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Liminal, Lofty, & Rare Days (just the music) February 28, 2021

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Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, February 28th) at 2:30 PM. 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.

Sunday’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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

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What It Means To Be Clean on Day 13 (the “missing” Wednesday post, with a nod to Sunday) February 28, 2021

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[My apologies for this very late Wednesday (the 24th) post (which is also a preview for Sunday the 28th). You can request an audio recording of Wednesday’s practices via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes. *** DON’T FORGET THERE’S A “FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL ON MARCH 5th! ***]

 

“But, before we enter on the subject, let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin. ‘Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.’ Agreeably to this, good Mr. Herbert advises every one that fears God: —

 

Let thy mind’s sweetness have its operation Upon thy person, clothes, and habitation.

 

And surely every one should attend to this, if he would not have the good that is in him evil spoken of.”

 

– quoted from Sermon #88 (“On Dress”) by John Wesley, inspired by The First Epistle General of Peter (3:3,4)

There are hundreds of references to washing and being clean in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and in the Qur’an. In Judaism and Islam, people are commanded (by God) to wash in before certain acts and, in particular, before certain prayers – and also to avoid certain elements because they are deemed “unclean.” In Judaism, specifically, ritual washing is divided into hand washing and full body immersion. In Islam, ritual cleansing includes washing specific body parts (i.e., face, arms, head, and feet) and also full body immersion. In the Christian New Testament, there is an emphasis placed on ritual feet washing. Yet, for all these references to being clean, one of the most well-known “Biblical” quotes about “cleanliness” doesn’t actually appear in any sacred text associated with the Abrahamic religions. Instead, the earliest recorded English reference is from a sermon John Wesley gave in the mid-to-late 1780’s.

The sermon, “On Dress,” was inspired by a letter addressed to Churches in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor who were experiencing religious persecution. The letter, attributed to Saint Peter the Apostle, not only recommended appropriate conduct in how one should interact with people from different stations (“Honour all….”); live under non-Christian rulers (“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”) and deal with false accusations (“… with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;”); it also outlines how one should conduct one’s self when faced with suffering (“… ye take it patiently…”) and how women should or, more specifically, should not dress. However, The Reverend Wesley’s sermon did not just address the dress of women. Instead, the good reverend spoke of all Christians. He outlined how extreme people could go in their interpretations and applications of Saint Peter’s guidance – and also, emphasized the idea that extreme interpretations and applications miss the point. Then he explained that the importance of the Biblical instruction lies not in outward appearance but on the inward experience.

Yoga Sūtra 2.40: śaucāt svāngajugupsā parairasamsargah

 

– “From purity/cleanliness arises sensitivity to the unclean nature of one’s own body and [physical] unmixing.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 2.41: sattvaśuddhisaumanasyaikāgreyendriyayātmadarśanayogyatvāni ca

 

– “[From purity/cleanliness arises] pure wisdom of the heart, cheerfulness of mind, the power of concentration, victory over the senses, and the ability to directly experience our Self.”

In outlining and explaining the Yoga Philosophy, Patanjali offers ten ethical components: five “external restraints” or universal commandments (yamā) and five “internal observations” (niyama). The very first internal observation is śaucāt, the practice of “cleanliness.” I have a bad habit of just referencing śaucāt as it relates to the physical body (e.g., food, drink, bathing, etc.); but the practice is intended to cover everything that we consume. And, eons before John Wesley shared his observations from the pulpit, Patanjali offers the same conclusion: to quote the good reverend, “Then only when you have cast off your fondness for dress, will the peace of God reign in your hearts.”

It is all too easy to look back, historically speaking, and focus on hygiene. We can even point specific historical conditions – or to the fact that certain texts specify what kinds of water are permitted and which kinds are not acceptable (according to religious law). What do we do, however, with the fact that some scripture outlines ritual cleansing that does not involve water? Closer examination reveals, however that these ritual practices are about more than physical hygiene and the elimination of contaminants. The practices are about purification; a fact that is reinforced with the practice of the niyamās in yoga.

“‘Consider purification, tapas, which literally means “to melt,” as in refining ore. The purpose of purification is not pain and penance, but to deliberately refine one’s life, to melt it down and recast it into a higher order of purity and spirituality. The goal is very important; it is not self-punishment but refinement – to shift from human existence into Divinity!

 

There are three main methods of purification: the refinement of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds – also called the purification, respectively, of one’s instruments of mind, speech, and body. When you modify these three you automatically change for the better.’”

 

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (17.14) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

The purification of mind and speech can be experienced when practicing the second niyamā, santoşā (“contentment”), which is a foundation for the practice of non-attachment. Patanjali combines the final three niyamāstapa (“austerity or heat”), svādhyāya (“self-study”), and īśvarapraņidhāna (“trustful surrender to [the Divine]”) – and refers to the combination as kriyā yoga or “union in action.” Anyone can practice these elements at any time, but it is interesting to note that these elements – as a combined practice – are found in rituals from around the world. For example, the observations of Lent; Passover; and fasting during the Baha’i 19-Day Fast, the month of Ramadan and/or for Yom Kippur all full under the rubric of kriyā yoga. Celebrating Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage involving a ritual bath in one of four sacred rivers (determined by a 12-year cycle of rotation) also falls under this same umbrella. (Note that, with the exception of Yom Kippur, all of these rituals are either currently being observed or will be observed between now and the 2nd week in May.)

All that being said, Day 13 of the Lunar New Year does not, in and of itself, involve ritual cleansing. It is, however, a day when people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival traditionally eat “clean.” A lighter, often vegetarian mean, on day 13 is a way to help the body clean itself after the heavy feasting over the previous two weeks and to prepare for one more round of feasting during the Lantern Festival (on Day 15).

Day 13 is also the day when some people celebrate the birthday of the “God of War.” There are lots of different stories (and names) associated with the “God of War.” Some of the legends relate to a general who showed great loyalty; other stories relate to an acclaimed general who became a goddess who showed great empathy. While this is not seen as a good day to get married or have a big celebration, it is believed that offering prayers and gifts to the God of War on Day 13 will bring peace to a household and give businesses a winning edge. Regardless of the title that is used, the God of War is viewed as a protector of individuals, homes, and businesses; as well as the patron of “fraternities,” including the police (and other brotherhoods).

“‘We three—Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei—though of different families, swear brotherhood, and promise mutual help to one end. We will rescue each other in difficulty; we will aid each other in danger. We swear to serve the state and save the people. We ask not the same day of birth, but we seek to die together. May Heaven, the all-ruling, and Earth, the all-producing, read our hearts. If we turn aside from righteousness or forget kindliness, may Heaven and Human smite us!’”

 

– quoted from “Chapter 1. The Oath of the Peach Garden” in Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (English translator unknown)

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

DON’T FORGET! This Friday (March 5th) there’s a “First Friday Night Special” (7:15 PM – 8:20 PM, CST) – at which time, I will encourage you to “give something up” / “let someone go.” Additional details are posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar!

 

### “THUS WILL WE ENTER UPON OUR GREAT TASK.” ~LG ###

 

Uncovering Layers to Reveal Truth (just the music) February 27, 2021

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Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, February 27th) at 12:00 PM. 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.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05062020 What Dreams May Come]

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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

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What It Means To Be Clean on Day 13 (just the music) February 24, 2021

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Please join me today (Wednesday, February 24th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

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

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Getting Things Moving on Day 12 (the “missing” Tuesday post) February 24, 2021

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Happy New Year! Many blessings to those observing Lent!

[This is the post for Tuesday, February 23rd. You can request an audio recording of Tuesday’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.

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

 

“Some could think that if turning back is so bad it would be better never to begin but to remain outside the castle. I have already told you at the beginning – and the Lord Himself tells you – that anyone who walks in danger perishes in it and that the door of entry to this castle is prayer. Well now, it is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves, coming to know ourselves, reflecting on our misery and what we owe God, and Him often for mercy.”

 

– quoted from “The Second Dwelling Places” of The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Ávila (Translation by Kieran Kavanaugh, O. C. D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O. C. D.)

 

If you spend any amount of time with me – on or off the mat, even on or off the blog page – I think it becomes very clear that I am fascinated by human commonalities. I love the way different cultures and different people’s ways of being in the world overlap. Anthropologically speaking, I am fascinated by the things that (I think) come from being human: like the desire for a deeper connection with more than ourselves. It is interesting to note that when it comes to existential questions – that is to say, questions related to our existence – philosophies and religions (even the physical sciences) end up down the same rabbit holes, racing or strolling down the same paths… just sometimes coming at the path from different directions.

It’s kind of like when you walk through a labyrinth with other people as many of us did on retreat in Minnetonka a little over 4 years ago. In some ways, everyone was on the same path; but, because we were on different parts of the path – walking in different directions, entering and leaving at different times – one’s perspective could easily be that we were on vastly different paths. And, the perspective was different when you were on the inside versus the outside and/or when you were looking at the practice before you walked the labyrinth versus after you walked it. Then there was the fact that we all came to the retreat and came to the practice from different places and came with different experiences so that our understanding and processing of the shared experience was, in some ways, different. And yet the same.

And yet the same. Because if we learn nothing else from the ancient yogis and mystics from various traditions around the world, it is this: that the deeper you go inside of yourself, the more parallel your journey and experience is to someone else. This is why Joseph Campbell could codify a cycle/journey after studying a hero with a thousand faces. It is why so many philosophical, spiritual, and religious paths have similar elements – and why those paths work after hundreds and thousands of years.

“Remember: If you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love.”

 

– quoted from “The Fourth Dwelling .1.” of The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Ávila (New Translation and Introduction by Mirabai Starr)

We all know that if we eat something or drink something, we are going to have to digest that something. We may not understand how physical mechanics, but at an early age we start learning that the body processes what we consume. It absorbs the nutrients it needs and discards the waste/toxins; and when the body doesn’t absorb what it needs and/or doesn’t get rid of the waste/toxins in an efficient manner, we experience physical pain, discomfort, and disease. We know this about what we eat and drink – and, when we think about it, we recognize that this is also true about what we inhale and/or absorb through the skin/tissues.

What we may not always realize is that we are continuously consuming things that we don’t eat, drink, inhale, or absorb through the skin/tissues. The principle of consumption, digestion, absorption, and elimination also applies to things we consume with our minds. In other words, everything we experience (i.e., everything we see, hear, say, think, and do) is something we are consuming and therefore something that must be processed and digested so that we can absorb what we need – what serves us – and eliminate the waste/toxins (that no longer serves us). When we fail to appropriately process what we consume mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually, we can experience (physical) pain and (mental/emotional) suffering – which can be just as excruciating as when we are physically constipated or otherwise debilitated by the things we consume.

The mind-body is designed to find balance. It is designed to convert food into energy and even to store the fuel for those times when we are depleted. It is designed to eliminate toxins and anything that could cease our existence. While the mind-body does so much of what it does to keep us moving without any involvement or conscious thought on our part there are ways in which we can assist the processes. One way we can assist the processes that keep us in balance is to be mindful of what we consume. Of course, since we can’t always control every little thing that we consume, it’s important to keep three key elements in mind: water, rest, and movement.

“Rest and digest,” as well as create, are associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the mind-body’s brakes. Of course, the only reason a system needs brakes is if it is in motion (or could be in motion). One of the many reasons movement is important is because the engagement of our muscles serves as the pump for the lymphatic system – which provides nutrients for healthy cells and brushes or washes away dead cells. A combination of tissues, vessels, and organs, the lymphatic system is a crucial part of our immune system – and on the first line of defense against disease.

So, it makes sense that after 11 days of celebrations that involve rich, heavy food and drink, people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival as part of the Lunar New Year celebrations need a break before the Lantern Festival that concludes the celebrations. Day 12 is that day of cleansing and resting – and also for getting ready for what’s to come. Under “normal” (i.e., not pandemic) circumstances, most businesses have opened back up and people are back at work. There will still be prayers, offerings, and a remembrance of elders. There might even still be some leftovers. However, for the most part, this is a day when people rest, relax, eat light… and process/digest all that’s happened before.

“… and our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter X” of The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Ávila

Throughout our physical practice of yoga, we either break up the movement with stillness and quiet (as we do in vinyāsa) or break up the stillness and quiet with movement (as we do with Yin Yoga) – and, even though that looks and feels very different, the path is still about processing, digesting, absorbing, and eliminating what has been consumed. This applies to what has been consumed physically, as well as mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually. While any movement can help someone process what they have consumed, the physical practices of yoga can allow us to be very deliberate and very intentional in the way that assist the digestion process. Again, when I say “digestion” here, I mean the processing of what has been consumed by all the aforementioned methods.

From the outside looking in, the way we move through our vinyāsa practice can seem mysterious, odd, or even magical. However, the deeper we go into the practice (and into ourselves) the more we recognize that there is a science and a system to the movement. We move in a way that exaggerates the mind-body’s natural tendencies while, at the same time, moving through the mind-body-spirit’s symbolic manifestation of our biography. Thus, the poses and the sequences are very intentional on a physical-mental level, as well as a psychic-symbolic level, and an emotional-energetic level. Each practice is, in some ways, intended as a non-alcoholic apértif and digestif; simultaneously something to increase your appetite (for life) and to help you digest what you’ve consumed.

“Before fully uniting himself with her, he fills her with burning desire for him. He does this in such a delicate way that the soul doesn’t understand where her longing comes from, nor could I successfully explain it except to those who already know from experience what I’m saying. These impulses rise from so deep inside that the soul and are so subtle and refined that I can’t find a fitting metaphor to describe them.

 

This experience is far different from anything we can taste in the world. It is even different from the spiritual delights we have talked about so far.”

 

– quoted from “The Sixth Dwelling .2.” of The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Ávila (New Translation and Introduction by Mirabai Starr)

 

Tuesdays playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “March 28th Dogs & Castles 2020”]

 

DON’T FORGET! The next “First Friday Night Special” is March the 5th – at which time, I will encourage you to “give something up” / “let someone go.” Time and additional details are posted on the “class schedules” calendar!

 

### MOVE YOUR (OWN) SELF ###

 

 

 

Getting Things Moving on Day 12 (just the music) February 23, 2021

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Please join me today (Tuesday, February 23rd) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s Noon playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “March 28th Dogs & Castles 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.)

 

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The wings of “some kind of bird” are not unlike a “face” over “weft” (a Monday post about movement and expressions) February 23, 2021

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Happy New Year! Many blessings to those observing Lent!

[This is the post for Monday, February 22nd. 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.

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 the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es).) Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.]

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

“Having gone many paces ahead I stopped, panting for breath and laughing with glee as my mother watched my every movement. I was not wholly conscious of myself, but was more keenly alive to the fire within. It was as if I were the activity, and my hands and feet were only experiments for my spirit to work upon.”

– quoted from “Impressions of An Indian Childhood – I. My Mother” in American Indian Stories and Old Indian Legends by Zitkála-Šá

Bring your awareness to how we move our bodies – on and off the mat – and to how we shape our bodies. Bring your awareness to the physical practice, which is very much a case of art imitating life (and life imitating art). Consider that said “imitation” occurs through an understanding of the shapes and movements of life. Someone wondered, ‘What happens if I do this? Oh, look at the puppy doing that! I wonder how that would feel if I did it.’ They played, the explored, they experimented… and then they shared the practice that came from that play, exploration, and experimentation.

Even if you just think of the physical practice as movement for the body, you have to recognize that in order to engage the body, you have to also engage the mind – therefore, the practice is a mind-body exercise; it is physical and mental. It is also considered psychic and symbolic, as well as emotional and energetic. Emotional and energetic, I think, are self explanatory, especially as anyone who has practiced has probably experienced some shifting of emotions while and/or as a result of practicing; and the system of movement is based on an Ayurvedic energy mapping system of the mind-body. Just for clarification sake, we can think of psychic as being “[related to abilities] or phenomena that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws; supernormal; and relating to the soul and mind.” It is also important to remember that each pair goes hand – which means that the symbolic aspect of the practice is related to the supernormal aspects of the practice.

What does that mean?

Well, contrary to certain conspiracy theories, it doesn’t mean that people are (trying to) turn themselves into trees (or cobras, camels, eagles, dogs, and God). However, it is possible to embody certain qualities found in trees (or cobras, camels, eagles, dogs, and God). Before anyone gets too excited about the possibility of this being sacrilegious; consider that if you are a Christian who observes Lent, you are engaged in a physical-mental + psychic-symbolic + emotional-energetic “exercise” during which you symbolically place yourself in Jesus’ shoes. In other words, you embody Divine attributes in order to inform a more spiritual life on Earth.

Given this context, there are (of course) a number of poses that immediately spring to mind as being symbolic. Take a moment, however, to consider the trees as well as the forest, the details as well as the big picture. It’s not only the shapes that are symbolic; it’s also the movement that is symbolic. One of the most ancient gestures, one that is literally embedded in our bodies, is the lifting and opening of the heart when we are inspired and the settling into space (into the earth) that occurs when we expire. Yes, as we exaggerate our body’s natural tendencies, we are, in fact, engaging ancient symbolism. Furthermore, the power is not only in the movement; it’s in our understanding and recognition of the movement.

“This unique capacity has enabled us to develop written languages and preserve a vast range of memories pertaining to human experience.”

– commentary on Yoga Sutra 2.24 from The Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

As I have mentioned before, the second of the six siddhis (or supernormal powers) “unique to being human” is shabda (“word” or “speech”), which Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD explains as human’s ability “give a form to sound, assign meaning to each segment of sound, and to store both sound and its meaning in our memory….” and to share that sound and meaning, even in a visual form – like writing or sign language. In a nutshell, shabda is the ability to codify symbols. This power or ability can be funny (e.g., ironic), because we can use words (and get the essence of the meanings) without truly understanding the words. We can also find ourselves using and understanding the symbols, without actually using the words. For example, we can wave at someone and they know we are greeting them – even if we use two hands. However, if we are simultaneously waving both hands and crisscrossing them, then the person knows we are telling them to not come towards us and/or to stop what they are doing. It’s an ancient gesture. Kind of like wiping the sweat off of your brow… or wiping what appears to be a tear from your eye.

Today is the anniversary of two people who lived their lives in between cultures and cultural understanding. Two people who used their superpower of words to communicate what was getting lost in translation. Born today in 1892, Edna St. Vincent Millay was a poet who was considered a bit of a tomboy and called “Vincent” by her family, friends, and teachers. Her talent and her exuberance for life were evident from an early age and in many stories about her life. One such story, which describes both, relates how she was busted for basically hanging from a chandelier after claiming to be sick so that she could get out of a class. The teacher later said to her. “‘Vincent, you sent in a sick excuse at nine o’clock this morning and at ten o’clock I happened to look out the window of my office and you were trying to kick out the light in the chandelier on top of the Taylor Hall arch, which seemed a rather lively exercise for someone so taken with illness.’ Millay responded, ‘Prexy, at the moment of your class, I was in pain with a poem.’” Vincent spoke six languages, made friends with some of the great writers of her time, lived LOUD, and never let someone’s gender stop her from having a great love affair. Of course, some of her great loves ended in great drama and so she wrote about that.

“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!”

– “First Fig” from A Few Figs from Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay (published, 1920)

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s talent as an author was recognized at an early age. She wrote blank verse and free verse and everything in between. Her work featured and was inspired by people she encountered in real life, as well as Biblical characters, fairy tales, classical literature. More often than not she captured the spirit of an undiscovered moment and gave people a peek at a different perspective. In 1921, she was basically given carte blanche to travel to Europe and write for Vanity Fair (under the byline Nancy Boyd). The editor’s expectation was, of course, that she would write the kind of poetry the magazine had already published – but there was no actual caveat or stipulation given and she ended up submitting satirical sketches. She also finished a five-act play commissioned by her alma mater, Vassar College. Her bibliography includes six “verse dramas,” including the libretto for the opera The King’s Henchman; short stories; and over a dozen collections of poetry – including The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 (becoming the first woman to do so). In 1943, she received the Robert Frost Medal “for distinguished lifetime achievement in American poetry.”

Vincent’s poem “An Ancient Gesture” was published in 1949 in The Ladies Home Journal (volume 66) and would appear in the collection Mine the Harvest after the poet’s death. In relatively few lines, it relates Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, but with a discerning eye on Penelope rather than Odysseus / Ulysses. The poem describes a movement we have all done and which has been co-opted by politicians and liars since the beginning of humankind. It’s a movement, a gesture, we often take for granted and overlook. Part of the brilliance of the poem is that in describing the toll of taking charge of one’s own destiny, it also highlights the movement that symbolizes that toll and a moment of recognition. Therefore, it highlights a moment of power.

“I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can’t keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don’t know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.”

– quoted from the poem “An Ancient Gesture” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Today is also the anniversary of the birth of Zitkála-Šá, born today in 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation, Dakota Territory. Her name means “Red Bird” in Lakota Sioux and she described herself as “a wild little girl… with a pair of soft moccasins on my feet, I was as free as the wind that blew my hair, and no less spirited than a bounding deer.” She was born into a tribe that had an early treaty with the United States and, therefore, was not decimated in the same way that some of the other Sioux tribes that were wiped out through direct conflict.

The treaty, however, did not mean that the Yanton Sioux lived in peace and with acceptance from the federal government. At the age of 8 she was, like so many First Nations children, taken by missionaries to a Quaker boarding school in Indiana. Such boarding schools in various parts of North America taught Indigenous how to read and write English; how to speak, dress, and walk like the English; and how to engage with “polite society.”They were forced to convert to Christianity and to stop speaking the first languages. In other words, the schools’ curriculum was designed to teach the children how not to be Indian.

“There were 60 million American Indians in 1491. In the census, in 1910, there were 200,000. And a lot of that population loss is due to diseases: measles, smallpox, and so forth. For the colonizers who were greedy for Indian lands, there were two ways to get it: Either by killing people or by making them ‘non-Indians.’”

– P. Jane Hafen (Taos Pueblo), Professor Emirata of English, University of Nevada-Las Vegas in a PBS “Unladylike 2020” interview about Zitkála-Šá

Some children became completely divorced from their first family, community, tribes of birth, and heritage. Somehow, however, Zitkála-Šá grew up straddling both the white world and the First Nations world. She was ethnically mixed and would eventual marry another former student of the missionary school (who was also of mixed heritage, although both of his parents were First Nations) and become known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. She taught and wrote, and became an activist.

She published articles and essays in the internationally recognized magazines like Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Monthly and eventually served as editor and contributor to American Indian Magazine, which was published by The Society of American Indians. Much of what she wrote highlighted the trauma and tragedy of the boarding schools and the unfulfilled treaties between the tribes and the federal government. But, she had another agenda, another subversive form of activism. Because of her experiences (in both worlds) and her education (in both worlds), she was able to use what appealed to the European world – their words and their appreciation of literature, dance, and music – preserve the very culture the Europeans where trying to eradicate.

“The old legends of America belong quite as much to the blue-eyed little patriot as to the black-haired aborigine. And when they are grown tall like the wise grown-ups may they not lack interest in a further study of Indian folklore, a study which so strongly suggests our near kinship with the rest of humanity and points a steady finger toward the great brotherhood of mankind, and by which one is so forcibly impressed with the possible earnestness of life as seen through the teepee door! If it be true that much lies “in the eye of the beholder,” then in the American aborigine as in any other race, sincerity of belief, though it were based upon mere optical illusion, demands a little respect.

After all he seems at heart much like other peoples.”

– quoted from the preface to American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings by Zitkála-Šá

In addition to performing at the White House for President William McKinley, Zitkála-Šá published autobiographical essays and short stories based on her tribes’ oral traditions in international magazines like Atlantic Monthly and and Harper’s. She published her first book in 1901, and wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera, the first opera penned by a member of a First Nation tribe. The opera, which premiered in 1913, was a collaboration with the white composer William F. Hanson – who, unfortunately, was the only creator credited in the 1938 publicity when the production moved from (way) off-off-off-Broadway (in Vernal, Utah) to The Broadway Theatre.

The original production was performed 15 times (throughout Utah) and featured performers from the Ute Nation alongside white performers. It not only incorporated dance that had been basically outlawed in their original context; it was based on sacred Sioux and Ute healing rituals that the federal government had also banned – even when performed on the reservation. Like her collected stories, the opera was also notable for transcribing and preserving the oral traditions.

Zitkála-Šá was an advocate for Indian civil rights and, in particular, fought for the right of citizenship. Prior to her marriage, she worked at Standing Rock Reservation for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for about a year. She and her husband, Army Captain Raymond Talefase Bonnin, worked for the BIA and were stationed at the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah for 14 years. Like her experiences as a boarding school student and teacher, her experiences working for the federal government allowed her to highlight the agency’s systematic problems. She eventually moved to Washington, D. C. and became a lobbyist. She served as Secretary of The Society of American Indians and editor and contributor of the organization’s publication. Her efforts contributed to passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

In 1926, the Bonnins co-founded the National Council of American Indians. She served as the council’s president for 12 years. Since Captain Bonnin was a World War I veteran, Zitkála-Šá is buried (as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) at Arlington National Cemetery.

“As answers to their shallow inquiries they received the students’ sample work to look upon. Examining the neatly figured pages, and gazing upon the Indian girls and boys bending over their books, the white visitors walked out of the schoolhouse well satisfied: they were educating the children of the red man! They were paying a liberal fee to the government employees in whose able hands lay the small forest of Indian timber.

In this fashion many have passed idly through the Indian schools during the last decade, afterward to boast of their charity to the North American Indians. But few there are who have paused to question whether real life or long-lasting death lies beneath this semblance of civilization.”

– quoted from The Atlantic Monthly (vol. 85, 1900) article “An Indian Teacher among Indians” by Zitkála-Šá

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice.

NOTE: This is a “leftover” day for those celebrating the 15-day Spring Festivals. Some are finishing off literal leftovers. Some fathers are hosting their son-in-laws, but mostly people are getting ready for Day 15.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all non citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.

Approved, June 2, 1924. June 2, 1924”

– quoted from the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924

### PEACE (PEACE) PEACE ###

Funken Leftovers (the “missing” Sunday post & the “leftovers” from 2/9) February 22, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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Happy New Year! Many blessings to those celebrating the Jade Emperor’s birthday and/or observing Lent!

[This is the post for Sunday, February 21st (with information relevant to February 9th and a reference to February 17th). You can request an audio recording of Sunday’s practice (or the February 9th 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.

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

 

“I want a little sugar in my bowl
I want a little sweetness down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’, oh so bad
Feel so funny, I feel so sad”

 

– quoted from the song “I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl” by Nina Simone

Before I ask what you do with leftovers, or things left over from previous seasons, it might be prudent to ask how you feel about leftovers (and things left over from previous seasons). Because, while some people are quick to repurpose leftovers; some people (hello, brother) can’t stand leftovers. Then there are people who love leftovers, and may even prefer leftovers to the first serving. There are people who take leftovers for granted and people who are grateful for the abundance that leads to leftovers. So, yes, it might be prudent to ask how someone feels about leftovers (and things left over), because that informs how attached they are and what actions come from that attachment (even when it’s aversion).

The tenth day of the Lunar New Year is, for those who celebrated the Jade Emperor’s birthday, a day that is all about leftovers. Some traditions view the Jade Emperor as the creator and/or ruler of heaven and earth, whose origins are beyond the physical; however, in some traditions, it is believed that the Jade Emperor was originally a (real) man who took away the suffering of others.

According to one set of stories, the Kitchen God leaves the kitchen alter just before the New Year and returns to heaven in order to give the Jade Emperor an accounting of each household’s activities during the previous year. In the final days of the old year, people will clean up their homes – so the alter(s) will be ready for the return of the gods and ancestors – and, sometimes, smear honey on the lips of the Kitchen God so that his report is extra sweet. Then the Kitchen God and other household gods return on the fourth day of the New Year.

I always imagine that some years the Kitchen God’s report is really, really, wild. Take last year’s report for instance – or the last few years – or the report from the Year of the (Water) Rabbit that coincided with January 25, 1963 – February 12, 1964 (on the solar calendar).

In 2014, the first time I led a practice associated with leftovers from the Jade Emperor’s birthday celebration, the tenth day of the Lunar New Year coincided with February 9th on the solar calendar – so, I decided to incorporate the idea of the Kitchen God’s report. Specifically, I mentioned the wild report from that (Water) Rabbit year… you know, that year when there was a bit of mania all over the world and an invasion that moved across the pond: by that I mean Beatlemania and the British Invasion.

“First of all I want to congratulate you: You’ve been a fine audience, despite severe provocation.”

 

– quoted from Ed Sullivan’s remarks at the conclusion of The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964

The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on two consecutive Sundays (February 9th and February 16th, 1964). Of course, they had already made an impression in the United Kingdom and, towards the end of 1963, there were some North American radio stations that had played their music and a couple of times when prerecorded footage had appeared on television. Notably, Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar had both shared prerecorded footage with their audiences. But, it was Ed Sullivan that brought the lads to the United States and had the perform live, in front of a studio audience – a studio audience that, for all intensive purposes, was hysterical with excitement.

I say, as many people say, that the crowd was hysterical with excitement – one could even say that they were out of control; however, it’s important to note that before the first song, Ed Sullivan made the audience promise to reign in their enthusiasm when he was making introductions – and they did (even though he sometimes had to remind them of their promise). Mr. Sullivan soliciting that promise from the audience wasn’t random. Remember, he had some previous experience with this kind of audience; after all, he hosted Elvis three times, starting on September 9, 1956.

Before the first set in 1964, Ed Sullivan actually mentioned that Elvis and Colonel “Tom” Parker sent a telegram wishing the British group “a tremendous success in our country.” The Beatles started off by playing three songs: “All My Loving;” “Till There Was You” (a show tune written by Meredith Wilson in 1950 and then used in the 1957 musical The Music Man, which was made into a movie released in 1962); “She Loves You.” During the performance of “Till There Was You,” Paul, Ringo, George, and John were each featured in a close up with their names underneath. Ringo can be seen mumbling a comment to George, who seemed to get the biggest display of excitement. Of course, that excitement was only rivaled by the audible sounds of disappointment when John’s picture and name included the words, “SORRY, GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED:”

After the first set, Ed Sullivan said that the first three songs were dedicated to Johnny Carson, Randy Paar (to whom he gestures), and Earl Wilson. On the surface, it was an odd grouping of people. Randy Paar was Jack Paar’s 14-year old daughter. She attended the performance as Ed Sullivan’s guest and brought along then former Vice President Richard Nixon’s daughters, Tricia and Julie. (There were a couple of times throughout the show when the camera focused on what I believe was the excited trio.) Johnny Carson was Jack Paar’s successor as host of The Tonight Show and Earl Wilson was a journalist. Part of what made the dedication so odd was that Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan had a contentious rivalry that started when Mr. Paar was hosting The Tonight Show and continued into the premiere of The Jack Paar Program (in 1962). Some would say the animosity increased when Jack Paar insisted that his show was the first United States variety show to televise The Beatles (back in December 1963) – but, of course, that footage wasn’t live. When questioned about the dedication, 14-year old Randy said that it was essentially an olive branch on Ed Sullivan’s part** (a claim, I find highly suspect after watching the footage again).

Before the second set, there was an Anacin pain reliever commercial and a five minute act by a world class, prize-winning magician named Fred Kaps – the only magician in the world to win the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (FISM) Grand Prix three times. He was also inducted into the Society of American Magicians (SAM) Hall of Fame. Even if you’re not a magic aficionado, you have probably seen people perform some of the tricks he created and/or made famous, including: color-changing silks, the “long-pour” salt trick, and the “Dancing and Floating Cork” (which you could only purchase after signing a contract promising not to reveal the mechanics of the trick). Mr. Kaps interspersed humor and exaggerated facial reactions and mannerisms with his tricks and, by all accounts, he was his usual amazing self on February 9, 1964. But, what people would remember (as the Kitchen God would have reported to the Jade Emperor) was The Beatles.

Ed Sullivan reminded the audience that The Beatles would be back the previous weekend, but his actually introduction of the band was “Once again….” The second set featured “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” That’s it. All in all the two segments, including introductions; the round of handshakes; and Ed Sullivan expressing gratitude to the New York Police Department plus the newspapers and magazine writers and photographers lasted a little under 15 minutes. But, based on the expressions on people’s faces and the way some of the men were wiping the sweat off of their brows, it was an overwhelmingly warm and visceral 15 minutes.

“This is a magnificent building… but I think the roof is leaking.”

 

FISM Grand Prix Champion Fred Kaps, when he worked up a sweat during a performance

 

“Now, I’m delighted – all of us are delighted – and I know The Beatles on their first appearance here have been very deeply thrilled by their reception here. You’ve been fun. Now get home safely. Good night!”

 

– quoted from Ed Sullivan’s remarks at the conclusion of The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964

One thing I should point out is that my Day 10 playlist in 2014 wasn’t The Beatles playlist from 1964. Instead, it was the “leftovers” – or, what one might call “B-sides.” Similarly, in 2016, the Year of the (Fire) Monkey, the tenth day of the Lunar New Year fell on February 17th, Ed Sheeran’s birthday and so the playlist featured what might have been “B-sides” if, you know, musicians still released 45s. In 2018, we were back to The Beatles – sort of; since the 10th day of the Year of the (Earth) Dog fell on February 25th, George Harrison’s birthday. (Serendipitously, I came across Mike Love’s tribute to George, “Pisces Brothers,” just as I was putting together the appropriate tracks.)

This year, the tenth day of the Lunar New Year coincides with the anniversary of the birth of a Pisces Sister. Born today in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon was known to the world as the incomparable Nina Simone. Ms. Simone was a singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger, as well as a civil rights activist. Her music doesn’t fit neatly into one genre box; as she created music that could be considered blues, classical, folk, gospel, jazz, pop, and R&B. Then there were her activist songs. Nina Simone, it seems, could turn any situation into a song and, in doing so, became one of the most compelling voices of the Civil Rights Movement.

It would be understandable, given her range and talent, that this year’s playlist would be overflowing with Nina Simone songs. However, as sweet as it is, there is only one Nina Simone song on Sunday’s playlist. This year her birthday not only falls on the tenth day of the Lunar New Year, but also on the first Sunday of Lent in the Western Christian tradition. When so many different calendars overlap, I contemplate how I can integrate them and then, in some ways, prioritize elements based on several different considerations – including what is most directly tied to the Yoga Philosophy. The single Nina Simone track on today’s playlist ties back into the Hokkien legend and is a reminder to give thanks for whatever sweetness we are given.

“I want some sugar in my bowl, I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar
In my bowl”

 

– quoted from the song “I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl” by Nina Simone

In Belgium, northern France, and parts of Germany and Switzerland, the first Sunday of Lent is referred to as Funkensonntag. Sometimes translated as “Spark Sunday” or as “Bonfire Sunday,” it is a day when people build Lenten (bon)fires in order to burn their Christmas trees and other debris left over from winter. Effigies of the Winter Witch and Old Man Winter are also tossed into the bonfires and thus the tradition becomes a way to welcome – even hasten – the arrival of Spring.

Errata: Just as it is in the Western tradition, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is part of Shrovetide in the Eastern Christian tradition – people just use a different calendar. Sometimes the calendars overlap so that the Lenten seasons are exactly a week apart. Unfortunately, I mixed up my calendars this year and erroneously referred to this Sunday as the Sunday before Lent in the Eastern tradition. However, this year Shrove Sunday, also known as “Cheesefare Sunday” and “Forgiveness Sunday” will coincide with March 14th (on the secular calendar). Please accept my apologies for the confusion.

One final note, even though I mixed up the calendars. Some within the Eastern Christian communities refer to Shrove Sunday as “Forgiveness Sunday” and there is an extra emphasis on fasting, prayers, and letting go of past transgressions, sins, animosity, and rivalries. (**Hmm, so even though I’m not sure how observant he was, I might have to give Ed Sullivan a break. He was Roman Catholic of Irish descent and exposed to a lot of different cultures. More to the point, Sunday, February 9th was Shrove Sunday in 1964 – so maybe he really was asking for and offering forgiveness with his dedication.)

“Think of a space in your heart, and in the midst of that space think that a flame is burning. Think of that flame as your own soul and inside the flame is another effulgent light, and that is the Soul of your soul, God. Meditate upon that in the heart. Chastity, non-injury, forgiving even the greatest enemy, truth, faith in the Lord, these are all different Vrittis. Be not afraid if you are not perfect in all of these; work, they will come. He who has given up all attachment, all fear, and all anger, he whose whole soul has gone unto the Lord, he who has taken refuge in the Lord, whose heart has become purified, with whatsoever desire he comes to the Lord, He will grant that to him. Therefore worship Him through knowledge, love, or renunciation.”

 

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

 

The playlist for Tuesday (2/9) is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

The playlist for Sunday (2/21) is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“You’ve got to learn to leave the table
When love’s no longer being served”

 

– quoted from the song “You’ve Got to Learn” by Nina Simone

 

### DON’T BE GREEDY, BE GRATEFUL ###

Focus+Concentrate+Meditate = Sweet Heaven (the “missing” post) February 21, 2021

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Happy New Year! Many blessings to those celebrating the Jade Emperor’s birthday and/or observing Lent!

[This is the post for Saturday, February 20th. 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.

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

 

“The Indriyas, the organs of the senses, are acting outwards and coming in contact with external objects. Bringing them under the control of the will is what is called Pratyahara or gathering towards oneself. Fixing the mind on the lotus of the heart, or on the centre of the head, is what is called Dharana. Limited to one spot, making that spot the base, a particular kind of mental waves rises; these are not swallowed up by other kinds of waves, but by degrees become prominent, while all the others recede and finally disappear. Next the multiplicity of these waves gives place to unity and one wave only is left in the mind. This is Dhyana, meditation. When no basis is necessary, when the whole of the mind has become one wave, one-formedness, it is called Samadhi. Bereft of all help from places and centres, only the meaning of the thought is present. If the mind can be fixed on the centre for twelve seconds it will be a Dharana, twelve such Dharanas will be a Dhyana, and twelve such Dhyanas will be a Samadhi.”

 

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

 

Take a moment to consider where you put your energy, resources, effort, and focus. How much time, money, effort, or awareness do you put into loving someone? Or, actively disliking someone? How much energy do you spend dealing with fear or grief, anger or doubt? How much on joy or gratitude? It is generally understood that what you get out of a situation or your life is in part based on what you put into a situation or life. A more nuanced understanding of such an equation would highlight the fact that our energy, resources, effort, and focus/awareness all combine to produce a certain outcome – this is in keeping with Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion and is also consistent with text in Ecclesiastes and with what Rod Stryker refers to as the Creation Equation.

The problem many of us run into isn’t that we don’t know or understand the formula. The problem is that we don’t pay attention to what we are putting into the equation. Our time, energy, efforts, and resources get pulled in different directions, because our attention is distracted – that is to say, our focus/awareness is pulled into different directions. But, what happens if/when we sharpen our focus? What happens when we pull all our awareness and senses in and focus/concentrate/meditate in such a way that we become completely absorbed in one direction? Consider the power of that kind of engagement.

Yoga Sūtra 3.1: deśabandhah cittasya dhāranā

 

– “Dhāranā is the process of holding, focusing, or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.2: tatra pratyaya-ikatānatā dhyānam

 

– “Dhyāna is the repeated continuation, or unbroken flow of thought, toward that one object or place.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.3: tadeva-artha-mātra-nirbhāsaṁ svarūpa-śūnyam-iva-samādhiḥ

 

– “Samadhi [meditation in its highest form] is the state when only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if devoid even of its own form.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.4: trayam-ekatra samyama

 

– “Samyama is [the practice or integration of] the three together.”

In the third section of the Yoga Sūtras, Patanjali outlined the last three limbs of the Yoga Philosophy and then, just as he did with the other elements, he breaks down the benefits of practicing these final limbs. Similar to sūtra 2.1, there is a thread that highlights the power of three elements when practiced together. What is different about the final limbs, however, is that Patanjali devoted the majority of a whole chapter – “The Chapter (or Foundation) on Progressing” – to breakdown the benefits of integrating dhāranā (“focus” or concentration”), dhyāna (“concentration” or “meditation”), and Samādhi (“meditation” or “absorption”).

We can unintentionally find ourselves in a state of absorption, just as we can consciously progress into the state. We may think of it as being “in the zone” and it is something our minds are completely capable of experiencing. Even people with different types of ADHD can find themselves in this state of absorption. However, what Patanjali describes, as it relates to the practice is a very deliberate engagement of the mind – and, therefore, a very deliberate engagement of the mind-body-spirit.

There are, of course, times, when as individuals or groups we truly harness the power of our awareness and engage the mind-body-spirit in a way that could come under the heading of Samyama. Consider people coming together to raise a barn or support a family in need. Think about grass roots efforts to register people to vote or change unjust laws. Think about how people raise money for a cause, an individual, or a community. Contemplate how someone’s focus shifts when they give something up for Lent. Another example, although it is an extreme example, of when every fiber of someone’s being is focused on a single goal is when that goal is survival. One might do multiple tasks during such a period, but each task has the intention of ensuring survival. This is true of an individual and it can also be true of groups of people. In fact, throughout history there have been stories of individuals and groups of people who found themselves in such a situation.

One of those situations where everyone focused every fiber of their being on survival is remembered and commemorated on the ninth and tenth days of the Lunar New Year. Legend has it that the Hokkien people (also known as Hoklo, Banlam, and Minnan people) found themselves under attack. The Hokkien were not warriors, but they came in close proximity with warriors because they were known for building great ships. One version of their story states that during the Song Dynasty (between 960 and 1279 C. E.), while being hunted and killed another indicates that they were caught between warring factions. Ultimately, to escape the carnage, they decided to hide in a sugar cane field. In some versions of the story the sugar cane miraculously appears. They hid until there were no more sounds of horses, warriors, or battle. Legend has it that they emerged on the ninth day of the Lunar New Year, which is the Jade Emperor’s Birthday.

“‘From this story, we learn that unity, solidarity and the active participation of the community is necessary when it comes to facing challenges,’ said [Klang Hokkien Association president Datuk Teh Kim] Teh.”

 

– quoted from The Star article (about a version of the story where only some hide) entitled “Legend Behind Hokkien New Year emphasizes unity and solidarity” by Grace Chen (2/24/2018)

The Jade Emperor is sometimes referred to as “Heavenly Grandfather” and “Heavenly Duke.” He is recognized as the ruler of heaven and earth in some Chinese religion and mythology. In Taoism, he is one of the Three Pure Ones or the Three Divine Teachers. Fujian province (in China), Penang (in Malayasia), and Taiwan are three areas where there is a large concentration of Hokkien people and, therefore, places where the ninth day of the Lunar New Year is a large celebration. In some places the celebrations begin at 11 PM on the eighth night can be so large that they eclipse the celebrations of the first day of the Lunar New Year (in those areas). In fact, the ninth day is actually called “Hokkien New Year.”

Those who are religious will go to a temple and engage in a ritual involving prostration, kneeling, bowing, incense, and offerings. For many there is a great feast full of fruits, vegetables, noodles, and (of course) sugar cane. The sugar cane is an important element of the Jade Emperor’s birthday celebrations and rituals – not only because of their story of survival, but also because the Hokkien word for “sugarcane” (kam-chià, 甘蔗) is a homonym for (or sounds like) a Hokkien word for “thank you” (kamsiā, 感谢), which literally means “feeling thankful.”

Every version of the Hokkien people’s survival story is a great reminder that no matter how hard, how challenging, how infuriating, or how tragic our situation there is still something or someone for whom we can give thanks. Take last year, for instance: When we look back at all the hard stuff, all the grief, all the fear, all the anger, all the disappointment, and all of the trauma, we can get distracted and forget that there were moments of sweetness. Last year, there were moments of kindness, moments of love, moments of birth and rebirth, moments of compassion, moments of hope, and moments of joy. In other words, in spite of all the hard stuff, there were moments of sweetness. Take a moment to remember one of those moments; and feel thankful.

 

“‘Although we may not have an image of this deity in our temple, as long as devotees have the Jade Emperor in their hearts, their prayers will be heard,’ said [the Kwan Imm Temple’s] principal Shi Fa Zhuo.”

 

– quoted from The Star article entitled “Legend Behind Hokkien New Year emphasizes unity and solidarity” by Grace Chen (2/24/2018)

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

 

### DON’T BE GREEDY, BE GRATEFUL ###

Funken Leftovers (just the music) February 21, 2021

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Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunay, February 21st) at 2:30 PM. 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.

Sunday’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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

### 🎶 ###