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Build here, now November 30, 2020

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“Practice is absolutely necessary. You may sit down and listen to me by the hour every day, but if you do not practice, you will not get one step further. It all depends on practice. We never understand these things until we experience them. We will have to see and feel them for ourselves. Simply listening to explanations and theories will not do.”

– quoted from “Chapter III: First Steps” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

If you are anything like me… Scratch that. If you are living in 2020, you’re going through something private and personal that is being made worse by the public problems of the pandemic while, simultaneously, dealing with public and social issues made more challenging by your personal and private circumstances. This is just the way it is and, while your socioeconomic level and/or relationship may create a buffer, insulating you from certain hardships, there is no escaping challenge. Additionally, what some people may view as a blessing, you may – at this very moment – see as an extra burden. I can say that it’s all a matter of perspective; however, even more than perspective, I think this is where practice comes into play.

What we believe, practice, and integrate into our lives becomes the fabric of our lives. It becomes how we deal with challenging times (and people). It is how we move get up and move forward after we’ve fallen and, even more importantly, it is how we rebuild when things fall apart. I know, this may seem like a trope or platitude, but take a moment to consider how it plays out in your own life… in this very moment.

When practicing āsana (“seat” or posture), I emphasize the importance of “building from the ground up” and often make getting your body into different shapes as being analogous to building a house: You don’t start with the chandelier, hanging in space; you start with the foundation. Even if you have some lofty goals, ideas, and ideals – that can be like a fancy chandelier – and you are building this edifice around this centerpiece, you still have to (physically) start with a stable foundation. The very stability of the foundation is determined by the location of the building and external factors such as any extreme weather and/or environmental issues that may be normal to a certain climate. Somewhere, underlying this structure is also a concept. (Why are we building this, again? What’s the purpose of building something just to show off this chandelier?) And, ultimately, the foundation has to support not only the walls, ceiling, and other apparatus that will hold the chandelier up it also has to hold up the purpose.

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; dream of it; think of it; live on that idea. Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced. Others are mere talking machines. If we really want to be blessed, and make others blessed, we must go deeper. The first step is not to disturb the mind, not to associate with persons whose ideas are disturbing. All of you know that certain persons, certain places, certain foods, repel you. Avoid them; and those who want to go to the highest, must avoid all company, good or bad. Practice hard; whether you live or die does not matter. You have to plunge in and work, without thinking of the result. If you are brave enough….”

– quoted from “Chapter VI: Pratyahara and Dharana” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

Flip things around and the “building poses” analogy (based on Patanjali’s instructions in the Yoga Sūtras) works the other way too – and not just with a physical building. It can also be applied to building or rebuilding a company, a life, a relationship, a country… or any other change and challenge that you are facing. In commentary 2.47 of the Yoga Sūtra, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, writes, “Stability and comfort go hand in hand, allowing us to remain relaxed during the peak moments of the posture.” I often only look at this in terms of the physical practice, but today I consider it in a practical way. For instance, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What do I / What does my heart need, in this moment to feel stable and comfortable?
  2. What is the one thing I can do, in this moment, to fulfill that need?
  3. What is the next step, or second thing, I can do to provide myself with stability and comfort?

Last year, I participated in a panel discussion about self care that was specifically directed towards professional women. During the brainstorming session, the small group of us that were on the panel talked about “action items” or homework we could give the participants. Some of us thought we should just offer suggestions, hold space for new ideas, and encourage people to share 5 (or so) things that they could start doing to promote better well-being for themselves, their families, and colleagues. Others (myself included) thought we should encourage people to pick 1, maybe 2 things, they could start doing.

My thinking was that many, maybe most, of the people in the room would be pretty ambitious and possibly Type A personality – in other words, achievers… maybe even overachievers. As I resemble that description, I know that when given an opportunity or a challenge I tend to either (a) do more than is expected; (b) get bored by the lack of challenge (as if somehow I need more than what’s being offered); and/or (c) get overwhelmed because I bit off more than I could chew. My expectation was that if we said, “Pick 5 of these suggestions,” some people would pick 10 and not make the time to do any of them. On the flip side, if we said, “Pick 1, maybe 2,” and they were complimentary, then people would be more likely to practice and integrate the changes. This last part is important, because practice and integration, like stability and comfort, go hand in hand – and they are key ingredients in our successful transition out of the challenging situation and into something sustainable.

It is easy to see how practice and integration go together and how one leads into the other, and back again – kind of like our breath. Consider, for a moment, that the same is true for stability and comfort. If there is too much stability, too much rigidity, things (and people) break and crumble. If there is too much comfort, not enough structure, things can collapse and people cease to grow. Additionally, what feels comfortable changes as stability increases – and the effort to maintain a certain level of comfort changes how we maintain stability. Finally, the longer we are in a certain situation (or pose) the more uncomfortable and unstable it becomes… unless we are making adjustments as we are holding the “status quo.” In other words, we have to change on the inside even as we appear not to change on the outside.

Remember, Sir Isaac Newton’s “Law of Inertia” applies to objects at rest as well as objects in motion. The thing we sometimes need to consider is that time (and other things we can feel, but not see) can be “an unbalanced force.” Ergo, we must feel and then we must take the steps that move us through whatever we’re feeling.

“All the different steps in Yoga are intended to bring us scientifically to the superconscious state, or Samadhi. Furthermore, this is a most vital point to understand, that inspiration is as much in every man’s nature as it was in that of the ancient prophets. These prophets were not unique; they were men as you or I. They were great Yogis. They had gained this superconsciousness, and you and I can get the same. They were not peculiar people. The very fact that one man ever reached that state, proves that it is possible for every man to do so. Not only is it possible, but every man must, eventually, get to that state, and that is religion. Experience is the only teacher we have. We may talk and reason all our lives, but we shall not understand a word of truth, until we experience it ourselves. You cannot hope to make a man a surgeon by simply giving him a few books. You cannot satisfy my curiosity to see a country by showing me a map; I must have actual experience. Maps can only create curiosity in us to get more perfect knowledge. Beyond that, they have no value whatever.”

– quoted from “Chapter VII: Dhyana and Samadhi” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, November 2nd) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom.

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 deductible.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

“There are much higher states of existence beyond reasoning. It is really beyond the intellect that the first state of religious life is to be found. When you step beyond thought and intellect and all reasoning, then you have made the first step towards God; and that is the beginning of life. What is commonly called life is but an embryo state.”

– quoted from “Patanjali’s Yoga Aphorisms – Introduction” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.48: tato dvandvānabhighātāh

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


### Mo’ practice, Mo’ life ###

“This is why you were brought [here]” November 29, 2020

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“Surprised by joy — impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport — Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind —
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? —”

– quoted from the poem, “Surprised by Joy – Impatient As The Wind” by William Wordsworth (written in memory of his daughter)

If you’re anything like me, when you think of C. S. Lewis, born today in 1898, you think of Narnia and Aslan, and Christian allegories sometimes disguised as fantasy and children’s books. Like me, you might express a little confusion over why Mr. Lewis himself said the Chronicles of Narnia were not “allegories” and you might absolutely love The Screwtape Letters even though (or maybe because) it is super dark and written so well that it almost always feels as if no one will win and “The Patient” – as well as the demons – will be condemned to everlasting turmoil. Regardless of how he defined his work, you might recognize Mr. Lewis and his writing as falling under the heading of Christian apologetics. However, if – like me – you’ve read more C. S. Lewis than you’ve studied, you might be surprised by the author’s multi-layered relationship with “Joy.”

Christian apologetics is a category of study and theology focused on the defense of Christianity. It has its foundations in Torah study and Greek philosophical discourse, but there is a long list of New Testament Biblical references to the need for “a verbal defense” of belief. One of the best examples comes from The First Epistle General of Peter.

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”

1 Epistle General of Peter (3:14 – 15, NIV)

Unlike the epistles, or letters, attributed to Saint Paul and titled to reference specific Church communities (e.g. in Corinth, Galatia, Colossae, etc.), the letters attributed to Saint Peter are more generically addressed to “strangers” in a variety of areas (in 1st Peter) and “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (in 2nd Peter, KJV). The meaning of “strangers” is debatable, but what is consistent in the letters, and in modern understanding of the letters, is that the letter are addressed to people who were subject to persecution (because of their faith), people who might have been tempted to give up their faith because of the persecution, and who – despite the persecution – experienced a faith-related longing. This longing, which Saint Peter described as “hope,” C. S. Lewis defined as “Joy.”

“The reader who finds these three episodes of no interest need read this book no further, for in a sense the central theme of my life is about nothing else. For those who are still disposed to proceed I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences; it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

 – quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was the Belfast-born youngest son of Albert James Lewis (a solicitor) and Florence “Flora” Augusta Lewis, who could be considered Irish royalty. Flora’s father was an Anglican priest; one of her great-grandfathers was Bishop Hugh Hamilton; and another of her great-grandfathers was the Right Honourable John Staples, who served as an Irish Member of Parliament for 37 years and was a descendant of titled persons in Northern Ireland. Naturally, C. S. – later known as “Jacksie” and then “Jack” – was baptized in the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, which is the second-largest church in Ireland (after the Roman Catholic Church) and identifies itself as both Catholic and Reformed. All that is to say that, he and his older brother Warren “Warnie” Hamilton Lewis were raised in a very structured, family-embedded tradition of faith.

Somewhere along the way, for a variety of reasons – and based on a variety of experiences – both brothers fell away from the Church and away from their family’s traditional beliefs.

While “Warnie,” the elder brother, finished his schooling and went on to serve 18 years in the military, the younger Lewis brother was drafted, sent to the front line on his 19th birthday, was wounded and traumatized by the death of his friends, and was sent home within a year. Once he physically recovered, “Jack” (whose nickname came from a beloved pet) went back to England to finish his studies.

Previously, at around age 15, “Jack” became interested in the occult and began to actively and publicly define himself as an atheist. As such, he spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about God, explaining why God didn’t exist, and surrounding himself with like-minded people and things. The problem was that when he returned to Oxford and started paying attention to his experiences (and the way he felt as he read, wrote, and interacted with people), he found he was being (spiritually and emotionally) sustained and nurtured by things and people who were theistic as opposed to atheistic. And the more he delved into his embodied experience, rather than just his analytical experience, the more he realized… there was something more.

“But soon (I cannot say how soon) nature ceased to be a mere reminder of the books, became herself the medium of the real joy. I do not say she ceased to be a reminder. All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. But Nature and the books now became equal reminders, joint reminders, of – well, of whatever it is. I came no nearer to what some would regard as the only genuine love of nature, the studious love which will make a man a botanist or an ornithologist. It was the mood of a scene that mattered to me; and in tasting that mood my skin and nose were as busy as my eyes”

– quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis

At around the same time, 1931, both brothers reclaimed their Christian roots and deepened their brotherly bond. They had been living together in Oxford for about a year, went on walking tours together, and participated in the weekly Thursday night “Inkling” meetings – which featured works-in-progress of the various members who were and would become literary giants in the English language. The “Inklings” – who were all white, Christian men of Oxford – included in their number the Lewis brothers, their close friend J. R. R. Tolkien (and his son Christopher, who were both raised Catholic), Charles Williams (a devout member of the [Anglican] Church of England), Henry Victor “Hugo” Dyson Dyson (a lecturer and literary collector known as H. V. D. Dyson, who was instrumental in C. S. Lewis’s return to Christianity), and Arthur Owen Barfield (“the first and last Inkling,” whose anthroposophical beliefs in a spiritual world accessed through human experience heavily influenced all the other Inklings).

C. S. Lewis’s spiritual memoir, Surprised by Joy, concludes in 1931, but wasn’t published until 1955. In the interim (around 1950), he started corresponding with a Jewish American poet (in the United States) who was estranged from her abusive husband. This woman – a child prodigy, an atheist, and former Communist, whose husband (also an author) may have introduced her to C. S. Lewis’s work – started the transatlantic correspondence because she had faith-related questions. Intrigued, and ultimately attracted, to each other’s intellect, the correspondence became more personal than theological. She frequently referenced him to others and once wrote, “Just got a letter from Lewis in the mail. I think I told you I’d raised an argument or two on some points? Lord, he knocked my props out from under me unerringly; one shot to a pigeon. I haven’t a scrap of my case left. And, what’s more, I’ve seldom enjoyed anything more. Being disposed of so neatly by a master of debate, all fair and square – it seems to be one of the great pleasures of life, though I’d never have suspected it in my arrogant youth. I suppose it’s unfair tricks of argument that leave wounds. But after the sort of thing that Lewis does, what I feel is a craftsman’s joy at the sight of a superior performance.”

The poet officially divorced her husband, converted to Christianity, and moved with her two school-aged sons to England to be with “Jack.” In April of 1956, several years after her arrival (in 1953), the couple entered into a “civil marriage” so that she and her children could stay in England. It was described as a marriage of friendship and convenience. However, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer (in October of 1956), C. S. Lewis realized he not only admired her, he loved her. He was 58 years old and surprised by Joy* – as his beloved wife was Helen Joy Davidman.

(*NOTE: C. S. Lewis was teased by his friends, but said that the title and intention of the book Surprised by Joy had nothing to do with his wife being Joy. So, you can take the overlap as serendipity… or God winking.)

“Total surrender is the first step towards the fruition of either. Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all. (And notice how the true training for anything whatever that is good always prefigures and, if submitted to, will always help us in the true training for the Christian life. That is a school where they can always use your previous work whatever the subject it was on.)”

– quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis

Yoga Sūtra 1.23: īśvarapraņidhānādvā

– “[A perfectly still, pristine state of mind] comes from a special process of devotion and letting go into Ishvara [the Divine], the creative source from which we emerged.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.45: samādhisiddhirīśvarapraņidhānāt

– “From trustful surrender to Ishvara [the Divine], [a perfectly still, pristine state of mind] comes.”

“‘To work without desire may seem impossible, but the way to do it is to substitute thoughts of Divinity for thoughts of desire. Do your work in this world with your heart fixed on the Divine instead of on outcomes. Do not worry about results. Be even tempered in success or failure. This mental evenness is what is mean by yoga…. Indeed, equanimity is yoga!’” (2.48)

“‘Those who see Me in everything and everything in Me, know the staggering truth that the Self in the individual is the Self in all. As they live in constant spiritual awareness, I am never out of their sight or lost to them – nor are they every out of My sight or lost to Me. ’” (6.30)

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

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, November 29th) at 2:30 PM. I am in the process of updating the links from the “Class Schedules” calendar; however, the Meeting IDs in the calendar are the same and are correct. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is in effect. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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

“Your remarks about music would seem to lead back to my old idea about a face being always a true index of character… not of course exactly, but its general tone. What type of person is this girl of whom Debussy has been talking to you? As to your other suggestions about old composers like Schubert or Beethoven, I imagine that, while modern music expresses both feeling, thought and imagination, they expressed pure feeling. And you know all day sitting at work, eating, walking, etc., you have hundreds of feelings that can’t (as you say) be put into words or even into thought, but which could naturally come out in music. And that is why I think that in a sense music is the highest of the arts, because it really begins where the others leave off.”

– quoted from a letter addressed to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves (who he called “after my brother, my oldest and most intimate friend”), written by C. S. “Jack” Lewis, dated 20 June 1916

The connection between home and Joy….

“It was this that forced me to write. I longed to make things, ships, houses, engines. Many sheets of cardboard and pairs of scissors I spoiled, only to turn from my hopeless failures in tears. As a last resource, as a pis aller, I was driven to write stories instead. You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table.”

– quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis


### TASTE JOY (But don’t get it twisted and confuse “lower” pleasure with the “higher”)! ###

Do This, Do That… Now Breathe! November 28, 2020

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“‘There are yet others whose way of worship is to offer up wealth and possessions. Still others offer up self-denial, suffering, and austerities (purifications). Others take clerical or monastic vows, offering up knowledge of the scriptures. Some others make their meditation itself an offering. Some offer up prana, the mysterious vital energy force within them. They do this through control of the breath….’”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (4.28 – 29) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: what happens in the body happens in the mind; what happens in the mind happens in the body; and both affect the breath. It’s like our mind, body, and spirit are conjoined triplets, constantly and consistently interacting and dependent on one another. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, points out that “The stability of one stabilizes the other.” So it makes sense that if we can master and control the “roaming tendencies” of one, we can master and control the “chaotic tendencies” of the others. The problem we have is where to begin – especially when everything is out of wack.

It is a classic chicken-and-egg scenario, but Patanjali is very clear on where to begin and how to proceed. Step 1: Cultivate stability and ease in the body. Step 2: Control the breath. Step 3: Harness the power of the mind. Simple right? Of course, along the way, we are constantly and consistently engaging all three and, in doing so, harnessing the power of all three just as we would harness ox to a plow in order to farm.

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.48: tato dvandvānabhighātāh

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.49: tasminsati śvāsapraśvāsayorgativicchedah prāņāyāmahah

– “Prāņāyāma, which is expanding the life force by controlling the movement of the inhalation and exhalation, can be practiced after completely mastering [the seat or pose].”

A literal translation of this week’s sūtra specifically refers to the benefit of controlling the movement and speed of the inhalation and exhalation. It also hints at the dangers of practicing prāņāyāma without having “perfected the pose.” Just as there are thousands of poses, and hundreds of trillions of ways to practice and sequence those poses, there are a variety of ways to practice awareness and extension of the breath.

First, there is basic awareness, the awareness that you are breathing here – which in and of itself can change and erratic breathing pattern. Then there is cultivating a calming breath, where the exchange is deep and even, and without interruption. Moving on, there is awareness of how the breath feels and affects different parts of the body. This final type of awareness (and control) can include directing the breath to certain areas of the body (prāņā samrōdha and prāņā samvedanā) and also changing the pattern of the breath (prāņā anusandhāna). There are seven classic types of prāņāyāma which fall under that finally classification. One common, and highly recommended, example of the latter is controlling the length and duration of the exhale.

Please keep in mind that I am using the English words “breath” and “spirit” interchangeably with the Sanskrit word “prāņā.” However, prāņā is actually “life force” and is inextricably connected to everything that flows and moves in the mind-body and everything that allows the mind-body to flow and move. It has been described as “the fundamental principle of pulsation” – which is connected to every aspect and function of the mind-body. But breath becomes the focus, because it is what most people can easily access and it too is connected to every aspect and function of the body.

“The breath is the link between the body and the mind, as well as the balancing factor. When a disturbed thought arises in the mind, our breathing pattern becomes erratic – shaky, noisy, and shallow. Erratic breathing triggers a chaotic response in our nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine glands, and heart. If left unchecked, the chaotic response intensifies, throwing us into a state of physical and mental turmoil. This process can be checked only if the breath summons its innate wisdom and the power to calm itself.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.49 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, November 28th) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

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

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

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10272020 Pranayama II”]

### INHALE, EXHALE (AGAIN) ###

Orange The World November 25, 2020

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[WARNING: There are no explicit details in this post, but there are references that may trigger trauma.]

“Quedé viva para contarles la historia.” [“I stayed alive to tell the story.”]

– Dedé Mirabal, author of Vivas en su Jardín

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.

This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis and we need a global collective effort to stop it. As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. More needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”

– quoted from the United Nations website for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (2020 #OrangetheWorld)

There’s nothing pretty about violence and statistics about violence against women are particularly ugly. 1 in 3 women, worldwide experience physical or sexual violence. Prior to 2020, about 243 million women and girls (ages 15 – 49) reported experiencing sexual and/or physical abuse by an intimate partner within a 12-month period. That number has gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic and, in some countries, hotline and emergency calls regarding domestic abuse increased to 5 times the average numbers. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) considers violence against women and girls (VAWG) a human rights violation – in fact, they consider it “one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human violations in our world today.”

To combat this violence (and the accompanying stigma) that can manifest physically, sexually, and psychological – and that happens to people around the world regardless of education, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, age, health, or nationality – UNESCO designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The 2020 theme is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” and focuses on “amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the pandemic, [prevention measures,] and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.” Today’s observation kicks off “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” which culminates with International Human Rights Day on December 10th.

“For the purposes of this Declaration, the term “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

– “Article 1” of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, issued by the United Nations General Assembly, December 20, 1993

When UNESCO started observing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1999, November 25th wasn’t randomly selected because it was 16 days before International Human Rights Day. Today was specifically selected to honor the lives and legacy of the Mirabal sisters (Las Hermanas Mirabal), three of whom were assassinated today in 1960.

Patria Mercedes Mirabal Reyes, Bélgica “Dedé” Adela Mirabal Reyes, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal Reyes (known as Minerva), and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal Reyes (known as María Teresa) were married, Catholic-educated young mothers who had been raised in a middle-class household in the Dominican Republic. Three of the sisters (Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa) were also college educated professionals who actively and publically opposed the dictator Rafael Trujillo (known as El Jefe), who’s fascist regime lasted 31 years.

“We cannot allow our children to grow up in this corrupt and tyrannical regime. We have to fight against it, and I am willing to give up everything, even my life if necessary”

– Patria Mirabal Reyes

The sisters became known as Las Mariposas (“The Butterflies”) and they (and their husbands) were often harassed and even incarcerated because of their activism. There were many activists who spoke out against the dictator before the sisters – including organizers of the “Movement of the Fourteenth of June” and the sisters’ own uncle. But part of the reason the sisters (and their husbands) may have been targeted was because Minerva had turned down Trujillo’s sexual advances when she was in her early 20’s.

International attention on their plight may have saved Minerva and María Teresa from being tortured during their last incarceration – and definitely led to them being released. Their high profile, however, did not secure the release of their husbands. It also did not save them. As they returned from a visit to the prison where two of their husbands were being held, Patria, Minerva, María Teresa, and their driver Rufino de la Cruz were stopped by people associated with Trujillo’s regime (including members of his secret police force). There was an attempt to make their murders look like a car accident, but evidence to the contrary was very obvious.

Dedé, the surviving sister lived to the age of 88. She was also the only one of the sisters who did not go to college and the only one who did not publicly participate in the resistance. She was a “traditional” homemaker who also took care of the family business. After her sisters were murdered, she continued to take care of their children and started the Mirabal Sisters Foundation. She also turned the home they last lived in together into a museum and wrote a book, Vivas en su Jardín, as she saw that her legacy was to preserve herstory.

“Perhaps what we have most near is death, but that idea does not frighten me. We shall continue to fight for that which is just.”

– María Teresa Mirabel Reyes

“If the kill me, I’ll reach my arms out from the tomb and I’ll be stronger.”

– Minerva Mirabel Reyes

If you see a building or landmark being “oranged” in the next few days, it is a reminder of campaign against gender-based violence and a reminder of the importance of everyone coming together to promote a violence-free world. Curious about why the color for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is orange. I thought maybe it would be tied to the symbol of the butterfly, but I could only find a UNESCO site that says “The color orange symbolizes a bright future, free of violence. It also serves as a means of demonstrating your solidarity in eliminating all forms of violence and…. As a show of solidarity, the UNESCO globe will be illuminated orange.”

Of course, the reason I was curious about the color choice is because in yoga and Áyurveda, as they come to us from India, orange is associated with the second chakra – which is the energetic center of our relationships. From the yoga perspective, our mind-bodies are a microcosm representing the macrocosm that is the world. So, from the yoga perspective, physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual healing begins on the inside and if we want to truly “orange” the world, we must find a way to physically, emotionally, and energetically honor a sacred truth.

“Sacred Truth: Honor one another. Every relationship you develop, from casual to intimate, helps you become more conscious. No union is without spiritual value.”

– from “Morning Visual Meditation” by Caroline Myss

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 25th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Mother’s Day 2020”]

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

“Article 2

Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:

(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;

(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;

(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.

Article 3

Women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. These rights include, inter alia:

(a) The right to life;

(b) The right to equality;

(c) The right to liberty and security of person;

(d) The right to equal protection under the law;

(e) The right to be free from all forms of discrimination;

(f) The right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health;

(g) The right to just and favourable conditions of work;

(h) The right not to be subjected to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

– quoted from the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, issued by the United Nations General Assembly, December 20, 1993


### HONOR HUMAN RIGHTS ###

On the Origins of Origins November 24, 2020

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“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

– from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin

The idea of evolution didn’t start with Charles Darwin. No, even the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) referenced earlier ideas (that predated him) and contemplated an internal purpose (related to survival). Aristotle believed that this “internal purposiveness” existed in all living beings and could be passed down through generations. So, if the idea existed before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (or, more completely, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life) was published today in 1859, why did Darwin’s work create such an uproar?

To get to the origins of Origins – or at least the controversy, chaos, and uproar around it, let’s go back to 1852, when Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist used the German term “entwicklungsgeschichte(“development history”), which had previously been used in relation to embryos and single cell organisms, to explain cosmic and biological changes in societies. Spencer would later write an essay coining the phrase “theory of evolution” – in relation to Darwin’s work, but in the same year (1852) that Spencer wrote about cultures having “development history” he also wrote an essay called “The Philosophy of Style” in which he promoted writing “to so present ideas that they may be apprehended with the least possible mental effort.” In other words, Spencer advocated writing to make the meaning plain and accessible.

I can’t say for sure how much Darwin himself was influenced by Spencer, but it is very clear that Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species for non-specialists. In other words, he wrote it for the masses. And, as it was easily understood (and written by a then esteemed scientist), it became wildly discussed – in the parlors and in the public.

The first big public debate occurred on June 30, 1860 during the British Science Association’s annual meeting at Oxford University. Another big, public spectacle – the so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial – started July 10, 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee (USA) after substitute teacher John Thomas Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee’s “Butler Act” by teaching evolution during a high school biology class. Tennessee teachers were required, by law, to not teach evolution or deny Intelligent Design (ID) – even though the required text book had a chapter on evolution. By most accounts, Scopes skipped the chapter, but still provided an opportunity to challenge the Act.

While Tennessee’s “Butler Act” was rescinded September 1, 1967, there have been similar legal and pedagogical debates in the United States as recently as 2005 and 2007 (hello, Kansas – where evolution is still officially “an unproven theory”).

“It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

– from The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin (pub. 1871)

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 24th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will see how the practice “evolves.” Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for the “Hays Code” playlist dated March 31.]

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 will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence…. I should premise that I use the term Struggle for Existence in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny.”

– from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin (pub. 1859)

### THIS IS WHERE WE BEGIN ###

One Mou’ Time November 23, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


### SLÁINTE ###

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

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

– quoted from 11/22/63 by Stephen King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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

“Dear Mr. President

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Mr. President

Respectfully

Jackie”

­

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mo Betta Asana November 21, 2020

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

– A. G. Mohan

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

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.48: tato dvandvānabhighātāh

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

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

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

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

“Teach what is appropriate for an individual.”

– Sri T. Krishnamacharya

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

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

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


### INHALE, EXHALE ###

My apologies for missing some blog weirdness November 18, 2020

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

Peace to you and yours, Myra

More Sitting and Breathing November 18, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Teach what is appropriate for an individual.”

 

– Sri T. Krishnamacharya

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

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

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

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

 

– Namagiriamma, Sr. Krishnamacharya’s wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

[Please practice responsibly….]

### HOW DO YOU PRACTICE? ###