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Speaking of a Strenuous, Deliberate Life (the music, w/ a theme-related post link) May 30, 2021

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

 

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

 

Click here for a theme related blog post.

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.)

 

 

### 🎶 ###

To Whom Are You/We Listening? (just the music, w/a date-related link) May 29, 2021

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Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, May 29th) at 12:00 PM. 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.

If you are using an Apple device/browser and the calendar is no longer loading, please email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend.

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

 

President John F. Kennedy was born today in 1917. Normally, I would do a class directly related to his work, but today’s class will be different. If you are interested, you can check out this post I wrote for the anniversary of his assassination.

 

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.)

 

 

### 🎶 ###

Breathing in Space, Breathing Out Music (just the music w/ a post link) May 26, 2021

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Please join me today (Wednesday, May 26th) 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.

 

If you are using an Apple device/browser and the “Class Schedules” calendar is no longer loading, you may need to upgrade your browser, or you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend.

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05262020 Fearless Play with Miles and Sally”]

 

Click here for the 2020 blog post related to this practice.

 

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, playlists, 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 to Common Ground and Mind Body Solutions are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

 

### KEEP BREATHING (even when it feels like there’s an elephant on your chest)! ###

Let’s Breathe (a 2-for-1 “missing” post) May 26, 2021

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[This is the “missing” post related to Monday, May 24th and Tuesday, May 25th (TRIGGER WARNING). You can request an audio recording of either 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. If you are using an Apple device/browser and the calendar is no longer loading, please email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend.]

“You must finish a term & finish every day, & be done with it. For manners, & for wise living, it is a vice to remember. You have done what you could — some blunders & absurdities no doubt crept in forget them as fast as you can tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it well & serenely, & with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day for all that is good & fair. It is too dear with its hopes & invitations to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays.”

 

 

– quoted from a letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson, to his daughter Ellen, dated April 8, 1854 (as printed in The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, volume 4, edited by Ralph L. Rusk, 1939)

There are some practices, like at Common Ground and during the old rooftop practices, where we don’t use a playlist. Sometimes, like on Saturdays, we often start the practice without the music. However, more often than not, I pick something instrumental to set the tone. It may even be something that is “punny” and/or something that contains an inside joke or subliminal message. On Tuesday, for instance, we started with “A Breath of Stillness” – and just like on Monday that was the focus of the practice; to find the stillness that allows us to breathe and then to find stillness that speaks to us in between the breaths.

There are whole (ancient) texts written on asana, but my go to reference (for quick and dirty instruction) is Yoga Sūtras 2.46 – even though that is the first in a series of three sūtras detailing postural instruction. While other texts (like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita, and Shiva Samhita) give more detailed instruction about how to position the parts of one’s body, Patanjali’s instructions are consistent with the qualities one needs in order to practice: stability and steadiness, comfort and ease, equanimity and overall peace of mind (joy). The other texts primarily focus on achieving these qualities through the site chosen for the practice, while Patanjali focuses on the mind-body as the site. All the texts, however, point to the quality of breath as an indicator of the quality of the body’s position.

But, what happens when our body is not in a position to breathe? What happens when we don’t have (as instructed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika) “a small room, situated in a solitary place, being 4 cubits square, and free from stones, fire, water, disturbances of all kinds…” or find that we are not “in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully.”? Do we not practice? Do we not breathe??

Of course, those are ridiculous questions. Of course we are going to practice (if we are committed to ourselves and our practice). Furthermore, we have no choice with regard to our breath, because as long as we are alive, we will breathe. We may not breathe well; we may need the assistance of a machine or a reminder from a teacher/friend, but breathing is one of the biggest parts (and signs) of being alive.

When we “sit” and breathe on our mats and on our cushions, we acknowledge that this is something people all around the world have done before us; something millions and billions of people are doing at the same time as us; and something people will be doing, all around the world, long after we are gone. On a certain level, we acknowledge the divinity of the breath and breathing… the universality of it… even when our experience of it is different.

These types of acknowledgements allow us to experience a deeper and richer breadth of breath (and life). These types of acknowledgements also allow us to take a journey into the stillness and into the richness within us and all around us – and to tap into what is divine, or universal, within us and around us.

“[T. K. V.] Desikachar realized that his father felt that every action should be an act of devotion, that every asana should lead toward inner calm. Similarly, [Sri. T.] Krishnamacharya’s emphasis on the breath was meant to convey spiritual implications along with psychological benefits. According to Desikachar, Krishnamacharya described the cycle of breath as an act of surrender: ‘Inhale, and God approaches you.  Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.  Exhale, and you approach God.  Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.’”

 

 

– quoted from the May/June 2001 Yoga Journal article entitled “Krishnamacharya’s Legacy” by Fernando Pagés Ruiz

 

Don’t let the word (or concept) of “God” bother you and become an obstacle to your practice/journey. After all, you could use the word “Light” or “the Divine” or “Goodness” or “Goddess” or “Universe” or “the Community / World.” Try it, just breath for a moment and use the word(s) that work for you.

One of my favorite Yoga Sūtras is 1.36 and I refer to it often: viśokā vā jyotişmatī, which encourages us to focus on the place inside of us that is “free from sorrow” and “infused with light.” According to the practice, focusing in this way anchors the mind and brings peace of mind. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, even points to traditions where this is the “core of the entire text” and of the practice. We find this central idea – even this centering practice – in other religious and spiritual traditions, including Christianity and Buddhism.

I specifically used the two examples above, because over the weekend, I got similar reminders from two different contemplative theologians/teachers from two different spiritual communities. The first was Thomas J. Bushlack, PhD, who is a Christian professor of theology and ethics – as well as a longtime practitioner of yoga. The second was Buddhist dharma teacher Tara Brach, PhD (who, I believe, also practices yoga). As I already mentioned, both are contemplative leaders in their traditions and also offer meditations to people within and outside of their spiritual communities.

Full disclosure, Dr. Bushlack is someone I know personally, someone who is part of my yoga community, and someone I closely associate with the religious philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. This weekend, however, rather than quoting Saint Thomas, he was quoting a different namesake: Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and one of the three co-developers of Centering Prayer (which Dr. Bushlack offers as a foundational practice for religious and non-religious professionals). While I shared a bit more (here and in class on Monday night) than he did, the reference to “our core goodness” dovetails with Dr. Brach’s use of “Buddha-nature” and both references are in relation to a practice that is fundamentally tied to knowing there are times we can do something (as much as we can for as long as we can) and other times when we have to let go, surrender.

“1. …. This basic core of goodness is capable of unlimited development; indeed, of becoming transformed into Christ and deified.

 

2. Our basic core of goodness is our true Self. Its center of gravity is God. The acceptance of our basic goodness is a quantum leap in the spiritual journey.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter 13 – Guidelines for Christian Life, Growth and Transformation*” in Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel by Thomas Keating

*NOTE: These guidelines are intended to beread according to the method of lectio divina [‘divine reading’],” meaning that they are to be integrated as the living word through four steps of practice: read, meditate, pray, and contemplate.

“… we can’t do it alone and we can’t do it if we think it’s like a sense of my own ego’s heart. In other words, that doesn’t work. If you think you’re responsible, [you’re personally responsible,] for another life, then your heart won’t be able to open big enough. So, in a way, you have to hand that over… just sense that there’s a love and intelligence in this universe that’s bigger than this personal self. And you can entrust whatever feels like too much into it….

 

It’s a practice.  And it took me a long time, because, I, especially when I was a active as a therapist, really thought it was up to me to fix people. Until I came to this amazing realization that everybody has Buddha-nature. I mean, everybody has that light and that heart and some people are going to unfold more than others in ways that manifest….

It’s a surrendering of control and thinking that we’re the doer – and realizing that this body-mind will serve the greater good best that doesn’t think it’s ‘a doer.’”

 

 

– quoted from a weekly Satsang / Live Q&A session (recorded 10172020), regarding “Holding Space for Ourselves and Others when the Suffering Feels like too Much” – part of “The Power of Inquiry: Healing Conversations” by Tara Brach

 

Normally when we come to a really big anniversary – the anniversary of something good or bad, monumental, even tragic and horrific; something that left a mark on our hearts, minds, and psyches – we remember where we were, what we were doing, maybe even what we were wearing and who was with us. We can remember exactly how we felt and what we thought. I find that’s the norm when we come up to an anniversary, especially a personal or universal anniversary that was tragic. We remember little things, minute, seemingly inconsequential things – even when the event affects each of us in different ways.

But, May 25, 2020 is a little different for most people in the world.

You may not remember exactly what you were doing a year ago today – let alone what you were wearing. We were still in the (relative) beginning of the pandemic shutdown, so maybe you remember where you were and what you weren’t doing, because it was outside of your normal routine. Maybe nothing stands out in your actual physical memory of the day itself, other than that it was Memorial Day… or maybe a special day specific to you. Yet, you remember today the events of today.

We remember today because it is the one year anniversary of the death of George Floyd and while many people witnessed some aspects of his murder – maybe even on this date – most of us weren’t actually there when it happened. We may have only been a few blocks or miles away, but most of us were completely unaware of what was happening until after the fact. Even then, most of us didn’t imagine the horror of the act itself. On May 25, 2020, most of us were completely unaware that what was happening around us – and that the world would be able to watch the horror of it all, in real time – was about to change everything. It changed the way people interacted with each other.  It changed the way people understood (or thought they understood) one another. It changed the way people thought about their breath… and their ability to breathe.

“Continue to breathe
Continue to breathe
In times like these
That’s what your heart is for
Continue to breathe
Continue to breathe
In honor of your brother
That’s what your heart is for”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Breathe” by India.Arie

Breathing is connected to our autonomic nervous system; it is something that happens to us, and also something we can engage or control. When we inhale, there’s a little micro-extension in the spine; a moment of heart-opening (and bending over backwards). When we exhale there’s a micro-flexion in the spine; a moment where we turn inward and perhaps surrender. Notice that there is balance in this system: the inhale is active/yang; the exhale is lunar/passive.

In fact, each part of our breath is associated with a different part of our nervous system. The inhale is tied to the sympathetic nervous system and our fight/flee/freeze or collapse response. It activates when we need to “GO!” and, therefore, is considered the gas pedal. The exhale is connected to the parasympathetic nervous, which is connected to our ability to rest and digest – as well as to create. It activates when we need to slow down or stop and, therefore, is considered the brakes of our system. (Notice that “STOP!” would fall into the sympathetic nervous system category.)

So, our physiological systems are designed move in and out of balance – to find balance within the imbalance. However, situations that activate our sympathetic nervous system (making us want to fight, flee, freeze, or collapse) also create a breathe pattern that is not sustainable over long periods of time. Additionally, we are living in a time where our sympathetic nervous systems are constantly activated – sometimes to the point of being over stimulated – and we develop a habit of bad breathing. Add to that the fact that the physiological – as well as emotional and psychological – effects of COVID make it harder and harder to breathe.

To make matters worse, in some traditional sciences (like Chinese Medicine) the vitality for the heart and lungs is associated with the arms and with emotions of joy and grief/sorrow+loss, respectively. Each of those meridians is coupled with another meridian – specifically the intestine meridians, which are related to how we digest. Remember, our need to process, digest, metabolize, and release waste is not restricted to food, drink, or medicine that we consume. We also consume experiences, actions, thoughts, and words – which means we also have to have space and time (not to mention the energy) to digest all that! And, over the last year-plus, we have had a lot of “that!” to digest.

“First, keep breathing…. Don’t take this next breath for granted. Never take your breath, which is a symbol of your life, for granted. Take the deepest breath you’ve taken all day, every day. Then follow it with another… and another. Make it a habit, a practice, to very deliberately and intentionally breathe. Do it for yourself and those you love. Do it, also, in honor of those who ‘can’t breathe.’”

 

– quoted from my blog post/page “A Place to Start”

 

Last year, I made a point to emphasize things I say all the time, things I’ve been saying for over a decade – but those things landed differently after we watched George Floyd die. As I knew it would. Which is why I added that last part, the reminder to “Do it for yourself and those you love. Do it, also, in honor of those who ‘can’t breathe.’”

It’s unfortunate, tragic, and horrific that George Floyd wasn’t the first person to utter those words before dying during an encounter with the police. It’s unfortunate, tragic, and horrific that it’s more than Eric Garner, who was killed in New York City on July 17, 2014. Those are just the one’s vaguely familiar to most of us.

But what about Nicholas Dyksma (August 31, 2015 in Harris Country, Georgia); Muhammad Abdul Muhaymin, Jr, (January 4, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona); Hector Arreola  (January 10, 2017 in Columbus, Georgia); Christopher Lowe (July 26, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas); Javier Ambler II (March 28, 2019 in Austin, Texas); Derrick Scott (May 20, 2019 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma); Elijah McClain (who was restrained on August 24, 2019 in Aurora, Colorado, declared brain dead on August 27th, and taken off life support on August 30th); Byron Williams (September 5, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada); John Elliott Neville (who was restrained while in county jail on December 2, 2019 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and died on December 4th); Manuel Ellis (March 3, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington); or William Jennette (restrained and died in a Marshall County, Tennessee jail in earlier this month)?

Just for the record, those are not the only people who died or the only people who experienced similar restraints and positioning during police encounters. What about David Cornelius Smith, who (on Thursday, September 9, 2010) was restrained (after a Taser was used on him multiple times) at the Downtown Minneapolis YMCA, mere feet from where I taught yoga? He was in a coma and on life support before being declared dead on September 17th.  (In 2013, the City of Minneapolis promised to offer additional training in restraint safety and paid Mr. Smith’s family $3 million in a settlement after footage from one of the officer’s personal cameras, i.e., not body-cam, was entered into evidence. Some have said that the 2010 footage bears a striking resemblance to the footage from last year, in terms of the restraint tactics and overall attitude of the police officers involved.)

And, let’s not forget the teenager who was previously restrained by the same police officer who killed George Floyd?

Finally, please note, that not all of the aforementioned were Black, nor were they all minorities.

“Fight for your life
Fight for your life
In the face of a society
That doesn’t value your life
For the men in your life
For the boys in your life
For your brothers, for your fathers
For the ones that came before us
For the future, for the future
For the future, for the future

Continue to breathe”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Breathe” by India.Arie

 

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,
Drink the wild air’s salubrity [well-being]:”

 

 

– quoted from part II of the poem “Merlin’s Song” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love reading the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, born May 25, 1803 (in Boston, Massachusetts), even though I sometimes get frustrated reading Emerson. I love reading Emerson, because over 200 years after his birth, his words are still relevant to our society. But, I get frustrated, because… his words are still relevant to our society. It’s like we’ve learned nothing individually (or collectively) about our mind-body-spirits and our relationship to the rest of nature. Both my feelings of love and frustration are enhanced by the fact so much of Emerson’s essays and speeches, especially on subjects like Nature and consciousness and Creation, sound like my Yoga philosophy books – like the Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras and the Bhagavad Gita – as well as certain religious commentary that I find myself diving into.

Those similarities are not a coincidence. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a theologian (as well as a philosopher) who graduated from Harvard Divinity School before becoming the leader of the transcendental movement in the 19th century. He was a student of Eastern philosophies and ancient religions. He was also a poet, a teacher, and an abolitionist whose views on race (and nationality) did not age well. He was also banned from his alma mater (for 27 years and 6 days)  for speaking up about things he saw wrong within his own religious community.

Despite the aforementioned sketchy ideas about race and nationality, Emerson believed in the sanctity of all things – as he saw all things as connected to God; but his critics accused him of diminishing God. In a sermon, his Harvard Divinity School mentor, Henry Ware, Jr., spoke of “The Personality of the Deity” and said, “Take away the Father of the universe, and, though every ordinance remain unchanged, mankind becomes but a company of children in an orphan asylum; clothed, fed, governed, but objects of pity rather than congratulation, because deprived of those resting-places for the affections, without which the soul is not happy.” His idea that “the fact of knowledge and ideas reveals to him the fact of eternity” also did not sit well with the clergy.

“Once Emerson, on being asked by a relative if he were a Swedenborgian [a devotee of Swedish Lutheran theologian and church reformer Emanuel Swedenborg], replied: ‘I am more of a Quaker than any­thing else. I believe in the “still, small voice,” and that voice is Christ within us.’ Just how well Emerson understood his own position presents an interesting problem. Discovering how much of a Quaker Emerson really was may add the history of another influence on Emerson’s thought, and hence define more clearly one of the great influences on American ideals of today.

 

The problem of determining the existence and extent of any particular influence on Emerson is complicated by the difficulty of separating that influence from the many others that have been discovered in his work. How much Plato Emerson knew, how well he understood the neo-Platonists, whether or not he ever comprehended the message of the orient, and what was his attitude toward science are questions that must be satisfactorily considered before an exact and final statement of the Quaker influence on Emerson can be made. To attempt such finality here would be foolhardy; to at­tempt any sort of definition may be fruitless in view of G. E. Woodberry’s statement: ‘One follows him [Emerson] into the books he read, not for the sources of his thought, but for the mould of the man himself.’”

 

– quoted from “1. Introduction” in “The Quaker Influence on Emerson” (a thesis submitted for the Degree of Masters of Arts, University of Wisconsin, 1939) by Charles D. Gelatt (the then-future entrepreneur and philanthropist  

 

Of course, another reason it would be “foolhardy” to try “determining the existence and extent of any particular influence on Emerson” is that, by his own admission, he believed in tapping into that place inside of himself – that is also inside of all of us. Whether we call that place our heart, our spirit, or our soul; whether we identify it as God, or Christ-nature, or Buddha-nature; whether we identify it as the source of Light and/or the greater goodness inside of you, we can use the breath to tap into it. We can find it in between the inhale and the exhale. And I will meet you there.

 

“Three problems are put by nature to the mind; What is matter? Whence is it? and Whereto? The first of these questions only, the ideal theory answers. Idealism saith: matter is a phenomenon, not a substance. Idealism acquaints us with the total disparity between the evidence of our own being, and the evidence of the world’s being. The one is perfect; the other, incapable of any assurance; the mind is a part of the nature of things; the world is a divine dream, from which we may presently awake to the glories and certainties of day. Idealism is a hypothesis to account for nature by other principles than those of carpentry and chemistry. Yet, if it only deny the existence of matter, it does not satisfy the demands of the spirit. It leaves God out of me. It leaves me in the splendid labyrinth of my perceptions, to wander without end. Then the heart resists it, because it balks the affections in denying substantive being to men and women. Nature is so pervaded with human life, that there is something of humanity in all, and in every particular. But this theory makes nature foreign to me, and does not account for that consanguinity which we acknowledge to it….

 

But when, following the invisible steps of thought, we come to inquire, Whence is matter? and Whereto? many truths arise to us out of the recesses of consciousness. We learn that the highest is present to the soul of man, that the dread universal essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power, but all in one, and each entirely, is that for which all things exist, and that by which they are; that spirit creates; that behind nature, throughout nature, spirit is present; one and not compound, it does not act upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or through ourselves: therefore, that spirit, that is, the Supreme Being, does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new branches and leaves through the pores of the old. As a plant upon the earth, so a man rests upon the bosom of God; he is nourished by unfailing fountains, and draws, at his need, inexhaustible power. Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man? Once inhale the upper air, being admitted to behold the absolute natures of justice and truth, and we learn that man has access to the entire mind of the Creator, is himself the creator in the finite.”

 

– quoted from the essay the 1836 essay “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

There is no playlist for the Monday night practice at Common Ground Meditation Center.

 

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

 

Check out my previous blog posts about the Ralph Waldo Emerson’s August 31, 1837 speech for the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the July 15, 1838 speech to the graduating class of Harvard Divinity School (that got him banned until 1865).

”3. God and our true Self are not separate. Though we are not God, God and our true Self are the same thing.”

 

 

– quoted from “Chapter 13 – Guidelines for Christian Life, Growth and Transformation*” in Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel by Thomas Keating

*NOTE: These guidelines are intended to be read according to the method of lectio divina [‘divine reading’],” meaning that they are to be integrated as the living word through four steps of practice: read, meditate, pray, and contemplate.

“‘No one really understands the Atma [Soul/Essence], Arjuna. One person sees it as wondrous, another speaks of its glory, others say it is strange, and there are many who listen but do not comprehend it at all. Very few even think of inquiring into what is beyond this physical world.’

 

‘I am well aware that I have veered into high philosophy, but you must understand that all beings, whether called ‘friend’ or ‘enemy/ have this indestructible Atma within. You must be poised above this debilitating sorrow of yours.’”

 

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (2.29-30) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley.

 

### “For your brothers, for your fathers, for your sons, for your daughters, for your mothers, for your sisters, for your friends, for your teachers, for your cousins…continue to breathe” ###

 

Svādyāya V: If You Change Just One Thing About Your… (the “missing” Sunday post) May 26, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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[This is the “missing” post related to Sunday, May 23rd. You can request an audio recording of Sunday’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. If you are using an Apple device/browser and the calendar is no longer loading, please email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend.]

 

“Lest I appear frivolous in even posing the title question, let alone suggesting that it might have an affirmative answer, let me try to place it in proper perspective by offering two propositions.
   1. If a single flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, so also can all the previous and subsequent flaps of its wings, as can the flaps of the wings of millions of other butterflies, not to mention the activities of innumerable more powerful creatures, including our own species.
   2. If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.
   More generally, I am proposing that over the years minuscule disturbances neither increase nor decrease the frequency of occurrence of various weather events such as tornados; the most that they may do is to modify the sequence in which these events occur.”

 

 

– from initially untitled speech given by Edward Norton Lorenz at the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, D.C, on December 29, 1972

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.15: karma-anyatvam pariņāmah-anyatve hetuh

 

 

– “Change in the sequence of the characteristics is the cause for the different appearances of results, consequences, or effects.”

Pick a life, a personal history – maybe one of the one’s I briefly profiled over the last week, maybe your own, or someone else’s you know – and notice where the story begins. More specifically, notice where you begin to tell the story – and how things develop/evolve from there. Consider that your understanding of the story and the sequence of events, your understanding of the person and their motivation, and whether any of it makes sense may change if you start at a different place. Consider, too, that if you change something along the way, like leave out challenges the person had as a child – or the fact that someone had no children, or their children had no children – then the story (and your understanding) also changes to a certain degree. Consider where (and when) someone first experiences stability in life and what happens if that stability and sense of control doesn’t happen until late in life. What you change may seem random and inconsequential, it may seem like rounding up the smallest fraction of a number, but take a moment to consider what happened when a certain scientist did that: the results were pure chaos.

Born May 23, 1917, Edward Norton Lorenz was born into a New England family that loved science and logic. His maternal grandfather (Lewis M. Norton) was the professor at the Massachusetts of Technology (MIT) who developed the first four-year undergraduate program in chemical engineering (1888). His father (Edward Henry Lorenz) majored in mechanical engineering (at MIT) and his mother (Grace Peloubet Norton Lorenz, who was born the year before her father introduced his program) loved games – especially chess. In addition to installing and cultivating a love of numbers in Dr. Lorenz, his family also gave him a great appreciation for nature and the outdoors. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree (also in mathematics) from Harvard, it made sense for Dr. Lorenz to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. So, after working as a weather forecaster in the United States Army Air Corps (during World War II), he went to MIT to earn both a masters and a doctoral degree in meteorology; and then became a professor at MIT.

In the 1950’s, Edward Norton Lorenz began to doubt that the accepted method of forecasting weather, based on linear statistical models, was appropriate and/or logical since the method did not reflect the outcome. In 1961, while use a simple digital computer (as opposed to a human “computer”) to simulate weather patterns based on 12 different variables, like temperature and wind speed, he decided to re-run some calculations. Only, in the interest of time, he started in the middle of the story – and ended up with a completely different outcome. When he went through the process to find the “error,” he discovered that while the computer calculated up to six decimal points, the printout rounded up to three decimal points. Ergo, instead of entering something like 0.354148, he had entered (from the printout) 0.345 – and while the difference seems minuscule at first glance, it becomes compounded over time. If you know what you’re looking at, you can see a very definite pattern emerge. However, if you don’t recognize the “Lorenz attractor” at work, then chaos just looks random.

Yoga Sūtra 3.16: pariņāmah-traya-samyamāt-atīta-anāgata-jñānam

 

 

– “By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.”

 

People often associate chaos theory – the premise that “small changes in initial conditions could result in vast differences in the initial outcomes” – with the “butterfly effect” and science fiction / fantasy stories like Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder. However, as evident by Bradbury’s short story (which was published on June 28, 1952) the overall idea behind chaos theory existed before the scientific discovery made popular by Dr. Lorenz. In fact, it dates back at least as far as 1800. Additionally, it was Dr. Philip Merilees, session chair for the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, D.C, on December 29, 1972, that lifted certain ideas from Dr. Lorenz’s initially untitled speech in order to create the memorable title: “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” That title carried the idea beyond mathematics, physics, computer science, and meteorology and into the social sciences, even into the hearts and minds of people all over the world (who sometimes don’t really understand – or even know – the actual theory).

While fiction writers and readers often get caught up in the fantasy of what happens if we go back in time and accidentally (or intentionally) alter the time-space continuum, remember that Edward Norton Lorenz was looking forward. He was forecasting. So, while we it is interesting and there is some merit to looking back and considering cause-and-effect as it relates to someone’s personal story, there is also fascinating merit to considering what may happen going forward. In other words, we can use the idea of chaos theory to “forecast” situations and possible reactions/responses in someone’s life based on their previous circumstances and reactions/responses. Dr. Lorenz addresses this very idea in The Essence of Chaos where he emphatically argued for believing in free will.

“Before proceeding further, we need to consider the question of free will of human beings, and perhaps of other animate creatures. Most of us presumably believe that the manner in which we will respond to a given set of circumstances has not been predetermined, and that we are free to make a choice. For the sake of argument, let us assume that such an opinion is correct. Our behavior is then a form of randomness in the broader sense; more than one thing is possible next.”

 

“We must wholeheartedly believe in free will. If free will is a reality, we shall have made the correct choice. If it is not, we shall have still not made an incorrect choice, because we shall not have made a choice at all, not have a free will to do so.”

 

– quoted from The Essence of Chaos (1993) by Edward Norton Lorenz

I see two problems in Dr. Lorenz’s argument. First, he compares “free will” with “predestination” – as if the two are completely and utterly diametrically opposed and incompatible, which they are as he proposes them (but are not necessarily, philosophically speaking). Second, he outlines a “chaos” model illustrating the quantifiable predictable interaction between the weather, the wind, a tree, and a maple leaf that falls off of the tree (for any number of reasons); but equates human behavior to the flipping of a coin or the shuffling of cards – in other words, a “random” model that does not consider the part that previous behavior, causes, and conditions plays in future decisions.

Eastern philosophies (like Yoga), as well as current events, indicates that we are conditioned to “respond to a given set of circumstances” based on our previous circumstances and our understanding of those circumstances (i.e., our samskaras, layers of mental impressions). In other words, our circumstances and behavior may not be predestined, but they are sometimes predisposed. They can be predisposed because we may not be aware of the multitude of choices available in any given situation. In other words, we may believe we have “no choice” (i.e., no free will) in certain situations and/or believe that we only have “two bad choices. Additionally, even people who see themselves and/or are seen as having a lot of options (and resources) can, in fact, have very narrow views of themselves and the world – based on their samskaras and previous experiences. These narrow viewpoints can lead them to believe that everyone has the same advantages and experiences as them and, therefore, has the same choices – choices they may see as right or wrong.  

Therefore (as I stated last year), while I wholeheartedly believe in free will and agree with Dr. Lorenz’s basic premise and overall idealization of free will, I think our behavior might be better described as a form of “random chaos” – in that there are multiple outcomes, but those outcomes are limited by our ability to see the choices within a given situation and the possible outcomes… and our ability to see clearly is limited by the situation and by our previous experiences.

This brings us back to the instructions given to the time travelers in Ray Bradbury’s short story: “‘Stay on the Path. Don’t go off it. I repeat. Don’t go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there’s a penalty.’”

Rather than looking at a time traveling scenario where we go back in time, however, imagine what happens if we look forward. What happens if we consider how our actions today become the circumstances of tomorrow? What happens if we (metaphorically speaking) “get off the path” we’re on in order to create a better future? Whether we are intentional and mindful or not, the steps we take make an impact. So, in what little, subtle, ways can we use our thoughts, words, and deeds to (even our relationships) to create the world – the harvest, the balanced population, and even the social temperament – that we want for ourselves and future generations?

“‘A little error here would multiply in sixty million years, all out of proportion. Of course maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe Time can’t be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and finally, a change in social temperament in far­-flung countries. Something much more subtle, like that. Perhaps only a soft breath, a whisper, a hair, pollen on the air, such a slight, slight change that unless you looked close you wouldn’t see it. Who knows? Who really can say he knows? We don’t know. We’re guessing. But until we do know for certain…we’re being careful. ’”

 

– quoted from “A Sound of Thunder” (June 28, 1952) by Ray Bradbury

 

 

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

 

You can find last year’s “chaotic” blog post here. You will notice, that it’s “vastly” different.

 

 

### May only your “shuffle” be pseudorandom. ###

Let’s Breathe (mostly it’s just the music) May 25, 2021

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“First, keep breathing…. Don’t take this next breath for granted. Never take your breath, which is a symbol of your life, for granted. Take the deepest breath you’ve taken all day, every day. Then follow it with another… and another. Make it a habit, a practice, to very deliberately and intentionally breathe. Do it for yourself and those you love. Do it, also, in honor of those who ‘can’t breathe.’”

 

– quoted from my “A Place to Start” post/page 

Please join me today (Monday, May 18th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a 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 or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10272020 Pranayama II” – this is usually the playlist for a 75-minute practice, but we are going to make it work!]

 

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. If you are using an Apple device/browser and the calendar is no longer loading, you can use a non-Apple browser or email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend. If you are on my Tuesday and/or Wednesday email list for recordings, I have already sent you the links.]

 

### “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” ~ RWE ###

Svādyāya IV: Take A Look at Yourself (the “missing” Saturday post) May 25, 2021

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[This is the “missing” post related to Saturday, May 22nd. 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. If you are using an Apple device/browser and the calendar is no longer loading, please email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend.]

 

“And there’s a road, a winding road that never ends
Full of curves, lessons learned at every bend
Goin’s rough unlike the straight and narrow

 

It’s for those, those who go against the grain
Have no fear, dare to dream of a change
Live to march to the beat of a different drummer”

 

 

– quoted from the song “The Road Less Traveled” by George Strait

If you’ve followed along with the blog and/or the classes over the last month of Saturdays – or if you are just familiar with the Yoga Sūtras – you will have noticed that there’s a very definite thread gets pulled in the third section: Patanjali outlines a progression of powers or accomplishments that are achieved through the application of samyama (how he describes the combination of focus, concentration, and meditation). First, there is the ability to achieve a higher state of absorption (samadhi), which brings with it the ability to clearly see past and present, as well as how things change in form, time, and condition. Then, Patanjali explains the power that comes from applying samyama to the three types of changes (YS 3.16, knowing the future); on word, meaning, and knowledge (YS 3.17, knowing all languages); on your own mental impressions (YS 3.18, knowing past lives); and on another person’s body (YS 3.19-20, knowing the nature of another person’s mind, but not their thoughts). If you focus-concentrate-meditate on this progression, the next power or accomplishment is well…

“It’s Elementary”

 

– Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was born into a prosperous Irish-Catholic family on May, 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was an artist and chronic alcoholic with some mental health issues; while his mother, Mary Foley Doyle, was an educated woman who loved books and telling stories. The young couple (22 and 17, respectively, when they wed) didn’t have much money of their own, but Sir Conan Doyle’s wealthy uncles paid for him to go to a Jesuit boarding school (in England) at the age of nine. By all accounts, the kid was miserable (because of the bigotry and corporal punishment that he encountered) and only took pleasure from the letters he exchanged with his mother. His Jesuit education continued at Stoneyhurst College and then at Stella Matutina (in Austria) before he returned to Scotland to attend the University of Edinburgh Medical School.

In medical school, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle met several aspiring writers that inspired him and a professor who became the inspiration for his ultimate creation: Sherlock Holmes. Along with his trusty sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, who serves as the first person narrator for almost all of the stories, Sherlock Holmes appeared in 56 short stories and four novels beginning with the 1887 publication of A Study in Scarlet (first published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual). While Holmes and Watson are, without a doubt, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most well-known and celebrated characters, he sometimes had a bit of a love-hate relationship with them. He killed Holmes and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, in December 1893 (in The Final Problem), but then wrote a play about Homes a few years later and by 1901 readers were being treated to brand new Holmes-Watson stories, like The Hound of the Baskerville, which slid into the earlier canon.

Throughout his adulthood, Sir Conan Doyle aspired to be the hero of his own story. On at least three occasions, he used the persona of Sherlock Holmes to get Scotland Yard and the courts to correct injustices. After being denied the opportunity to enlist in the military during two wars, he volunteered his medical services. But, throughout this time, he dealt with the tragic illness and ultimate death of his first wife, as well as the deaths (during World War I) of his eldest son, his two brothers-in-laws, and his two nephews. His personal tragedies caused him to suffer from depression and also to be fascinated with the paranormal, spiritualism, and non-European cultures. (He wrote several stories that directly reflected his fascination – although those stories tend to be rife with racist stereotypes and terminology – and at least one story around his father’s confinement to an asylum.)

Dr. Joseph Bell, the medical school professor who inspired Sir Conan Doyle, taught diagnosis through observation, logic, and deduction – the very tools Sherlock Holmes utilizes to solve cases that puzzle the police. Of course, to utilize those skills one has to focus-concentrate-meditate on the available information. In doing so, and with particular attention to the thread that’s reoccurred in the classes and blog this week, it becomes apparent that the next (logical) point of focus in the Yoga Sūtras is on one’s self.

Yoga Sūtra 3.21: kāyarūpasamyamāt tadgrāhyaśaktistambhe cakşuhprakāśāsamprayoge’ntardhānam

 

 

– “If one makes samyama on the form of one’s own physical body, obstructing its illumination or visual characteristic to the eyes of the beholder, then one’s body becomes invisible.”

 

“A Yogi standing in the midst of this room can apparently vanish. He does not really vanish, but he will not be seen by anyone. The form and the body are, as it were, separated. You must remember that this can only be done when the Yogi has attained to that power of concentration when form and the thing formed have been separated. Then he makes a Samyama on that, and the power to perceive forms is obstructed, because the power of perceiving forms comes from the junction of form and the thing formed.”

 

 

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 3.21 from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

Like many modern day medical students, I’m guessing that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taught to “think horses, not zebras” – unless, of course, you are in a place where there are a lot of zebras. And, while it’s true that many kids dream of having the power of invisibility (for a variety of reasons), we don’t typically think of invisibility as a commonly occurring “power.” So what then, do we make of Patanjali’s assertion that one can make themselves invisible?

First, I think it is important to remember Yoga Sūtras 2:19 – 22. In particular, remember that we can only see what our mind shows us (YS 2.20) and that it is possible to “unsee” something, i.e., to no longer see something through the veil of illusion (YS 2.22). This is a reminder that for most of us – and for most of our lives – we are not seeing what is right in front of our noses, including other people.

Being “overlooked” has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve been stepped on, stepped in front of, and looked around all because “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you.” Maybe it’s because I’m short, maybe because I’m a woman, maybe because I’m Black. Who knows. All I know for sure is that it happens to a lot of other people too and… well, let’s just say there are hoof beats.

I used an example in class that my sister said should have come with a trigger warning. So, let me give another example (that may still need a warning, because it’s not pretty – so, feel free to “overlook” the paragraph between the next two quotes).

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

 

 

– Sherlock Holmes

 

Over a decade ago, while on a corporate lunch break in downtown Houston, my co-worker and I walked passed a homeless person leaning up against a department store. I am referring to this person as “homeless” because their clothes were dirty and they looked as if they had been sleeping up against the store. Also, they smelled really bad. My friend and I were walking and talking and had no direct interaction with this third person – other than that we passed downwind of them. When we crossed the street, my friend made a comment about how someone really needed to “clean out that port-a-potty.” But, as I pointed out to her, there was no port-a-potty, just a “homeless man.” We had passed this person going to lunch and coming back from lunch, but she had never seen them.

“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids, and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”

 

 

– quoted from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

 

As I’ve indicated over the last few blog posts and classes, we can look at a person’s life – including our own – through a lot of different lenses, including the lens of the physical-mental and subtle (energetic) body. When we focus-concentrate-meditate on someone’s body (and life), including our own, we start to see certain trends. First and foremost, is that our experiences build on top of one another. This is consistent with one of the underlying concepts within the Yoga Philosophy, as outline by Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras, that we view each experience through the mental impressions (samskaras) of previous experiences. Another thing we may notice is that, as it states at the beginning of The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, “Life is difficult.” However, the issue isn’t life… the issue is how we deal with our difficulties.

Born May 22, 1936 in New York City, M. Scott Peck was a psychiatrist, co-founder of Foundation for Community Encouragement, and the author of The Road Less Traveled, People of the Lie: Hope for Healing Human Evil, and The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. His parents, David Warner Peck (an attorney, judge, court reformer, and author) and Elizabeth (née Saville) were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) who raised their children as Protestant – even though Judge Peck’s mother was Jewish (technically making Judge Peck Jewish even though he didn’t identify as such). For a little over 2 years (from age 13 – 15), Dr. Peck attended boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy – but, much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he was miserable. When he refused to go back to school, his parents sent him to a psychiatrist who recommended that he either go back to school or spend a month in a psychiatric hospital. Ultimately, he transferred to Friends Seminary (in New York) and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and a Doctor or Medicine (MD) degree from Case Western Reserve University. He worked for the U. S. government and also served (as a psychiatrist) in the United States Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Dr. Peck based The Road Less Traveled (published in 1978) on his own personal efforts to overcome the challenges in his life and the efforts he observed in his clients. In the book, he used case studies and profiles to outline and explore four attributes people need in order to be fulfilled and healthy human beings: discipline, love, (a healthy understanding of) religion, and grace. Discipline – which he considered essential for emotional, spiritual, and psychological health – sounds very much like a combination of the yamas (external “restraints) and niyamas (“internal observations”), in that is requires delayed gratification, accepting responsibility for oneself and one’s actions, a dedication to truth, and “balancing” (which was how he described handling conflict through compromise).

The second and third sections of M. Scott Peck’s most well-known book are devoted to dispelling myths and misconceptions about love and religion. First and foremost, he explained that he did not mean “love” as romantic or sexual, nor did he consider it as an emotion or anything related to catharsis, dependency, and/or the idea of “falling in love.” Instead, he described love as an action – a very intentional and deliberate action connected to the spiritual growth of one’s self and those that one loves.  Similarly, his observations around religion were intended to dispel myths and misconceptions and also to explore the correlation between spiritual growth and mental health. To Dr. Peck, there was “no distinction between the mind and the spirit, and therefore no distinction between the process of achieving spiritual growth and achieving mental growth.”

“And so it is with spiritual growth as well as in professional life. For the call to grace is a promotion, a call to a position of higher responsibility and power. To be aware of grace, to personally experience its constant presence, to know one’s nearness to God, is to know and continually experience an inner tranquility [sic] and peace that few possess. On the other hand, this knowledge and awareness brings with it a responsibility. For to experience one’s closeness to God is also to experience the obligation to God, to be the agent of His power and love. The call to grace is a call to a life of effortful caring, to a life of service and whatever sacrifice seems required. It is a call out of spiritual childhood into adulthood, a call to be a parent unto mankind.”

 

 

– quoted from “IV: GRACE, Resistance to Grace” in The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, M. D.

All of these ideas coalesced into the final element: Grace. M. Scott Peck defined “grace” as a powerful force outside of human consciousness that nurtured human life and spiritual growth; was not understood by science (or scientific thinking); was commonplace among all humans; and originated outside of human will. He concluded that grace was the only explanation for the unconscious, serendipity, and incidents that could be described as miracles.

M. Scott Peck is recognized as one of the people responsible for the modern “self-help” industry and movement and, in particular, for combining modern psychiatry with ancient spirituality. In his subsequent books, including Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth, Dr. Peck built on his earlier themes and also outlined four stages of spiritual development in individuals and in communities (including the “chaos” stage). In People of the Lie, he specifically focused on further breaking down unhealthy/dysfunctional behavior that can be described as “evil.” In The Different Drum, he explored the building blocks of a true (healthy) community: inclusivity, commitment, and consensus. According to M. Scott Peck, having those three key ingredients, leads to (and results from) the following:

  • realism (seeing the big picture by getting multiple perspectives);
  • contemplation (everyone in the community is committed to self-reflection and self-examination);
  • a safe place for all (which cultivates vulnerability, healing, and expression);
  • “a laboratory for personal disarmament” (wherein people are able to develop peacemaking skills and compassion);
  • the wisdom and grace to resolve conflicts peacefully;
  • the opportunity for everyone to develop and utilize their leadership skills; and
  • a unifying spirit (of peace, love, wisdom, and power that may come from within the community and/or from a Higher Power).

 

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“You have a gift for great silence Watson. It makes you invaluable as a companion.”

 

 

– Sherlock Holmes

 

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.* It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

 

 

– quoted from “I: DISCIPLINE, Problems and Pain” in The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, M. D.

 

*Dr. Peck notes that he is essentially paraphrasing the first of the Four Noble Truths from Buddhism.

 

 

### LOVE & GRACE ###

 

If You Change Just One Thing About Your… (the music, w/UPDATED post links) May 23, 2021

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Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, May 23rd) at 2:30 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.

 

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

 

Click here for last year’s blog post on this date and a related 2021 practice. You can also check out the 2021 blog post for this date.)

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.)

 

 

### 🎶 ###

Take A Look at Yourself (just the music, UPDATED w/post link) May 22, 2021

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Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, May 15th) at 12:00 PM. 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.

 

Click here for the blog post related to this practice.

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.)

 

 

### 🎶 ###

Svādyāya III: Being In the Middle (the “missing” Wednesday post) May 21, 2021

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[This is the super-sized “missing” post related to Wednesday, May 19th. You can request an audio recording of Wednesday’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.]

“A good puzzle, it’s a fair thing. Nobody is lying. It’s very clear, and the problem depends just on you.”

 

– Ernö Rubik

 

How is life like a puzzle? Or not like a puzzle?

Ernö Rubik, the Hungarian architect and architect professor who invented the Rubik’s Cube today in 1974, didn’t set out to be an inventor – let alone the inventor of one of the most popular toys of the 80’s. His original intention was to build a three dimensional model he could use to help his architecture students develop spatial awareness and solve design problems. The only problem was that he wanted to be able to move the parts around without taking the model apart and putting it back together. One day, while walking on a cobblestone bridge in Budapest, he looked down and realized if the core of his model resembled the cobblestones he could twist and turn the pieces accordingly.

Physically speaking, we humans have parts that are similar to the core of the Rubik’s cube – and even the Rubik’s snake. But, if you go a little deeper, you will find that we are not only connected in a physical (body) way, we also mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual connections that bind us to our current time and place and also provide support as we move through our practice and through our lives.

Obviously, Western science has a physical and energetic mapping system. As do the traditional sciences like the systems that come from China, Africa, and India. For example, yoga and Ayurveda, as they come to us from India, provide an energetic mapping system through which we can view and process our lives and experiences. This mapping system consists of nadis (energy “channels” or “rivers”) which house our vitality/spirit; chakras (energy “wheels”), which are the intersecting points of the three major nadis; and marma (“secret” or “vulnerable”) points. The nadis and chakras are part of the subtle body. The marma points are pressure points where the subtle/energetic body meets the physical/tangible body – and are typically found where tendons, bones, muscles, joints, veins, nerves, and other tissues come together. They can be healing points (because they are places where vital energy should flow, but can become stagnant); however, they are also “kill” points – which is why they are called secret.

In our yoga practice, I often mention how seven chakras are energetically and symbolically connected to the body and to our lived experiences. For example, the 1st chakra is associated with our lower bodies (toes, feet, ankles, knees, legs, and pelvic floor) and energetically and symbolically connected to our first family, tribe, and community of birth. I will often point out, as well, that just as we can be genetically connected to people we have never met and will never meet, we can be energetically connected to people we have never met and will never meet. Notice that this area, physically and energetically, provides our foundational support in life.

According to this same paradigm, the 2nd chakra (hips and lowest portion of the abdominal cavity) is connected to the friends we make outside of our early support system (and, I believe, the friendships we choose to make as adults with people who may be in that first group). Take a moment to consider how where you start in life plays a part in how you “cultivate a good heart” (i.e., make friends) with people who are perceived as being different from you. (Or not.) Take a moment to consider that, even with the proliferation of internet access, geography (again, where we come from) also plays a part in who is able to make up our close circle of friends. (Remember, Linda Brown had a diverse group of friends in her neighborhood, but did not go to school with them and, therefore, had different experiences from them – differences that shaped the course of her life.)

The 3rd chakra (solar plexus or middle and upper abdominal cavity) is energetically connected to our ego, of self, personality, self esteem, and how we see ourselves in the world. This area is even, to a certain degree, connected to how we think others perceive us. Take a moment to consider how where you come from and the friends you make along the way play a part in how you see and understand yourself.

Notice, for a moment, how all of these areas are related to our physical stability and how each area of experience builds on the other areas our lives – just as our body stacks up on itself. This building process continues through the heart chakra (which is connected to our capacity to love and extend ourselves and our gifts to others); the throat chakra (connected to will and determination); the third eye or 6th chakra (connected to our sense of Truth); and the crown or 7th chakra (connected to our sense of this present moment).

Considering these connections, as I suggested in the first three examples, can be a form of svādyāya (“self-study”). However, to really go deep, we might consider the lived experiences of other people and our physical-mental responses to those lived experiences. Take, for instance, the lived experiences of Johns Hopkins, Malcolm X, and Lorraine Hansberry – all of whom were born on May 19th in different parts of the United States of America.

While we could view their lives through the “lens” of each chakra, I am really just focusing here on the first three – which are related to foundational support and connection/bonding. If you were practicing with me (or reading the blog) over the last month and half, you will have noticed references to the Tree of Life and to how in Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), seven of the 10 sefirot (“emanations” of the Divine) can be overlapped with parts of the body. One of those parts being the pelvic and abdominal regions, which is associated with yesod (“foundation” and “bonding”). Notice, that if you are sitting (especially if you are sitting on the floor), there is a direct overlap between the first through third chakras and the area associated with yesod.

“[JOSEPH] ASAGAI: Just sit awhile and think… Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”

 

 

– quoted from A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Johns Hopkins was born May 19, 1795, on his family’s 500-acre tobacco plantation (White’s Hall, named after the originally owner of the land) in what is now Gambrills, Maryland. The Samuel Hopkins and Hannah Janney Hopkins had eleven children and were part of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). They also owned slaves, but in theory the family freed their slaves in 1807 – when Johns Hopkins was 12 years old – in accordance with their Quaker beliefs. According to the often repeated stories, Johns (and his siblings) worked in the field with indentured and freed Blacks from the time he was 12, until he left home at 17.  

I hesitate to mention that last bit; first, because it may be more legend than truth. Second, because even if the stories are true, the Hopkins siblings and the Blacks had very different experiences. However, it’s a connection (a 3rd chakra connection) and it’s interesting to consider how the school-aged siblings – Johns, in particular, felt when they had to quit school in order to work in the fields. It would also be interesting to know what became of those indentured and freed Blacks (and their descendant)… but I don’t currently know that information.

What I do know, is that Johns left home at 17, went to work for a paternal uncle who owned a wholesale grocery, fell in love with his first cousin (who he couldn’t marry), and eventually started a business with a fellow Quaker, Benjamin P. Moore (not to be confused with the Irish immigrant who started the paint company with his brothers). When Moore left the business, Johns and three of his brothers started building their own wholesale empire.

Eventually, Johns Hopkins became wealthy enough to provide for his extended family; bail out the City of Baltimore and a railroad company when they ran into financial difficulties, and retire at 52. The millionaire entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist died childless and unmarried (as did his first cousin, Elizabeth). However, he left bequests to provide for his extended family (including Elizabeth, for whom he provided a home) and his longest serving servant (James Jones). He is also left bequests that founded a number of organizations including Johns Hopkins Hospital (which was instructed to admit “the indigent poor – “without regard to sex, age or color”) and Johns Hopkins University (the country’s first research university), as well as a nursing school, an academic press, and an orphanage for African-American children that became a training school before it was closed. Those bequests, which went into effect when Johns Hopkins died on Christmas Eve 1873 at the age of 78, totaled about $7 million (which would be the equivalent of approximately $147.5 million today).

Johns Hopkins and the institutions that he founded with his bequests have a complicated legacy. Again, there is the whole origin story – which would explain some of his future actions… but, then again, there’s evidence that the story isn’t completely true. He is remembered as an abolitionist (which would be in keeping with his Quaker roots), who supported President Abraham Lincoln (even when it caused him some grief with other businessmen); however, there is evidence that he personally owned slaves at least 3 years after his retirement. Then there’s the legacy of the institutions that bear(ed) his name, including Johns Hopkins Hospital – which is where Henrietta Lacks was able to be treated for cancer and where cells were taken from her cervix (2nd chakra) for research purposes (without her knowledge or consent).

“I am a man!”

 

 

– a declaration of humanity that dates back to the abolitionists movement and was used as a slogan during the South African anti-apartheid and American Civil Rights movements, as well as being a legal point during the Dred Scott and Chief Standing Bear cases in the United States

“P. S. 153, Harlem School Teacher [portrayed by Mary Alice]: May 19th we celebrate Malcolm X’s birthday, because he was a great, great Afro-American. And Malcolm X is you. All of you. And you are Malcolm X.

 

[Students in P. S. 153, Harlem classroom and Soweto classroom [portrayed by John David Washington, Aaron Blackshear, Nilyne Fields, Rudi Bascomb, Muhammad Parks, Chinere Parry, Ian Quiles, Sharmeek Martinez, Ashanti (uncredited), and 1 uncredited actor]: I am Malcolm X!

 

Soweto Teacher [portrayed by Nelson Mandela]: As brother Malcolm said, We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be given the rights of a human being, to be respected as a human being, in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intended to bring into existence…

Malcolm X: … by any means necessary.”

 

 

– quoted from the movie Malcolm X (or X) directed by Spike Lee, co-written by Spike Lee and Arnold Perl, based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley  

 

Born Malcolm Little on March 19, 1925, in Omaha, NE, Malcolm X was the fourth of seven children born to Earl Little (who had three children from a previous marriage) and Louise Helen Little (who was an immigrant from the West Indies). Malcolm’s parents were active members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), a Black nationalist fraternal organization founded by Pan-African Marcus Garvey. By the time he was 2 years old, the family had been uprooted twice (moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then Lansing, Michigan), because of threats from the Klu Klux Klan, in response to Earl Little’s speeches. Around the time he was 4, the family moved again after their home burned down under suspicious circumstances – circumstances that the Little patriarch directly connected to the Black Legion, a Midwestern offshoot of the KKK.

When Malcolm was 6, his father died in a streetcar incident that was officially declared an accident, that one insurance company called a suicide, and that the Little matriarch directly connected to the Black Legion. The family did benefit from a smaller life insurance policy; they received $18 a month for a little over four years. Strapped for cash, the family made ends meet by renting out a portion of their garden and hunting. By the time he was 12, Malcolm’s mother thought she would re-marry – only to have the man disappear after she became pregnant. She had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized when he was 13 years. The Little children were split up and sent into foster care.

“Education is an important element in the struggle for human rights. It is the means to help our children and our people rediscover their identity and thereby increase their self respect. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

 

 

– quoted from a speech at the Audubon Ballroom on June 28, 1964, marking the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), by Malcolm X

Malcolm X dropped out of school when a teacher told him he couldn’t be lawyer because of his race (only she used a racial slur when she said it) and he started working the odd jobs hustle. Eventually he moved to Roxbury (the African-American neighborhood which, centuries earlier, had been the starting place of William Dawes’s “Midnight Ride” for freedom) to live with one of his older half-sisters, Ella Little-Collins. But, he didn’t say long; eventually moving to Flint, Michigan and then to Harlem in New York City. It was in Harlem that people started calling him “Detroit Red” to distinguish him from the other redhead working at Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, “Chicago Red” (the aspiring comedian who became famous as Red Foxx).

And the hustle to survive and support himself (you know, 1st chakra stuff) continued – only by the time he reached Harlem (and his late teens / early twenties) the hustle had turned unquestionably illegal and violent. He celebrated his 21st birthday in prison and was transferred to a second prison by the time he was 23. It was in prison, where people initially called him “Satan,” that Malcolm X became associated with the Nation of Islam, publically spoke out against the Korean War – and in favor of communism – and got rid of the “white slavemaster name which… [had been] imposed upon my paternal forebearers.”

By the time he was 25 (and still in prison), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had started a file on him. After serving six of an eight-to-ten year sentence in prison, he was paroled and actively working (and recruiting) for the Nation of Islam. By the time he was 28, he was under surveillance by the FBI (which is, you know, 2nd chakra stuff). 

Malcolm was making a name for himself within the Nation of Islam (and within the halls of the FBI), but he didn’t make it onto the general public’s radar until 1957, when he intervened after four African-American men were arrested. Three of the men were Nation of Islam members who had tried to verbally stop New York police officers who were beating the fourth man, Reese V. Poe, who was not a member of the Nation. One of the Nation of Islam members, Johnson X Hinton, was severely beaten and incarcerated without medical treatment – until Malcolm intervened. The police were alarmed by the way in which he spoke up, coordinated Johnson’s medical treatment, arranged for all four men to be bailed out, and seemed to control the angry crowd of several thousand (when he got them to peacefully, and relatively silently, disperse with a simple hand single gesture).

[Side Note: Johnson X Hinton was “released” the next morning. He immediately required more medical attention. While he survived his injuries, he needed multiple brain surgeries and lived the rest of his life with a metal plate in his head. An all-white jury would eventually award him $70,000, which (at the time) was the largest NYPD payout for a brutality case.]

At 32, Malcolm was under surveillance by the FBI and the NYPD (who had started running background checks with the prisons and in the cities where he had live). When Malcolm objected to the fact that none of the police officers involved in the assault were indicted, the NYPD sent undercover agents to join the Nation of Islam. That extra layer of conflict was also reflected within the Nation – as Malcolm’s prominence increased so too did the in-fighting. By his late 30’s, he was pulling away from the Nation, turning towards Sunni Islam, and softening his stance on some of his more militant opinions (like the role of white people in the movement for equality).

With financial assistance from his half-sister (Ella), he completed the hajj (spiritual “pilgrimage” to Mecca) in 1964. He also travelled to various parts of Africa (several times), France, and the United Kingdom – giving speeches and interviews throughout his travels and in the United States. Whereas he had called himself Malcom Shabazz when he first joined the Nation of Islam and publically used Malcolm X, after his hajj went by the name El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. His wife, Betty X (née Sanders) also changed her last name Shabazz (and adopted a new first name after her hajj in 1965). Malcolm and Betty would have six daughters, including twins who were born about seven months after Malcolm was assassinated. His four oldest daughters witness his murder.

The assassination of Malcolm X, while the 39-year old was giving a speech in the Audubon Ballroom, came after a series of threats (some of which were recorded by the FBI) and an escalation in violence, including a fire that burned the Shabazz home down – just like his childhood home had been burned down. Only this time, the suspected culprits were Black nationalists instead of white nationalists. Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested and convicted for his murder – although the one who admitted his guilt proclaimed the other two innocent and the other two maintained their innocence. Tens of thousands of people attended the public viewing and funeral, which was also broadcasted into the street and on live television.

Unlike with his father’s suspicious death, people are still investigating conspiracy theories surrounding the suspicious death of Malcolm X – including why NYPD officers reportedly entered the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, after shots were fired, without a single gun drawn.

“Tonight, during the few moments that we have, we’re going to have a little chat, like brothers and sisters and friends, and probably enemies too, about the prospects for peace – or the prospects for freedom in 1965. As you notice I almost slipped and said peace. Actually, you can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. You can’t separate the two – and this is the thing that makes 1965 so explosive and dangerous.”

 

 

– quoted from the “Prospects for Freedom in 1965” speech at the Militant Labor Forum on January 7, 1965

In the case of Malcolm X, life replicated life. In the case Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 19, 1930, art imitated life. She was the youngest of four children born to Carl Augustus Hansberry (a successful real estate broker) and Nannie Louise (née Perry) Hansberry (a driving school teacher and member of the ward committee). The Hansberrys were supporters of the Urban League and the NAACP in Chicago, as well as active members of the Chicago Republican Party. Their home was frequently visited by prominent members of the African-American community, including known Civil Rights activists.

That home was the source of a lot of external (i.e., 2nd chakra) conflict as it was located in the Washington Park Subdivision on the South Side of Chicago, in what was originally an exclusively white neighborhood. There were restrictive covenants in place to enforce segregation, but occasionally a Black family could convince someone to sell them the house. Money talks and, not coincidentally, the first African-American to move into the neighborhood was a banker and realtor (Jesse Binga) whose wife (Eudora Johnson) inherited $200,000 from her notorious gambling kingpin brother (John “Mushmouth” Johnson). The Binga’s home was bombed at least five times – in what was an otherwise peaceful neighborhood.

The Great Depression caused a decrease in the number of white families who were financial able to purchase homes in the neighborhood, but there were relatively affluent Black families – like the Hansberrys – were in a better financial position and had the realtor knowledge to get around the covenants, which they did when Lorraine was 8 years old. The only problem was getting around the covenants didn’t get around racist and hostile neighbors. In addition to the physical, in-person, hostilities, some of the neighbors tried to take legal action to prevent the family from moving in. The family persisted. Eventually, the elder Hansberry sued the neighbors under the premise that the restrictive covenants (and the neighbors’ behavior) violated the 14th Amendment rights of born and naturalized Black citizens of the United States.

The case was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court (1940) in favor of Carl Hansberry. It would become the inspiration for Lorraine’s award-winning Broadway play, A Raisin in the Sun. The play made a 29-year old Lorraine the youngest playwright, the first Black playwright, and the fifth woman to win a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. It would be almost twenty years before another play by a Black woman to be performed on Broadway and, unless I am missing something, it would be 22 years before another Black playwright (South African Athol Fugard) won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

“Thus, twenty-five years ago, [my father] spent a small personal fortune, his considerable talents, and many years of his life fighting, in association with NAACP attorneys, Chicago’s ‘restrictive covenants’ in one of this nation’s ugliest ghettos. That fight also required our family to occupy disputed property in a hellishly hostile ‘white neighborhood’ in which literally howling mobs surrounded our house. One of their missiles almost took the life of the then eight-year old signer of this letter. My memories of this ‘correct’ way of fighting white supremacy in America include being spat at, cursed and pummeled in the daily trek to and from school. And I also remember my desperate and courageous mother, patrolling our household all night with a loaded German Luger [pistol], doggedly guarding her four children, while my father fought the respectable part of the battle in the Washington court.”

 

 

– quoted from To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words by Lorraine Hansberry (adapted by Robert Nimroff, with an introduction by James Baldwin)  

Unlike Johns and Malcolm, Lorraine was college educated. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she became active in the Communist Party (much to the chagrin of her mother – her father had died of a cerebral hemorrhage when she was 15) and desegregated a dormitory. After graduating from college, she moved to New York and started writing for the Black  (and Pan-African) newspaper Freedom, under the tutelage of people who had frequented her childhood home, like W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes (whose poem “Harlem” provided the inspiration for the title of her award winning play). Her work at Freedom not only inspired her to write plays and poems, it also gave her exposure and opportunity.

Some of that exposure and opportunity resulted in an FBI security file being started when she was 22. A year later, she was put under surveillance because she started making plans to attend a 1953 peace conference in Montevideo. Three years later her “Italian” haircut was suspicious and a year before the Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered New York’s Special Agent in charge to “[p]romptly conduct [a] necessary investigation in an effort to establish whether the play…is in any way controlled or influenced by the Communist Party and whether it in any way follows the Communist line” and a Philadelphia Special Agent (who was an “expert” in such things) was ordered to actually attend a touring (pre-Broadway) performance and write a report. Like the majority the white audience with whom they watched the Walnut Street Theatre performance, the special agent missed a lot of the nuance and Pan-African messages picked up by the New York audiences (not to mention modern audiences).

Still, when all was said and done, no less than five – count them, 5!!!!! – FBI offices were engaged in investigations and surveillance of a not yet 30-year old playwright. And for all that power and energy, they seemed to have missed more than just the Pan-African messages in Lorraine’s critically acclaimed play.

“What happens to a dream deferred?

 

      Does it dry up

      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—”

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes

 

Lorraine was briefly married to Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish theatre producer, songwriter, book editor, publisher, and activist. They spent their wedding night protesting the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (who were accused of being spies for the Soviet Union) and she would often credit him as being one of her creative muses. Even after their divorce (and his second marriage), they maintained a professional relationship and he became her literary executor after her death of pancreatic cancer (3rd chakra) at the age of 34.

In addition to producing a variety of incarnations of A Raisin in the Sun (and some of her other finished works), Nemiroff compiled some of Lorraine’s writings into the autobiographical play To Be Young, Gifted, and Black and the book of (essentially) the same name. In 1964, he donated her personal and professional papers to the New York Public Library – but restricted access to all journals, letters, essays, and articles related to the fact that she was a (once closeted) lesbian who supported LGBTQIA+ civil rights. (Ironically, even though Lorraine lived the last few years of her life out, to some, she may not have been out to the FBI.) Over a decade after Nemiroff’s death, his daughter (Joi Gresham, from his second marriage) lifted the restrictions so that they could be included in research about Lorraine’s life and legacy.

That legacy not only included a commitment to encouraging young writers and supporting the civil rights of Blacks and LGBTQIA+ Americans, but also the basic human rights of all people in the world. She was a fan of the work of Simone de Beauvoir; believed that women who were “twice oppressed” needed to be “twice militant;” and publicly condemned the United States’ bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be—if there is to be a world. Write about all the things that men have written about since the beginning of writing and talking—but write to a point. Work hard at it, care about it. Write about our people: tell their story. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. Use it. Good luck to you. The Nation needs your gifts.” 

 

 

– quoted from the speech “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” by Lorraine Hansberry (given to Readers Digest / United Negro College Fund creative writing contest winners, New York City, May 1, 1964)

At the beginning of the practice (and this blog post), I asked you how your life was like (or not like a puzzle) – which takes us back the cube* and its inventor. Ernö Rubik once said, “If you are curious, you’ll find the puzzles around you. If you are determined, you will solve them.”

All three of the people profiled above shared a problem, a problem we also share: How do we find create a society that lives up to its legendary origin story? We each have our experiences – which result in certain perspectives – and we each have certain gifts, which we can share with the world. To share our gifts, however, we sometimes have to understand what shapes our perspectives – and what shapes the perspectives of the people around us. To understand what shapes us, we have to go deeper into the core and how we’re all connected.*

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

Here’s a video giving a more contemporary view of banking, housing, and the importance of telling our stories (even, or especially, when they highlight inequity around class as well as race and gender). This video is one of two I’ve added to the “A Place to Start May 29, 2020” playlist.

 

 

“HOEDERER: …. I wasn’t the one who invented lying. It grew out of a society divided into classes, and each one of us has inherited it from birth. We shall not abolish lying by refusing to tell lies, but by using all means at hand to abolish classes.  

 

HUGO: All means are not good.

 

HOEDERER: All means are good when they are effective.”

 

 

– quoted from Act 5 of the play Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands) by Jean-Paul Sarte, premiered in Paris on April 2, 1948 (by 1963, the American English translation of “Ce n´est pas en refusant de mentir que nous abolirons le mensonge : c´est en usant de tous les moyens pour supprimer les classes.” had become a mirror of Frantz Fanon’s 1960 declaration to end colonialism)

 

Errata: In going back through my notes, I realized that I made several mistakes during the Zoom classes. Those are corrected above, including any misstatement about Johns Hopkins birth year and any misquoting of my yoga-buddy and fellow teacher Sandra Razieli.

 

*NOTE: Using the cube as an underlying metaphor for race and gender relations in the United States is a bit problematic, I know. And, before anybody suggests taking all the stickers off – so color doesn’t matter – let me just say, “Nope.” The metaphor doesn’t need to be perfect; especially when you consider that the critical element here is how things are working on the inside.

### Be grounded, connected, and present ###