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Laissez les bons temps rouler! February 21, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Abhyasa, Art, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Lent, Life, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
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It’s Mardi Gras, y’all! It’s also Shrove Tuesday and the last week of Shrovetide, for those who are feeling more prayerful!! Peace and ease to all during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is an abridged, expanded, and updated version of a 2021 post.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

– Louisiana French for “Let the good times roll!”

Today has many names, but for a lot of people it is Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” the end of the Carnival season and the day before the Lenten season in Western Christian traditions. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday or (especially in the UK) Pancake Tuesday. It is a moveable feast day of indulgence, when people treat themselves to anything and everything – but especially the things they are planning to give up during Lent.

“Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” meaning “to absolve” and for Christians who are focused on “shriving,” today is a day of self-examination, repentance, and amendments as a way to prepare for the Lent. While people observing Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day may indulge in “fatty foods,” they often do so with an eye on symbolism. Different countries and cultures have different traditional recipes, but the recipes generally include what can be considered symbols of the four pillars of Christianity: eggs for creation; flour as the staff of life or mainstay of the human diet; salt for wholesomeness; and milk for purity. Some churches will make a point of ringing the bells on this day to “call the faithful to confession” – and to remind people to begin frying up the pancakes.

Carnival season begins with Three Kings’ Day (also known as Twelfth Night or Epiphany in some traditions) and ends with the biggest celebrations of the season, Mardi Gras (not to mention Lundi Gras)! In much of the Americas, Carnival and Mardi Gras are traditionally celebrated with parades, beads, masks and costumes, and parties from sunrise to sunset. Of course, Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the largest and most well known Carnival celebration – while New Orleans is practically synonymous with Mardi Gras. However, in the mid-80’s, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Australia started drawing large numbers of celebrants from around the world.

In New Orleans, it is customary to celebrate with a King Cake, featuring a little plastic baby figurine. The person who finds the baby is promised health and wealth – and is often expected to provide the following year’s King Cake. While many people toss or “request” beads during the parades, very few people remember that there was a time when the beads were made of glass and the bead colors had special meanings: purple for justice; gold for power; and green for faith.

“… don’t tell no lie! Cause we gonna have fun, y’all, on Mardi Gras! … I’m not gonna tell no lie. We not gonna let Katrina, y’all, turn us ‘round.”

– Theodore “Bo” Dollis, “Big Chief” of The Wild Magnolias opening the song “Brother John Is Gone / Herc-Jolly-John” on Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album

Carnival and Mardi Gras have outlasted gangs, political coups, police strikes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In 2021, while much of New Orleans was shut down, the good times still rolled on – just not in a way that would turn Mardi Gras into a super spreader. Remember, as glutinous as the tradition may appear on the outside, its roots are deeply embedded in something more than the desires of the flesh. Thus, just as has been the case with so many other cultural traditions and religious rituals, the pandemic forced people to figure out how to honor the traditions while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

One New Orleans business owner decided to follow the normal parade route – but in his car and in the early, early morning. Of course, he was blasting New Orleans jazz all the way! Many others tweeted and created virtual events. Then there were the thousands of people who decorated their homes and businesses in the same way they would have decorated their krewe’s floats: They called it “Yardi Gras!”

In some ways, the creativity and ingenuity to work around challenging conditions while still holding on to what one values is very much part of the human spirit – and very much indicative of the spirit of New Orleans. It is is also a reflection of the seasons themselves: Shrovetide, Carnival, the “Fat” celebrations, and Lent are all about the dichotomy between what feeds the body and what feeds the soul. Of course, all this focus on wealth, indulgences, and vices, makes me think about the things we like and the things we don’t like – and how those preferences contribute to our overall experiences of life.

Yoga Sūtra 2.7: sukhānuśayī rāgah

– “Affliction that has pleasure as its resting ground is attachment.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.8: duhkhānuśayī dveşah

– “Affliction that has pain as its resting ground is aversion.”

Very early on in our human lives, people start to establish preferences. There are things (and people) we like and things (and people) we don’t like – and we will spend an extraordinary amount of time creating situations and environments full of the things (and people) we like and free of the things (and people) we don’t like. When things are not to our liking we experience suffering that we often attribute to things not being the way we want them. However, according to Eastern philosophies, believing things (or people) can make us happy or miserable is ignorant. Specifically, in the Yoga Philosophy, this is avidyā (“ignorance”) related to the true nature of things, which is a dysfunctional or afflicted thought patterns. Avidyā is seen as the bedrock of four other types of dysfunctional/afflicted thought patterns – two or which are rāga (“attachment” or what we like) and devşa (“aversion” or what we don’t like) and it is these afflictions (kleśāh) which lead to our suffering.

To experience freedom from craving and liberation from avidyā, and the subsequent suffering, Patanjali’s recommendations include abhyāsa (a devoted and uninterrupted “practice” done with trustful surrender and devotion) and vairāgya (“non-attachment”). What is always interesting to me is that when you combine abhyāsa and vairāgya with the niyamās (“internal observations”) – especially the last three, which form kriyā yoga – you end up with a practice that can looks very much like Lent. Even though it may look odd on the outside, celebrations like Carnival and Mardi Gras / Pancake Tuesday are just as valid as preparation for the observation of Lent as Shrovetide. They can all be ways in which people demonstrate (and get ready to demonstrate) their faith.

“The power of faith is transformative. It can be utilized in your own personal life to change your individual condition, and it can be used as a lifeline of spiritual strength to change a nation. Each and every one of us is imbued with a divine spark of the Creator. That spark links us to the greatest source of power in the universe. It also unites us with one another and the infinity of the Creation. If we stand on this knowledge, even if it is in direct conflict with the greatest forces of injustice around us, a host of divine help, both seen and unseen, will come to our aid. This does not mean you will not face adversity. You can be arrested, jailed, and beaten on this quest, and sometimes you must be prepared to lose all you have, even your life. But if you do not waver, your sacrifice even in death has the power to redeem a community, a people, and a nation from the untruths of separation and division and from the lies of inferiority and superiority. Once you realize your own true divinity, no one can imprison you, reject you, abuse you, or degrade you, and any attempt to do so will only be an aid to your own liberation.

You will discover that no government, no teacher, no abusive parent or spouse, not even torture or terror has the power to define you. Once you find within you the true ability to define yourself according to the dictates of your conscience and your faith, you will have come a long way down to the path that can lead to social transformation. Faith will be the lifeblood of all your activism, and it has the power to make a way out of no way. You may be in your darkest hour, it may be darker than ten thousand nights on your path to lasting change, but there is something in you that keeps you moving, feeling your way through the night until you can see a glimmer of light. That is the power of faith.

When you pray, move your feet.


– quoted from “Chapter 1. Faith” in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America by Congressman John Lewis (b. 02/21/1940) with Brenda Jones

Please join me today (Tuesday, February 21st) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can 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 (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

NOTE: The first before/after music track hits different on YouTube. If you know, you know.

Virtually Mardi Gras

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



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