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Salt of the Earth (a special Black History note for Monday) February 7, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Food, Gandhi, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Life, Lorraine Hansberry, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Pema Chodron, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yin Yoga, Yoga.
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Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is a special post for Monday, February 6thYou can request a recording of the Monday practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

WARNING: A portion of this post refers to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), but there is an opportunity to skip that section.

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. Donations are tax deductible.

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“Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life. It is the only condiment of the poor. Cattle cannot live without salt. Salt is a necessary article in many manufactures. it is also a rich manure.

There is no article like salt, outside water, by taxing which the State can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless. The salt tax constitutes the most inhuman poll tax that the ingenuity of man can devise.”

– quoted from a letter by M. K. Gandhi, printed in Young India, Vol. XII, Ahmedabad: February 27, 1930

Some people laughed when Mohandas Karamchanda Gandhi decided salt would be the focus of a direct action, non-violent mass protest. People who are world leaders today scoffed, because they didn’t get it and they didn’t have his insight and vision. However, Gandhi wasn’t the first radical leader to emphasize the importance of salt. Jesus did it, in the Gospel According to Matthew (5:13 – 14), when he referred to his disciples as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” In both cases, the teacher whose name would become synonymous with a worldwide religious movement indicated that there was a purpose, a usefulness, to the disciples and their roles (as salt and as light). I think it’s important to remember that Jesus was speaking to fishermen, farmers, and shepherds – people who were intimately familiar with the importance of salt (and light). They knew that (different kinds of) salt can be used for flavoring, preservation, fertilization, cleansing, and destroying, and that it could be offered as a sacrifice. They knew, as Gandhi would later point out, that people in hot, tropical climates needed salt for almost everything – including healing.

Gandhi’s “audience” was different. He was living in a time of industrialization and the beginnings of these modern times in which we find ourselves. He knew that people laughed and scoffed, because they didn’t completely understand the usefulness and vitalness of salt. He understood that some people took salt for granted and, even within the pages,, he debated with experts about the benefits and risks of salt consumption. He also knew that some people – inside and outside of British-ruled India – just didn’t get the inhumanity of charging people a tax for something that they could obtain (literally) outside their front door; something that was part of the very fiber of their being.

Remember, the human body is 60 – 75% water… and most of that water is saturated with salt.

“Such a universal force [Satyagraha] necessarily makes no distinction between kinsmen and strangers, young and old, man and woman, friend and foe. The force to be so applied can never be physical. There is in it no room for violence. The only force of universal application can, therefore, be that of ahimsa or love. In other words it is soul force.

Love does not burn others, it burns itself.”

– quoted from “Some Rules of Satyagraha” by M. K. Gandhi, printed in Young India, Vol. XII, Ahmedabad: February 27, 1930 

(NOTE: The general explanation and rules were followed by a section of rules of conduct for various situations, including for “an Individual” and for “a Prisoner.”)

As I mentioned last week, Gandhi’s grandson (Arun Gandhi) established the “Season for Nonviolence” (January 30th through April 4th) in 1998. The Mahatma Gandhi Canadian Foundation for World Peace offers daily practices based on principles of nonviolence advocated by Mahatma Gandhi (who was assassinated on January 30, 1948) and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who was assassinated on April 4, 1968). We could think of these principles as little bits of salt, sprinkled throughout the days, but the thing to remember is that these principles are not unique to one culture, one philosophy, or one religion. Neither did these two great leaders/teachers invent these ideas. Ahiṃsā (non-violence or “non-harming”) is the very first yama (external “restraint” or universal commandment) in the Yoga Philosophy and one of the Ten Commandments according the Abrahamic religions. It is also one of the Buddhist precepts. Courage, smiling, appreciation, caring, believing, simplicity, education – the principles of the first week of the “Season for Nonviolence” – all predate Gandhi and MLK; they also predate Jesus. So, too, does today’s principle: Healing.

Healing is also the focus of people who are wrapping up World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW), which was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan in 2010. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted Resolution 65/5 on October 10, 2010, and designated the first week of February as a time to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence “between all religions, faiths, and beliefs.” This year’s theme is “Harmony in a World in Crisis: Working together to achieve peace, gender equality, mental health and wellbeing, and environmental preservation” and it stresses the fact that we are all better equipped to deal with future pandemics and natural catastrophes when we come together and work together.

Of course, future pandemics and natural catastrophes are not the only things that plague the world. We also have human-made disasters and catastrophic events. We’re still dealing with some of the same things Gandhi and MLK – even Jesus – fought: people who who would take away another person’s ability to be a healthy, thriving, human being. Again, we could look back at salt… or basic civil rights… or we could look at what it (sometimes) means to be like August Wilson’s Risa, “a woman in the world.”

While I do not go into explicit details, you may skip to the next big banner quote if needed.

In addition to being the penultimate day of World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW), February 6th is also International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Designated by the UN in 2012, this annual day of events aims to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of the practice of FGM, which is defined by the UN as “all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.” People who endure FGM face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences for their sexual and reproductive health and mental health. According to the UN, 4.32 million girls around the world who are at risk of undergoing FGM and approximately 1 in 4, or 52 million worldwide, experience FGM at the hands of a medical professional.

This is not a new practice. In fact, when I was in college (about 30 years ago) I had an argument with a male student who insisted there was no such thing as FGM. He was white, from America, and (to my knowledge) had not experienced much outside of his lived experience. He only knew what it was like to be him. If I could go back, and have that discussion again, I might dig a little deeper into why he was in such denial about something that (to date) has been experienced by at least 200 million living people. NOTE: That statistic only refers to survivors.

While the UN acknowledges that cultures are different and that all are in “constant flux,” the General Assembly also recognizes that, in order for cultures to survive, the people within a society must be able to thrive, enjoy basic human rights, and have the physical and mental wellness to reach their potential. Any one of us can think of this as someone else’s problem, but the truth is that (on some level) this is everyone’s problem to solve. In fact, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called, “on men and boys everywhere to join me in speaking out and stepping forward to end female genital mutilation, for the benefit of all.”

The good news is that FGM has declined, globally, over the last 25 years and a girl is one-third less likely to experience FGM than 30 years ago. All the good news category: more awareness means that healthcare professionals are in a better position to help FGM survivors heal from the physical, mental, and/or emotional trauma.

Yoga Sūtra 2.35: ahimsāpratişţhāyām tatsannidhau vairatyāgah

– “In the company of a yogi established in non-violence, animosity disappears.”

Healing begins with people. I’ve seen this up close and personal all of my life, because I grew up around healers. My father taught in medical schools and ran research labs. My mother was a hospital administrator. Her mother went to nursing school with at least one of her sister-in-laws and a couple of her future neighbors. For the most part, they all went to HBCUs (Historically Black Universities and Colleges) in the South, because the times – and the laws at the time – didn’t give them a whole lot of other options. In some ways, my grandmother and her peers would have had very similar experiences as Black nursing students before and after them. In some ways, however, their experiences would have been very different – again, because of the opportunities that were available (or not available to them) based on the color of their skin. For instance, the nurses in my family definitely had to overcome obstacles, but (maybe) not the same walls that Inez Maxine Pitter Haynes had scale in order to become a nurse.

Born February 6, 1919, in Seattle, Washington, Inez Maxine Pitter Haynes was the second of three girls born to Edward A. Pitter and Marjorie Allen Pitter. Mr. Pitter was born in Jamaica (like Bob Marley, who was born 2/6/1945) and came to the United States in as a captain’s steward during the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. After leaving his position on the passenger ship, he became a King County Clerk and then a book editor and publisher. He also worked with the Democratic Party (the Colored Democratic Association of Washington). Mrs. Pitter was a direct descendent of Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, and she knew how to protect her family against the hostilities they encountered. Their daughters (Constance, Maxine, and Marjorie) grew up in the tightknit household that emphasized elegance and education.

“Marjorie Pitter King remembered, ‘Politics opened doors for us and was very helpful. During the Christmas vacations, we were able to work at the post office and earn money to help with our schooling. It also helped my father obtain his job because he had been working on WPA (Works Progress Administration) projects. Then he went from there to deputy sheriff.’ (Horn)”

– quoted from “King, Marjorie Edwina Pitter (1921-1996)” by Mary T. Henry, posted on historylink.org (Juana Racquel Royster Horn cited)

All three of the Pitter girls graduated from high school and made their way to the University of Washington. Like a lot of students, especially during the Great Depression, the sisters had financial struggles. To alleviate their economic problems, the youngest of the three (Marjorie) proposed that they go into business together doing things they had learned how to do at home: typing, printing, and writing speeches. They called their business “Tres Hermanas” or “Three Sisters” – and it would have been nice if all of their troubles could have been resolved through hard work. Unfortunately, -isms and -phobias don’t work that way.

All three of the sisters had to deal with racism that manifested as name-calling and teachers ignoring them. Then, they each had their individual crosses to bear. Constance Allen Pitter Thomas, the oldest of the sisters, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and became a student teacher in the Seattle School District, but was not offered a permanent position for many years. When she was finally offered a regular position by the school district, it was as a speech therapist. She worked with students with special needs for 18 years.

Marjorie Edwina Pitter King, the youngest of the three sisters, struggled academically and then struggled because there weren’t very many women in accounting – let alone Black women. She ended up transferring to Howard University in 1942, for her senior year; but then dropped out of school and went to work for the Pentagon (during World War II). Eventually, she got married, started a family and moved back to Seattle, where she started a successful tax company. M and M Tax and Consultant Services worked with clients all along the continental coast and Mrs. Pitter King’s support extended to language translation and letter writing. She also became the first African American to be appointed to the Washington State Legislature (in 1965); served as Chair of the 37th District Democratic Party; Vice President of the King County Democratic Party; and Treasurer of the Washington State Federation of Democratic Women, Inc. While attending the 1972 Democratic National Convention, she helped draft the National Democratic Party Platform.

Then there was Maxine… the darkest-skinned of the three sisters… who wanted to be a nurse.

“It was 1939 in Seattle, and although the city had none of the formal ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws common in the South, the result was often the same.

Being black and finding a job often meant menial work and a lower standard of living. For some black people, discrimination crushed any hope of working at all.”

– quoted from the article in The Seattle Times entitled “Seattle In The Old Days: No ‘Jim Crow’ Laws, But Blacks Were Held Back Just The Same” by Daryl Strickland (dated Jun 27, 1994)

Like her sisters, Inez Maxine Pitter Haynes enrolled at the University of Washington. She enrolled as a pre-nursing student, but then she was rejected by the the Nursing School, because the degree required nursing students to be housed in Harborview Hall – and the Dean of Nursing would not allow an African American student to live with the white students. The future Mrs. Pitter Haynes had no choice, but to change her major during her junior year. She ended up graduating from the University of Washington, in 1941, with a degree in sociology. Then, she moved to New York City and enrolled at Lincoln School of Nursing where she earned the first of two degrees in nursing. She earned her second degree, a masters in nursing, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and worked in the city of angels before moving back to Seattle.

Maxine Pitter Haynes become the first African American nurse at Providence Hospital (now Swedish Medical Center/Providence Campus). She also served as education director for the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and taught at Seattle Pacific University, from 1976, until she retired in 1981 as professor emeritus.

But, in the middle of all of that, in 1971, she went back to the University of Washington… as an assistant professor at the same nursing school that had turned her away because of her skin color.

We can look at that as progress and/or we can flip the coin and look at that as healing.

“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. ”

– Rachel Naomi Remen (b. 2/8/1938) as quoted in At Your Service: Living the Lessons of Servant Leadership by Charles E. Wheaton

PRACTICE NOTES: I decided to focus this practice on the ways the body naturally heals: with a little yin and a little yang; a little action/resistance and passive/resting. There was some dynamic motion (to engage the sympathetic nervous system) and also moments of resting and relaxing (to engage the parasympathetic nervous system). In a practice like this, I also highlighted ahimsa (as I did above) and different techniques for relaxing and getting “unhooked,” including the practice of cultivating the opposites.

I have several playlists related to Gandhi, MLK, and ahiṃsā. However, if I were going to put together a playlist specifically for today, I would throw in a little Bob Marley (see reference above) plus some Schumann played by Claudio Arrau (b. 2/6/1903), something by Natalie Cole (b. 2/6/1950), and – if I had the time – I’d look for something appropriate from the soundtracks of one of Robert Townsend’s movies (b. 2/6/1957). Also, cause I’m silly (and I could make it work), I might throw in the Guns N’ Roses cover of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (cause, Axl Rose, b. 2/6/1962); however, I might toss it into the before/after music along with this little ditty on YouTube, by an artist born 2/6/1966.

### “Unforgettable / That’s what you are” ~ Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole  ###

Having the Mettle/Metal to Mix it Up (a special Black History 2-for-1 note) February 6, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Baseball, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Religion, Suffering, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Happy Lantern Festival! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is a special post for Sunday, February 5th. Click here if you are interested in details about the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the final day of the Spring Festival, and other elements related to Sunday’s practice.

“[Food] sort of intersects so many different parts of culture throughout the world. So, in so many ways, you know, creating the show with Morgan Neville and Eddie Schmidt, we decided that food could be sort of a Trojan horse to talk about many of the great things in culture and many of the bad things in culture.”

– David Chang talking about his Netflix series “Ugly Delicious” on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (May 2018)

One of the things for which I will be eternally is that I grew up exposed to so many different kinds of food from so many different cultures. Sometimes the food came from restaurants; sometimes the food came from friends and families who were from other parts of the country and/or other parts of the world. A lot of meals came with stories or lessons – like, for instance, why I could eat certain foods when we went out, but not at home. Having those kinds of experiences, as a kid, makes it hard for me to imagine going to a restaurant and only ever ordering pork chops like Henry Lewis “Hank” Aaron and Tommie Lee Aaron did when they were playing Major League Baseball.

If you are a baseball fan, you might already know that Henry Lewis “Hank” Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama (the city with the third largest number of players in the Baseball Hall of Fame). You might have heard stories about how he had seven siblings and that his family was so poor he made his own baseball bats. You might already know that “Hammerin’ Hank,” also known simply as “Hammer” (or Henry to his friends), started playing for the semi-pro Mobile Black Bears (a.k.a. the Mobile Black Shippers) when he was still in high school – but only at Sunday home games. You probably know that he also played professionally in the Negro Leagues when he was in high school and that his team, the Indianapolis Clowns, won the Negro American League (NAL) championship in 1952 – just a few months after he joined the team. You might even know that while he idolized Jackie Robinson and tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was 15, he didn’t make the cut in 1949. After winning the 1952 NAL championship, however, he was offered Major League Baseball (MLB) contracts from two different teams.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you’ve probably heard the name Hank Aaron and know that he was one of the greatest players in baseball history. So, I could just focus on Mr. Aaron’s phenomenal stats. After all, by the time he retired, he had spent 23 seasons in MLB; held records for the most career runs batted in (RBIs) (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856) – a record that meant he travelled12 miles farther (on the base paths) than any other player in MLB history; and he had broken Babe Ruth’s claim to most home runs – a record Hank Aaron held for 33 years.

“And when it was over, my real job was only starting. Once the record was mind, I had to use it like a Louisville Slugger. I believed, and still do, that there was a reason why I was chosen to break the record. I feel it’s my task to carry on where Jackie Robinson left off, and I only know of one way to go about it. It’s the only way I’ve ever had of dealing with things like fastballs and bigotry – keep swinging at them. As a ballplayer, I always figured that I had a bat and all the pitcher had was a little ball, and as long as I kept swinging that bat I’d be all right.”

– quoted from Chapter 3 of I Had A Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story by Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler

The thing is: I really wanted to mix things up today.

Of course, if you’re a Hank Aaron fan, then you’re thinking, “That’s perfect, because the Hammer started off a cross-handed hitter and then switched it up.” Which I believe is true. The power hitter started his career as a right-handed hitter who swung the bat with his left hand above his right and he racked up some pretty impressive stats like that until he started in the minors. Even after he switched to the standard grip (with his dominant hand on top), he out hit and out ran pretty much every one on the diamond. During the bulk of his career in the majors, he hit at least 24 home runs every year and is one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. He is also ranked third of all-time for career hits (3,771); fifth in runs scored (2,174); and is one of only four players to have at least 17 seasons with 150 or more hits.

In his first season in the minors, Henry “Hank” Aaron was named as a Northern League All-Star and Rookie of the Year. A year later, in 1953, he was named Most Valuable Player in the South Atlantic League. The following year, in 1954, he was off the farm and playing for in the majors for Milwaukee (in between their time as the Brewers). He continued playing for the team when they moved to Atlanta and then spent his final year playing for the new Milwaukee Brewers (née Seattle Pilots). By the time he retired, he had made the National League (NL) All-Star roster 20 times and the American league (AL) All-Star roster once; played in 24 All-Start games (with 25 total selections); earned two NL batting titles; won three Golden Glove awards (as the best defender in a league); and won the 1957 NL Most Valuable Player award. That 1957 MVP award came after he clinched the pennant for Milwaukee by hitting a two-run walk-off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals. (I think that’s still the only time someone has won a pennant during a regular season game by hitting a game-ending homerun in the final inning). Milwaukee would go on to beat the New York Yankees and win the 1957 World Series.

“The day after Baltimore, we were rained out of a big Sunday doubleheader at Griffith Stadium in Washington. We had breakfast while we were waiting for the rain to stop, and I can still envision sitting with the Clowns in a restaurant behind Griffith Stadium and hearing them break all the plates in the kitchen after we were finished eating. What a horrible sound. Even as a kid, the irony of it hit me: Here we were in the capital in the land of freedom and equality, and they had to destroy the plates that had touched the forks that had been in the mouths of black men. If dogs had eaten off those plates, they’d have washed them.”

– quoted from Chapter 3 of I Had A Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story by Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler

Of course, life wasn’t all sunshine and homeruns for Henry. Remember, there were fast balls and bigotry. And sometimes life itself was the fast ball. For instance, he met and married his first wife, Barbara Lucas, just as he was hitting his stride in MLB; but, the couple lost one of their newborn twins not long after Milwaukee won the 1957 World Series. Just as he dealt with racism when he was playing with the Negro Leagues, he had to deal with it when he was one of the only African American players in the majors. Opposing teams gave him pejorative nicknames. People sent him so much hate mail that the U. S. Postal Service gave him a plaque. Unfortunately, so much of that mail was full of death threats that journalists had (secretly) written his obituary. There was even a Peanuts cartoon about his situation!

Then there was the segregation, especially in the South, that people had come to expect – e.g., at hotels, restaurants, and public facilities. One sportswriter even noted, “Henry Aaron led the league in everything except hotel accommodations.” However, Mr. Aaron found he also had to deal with segregation with regard to his faith. As a Catholic (covert), it was recommended that he attend mass, even during Spring Training. But, the training camp was in Bradenton, Florida and there were no services available to him as a Black Catholic.

While he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Aaron wasn’t known to stand out – except in the way he played. So, even if you are a fan, you may not know that he supported the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or that he and his second wife, Billye Suber Williams (a history-maker in her own right) co-founded the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, which provides scholarships for underprivileged youth. In January 2021, he and several other notable African Americans publicly received the COVID-19 vaccine in order to demonstrate its safety.

These are just a few highlights that illustrate why Henry Lewis “Hank” Aaron is part of Black history and part of American history. But, like I said before, I really wanted to mix things up today… and part of the reason I wanted to mix things up was because of the dumplings.

“[The] object of my invention is to provide a machine wherewith eggs, batter, and other similar ingredients used by bakers, confectioners, Src.; can be beaten or mixed in the most intimate and expeditious manner. The machine consists, essentially, of a main frame within which is journaled a driving-wheel and a pinion or pulley, the horizontal shaft of the sockets, with which are engaged square or other [non-circular] arbors at the inner extremities of a pair of beater-shafts

…cylinders that occupy detachable trays or racks applied to the opposite sides of the main frame, hooks and staples or other convenient devices being employed for retaining said racks in their proper places. As a result of this construction, either one or both of the cylinders can be readily applied to the racks, and the latter be coupled to the machine, so as to insure a very rapid revolution of the beater shafts, as soon as power is applied to the driving-wheel, as hereinafter more fully described.”

– quoted from part of Letters Patent No. 292,821, dated February 5, 1884, issued to Willis Johnson, Cincinnati, Ohio

The first full moon of the Lunar New Year marks the end of the Spring Festival, a 15-day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. Of course, lanterns are a big part of the celebrations – as are fireworks and the color red. However, sweet-rice dumplings are another key element in some celebrations. They are called tangyuan ( 湯圓 or 汤圆, pinyin: tāngyuán) in southern China and yuanxiao ( 元宵, pinyin: yuánxiāo ) in northern China. As I mentioned in the regular Sunday post, these round dumplings, that are enjoyed at a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, are associated with the story of Yuan Xiao and are a staple during the Lantern Festival, which is actually 元宵節 or 元宵节 (pinyin: Yuánxiāo jié) – Yuan Xiao’s Festival.

The dumplings come in different sizes and flavors and can have different texture and fillings, depending on the region. They are typically served in a soup or broth in some provinces. In fact, the southern name literally means “round balls (or dumplings) in soup.” Sweet fillings include a sweetened black sesame mixture, a sweetened mixture of crushed peanuts, Jujube paste, chocolate paste, red bean paste (Azuki bean), lotus seed paste, Matcha paste, or custard. Savory fillings include (regular) crushed peanuts, minced meat, mushrooms, or cabbage.

Full disclosure: I’ve never made these dumplings. Although, I have eaten them and I know that the different shapes come from the different ways in which the balls are formed. Also, the I know that the dough (and the filling) has to be well mixed. In many cases, you could easily mix the dough with a spoon or chopsticks before you knead and shape it – in fact, that’s what most recipes online recommend. Some fillings, however, require a little extra effort. I mean, you can still use a spoon or chopsticks – which is what people probably used in the old days – but it would be much easier (and faster) to use a mixer.

Patent No.  292,821, dated February 5, 1884, was issued to an African American inventor named Willis Johnson. The patent was for “new and useful improvements in Egg-beaters” and the design featured a handle which could be attached to blades, beaters, or stirrers. The machine was multi-purpose since it also had detachable trays or racks, on opposite sides, so that a cook or baker could beat eggs on one side and batter on the other side. Similarly, you could rotate the containers out – cleaning as you go without having to stop everything because you ran out of clean bowls. This improvement on existing “egg-beaters” was the direct predecessor of modern day electric mixers.

Although I couldn’t find a ton of personal information about Willis Johnson. His residence on the patent is listed as Cincinnati, Ohio and it appears that he was born 1857. According to some sources, he was enslaved for some portion of his life. Given the time frame, it would be interesting to find out how Mr. Johnson learned to read and navigate the patent process.

“[With] this double-acting machine one kind of batter can be mixed in the cylinder H H while another kind of stuff is being beaten up in the other receptacle, I I. It is also apparent that with this double-acting machine one of the cylinders [may] be kept in operation while the other receptacle is either being cleaned or charged. Finally, it is apparent that the wheel B, pulley C, and band D may be omitted and the desired speed of shaft c be obtained by a system of gear-wheels jonrnaled [sic] in the frame A.”

– quoted from part of Letters Patent No. 292,821, dated February 5, 1884, issued to Willis Johnson, Cincinnati, Ohio

Practice Notes: See the Friday note for details on how I lead baseball-inspired practices. For a practice related to Willis Johnson (that didn’t happen on a full moon or new moon), I would probably “mix things up” with different Sun Salutations and maybe some poses that we don’t do very often. There would also be a a little something extra for the shoulders and core (and, maybe also for the feet). As far as music goes, I think this calls for “Fannie’s Recipe Ingredients” or “Bread & Chocolate.”

### “I want a little sugar in my bowl / I want a little sweetness down in my soul” ~ NS ###

Observing the Conditions… of the Light (the “missing” Sunday post) February 5, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Food, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Love, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Philosophy, Suffering, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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Happy Lantern Festival! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is the “missing” post for Sunday, February 5th, which is also the 15th and final day of the Spring Festival. Most of the information below was posted in some way, shape, or form in 2021 and 2022; however the view may be different now. You can request a related recording 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.

“Always old, sometimes new…”

– a riddle* (read post for clues, see the end for the answer)

Philosophically speaking, part of our yoga practice is about bring awareness to what we know – or what we think we know – about ourselves and the world around us. Once we do that, we have begun the process of recognizing how what we know or think we know determines our actions, our thoughts, our words, our deeds. Our beliefs influence the we interact with ourselves, with others, and with our environment. Once we really get into it, we also start to notice when – or if – we incorporate new information into our belief system; thereby adjusting our actions as we grow and mature.

At some point, we may start to notice how our experiences shape our beliefs and how our experiences and beliefs determine what we chose to do on any given day. Hopefully, we also recognize that other people make other choices based on the their beliefs and experiences. If we can see that, be open to the reality of that, and maybe dig a little deeper into that reality, we gain better understanding of ourselves (and maybe of the world). In other words, we gain insight.

Vipassanā is a Buddhist meditation technique that has also become a tradition. It literally means “to see in a special way” and can also be translated as “special, super seeing.” In English, however, it is usually translated as “insight.” This insight is achieved by sitting, breathing, and watching the mind-body without judging the mind-body. Part of the practice is even to recognize when you are judging and, therefore, recognizing when you are getting in your own way. This can be seen as a (non-religious) form of discernment – which also requires observation – all of it is part of our yoga practice.

Of course, there are times when what we are feeling and/or the way we are feeling makes it hard to see clearly – which make me think about it the way we think about the weather.

Click here for a more philosophy on how Yoga and Buddhism are connected to a Catholic understanding of discernment.

“From the Balloon above the Clouds

Let this afford some proof, my dear Mr. Thayer, that no separation shall make me unmindful of you, — have confidence, — happier, I hope much happier days await you — pray tell my dear Mrs T. I salute her from the Skies… [this section illegible except for the word “pleasure”]… believe me as I ever have been,

     faithfully yours,

        J. Jeffries”

– quoted from Dr. John Jeffries letter sent via “airmail” to Mr. Arodie Thayer, November 30, 1784, as posted “Attention, Aerophilatelists” by Peter Nelson (on The Consecrated Eminence: The Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College, 4/16/2012)

We talk about the weather all the time – and sometimes with limited knowledge of why we’re experiencing the weather we’re experiencing. Sometimes we are prepared for what’s to come; sometimes not. Sometimes we rely on professionals, and all their science and math and theories, to predict what to expect. Sometimes we trust the almanac (and the history of precedent and “superstition”). Other times, we feel more confident relying on our achy bones; the smell of the air; the pressure in our head/sinuses; and/or a certain kind of restlessness. Of course, sometimes, we observe all that and still ignore the observation.

John Jeffries, born in Boston today (February 5th) in 1744, is considered America’s first weatherperson (even though he was loyal to the crown and would be banished from the new republic because of his loyalties). His birthday is observed (mostly in the United States) as National Weatherperson’s Day, which recognizes professionals in the meteorology, weather forecasting, and broadcast meteorology, as well as volunteer storm spotters, chasers, and observers.

The original Dr. Jeffries (not to be confused with his son, he became a famous ophthalmic surgeon) was a physician, a scientist, and a military surgeon who served with the British Army. A graduate of Harvard College (1763) and the University of Aberdeen, he started taking daily measurements of the Boston weather in 1774. He would eventually take weather observations from a balloon piloted by the French inventor Jean Pierre Blanchard on November 30, 1784 and a second trip on January 7, 1785. On the first trip, the duo flew over London to Stone Marsh, Kent. On the second trip they flew from England to France. In addition to making weather and atmospheric observations, Dr. Jeffries dropped four letters from the balloon on that first trip. Three of the letters were delivered to the appropriate recipients. The letter addressed to Mr. Arodie Thayer is now “considered the oldest piece of airmail in existence.”

“We buy blood oranges and tiny green lentils from a jar, chestnuts, winter pears, winy little apples, and broccoli, which I’ve never seen in Italy before. ‘Lentils for the New Year,’ she tells us.”

– quoted from “Green Oil” in Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

The opposite of John Jeffries “airmail” might be the orange “mail” floating some rivers today. As I mentioned over the last two weeks, some people celebrate the Lunar New Year for a handful of days and then go back to their regular routines. For some, however, there’s the Spring Festival: a 15-day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival takes place on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, which is tonight. One of traditional custom turns the event into something similar to modern-day Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, women would write their contact information on oranges and then toss the oranges in the river where men would scoop them up. Then, the men would eat the oranges. A sweet orange meant the couple could potential have a good relationship, but a bitter orange meant the match was best avoided.

The oranges in the river make for a pretty sight, but that’s not the main focus of the Lantern Festival – nor is it the most spectacular. In fact, weather permitting, anyone observing areas celebrating the Lantern Festival would primarily notice cities, towns, and villages adorned in red lanterns and lit up… almost like everything is on fire.

There are several different legends associated with the Lantern Festival. In one story, the Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty wanted every person in every class to honor the Buddha as the monks would on the fifteenth day of the year. According to another story, Dongfang Shuo (a  scholar and court jester) came upon a homesick maiden from the palace. To console her and lift her out of her despair, he told the young lady that he would reunite her with her family. Then he dressed up like a fortune teller and told everyone who came to his stall that they must beg the “red fairy” for mercy on the thirteenth day of the new year. If they didn’t ask for mercy, everything would burn down in a couple of days.

When the maiden, Yuan Xiao, appeared all dressed in red, people flocked to her. The only thing the surprised maiden could think to do was say that she would take a message to the emperor. Of course, Dongfang had already “tricked” the emperor and convinced him to tell Yuan Xiao to make her trademarked sweet-rice dumplings called tangyuan, because they were the favorite dessert of the God of Fire.

The whole town, and people from surrounding towns, came together to make the dumplings as a tribute to the God of Fire. As word spread, more people came – including Yuan Xiao’s family. And this is why Dongfang Shuo’s plan was so clever: In Chinese, the dumplings are 湯圓 or 汤圆 (pinyin: tāngyuán), which sounds like 團圓 or 团圆 (pinyin: tuányuán), which means “union.” While the round dumplings are enjoyed at a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, they are a staple during the Lantern Festival, which is actually 元宵節 or 元宵节 (pinyin: Yuánxiāo jié) – Yuan Xiao’s Festival.

“‘When you see it, it’ll affect you profoundly…’”

– Wang De quoted in the Feb. 19, 2019, The Strait Times article entitled “Blacksmiths keep alive the flame of China’s molten steel ‘fireworks’”

There are more variations on this theme, but the legend with which I am most familiar, and the one I share in the practice, is the story of the Jade Emperor and his favorite bird, a crane. This crane was beautiful and unlike any other bird or species. In some stories, the ruler of heaven and earth decided to treat people with a glimpse of the exotic bird. In other versions of the story, the crane got discombobulated and flew close to the earth. Either way, what happened next is why we can’t have nice things: Someone shot the exotic bird.

The Jade Emperor was furious and decided to send down fire breathing dragons to destroy the towns and villages. However, the Jade Emperor’s daughter warned the townsfolk and someone suggested that if they lit lanterns, started bonfires, and set off fireworks, the dragons – who are not very smart in these stories – would think everything was already on fire. The trick worked… on the dragons. The Jade Emperor was not tricked, but his anger had passed and he decided to offer a little compassion to the people on Earth.

To this day, people carry on the tradition of lighting up the skies. Traditionally, lanterns are made of paper, wooden, or jade. Some people will spend months designing and creating delicate lanterns that they will enter into competitions. Other people will make simple lanterns or purchase fancy store-bought lanterns. In addition to the plethora of basic red lanterns, there will also be animal-shaped lanterns – the most popular of which are in the shape of the animal of the year. Many of the lanterns will have riddles at the bottom – which adds to the fun, because if you know the answer to the riddle you can go find it’s owner and they will give you tangyuan (those sweet dumplings that sound like “union”) as a reward.

In addition to the lanterns, there are bonfires, fireworks, and a 300-plus years old tradition called Da Shuhua.

Da Shuhua is one of the English spellings for 打树花 (dǎshùhuā in pinyin), which is a 300-500 years old tradition handed down through families of blacksmiths in China´s northern Hebei province. It is sometimes referred to as the poor man’s fireworks, because it is produced from scrap metal that people in the remote village of Nuanquan give to the local blacksmiths. Dressed in straw hats, sheepskin jackets, and protective eyewear, the blacksmiths and their assistants melt down the scraps and then the blacksmiths throw the molten liquid up against a cold stone wall. When the liquid metal – which can reach up to 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,600 degrees Celsius) – hits the cold wall, sparks fly.

The spectacular display looks like a blossoming tree and so the name of the art form translates into English as “beating tree flowers.” Although there are a few other places in China where this art form is showcased, it is traditional to Nuanquan. There is a square in the remote village (“Tree Flower Square”), which was specifically built to hold tourists who travel to the village to see the display. In addition to three days of performances at the end of the Spring Festival, the tradition is also performed during the Dragon Boat Festival. Also called Double Fifth Festival, this second event takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar New Year (June 22nd, of this year).

Although UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated Da Shuhua as a prime example of China and Hebei province’s intangible cultural heritage, the tradition may be dying out. In 2019, there were only four blacksmiths trained in the art form and the youngest was 50 years old. Wang De, one of the four, had trained his youngest son; however, like so many of the younger generations, his son moved to the big city and started working in a different industry. His concerns, and hopes, for his legacy are not unlike those of his ancestors.

“‘It’s extremely dangerous and it doesn’t make much money,’ said Wang, who also farms corn to supplement his blacksmith’s income.

[…] Still, Wang De is hopeful he will return to keep the flame alive.

‘When we no longer can pull this off, people can learn from him. I have this confidence that (Da Shuhua) will be passed on.’”

– quoted from the Feb. 19, 2019, The Strait Times article entitled “Blacksmiths keep alive the flame of China’s molten steel ‘fireworks’”

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Lantern Festival 2023”]

*RIDDLE NOTE: The riddles at the bottom (or sometimes underneath) the lanterns, are literally called “riddles written on lanterns,” but are sometimes referred to as “tiger riddles,” because solving them (in Chinese) is akin to wrestling a tiger. They often have three parts: the riddle, a hint or suggestion (which is that the answer is in the post), and the answer. In this case, I took a page from Dongfang Shuo’s book and only gave you part of an English riddle so that instead of having one definite answer, there are three possible answers. Highlight the space between the hashtags for the answers.

### The moon (which is the original answer), a bit of history you didn’t know, and a legend from a culture with which you are unfamiliar. Let me know if you got the answer(s)!  ###

Rooted Deep in a Moment (a special [revised] Black History note) February 4, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Life, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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Happy Spring Festival! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is a special post for Saturday, February 4th, which is also the 14th day of the Lunar New Year and the penultimate day of the Spring Festival. Most of the information below was posted in some way, shape, or form in 2022. This slight revision puts things in a special light. NOTE: There was no ZOOM practice today; however, you can still request a related recording via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

“I want to shake people up for a little bit. I want people to be surprised. I want to go back and play with the past, but I want to do it in a way that, hopefully, enlightens us. Ready?”

“Every week, I’m going to take you back into the past, to examine something that I think has been overlooked… or misunderstood.”

“You have to want me to tell you a story”

– quoted from Malcolm Gladwell’s 2016 Slate introduction to the “Revisionist History” podcast 

A good story, a good practice, and a good celebration have several things in common – including a beginning, a middle, and an end. In all three, the beginning gets us ready for the middle, and the middle gets us ready for the end. Good writers (and their editors) “place things in a special way” – just as we do in a vinyasa practice – and Anton Chekov’s advice (that an element introduced in the first act must be used by the third) can also be very useful in any physical practice. Again, all of this is also true of a good celebration: you want everything ready before (or just after) the guests arrive; you want things placed in a way allow an easy flow to mixing and mingling; you don’t want to run out of sustenance or entertainment – nor do you want “too many” leftovers; and you definitely want people to leave with a desire to come back for more.

Oh, yes, and if you promise people a sweet or savory treat, Chekov says that you must keep your promises.

For most people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival, the 14th day of the Lunar New Year is the penultimate day of the festival and a day of preparation for the Lantern Festival. People put the finishing touches on their lanterns and some present them for competitions. Feasts are being prepared, riddles are being written, and oranges are being signed – all with the hope that the rest of the year will be full of good fortune, good health, and good love: all the things that make for a good life.

“Each person must live their life as a model for others.”

–  Rosa Parks

A person’s life (as we know it here on Earth) also has a beginning, middle, and end. You could say people have lots of them – which is very true since the story of each person’s life is actually a lot of little stories. We can think of those “little stories” as short stories or chapters or we can think of them as defining moments; and we all have defining moments in our lives.

These may be moments that we use to describe the trajectory of our lives or maybe moments that we use to describe ourselves. Either way, when a single moment plays a big part in who we are and what’s important to us, we sometimes forget that that single moment – as important as it may be – is just a single part of our story. It’s part of a sequence of moments. It is the culmination of what’s happened before and the beginning of what happens next. It’s just preparation. Even when – or especially when – that moment is the story (that we tell), we have to be careful about how we frame it. It doesn’t matter if we are telling our story or someone else’s story; how we tell the story matters.

How we tell the story is one of the treats, one of the promises of the story – and, how we tell the story shines a light on why the story is important.

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

–  Rosa Parks

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her parents, Leona (née Edwards) and James McCauley, were a teacher and a carpenter, respectively. When they separated, Rosa and her younger brother moved with their mother to a farm in Pine Level (or Pine Tucky), an unincorporated rural community about 25 miles outside of Montgomery, Alabama. The farm they moved to belonged to Mrs. McCauley’s parents and it was there that Rosa Parks learned to sew and quilt. Even though she went to school for a bit, even started her secondary education, she ended up dropping out of school to take care of her mother and grandmother.

So it was that she grew up to be a housekeeper and a seamstress. She married Raymond Parks, a Montgomery barber, when she was 19 years old (in 1932) and he encouraged her to get her high school diploma. It wasn’t something that very many African-Americans had at the time, but Mr. Parks was very active in the advancement of the people. In fact, he was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and, by 1943, she was too. Rosa Parks not only served as the NAACP secretary, she also worked with her husband on anti-rape campaigns and was a member of the League of Women Voters. She was determined to register to vote – which she finally did, on her third attempt. Although she attended Communist Party meetings with her husband, she was never a member. She did, however, practice haha yoga, the physical practice of yoga (as early as the 1960s).

A job at Maxwell Air Force Base exposed her to the possibilities of integration and then she  started working for a liberal white couple, Clifford and Virginia Durr. The Durr’s were not only liberal leaning, they were also fairly well connected. Both the Durrs were Alabama born and bred, but ended up furthering their education outside of Alabama. Mr. Durr attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and then became a lawyer, whose income insulated the Durrs from some of the hardships others around them experienced during the Great Depression. Meanwhile, Mrs. Durr was essentially raised by Black women (as many children in well-to-do Southern homes were at the time). She then attended Wellesley College, where she regularly ate her meals with women of different races. Eventually, she befriend First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and become the sister-in-law of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. Given their backgrounds, it is not surprising that the Durr’s encouraged (and even financially supported), Rosa Parks’s activism.

During the summer of 1955, just before the murder of Emmett Till, Mrs. Parks attended trainings at the Highlander Folk School (now known as the Highlander Research and Education Center). The training, led by Septima Clark (the “Queen mother” or “Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement), focused on civil disobedience, workers’ rights, and racial equity. The combination of the training, her previous life experience and activism, and the hot toddy of emotion bubbling up from the 1955 murders of Emmett Till and two Civil Rights activists (George W. Lee and Lamar “Ditney” Smith) proved to be a powerful force – a force, perhaps, that explains her hardened resolve on December 1, 1955.

It was a force – she became a force – that would not be moved; a force that led to progress.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free…so other people would also be free.”

–  Rosa Parks

Samayama, comes from the root words meaning “holding together, tying up, binding.” It can also be translated as “integration.” In some traditions (e.g., religious law), it is defined as “self-restraint” or “self-control.” Patanjali used the term to describe the combined force of focus, concentration, and meditation – and he basically devoted a whole chapter of the Yoga Sūtras to the benefits of utilizing samyama. Interestingly, the chapter he devoted to the powers/abilities that come from applying samyama is called “Vibhūti Pada,” which is often translated into English as “Foundation (or Chapter) on Progressing.”

As I have previously mentioned, there are at least twenty different meanings of vibhūti, none of which appear to literally mean “progressing” in English. Instead, the Sanskrit word is most commonly associated with a name of a sage, sacred ashes, and/or great power that comes from great God-given (or God-related) powers. The word can also be translated into English as glory, majesty, and splendor – in the same way that Hod (Hebrew for “humility”) can also be observed as majesty, splendor, and glory in Kabbalism (Jewish mysticism). In this case, the “progressing” to which English translators refer is the process by which one accepts the invitation to a “high[er] location” or plane of existence.

According to yoga sūtra 3.53, applying samyama to a moment and it’s sequence (meaning the preceding and succeeding moments) leads to higher knowledge. This higher knowledge gives one a higher level of discernment; knowledge and discernment that transcends categories and fields of reference. It’s easy to look at what happened after Rosa Parks refused to move, but; to truly understand the power of that single moment, we have to also consider the moments that preceded it.

“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”

–  Rosa Parks

In addition to some of what I’ve already referenced, it’s important to remember that December 1, 1955 wasn’t the first time that a Black person, let alone a Black woman, had defied the unjust laws and social conventions of the time. It wasn’t the first time it had happened that year. Remember, Claudette Colvin’s refusal to move and subsequent arrest happened in the spring of 1955. Furthermore, it wasn’t even the first time that Rosa Parks had been in that situation… with that particular bus driver. In fact, Mrs. Parks and that particular driver (James F. Blake) had had multiple conflicts over the years.

One incident that stands out (because it is often highlighted) was in 1943, when he told her that, after she paid her fair at the front, she had to re-enter at the back of the bus. This was a city ordinance, but some drivers didn’t enforce it. For whatever the reason, there was conflict and when she exited the bus, he drove away before she could re-enter. (Note: This would have been right around the time she started actively working with the NAACP.) While Rosa Parks reportedly decided not to ride with that driver again, the driver was (allegedly) in the habit of driving past her when she was at a stop. Bottom line, there was a lot of water under the bridge between 1943 and 1955. Some of that proverbial water included Mr. Blake’s ongoing conflict with at least one other Black woman, Mrs. Lucille Times.

Mrs. Times, who died in 2021, and her husband Charlie were active members of the NAACP, registered voters, and activists. According to various reports, Lucille Times and James F. Blake were involved in a road rage incident that led to a physical altercation. That physical altercation led to Lucille Times’s decision – during the summer of 1955 – to “disrupt” Mr. Blake’s route by offering African-Americans rides. She continued that practice all the way through the official end of the Montgomery bus boycotts in December of 1956.

Finally, there’s the issue of the seat. Rosa Parks sat down in the “Colored” section of the bus. Somewhere along the route, the bus driver decided to make room for more white passengers by telling Black passengers to move. Then, after some grumbling and resistance, he moved the sign so that anyone who didn’t move (i.e., Rosa Parks) would officially be breaking the law.

“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

–  Rosa Parks

So, there was Rosa Parks: Tired after working all day and then shopping for Christmas presents. Tired of people in her community not being guaranteed the rights promised to them. Tired of people in her community being murdered when they worked to legally secure their rights. Tired.

And there was the bus driver, who called the police and filed a complaint.

I will resist assigning any emotional underpinnings to his decisions. I haven’t found any quotes from him that would humanize him and make him more than a stereotype. But, then again, I don’t need to do that. Just as we can put ourselves in the shoes of 15-year old Claudette Colvin or Lucille Times or Rosa Parks, we could put ourselves in his shoes. We can, if it is in our practice, apply samyama to his thoughts (as reflected by his words, deeds, and physical expressions) to know his state of mind, as described in yoga sūtra 3.19. Similarly, we could apply samyama to his heart to deepen that understanding (see yoga sūtras 3.20 and 3.35). Remember, however, that this is not where the practice begins. Additionally, we would only apply samyama in this way to gain a deeper understanding of our own hearts and minds.

“I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.”

–  Rosa Parks

PRACTICE NOTES: There is a bit of balance, in the form of symbolic marching, in most of the practices I lead that are related to the Civil Rights Movement. A practice dedicated to Rosa Parks, however, requires us to sit and focus on our roots.

To do what she did, Rosa Parks had to be rooted, grounded, and centered in her practice. She was also prepared and understood the significance of what she was doing – which is why I would typically highlight the literal meaning of vinyāsa (“to place in a special way”); how vinyāsa krama (“to place things in a special way” for a “step-by-step progression”) shows up in all good practices, regardless of the style or tradition; and why certain key/defining moments are in the practice. Finally, I might (as indicated above) place a little extra focus on the power of samyama.

A little something extra…

### “In this undiscovered moment / Lift your head up above the crowd / We could shake this world / If you would only show us how / Your life is now” JM ###

The Black Cyclone (a special Black History note) February 4, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Abhyasa, Baseball, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Life, Loss, Men, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Happy Spring Festival! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is a special post for Friday, February 3nd, which is also known as “The Day the Music Died. In 2023, it was also the 13th day of the Spring Festival, which is one of the days when people eat “clean” (more on that in the Friday post). In addition to all of that (and more) it is the anniversary of the birth of a man who (partially) inspired a big, barrier breaking, change in history – a change many people celebrate without ever knowing this particular man’s name.

“Rule 303: If you have the means at hand, you have the responsibility to act.”

“Do what you can, when you can, as much as you can, for as long as you can.”

– the t-shirt and (a paraphrased version of) common refrains on the YouTube channel “Beau of the Fifth Column” 

Normally, on Day 13 of the Lunar New Year, I focus on what it means to be clean and practice some kind of “detox” sequence that highlights how the body naturally eliminates waste and how it is just as important for us to let go of things we don’t need physically as it is for us to let go of things that no longer serve us mentally, emotionally, energetically, and/or spiritually. This is also a day when some people celebrate the birthday of the “God of War” – who is associated with empathy and “brotherhood” – and so it can be a good day to reflect on how letting something go can actually bring us closer together.

Sometimes, however, we are not ready to let go. Sometimes, circumstances force us to figure out how to deal with the loss of a friend, a family member, a “brother” or “sister” – even someone we have never (physically) met and will never meet. Just as their is an inhale, a literal “inspiration,” there is an exhale – a literal “expiration” – and part of being alive is dealing with death. The big difference is that when we consciously bring our awareness to our breath, we can consciously and peaceful engage the concept of beginnings and endings.

Unfortunately, everyone isn’t promised peaceful beginnings and endings. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t get to live long lives and pass peacefully in their sleep, surrounded by people who love them and who treated them well. Like so many recent years, this is one of those years when Lunar New Year celebrations here in the United States have been marred by horrible tragedies and losses that are beyond comprehension. Yet, people continue to come together to figure out how to move forward as a community. People keep connecting in order to honor rituals and traditions despite (or sometimes because of) the fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, grief, and dismay that arises.

People continue to live… and laugh and love… and play music – even though, as I mentioned before, today is the day the music died.

“For years, [Dr. Mike Miller], a research cardiologist, has been studying the effects of happiness — or things that make people happy — on our hearts. He began his research with laughter, and found watching funny movies and laughing at them could actually open up blood vessels, allowing blood to circulate more freely.

Miller thought, if laughter can do that, why not music? So, he tested the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. ‘Turns out music may be one of the best de-stressors — either by playing or even listening to music,’ said Miller.”

– quoted from a 2009 CNN Health segment entitled, “The power of music: It’s a real heart opener” by Val Willingham, CNN Medical Producer

Normally, on this date on the Gregorian calendar, I tell the story of the disastrous “Winter Dance Party” tour and how a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa, today in 1959. The tragic loss of the the three stars and the pilot, Roger Peterson, as they were traveling to Moorhead, MN, is compounded by the fact that they were all so young, that they were all really started to live their lives as husbands and fathers, and that the three musicians were right on the precipice of making sure their names would never be forgotten simply because of their music. Over the years, as I have recounted this story, I have encountered people who were directly connected to the events of 1959, people who remembered when it happened, people who only know the story because of the music the events inspired, and people who realized they only knew the music of the three legends because a popular musician had covered one of their hit singles.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is not uncommon for people to hear one of these stories and realize they knew the big picture, but not all of the details. What happens, however, when you realize that for all the details that you know, there’s a missing piece of history that no one ever mentioned?

“‘Follis was a natural hitter and he had an ease about him and a confident smile that always seemed to worry opposing pitchers,’ one report said. ‘As a football player and as a baseball player he gained the respect of his associates and opponents as well by his clean tactics and his gameness,’ said another.”

– quoted from “Charles Follis” by Milt Roberts (originally in Black Sports, Nov. 1975), reproduced in THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 2, No. 1 (1980)

Charles W. Follis was born February 3, 1879, in Cloverdale, Virginia. One of nine children born to Catherine Matilda Anderson Follis and James Henry Follis, who worked on a farm, Charles had fours sisters and four brothers (one of whom died from an football-related injury when he was about 19 years old). In 1885, the family moved to Wooster, Ohio, and the eldest Follis son started attending Wooster High School, where he helped establish a football team (on which his brothers would also eventually play). With Charles Follis as it’s captain and lead player, the mostly-white Wooster High School football team was unbeatable and, for the first year of it’s existence, no one could even score against them.

When he graduated from high school, in 1901, Charles Follis enrolled at the University of Wooster (now known as the College of Wooster), a private liberal arts college founded by the Presbyterian Church. While he ended up playing baseball for his university team, he decided to play football with the Wooster Athletic Association. It was while playing football that Charles Follis earned the nickname “The Black Cyclone.” He also earned a reputation an amazingly formidable competitor. He was so good, in fact, that after he played against the all-white Shelby Blues (part of the “Ohio League” that competed for the Ohio Independent Championship (OIC) and would evolve into the National Football League (NFL)), the manager of the Shelby Blues convinced Charles Follis to sign a contract – making Charles “The Black Cyclone” Follis the first African American to play professional football on an integrated team. Frank C. Schiffer, the manager of the Shelby Blues, also got Mr. Follis a job at a hardware store that would accommodate his practice and playing schedule.

About a year after the Shelby Blues signed Charles Follis as a halfback, a young student from Ohio Wesleyan University started playing for pay. That student has a name that will forever be enshrined in sports history and even in the minds of lay sports historians: Branch Rickey.

“Rickey later said: ‘I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball.’”

– quoted from the “Sports Heroes Who Served: WWI Soldier Helped Desegregate Baseball” by David Vergun, DOD News (dated July 7, 2020, U. S. Department of Defense website)

Charles Follis and Branch Rickey not only played football together as Shelby Blues, they also play against each other when Mr. Rickey coached the Ohio Wesleyan University football team. So, Branch Rickey had a front row seat to witness the athletic ability of Charles Follis as well as the way “The Black Cyclone” handled the adversity of dealing with racism on and off the field. That racism not only caused Mr. Follis to be isolated and separated from team functions – even in his hometown of Wooster – it also lead to insults and (actually, physical) injuries during the games. One of those injuries, or the culmination of those injuries, ended Charles Follis’s football career.

However, Charles Follis wasn’t finished with sports and football wasn’t the only place where ran into Branch Rickey. The two athletes also found themselves in direct competition when they started playing as catchers for Ohio college baseball teams. Even though they were rivals, they seemed to share mutual respect and friendship with each other. Charles Follis became the first African American catcher to move from the college leagues to the Negro League. Meanwhile, Branch Rickey coached college baseball at Ohio Wesleyan – where he coached another African American catcher, Charles Thomas – and then signed a contract with the Terre Haute Hottentots of the Class B Central League, making his professional Major League Baseball (MLB) debut on June 20, 1903.

“In a 1975 Akron Beacon Journal story, the late John M. Smith of Shelby was interviewed a year before his death. As a teenager, Smith watched Follis star for the Shelby Blues.

‘Could he run?’ Smith asked incredulously, ‘Lord almighty! The man was the best I’ve ever seen. Could he run!’”

– quoted from the Akron Beacon Journal clip posted on the Charles Follis Foundation website 

In 1905, Charles Follis was fast becoming the superstar of the Cuban Giants, the first fully salaried African American professional baseball team. He was an all-around all star who stole bases, made double and triple plays, and was known as a power hitter as well as one of the most popular and well-liked players on the team. He made headlines during every game and forced other teams to pull out all the stops in an effort to best him. A rival team from Elyria, Ohio, thought they could beat biggest “giant” by bringing in a ringer: Herbert “Buttons” Briggs, a former Chicago Cubs pitcher. On May 16, 1906, the MLB pitcher faced the “cyclone”… and lost, big time. As the first batter, in the first inning, against the first pitch, Charles Follis hit a home run. He literally hit it out of the park and would end the game four-for-six against the pitcher who had previously won 20 games in one MLB season.

Within a few years of that 1906 season opener, three of the biggest names on the field that day had all passed away at young ages: John Bright, the Cuban Giants pitcher died in 1909 or 1908; Herbert Theodore “Buttons” Briggs caught pneumonia in 1910 and died of tuberculosis in 1911; Charles Follis caught pneumonia during a game in 1910 and died April 5, 1910.

“The [old-timers] in Wooster, Shelby, and Cleveland still talk about him today… but historians forget him… young sports fans probably never heard of him before. In Wooster [Cemetery], a thin, weathered headstone, slightly tilted by the winds and snow of more than 65 years, marks his final resting place. Today it is viewed as a local historical site.”

– quoted from “Charles Follis” by Milt Roberts (originally in Black Sports, Nov. 1975), reproduced in THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 2, No. 1 (1980)

Around the same time Charles Follis was besting MLB players, his college teammate and rival was moving up to the majors. The only problem was that Branch Rickey’s stats were lacking. Two years into his contract, the St. Louis Browns (formerly the Wisconsin Brewers) became the New York Highlanders (later the New York Yankees). On June 28, 1907, Mr. Rickey, the backup catcher, was forced to play a game while injured. It was a disaster.  He couldn’t throw, he struck out three times, and the opposing team (the Washington Senators) stole a whopping 13 bases. Not surprisingly, that was his one and only season with the Highlanders.

Branch Rickey would go back to coaching college football, make another go as a baseball player (1914) and as a baseball manager with the reconstructed St. Louis Browns (1913–1915, 1919). Then, after serving in the United States Army during World War I and spending that final year in the front office of the St. Louis Browns, he became General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals (which had been the St. Louis Browns née St. Louis Brown Stockings, before the Brewers used the name). The MLB catcher some described as lackluster, excelled as a manager. He was an innovator, especially when dealing with conflict and controversy. He became General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943 and immediately started laying groundwork for some groundbreaking.

In 1945, Branch Rickey and Gus Greenlee, founder and president of the second National Negro League, created the United States League. Mr. Rickey interviewed Jackie Robinson and then signed him to a minor league contract. A good number of people in the United States – even if they don’t know much about baseball – know that Jackie Robinson, #42, broke the color line in major league baseball on April 15, 1947. What people may not know is why Branch Rickey was so determined to make that change. Why he so determined to do what he could – in theory, for people who were perceived as being so different from him.

Even though he would later talk about his experiences as a coach of a Black player and as a member of the military (before the U. S. military integrated), what many people may not know is that, before that, he had a rival, a teammate, a peer, a friend – someone he admired: a man named Charles W. Follis, a man who just happened to be Black.

“On October 17, 1903, Rickey felt the ‘Black Cyclone’s’ full power when he ran their ends dizzy for 20, 25, 35 and 70 yard gains, the last being a touchdown. After that game Rickey praised Follis, calling him ‘a wonder.’ It was the power of his example, his character, and his grace that convinced Rickey, that color could not belie his greatness. The rest is history….”

– quoted from the “Background” section of the Charles Follis Foundation website

PRACTICE NOTES: I actually have several baseball-related sequences and themes in my notebooks. They range from (sort of) silly to (very) serious, from meditative Restorative and Yin Yoga to “slow flow” and vigorous vinyasas. Philosophically, what the all have in common is a focus on teamwork, on doing one’s best and then letting go, and on an awareness of what happens when we become part of something bigger than our individual selves. Physically, what they all have in common is asymmetrically, unilateral poses with special awareness of the feet, hips, core/midsection, and shoulder girdle.

Of course, we can’t have a practice about baseball without a seventh-inning stretch and the wave.

### “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” ~ Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer ###

FTWMI: Speaking of Rivers… (in the new year) February 1, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Hope, Langston Hughes, Life, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Poetry, Suffering, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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Happy New Year! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

For Those Who Missed It: A versions of the following information was posted in 2021 and 2022. Class details and links have been updated. Please note that the eleventh day of the Lunar New Year is mostly a “break day,” although some people will honor their son-in-laws.

“I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

– from the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes

Since 1976, February 1st has marked the beginning of Black History Month in the United States of America. I always found it curious: Why February, the shortest month of the year (even during leap years)? I sometimes wondered if the reason had anything to do with Langston Hughes, who was born today in 1901.*

Born James Mercer Langston Hughes, the poet was a prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance and the first Black American to earn a living solely from writing and public lectures. In addition to poetry (including jazz poetry, which he started writing in high school), he wrote novels, plays, essays, and letters…so many letters. He wrote so many letters, in fact, that at one point he was writing 30 – 40 letters a day and, by the end of his life, he could have filled 20 volumes of books with his letters.

He traveled the world, wrote about his experiences in Paris, Mexico, West Africa, the Azores and Canary Islands, Holland, France, Italy, the Soviet Union, and the Caribbean – but he always came home to Harlem. After all, his patrons were in Harlem. They were also, in many ways, his inspiration, the very people about whom he said that he wrote: “workers, roustabouts, and singers, and job hunters on Lenox Avenue in New York, or Seventh Street in Washington or South State in Chicago—people up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten, buying furniture on the installment plan, filling the house with roomers to help pay the rent, hoping to get a new suit for Easter—and pawning that suit before the Fourth of July.” He made a name for himself specifically writing about the Black experience, but (in doing so) he wrote about the American experience.

“Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.   

I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.   

I like a pipe for a Christmas present,

or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.

I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like

the same things other folks like who are other races.   

So will my page be colored that I write?   

Being me, it will not be white.

But it will be

a part of you, instructor.

You are white—

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That’s American.”

– quoted from the poem ”Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes

Being an African-American born at the beginning of the 20th Century meant that Mr. Hughes could easily trace his heritage back to slavery. Both of his paternal great-grandmothers were enslaved and both of his paternal great-grandfathers owned enslaved people. However, he could also trace his heritage to freedom and to a time when there was no question about freedom – as well as the time when people appreciated their freedom in new ways.

His maternal grandmother, Mary Patterson, was African-American, French, English, and Indigenous American. She was also the first woman to attend Oberlin College. She married a man, Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed heritage, who died in 1859 while participating in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry and eventually married her second husband, Charles Henry Langston. The senior Langston, along with his brother John Mercer Langston, was an abolitionist and leader of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, who would eventually become a teacher and voting rights activist. The Langstons’ daughter, Caroline (Carrie), would become a school teacher and the mother of the great poet.

“So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

– quoted from the poem “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes

Raised primarily by his mother and maternal grandmother, Langston Hughes showed a definite talent and interest in writing at an early age. He was also devoted to books. Despite being academically inclined, he struggled with the racism in school – even when it seemed to benefit him – because he couldn’t escape the misconceptions, marginalization, and oppression that came with the stereotypes.

Still, he persisted. He attended Lincoln University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he was the classmate of the then-future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. And, when he had the opportunity to share his poetry with a popular white poet, whose poetry “sang” (and was meant to be sung), he took advantage of the moment – even though he was working as a busboy at a New York hotel where the poet (Vachel Lindsay) was having dinner.

“I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,”

– quoted from “I Dream A World” by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes and his words left an indelible mark on the world. As Black History Month is all about recognizing African-Americans who were influential to our society – but not always recognized by society; it’s not surprising that I often wondered if Langston Hughes’s birthday being on the 1st was the reason Black History Month is in February. Well, as it turns out, it’s just one more example of serendipity.

Created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian who was the son of formerly enslaved people, the annual celebration initially started as “Negro History Week” – and it was the second week in February for fifty years. Mr. Woodson started the week so that it coincided with the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln (2/12/1809) and the observed/assumed birthday of Frederick Douglass (2/14/1818), the abolitionist, who escaped slavery at the age of 20. The existence of this heritage month has inspired so many heritage and cultural observation throughout the year that the calendar, in some ways, reflects the United States: diverse and (academically) segregated. It has also changed the way some aspects of American history are taught.

“I look at my own body   

With eyes no longer blind—

And I see that my own hands can make

The world that’s in my mind.

Then let us hurry, comrades,

The road to find.

– quoted from the poem “I look at the world” by Langston Hughes

Please join me today (Wednesday, February 1st) 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. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Langston’s Theme for Jimmy 2022”]

*2022 NOTE: According to most printed biographies (that I checked), Langston Hughes was born in 1902. However, many digital sources indicate that he was born in 1901 – and this earlier date is based on research and fact checking reported for the New York Times by Jennifer Schuessler (in 2018). Curiously, the 1940 census listed his birth as “abt 1905;” however, this information would have been given to a census taker by one of the poet’s roommates. (Additionally, we know from one his poems that Langston Hughes didn’t think very highly of the “census man” and the accuracy of census information.)

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

Revised 2/2023.

### KEEP ON A-CLIMBIN’ ON ###

FTWMI: Focus+Concentrate+Meditate = Sweet Heaven (w/expansion) January 30, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Gandhi, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Lent, Life, Meditation, Mysticism, New Year, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Swami Vivekananda, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Happy New Year! Happy Carnival! Many blessings to those celebrating the Jade Emperor’s birthday! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

For Those Who Missed It: A version of the following was originally posted in February of 2021. Even though this was posted first, it is a continuation of yesterday’s “Getting Ready & Being Ready” post. Class details have been updated and a slight expansion has been added with regard to Martyrs’ Day / School Day of Non-violence and Peace.

“The Indriyas, the organs of the senses, are acting outwards and coming in contact with external objects. Bringing them under the control of the will is what is called Pratyahara or gathering towards oneself. Fixing the mind on the lotus of the heart, or on the centre of the head, is what is called Dharana. Limited to one spot, making that spot the base, a particular kind of mental waves rises; these are not swallowed up by other kinds of waves, but by degrees become prominent, while all the others recede and finally disappear. Next the multiplicity of these waves gives place to unity and one wave only is left in the mind. This is Dhyana, meditation. When no basis is necessary, when the whole of the mind has become one wave, one-formedness, it is called Samadhi. Bereft of all help from places and centres, only the meaning of the thought is present. If the mind can be fixed on the centre for twelve seconds it will be a Dharana, twelve such Dharanas will be a Dhyana, and twelve such Dhyanas will be a Samadhi.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter VIII: Raja-Yoga in Brief” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

 

Take a moment to consider where you put your energy, resources, effort, and focus. How much time, money, effort, or awareness do you put into loving someone? Or, actively disliking someone? How much energy do you spend dealing with fear or grief, anger or doubt? How much on joy or gratitude? It is generally understood that what you get out of a situation or your life is partially based on what you put into a situation or life. A more nuanced understanding of such an equation would highlight the fact that our energy, resources, effort, and focus/awareness all combine to produce a certain outcome – and this is in keeping with Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. It is also consistent with text in Ecclesiastes and with what Rod Stryker refers to as the Creation Equation.

The problem many of us run into isn’t that we don’t know or understand the formula. The problem is that we don’t pay attention to what we are putting into the equation. Our time, energy, efforts, and resources get pulled in different directions, because our attention is distracted – that is to say, our focus/awareness is pulled into different directions. But, what happens if/when we sharpen our focus? What happens when we pull all our awareness and senses in and focus/concentrate/meditate in such a way that we become completely absorbed in one direction? Consider the power of that kind of engagement.

Yoga Sūtra 3.1: deśabandhah cittasya dhāranā

 

– “Dhāranā is the process of holding, focusing, or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.2: tatra pratyaya-ikatānatā dhyānam

 

– “Dhyāna is the repeated continuation, or unbroken flow of thought, toward that one object or place.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.3: tadeva-artha-mātra-nirbhāsaṁ svarūpa-śūnyam-iva-samādhiḥ

 

– “Samadhi [meditation in its highest form] is the state when only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if devoid even of its own form.”

Yoga Sūtra 3.4: trayam-ekatra samyama

 

– “Samyama is [the practice or integration of] the three together.”

In the third section of the Yoga Sūtras, Patanjali outlined the last three limbs of the Yoga Philosophy and then, just as he did with the other elements, he broke down the benefits of practicing these final limbs. Similar to sūtra 2.1, there is a thread that highlights the power of three elements when practiced together. What is different about the final limbs, however, is that Patanjali devoted the majority of a whole chapter – “The Chapter (or Foundation) on Progressing” – to breaking down the benefits of integrating dhāranā (“focus” or concentration”), dhyāna (“concentration” or “meditation”), and Samādhi (“meditation” or “absorption”).

We can unintentionally find ourselves in a state of absorption, just as we can consciously progress into the state. We may think of it as being “in the zone” and it is something our minds are completely capable of experiencing. Even people with different types of ADHD can find themselves in this state of absorption. However, what Patanjali described, as it relates to the practice, is a very deliberate engagement of the mind – and, therefore, a very deliberate engagement of the mind-body-spirit.

There are, of course, times, when as individuals or groups we truly harness the power of our awareness and engage the mind-body-spirit in a way that could come under the heading of Samyama. Consider people coming together to raise a barn or to support a family in need. Think about grass roots efforts to register people to vote or change unjust laws. Think about how people raise money for a cause, an individual, or a community. Contemplate how someone’s focus shifts when they give something up for Lent. Although it is an extreme example, another example of a time when every fiber of someone’s being is focused on a single goal is when that goal is survival. One might do multiple tasks during such a period, but each task has the intention of ensuring survival. This is true of an individual and it can also be true of groups of people. In fact, throughout history there have been stories of individuals and groups of people who found themselves in such a situation.

One of those situations – where everyone focused every fiber of their being on survival is remembered and commemorated on the ninth and tenth days of the Lunar New Year. Legend has it that the Hokkien people (also known as Hoklo, Banlam, and Minnan people) found themselves under attack. The Hokkien were not warriors, but they came in close proximity with warriors because they were known for building great ships. One version of their story states that the events occurred during the Song Dynasty (between 960 and 1279 CE), while they were being hunted and killed; another indicates that they were caught between warring factions. Ultimately, to escape the carnage, they decided to hide in a sugar cane field – which, in some versions of the story, just miraculously appeared. They hid until there were no more sounds of horses, warriors, or battle. Legend has it that they emerged on the ninth day of the Lunar New Year, which is the Jade Emperor’s Birthday.

This year (2023), the Jade Emperor’s birthday falls on January 30th, which is one of six days designated as “Martyrs’ Day” in India. This Martyrs’ Day is the one observed on a national level, as it is the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Today is also the day, in 1956, when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s house was bombed and the day, in 1972, that became known as “Bloody Sunday” in Northern Ireland. Since 1964, when it was first established in Spain, some school children around the world observe today as a “School Day of Non-violence and Peace.” In 1998, Gandhi’s grandson (Arun Gandhi) established today as the beginning of the “Season for Nonviolence” (which ends on April 4th, the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. All of these remembrances and observations, just like the observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, are dedicated to the goal of honoring the lives of the victims (or martyrs) of past injustices and eradicating the violent tendencies that create more tragedies, crimes against humanity, and overall suffering. Today’s observations are also based on the foundation of ahimsā, one of the guiding principles of Gandhi, King, and those unarmed protesters in Northern Ireland. Click here to read more about these events and about how focusing on non-violence is part of the practice.

“‘From this story, we learn that unity, solidarity and the active participation of the community is necessary when it comes to facing challenges,’ said [Klang Hokkien Association president Datuk Teh Kim] Teh.”

 

– quoted from The Star article (about a version of the story where only some hide) entitled “Legend Behind Hokkien New Year emphasizes unity and solidarity” by Grace Chen (2/24/2018)

The Jade Emperor is sometimes referred to as “Heavenly Grandfather” and “Heavenly Duke.” He is recognized as the ruler of heaven and earth in some Chinese religion and mythology. In Taoism, he is one of the Three Pure Ones or the Three Divine Teachers. Fujian province (in China), Penang (in Malayasia), and Taiwan are three areas where there is a large concentration of Hokkien people and, therefore, places where the ninth day of the Lunar New Year is a large celebration. In some places the celebrations begin at 11 PM on the eighth night and can be so large that they eclipse the celebrations of the first day of the Lunar New Year (in those areas). In fact, the ninth day is actually called “Hokkien New Year.”

Those who are religious will go to a temple and engage in a ritual involving prostration, kneeling, bowing, incense, and offerings. For many there is a great feast full of fruits, vegetables, noodles, and (of course) sugar cane. The sugar cane is an important element of the Jade Emperor’s birthday celebrations and rituals – not only because of the aforementioned story of survival, but also because the Hokkien word for “sugarcane” (kam-chià, 甘蔗) is a homonym for (or sounds like) a Hokkien word for “thank you” (kamsiā, 感谢), which literally means “feeling thankful.”

Every version of the Hokkien people’s survival story is a great reminder that we can give thanks no matter how hard, how challenging, how infuriating, and/or how tragic our situation. Take last year – or the last few years, for instance: When we look back at all the hard stuff, all the grief, all the fear, all the anger, all the disappointment, and all of the trauma, we can get distracted and forget that there were moments of sweetness. Over the last few years, there were moments of kindness, moments of love, moments of birth and rebirth, moments of compassion, moments of hope, and moments of joy.

In other words, in spite of all the hard stuff, there were moments of sweetness. Take a moment to remember one of those moments; and feel thankful.

 

“‘Although we may not have an image of this deity in our temple, as long as devotees have the Jade Emperor in their hearts, their prayers will be heard,’ said [the Kwan Imm Temple’s] principal Shi Fa Zhuo.”

 

– quoted from The Star article entitled “Legend Behind Hokkien New Year emphasizes unity and solidarity” by Grace Chen (2/24/2018)

Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, January 30th) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga practice. 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.

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, in the spirit of generosity (dana), is freely given and freely received. If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices. Donations are tax deductible)

 

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

The Lunar New Year Day 9 playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Lunar New Year Day 9 2022”]

The Martys’ Day playlist is also available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “01302021 Peace for the Martyrs”]

 

### DON’T BE GREEDY, BE GRATEFUL ###

A Kitchen Story (or 2) on Day 4 (the “missing” Wednesday post) January 26, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Depression, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Meditation, Movies, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Vipassana, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Happy (Lunar) New Year!” and “Happy Carnival!” to those who are celebrating.

This is the missing post for Wednesday, January 25th. Like the playlist, this is a remix of 2022 posts (one of which was a remix from 2021). If you click on the link in the “CODA, redux,” please note that the beginning is similar (but the posts are different).

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\. Donations are tax deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.

CODA, redux

Do you ever think about what yoga and Virginia Woolf have in common? No? Just me? Ok, that’s fine; it’s not the first time – and will not be the last time that I make what, on the surface, appears to be a really random connection. It’s not even the first (and probably won’t be the last) time this week. However, whenever I circle back to this practice and this theme, I found myself thinking about different similarities. Last year, I found myself thinking a little more about mental health and the implications of having space, time, and the other resources to focus, concentrate, contemplate, and meditate. This year, I find myself thinking more about what it takes to tell our stories and the vantage point(s) from which we tell our stories – especially the stories we tell about our defining moments.

“A writer is a person who sits at a desk and keeps his eye fixed, as intently as he can, upon a certain object—that figure of speech may help to keep us steady on our path if we look at it for a moment. He is an artist who sits with a sheet of paper in front of him trying to copy what he sees. What is his object—his model?”

“A writer has to keep his eye upon a model that moves, that changes, upon an object that is not one object but innumerable objects. Two words alone cover all that a writer looks at—they are, human life.”

 

– quoted from the essay “The Leaning Tower (A paper read to the Workers’ Educational Association, Brighton, May 1940.)as it appears in The Moment and Other Essays by Virginia Woolf

We all have defining moments in our lives. These may be moments that we use to describe the trajectory of our lives or maybe moments that we use to describe ourselves. Either way, when a single moment plays a big part in who we are and what’s important to us, we sometimes forget that that single moment – as important as it may be – is part of a sequence of moments. It is the culmination of what’s happened before and the beginning of what happens next; it’s just a single part of our ever-changing story. Even when – or especially when – that moment is the story, we have to be careful about how we frame it. It doesn’t matter if we are telling our story or someone else’s story; how we tell the story matters.

For a lot of people who are celebrating the Lunar New Year, the fourth day is the day when things start going back to normal (whatever that is these days). People go back to work and back to school. People who were able to travel to see family start heading back home (or are already home). Even though those celebrating the Spring Festival for 15 days, will reign in the festivities a bit. However, each day still has significance and special rituals. For instance, the fourth day of the Lunar New Year is not only the birthday of all sheep (in some Chinese traditions), it is also the day when the Kitchen God returns to the hearth.

According to one set of stories, the Kitchen God was at one time a man who, after gaining a certain amount of power and wealth, abandoned his first wife and married a younger woman. Years after the original couple divorced, the man fell on hard times. He lost his wealth, his power, his second wife, and his eyesight. He became a beggar on the streets. One day, the stories tell us, the man’s first wife saw her former husband begging in the streets. She was a woman of great kindness and compassion and so she invited him to her simple home and offered him a shower, some food, and a moment of warmth by the fire.

Remember, the old man could no longer see and didn’t know that this generous woman was the same woman he had treated so poorly. Full, clean, and sitting by the fire, however, he started to talk about his first wife. He lamented about his first marriage and the life they could have had if he hadn’t dumped her. In the process of soothing her now sobbing former husband, the woman revealed her identity and said that she forgave him. Miraculously, the man was suddenly able to see; but he was so distraught that he threw himself into the kitchen stove.

Legend has it, the woman could only save his leg – which became the fireplace poker – and the man became the “Kitchen God,” who leaves the kitchen alter just before the New Year and returns to heaven in order to give the Jade Emperor an accounting of each household’s activities during the previous year. In the final days of the old year, people will clean up their homes – so the alter(s) will be ready for the return of the gods and ancestors – and, sometimes, smear honey on the lips of the Kitchen God so that his report is extra sweet. Then the Kitchen God and other household gods return on the fourth day of the New Year.

I always imagine that some years the Kitchen God’s report is really, really, wild. Can you imagine? Seriously, imagine what he would say about the way we have treated each other over the last few years. Sure, some of us might not be portrayed too badly; but others of us….

More to the point, consider what happens when the Kitchen God’s report includes an update about someone’s defining moment(s). Just imagine a report from the beginning of 1882 (which would have been the end of the year of the snake); the fall of 1928 (year of the dragon); Spring of 1940 (year of the dragon); and the beginning of 2008 (the year of the boar). Imagine, even, the report from 1941 (another year of the dragon). What hard truths would have been in those reports?

“But the leaning-tower writers wrote about themselves honestly, therefore creatively. They told the unpleasant truths, not only the flattering truths. That is why their autobiography is so much better than their fiction or their poetry. Consider how difficult it is to tell the truth about oneself—the unpleasant truth; to admit that one is petty, vain, mean, frustrated, tortured, unfaithful, and unsuccessful. The nineteenth-century writers never told that kind of truth, and that is why so much of the nineteenth-century writing is worthless; why, for all their genius, Dickens and Thackeray seem so often to write about dolls and puppets, not about full-grown men and women; why they are forced to evade the main themes and make do with diversions instead. If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

 

– quoted from the essay “The Leaning Tower (A paper read to the Workers’ Educational Association, Brighton, May 1940.)as it appears in The Moment and Other Essays by Virginia Woolf

Born Virginia Stephen in Kensington, England, on January 25, 1882, Virginia Woolf wrote nine novels (including one published shortly after her death), five short story collections (most of which were published after her death), a hybrid novel (part fiction, part non-fiction), three book-length essays, a biography, and hundreds of articles, reviews, and essays. Some of her most famous essays and speeches addressed the labor of writing – telling stories – and why (in the Western canon) there were so few accomplished female writers. For instance, In October 1928, she gave two speeches to two different student societies at Newnham College and Girton College, which at the time were two of the all-women colleges at the University of Cambridge. (NOTE: Newnham is still an all-women’s college. Girton started accepting men in 1971 and started allowing men to be “Mistress,” or head of the college, in 1976.)

These speeches about women and fiction specifically detailed why there were so few women writers who had earned acclaimed (and, to certain degree, why those that did often did so anonymously or with “male” names). She highlighted the absurd trichotomy between the two wildly archetypical ways women are portrayed in literature and the reality of the very different types of women in the room, let alone in the world. She also speculated about the works that might have come from a woman (say, in Shakespeare’s time) who had a helpmate to take care of the cooking, cleaning, children, and other household business. In addition to talking about the social constraints that prevented a woman from devoting copious time to the practical application of her craft – writing, she also discussed the social constraints and inequalities that could result in what would amount to writer’s block. All this, she detailed, even before she addressed the issue of a market place predisposed to highlight male writers. All this, she detailed, as she highlighted two (really three) of the things a woman would need to overcome the obstacles of society: (time), space, and money.

“… a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…”

 

– quoted from the essay “A Room of One’s Own,” as it appears in A Room of One’s Own And, Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf

“surājye dhārmike deśe subhikṣhe nirupadrave |
dhanuḥ pramāṇa-paryantaṃ śilāghni-jala-varjite |
ekānte maṭhikā-madhye sthātavyaṃ haṭha-yoghinā || 12 ||

The Yogī should practise [sic] Haṭha Yoga in a small room, situated in a solitary place, being 4 cubits square, and free from stones, fire, water, disturbances of all kinds, and in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter 1. On Āsanas” of the Haţha Yoga Pradipika, translated by Pancham Sinh (1914)

When I first started going deeper into my physical practice of yoga, I looked into some of the classic texts within the tradition. One of those texts was the Haţha Yoga Pradipika (Light on the Physical Practice of Yoga), a 15th Century text that focuses on āsanas (“seats” or poses), prāņāyāma (breath awareness and control), mudrās (“seals” or “gestures”), and Samādhi (that ultimate form of “meditation” that is absorption). Throughout the text, and in particular in the chapter on mudrās, there is a breakdown of how energy, power, or vitality moves through the body and the benefits of harnessing that power.

I would eventually appreciate how the text is almost a summary of the earlier Yoga Sūtras, but (as an English lit major), what first struck me was how similar Virginia Woolf’s advice to women writers were to these early instructions about a practice that can be used to cultivate clarity and harness the power of the mind. Additionally, the practice requires – nay demands – that we sit and turn inward (in order to consider our perspectives and vantage points), just as Ms. Woolf’s essays highlighted the importance of noticing a writer’s seat.

“But before we go on with the story of what happened after 1914, let us look more closely for a moment, not at the writer himself; nor at his model; but at his chair. A chair is a very important part of a writer’s outfit. It is the chair that gives him his attitude towards his model; that decides what he sees of human life; that profoundly affects his power of telling us what he sees. By his chair we mean his upbringing, his education. It is a fact, not a theory, that all writers from Chaucer to the present day, with so few exceptions that one hand can count them, have sat upon the same kind of chair—a raised chair. They have all come from the middle class; they have had good, at least expensive, educations. They have all been raised above the mass of people upon a tower of stucco—that is their middle-class birth; and of gold—that is their expensive education…. Those are some of them; and all, with the exception of D. H. Lawrence, came of the middle class, and were educated at public schools and universities. There is another fact, equally indisputable: the books that they wrote were among the best books written between 1910 and 1925. Now let us ask, is there any connection between those facts? Is there a connection between the excellence of their work and the fact that they came of families rich enough to send them to public schools and universities?”

 

– quoted from the essay “The Leaning Tower (A paper read to the Workers’ Educational Association, Brighton, May 1940.)as it appears in The Moment and Other Essays by Virginia Woolf

According to Virginia Woolf, there was an undeniable connection between wealth, the education that wealth, and the success of  [male] English writers in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. She saw that common thread of privilege as the very foundation of (and secret to) these writers’ success and described it as a tower, stating, “He sits upon a tower raised above the rest of us; a tower built first on his parents’ station, then on his parents’ gold. It is a tower of the utmost importance; it decides his angle of vision; it affects his power of communication.” She also saw it as a blind spot (for such writers and society) and noted that the tower stood strong well into the twentieth century. While the writers supported by this metaphorical tower sometimes had empathy for those less fortunate than them, she observed that they had no desire to dismantle the tower or descend from it’s heights. Furthermore, the tower (and lack of awareness about it) perpetuated misconceptions about women and about why there were not more women – nor more people from lower income brackets – in the ranks of acclaimed authors.

Here is where I see another similarity between yoga and Virginia Woolf’s work, because some people have misconceptions about what it means to practice yoga, what happens when you practice yoga, who practices yoga, and why people practice yoga. For instance, while the instruction for the Haţha Yoga Pradipika instructed a person to practice when they were “free from…disturbances of all kinds” (HYP 1.12); “free from dirt, filth and insects” (HYP 1.13); and “free from all anxieties” (HYP 1.14), the vast majority of people practicing in the modern world do so in order to free themselves from the various maladies that plague them. More often than not, these types of misconceptions stem from a lack of knowledge about the history and practice of yoga. Unfortunately, that lack of knowledge often causes people to not practice and/or to judge people for practicing. 

Just as Virginia Woolf addressed misconceptions about women in her essays and fiction, the translator Pancham Sinh addressed some misconceptions about people who practice yoga and the practice of prāņāyāma in an introduction to the Haţha Yoga Pradipika. Part of the introduction is an admonishment to people who would study the practice, but do not practice it, stating, “People put their faith implicitly in the stories told them about the dangers attending the practice, without ever taking the trouble of ascertaining the fact themselves. We have been inspiring and expiring air from our birth, and will continue to do so till death; and this is done without the help of any teacher. Prāņāyāma is nothing but a properly regulated form of the otherwise irregular and hurried flow of air, without using much force or undue restraint; and if this is accomplished by patiently keeping the flow slow and steady, there can be no danger. It is the impatience for the Siddhis which cause undue pressure on the organs and thereby causes pains in the ears, the eyes, the chest, etc. If the three bandhas be carefully performed while practicing [sic] the Prāņāyāma, there is no possibility of any danger.”

Siddhis are the powers or “accomplishments” achieved from continuous practice. They range from being able to extend peace out into the world and understanding all languages; to being able to levitate and know the inner workings of another’s heart and mind; to the six “powers unique to being human.” Bandhas are “locks” and refer to internal engagements used to seal sections of the body in order to control the flow of prāņā. The three major bandhas referred to in the text are the same engagements I encourage when I tell people to “zip up” and engage the pelvic floor and lower abdominal cavity (mūla bandha), the mid and upper abdominal cavity (uḍḍīyana bandha), and the throat (jālandhara bandha). I typically refer to a fourth – pada bandha – which is a seal for the feet; however, in classical texts the fourth bandha is the engagement of the three major bandhas (root, abdominal, and throat) at the same time.

Before anyone gets it twisted, let’s be clear that this introduction is not advice to grab a book and follow instructions without the guidance of a teacher. In fact, Pancham Sinh specifically advised people to find a teacher who practiced and indicated that while one could follow the directions from a (sacred) book, there are some things that cannot be expressed in words. There are some things that can only be felt.

This is consistent with Patanjali’s explanation that the elements and senses that make up the “objective world” can be “divided into four categories: specific, unspecific, barely describable, and absolutely indescribable.” (YS 2.19) That is to say, there are some things that have specific sense-related reference points; some things that can be referred back to the senses, but only on a personal level; some things that have no reference points, but can be understood through “a sign” or comprehension of sacred text; and some things which cannot be described, because there is no tangible reference point and/or “sign” – there is only essence. To bring awareness to all of these things, we “sit and breathe” (even when we are moving).

“athāsane dṝdhe yoghī vaśī hita-mitāśanaḥ |
ghurūpadiṣhṭa-mārgheṇa prāṇāyāmānsamabhyaset || 1 ||

Posture becoming established, a Yogî, master of himself, eating salutary and moderate food, should practise [sic] Prâṇâyâma, as instructed by his guru.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter 2. On Prāņāyāma” of the Haţha Yoga Pradipika, translated by Pancham Sinh (1914)

Yoga Sūtra 2.51: bāhyābhyantaravişayākşepī caturthah

 

– “The fourth [prāņāyāma] goes beyond, or transcends, the internal and external objects.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 2.52: tatah kşīyate prakāśāvaraņam

 

– “Then the veil over the [Inner] Light deteriorates.”

“Unconsciousness, which means presumably that the under-mind, works at top speed while the upper-mind drowses, is a state we all know. We all have experience of the work done by unconsciousness in our own daily lives. You have had a crowded day, let us suppose, sightseeing in London. Could you say what you had seen and done when you came back? Was it not all a blur, a confusion? But after what seemed a rest, a chance to turn aside and look at something different, the sights and sounds and sayings that had been of most interest to you swam to the surface, apparently of their own accord; and remained in memory; what was unimportant sank into forgetfulness. S it is with the writer. After a hard day’s work, trudging round, seeing all he can, feeling all he can, taking in the book of his mind innumerable notes, the writer becomes—if he can—unconscious. In fact, his under-mind works at top speed while his upper-mind drowses. Then, after a pause the veil lifts; and there is the thing—the thing he wants to write about—simplified, composed. Do we strain Wordsworth’s famous saying about emotion recollected in [tranquility] when we infer that by [tranquility] he meant that the writer needs to become unconscious before he can create?”

 

– quoted from the essay “The Leaning Tower (A paper read to the Workers’ Educational Association, Brighton, May 1940.)as it appears in The Moment and Other Essays by Virginia Woolf

When we “sit and breathe” a lot of things bubble up: thoughts, emotions, sensations, memories. Part of the practice is noticing what comes up and part of the practice is remaining the witness to what comes up (rather than engaging every little fluctuation of the mind). Contrary to some popular misconceptions, people who practice feel a lot – they’re just not always distracted by every thing they feel. Instead, they allow the different thoughts, emotions, sensations, and memories to pass back and forth between their conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind until the busy brain rests. They are not constantly cataloging what is specific, what is unspecific, what is barely describable, and what is absolutely indescribable; however, they are aware of all of these categories as they experience them.

One of the things we can feel, but not touch, is emotion. Emotions can come with visceral experiences and, in that way, can fall into the “unspecific” category. More often than not, however, what we feel is “barely describable” (or even indescribable) – and yet, writers are always trying to describe or capture the essence of what is felt. Virginia Woolf constantly endeavored to describe what she felt and what she felt she saw others feeling. Even more salient, she often focused on the disconnection between what her characters felt and what they could describe about what they felt. The author’s efforts were hindered, or aided (depending on one’s viewpoint), by the fact that she experienced so much trauma and heartbreak; much of which led to emotional despair.

“I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me. I am arch, gay, languid, melancholy by turns. I am rooted, but I flow.”

– quoted from “Susan” in The Waves by Virginia Woolf

Click here if you want to read the 2022 post that details some of Virginia Woolf’s trauma and heartbreak.

“vapuḥ kṝśatvaṃ vadane prasannatā
nāda-sphuṭatvaṃ nayane sunirmale |
aroghatā bindu-jayo|aghni-dīpanaṃ
nāḍī-viśuddhirhaṭha-siddhi-lakṣhaṇam || 78 ||

When the body becomes lean, the face glows with delight, Anâhatanâda manifests, and eyes are clear, body is healthy, bindu under control, and appetite increases, then one should know that the Nâdîs are purified and success in Haṭha Yoga is approaching.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter 1. On Āsanas” of the Haţha Yoga Pradipika, translated by Pancham Sinh (1914)

 

“The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

 

– quoted from the essay “A Room of One’s Own,” as it appears in A Room of One’s Own And, Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf

The Air I Breathe, one of my favorite movies, was released in the United States January 25, 2008. Inspired by the idea that emotions are like fingers on a hand, the main characters are known to the audience as Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow, Love, and Fingers – and their stories are interconnected, even though they don’t necessarily realize it. In fact, some of the most desperate actions in the movie are motivated by fear and a sense of isolation. Promotional materials for the movie proclaimed, “We are all strangers / We are all living in fear / We are all ready to change” and in the movie Happiness asks, So where does change come from? And how do we recognize it when it happens?” Happiness also says, “I always wondered, when a butterfly leaves the safety of its cocoon, does it realize how beautiful it has become? or does it still just see itself as a caterpillar? I think both the statement and the questions could be applied to so many, if not all, of Virginia Woolf’s characters. They could also be applied to all of us in the world right now.

This time of year, the statements and the questions also remind us that change happens every time we inhale, every time we exhale – and we can make that change happen.

“‘For,’ the outsider will say, ‘in fact as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.’ And if, when reason has had its say, still some obstinate emotion remains, some love of England dropped into a child’s ears… this drop of pure, if irrational, emotion she will make serve her to give to England first what she desires of peace and freedom for the whole world.”

 

– quoted from the novel-essay “Three Guineas,” as it appears in The Selected Works of Virginia Woolf by Virginia Woolf

As I have mentioned before, I consider the 8-Limbed Yoga Philosophy to have very real-time, practical applications and I normally think of the physical practice as an opportunity to practice, explore, and play with the various elements of the philosophy. I will even sometimes use aspects of alignment as a metaphor for situations in our lives off the mat. Given this last year the last few years, however, I have really started to consider how āsana instructions from classic texts like The Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali and the Haţha Yoga Pradipika, can be more practically applied to the most basic aspects of everyday life.

  • For instance, if we spend our time on the mat cultivating a “steady/stable, comfortable/easy/joyful” foundation in order to breathe easier and more deeply, doesn’t it make sense to spend some time cultivating the same type of foundation in our lives?
  • Going out a little more, if we do not have the luxury or privilege of practicing “in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully,” doesn’t it behoove us to create that land?
  • Finally, what happens if we (to paraphrase yoga sūtras 2.46-47) establish a baseline for stability and then loosen up a little bit and focus on the infinite? Patanjali and the authors of the other sacred texts told us we would become more of who we are: leaner in body, healthier, brighter, more joyful, “clearer, stronger, and more intuitive.” In other words: peaceful and blissful.

“lōkāḥ samastāḥ sukhinōbhavantu”

 

– A mettā (loving-kindness) chant that translates to “May all-beings, everywhere, be happy and be free.”

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

 

– quoted from The Hours: a novel by Michael Cunningham

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can dial 988 (in the US) or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING. 

If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgement-free place to talkyou can also click here to contact the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).

“Realize that there is freedom in telling your story and that there is power in your words.”

 

– quoted from the November 2018 TedxDelthorneWomen talk entitled, “Change Your Perspective and Change Your Story” by Dr. Toya Webb

### BRING AWARENESS TO YOUR SEAT! ###

Seeing Red but/and Finding “Accidental Goodness” January 24, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Abhyasa, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Life, Music, New Year, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Happy (Lunar) New Year! Happy Carnival!

“From a practical standpoint then, svadyaya is the process of employing the power of discernment and maintaining a constant awareness of who we are, what we are trying to become, and how the objective world can help us accomplish our goal.”

*

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.1 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

How do you react when things don’t go your way? What happens when you are very specific about what you want and/or what you need, but then you don’t get either? Are you quick to anger? Or, do you get “hangry” when you haven’t eaten and you have to deal with irritating situations? Do you “see red” at the drop of the hat or the blink of an eye? If so, there are (obviously) practices for that.

There are also handy tips (even if you don’t have a mindfulness-based practice). For instance, it’s good to get a good night sleep, eat when you need to, and – as much as you are able – avoid situations and people that push your buttons. Of course, just to be on the safe side, you could just not leave your house on days where you might be easily irritated. You know, like today, the third day of the Lunar New Year when some people will absolutely stay home and go to bed early.

Some portions of the following were previously posted.

“恭禧发财
Gong Xi Fa Cai [Congratulations and Prosperity!]
Gong Hey Fat Choy [Congratulations and Prosperity!]

– A common New Year’s greeting in Hanzi [Chinese characters], Mandarin and Cantonese pīnyīn [“spelled sounds”], and English

According to some Chinese creation mythology the third day of the Lunar New Year is the birthday of all boars. As I mentioned yesterday, some people will spend this third day of the Year of the Rabbit/Hare visiting the temple of the God of Wealth. Others associate this day with the “marriage of mice” and – in addition to providing treats as a “dowry” for the mice – they will go to bed early to ensure the mice have a peaceful ceremony. The belief is that if the mice have a peaceful ceremony, they will not pester humans during the rest of the year. In Vietnam, where people are celebrating the year of the Cat, this third day is a day to honor teachers.

Another reason people may go to bed early on the third night of the Lunar New Year is that, in certain parts of China, this third day is the “Day of the Red Dog” or “Red Mouth” Day and there is a greater danger of conflict on this day. People may also stay home and avoid anyone outside of their primary family circle in order not to say the wrong thing in anger – as a Chinese word for “red dog” is also a description for the “God of Blazing Wrath.” Some people also associate the tendency to say the wrong thing on the third day with the demon (or monster) Nian.

The Hanzi (Chinese character) for Nian also means “year” or “new year.” According to the legends, the monster Nian would come out of the sea or the mountain once a year looking for crops, animals, or villagers to eat. All the villagers would hide at this time of year, but one time an elderly gentleman was outside during the time Nian came to visit the village. One version of the story says that the man was a Taoist monk (Hongjun Lozu) who, like Br’er Rabbit, was a bit of a trickster. He some how convinced the monster that he would taste better if he could take off his outer clothing. In the version I tell in class, there is a big chase and the monster rips the man’s outerwear with his sharp teeth and claws. Either way, when the gentleman’s bright red undergarments are revealed Nian freaks out, because he is afraid of the color red (and loud noises). Therefore, it became auspicious to start the New Year (or even a marriage) wearing red; placing red throughout the village or town; and making a lot of noise.

“You always want to make it as good as it can be, but… But when you have problems that you can’t do anything about, one after another, you start forgetting what you’re actually doing, until it’s time. And that’s one of the secrets….”

– Keith Jarrett in a 2007 interview about his (01/24/1975) Köln Concert

In the 1970’s, 15-year old Vera Brandes started organizing jazz concerts and tours. At around 17, the German teenager started organizing the New Jazz in Cologne concert series. The fifth concert was scheduled for 11:30 PM on January 24, 1975, and it was going to be the first jazz concert at the 1,400-seat Cologne Opera House. The concert would feature a twenty-nine year old jazz pianist named Keith Jarrett, performing improvised solo piano pieces. Yes, that’s right, he was going to make it up as we went along –  and the sold out concert would be recorded. (According to last.fm, the tickets were 4 DM [Deutsche Mark] or $5; Wikipedia indicates the 4 DM equaled $1.72.)

Here’s a few other salient details about the American pianist: He has perfect pitch and garnered some international attention (as a classical pianist) when he was in high school in Pennsylvania. He started playing gigs in Boston while attending Berklee College of Music and moved to New York City after about a year. In the Big Apple, he started making a name for himself, playing with jazz greats like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Jack DeJohnette, and the Charles Lloyd Quartet. By the mid-to-late 1960’s, he was playing and recording with his own trios and that’s around the time that Miles Davis invited him to join his jams (alternating and/or playing with Chick Corea).

Keith Jarrett and his own band of musicians – Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, (eventually) Dewey Redman, and a handful of other similarly accomplished musicians (including Sam Brown) – recorded over a dozen albums for Atlantic Records from 1971 to 1976. In that same time period, one iteration of the quartet recorded an album for Columbia Records; but then the label dropped him – theoretically so they could promote Herbie Hancock. Right around the same time the Columbia-door closed, another two others doors opened: Keith Jarrett and his quartet got a contract with Impulse! Records and he was contacted by Manfred Eicher, a German record producer and co-founder of ECM Records.

ECM stands for “Edition of Contemporary Music” and the label is known for high quality jazz and classic music – and musicians who give the side-eye to labels. It was a great creative dwelling place for musicians like Keith Jarrett and Steve Reich, whose music I have also used in some practices. The professional relationship between Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher led to the “European quartet” collaborations, solo piano albums, and, eventually, to that legendary concert in Cologne, Germany.

Here’s another important thing to know about Keith Jarrett: He has a reputation for being very, very particular about concert conditions. He doesn’t like audience distractions, especially when he is improvising, so – at the height of his career – audience members were given cough drops during winter concerts and he would sometimes play in the dark to prevent people from taking pictures. He is known for vocalizing while he plays jazz (but not, notably, when he plays classical music) and reportedly led people in group coughs.

Now, imagine you are a musician like this – one who knows their stuff and is also very particular about the instruments you play – and you are presented “the unplayable piano” just hours before you’re meant to play a groundbreaking concert. What if you were also hungry, tired, and sick?

Would you see red? Or would you “accidentally” find goodness?

A version of the following was originally posted in 2022.

“KJ: When I was a teenager, my youngest brother had a lot of issues, and didn’t go to school. He couldn’t go outside, so he couldn’t have friends, so he was basically a prisoner in my mother’s house. There was an upright piano there. And occasionally, my brother, knowing zero — meaning really zero — about piano, would work out anger or frustration, which he must have had gobs of, by going to the keyboard and just playing some shit. He didn’t know what notes he was hitting or what would come out. But I realized there were moments that were so good and they came from his ignorance. I’m not sure he even knew they were good moments. But I found myself thinking: how would a pianist ever — how do you approach that if you know the instrument?

 
DS: How do you find the accidental goodness?”

– Keith Jarrett in response to David Shenk’s question about having a willingness or eagerness to fail, in “Keith Jarrett, Part II: The Q&A” by David Shenk (published in The Atlantic, October 13, 2009) 

Keith Jarrett is known for eschewing electronic instruments and equipment. Obviously, he appreciates the “need” for recording equipment and he has recorded music while playing electronic instruments. But, it’s not his jam – and it’s definitely not the kind of thing he would request for a solo piano concert in an opera house in 1975. No, someone like Keith Jarrett, at that point in his career, for that concert, would request the piano equivalent of a Rolls-Royce. And that’s exactly what he did; he requested a Bösendorfer Model 290 Imperial, also known as the Imperial Bösendorfer or just as the 290.

The 290 is Bösendorfer’s flagship piano. It is an exquisitely beautiful concert grand piano with an equally memorable sound. In fact, it was specifically designed to be grander than any other piano on the market in 1909. And I mean that in every sense of the word grand. It has 97-keys and a full 8-range octave. For 90 years, it was the only concert grand piano of it’s kind. In 1975, it was easily recognizable by any professional pianist… but probably not by random stagehands (who hadn’t had any reason to deal with such a piano) and possibly not by a teenage concert organizer (who also hadn’t had any reason to deal with such a piano).

Keith Jarrett, however, immediately knew that something was off when he arrived at the Cologne Opera House to find a Bösendorfer baby grand on the stage. To make matters worse, he was tired after traveling and not sleeping for two days, his back hurt, and he was suffering from food poisoning. To add insult to injury, the piano was badly out-of-tune and basically broken. Some of the keys and the foot pedals, one of the distinguishing features on the 290, didn’t work properly. It was simply a rehearsal piano or something someone had put in a backstage corner to warm up their hands before the curtain went up. It was too late to find and move a new piano. Even if they could find what had been requested – or something close, like the Bösendorfer (which would have been 5 keys shorter) – it was raining and Vera Brandes was warned that moving such an instrument in that type of weather would make it impossible to tune in time for the concert.

“Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.”

– Miles Davis

Improvisation – in comedy and in music – is known for things like not breaking the flow (so, not saying “no”); and the concept of “yes, and…;” staying present; and being open to change.  But, Keith Jarrett had made up his mind. He said no to that baby grand piano. He declared it categorically “unplayable” and said the concert needed to be canceled. And there’s no indication, anywhere, that he was being a diva. He was just being realistic given his history and his frame of reference. The fact that he was sick and tired just made everything worse.

But the indomitable Vera Brandes had a different history and a different field of possibility. She convinced him that she could find someone to tune (and repair) the piano onstage, which she did. She sent Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher to a restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. In some interviews, Keith Jarrett has said that they didn’t eat much because (a) he wasn’t feeling well, (b) there was a mix-up at the restaurant and their meal was delayed, and (c) they had to get back to the theatre. At some point along the way, they decided to keep the recording engineers – because they were going to get paid no matter what – and record what the musician expected to be a horrible and embarrassing disaster of the first order.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t not even close.

Instead, the three improvised movements, plus the encore of “Memories of Tomorrow,” became the best selling solo album in jazz history and one of the best-selling piano albums. In the Spring 2019 issue of Daedalus, Dr. Gerald Lyn Early, who has consulted on several Ken Burns documentaries (including Baseball and Jazz), pointed out that Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts changed the sound and people’s understanding of jazz (not to mention, who played it); “…made solo piano playing commercially viable by showing that there was a considerable audience for it[;]” and “…proved that the public was willing to take such records seriously…”

From the very first notes, which sound like the warning tones the audience heard in the lobby before the show, Keith Jarrett carried the audience on a sonorous piano journey unlike anything they had ever heard. The album has been praised by musicians, critics, and publishers alike. It was included in Robert Dimery’s book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Eventually, much to the composers dismay, parts of the composition became movie soundtracks. Many wanted Keith Jarrett to transcribe and publish a score of the concert, which he finally, begrudgingly, agreed to do in 1990. The transcribed score, however, came with a very intentional caveat.

“For instance, on pages 50 and 51 of Part IIa there is no way to obtain, on paper, the real rhythmic sense of this section. There is much more going on on  the recording, but this “going on” does not always translate into notes on paper. Many notes are inferred by the rhythmic sense; others depend on the harmonics or attack of the previous note(or notes). So, writing down all the notes would give more of a false view of the sense of this section than selecting some notes. And yet, even this selection cannot reveal the real sense of this section as an improvisation, where listening is what determines the music’s strength.

So – we are at, let us say, a picture of an improvisation (sort of like a print of a painting). You cannot see the depth in it, only the surface. 

As a result of all of this, I am recommending that any pianist who intends to play THE KÖLN CONCERT use the recording as the final-word reference.

Good luck!”

– quoted from the “Preface” to THE KÖLN CONCERT: Original Transcription, Piano by Keith Jarrett

Please join me today (Tuesday, January 24th) 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. [Look for “0123-24/2022 Doing: Lessons in…”]

[NOTE: If it is accessible to you, please consider using the Spotify playlist as it contains the original music referenced in the practice. Even better, if you already have the album!

The original recording is not available on YouTube (in the US) without a “Premium” membership and, after listening to several different “interpretations” – which do not / cannot include the vocalizations – I decided the Fausto Bongelli sounded the closest to the original. Sadly, one movement is missing and so I used a recording by Tomasz Trzcinkinski, who was the first person to record the music using the transcription. There are also now transcriptions for other instruments – which I didn’t sample, even though I think some of them would be lovely. There are also “covers” using electronic instruments, which I’m considering a hard pass (even if it seems contradictory to the theme), out of respect for the composer. ]

You can, as I did, also listen to the Cautionary Tales with Tim Hartford episode entitled, “Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano” where ever you get your podcasts.

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.)

### Play On! ###

Here’s To Beginning A New Year (a Monday post)! January 23, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Books, Buddhism, California, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Love, New Year, Pain, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Happy New Year!” to those who are celebrating.

The following post related to the practice on Monday, January 23rd is compiled from information posted in 2021 and 2022. 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\. Donations are tax deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.

“财神到 财神到
Caishen dao caishen dao [The god of wealth has come! The god of wealth has come!]

好心得好报
Hao xinde hao bao [Good news]

财神话 财神话
Caishenhua caishenhua [Myth of money, myth of money]

揾钱依正路
wen qian yi zhenglu [if you follow the right path]”

– quoted from the song “Cai Shen Dao” [“The God of Wealth Has Come!” by Sam Hui, lyrics in Hanzi [Chinese characters], pīnyīn [“spelled sounds”], and English

Today (Monday) was the second day of the Lunar New Year and, in parts of China and the diaspora, it was the second day of the Spring Festival, a fifteen day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. As I mentioned yesterday, while most people consider this the beginning of the year of the (water) Rabbit/Hare, people in and from Vietnam consider this the beginning of the year of the Cat. Each region that celebrates the Lunar New Year, places special significance on each day and highlights that significance with different stories and traditions.

Some people honor the god of land on the second day, while others celebrate the birthday of all dogs. Traditionally, the second day is a day when daughters who had married and moved away from home would return to visit their birth families – which meant their families would welcome the son-in-laws. So, in some places, today is a day dedicated to the son-in-laws.

For some (particularly Cantonese people), the second day is known as “beginning of the year” and it marks the beginning of a new business year. As such, there are blessings and prayers for a prosperous new year. From 221 B. C. until 1912 A. D., it was common for beggars and the unemployed in China to spend today carrying around a picture of the God of Wealth and shouting, “Cai Shen Dao” ! [“The God of Wealth has come!” in Mandarin] In exchange for their pronouncement, they would receive “lucky money” from families and businesses.

In some parts of China, people celebrate the birthday of Che Kung on his “actual” birthday (the second), while others celebrate on the third day of the year. A military general of the Southern Song Dynasty, Che Kung is believed to have been capable of suppressing rebellions and plagues. Some even consider him “God of Protection.” Hong Kong and Guangdung Province are two of the places where people traditionally have a procession and visit a temple dedicated to Che Kung. Despite the pandemic, thousands of people visited the temple in Sha Tin in 2021; however, masks, temperature checks, and a health registration were required. In 2022, vaccinations were encouraged and people were required to use the “Leave Home Safe” app, which is a free digital contract tracing app launched by the Hong Kong government. This year, some media outlets reported a few less people than normal, while others reported more people than last year – both scenarios could be true, but in either case, most people are hoping, praying, and wishing for a better business year.

People who travel to the temple on the second and third days of the new year give thanks, light red candles and incense sticks, and present offerings. Some will spin a golden pinwheel outside of the temple to maintain good luck from the previous year or to change their fortune in the New Year. Some will even buy a personal pinwheel. There is also a big ceremony around drawing fortune sticks, which people believe offers guidance for the coming year and can be interpreted by a fortune teller. Of course, this year (like the last two years), a lot of people are seeking guidance about the pandemic – and how to proceed in a way that eliminates suffering.

A version of the following was originally posted in 2021 and 2022. Click here for that philosophical 2021 post in it’s entirety.

“From a practical standpoint then, svadyaya is the process of employing the power of discernment and maintaining a constant awareness of who we are, what we are trying to become, and how the objective world can help us accomplish our goal.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.1 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

The Yoga Sutras offer a detailed explanation of the dysfunctional/afflicted thought patterns that create suffering. Patanjali described those thought patterns as ignorance, the false sense of self, attachment (rooted in pleasure), aversion (which is attachment rooted in pain), and a fear of loss/death. He established ignorance (avidyā) as the root of the other four and stated that this groundwork is established no matter if the ignorance is dormant, attenuated, disjointed, or active. He then broke down the different ways avidyā manifests in the world – which basically goes back to the ways in which we misunderstand the nature of things – and how the other four afflicted thought patterns rise up.

We can find examples of how avidyā and the other four dysfunctional/afflicted thought patterns manifest all around us. There are, therefore, also examples of how the sources of our ignorance can be the path towards freedom, fulfillment, and more clarity. One example of this is how some people view those that are not considered “able bodied.” Think about the activist Edward V. Roberts, for example.

“I fell in love, like many people do. We do that as well. And it became ridiculously inconvenient to have my attendant pushing me around in my wheelchair with my girlfriend. It was an extra person that I didn’t need to be more intimate. I learned how to drive a power wheelchair in one day. I was so motivated to learn something that it changed in many ways my perception of my disability and of myself. She jumped on my lap and we rode off into the sunset or to the closest motel.”

– Ed Roberts (b. 01/23/1939) in a 60 Minutes interview with Harry Reasoner

Known as the “Father of the Independent Living” movement, Mr. Roberts was born January 23,1939 (almost a month before the year of the earth Rabbit/Hare began). By all accounts, he spent his formative years as a “regular” boy. Then, at the age of fourteen, he contracted polio – this was in 1953, two years before the vaccine ended the polio epidemic. The virus left the active, “sports-loving” teenager paralyzed from the neck down, with mobility only in two fingers and a few toes. It also (temporarily) crushed his spirit. He initially spent most of his days and all of his nights in an 800-pound iron lung. When he wasn’t in the iron lung, he used “frog breathing” – a technique that uses the facial and neck muscles to pump air into the lungs.

Now, if you have not interacted with someone with a disability, you might think – as Ed Roberts initially thought of himself – that he was a “helpless cripple.” You might, like him and one of his early doctors, back in 1953, think that there was no point to his life. You might think that he couldn’t do yoga; couldn’t get married (and divorced); couldn’t have a child; and definitely couldn’t do anything to change the world. You might think that he wouldn’t be celebrated on the second day of the Lunar New Year or on any day.

But, if you think any of that – just as he initially thought that – you would be wrong.

“And I literally went from like 120 pounds to 50 pounds. I also discovered how powerful the mind is, when you make up your mind.”

– Ed Roberts in a 60 Minutes interview with Harry Reason

Just to be clear, to my knowledge Ed Roberts didn’t practice yoga. However, he did practice Shotokan karate. Also, it is interesting to note that (a) the glottis or empty space at the back of the throat that is engaged to practice Ujjayi prāņāyāma, is the same area he would engage to breathe without the iron lung and (b) once he changed his understanding of himself – let go of his “false sense of self” – he was able to change the world.

Even though he could attend school by telephone, Zona Roberts, Ed Roberts’s mother, insisted that he attend school in-person one day a week. for at least a few hours. She also encouraged him to think of himself as a “star” and to advocate for his own needs. So, when he was in danger of not graduating from high school, because he hadn’t completed driver’s education or physical education, he pushed back on those who would limit him.

“There are very few people even with the most severe disabilities who can’t take control of their own life. The problem is that the people around us don’t expect us to.”

– Ed Roberts in a 60 Minutes interview with Harry Reasoner

After graduating from high school, he attended the College of San Mateo and the University of California Berkeley – even though one of the UC Berkeley deans wanted to reject him because someone else had had an unsuccessful bid at college and the dean viewed all people with disabilities as a monolith. At Berkeley, Mr. Roberts pushed to have on-campus housing that would accommodate his needs and, once that was established, pushed the university to admit and provide the dormitory experience to other people with “severe disabilities.” The Cowell Residence Program became a model for universities around the world.

Mr. Roberts and some of the other students in the Cowell Residence Program referred to themselves as the “Rolling Quads.” They were very active in changing people’s perceptions and understandings and, therefore, they were able to change policy and infrastructure. “Curb cuts,” the ramped opening between a sidewalk and street, are one of the changes that resulted from their activism. After Ed Roberts graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Political Science, he went on to teach at an “alternative college.” He also served as Director of the state organization that had once labeled him too disabled to work and eventually co-founded the World Institute on Disability (at Berkeley). His activism – including protesting at the San Francisco offices of the Carter Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and testifying before Congress – led to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990).

While Ed Roberts may not have actually been celebrated by his in-laws on the second day of the Lunar New Year, he is remembered and celebrated for the work he did in the world. A Google Doodle was posted in his honor today in 2017. Furthermore, his legacy provides a lot of reminders about how to move through the year in a way that brings change that makes the world better than we found it.

“My bottom walk-away experience that I believe I carry with me every day is that my father never settled for anything and always fought for everything. And he always, always followed his gut, followed his passion, went with it no matter who was against him, and oftentimes there was more people against him than it was for him.

So I’ve always followed my gut and followed my passion. And in so many different speeches, he would always encourage that person to look within themselves, find their passion, follow it. You can’t… You can’t go wrong with your gut. You can’t go wrong with your passion. Don’t ever settle. He never settled. I’ll never settle. I carry that with me every day, and if there’s anything he loved to pass on, it’s just go for it.”

– quoted from “A Day in the Life of Ed Roberts: Lee Roberts Talks About His Father, Ed Roberts” by Lee Roberts

There is no playlist for the Common Ground Meditation practice.

### Wake Up Your Mind & Just Go For It! ###