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Quick Announcements and A Thank You! May 3, 2017

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Black Elk, Buddhism, California, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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First, the thank you:

I am deeply grateful to everyone who participated in this year’s Kiss My Asana yogathon to benefit Mind Body Solutions. It doesn’t matter if you made a donation online, attended a donation-based class, hosted a donation-based class, or asked a question (and, maybe, are still waiting on my answer) – either way, you made a difference in how we view yoga and how we, as part of the yoga community, keep our sacred circle open to all bodies and all minds. During one class in particular, when I listed all the types of people who can benefit from adaptive yoga, I found myself referencing every person in the room. Just a reminder that it’s not about modifications, it’s about the practice.

Thank you, also, to Sandra Razieli for spending part of her birthday weekend co-teaching with me!

Thus far, we’ve raised $855 this year to support the Mind Body Solutions Solutions, where awakening the connection between mind and body transforms trauma, loss, and disability into hope and potential.

Oh, and by the way, you can still donate here!

 

And now, the quick announcements:

May the 4th is with us! While I am sad to report that I will not be leading any Star Wars yoga classes this year, I am very excited about returning to the Walker Art Center to facilitate meditation during MN Artists Presents: Marcus Young (5 – 9 PM). This free event is kid-friendly and has a lot of mindfully interactive moments. For more information, check out the event page or the Walker’s Facebook page. (Please note: road closures may create delays and detours. Breathe deeply. And may the force be with you.)

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Finally, my YMCA classes will have subs on Friday night (5/5), Saturday morning (5/6), and all day Sunday (5/7). Enjoy!

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Are You Ready? Are You Ready…to Kiss My Asana? April 1, 2017

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Mathematics, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tantra, Texas, TV, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Are you ready? Are you ready? / For what’s to come…Oh, I said Are you ready? / Are you ready? For what’s to come / Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one / Count down to…”

Are You Ready by Creed

It’s that time again! Spring? Yes, but also it’s time for Kiss My Asana. For the fourth year in a row, I am joining joyful yogis everywhere to raise awareness and resources for Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga programs.

Matthew Sanford and the other teachers at Mind Body Solutions are committed to a yoga practice which “transcends ability and disability, opens people’s lives to new possibilities, and transforms the delivery of health care.” The annual yogathon is a virtual four-week challenge open to anyone, anywhere, and it’s pretty much open to any way you want to do more yoga, learn more about yoga, and share more yoga.

“Are you ready? For what’s to come?”

Then let’s get started. There are a lot of ways to help raise awareness and resources during the month of April. Here are just a few suggestions.

Erika teaches a Vin-Yin class at Nokomis, and her KMA class will be a Slow Flow Vinyasa. The classes I host (or co-host) will be inspired by the practice principles featured in the adaptive yoga DVD “Beyond Disability” as led by Matthew Sanford. (Please RSVP using the links above if you would like to join one of these donation-based classes.)

  • You can challenge yourself by practicing one thing (an asana, pranayama, or a meditation) every day for 30 days.
  • You can use yoga to embody your favorite story, song, emotion, poem, prayer, visual art, person, or moment in time.
  • You can blog, tweet, instagram, or Facebook link about how your yoga practice on the mat transforms your experiences off the mat.

This is all good, but “What,” you might ask, “are you (Myra) doing as the virtual part of this year’s Kiss My Asana?”

Good question. As you may have noticed (especially after last year), I love questions. I’ve fallen for “Questions” by R. S. Thomas and, like the Creed song quoted above, my personal playlist currently features question-centered songs by Fink, X Ambassadors, Ed Sheeran, Cole Swindell, and Garth Brooks (naturally)!

 

In my favorite “Letters To A Young Poet” passage, Ranier Maria Rilke urges Franz Kappus: “… try to love the questions themselves…. the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”

 

Oh, and did I mention that questions led me to yoga teacher training?

 

When I started practicing in Texas, I often encountered people whose only intersection with yoga was me. These people had questions – lots and lots of questions. I, unfortunately, had no answers…other than telling people they could come with me to practice. When some of my teachers suggested teacher training, I thought, “Sure, someday. Then I’ll know some answers – or, at least, know a resource where someone could live (or practice) their way into their own answers.” Flash forward to “someday” and I’m in Minneapolis attending a teacher training focused on teaching people how to teach – and everybody had to teach.

 

So, last year I asked people questions. This year, you get to ask me questions. Answer word count will be divisible by 108.

Want to ask me a question? You can make a comment below, ask me before or after a class, or send an email to myra at ajoyfulpractice.com. Subscribers to ajoyfulpractice.com will receive my answers as they are posted – or, you can check back here throughout April.

 

### Peace In, Peace Out ###

2016 Kiss My Asana #25: What It Means to Journey with Insight February 27, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Taoism, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

– Lao Tzu

 “He who asks a question is a fool for a minute. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.”

– various sources

When I decided to ask people 7 questions as part of my 2016 Kiss My Asana commitment, I greatly underestimated how many times I would feel foolish and how much I would learn. Even if I had spent more time thinking like a research scientist, I’m not sure I could have anticipated the insights that came up when Yogi #25 (Helen) volunteered to answer the questions.

 “All the insight we will ever need to live well will come from fully being who and where we are.”

– Excerpt from Zen Miracles: Finding Peace in an Insane WorldZen Miracles: Finding Peace in an Insane World by Brenda Shoshanna

Aha moments, also known as (intellectual or emotional) epiphanies, require a certain amount of awareness and knowledge. But no matter how prepared one is or how hard one works at it, no one seems to be able to mass produce “Eureka!” moments on demand.

In Your Brain at Work, and his Psychology Today blog of the same name, David Rock relates neuroscience research which indicates that “while it seems unlikely we can ‘control’ when we have an insight, it’s now very clear that we can dramatically increase the likelihood that an insight emerges.” According to the research, the elements required to help your brain produce more “aha” moments are the same elements practiced in meditation: Quiet; Inward-looking; Having a positive mood (i.e., being slightly happy/open/curious); and Non-Attachment/Beginner’s Mind.

Patanjali’s outline of the yoga philosophy begins with Yamas (External Restraints – what B. K. S. Iyengar refers to as “Universal Commandments”) and Niyamas (Internal Observations). The fifth and final Yama is Aparagraha (Non-Attachment); the Niyamas include practicing Santosha (Contentment), Svadyaya (Self-study), and Ishvara Pranidhana (Letting Efforts Go Back to the Source). Practitioners of various traditions of Buddhism will note that the teachings of the Buddha also emphasize non-attachment, contentment, self awareness/study, and skillful effort – which, in certain circumstances, may be non-effort.

Helen didn’t know the questions before I asked them – and I actually asked her an extra question. But, since she brought to the table a strong background in psychology and meditation, perhaps it was pretty natural, instinctual even, for her to do what I always suggest at the beginning of a practice – go deeper.

 So often we can invest so much energy trying to repress the thoughts that most trouble and distress us, that we don’t spend the time needed to properly understand, heal and grow from these often insightful and potentially liberating thoughts.”David Cunliffe

After her final answer, Helen and I spent a few minutes talking about some of the questions. In particular, we discussed Question #5: What words or sounds do you try not to utter in class?

Unbeknownst to Helen, Question #5 was partially inspired by people who have told me they don’t like to practice yoga in groups because they feel self-conscious about farting in public, and it was mirrored after James Lipton’s question about a person’s favorite curse word. If you’ve watched the other videos, you’ll notice that the answers to Question #5 vary; however, one thing the answers have in common is something Helen very insightfully pointed out. The answers to Question #5 inevitably relate to things society pressures people to suppress even though they are things naturally arising (and descending) in our minds/bodies. In other words, they are things are bodies/minds want to release.

Several meditation practices and dharma talks, as well as psychological and neurological studies, focus on what happens when we suppress emotions and natural bodily functions. These discourses often will also detail the ways our bodies and minds become polluted, and methods for cultivating more wholesome habits (i.e., habits which do not lead directly to suffering). However, one of the things that struck me as Helen and I talked is how much energy we humans spend conforming to what society has deemed “normal” – even when society’s scale is skewed, artificial, or incomplete.

We see beautiful people in magazines or posters striking a pose – without any information about what it took for them to achieve that pose. We get annoyed when someone the needs of someone other than ourselves disrupt our desires – without ever considering what’s most important or how we can compromise. We create spaces we say are inclusive, but which are – almost by definition – exclusive. Then we value that exclusivity with our time and money.

 “There are times to let things happen, and times to make things happen. Now is that time. You will either make things happen, watch what happens, or wonder what happened.… The choices you make today sow the seeds for the future.”

– Excerpt from No Ordinary Moments: A Peaceful Warrior’s Guide to Daily Life by Dan Millman

 

Dianne Bondy, a Canadian yoga teacher and a leading voice of the Yoga & Body Image Coalition, leads workshops and teacher trainings which remind us that the philosophy of yoga does not describe a yogi as having a particular skin color, body type, socioeconomic or education level. Nor does it prescribe a particular ethnicity, political persuasion, gender or sexuality. Nowhere does it state that you can’t practice (or teach) yoga because you aren’t flexible, strong, and 100% fit. In fact, great teachers like B. K. S. Iyengar (who early in life suffered from malaria, typhoid, and tuberculosis) might not have practiced yoga at all if they had been born in the U. S. in the mid-20th century, because they wouldn’t have been deemed healthy enough to practice. If you feel me, don’t just say “Amen!” or “Ase, ase, ase!” Do it: Kiss My Asana – because we all create the spaces where we practice union (yoga).

 

My donation-based KISS MY ASANA class on Saturday, February 27th is full; however, I still have spaces available for March 5th (6:30 – 8:00 PM at Flourish). Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two). Space is limited. Bay Area yogis, don’t forget: Sandra Razieli’s KISS MY ASANA class is in Oakland on Sunday, February 28th.

 

 ~

HONOR YOUR HEART AS IT’S DESIRES BECOME YOUR THOUGHTS,

HONOR YOUR THOUGHTS AS THEY BECOME YOUR WORDS,

HONOR YOUR WORDS AS THE BECOME YOUR DEEDS,

HONOR YOUR DEEDS AS THEY CREATE THE WORLD.

~

2016 Kiss My Asana #22:Working with an Awakening Heart February 24, 2016

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“This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who seeks the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,”

– Excerpt from “Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness” (Sn 1.8), translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013

 

“The Buddha said that we are never separated from enlightenment. Even at the times we feel most stuck, we are never alienated from the awakened state. This is a revolutionary assertion. Even ordinary people like us with hang-ups and confusion have this mind of enlightenment called bodhichitta. The openness and warmth of bodhichitta is in fact our true nature and condition. Even when our neurosis feels far more basic than our wisdom, even when we’re feeling most confused and hopeless, bodhichitta—like the open sky—is always here, undiminished by the clouds that temporarily cover it.”

– Excerpt from“Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart” from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Time by Pema Chödrön*

 

Yoga, and its sister science Ayurveda, can be great healing tools – especially if you’ve identified what’s going on in the body and in the mind. Since I’m not a medical doctor, a psychotherapist, or an Ayurvedic practitioner, I avoid diagnosing people who come to my classes. However, if I were to offer a simple assessment of Yogi #22 (Mary C.), I would say she exhibits the characteristics outlined in the Karaniya, has a tendency to breath into the soft spot of her own heart, and “hear the cries of the world.”* On and off the mat, she practices ways to awaken the heart.

 Chitta means “mind” and also “heart” or “attitude.” Bodhi means “awake,” “enlightened,” or “completely open.” Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. Even the cruelest people have this soft spot. Even the most vicious animals love their offspring. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche put it, “Everybody loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.”

– “Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart” from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Time by Pema Chödrön

When you’re talking to Mary C. there is no question that she is present, engaged, and listening. Her focus is deliberate; mindful; skillful – and results in a hum that sounds a lot like someone whispering the question, “Do you realize you are loved?” If one can hear such a hum, and not be unsettled by it, it becomes one of the most comforting experiences in the world.

But, everyone isn’t comfortable being loved. And, being the one who always loves is not always easy or comfortable. In fact, there could be a downside to being the person that instigates that hum. After all, everybody isn’t humming along. And, if you are aware of the hum – and aware of the harmony – you are also aware of the dissonance, the lack of harmony. Being aware is a beautiful blessing, but not getting swamped by the darkness in the world requires effort. Mary C. not only makes the effort, she works it!

 “An analogy for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart. Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic; sometimes to anger, resentment and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all.”

– “Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart” from The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Time by Pema Chödrön

 

I don’t mean to imply that Mary C. is a saint. Just like everybody else, she has her off days. However, while some of us check out on our off days, I’ve seen Mary C. own hers. In fact, I think her off days make her more curious. She is curious about the techniques and skills that will improve her life physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, underlying her personal curiosity is the awareness that if she improves her life, lives around her will improve.

If you are curious about ways to improve your life – physically, mentally, and emotionally – check out a yoga class at Mind Body Solutions (or at your local Y or neighborhood studio). If you’re not sure where to begin, check out a donation-based class anywhere or contact Mind Body Solutions to find out if they’ve trained a teacher near you. Even people across the pond are KISS(ing) MY ASANA! Have you?
Want to KISS MY ASANA while you practice? Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two) at a donation-based class on Saturday, February 27th (3:30 - 5:30 PM) or Saturday, March 5th (6:30 - 8:00 PM). Space is limited.Click here for more information about things to do in February and March.

 

~ LOKAH SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #11:Spiritual Activists, Feel the Vibration! February 12, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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Bringing this to the entire nation
Black, white, red, brown
Feel the vibration

Come on come on
Feel it feel it
Feel the vibration

“Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, featuring Loleatta Holloway

In Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar spends approximately two (2) pages explaining the importance of studying AUM. Two pages may not seem like a lot, until you realize that many people just think of Light on Yoga as a practice manual for the physical practice. In fact, people often buy the book to “master the poses.” However, Iyengar begins the book by introducing the philosophy of yoga and stating, unequivocally, “one can master nothing” without single-pointed concentration. “Without concentration on Divinity” he writes, “one cannot unlock the divinity within oneself or become a universal man.”

Tom H (Yogi #11) has spent his life unlocking the divinity within himself. This becomes obvious if you spend any amount of time (at all) talking to him. He and I have talked in the studios; on the rooftop; in restaurants and bars; and in cars. We seem to talk about everything. Yet, it doesn’t matter where the conversation starts (or ends) there is always an underlying connection to the subject of the Divine, how the Divine is connected to us, and how we are connected to each other.

Turns out, it’s all one and the same.

“Master Patanjali describes AUM – that which is indescribable – by using the Sanskrit word pranavah. Like most words, pranavah has numerous meanings.”

– Excerpt from Sweeping the Dust by Jivamukti Yoga teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti (“Lady Ruth”)

I am the innate nature of everything. In pure water I am the sweet taste. In the sun and moon I am the radiance. In the very center of human beings I live as virility and courage. I am (pranavah) the sacred word Om, which designates the Divine, and I am the sound of it heard throughout the universe” – Excerpt from The Bhagavad Gita (7:8)

Tom H is a spiritual activist because his practice doesn’t stay on the mat. When he’s unlocking the divinity within himself, he’s also figuring out how to help the rest of us unlock the divinity within ourselves. His commitment to individual and social change, as well as his efforts towards uplifting people of all ages and backgrounds, is the direct result of his eclectic spiritual life. He blends his physical practices, in different modalities, with his philosophical practices and beliefs. He continually questions, only to examine the questions and the answers he finds. He consistently takes his practice off the mat (and the cushion) – then brings it back again! When he practices yoga, you can practically see his heart-energy vibrating, shimmering, and shining. He literally vibrates.

And, that vibration has a ripple effect.

“Can you feel it baby? / I can too //1 2 3 now we come to the pay off” – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, featuring Loleatta Holloway

If you practice yoga for any significant period of time, you will find the physical practice affects more than your body. It affects your life. And, the more you practice, the more you vibrate, shimmer, and shine. Mind Body Solutions adaptive yoga program is an opportunity for more people to feel the vibration. Your donation may just be a drop in the 2016 KISS MY ASANA bucket, but it will ripple!

 

Join me for meditation at the Walker this Saturday the 13th (5 PM & 7 PM)and you might find yourself sitting next to a yogi!

 

 

~ AUM…, Tat Twam Asi (That Thou Art) ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #2: What Kind of Warrior Are You? February 2, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Without curiosity, none of this would have happened.

More than intelligence or persistence or connections, curiosity has allowed me to live the life I wanted.

Curiosity is what gives energy and insight to everything else I do.

For me, curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility.“

– Brian Grazer in his introduction to A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

One might describe today’s yogi as a peaceful warrior, a mindful warrior, a handy warrior, or even a loving and kind warrior. There could even be some times in his life when he’s a fierce warrior. However, I most often think of Kevin as a curious and insightful warrior. And curiosity and insight go hand in hand.

While he did not directly inspire my Kiss My Asana questions, I knew I was on the right track when – soon after I made my decision to ask these questions – I heard Kevin telling a mutual friend about A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. Grazer’s weekly “curiosity conversations” have inspired him to create and produce TV shows like 24 and Arrested Development, and movies like A Beautiful Mind and Splash. I haven’t read the book (yet), but I love the results.

The goal of A Curious Mind is simple: I want to show you how valuable curiosity can be and remind you how much fun it is. I want to show you how I use it, and how you can to use it.

Life isn’t about finding the answers, it’s about asking the questions.” – Brian Grazer

 

 

My conversation with Kevin continued long after the camera stopped rolling. (Wait; does that idiom even make sense when I’m using a smart phone?)

Part of our continued conversation included questions he had for me, but most of it centered around the Movember classes I do on Men’s Health. So, as a thank you to Kevin and a KISS MY ASANA extra, today’s video includes one of my Movember playlists. Can I get a “Woop woop!” on YouTube?


NOTE: If you donate and purchase a Kiss My Asana t-shirt, you can embody Warrior II, while wearing Warrior II. And, if you donate today through the page of one of my teammates, she’s matching donations!

 

~ NAMASTE; The Warrior in me honors the warrior that is also in you! ~

Turn On, Tune In, & Pucker Up! January 22, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Art, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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To paraphrase Timothy Leary, it’s time to Turn on, Tune in, and Pucker Up! February is going to be a busy month what with the usual holidays, everybody’s favorite yogathon (2016 KISS MY ASANA), and Walker Art Center’s “Winter of Love” event. Save the dates!

Tune In, Pucker Up & KISS MY ASANA!

When you think about it, February is the most obvious month to pucker up and KISS MY ASANA! Once again I am committing 4 weeks to raising awareness and resources for the adaptive yoga program at Mind Body Solutions. Matthew Sanford and the teachers at Mind Body Solutions “help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body.”  They provide classes, workshops, outreach programs, yoga teacher training and highly specialized training for health care professionals. Their mission reminds us that there’s a yoga practice for everyone. And KISS MY ASANA is an opportunity to do yoga and share yoga, while helping others. For my 2016 offering, I have a few questions….

Keep in mind, this is only a preview so that you can start thinking about your answers. Tune in for daily KISS MY ASANA posts in February!

 

Turn On, Tune In & Breath Love!

To celebrate the last few weeks of their Hippie Modernism exhibit, Walker Art Center is offering “Winter of Love” – 12 hours of free programming during Valentine’s weekend. Join me on Saturday, February 13th at 5 PM and/or at 7 PM in the Star Tribune Art Lab for a brief introduction to meditation and a guided meditation suitable for all ages and experience levels. A limited number of cushions, mats, and chairs will be provided. (Please note that the sessions may be different.) Check out the museum’s website for more details about the exhibit and event.

 

~ LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

Take The Deepest Breath You’ve Taken – On Retreat! August 22, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Kirtan, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Sukkot, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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Be joyful at your festival – you and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maid-servant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow who live within your city.

 

For seven days you must celebrate the Festival to YHVH*, your God, in the place which YHVH* shall choose, because the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your produce, and in all the work of your hands, and you will only be happy.

(*NOTE: YHVH is commonly translated as “the Lord” in English.)

– Deuteronomy 16:14 – 15

Every cultural has rituals, meaningful traditions, marking liminal or threshold moments throughout the year. The Hebrew Bible / Old Testament outlines a series of ritual “holidays,” times when people are to gather for reflection, remembrance, and thanksgiving. Sukkot, the Festival of the Tabernacles, is the seventh and final holiday outlined in Deuteronomy, which some people view as a mandate for happiness. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the Season of Happiness.

But, what is happiness? How is it defined by the sages of various cultures? And how do we make ourselves happy? For that matter, how can we “only be happy” for any given period of time?

The answers to all those questions (and more) are within you. You just have to go deeper.

At the end of Sukkot 2015, join Myra K. Rucker, Sandra Razieli, and Meghan Murray for a weekend of community, ritual, harvest focused meals, and yoga – all centered around the link between gratitude, mindfulness, and happiness.

WHEN: Friday, October 2nd – Sunday, October 4, 2015 (see full schedule below)

WHERE: Lake Stella Creamery Retreat and Gathering Getaway (21986 CSAH 9, Darwin, MN), approximately 90 minutes outside of downtown Minneapolis.

WHO: Everyone (sons, daughters, neighbors, strangers) are welcome.

WHAT: Beginning with Friday night’s festive dinner+, each day will include conversation and meditation practices to cultivate gratitude. Over the course of the weekend, Myra and Sandra will lead five (5) alignment and breath focused yoga practices focusing on gratitude and the ritual of Sukkot. Meghan will prepare yoga-friendly, vegetarian, gluten-free fall harvest meals that will tantalize the taste buds. Saturday the celebration culminates with KIRTAN! All in all, it is a weekend to nourish the mind-body-spirit.

HOW: Register to attend all events or pick and choose your experience. (You may also arrange to register offline with Myra.) A limited number of participants may stay at the Creamery. Plus, there’s plenty of free time if you want to check out Lake Stella, Lake Manuella, and/or Darwin’s legendary Ball of Twine!

FULL PACKAGE A (Includes all events and meals+, plus a bed in a communal space in the renovated creamery): $250 – $450 **only 7 beds remaining** SOLD OUT!

FULL PACKAGE B (Includes all events and meals+): $200

A la carte package: Pick and choose which events to attend: $15 – $300

10% discount for students / seniors purchasing full package A or B.

+ Meals are not certified Kosher. Refrigeration is available for any attendee.

We will provide a limited amount of mats and props. At least one (1) meal and one (1) meditation/yoga practice will be held outdoors. Events are intended to be communal; however, quiet spaces will be reserved for anyone wishing to retreat in silence – and conversation pits will be reserved for anyone wishing to continue dialogue during the silent portions of the weekend.

~ We are grateful for your presence ~

Friday, October 2nd:
6:00 – 7:00 PM Check In
7:00 PM Festive Dinner & “Guided” Conversation
9:30 PM Deep Relaxation Yoga (On 2nd Floor) / Silent Time (1 room on 1st floor designated for conversation)
10:45 PM Lights Out! / Silent Time

 

Saturday, October 3rd:

7:00 AM Morning Pages and Walking Meditation / Silent Time (1 room designated for conversation)
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM Heart Opening Yoga
8:45 AM – 9:30 AM Breakfast

***

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM YOGA (vinyasa) – open practice
1:30 PM – 2:00 PM Snacks (1 room designated for silence / journal writing)
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM LUNCH

***

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM YOGA
6:15 PM – 7:15 PM DINNER & “Guided” Conversation (1 space designated for silence)
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM KIRTAN
9:30 PM Deep Relaxation Yoga / Silent Time (1 room on 1st floor designated for conversation)

10:45 PM Lights Out! / Silent Time

 

Sunday, October 4th:

7:00 AM Morning Pages and Walking Meditation / Silent Time (1 room designated for conversation)
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM Yoga
8:45 AM – 9:30 AM Breakfast
9:30 AM Closing Ceremony

~ NAMASTE ~

Music, Music, Music (A 2015 KISS MY ASANA Prequel Sequel) March 2, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Books, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Hope, Karma Yoga, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Texas, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Writing, Yoga.
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So if you’re feelin’ down and out, got no place to go now
Just sing along to the music y’all, let it fill your soul now
Because everyone deserves music, sweet music

“Everyone Deserves Music” by Michael Franti & Spearhead

 

My best friend in college always said life has a soundtrack. I know, everybody says that now – there’s even an app for that – but this was back in the 80’s/90’s and it wasn’t a thing, it just was. And what it was to me was true, in part, because I had been hearing a super eclectic soundtrack all my life.

 

I heard all the sounds of the country, mixed with all the sounds of the city. I heard vinyl and 8-track tapes before cassettes. I spent a good portion of my younger days thinking my Beatles-crazed friends were fans of Wes Montgomery. I was in a girl band that sang songs like “Lettuce Entertain You.” And I once got a speeding ticket for flying down an open highway to Mahalia Jackson (with my maternal great-grandmother and grandmother in the car).

 

My maternal great-grandfather owned a super club on the Chitlin’ Circuit; my dad played first chair trumpet in high school – even though he was tone deaf; my immediate family took road trips where most of the stations along the way played old school country; one of my maternal great-uncles had a basement full of classical; one of my first cassettes was dubbed “Hollering Oats” by my family; my mother took me to my first live rock concert; and at some point along the way my friend J. Ben taught me it was OK to play rhythm & blues, country, and heavy metal on the same mixed tape – you just had to have a theme…or not.

 

There are answers in the music
And there are answers in the words

– “Be Good” by Hothouse Flowers

 

Fast forward to now. After years of working in the performing arts, I started teaching yoga. I’m quick to tell people that I didn’t take the teacher training to teach – I took it so I could answer questions. What I had no way of knowing when I started this little adventure was that some of the questions I would end up answering would be about the music I play during class.

 

Rewind to my first yoga classes. There was no prerecorded soundtrack. In fact, I think I practiced for a couple of years before I took a class with music, and another couple of years before I practiced with a teacher who played non-classical/instrumental music.

 

Rie Congelio introduced me to musicians that (at the time) weren’t being played on the radio (in the U. S.) and taught me how much fun it could be to flow to your breath, while simultaneously dancing to the music. Down the road I would be spend a year practicing to Steve Ross’s eclectic soundtrack on Oxygen’s Inhale; look into the physiological, neurological, and emotional effects of music; and eventually practice in studios where people just basically played a bunch of random stuff because it had the “right” tempo and it was something they liked to hear.

 

What hasn’t ever left me; however, was what preceded my musical conversation with Rie. I was in Savasana trying to figure out why the very quiet song seemed so familiar to me, and why my body seemed to be so tuned into it. When I spoke to Rie after class, she said she picked the song because it was soothing and it was in Gaelic; and therefore, unlikely to be a distraction (seeing as we were in Southeast Texas). Little did she know I was studying Gaelic at the time or, that in that moment, I would start really thinking about how much music could enhance or undermine the practice of yoga as meditation.

 

And every cry is a song
And every song is a prayer
And our prayer must be heard
Fill the air

– “Isn’t It Amazing” by Hothouse Flowers

 


Music can serve as white noise (or maybe it’s brown noise). It can serve as an extra wall, filtering out distraction from outside the practice space. It can serve as a controlled distraction, a known quantity, to hone our focus/concentration. It can also, unfortunately, just be a distraction. And yet, I know people who never “hear” the music – even when I play Ozzy Osbourne – and I know people who will practice to a song for years before they listen to it. Other people will go so deep into the song, they get beyond it.

 

In Yoga Sutra 1.2 Patanjali writes “yogash citta vritti nirodhah” (“Yoga ceases the fluctuation of the mind.”) Inherent in this statement is that fact that the mind fluctuates. Left to its own devices, the mind will, at some point, start looking for a distraction. So I give the mind music for several reasons. First, in some meditation traditions people are told to think the word “thinking” when their mind starts wandering. It’s a reminder to get back to the meditation. When I pick a theme for my classes, I also start picking music that supports the theme by serving as a reminder when the mind wanders. Second, Patanjali (in YS 1.17) outlines four (4) levels of attention/concentration/meditation: (1) gross, (2) subtle, (3) bliss, (4) and absorption. In their commentary on YS 1.17, Geshe Michael Roach and Christy McNally compare the levels to (1) being aware that music is playing; (2) examining the words and melody (maybe humming or singing along); (3) enjoying the song, being overcome by its beauty; and (4) being so absorbed that nothing else matters, everything else disappears. Finally, research has shown that when people hear a song they haven’t heard in a long time, their blood pressure changes. Breathing and breath awareness can also change because of the tempo, volume, and musical key.

 

This is a song that nobody knows
I couldn’t begin to describe how it goes
But it makes me cry or laugh right out loud
It’s a song that I sing when there’s no one around

– “When There’s No One Around” by Garth Brooks

 

Last April, I posted 30 Poses in 30 Days for the KISS MY ASANA Yogathon. I am doing the yogathon again this April to raise money and awareness for the adaptive yoga programs at Mind Body Solutions. This year, however, we are gearing up early. So, in an effort to get people excited about practicing yoga (or practicing more yoga), I’m posting 30 Songs in 30 Days during March. I know, I know, some of you are already thinking, “Hold up, Myra, March has 31 days.” Yes, it’s true, and since this post has at least a baker’s dozen linked song references, plus two (2) unlinked song references, AND one song contains at least ten (10) musical Easter eggs, consider each one a little musical lagniappe (a little something extra, freely given with a purchase).

 

~ Thanks for spending a little time with me. NAMASTE ~

(Check out Freegal at the Hennepin Public Library.)

 

 

Gazing Into the Heart December 14, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Love, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Taoism, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“SOLUTION” by Franz Wright
What is the meaning of kindness?
Speak and listen to others, from now on,
as if they had recently died.
At the core the seen and unseen worlds are one.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, given all the things that have happened in the world; however, somehow last week I was caught off guard by people’s request that I hold space for their sadness/grief/anger/fear. And yes, this is something I do on any given Sunday. It’s even, on a certain level, what I signed up to do. And yet, for one blinding moment I was pissed – I mean really royally pissed – to come back from my working vacation/week of Thanksgiving/week of fellowship and find all was not sunshine and light in the world.

As is recommended, I sat with the anger. The anger passed. I got back to my baseline, and I got back to work.

But that’s the short, simple version of the story. And, it’s not nearly as real or messy or satisfying as the whole story.

I say the anger passed; however, really it felt like it diminished or receded to a place where rather than reacting to the craziness in the world I was able to respond in an appropriate manner. But, before that happened, I had to acknowledge that what I was feeling was anger. I know people who are angry all the time – and they have very valid reasons for their anger – but we don’t always acknowledge or articulate the emotion. Oh, sure, we may act angry or spew angry words, but consider the last time (the last angry time) you took a deep breath and explained to someone, “I’m really angry.” Have you ever done that? Have you ever articulated the emotion without directing it at someone or something? Have you ever gone deep beneath the emotion, and found what’s beyond it (as opposed to what’s behind it)?

“…really pay attention to what’s happening internally…. Meditation is learning how to get so still, and so calm, tranquil, through the directing of the attention, to this present moment, that we begin to see really deeply…. And so we go more and more and more deeply into the nature of things, and when that happens, and reactivity ceases, then responsiveness arises.”

– Gina Sharpe, Suffering and the End of Suffering

When I first came back from Texas and started reacting, I hadn’t heard Gina Sharpe’s super skillful teaching on Suffering and the End of Suffering (see Thursday’s link below). All I had were emotions (mine and other people’s), desires/requests (mine and other people’s), signs from the Universe, and what I’ll call Divine messages. And I was resisting all of it! I wanted to focus on metta (loving-kindness) meditation or tonglen (giving and receiving) meditation, or sitting in compassion. You know me; I wanted to do that joy thing.

But, when I got on the mat, what came up was the need to be where we were. To feel what we were feeling. To validate and honor what was in the heart – and all that was in the heart.

Here’s a glimpse at a week of heart gazing:

Tuesday, December 2nd: We started with eyes open; I counted down and then had people quickly shut their eyes. In Bel Canto, Ann Patchett (b. 1963) wrote, “The timing of the electrical failure seemed dramatic and perfectly correct, as if the lights said, ‘You have no need for sight. Listen.'” Pratyahara (sense withdrawal, Yoga’s fifth limb) heightens our awareness. This heightened awareness happens even if we just withdraw one sense. It also happens when we are in a crisis situation similar to the hostage situation that takes place in Patchett’s beautifully written novel.

“She sang as if she was saving the life of everyone in the room.”

And while listening to Maria Callas, Ingrid Michaelson, Indie.Arie, Nelly Furtado, Jj Heller, Pink!, Raya Yarbrough, Sylvia Syms, Kate Bush, Dinah Washington, Amy Lee (of Evanescene), – my examples of “beautiful singing” – I asked people to breath as if they were hitting the high notes.

Ultimately, Bel Canto is a multilayer, multilevel love story set during a horrible crisis. It shows the heart’s ability to feel more than one thing at a time. But, more than that, it shows the heart always wants to find a way to love.

 

Wednesday, December 3rd: We started in Balasana (Child’s Pose) and asked people to gaze into their hearts – while listening to the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne (b. 1948).

Friedrich Nietzsche’s words about gazing into the abyss seem applicable (maybe even prophetic) when dealing with Heart of Darkness on Joseph Conrad’s birthday (b. 1957). Conrad wrote his short novel after his own experiences in Africa in the late 1800’s and while his own words best describe the world he sees, I think the world he sees is the world in his own heart.

I resisted this book and this birthday, in part because literary greats like Chinua Achebe criticize Conrad and his work as racist and xenophobic – and I don’t think there’s any way to get around that. Neither did I want to seem to celebrate a depiction of racism given currents events in Ferguson and around the United States. However, Professor Peter Mwikisa said Heart of Darkness can be “…the great lost opportunity to depict dialogue between Africa and Europe…” and that makes me wonder: Are we, right now, losing an opportunity for dialogue in the U. S.?

Or, are we just not ready for dialogue?

“People look to me and say / Is the end near, when is the final day? / What is the future of mankind? / Don’t look at me for answers / Don’t ask me / I don’t know.” – “I Don’t Know” from Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz

 

Thursday, December 4th: I usually don’t teach yoga on Thursdays. This was, however, one of the Thursdays when I facilitated my meditation group. We sat briefly and then listened to Gina Sharpe’s Suffering and the End of Suffering. The discussion around the talk, current events, and the additional resources (see below) also informed my weekend classes at the YMCA.

 

Friday, December 5th: We started in Balasana (Child’s Pose), again gazing into the heart – this time with the intention of listening to the heart until it, as Gina Sharpe puts it, flutters. Physically, emotionally, and musically, this was a heart focused class.

“Venerable Maha Ghosananda, who was considered to be the “Gandhi of Cambodia” taught the power of the intention of kindness all his life, even though his life and his culture were fraught with suffering, trauma, violence and war of the Khmer Rouge and the “Killing Fields.” He taught it this way:

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into the habit;
Habit hardens into the character;
Character gives birth to the destiny
So, watch your thoughts with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of respect for all beings…

 

Saturday, December 6th: Same beginning as Wednesday and Friday, but this time Bear McCreary’s Taiko drums sounded like the heartbeat and Anne Frank’s thunder.

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again.” — Anne Frank, July 15, 1944

 

Sunday, December 7th: In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that today was “a date which will live in infamy.” The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and, in a moment, 2,300 people died. As a result of the attack, the United States entered World War II and, subsequently, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States entry into the war saved countless lives. Yet, in the moments when we dropped the bombs, 149,000 – 266,000 people died (this includes POWs). So, we begin with a moment of silence for all.

~ Taps + 1 minute of silence + Reveille ~

Feeling stuff is hard, messy, icky work. But, the moment you feel is also the moment you heal.

“I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”  — Anne Frank, May 3, 1944

“Third we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but to win his friendship and understanding. At times we are able to humiliate our worst enemy. Inevitably, his weak moments come and we are able to thrust in his side the spear of defeat. But this we must not do. Every word and deed must contribute to an understanding with the enemy and release those vast reservoirs of goodwill which have been blocked by impenetrable walls of hate.” — Martin Luther King. Christmas 1957

“Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil- Hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”  — Martin Luther King. Christmas 1957

 

Sunday’s class ended with the same Larry Yang quote from Friday. Both classes also ended with a reminder to honor your work/karma*:

  • Hands at heart: Honor what is in your heart, as what is in your heart becomes what is in your mind.
  • Hands at third eye: Honor your thoughts, as they become your words.
  • Hands at mouth: Honor your words, as they become your deeds/actions.
  • Hands back to heart: Honor your deeds/actions as they give the world a glimpse into your character and pave the way of your destiny.

Thank you to everyone who was in class last week, as well as to everyone in my meditation group. Thank you also to my housemate Meghan (who listened to me explaining that I was angry). Thank you to all of my family and friends (who help me return to my baseline of joy). Thank you to the teachers (on and off the mat, musical and otherwise) who inspired the messages behind these classes. Thank you to Eileen for the Sunny Side post and video that made me cry. And, finally, a special shout out and HUGE, TEXAS-SIZED Utkatsana Woohoo!, to Carolina at YogaOne’s Heights location, whose Humble Warrior flow inspired this week’s physical practice and helped me remember the power of being “a great spiritual warrior.”

 ~ NAMASTE ~