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

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Donate, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Volunteer, Wisdom, Yoga.
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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 any injuries or major discomfort) and you go into what I would call Parasvokanasana/ Extended Side Angle” when I say “Trikonasana/Triangle,” 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 also 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” – and 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, Dr. 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) ###


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