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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)!  ###

Observing the Conditions… of the Light (mostly the music) February 5, 2023

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Happy Spring Festival! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

“‘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’”

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, February 5th) at 2:30 PM. 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 by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

### I HOPE YOU ALWAYS SEE LIGHT ###

Coming Clean on Day 13 (the “missing” invitation) February 3, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Health, Life, Music, New Year, Taoism, Yin Yoga, 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!

My apologies for not posting this before tonight’s “First Friday Night Special.” You can request an audio recording of tonight’s Yin Yoga practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

“If the cause of disease is understood as imbalance, then the goal of treatment is to recover balance. Problems are resolved through methods of complementarity.”

– quoted from “Problems in Search of a Solution: Treatment” in “Chapter Three – Philosopher in the East: The Doctor as Gardener” of Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinefield L.A.c. and Efrem Korngold L.A.c., O.M.D.

Many Eastern philosophies are tied to medical practices: e.g., Yoga and Ayurveda from India, Taoism and (Traditional) Chinese Medicine from China. In each pair of sciences, it is understood that too much or too little of something can create imbalance that leads to discomfort, dis-ease, and inefficiency. When the mind-body does not work optimally, these philosophies and medical sciences offer cleansing practices (and/or rituals) intended to improve overall health – physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically/spiritually. These practices are ultimately about letting go of what no longer serves us and making room for what will serve us… or, for what we will be served.

People spend a lot of time eating and celebrating during the Lunar New Year, in a way that can be excessive and, therefore, can lead to imbalance. By Day 13, people are ready to give their bodies a break from all the rich and heavy food – especially if they are celebrating the Spring Festival. While there may not be ritual cleansing, people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival traditionally eat “clean” on Day 13. A lighter, often vegetarian, meal that can help the body cleanse itself after the heavy feasting of the previous two weeks also prepares the mind-body for one more round of feasting and celebrating during the Lantern Festival (on Day 15).

Click here to read more about cleansing rituals and traditions in different traditions and why some people celebrate brotherhood on this day.

A First Friday Night Special playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Lunar New Year Day 13 Clean 2023”]

NOTE: The playlists on different, because some tracks (including the track for the practice) were not available on Spotify. However, the practice track on both playlists is related to the Earth and grounding.

This Yin Yoga practice is accessible and open to all.

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

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

Updated links will be provided for the events related to February 3rd.

### OM ###

Bird on Fire (a special Black History note) February 3, 2023

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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 Thursday, February 2nd. Yes, it was Groundhog Day. Yes, it was Groundhog Day (and you can click here to read last year’s related post). It was also the 12th day of the Spring Festival, which is another day when people eat “clean” (more on that in the Friday post).

“Black History is Happening Every Day.”

– a segment on the podcast FANTI, hosted by Jarrett Hill and Tre’vell Anderson

If you spend some time in my classes and/or peruse my blog, it doesn’t take long to notice that I use dates, historical figures, and special events, as jumping off points. They are a way to get everyone on the same page, to give people a frame of reference – especially if I’m going to delve into some aspect of Eastern philosophy that may be unfamiliar to most people in my classes. Sharing people’s stories, cultures, and histories is also a way to cultivate empathy and curiosity. Plus, I’m a fan of knowledge and, well… the more you know….

As much as I endeavor to diversify my “curriculum” and playlists (and have been known to “randomly” throw in extra Irish musicians and historical figures at the beginning of March), I don’t typically spend a whole month talking about non-religious cultural observations. Oh, sure, I’ve devoted several Aprils-worth of classes to poetry and if you show up at a class during the eleventh month of the Gregorian calendar, there’s about a 20% chance I’ll be sporting a moustache (if you mou’, you mou’), but I don’t really focus on one group of people during a single month (or week). When I mention that it’s Black History Month – or Native American Heritage Month or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – that reference is just a footnote at the beginning of the month (or week), because I agree with two of my favorite podcasters: Black History is Happening Every Day! Actually, I think that’s true of every demographic in America: everyone is making history every day.

Sometimes, unfortunately, human history is really tragic and horrific. In fact, someone once gave my a calendar full of really horrible things that had been done to African Americans on any given day throughout the year. I appreciated the gift – and have learned a lot from it –  but it’s never my go-to reference source. It’s not that I steer away from hard and tragic stuff; but that’s not all of life. Life is full of ups and downs and lots of things in between. So, I highlight people, events, and things that I can see as a reflection of life. When I remember or discover something and/or someone that resonates with me, I consider how it can be a gateway into the philosophical practice. This is very much in keeping with the way ancient philosophy (and religious) teachers taught. It’s just that rather than making up stories (parables), I’m using true stories and tales. And, more often than not, someone shares with me that they had never heard the story I told or had forgotten it and appreciated the reminder.

Recently, however, I have noticed how much the subjects on which I choose to focus – the kinds of subjects I have chosen for over a decade – are being “outlawed” by certain policymakers around the country. Recently, I have started thinking about how much of the history that was not being told up until recently is getting banned. Recently, I have thought more and more about the ramifications of losing things we may never get back; of losing the truth we may never get back. So, for Black History Month 2023, I am going to highlight some people and events that don’t get a lot of “air time.” They may not all be the focus of the next few weeks of practice, but they will be here… for anyone who is curious.

“She’s living in a world and it’s on fireFilled with catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away

Oh, oh oh oh ohShe got both feet on the groundAnd she’s burning it down

Oh, oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh ohShe got her head in the cloudsAnd she’s not backing down

This girl is on fireThis girl is on fireShe’s walking on fireThis girl is on fire

Looks like a girl, but she’s a flameSo bright, she can burn your eyes”

– quoted from the song “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys

Earlier in my life, I had the great pleasure of working with some of the most amazing classical ballet dancers on the planet – including several whose presence on the stage was groundbreaking and newsworthy. Sandra Organ, Lauren Anderson, and Carlos Acosta became, respectively, the first African American ballet dancer at Houston Ballet, one of the first African American principal dancers at a major classical ballet company, and the first (Black) Cuban male principal dancer at a major classical ballet company (outside of Cuba). Each of them made it possible for more dancers of color to make a name for themselves. Each of them continues to contribute to the world of dance. What doesn’t always make the news, however, is that each of them dance (and now direct) in the footsteps of Raven Wilkinson.

Born February 2, 1935, in New York City, Anne Raven Wilkinson loved dance at a very early age. Her mother, Anne James Wilkinson, studied ballet in Chicago before getting married and starting a family with Dr. Frost Birnie Wilkinson, a dentist who had attended Dartmouth University and graduated from Harvard Medical School. After watching Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performing Coppélia (when she was about five), her mother tried to register her for classes at the School of American Ballet. Historically, students could start training at New York City Ballet’s feeder school if they were 8 years old or would turn 8 during the year they started at the school. The Wilkinsons, however, were told that Raven had to be 9. Not to be thwarted, Raven was signed up for lessons in the Dalcroze method, a style of music education. When she turned 9, her uncle (a surgeon who graduated from Darmouth and Harvard) gifted her lessons at the Swoboda School, later known as the Ballet Russe School, where she trained with dancers from the Bolshoi Theatre.

In 1951, Sergei Denham, director of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, bought the Swoboda School, making it a feeder school for the very company that had inspired Raven Wilkinson to dance. She studied under the new leadership for three years before she auditioned. Even though at least one of her peers told her she would not get hired because she was Black, she learned the aesthetics and dance vocabulary she would need to technically blend in. Then, in 1954, she auditioned for Sergei Denham for the first time. In all, she would audition three times (and get rejected twice) before she was hired on a temporary basis. It was temporary, she was told, because the director was considering hiring another dancer (in Chicago) partway through the tour.

“During that same meeting, I also told Mr. Denham that I didn’t want to put the company in danger, but I also never wanted to deny what I was. If someone questioned me directly, I couldn’t say, ‘No, I’m not black.’ Some of the other dancers suggested that I say I was Spanish. But that’s like telling the world there’s something wrong with what you are.”

– Raven Wilkinson quoted from the Pointe Magazine interview ” Raven Wilkinson’s Extraordinary Life: An Exclusive Interview” by Margaret Fuhrer (dated June 1, 2014)

Raven Wilkinson started dancing for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955 – 14 years before a company devoted to African American ballet dancers, Dance Theatre of  Harlem, opened across the street from where her father’s office. By her second season she was dancing as a soloist.* She toured the United States while dancing roles in Les Sylphide, Le Beau DanubeGiselle, Graduation Ball, Harlequinade, and Swan Lake. Of course, touring the United States in the 1950s meant dealing with segregation and racism in the South. On the one hand, Ms. Wilkinson was light-skinned and could “pass” – and classical ballet was/is so closely associated with whiteness that almost no one considered the possibility that there was a Black dancer in the company, even though there were dancers from South America. On the other hand, she had no intention of lying. The company had encounters with the Ku Klux Klan – in and out of their robes – and in 1957, a “whites only” hotel owner in Atlanta, Georgia questioned her race and she answered as she had always intended to answer: truthfully.

After the incident in Atlanta, Sergei Denham and the company took extra-ordinary measures to ensure the safety of Raven Wilkinson and the other dancers. Sometimes, segregation forced her to travel ahead of the company. Sometimes, segregation and racism forced her out of roles. A member of the artistic staff told her that she had hit the proverbial “glass ceiling” and that she would be better off retiring and starting an “African dance” company. When she pointed out that she wasn’t trained in African dance, Sergei Denham backed her up, even offered her a featured role in Raymonda. She would appreciate his support later in life, but at the time, she was increasingly frustrated. She retired from the the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1961; but she did so with the intention of finding another, more progressive, company. After being rejected by the other major companies in New York City, she gave up, started working a “regular gig,” and even considered becoming a nun. Two years after leaving the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Raven Wilkinson put her pointe shoes back on and went back to dance. Then she got a call from a Black dancer in the Netherlands.

“‘I regret that he was not seen in the United States as a dancer because there was living proof of a danseur noble no matter what color, and he was amazing.’”

– quoted from MOBBallet.org (cited, Dr. Josselli Audain Deans PhD, Dance Magazine, November 1997, pages 87-88)

Sylvester Campbell, was an African American ballet danseur from Oklahoma, who trained at the (historically black) Jones-Haywood School of Ballet (founded Washington D. C., in 1941) and at the School of American Ballet (the school that, years earlier, rejected Raven Wilkinson for being too young). In 1960, Mr. Campbell started dancing principal roles at Het Nationale Ballet (the Dutch National Ballet), After dancing there for several years, he convinced Raven Wilkinson to relocate to Holland where she become a second soloist and expanded her repertoire, adding roles in Serenade, Giselle, Symphony in C, La Valse, The Snow Maiden, and The Firebird (which was originally created for the original Ballet Russes).

Both Americans would eventually leave the Netherlands because they were homesick. Sylvester Campbell went on to be a principal dancer at Royal Winnipeg Ballet and then director of the dance Department of the Baltimore School for the Arts. Raven Wilkinson danced with the New York City Opera (until 1985) and then appeared as a character dancer and actor until 2011, when the company was no longer in residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She also taught ballet at the Harlem School of the Arts.

All the way up until her death in 2018, Raven Wilkinson was heralded as a role model and mentor for dancers like Misty Copeland, the first African American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre.

“I loved Holland, but I missed my own country. I missed the very thing we complain about when we’re here—America’s diversity of philosophy, of feeling, of custom. It makes for a difficult society sometimes, and yet you feel its absence in a place like Holland, where everyone has the same history. So I came home.”

– Raven Wilkinson quoted from the Pointe Magazine interview ” Raven Wilkinson’s Extraordinary Life: An Exclusive Interview” by Margaret Fuhrer (dated June 1, 2014)

PRACTICE NOTES: If I were to lead a practice dedicated to Raven Wilkinson, I’d focus on how the situations that make it hard to practice satya (“truth”), are also the situations when it is most important to practice that second yama (external “restraint” or universal “commandment”). There would probably be an emphasis on poses with external hip rotation, counterbalanced with poses that internally rotate the hips and thighs – plus something to open up the heart and the throat chakras (as they are related to “the gifts we extend out to the world,” determination, and expression). There would also be some awareness of “long lines,” articulating the feet, and dancing the arms. Of course, we would work our way into Naṭarājāsana (“Dancer’s Pose”) – all while listening to the highs and lows of Igor Stravinsky’s “L’Oiseau de feu” (“The Firebird”).

*NOTE: By some accounts, Raven Wilkinson was promoted to soloist, but other accounts indicate that she was given soloist roles without the title (or the paycheck that might have come with it). 

Errata: Raven Wilkinson taught at the Harlem School of the Arts not at Dance Theatre of Harlem as implied by my earlier type-o.

### “Firebirds sing by night” ~ Yakov Polonsky ###

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 ###

Getting Ready & Being Ready January 29, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Philosophy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Happy Spring Festival!” and “Happy Carnival!” to those who are celebrating. Many blessings to all, and especially to those preparing to celebrate the Jade Emperor’s Birthday.

“‘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)

More often than not, people focus on the big things – big achievements, big challenges, big tragedies, big heroics. We don’t often, however, focus on what it takes to get ready (for what we know is coming) and to be ready (for what might come). Yet, part of the practice – one could argue, “all of the practice of yoga” – is getting ready. Remember haha yoga, the physical practice of yoga (regardless of the style or tradition), is a combination of elements in the middle of the 8-Limbed Yoga Philosophy. The asana (“seat” or pose) is the foundation that gets you ready for prāṇāyāma (awareness of breath and extension of breath), which gets you ready for pratyāhāra (“withdrawing the senses and turning them towards a point”), which leads directly to the last three limbs and ultimately to the goal of yoga as “union.” Furthermore, in the physical practices of yoga, there is a system of sequencing called vinyāsa krama: literally “placing things in a special way” for a “step-by-step progression.” In other words, it is the art and science of getting ready.

The eighth day of the Lunar New Year is a regular day for most people who celebrate the Lunar New Year – and even those who are celebrating the 15-day Spring Festival. Sure, there are some who will celebrate the creation of millet, the ancient grain. Most people, however, have even finished the Lunar New Year feasts. There are some, however, who are getting ready for another big feast. For some, tonight and tomorrow will be an even bigger celebration than those on the first two or three days of the Lunar New Year. Tonight is “Hokkien New Year’s Eve” and the night before the Jade Emperor’s birthday.

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, January 29th) at 2:30 PM. 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 by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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.)

### MORE BLESSINGS ###

Celebrating [the Grace of] Being Humans (mostly the music) January 28, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Healing Stories, Life, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Happy Spring Festival!” and/or “Happy Carnival!” to those who are celebrating.

“Nüwa could not stand seeing the decimation of the humans and other creatures she had created. She was determined to rescue them. Facing such a large-scale calamity, Nüwa did not panic. Instead, she prioritized what she was going to do. She decided that the damage to the sky was the cause of everything, so she took to the task of mending it. She collected a great number of mulitcolored stones from a riverbed, built a furnace in the Zhonghuang Mountain, and, after forty-nine days, melted the stones and created a huge piece of colorful slate. Embedding the slate in the hole, Nüwa managed to fix the leaking sky. Her action produced an unexpected side effect: the shining colors of the slate added to the sky a moon, a rainbow, and numerous stars.”

– quoted from “The Origin of Human Beings in The Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese by Haiwang Yuan (with Forward by Michael Ann Williams)

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, January 28th) at 12:00 PM. 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 by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “02082022 Celebrating Being Humans”]

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.)

“This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which, as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavor to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called “The Three Princes of Serendip”: as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of the them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right….”

– quoted from a letter addressed to Sir Horace Mann, dated January 28, 1754, by Horace Walpole (The Right Honorable The (4th) Earl of Orford, Horatio Walpole)

### 🎶 ###