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Doing the Work (the “missing” Sunday post) May 17, 2021

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This is the post Sunday, May 16th. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support 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.

“‘Bhikkhus, I could tell you in many ways about the animal kingdom, so much so that it is hard to find a simile for the suffering in the animal kingdom. Suppose a man threw into the sea a yoke with one hole in it, and the east wind carried it to the west, and the west wind carried it to the east, and the north wind carried it to the south, and the south wind carried it to the north. Suppose there were a blind turtle that came up once at the end of each century. What do you think, bhikkhus [monks]? Would that blind turtle put his neck into that yoke with one hole in it?’

Bhikkhus: ‘He might, venerable sir, sometime or other at the end of a long period.’

 

‘Bhikkhus, the blind turtle would take less time to put his neck into that yoke with a single hole in it than a fool, once gone to perdition, would take to regain the human state, I say. Why is that? Because there is no practicing of the Dhamma there, no practicing of what is righteous, no doing of what is wholesome, no performance of merit. There mutual devouring prevails, and the slaughter of the weak.’”

 

– quoted from “The Animal Kingdom” in Majjhima Nikāya 129, Balapandita Sutta: Fools and Wise Men

Don’t ask me why, because I can give you a hundred reasons, but I always seem to “mis-remember” a certain Buddhist story. I mix up the details of the story – I have heard that other teachers (greater teachers than me) do the same. In my case, the blind turtle becomes a dolphin who likes to play; another teacher makes the piece of driftwood a golden ring, heavy enough to sink down to the bottom of the sea (only to get churned back up again). Additionally, I have heard others say that the convergence of the ring and the sea creature happens every hundred years, every thousand years, every five billion years, or a kalpa (based on Hindu and/or some Buddhist texts). But, be all that as it may, the purpose of the story doesn’t change: it highlights the odds of being born (or reborn) into a human existence and the preciousness of human life. And, just as the purpose of the story doesn’t change, neither does the driving compulsion to tell the story – even when one mixes up the details.

While we are on the subject of details, take a moment to consider the details of your life. Consider your unique experiences, thoughts, words, deeds, and relationships. Back in 2016, Dr. B. B. Cael, who was then a graduate student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), calculated that the probability of a blind sea turtle randomly rising up so that it’s head poked through a hole in a piece of drift wood was 7.2 x 10^-16 and the probability of a human being (who is going to be reincarnated) coming back as another human was 6.5 x 10^-16. Now, all of that is just random – without any consideration to specific details like in which body of water the creature rise or what month or what year. Imagine if you will, the probability of you… or me…or anyone we know actually existing as we do. It is miraculous and magnificent!

When I consider how magnificent and miraculous it all is, it reinforces my belief that we are all here for a purpose: a divine purpose. Or, at the very least, that our lives should have a purpose; that we should live a purpose-driven life.

“Find your struggle, learn your lesson, and then know your purpose.”

 

– a “Monaism” (saying by Mona Miller, as quoted by Seane Corn)

 

Mona Miller was the teacher of one of my teachers, Seane Corn. Like me, like Seane, like pretty much every teacher who regularly guides a  group of people, Mona had things she was known for saying. Her students called those sayings, Monaisms, and the one above reminds me of Marcus Aurelius’ stoic belief that the obstacle is the way. It is also a perfect recipe for being driven and staying driven. After all, we all have struggles, strife, challenges, discomfort, suffering, and disease – and we all want (and deserve) relief from that which ails us. If we take a moment, just a moment, to reflect on what ails us we start to realize four very salient facts:

  1. We are not the only person suffering.
  2. Someone else has, is, and will suffer as we are suffering.
  3. How we deal with our suffering can alleviate suffering or cause more suffering (in ourselves and others).
  4. How we deal with our suffering can inspire others as they deal with their suffering.

If we lay these facts over the Buddha’s “Four Noble Truths” and some of Patanjali’s aphorisms on afflicted/dysfunctional thought-patterns and the nature of suffering, we find that even our smallest goals and desires – the things we think are the most personal to us and our circumstances, in fact, directly and indirectly affect others and their suffering. Everything, as Patanjali points out in Yoga Sūtra 2.18, can bring fulfillment and freedom (from suffering).

 “Sanklapa goes beyond just intention. Sankalpa truly cares for the impact.”

 

Embrace Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Practice by Susanna Barkataki

 

Our ritual of setting an intention and “dedicating” our practice is similar to the Buddhist tradition of “dedicating of the merit” and is rooted in the fifth niyama (“internal observation”), Īśvarapraņidhāna, which is offering our efforts back to the source. The underlying idea in these practices is the very definition of karma yoga as outlined in The Bhagavad Gita (2.31 – 2.51): that we should do our best and work without desire, because the work we do is our “personal duty in life (one’s sva-dharma).”

On Saturday, we go a little deeper by practicing with a sankalpa. The Sanskrit word can be translated into English as “will,” “determination,” and “(the highest) vow.” However, as Susanna Barkataki points out, there is no English word that encompasses the complete and true meaning. Part of the problem with the English translations is that we don’t have one word for something that simultaneously compels us, fuels us, and motivates us. We don’t have an English word for something that consciously embed so deeply into our fiber that it unconsciously starts determining how we live, think, speak, and act. Even “purpose” has to be “driven.”

Of course, these practices require a certain level of trust, a certain level of faith, or – at the very least – a certain level of hopeful desire that what benefits us will also benefit others. One way I frame this is to think of each of us is being like every hero in every culture’s hero’s journey. Accordingly, our work in the world will result in a boon that benefits the world. This is true whether we look at our life (and life purpose) through the lens of our occupation, vocation, and/or avocation. This is true whether we have all the advantages or all the disadvantages. This is true whether people expect us to succeed or whether we are viewed as the underdog. Either way, how we show up in the world matters, because we matter.

 

“That grain of salt
You talk about
Gets bigger and bigger each day
It’s making a pearl
Inside my heart
With layer and layers of tears
I’d give you this pearl
To save our hearts”

 

– quoted from the song “Grain of Salt” by John Doe

 

I have a lot of favorite metaphors about how we can deal with hardship and challenges. One of my favorites is what happens when an oyster, clam, or other shelled mollusks gets a bit of salt, sand, or debris inside of its shell. Since the mollusk doesn’t have fingers and opposable thumbs it can use to root around and remove the irritating object, it begins to lave the object with its natural secretion. Over and over again, the shell creature coats the object until it is smooth (and iridescent) and no longer irritating. The end result is something we humans often find valuable.

Of course, I’m going to discourage anyone from getting an actual pearl to remind them of this metaphor, because it is (in a practical sense) an imperfect metaphor. While the mollusk finds a non-violent way to end its suffering, the harvesting of the pearl (especially in a commercial sense) usually requires killing the shelled creature. In the case of cultured pearls, someone intentionally places the irritating object in the shell (hence causing suffering) and then kills the mollusk or, if it can be “irritated” again, places it back in the water to go through more suffering. Hence why, when I use the metaphor, I focus more on what the mollusk has to teach us than what we teach ourselves.

It is, however, important to remember that we are teaching ourselves. In other words, we are teaching each other. The way we think, speak, act, and live our lives is a lesson to others – and especially to the children around us. I know there are a lot of celebrities who consistently proclaim that they are not role models. Yet, each of us is a living example; each of us is modeling behavior – and the children around us are watching and learning. They are learning from their parents, grandparents, their teachers, their coaches, their neighbors, their world leaders, and the siblings of all of the above. They are also learning from each other. And what is more important than the words someone tells them is the lived example that they observe.

“Pighla de zanjeerein
[Melt the shackles]

Bana unki shamsheerein
[and make swords out of them]

Kar har maidaan fateh o bandeya
[Win every battlefield, overcome all your limitations/restrictions”]

 

– quoted from the song “Kar Har Maidaan Fateh” by Shreya Ghoshal and Sukhwinder Singh

The 2018 film Sanju is based on the real life story of a Bollywood actor, Sanjay Dutt (portrayed by Ranbir Kapoor). Called “Sanju” by his mother, the actor experienced a series of personal crises intertwined with political crises and a downward spiral that resulted in him dealing with his losses, challenges, and conflicts in the some of the most dysfunctional/afflicted ways possible. He turned to drugs and alcohol, and became addicted – which, of course, led to more suffering. In a song that is featured in the movie, and in the associated video, Manisha Koirala appears as a vision of Nargis, Sanju’s mother, encouraging him to live a better life.

In keeping with the language found in many sacred texts from Asia, the song, “Kar Har Maidaan Fateh” refers to one’s struggles, challenges, and suffering as “shackles” or “chains.” The song instructs one to turn the very things that could defeat us into something that can help us overcome our struggles and win our personal battles. It speaks of the power of determination so strong that it overcomes bad luck; climbing onto “clouds of adversity” and grabbing “the collar of the difficult tough times – all in order to become special and “separate from the ordinary crowd.” The song specifically refers to “swords” (and even what can be accomplished with a “broken sword”), but consider other tools that one can use to overcome adversity.

Remember, Edward Bulwer-Lytton said,The pen is mightier than the sword.” Remember the power of a sharp mind and what happens when you make your mind up to do something. Remember, too, that once a lesson is learned it continues to serve.

“If all the world is a classroom and every day of life is a lesson, then certainly your profession and workplace are included.

 

After all, He has unlimited ways to provide your livelihood, but He chose to direct you to this way of life.

What sparks of divine wisdom await you here?”

 

– quoted from Hayom Yom*, 9 Iyar

 

(*lit. “From Day to Day”); an anthology of aphorisms and customs, arranged according to the days of the year, assembled from the talks and letters of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (1880-1950), sixth Lubavitch Rebbe; compiled by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, seventh Lubavitch Rebbe. “Iyar” is the eighth month of the civil year and the second month of the Jewish religious year, based on the Hebrew calendar.

 

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia, y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.”

[“I am I and my circumstance, and if I don’t save it I don’t save myself.”]

 

 

— quoted from Meditaciones del Quijote [Don Quixote Mediations] by José Ortega y Gasset

 

Thank you to everyone who supported the 8th annual Kiss My Asana yogathon. Mind Body Solutions made their goal (Woohooo!!!) and, as always, I am grateful for everyone that did yoga, shared yoga, and helped others.

“Dikhla de zinda hai tu
[Show to everyone that you are still alive]

Baaqi hai tujhme hausla
[and there is courage left in you…]”

 

“Tooti shamsheerein toh kya
[So what if your sword is broken]

Tooti shamsheeron se hee
[Even with this broken sword]

Kar har maidan fateh
[Win all the battlefields…]”

 

“Teri koshishein hee kaamyaab hongi
[your attempts, efforts will be successful]

Jab teri ye zidd aag hogi
[when your insistence, attempts would turn into a burning desire]

Phoonk de na-umeediyan, na-umeediyan
[Burn down all the hopeless, negativeness…]”

 

– quoted from the song “Kar Har Maidaan Fateh” by Shreya Ghoshal and Sukhwinder Singh (with English translations)

 

Victory in every situation

### ¡Jai Jai Guru Dev! Victory to the Big Mind! ###

 

 

 

[Not] Clowning Around (the “missing Saturday post) May 17, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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This is the “missing” post for Saturday, May 15th. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support 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.

 

“Curiously, many effects that science cannot explain are generally not regarded as paranormal. In psychology, for example, there are some remarkable but completely unexplained phenomena such as photographic memory (the ability to remember images in perfect detail), lightning calculation in autistic savants (the ability to perform mental arithmetic with astonishing speed and accuracy), extraordinary musical aptitude in prodigies who seem to spring from the womb ready for Carnegie Hall, and so on.

 

Perhaps the most widely accepted, yet totally baffling, phenomenon is conscious awareness itself….”

 

– quoted from “1 – What is Psi?” in The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Pyschic Phenomena by Dean Radin, PhD

 

“This may seem odd, but that is not my fault.”

 

– quoted from “25 – Nietzsche” in (Book 3, Modern Philosophy) of History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (3rd Earl Russell, OM FRS) 

It’s always a little weird, even awkward when it happens. It’s also a little cool. Someone, a teacher – a yoga teacher perhaps – takes one look at you and seems to know exactly what you need physically, mentally, even emotionally, energetically, and spiritually. The weird (and awkward part) is when they say something that sounds like they’ve been eavesdropping on your life, reading your mind, and/or following you around to see all the things you do. Or don’t do. It can be weird, awkward; even cool sometimes. And while it may seem mystical, magical – even supernatural – it’s not. It’s not mind reading (as Patanjali is quick to point out) and neither is it clandestine. It’s just supernormal.

If they know what they’re seeing (and hearing), a teacher, a physical therapist, a massage therapist, a doctor, even a coach can look at your posture and gain some insight into you and even your life. I have seen a teacher look at someone in table top and accurately state activities (like gymnastics) that they did as a child. I have seen a teacher observe someone in Downward Facing Dog and accurately describe their mental and emotional state and past experiences that resulted in that mental and emotional state. Almost any of us, if we are really paying attention, can know something is a little off when we watch someone we know fairly well walk into a room. We may also be able to tell when something is really working for them, when they are feeling particularly playful and fearless – even on Zoom.

Sometimes, when I meet a new person “on the mat,” I can pick up information that indicates the kind of yoga they are use to practicing. After all, different traditions have different ways of doing things and when we practice something, we get into certain habits. So, if I you are relatively healthy (i.e., not nursing in injuries or major discomfort) and you go into what I would call Parasvokanasana/ Extended Side Angle” when I say “Trikonasana/Triangle” and that information points to a very specific type of yoga. If you go into what I call “Anjaneyasana/Crescent or Anointed Warrior” when I say “Virabhadrasana 1 / Warrior 1” that gives me a little information into your practice. If I say “Anjaneyasana” and you immediately go into a kneeling position that gives me even more information.

Again, that’s all well and good when there is nothing holding you back. If, however, I notice you not kneeling during a kneeling pose, I might look to see if I can detect a brace under your pants leg or if you are favoring one leg over the other in other poses. If I see you doing prenatal modifications when you have not previously indicated that you’re pregnant, I might check in with you on the down-low (especially if you’re new to yoga and there’s a possibility you’re just mimicking the pregnant person across the studio from you). Once, I was really thrown off by a new student who seemed to know all the poses and how to get into them, but seemed to lack something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. When we talked after the practice, I learned that prior to our meeting, he had only ever practiced with books – so he was lacking knowledge about much of the internal engagement needed to support the poses. By asking the right questions, we both gained knowledge.

Yoga Sūtra 3.19: pratyayasya para-citta-jñāñam

 

– “By making samyama on the distinguishing marks of another’s body, one can obtain knowledge of the nature of their mind.”  

 

 

Yoga Sutra 3.20: na ca tat sālambanam, tasyāvişayībhūtatvāt

 

– “But not the contents of [their] mind, because that is not the object of the samyama.”

Remembering that biography is in our biology – or, as my dharma-friend Stacy says, “Our issues are in our tissues – notice that the above examples are all instances of someone using information they have and applying it to things they are observing. These are essentially examples of putting some of the siddhis (“powers”) unique to being human into action and also harnessing the power of samyama – that applied combination of focus, concentration, and mediation on the body of another person.

There are, obviously, really unwholesome situations in the world where people are profiling other people and, in doing so, applying preconceived notions to what they are observing in a way that creates harm. There are also equally unwholesome examples of people “cold reading” someone in order to manipulate them (also creating harm). Neither of these types of situations is the purpose of this week’s sūtras. In fact, to use samyama in such a way would be contradictory to the practice of yoga.

The commentary is very clear in pointing out that the purpose of this concentrated awareness on another person’s physique and mannerisms really has nothing to do with the other person. Rather it has to do with the observers practice and refers back to Patanjali’s instruction (in Yoga Sūtra 1.33) on cultivating a clear mind by “embracing an attitude of friendliness to those who are happy, compassion to those who are miserable/suffering, happiness to those who are virtuous, and non-judgement to those who are not virtuous.”

But how, you might ask, do you act around someone with a rainbow afro or a cowboy hat, a red nose, a tie-dye shirt, overalls, and a “Nobody for President” button? Well, a person like that must be embraced with conscious “phun.”

“Are you wavy gravy?”

 

– B. B. King to a “random” person lying on the stage before his set-up (at the Texas International Pop Festival, 09/01/1969)  

 

“Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

 

– Wavy Gravy

Born Hugh Nanton Romney on May 15, 1936, the official clown of the Grateful Dead is not related to the political Romney family. However, as an activist for peace and a hippie (not to mention a self-proclaimed “flower geezer”) he has had a hand in politics and even organized a presidential campaign.

Romney and his wife, Jahanara “Jah” Romney, co-founded Hog Farm, America’s longest running hippie commune, in the 1960’s. They first made it onto the world’s radar when volunteers from Hog Farm provided security for the 1st Woodstock Rock Festival (August 15 – 18, 1969). The Hog Farm volunteers called themselves the “Please Force” – as in, “Please don’t do that, please do this instead.” While providing similar service at the Texas International Pop Festival (09/01/1969), Romney met B. B. King,* who gave him the name “Wavy Gravy.”

Wavy Gravy, co-founded the Phurst Church of Phun, a secret society of comics and clowns dedicated to ending the Vietnam War, because he thought activists dressed as clowns would be less likely to be arrested. In 1980, he ran a “Nobody for President” campaign that included a November 4th rally across from the White House. The campaign “staff” of Yippies (from the Youth International Party) and anarchists mostly promoted the “none of the above” option on the ballot. However, the campaign was known for slogans like “Nobody’s Perfect;” “Nobody Keeps All Promises;” “Nobody Should Have That Much Power;”and “Who’s in Washington right now working to make the world a safer place? Nobody!” He also proclaimed that “Nobody makes apple pie better than Mom. And Nobody will love you when you’re down and out.”

“If you don’t change, you’re dead, so I try to keep changing.”

 

– Wavy Gravy

Wavy Gravy also founded Camp Winnarainbow (in 1975), which is a “socially minded, justice focused organization” dedicated to “[doing] something good for a change.” Part of the Hog Farm community, Camp Winnarainbow offers Day Camps; 3-year Teen Leadership Programs (for ages 15, 16, and 17); Residential Camps (for ages 7 – 14); and scholarships (some of which used to be funded by proceeds of Ben and Jerry’s “Wavy Gravy” ice cream). While they did have to cancel some programming last year (for the first time in 45 years), Camp Winnarainbow was able to move some programs online and safely continue some of their outdoor programming. The programs are committed to “Big Fun” as well as equity, inclusion, and interdependence – not only in theory, but also in practice. Some of the graduates of the Teen Leadership Programs are preparing to take on leadership roles at for future camps and programming.

In 1978, Wavy Gravy and Jahanara Romney joined Dr. Larry Brilliant, Girija Brilliant, Dr. Nicole Grasset, Ram Dass, and Dr. G. Venkataswamy in co-founding the Seva Foundation. The Brilliants’ had successfully helped eradicate smallpox and were looking for a new initiative. Knowing that over a billion people live with unaddressed vision impairments; that hundreds of millions of underserved people need ongoing eye care; and that 90% of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured, the Seva Foundation grew out of the belief that restoring sight is one of the most effective ways to relieve suffering and reduce poverty. The global non-profit eye organization works with local communities around the world to train local eye-care providers and develop self-sustaining programs that preserve and restore sight.

The Seve Foundation’s name comes from the Indian concept of “self-less service.” The organization provides critical eye care to underserved communities (especially women, children, and indigenous populations) and has provided surgeries, eyeglasses, medicine, and other eye care services to over 44 million people in over 20 countries – including Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sub-Sahara Africa, and the United States.

Annual benefits for Camp Winnarainbow and the Seva Foundation include some of the same musicians that appeared at the Woodstock Festivals: the Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, Elvis Costello, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Sly and the Family Stone – and, of course, the Woodstock Festivals Master of Ceremonies, Wavy Gravy.  

“We are all the same person trying to shake hands with our self.”

 

– Wavy Gravy

 

Saturday’s playlist is on YouTube and Spotify.

*NOTE: B. B. King passed away May 14, 2015. Rest in power, king!

 

Errata: If you were on Zoom on Saturday and/or practice with the recording, you will note that I made some naming errors. Some of which I have corrected above. Unfortunately, it occurred to me, a little too late, that I don’t know the whole history behind Jordan Romney distancing himself from his birth name and could have been more diligent about my research before dropping that “fun fact” in the practice. My apologies; I meant no disrespect.

 

### “DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO GRIN” ~ Wavy Gravy (giving you a preview of Sunday’s practice) ###