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¡Vamos, Respiremos! May 5, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, First Nations, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Texas, Volunteer, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Many blessings to everyone, and especially to anyone celebrating Buddha Purnima and/or Counting the Omer!

“What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

– quoted from a journal entry #5100 “Gilleleie, dated August 1, 1835” by Søren Kierkegaard

Even though he shares a birthday with some great people I know, I hardly ever mention the existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard on his actual birthday. That’s because he was born today, May 5, 1813. Sure, he was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Denmark–Norway, 49 years before the Battle of Puebla – which took place on Cinco de Mayo, 1862 in Puebla de Zaragoza, Mexico (almost 9.5 thousand kilometers away from Copenhagen, where Kierkegaard died, seven years before the battle). And, yes, he lived almost 150 years before Cinco de Mayo became a celebration of Mexican heritage in the United States. However, for me, that celebration of heritage is crucial and a great opportunity to breathe and to share the music of Mexican-Americans.

Despite what some people think, Cinco de Mayo has absolutely nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day (September 16th) and everything to do with the spirit, the will, and the determination of the people in Puebla, Mexico in 1862. The Battle of Puebla took place during the second Franco-Mexican War (also known as the Second French Intervention in Mexico). This was forty-plus years after the Mexican War of Independence and during a time when Mexico was deeply in financial debt to France, Great Britain, and Spain. Newly elected Mexican President Benito Juárez (the countries first indigenous Zapotec head of state) decided to put a time limit on payments related to loans incurred by his conservative predecessors. When the European countries received word that Mexico was going to default on their loans, they planned an invasion.

By January 1862, Spanish officials were insisting that the naval forces from the three nations were only in Mexico to negotiate payment. While the English and Spanish did begin negotiations, representatives from France made it clear that the French Emperor (Napoleon III) was not interested in negotiations (or treaties). The French took over two small towns and then General Charles de Lorencez and 6,000 French troops (which now included some Mexicans) headed to Puebla de los Ángeles. They were expecting another easy victory. Instead, they were defeated by a significantly smaller group of Mexicans led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín (who was born in the Mexican province of Texas). Also leading Mexican troops was General José Miguel Pascual Negrete Novoa (born in Puebla and best known as Miguel Negrete), who had previously flipped back and forth between the constitutionalists and the conservatives – but ultimately was very clear about who he was and on whose side he would fight.

“Yo tengo Patria antes que Partido.”

– “I have a Homeland before a Party.” quote attributed to General Miguel Negrete (after switching back to the Mexican side during the Second French Intervention in Mexico)

The underdogs prevailed in 1862. People were so inspired that Puebla was renamed Puebla de Zaragoza. When General Zaragoza died (of typhoid fever) in September 1862, President Juárez declared Cinco de Mayo an annual holiday. Unfortunately, after a vicious battle on May 17, 1863, the city fell during the Second Battle of Puebla and the French forces pushed on to Mexico City. Eventually, the constitutionally elected president and his allies had to flee and a Second Empire of Mexico was established. That “empire” collapsed soon after the French military pulled out (in part due to pressure from the United States) and the Republic of Mexico was restored in the summer of 1867.

Unlike Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated throughout Mexico as a national holiday. In fact, up until the 1950s and 1960s, it was primarily only celebrated in Puebla. Now, it has also become a celebration of heritage – primarily the Mexican-American heritage which reflects the spirit and resilience of a small group of people. So, it’s a big deal in my hometown – in fact, some of my neighbors started celebrating yesterday. It has also become a big celebration time in other parts of the country (even the world). But, today is also one of those days that meshes with that thing I often say during religious observations: the further away we get from the meaning of a ritual or tradition, the more it becomes something that people just say or do. The more, in fact, it becomes something commercial.

Sometimes, in becoming commercial, a day takes on a whole new meaning. For example, think about what Saint Patrick’s Day means to you – especially if you’re not Catholic and/or of Irish descent. Now, think about what Cinco de Mayo means to you – especially if you hadn’t heard of the Battle of Puebla before today.

“One must first learn to know himself before knowing anything else. Not until a man has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he has to take does his life gain peace and meaning; only then is he free….”

– quoted from a journal entry #5100 “Gilleleie, dated August 1, 1835” by Søren Kierkegaard

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the ability to overcome “insurmountable” odds and to throw off oppression. This year, the practice is a little different; so the music is a little different – and as we breathe, we’ll go a little deeper… philosophically as well as physically. Which brings us back to the existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

On a certain level, Kierkegaard acknowledged that the level of introspection in which he engaged and recommended was not accessible to everyone. He criticized “aristocrats” who ignore the less fortunate, and maintain their own comfort at the expense of others, as “ungodly.” To him, introspection wasn’t a waste of time; it was the first step in being a mature and spiritually evolved human-being. It was a step closer to God.

While Søren Kierkegaard was a Christian existentialist, his thoughts on love, living a life with purpose, honoring community while also knowing your own mind, and connecting with the Divine may be very meaningful to people of different faiths and belief systems. For instance, they can be very meaningful and insightful to people who study and/or practice Buddhism. After all, Prince Siddhartha Gautama could be considered the ideal: someone born into wealth and privileges, who was also committed to alleviating suffering.

Click here to read my 2020 post related to Kierkegaard’s philosophical struggles and internal debates over the importance of being an individual versus being part of a crowd.

This year (2023), Cinco de Mayo overlaps Buddha Purnima in parts of India and Nepal and Vesak in Sri Lanka. Pūrṇimā is the Sanskrit word for (“full moon”) and this particular full moon is associated with the enlightenment or awakening of Gautama Buddha. Some believe Siddhartha Gautama was awakened in the same month in which he celebrated his birthday and, so, for some today is a birthday celebration as well. Others in Southeast Asia will celebrate Vesak (which occurs during Vaisakha, the second month of some lunar calendars) in a few days or weeks, depending on tradition.

While people use different calendars and observe on different days, the practice is the same… sitting and breathing.

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”

– Søren Kierkegaard

Please join me for a “First Friday Night Special” Somatic Yoga Experience (SYE) tonight, May 5th, 7:15 PM – 8:20 PM (CST), featuring some “Gentle Somatic Yoga,” a little ViniYoga-inspired movement, pranayama, and meditation – with an emphasis on Prāṇāyāma. 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. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

This practice is accessible and open to all. 

Prop wise, this is a kitchen sink practice. You can practice without props or you  can use “studio” and/or “householder” props. Example of “Studio” props: 1 – 2 blankets, 2 – 3 blocks, a bolster, a strap, and an eye pillow. Example of “Householder” props: 1 – 2 blankets or bath towels, 2 – 3 books (similar in size), 2 standard pillows (or 1 body pillow), a belt/tie/sash, and a face towel.

You may want extra layers (as your body may cool down during this practice). Having a wall, chair, sofa, or coffee table may be handy.

Friday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Cinco de Mayo Viernes 2023”]

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).
You can still click here to Kiss My Asana Now! (Or, you can also still click here to join my team and get people to kiss [your] asana!)

Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

### ¡Vamanos! ###