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“Missing” Steps to Change April 10, 2021

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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



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



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



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


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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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


Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, April 10th) at 12:00 PM, for an experience. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.


Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify


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


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

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



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




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