all, parts of a whole – and, the minute we forget that is the minute we become a thing. Like Frankenstein’s “monster,” there is more going on (inside and outside) than is apparent when we only view things through a single point of view.

“Man is thus metamorphosed into a thing, into many things. The planter, who is Man sent out into the field to gather food, is seldom cheered by any idea of the true dignity of his ministry. He sees his bushel and his cart, and nothing beyond, and sinks into the farmer, instead of Man on the farm. The tradesman scarcely ever gives an ideal worth to his work, but is ridden by the routine of his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars. The priest becomes a form; the attorney a statute-book; the mechanic a machine; the sailor a rope of the ship.

In this distribution of functions the scholar is the delegated intellect. In the right state he is Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.”

 

– quoted from the 1836 “The American Scholar” speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, August 31st) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga practice.

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, 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 this practice via a comment below.

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.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices. (But, Van is the Man, and “the Belfast Cowboy” turned 75 today so…)

“If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action. Life is our dictionary. Years are well spent in country labors; in town; in the insight into trades and manufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in all their facts a language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions. I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get tiles and copestones for the masonry of to-day. This is the way to learn grammar. Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made.

But the final value of action, like that of books, and better than books, is that it is a resource. That great principle of Undulation in nature, that shows itself in the inspiring and expiring of the breath; in desire and satiety; in the ebb and flow of the sea; in day and night; in heat and cold; and, as yet more deeply ingrained in every atom and every fluid, is known to us under the name of Polarity,—these “fits of easy transmission and reflection,” as Newton called them, are the law of nature because they are the law of spirit.

The mind now thinks, now acts, and each fit reproduces the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no longer apprehended and books are a weariness,—he has always the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or medium to impart his truth? He can still fall back on this elemental force of living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act. Let the grandeur of justice shine in his affairs. Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof. Those “far from fame,” who dwell and act with him, will feel the force of his constitution in the doings and passages of the day better than it can be measured by any public and designed display. Time shall teach him that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of his instinct, screened from influence. What is lost in seemliness is gained in strength.

 

– quoted from the 1836 “The American Scholar” speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

### OM OM AUM ###

I Can’t Say That… Can I? August 30, 2020

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“Beauty cannot exist without ugliness.

Virtue cannot exist without vice.

Living, we know death.

Struggling, we know ease.

Rising high, we know the depths.

Being quiet, we understand noise.

Everything gives rise to its opposite, therefore we work without conscious effort and teach without agenda.

We enjoy everything and possess nothing.

Our accomplishments do not emerge from our ego, so we do not cling to them.

Thus they benefit all beings.”

 

– (2) quoted from  A Path and A Practice: Using Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching as a Guide to an Awakened Spiritual Life by William Martin

Every once in a while it is good to check in with your bandwidth. I don’t mean the electronic frequencies that transmit a signal (although, I supposed it’s good to check that too). I’m talking about “the energy or mental capacity to deal with a situation.”  Even though I didn’t use those exact words, I was explaining to a couple of dear, dear friends that given all the things that brought me back to Texas – not to mention all the things that have happened since I’ve been here – coupled with all the things that have happened this year (and, yeah, let’s be real, the last few years), I sometimes feel like I don’t have the bandwidth to take on certain classes/practices the way I use to approach them. Getting a good night sleep (no laughing, y’all who know me) can be helpful in that it provides a little reset and I wake up with a little more mind space and a little more energy to address certain things. Other times, the reset button just allows me to let go of something I was holding on to, something that no longer serves me or something that is just not serving me in this moment. Because, I have found, that if something serves me – even if it’s challenging – it actually increases my bandwidth.

For example, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice today in 1967. He had already established a legacy within the Civil Rights Movement, a legacy that still serves us today, and he would serve on the United States Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring. There’s a part of me that always wants to remember and honor the many ways in which Justice Marshall served the country and upheld the finer points of the United States Constitution – especially as it could be a way to also remember Chadwick Boseman, the amazing actor who portrayed him in Marshall. I even get a little jazzed about the idea – but it’s not the only thing on the docket…and so I don’t have the bandwidth today. Good thing I remembered his birthday (because now you can refer back to this) and honored his legacy (which you can see here).

“We will see that the true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured through two turbulent centuries of our own making, and a life embodying much good fortune that was not.”

– conclusion to the speech given by Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall at The Annual Seminar of the San Francisco Patent and Trademark Law Association, Maui, Hawaii May 6, 1987

Being a Texan, from Houston no less, I also get jazzed because it’s the anniversary of the birth of Molly Ivins. Born today in Monterey, California in 1944, she grew up in Houston and became a national icon (especially in light of the fact that Texas was once its own nation). She was a larger-than-life, force of nature who knew President George W. Bush when they were teenagers, referred to him as “Shrub” (among other less than flattering things), and said, “The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be President of the United States, please, pay attention.” In her nationally syndicated column and best-selling books, she took equal aim at Democrats like President Bill Clinton (calling him “weaker than bus-station chili” which is a Godzilla-sized insult in Texas). Of herself, Molly Ivins wrote that she “remains cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasizes the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never has to write fiction.”

If you’ve ever wondered what Molly Ivins could and couldn’t say, she’s probably made you smile and, as several of us discussed at Nokomis Yoga a while back, the world could use a little Molly Ivins right now – unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth for much more than this.

The Second Battle of Bull Run (also known as the Battle of Second Manassas) ended today in 1862. Like the First Battle, it was a critical battle that left thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers dead, wounded, missing, and broken. It was a blow to the Union morale and a significant tactical victory for the Confederates, which emboldened General Robert E. Lee to push forward with his Maryland campaign. It was part of the reason General John Pope was relieved of command and reassigned to Minnesota (where he, unfortunately, created a lot of suffering). According to many historians, including those who believe in the “Lost Cause,” the Second Bull Run was also a critical battle because of the way it changed the relationship between Lee and Lieutenant General James Longstreet (also known as “Lee’s War Horse’). While the Confederate Army may not have won this particular battle without Longstreet, his questioning of Lee (i.e., insubordination) at the Battle of Gettysburg is highlighted as a factor in the confederacy’s ultimate defeat.

Typically I would mention some of this in class, because our history is important – and it is critical to the way we move forward. But, alas, I don’t have the bandwidth (and since I didn’t pose on Friday, I have only this.)

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890”

 

– The first message from Washington to Moscow via the “hotline,” sent to ensure the keyboard and printer worked correctly, 08/20/1963

With all due respect to Cold War aficionados and/or fans of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, I will add as a footnote that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born today in 1797 and that the Moscow-Washington hotline (also known as the Washington-Moscow Direct Communications Link) was activated today in 1963. Frankenstein’s “monster” wanted people to see him for who he was on the inside, but everyone was too distracted by the outside. In the same way, popular culture as focused on the idea that the “hotline” was a red phone when, in fact, it was not only not red – it was never a phone! While the technology was tested on a regular basis, its first official use (by the United States) as a “hotline” occurred November 22, 2963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The Soviet Union’s first official usage occurred June 5, 1967, at the beginning of the Six-Day War (in the Middle East).

While I could, easily, work Ms. Shelley and the hotline into a pretty straightforward vinyasa practice; it seems a little unfair to leave out everything else. And so, I free up some bandwidth by letting it all go.

  Or do, I?

“‘You are in the wrong,’ replied the fiend; ‘and instead of threatening, I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all…? Shall I respect man when he condemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my archenemy…’”

 

– quoted from Chapter 17 of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

After all is said and done, there is a part of me, like Mary Shelley, that finds a kindred spirit in the heart of the “monster.” There is that part of me that would like to know only peace and love; and would choose to practice those favorite mantras (“Peace In, Peace Out; Inhale Love, Exhale Kindness”) as if we live in a vacuum. There is also a part of me that recognizes why so many in the world are turning towards the “monster’s” other choice. And, in this moment, I seek (and seek to teach) the practice that helps us deliberately choose peace and love in light of the situations that cause others to rage.

“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

 

– quoted from the movie based on Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, August 30th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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. (This is the playlist dated “07292020 Breathing, Noting, Here & at the UN”)

“Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear.”

 

– quoted from Chapter 9 of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

 

“This is a path of letting go so there will be room to live.

If we hold on to opinions, our minds will become dull and useless.

Let go of opinions.

If we hold on to possessions, we will always be at risk.

Let go of possessions. If we hold on to ego, we will continue to suffer.

Let go of ego.

Working without thought of praise or blame is the way of true contentment.”

 

– (9) quoted from  A Path and A Practice: Using Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching as a Guide to an Awakened Spiritual Life by William Martin

 

###

When Did It Start, Where Does It Stop? August 29, 2020

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“For most of us, this distorted self-identity constitutes our personal world. Because this is what we feel ourselves to be, the prospect of losing it is deeply frightening. We do everything in our power to protect and perpetuate our distorted identity. When we fail, we become angry and we direct our anger at people who have harmed us or who have the potential to harm us., This is how animosity is born and how it thrives.”

– quoted from commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.35 in The Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Fifteen years ago today, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast, causing over 50 levees and flood walls protecting to New Orleans , Louisiana to fail. At least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent flooding and the total property damage was estimated (at the time) at $108 billion (USD). At the time it was ranked as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States. It was also ranked as the costliest tropical cyclone on record – although, it is now tied with Hurricane Harvey, which hit the same area in 2017. While Katrina affected the Bahamas, Cuba, Eastern Canada, and multiple states in the United States (including two deaths in Ohio), the majority of the world’s attention landed in Louisiana – specifically because of the levee breaks that flooded 80% of New Orleans and all of St. Bernard Parish, with the Ninth Ward taking the hardest hit.

Along with all the other emotions people were feeling as a result of the death and destruction was anger. People were angry about the response – or, in some cases lack of response – by FEMA. People, specifically Black Americans, were angry at what they viewed as yet another sign of America’s racism. People around the world were shocked, appalled, and then angry at the poverty they didn’t know existed in the Ninth Ward and then at the disregard for suffering that people endured before, during, and after the storm. Fueling the anger was a rumor, a powerful conspiracy theory that the levees didn’t just fail because of the severity of the storm. According to the conspiracy theory (which was ultimately investigated by the United States House of Representatives) the levees “failed” because they were dynamited in order to save the more white-populated neighborhoods. While many, including the press, called the theory an “urban myth,” it had a foundation in history: when Hurricane Betsy flooded the Mississippi River in 1927, city officials reportedly set off 30 tons of dynamite at one levee in St. Bernard Parish, in order to ease pressure on the levees protecting New Orleans.

“Many things about the United States are wonderful, but it has a vile underbelly which is usually kept well out of sight. Now in New Orleans it has been exposed to the world.”

– quoted from an article in the UK Mirror dated September 3, 2005

Just like with Katrina, people died and homes were lost in unequal numbers that can be attributed to race (and the United States historically race-related policies). Just like with Besty, people living in the Ninth Ward during Katrina said they heard what first sounded like gunshots and then the sound of explosions. Granted, in the middle of hurricane, concrete cracking and breaking would sound the same as concrete being busted apart by an explosion. Ultimately, the facts don’t matter once the seed is planted and the anger takes root. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you mow down the top of the anger-flower; you still have the roots… waiting for the next good rain.

After laying the foundation for the practice of yoga, Patanjali starts to explain the benefits of practicing the yamās and niyamās. Specifically, he explains how cause and effect extends beyond the person practicing: non-violence leads to peace, a dedication to truth leads to realization, non-stealing leads to prosperity, walking in the footsteps of God leads to spiritual power, non-possessiveness leads to full awareness, cleanliness leads to an awareness of impurities before they take root in the mind-body, contentment leads to unsurpassed happiness, discipline and austerity lead to beauty, self-study leads to the ultimate connection to wisdom (intuition), and devoted surrender leads to the enlightenment. The detailed instructions and explanations Patanjali offers in the last two chapters of the Yoga Sūtras makes the accomplished yogi sound like a mystical wizard capable of all manner of Jedi Knight tricks and Vulcan mind melds. Before we get to those detailed explanations, however, Patanjali offers us a little taste of what’s to come: the promise of cause and effect.

Yoga Sūtra 2.35: ahimsāpratişţhāyām tatsannidhau vairatyāgah

– “In the company of a yogi established in non-violence, animosity disappears.”

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, August 29th) 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.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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

### REST IN PEACE, REST IN POWER – ET & CB ###

Heart Filled… August 26, 2020

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“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

 

– Mother Teresa

 

“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

 

– quoted from (“the last words of Jesus”) in The Gospel According to St. John (19:26 – 27, KJV)

I have officiated three weddings as a yogi and I did this after pretty in-depth conversations with the couples about their relationships, their backgrounds, their expectations, and their love languages. Each wedding was uniquely beautiful – as the relationships are uniquely beautiful. However, I ended each ceremony with the words (above) of Mother Teresa. When someone says, “Start as you mean to go on,” I again think of Mother Teresa’s words; because to me they are as vital in a marriage as they are in any other relationship – including (maybe especially) our relationships with our master teachers and our precious jewels, people with whom we have no peace.

Born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, today in 1910, Mother Teresa’s words remind me of one of the Stations of the Cross that falls in the rubric of “the last words of Jesus.” According to The New Testament, specifically The Gospel According to John, when Jesus looks down from the cross to see his mother and one of his disciples, he tells them that they are family. Now, I know that everyone doesn’t treat every member of their family with love and respect. I know that everyone has a moment when we forget what many great minds and sacred texts keep telling us – and yet, the lesson on love and kindness persists. Even before Johannes Gutenberg created the first printed Bible on August 24, 1456, the lesson was there in the Hebrew Bible and in the Christian New Testament. The lesson appears in the Diamond Sūtra and in the Mettā Sūtra.

“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating feelings of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked [ or non-virtuous].”

 

– quoted from How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (1.33), translated and with commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

I often say that the lesson on offering love, kindness, equanimity, and joy also appears in the Yoga Sūtra – and it does. However, Patanjali makes a distinction that is overlooked in some translations. Christopher Isherwood, who was born today in 1904, joined Swami Prabhavananda in translating and providing commentary for “The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali.” They called their collaboration “How to Know God” and, as noted above, they were very explicit and specific about sūtra 1.33. In the commentary, they note, “As for the wicked, we must remember Christ’s words: ‘Be not overcome of evil.’ If someone harms us or hates us, our instinct is to answer him with hatred and injury. We may succeed in injuring him, but we shall be injuring ourselves much more, and our hatred will throw our own mind into confusion.”

This, too, seems to be a lesson Mother Teresa carried close to her heart. She was considered a saint by some, a pariah by others; but, there is no denying that she served, taught, and ministered to the poor, the sick, and the hungry in a way that fed bodies as well as minds. She heard her (religious) calling at the age of 12 and left home at 18-years old. She was an ethnic Albanian who claimed Indian citizenship; Catholic faith; said, “As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus;” and considered August 27th, the date of her baptism, as her true birthday. She took her religious vows in Ireland in 1931. Here chosen name was after Thérèsa de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries; however, she chose a different spelling as the Loreta Abbey already had a nun named Theresa.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

 

– Mother Teresa

While teaching in Calcutta, India, Teresa heard God telling her to leave the safety and comfort of the convent so that she could live with and minister to the poor. With permission from the Vatican, she started what would become the Missionaries of Charity. 13 nuns joined Teresa by taking vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and devotion to God through “wholehearted free service to the poorest of poor.” When Pope Paul VI gave her a limousine, she raffled it and gave the proceeds to charity. When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she asked that the money that would normally go towards a gala dinner be donated to charity. When the Nobel committee asked her what people should do to promote peace, she said, “Go home and love your family.”

When Mother Teresa died in 1977, Missionaries of Charity had expanded beyond India. It had become a worldwide institution with more than 4,000 workers in 133 countries. The organizations efforts included orphanages, homes for people suffering from tuberculosis, leprosy, and HIV/AIDs. Mother Teresa opened soup kitchens, mobile health clinics, schools, and shelters in places like Harlem and Greenwich Village, while also brokering a temporary cease-fire in the Middle East in order to rescue children trapped in a hospital on the front lines.

This is why some consider her a saint. However, the celebrity status her work earned her, as well, as her pro-life position was criticized by people who felt she was hurting the poor as much as she was helping them. For every documentary, book, and article praising her, there is a documentary, book, and article demonizing her. While she was known to have “dark nights of the soul,” or a crisis of faith, she continued to wash her $1 sari every day and go out in service to the world.

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and with reach of each hand.”

“Love begins at home, it is not how much we do… but how much love we put into the action.”

“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”

 

– Mother Teresa

Please join me today (Wednesday, August 26th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a heart-felt 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.

Wednesday’s (heart-filled) playlist is available is available on YouTube and Spotify.

(Or, since it is Chris Pine’s birthday, you can also use last week’s (Courage filled) playlist is also available on YouTube and Spotify.)

 

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

 

– Mother Teresa

 

### ALL WE NEED IS LOVE… (or just less hate) ###

How Do You Love Ye? August 25, 2020

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“Love is not to be found in someone else, but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But, in order to do that, we need the other person.”

– quoted from 11 Minutes: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

In addition to being the “International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination, and Violence Based on Musical Preference & Lifestyle” – also known as Sophie Lancaster Day – yesterday, was also Paulo Coelho’s 73rd birthday. Born into a strict Catholic family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 24, 1947, Coelho dreamed of being something his parents thought was illogical and unreasonable. They committed him to a mental institution at the age of 17 and he escaped three times before he was ultimately released at the age of 20. Expressing more understanding and grace than anger in 2005, Coelho told a reporter for The Telegraph, “It wasn’t that they wanted to hurt me, but they didn’t know what to do…. They did not do that to destroy me, they did that to save me.”

There are lots of people who do things to “save” someone, but their actions ultimately destroy something very vital in the person they are trying to save. Some, like Coelho did in his early twenties, try to hold on to the perceived intention of love by doing what their parents want them to do even when it doesn’t line up with what’s in their hearts. Others, like Coelho started to do – also in his twenties – recognize that while harmful actions may be presented as “loving” they are actually coming from a place of confusion and ignorance (avidyā), which leads to suffering. Throughout his life, Coehlo has known a great deal of suffering – in addition to his parents attempt to convert him to their way of thinking, he was arrested and tortured by the government in 1974 for “subversive” activities – and yet, he writes about love, acceptance, spiritual awakenings, and following ones spirit.

“Love is looking at the same mountains from different angles.”

– quoted from The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho

Please join me today (Tuesday, August 25th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom where we will look at your own personal “mountains from different angles.” 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.

 

### THREADS ###

Meet SOPHIE August 24, 2020

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220px-Photograph_of_Sophie_Lancaster

Meet Sophie Lancaster. She was a dark angel, a goth, a 20-year old who enjoyed heavy metal music and dressed in a way that reflected her love of the genre. She died today in 2007, after a brutal attack left her and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby in comas. They were brutally attacked by a mob on august 11th, in Stubbeylee Park in Bacup, Rossendale, Lancashire because of the way they were dressed. At some point during the attack, Sophie wrapped her body around Robert’s head to protect him. He would eventually wake up from the attack. She would not.

“When I was out on the streets with Sophie, I would hear people’s comments. I would hear them say ‘look at the state of that –’ or ‘what does she look like.’

I remember going into one shop and the look they gave her. After they had spoken to her for five minutes, that went as they realized she was actually quite a lovely little thing, but it was funny to see that. I would always think, how dare you judge somebody on the way they look.”

– Sylvia Lancaster, OBE

Sophie’s family and friends, including her mother, Sylvia, started the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and funds and tributes in Sophie’s name continue to this day. There are Sophie Lancaster stages at goth and heavy metal music festivals (many of which have been canceled this year, because of the pandemic) and theaters. There are songs, albums, films, documentaries, awards, and books that have been dedicated to her and, in 2010, Sophie’s boyfriend, Robert Maltby, held an exhibition of his own art, which included 15 original paintings inspired by Sophie. The money from the exhibition, like the money raised from other events and the proceeds from t-shirts and wrist bands featuring the S.O.P.H.I.E. stamp, went to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

S.O.P.H.I.E. stands for Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred, and Intolerance Everywhere. The foundation and the fund started by her family and friends aims to “provide an appropriate memorial a lasting legacy to raise awareness of the injustice perpetrated against Sophie Lancaster and to work towards a more tolerant, less violent society.” One of the things the foundation funds is group sessions intended to cultivate respect and understanding by exposing young people to alternative cultures. As a result of the foundations efforts, Greater Manchester Police became the first (but not the last) police department to track and record hate crimes against people from “Alternative Subcultures.” For her efforts to reduce hate crimes and promote a more tolerant world, Sylvia Lancaster was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2014.

“The importance to us is that the awareness is permanent. It still happens in our community. They face violence in the streets, and we hear about it from our fans. It is something we can never stop campaigning about and we will make sure Sophie is never forgotten.”

– Vicky Hungerford, one of the 2017 organizers of the annual Bloodstock Open Air festival  

Over the years, I have witnessed a variety of reactions to my observation of today, the “International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination, & Violence Based on Musical Preference” – also known as Sophie Lancaster Day. In one case, several years ago, someone asked me why I would mention something that happened in England “over a decade ago” – especially since I wasn’t a goth. I explained as best as I could. Then, unfortunately, Elijah Al-Amin was killed in Peoria, Arizona in July 2019. Elijah was a 17-year old black man who enjoyed rap music and, according to the man who killed him, he was attacked because his music made his killer (a 27-year old white man) feel “unsafe.”

Hate and intolerance are just expressions of avidyā (“ignorance”). At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where, how, or why the ignorance exists – only that it does. If, however, we want peace and ease for ourselves and those we love, we have to “stamp out prejudice, hate, and intolerance everywhere.” To do that, we have to acknowledge where the ignorance begins – even when it begins inside of our own minds – and we have to cultivate the opposites. Replace ignorance with knowledge, with understanding, and with respect. We have to remember that Sophie’s name literally means wisdom.

Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, August 24th) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga practice.

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, 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 this practice via a comment below.

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.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices. (But, you can always play music in your background.)

Dark Angel (there is a graphic depiction of violence in this video)

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.

### REST IN PEACE, REST IN POWER ###

All These Easter Eggs Are About Hope… Not Blind Optimism August 23, 2020

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– quoted from “The Man in the Arena” speech by former President Theodore Roosevelt (delivered April 23, 1910, Sorbonne, Paris)

It is not uncommon, when we turn inward, to find a head full of doubt; but, we also find a road of promise. We may find fear; but also strength, wisdom, and courage. Even when life is hard, strenuous, if we keep on pushing, we get a little bit stronger. There may be cracks, but that’s how the light gets in and…

OK, you get the picture. There’s a point where certain kinds of inspiration becomes a little syrupy, a little much, and even a little trite. This can especially be true when we are enduring a challenging time – or, as is the case now, challenging times. But, you know what never gets syrupy? You know what never gets trite? The story of someone who demonstrates that despite their hard times, they can still feel the spirit in their soul. The story of someone who is in a dark place, and yet still express gratitude for their unconquerable soul. The story of someone who may be far from home, with broken bones and a broken heart, a little rusty, but still runnin’.

We may not always want to hear one of those stories of people who are having the same hard time as us – or a significantly harder time than us – and still manage to find some joy in life, smile, and move forward. Sometimes we want to wallow in our muck, moan a few verses of “Oh, woe is me” and “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen.” And we absolutely get to do that. Everybody gets to deal, cope, grieve, rail (or rage) against the machine in their own way and in their own time. But, let’s be honest, even that gets old and trite.

You know what never gets old? The stories of people who wrestle with the demons inside and outside, seen and unseen, and are still unbroken never gets old.

“I will now make a confession: It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver … the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you.”

– quoted from a letter to William Ernest Henley, written by Robert Louis Stevenson

Born today in 1849 in Gloucester, England, William Ernest Henley was a poet, a literary critic, an editor, and poet whose work and life has inspired billions of people around the world, including presidents and prime ministers, royalty, soldiers, athletes, captains of industries (and of starships), and other writers. Even though he wrote and published thousands of poems, he is remembered for one: an originally untitled work that we now call “Invictus.” It is a poem that in many ways encapsulates the old fashioned understanding of stoicism.

In modern times, we often think of someone who stuffs down their pain and pretends like it doesn’t exists. We might even associate the philosophy with having a “stiff upper lip” – which is the characteristic of someone who “grins and bears it” (but is in too much pain to actually grin). We might even think of someone who is stoic as someone who is unhappy. However, to the ancient stoics like Epictetus, Seneca, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius stoicism was about finding happiness within a given fate, which meant accepting ones fate and figuring out how to move forward. And, William Ernest Henley was nothing if not stoic.

Henley wrote a whole slew of poems, including “Invictus,” which are referred to as his hospital poems (and one of his published collections is called In Hospital), because he spent a great deal of time in the hospital. From the age of 12, he suffered from a kind of tuberculosis that affected his bones and resulted in partial amputation of his left leg by the age of 20. His boisterous attitude, massive size, cleverness, and ability to laugh (loudly) – not to mention his one leg – inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to create the character Long John Silver in Treasure Island. (Although she died at a young age, Henley’s daughter Wendy shared some of her dad’s spirit and inspired one of the main characters of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.)

Not long after the amputation of his left leg, doctors told Henley that they need to amputate his right leg. Henley fought against the idea, sought out other treatments, and eventually came under the care of the surgeon Joseph Lister, whose work with antiseptic surgery would save billions of lives (and inspire the creation of Listerine™). Dr. Lister, thorough a variety of treatments, was able to save Henley’s leg and enable Henley to live a relatively active life for almost thirty years. It was during one of those Lister-related hospital stays that Henley wrote “Invictus.”

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

– quoted from “The Sermon on the Mount,” The Gospel According to Matthew (7:14)

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

– quoted from “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

Please join me for a “spirited” 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, August 23rd) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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. (The playlists have slightly different before/after practice content.)

“Invictus”

 

 

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.

### I WILL LEAVE A LIGHT ON ###

Consider What’s Upstream (playlist update) August 22, 2020

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My apologies for the playlist confusion. If you are an email subscriber, here is the playlist for today’s practice on YouTube and Spotify. (This is the “07112020 An Introduction” playlist.) The original post has been updated and I will send out the audio recording in the next hour.

### PEACE ###

Consider What’s Upstream August 22, 2020

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[My apologies to Anushka Fernandopulle, the teacher whose name I couldn’t remember last week, but whose dharma talk about getting on the right or wrong emotion/thought train has stuck with me for 6 years! You can find her article here and one of her talks here.]

“There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house, there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

– quoted from Fahrenheit  451 by Ray Bradbury

“Almost every book I’ve read has left its mark.”

– Annie Proulx

Every writer’s work is directly or indirectly the result of everything they’ve experienced, done, seen, thought, and heard. Just like each point in our lives is the direct and indirect experience of everything we’ve experienced, done, seen, thought, and heard. Writing is, after all, just a reflection of life. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to distinguish the seams or pull apart the threads that make up the tapestry. But then you read work by writers like Ray Bradbury and Annie Proulx and it’s as if every word and every page is an instruction manual in how things are put together and how things come apart. It’s as if they are saying, “Here, here, pull here.”

Both born today, Bradbury (in 1935) and Proulx (in 1935) were and are writers whose works leave impressions, while simultaneously pointing out the impressions that are being left by the lives we lead. Their works, like Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 and “The Sound of Thunder” and Proulx’s The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain” illustrate the cause and effect continuum that in yoga philosophy is referred to as karma (act, word, and deed – as well as the result or effect of effort) and samskāra (the mental and energetic impression left by the act, word, and deed). In life, while we are living it, we don’t always see where things begin and end. Reading brings our awareness to the edges, the extremes of the continuum – as does a meditation practice.

“Quoyle: A coil of rope.

‘A Flemish flake is a spiral of coil of one layer only. It is made on deck, so that it may be walked on if necessary.’  THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS “

– quoted from The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

“‘Stay on the Path. Don’t go off it. I repeat. Don’t go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there’s a penalty.’”

– from “A Sound of  Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

If you could connect all the dots, follow all the threads, and re-trace every path of your life and the lives that intersect your life, you would have the story of how you got where you are, why you think what you think, and why you feel what you feel. There is a layer of that statement that might feel obvious and trite – or maybe even oversimplified. Go a little deeper, however, and you start to appreciate the layers and layers of vibrations that coil and stack to create this moment.

According to Eastern philosophies like Vedānta and Buddhism, we experience 108 types of sensations, emotions, or feelings. If you click here to see the math, you will notice that our attitudes towards what we perceive can be positive, negative, or neutral. Experience teaches us that when we have negative attitudes we are on a direct path towards suffering. (NOTE: As Patanali points out in the sūtras, positive attitudes can also, eventually, lead to suffering, but that’s the scenic route.) The direct path to suffering manifests in 27 different ways (and, according to some commentary, there are 81 sub-categories). Those 27 manifestations break down as follows:

  • 3 ways afflicting thoughts and acts of violence are put into action (by ourselves, through others, or by tacit (silent) consent)

  • 3 mental conditions that inspire dysfunctional or violent acts (greed, anger, confusion)

  • 3 degrees of intensity (mild, moderate, or intense)

This week’s yoga sūtra is Patanjali’s way of giving us sign posts that indicate, as Anushka Fernandopulle might say, that we have gotten on the wrong train. By breaking down the way in which our dysfunctional or afflicted thoughts lead to dysfunctional or violent words and acts, Patanjali reinforces the importance of the yamas and niyamas, the ethical components of the practice, as a way to train the mind. Getting on the right train of thought begins by noticing our thoughts and how they become our words and deeds. Notice, also, that from Patanjali’s perspective one is not off the hook because the violent act is perpetrated by another person – neither are we off the hook if our only “crime” is not saying something when we see something.

Yoga Sūtra 2.33: vitarkabādhane pratipakşabhāvanam

— “When troublesome thoughts prevent the practice (of yamās and niyamās), cultivate the opposite thoughts.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.34: vitarkā himsādayah kŗtakāritānumoditā lobharkrodhamohapūrvakā mŗdumadhyādhimātrā duhkājñānānantaophalā iti pratispakşabhāvanam

– “These troublesome thoughts are put into action by ourselves (directly), by others (indirectly caused by ourselves), or by our approval of others (and their actions). All of these are preceded by, or performed through, anger, greed, or confusion and can be mild, moderate, or intense in nature. Cultivating opposite thoughts is a reminder that these troublesome thoughts lead to unending suffering.”

Annie Proulx named one of her main characters after a coil of rope and used quotes from The Ashley Book of Knots to indicate what inspired her to write a novel. Ray Bradbury explained that he was “putting one foot in front of the other” when he described the inspiration for one of his short stories. If you don’t know where to begin, there’s more confusion; but, follow the thread and suddenly things make more sense.

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, August 22nd) 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.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (This is the “07112020 An Introduction” playlist.)

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

### FIRST STEP: NOTICE. ###

qaStaH nuq (“What’s happening?”) August 19, 2020

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“Captain’s Log, Star Date 2263.2. Today is our 966th day in Deep Space, a little under 3 years into our 5-year mission. The more time we spend out here there harder it is to tell where one day ends and the next one begins. It can be a challenge to feel grounded when even gravity is artificial. But, while we do what we can to make it feel like home.

The crew, as always, continues to act admirably despite the rigors of our extended stay here in outer space, and the personal sacrifices they’ve made. We continue to search for new life forms in order to establish firm diplomatic ties. Our extended time in unchartered territory has stretched the ship’s mechanical capacities, but fortunately, our engineering department – led by Mr. Scott – is more than up to the job. The ship aside, prolonged cohabitation has definitely had affects on interpersonal dynamics; some experiences for better and some for the worse.

As for me, things have started to feel… a little episodic. The farther out we go, the more I find myself wondering what it is we’re trying to accomplish. If the universe is truly endless, then are we not forever striving for something forever out of reach?”

– quoted from Star Trek Beyond (2016), voiced by Chris Pine (b. 08/26/1980) as Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Ever feel like you’re in the middle of an episode of Star Trek? Or maybe a scene from one of the movies where things are not only NOT going according to plan, they’re not even going in a way you ever anticipated. You’re like, “qaStaH nuq jay (What the bleep is happening?)” It’s been 157 days since I taught an in-studio class. Even when I imagined having more online engagement, occasional pop-up classes, and students from all over the world attending my classes, I never imagined the sequence of events that have led to our current reality. I mean, who could have imagined the world would come to this…oh, wait! – Scientists, engineers, even computer moguls anticipated exactly this! While we can’t go back and listen we can go forward, listen, explore, and consider how we come together in peace. Star Trek has its roots in ancient Indian philosophy. So, as we go forward, we also go back.

Today is the anniversary of the birth Philo T. Farnsworth and Gene Roddenberry. Born today in 1906, Farnsworth was an American inventor who revolutionized television. He started exploring mechanical and electrical engineering at the age of twelve and by the age of fifteen had developed the principle of the image dissector that would make an all-electric television possible. His work contributed to the television tube that was used in all television up until the late 20th century. He also developed the “image oscillate,” a cathode ray tube that displayed the images captured by the image dissector and was the first person to publically demonstrate a fully functional and all-electronic television.

Roddenberry, born today in 1921, revolutionized what we watch on television. A World War II veteran and former police officer (whose father was also an LAPD officer), Roddenberry became a freelance script writer for television who drew from his experiences as a combat pilot and member of law enforcement. While he had success working on shows created by others, he couldn’t seem to get his own creations to take off. At one point, in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, he was asked to write a series set in 1860’s Mississippi – only without any Black people. Roddenberry argued about the premise so much that he lost the job. But it was during this pivotal time in his career, however, that he became a producer and “met” some of the people who would become important in his life: including Majel Barrett (then known as Majel Leigh Hudec), DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Gene L. Coon, Gary Lockwood, Joe D’Agosta, Philip Pike, Edward Jellicoe, and James T. Irvine.

“Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission – to explore strange new worlds – to seek out new life and new civilizations – to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

– Opening monologue from the original Star Trek series, voiced by William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk

Roddenberry originally intended Star Trek to be a science fiction version of spaghetti westerns. Only when he pitched it, he downplayed the science fiction aspect and highlighted how similar the series would be to successful shows like Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. In fact, he called it “Wagon Train to the stars.” After pitching the series to a number of studios, including Lucille Ball’s Desilu (where he was hired as a producer), Rodenberry received a deal to produce the script “The Menagerie” (known as “The Cage”) and three other episodes. He immediately hired Dorothy Fontana (known as D. C. Fontana) as his assistant, making Star Trek one of the most diverse shows on television before it even aired.

Even though it didn’t do well with test audiences, the original series ran for three seasons (79 episodes) and create a franchise that now includes six additional television series, thirteen feature films, an extensive collection of books, games, and toys – not to mention college curriculum and language courses. It’s a cult classic that has greatly influenced popular culture.

“First of all, our show did not reach and affect all these people because it was deep and great literature. Star Trek was not Ibsen or Shakespeare. To get a prime time show–a network show–on the air and to keep it there, you must attract and hold a minimum of 18 million people every week. You have to do that in order to move people away from Gomer Pyle, Bonanza, Beverly Hillbillies, and so on. And we tried to do this with entertainment, action, adventure, conflict, and so on.

But once we got on the air, and within the limits of those action/adventure limits, we did not accept the myth that the television audience has an infantile mind. We had an idea, and we had a premise, and we still believe that. As a matter of fact we decided to risk the whole show on that premise. We believed that the often ridiculed mass audience is sick of this world’s petty nationalism and all its old ways and old hatreds, and that people are not only willing but anxious to think beyond those petty beliefs that have for so long kept mankind divided.

So you see that the formula, the magic ingredient, that many people keep seeking, and many of them keep missing, is really not in Star Trek, it is in the audience. There is an intelligent life form out on the other side of that television tube!

The whole show was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. We tried to say that the worst possible thing that can happen to all of us is for the future to somehow press us into a common mold, where we begin to act and talk and look and think alike. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.

And I think that this is what people responded to.”

– quoted from a 1976 philosophy lecture by Gene Roddenberry

I am a Star Trek fan, you might even call me a Trekkie. Although, in all honesty, my favorite episodes and characters are ones that (ironically) diverge slightly from the way Roddenberry wanted the Star Trek universe to be portrayed. Gene Roddenberry was a humanist, who questioned religion and his religious upbringing. He wanted to show, not tell, and wrote accordingly. So, while I personally find the original James T. Kirk misogynistic, sexist, and a little racist, no one can deny that Rodenberry intentionally portrayed diversity and equality among races, genders, ethnicities – and even species. And, I happen to like the episodes and movies where that diversity, equality, and spirituality is front and center.

The series continues to be so spiritually infused that members of various religions uplift it – sometimes without realizing that many of its foundational elements hail from the Vedic (Indian philosophy) tradition. In fact, Roddenberry was rewarded by the American Baptist Convention and spent years corresponding with John M. Gunn of the National Council of Churches – until Roddenberry explained “But you must understand that I am a complete pagan, and consume enormous amounts of bread, having found the Word more spice than nourishment….” He said he believed in God, “just not other people’s God” and called Catholicism “a beautiful religion” even as he railed against organized religion as people’s malfunctioning substitute brain. Perhaps one of the reasons he wanted to subtly allude to spirituality was not only because of his beliefs as a humanist, but also because of the way he saw the American public’s double standard when it came to certain religions: condemning violent acts committed by members of a religion different from theirs while simultaneously praising and/or accepting violent acts committed by members of their shared religion. So, Rodenberry gave us the spirit rather than the religion.

“Odo: When you return to the Link, what will become of the entity I am talking to right now?

The Female Founder: The drop becomes the ocean.

Odo: And, if you choose to take solid form again?

The Female Founder: The ocean becomes a drop.

Odo: Ah, yes, I think I’m beginning to understand.

The Female Founder: Then you can answer your own question.”

– quoted from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine conversation between the Odo (played by René Auberjonois) and  the Female Changeling / Founder (played by Salome Jens)

Please join me today (Wednesday, August 19th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom, where we will boldly go where only you can go. 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.

Wednesday’s (Courage filled) playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

This interview appears on YouTube playlist.

### bISeH’eghlaH’be’chugh latlh Dara’laH’be ###