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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

CODA, redux

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Yoga Sūtra 2.51: bāhyābhyantaravişayākşepī caturthah

 

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

 

Yoga Sūtra 2.52: tatah kşīyate prakāśāvaraņam

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“lōkāḥ samastāḥ sukhinōbhavantu”

 

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

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

 

– quoted from The Hours: a novel by Michael Cunningham

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

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

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

 

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

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

Our Rabbit Time, Our Cat Story (the “missing” Sunday post) January 22, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Love, Music, New Year, Philosophy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Happy (Lunar) New Year!” to those who are celebrating.

This is the “missing” post for Sunday, January 22nd. You can request an audio recording the related 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; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

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

“Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind – not in things, not in ‘scenery.’ Molière said that for the theatre all he needed was a platform and a passion or two. The climax of this play needs only five square feet of boarding and the passion to know what life means to us.”

– quoted from the “Preface” of Three Plays: Our Town, The Matchmaker, and The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

What does life mean to you? More specifically, what does your life mean to you and how are you spending this time you have been given? How could you spend your time in a way that reflects what your life means to you?

I ask some variation of these questions on a fairly regular basis. People all over the world may ask themselves some variation of these questions during moments of great upheaval, moments of great challenge, and/or moments of great change. These questions are at the heart of most works by Thornton Wilder, but are especially poignant and salient in his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town, which premiered today in 1938, at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, and then opened in Boston before its Broadway premiere at Henry Miller’s Theatre on February 4, 1938.

In the preface to a collection of three of his plays, Thornton Wilder not only indicated what he was doing with his work, but why he was doing it. He wrote, “Every action which has ever taken place – every thought, every emotion – has taken place only once, at one moment in time and place. ‘I love you,’ ‘I rejoice,’ ‘I suffer,’ have been said and felt many billions of times, and never twice the same. Every person who has ever lived has lived an unbroken succession of unique occasions. Yet the more one is aware of this individuality in experience (innumerable! innumerable!) the more one becomes attentive to what these disparate moments have in common, to repetitive patterns.” Then he questioned how we tell our stories – our truths – and how different mediums have different powers. Theatre, he believed, elevates individual experiences to universal experiences in a way that transcends single moments in time.

Our Town is a play-within-a-play, with the “external” play taking place in the theater where the play is being presented and the “interior” play taking place in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire (beginning on May 7, 1901). In addition to the Stage Manager, who “breaks the fourth wall” by introducing the audience to the scenario and offering commentary throughout the play, Our Town focuses on the inhabitants of Grover’s Corners. In particular, it focuses on young Emily Webb and George Gibb.

The young couple do things that many people do in the span of 12 years. They grow up, they fall in love, they get married, they start a family. They also lose people they love. In fact, the final act of the play takes place on a hilltop cemetery overlooking the town and is all about loss. It begins with the Stage Manager’s monologue about all the things that changed –as well as all the things that stayed the same between the second act and the summer of 1913, which marks the end of the play. It references many people who died before the play every began and older characters that died during the time period of the play. Then the Stage Manager gets to one of the great tragedies of the play: young Emily Webb died giving birth to her second child. When Emily is given the chance to re-experience one single moment of her life, she chooses her 12th birthday.

“EMILY…. – (She flings her arms wide in an ecstasy of realization) Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you! (Thinking a moment, she half-turns to the STAGE MANAGER, questioning more gently:) Does any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?

STAGE MANAGER. (Quietly) No – Saints and poets maybe – they do some.”

– quoted from Act III of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

For many people around the world, including the people in the fictional Grover’s Corners, birthdays are a time of celebration. A time when family and friends gather together to celebrate someone and to wish them well as the begin their next journey around the sun. The older a person gets – the more they live – the more likely they are to not only celebrate, but also to reflect. The longer someone lives they more opportunities they have to look back at how they have spent their time and consider how they want to move forward. Birthdays, after all, are liminal moments, threshold moments, and – when we think of them as personal new year’s days – they are new beginnings.

Of course, any time we are beginning, we must ask ourselves, “How do we begin?”

“STAGE MANAGER…. How do such things begin? George and Emily are going to show you now the conversation they had when they first knew that – as the saying goes – they were meant for one another. But before they do that I want you to try and remember what it was like to have been very young, and particularly the days when you were first in love; when you were like a person sleep-walking, and you didn’t quite see the street you were walking in, and you didn’t quite hear everything that was said to you. You’re just a little bit crazy. Will you remember that, please?”

– quoted from Act II of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

The following is a revised excerpt from the post dated February 1, 2022. It includes some year-specific revisions. 

“May all of us together be protected;

may all of us together be nourished;

may we work together with great energy;

my our study together be brilliant and effective;

may we not hate or dispute with one another;

may there be peace within us, peace all around us, peace to and from everything and everyone we encounter.”

– “Teaching Santipat,” Sanskrit chanting by Richard Freeman (when we are in the studio)

On a certain level, there is always a question about how to begin… anything.

Just sticking to the physical practice for the moment, though: Is it best to begin in Child’s Pose, which by it’s simple physicality requires us to turn (and curl) inward? Or is it better to begin on one’s back, which promotes a certain amount of openness? Both have symbolic benefits as they relate to our lives and our practice – as does starting in a seated position on our sits-bones, which can also cultivate mindful awareness and a certain openness to wisdom. Having options, and being aware of the different benefits of the options, is a wonderful thing and I general encourage people to start where they are comfortable. However, I usually have a suggestion. After all, the beginning is an indication of how we mean to go forward.

In Chapter 17 of All of Grace, the Reverend Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.” Known as “the Prince of Preachers,” The Reverend Spurgeon was an English Particular Baptist, who was specifically offering advice about “The Fear of Final Falling,” or not being able to persevere on a righteous path; however, a lot of people consider his advice as applicable to all situations. Even if you are not particularly religious (or not religious at all), it would behoove you to start – anything – by connecting with the breath (which is a symbol of your life-force and your spirit) and letting that connection be your guide as you move forward.

Naturally, that is one aspect of how every physical practice of yoga begins. But, many practices also start with a chant – or you can think of it as an intention, a wish, or even a prayer or blessing. When I am leading the practice, I generally start with an English translation of the “Teaching Shantipat.” It is a very definitive declaration of how I would like to move forward. Every once in a blue moon, I use a meditation chant from Swami Jnaneshvara, that is specific to deep-seated mediation. Then too, there are times when the occasion calls for a big welcome or cheer – that sometimes comes in a different language.

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

好心得好报
Hao xinde hao bao [Good news]

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

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

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

Today is the beginning of the Lunar New Year. While many East and Southeast Asian cultures celebrate at the same time – and even though there are some similarities to celebrations held at other times of the year – each culture has different rituals and traditions that connect people with their extended families, ancestors, and heritage. For example, the Chinese lunisolar calendar designates this year is the year of the (water) Rabbit/Hare. In Vietnam, however, people are celebrating the year of the Cat (which is the only major deviation in the two Zodiacs).

In parts of China and the diaspora, the beginning of the New Year is also the beginning of the Spring Festival, a fifteen day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. Even though each day of the Lunar New Year has a special significance, each region has different stories and traditions related to that significance. For example, according to one Chinese creation story, different animals are celebrated depending on when they were created; thus, today is the birthday of all chickens. Others are celebrating the birthday of the water god and, therefore, will not wash their hair or their clothes on the first two days of the new year. Some Buddhist people celebrate the birth of Maitreya Buddha on the first day of the lunar new year and spend New Year’s Day, as well as several days leading up to the first day, chanting, praying, and/or meditating (depending on their beliefs). People will also light candles and make offerings at the temple before their feasting begins.

Even though there are some differences between regions and cultures, there are some common elements. The Lunar New Year celebrations generally include extended family coming together; the welcoming of ancestors and (in some households) the welcoming of household deities (like the water god); red clothes, red decorations, and red envelopes; fireworks, parades, and loud noises, a bit of feasting, and (of course), the wish, prayer, blessing, or shout for prosperity: “Cai Shen Dao! [The God of Wealth has come! in Mandarin]”

Since the (secular) Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar, the Lunar New Year falls at different times according to the Western schedule. As I mentioned before, this year’s Spring Festival coincides with the premiere anniversary of Our Town, a play that offers us all some great reminders about what it is good to remember as we move forward:

“STAGE MANAGER….. – Now there are some things we all know but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always letting go of that fact. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

– quoted from Act III of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

“When the firstborn, P’an Ku [a primordial being in Chinese mythology], was approaching death, his body was transformed. His breath became the wind and clouds; his voice became peals of thunder…. All the mites on his body were touched by the wind [his breath] and evolved into the black-haired people. (Wu yun li-nien chi, cited in Yu shih, PCTP 1.2a)”

– quoted from Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Anne Birrell

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.)

### “…my advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it is on your plate; that’s my philosophy.” ~ from The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder ###

Social Economics (an updated post) December 29, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Christmas, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Love, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Religion, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Kwanzaa, yenu iwe na heri!” – “May your Kwanzaa be happy!” to everyone who is celebrating! May you have a meaningful observation if your focus is on the Feast Day of Saint Thomas (Becket).

 

This is a revised and updated version of a post from 2020 and 2021. You can find the original 2020 post here.

 

“In The Black Candle, a 2008 documentary on Kwanzaa, narrated by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, she explains, ‘While the first principle of Umoja brings us closer and harnesses our strength, the last principle, Imani, inspires us and sustains our togetherness. Let us have faith in ourselves, in our creator, in our mothers and fathers, in our grandmothers and grandfathers, in our elders, and in our future – knowing that we are more than keepers of our brothers and sisters, we are our brothers and sisters.’”

 

– quoted from the Oprah Magazine article “The Principles and Meaning of Kwanzaa: The holiday is a call to celebrate the richness of what it means to have African roots” by Stephanie L. King (Dec. 7, 2020)

 

A funny thing can happen when we practice yoga: the deeper we go into the mind-body and spirit, the more we start to appreciate the mind-body-spirit as a whole. We may also start to appreciate all the different parts of ourselves and – in the process – we may start to appreciate each other a little more. And, by appreciate, I mean value. Just as I mentioned during yesterday’s practice and post, everything and everybody (and all the parts of the body) have purpose (i.e., power)  and responsibility – which means everything and everybody (and all the parts of the body) have value. One question for today is, “How do we express that value and appreciation?” Another question for today is, “Why do we value some things (and people) more than other?”

Social Economics (also known as socioeconomics) is defined as the social science that studies the connection between social behavior and economics (which is the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services). One area of focus within social economics is how a society/community thrives (or doesn’t) because of economic activity. Another focus is how social behavior affects economics and vice versa. For instance, how the United States of America developed as a nation and how it moves (i.e., continues to move) beyond slavery are areas of study within social economics. Similarly, the impact of slavery on family structures – and how those newly defined families engaged in commerce – are socioeconomic factors.

One of the greatest tragedies of the slave trade and slavery in the Americas was the loss of family and cultural heritage. In order to survive the displacement and the many horrors of slavery, people from different tribes, communities, and cultures had to figure out a way to come together as family – despite knowing that, at any moment, even their created family could be torn apart just as their biological family was torn apart. The fact that people did, continuously create family bonds, is a testament to the human spirit and to the power of love, Divine love, that knows no limits (even when we continuously try to create them).

When we contemplate the true meaning of being a father or a mother – regardless of how that comes about – and the ultimate meaning of family, we start delving into how we value those we call family and how we show our appreciation. While we all show our appreciation for others in different ways, there are some ways that are defined by society. Of course, one of those socially-defined ways is really prevalent this time of year: gift giving/receiving – which can be a multi-layered socioeconomic focus.

“Every child has a special way of perceiving love. There are five ways children (indeed, all people) speak and understand emotional love. They are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. If you have several children in your family, chances are they speak different languages….

 

Whatever love language your child understands best, he needs it expressed in one way – unconditionally. Unconditional love is a guiding light, illuminating the darkness and enabling us as parents to know where we are and what we need to do as we raise our child. Without this kind of love, parenting is bewildering and confusing.

 

We can best define unconditional love by showing what it does. Unconditional love shows love to a child no matter what.”

 

– quoted from The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively by Gary Chapman (PhD) and Ross Campbell (MD)

 

It is possible that when someone goes way over the top with gift giving that they are trying to compensate for a disconnect that is the result of giving to someone with a different love language. I’m not saying that is always the case. There are definitely times when someone offers a big (and costly) gesture simply because they can, maybe even because they can and they know the gift(s) will be appreciated. But you really have to wonder about someone who would give so many gifts that people lose count.

In addition to being the fourth day of Kwanzaa, which focuses on cooperative economics, it is also the Feast Day of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (also of London). Depending on when you start counting (Christmas Day versus Boxing/Saint Stephen’s Day), today is also the fourth or fifth day of the “12 Days of Christmas.” I often think of the gifts in the song as costing millions of dollars – especially when you consider that the song is cumulative, meaning that at the end of the 12 days the recipient would have received a total of 12 partridges (in 12 pear trees); 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds, 40 gold rings, 42 geese a-laying (and let’s not even get into the eggs they are laying), 42 swans a-swimming (again, not getting into how they are swimming), 40 maids a-milking (which means there are 40 cows or goats or something!!!), 36 ladies dancing, 30 lords a-leaping, 22 pipers piping (with 12 pipes), and 12 drummers drumming (with 12 drums) for a grand total of 364 items (minus their accompanying items). This is based on the version of the song people might use when thinking about the song as it relates to catechism and important aspects of the Christian faith.

There are actually several different versions of the round, which some say was originally French, including versions where the gift is given by “my mother” instead of “my true love.” The song’s popularity dates back at least as far as 1780, when it was first published in London, England as “The Twelve Days of Christmas sung at King Pepin’s Ball.” It was published in a children’s book called Mirth without Mischief and, as no music was included, people used different tunes until 1909 when the English composer Frederic Austin set and published it to his arrangement of a traditional folk melody. A lot of variations in the gifts, the descriptions of the gifts, and the order of the gifts happened long before Austin’s version, but he is definitely credited with elongating the “five golden rings;” changing a few phrasings to match the music; and changing the description of the birds on the fourth day from a species or color (as indicated in earlier versions) to “calling birds” – meaning they sing. In 1966, a version was published with the gifts being “given” instead of “sent” and prior to that, in 1892, there was a version where the gifts were “brought.” Note, however, that no versions (as far as I know) mention the gifts being “bought.”

The fact that the gifts are not referenced as being purchased is a good reminder that at certain points in time, the gifts themselves would have been seen as currency. Each item or service could be bartered or traded. But, as so many people today only seem to understand the value of something when there is a price tag attached, let’s consider the actual cost of the “12 Days of Christmas.”

“The first day of Christmas my true love sent to me….”

 

– quoted from “The Twelve Days of Christmas sung at King Pepin’s Ball” printed in MIRTH WITHOUT MISCHIEF. CONTAINING THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS; THE PLAY OF THE GAPING-WIDE-MOUTHED-WADLING-FROG; LOVE AND HATRED; THE ART OF TALKING WITH THE FINGERS; AND NIMBLE NED’S ALPHABET AND FIGURES. Printed in London by J. Davenport, George’s Court, for C. Sheppard, No. 8, Aylefbury Street, Clerkenwell (1870)

 

The actual cost of “The 12 Days of Christmas” varies, depending on if you are giving a single set of each gift (i.e. only one set of five gold rings) or if you are going the cumulative route. According to PNC Financial Services Group’s annual “Christmas Price Index” (which they have issued for 39 years), the cost for one set of each gift in 2019 was $38,993.59; with a cumulative price tag of $170, 298.03, which was just barely more than the 2018 cost. In 2020, however, the cost was $16,168.10 – $105, 561.80. In 2021, the cost for a single set of gifts was $41,205.58; with a cumulative total of $179,454.19. This year, 2022, the overall cost went up 10.5%, putting the single set of gifts at $45,523.27 and the cumulative total at $197,071.09.

Why the huge decrease and increase, you ask? COVID.

The index continues to pay the “maids a-milking” the US Federal minimum wage (which hasn’t changed since 2009), but assumed they were only available at the height of the pandemic because they were practicing social distancing guidelines. The 2020 total did not include the dancing ladies, leaping lords, pipers, or drummers – unless you or your love were in an area where COVID was under control, in which case the price would have gone up. Same thing if you figured out a virtual option. In 2021, all of those artist/laborers were back. However, it is interesting to note that while the 2021 dancing ladies did their work at the 2019 price, the lords, pipers, and drummers – which would have all been traditional male roles in Western society – were (respectively) 12.6%, 7.1%, and 7.1% more expensive last year. In 2022, all performers received pay increases [10%, 24.2%, 2.6%, and 2.6% (respectively)].

While the swans are, normally, the highest priced item on the list, this year that “honor” goes to the leaping lord’s – thanks to that 24.2% raise. With the exception of the swans and the calling birds – which are always expensive, but didn’t increase in price – and the partridge (whose price increased because of the fertilizer needed to grow the pear tree) all the bird gifts increased because of the cost of their feed. In fact, the six geese a-laying, which increased a whopping 57.1% between 2020 and 2021, went up another 9.1% this year. The gold rings also increased in price (all three years), because… you guessed it, COVID. This year, the gold rings had the highest increase on the list (39.1%).

Now, we’re not quite to my million dollar assumption, but keep in mind that the index does not include transportation, storage, upkeep, and/or any of the accompanying materials referenced in the parenthesis above once they are delivered. Bottom line, though, it’s a lot of money.

Now, consider for a moment, that the song is not about the price tag. It’s not about the money. It’s about the love. Attaching a price tag simply brings awareness to the value of expressing love when your “love language” is giving/receiving gifts. It doesn’t take into consideration the value of “quality time,” “physical touch,” “words of affirmation,” or “acts of service” – and it definitely distracts from the fact that love is priceless.

Also priceless is faith and the Divine gifts of love that people receive from their faith. For those of you keeping track of the gifts related to the catechism myth, today’s gifts and symbols are: “a partridge in a pear tree” for Jesus (and the cross); “two turtle doves” representing the Old and New Testament; “three French Hens” for the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love); “four calling birds” for the four canonical New Testament Gospels (or their corresponding evangelicals, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John); and “five gold rings” are the first Five Books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament which provide the back story for the three Abrahamic religions. I would argue that just as faith is priceless, so too is knowing one’s back story. 

“‘The beauty of Kwanzaa is it doesn’t start Black history from slavery. It actually starts us as inventors of civilizations, people who first broke from the animal world, spoke the first human truths, wrote the first basic texts of human knowledge, and so on. That’s what Kwanzaa does, it gives us a long memory—a long cultural biography.’”

 

– Dr. Adam Clark, Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University and founder/co-editor of Columbia University’s “Black Theology Papers Project” (quoted in the Oprah Magazine article “The Principles and Meaning of Kwanzaa: The holiday is a call to celebrate the richness of what it means to have African roots” by Stephanie L. King (Dec. 7, 2020)

The principle for today, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, is Ujamaa (cooperative economics), which is described as “To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” It is associated with the second red candle, which is the symbol for struggle. Now, superficially, it is easy to look at other minority communities and how they have built and supported minority business almost since the set foot on American soil and wonder why the idea of “cooperative economics” would be associated with struggle. But, to wonder about such a thing is to ignore the history of slavery and American economics. To wonder about such a thing is to ignore how slavery was the original bedrock of economics in the United States and that for much of this country’s history, people of African descent were not only not paid for their labor and goods, they were not allowed to engage in trade or decide how they wanted to participate in the economy. Additionally, when slavery legally ended (and slave owners were paid for their losses), the vast majority of freed people still labored under the same (slave) conditions. Continue through history and there is more than one example of situations where people were (legally) paid less for their work than what they were expected to pay for food and lodging. Then there are the tragic and horrific “examples” that were made of communities that built themselves up.

To add to the struggle, a debate that started in the late 19th century continues to this day. Most people associate the two sides of the debate with W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Both were educated and both were leaders in the Black community. To a certain degree, they even had the ear of the establishment. However, they had very different ideas about the best way for formerly enslaved people and their descendants to actively participate in and benefit from the US economy.

In a nutshell, Mr. Washington advocated sticking to what people knew (from slavery) and becoming (scholastically) educated in agriculture, crafts, and other trades they had done during slavery. He also encouraged people to purchase property and to be patient when faced with discrimination (even if that discrimination hindered them in pursuing education and the opportunity to purchase property). On the flip side, Mr. Du Bois was considered a radical who believed in an “intellectual” education that would create what he called the “Talented Tenth” – the best and the brightest college educated individuals who could instigate activism in the streets as well as in the courts and in the boardrooms. As I said, this debate continues, in part because the stigma, racism, and prejudice associated with slavery still exists.

“‘Kwanzaa offers a new dialogue on Black culture, about our positive contributions to the world, and not just the negative stigma of race.’”

 

– Dr. Adam Clark, Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University and founder/co-editor of Columbia University’s “Black Theology Papers Project” (quoted in the Oprah Magazine article “The Principles and Meaning of Kwanzaa: The holiday is a call to celebrate the richness of what it means to have African roots” by Stephanie L. King (Dec. 7, 2020)

 

You can request an audio recording of a practice related to this post via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

The 2021 playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “12292021 Social Economics”]

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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

“Umoja (unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (self-determination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. 

Ujamaa (cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”

 

 – The Nguzo Saba (or “Seven Essential Pillars”) of Kwanzaa

 

CHECK OUT THE CALENDAR! You can kick off New Year’s Day 2023 in two ways: with the very active practice of 108 Sun Salutations at 10:00 AM or with the very “chill” practice of a Yin+Meditation practice beginning at 5:00 PM. All times are Central Standard. Details are posted on the class schedules calendar. And, yes, some folks have done both!!

 

 

### CAN YOU SEE CLEARLY NOW? ###

FTWMI: Appreciate the Power by Using the Power, Wisely December 28, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Abhyasa, Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Christmas, Confessions, Depression, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Love, Movies, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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[“Kwanzaa, yenu iwe na heri!” – “May your Kwanzaa be happy!” to everyone who is celebrating! May you have a meaningful observation if your focus is on the Innocents.]

For Those Who Missed It: The following was originally posted in December of 2020 and re-posted in 2021. Class details and some links have been updated.

 

“…aware at last that in this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

 

– quoted from Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee, et al (August 1962)

 

I can’t help it. I’m sorry (not sorry), but I. Just. Can’t. Help. It! When I think of responsibility one of the first things that pops into my head is that famous line from the 1962 introduction of Spiderman. Then I start thinking about Stan Lee…

Born today in 1922 (as Stanley Lieber), Stan Lee did not invent the phrase or the sentiment many associate with Peter Parker and his uncle Ben Parker. He did, however, make it wildly popular and combined it with the awareness that everyone can do something to help alleviate the struggles and suffering of others. After all, for the most part, Lee’s characters in the Marvel Universe were not and are not (initially or typically) perfect alien humanoids without a care in the world. They were not sent to Earth to save humankind. No, they were making their home a better place.

And, Lee’s characters were just like his readers: people with very human fears, flaws and insecurities; people with bad tempers, impatience, fits of melancholy and vanity; people who bickered, worried about paying their bills, worried about impressing a love interest; and people who got bored or even sick. They were people – like the Fantastic Four (1961), Spiderman (1962), X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, the Avengers (1963), and Black Panther (1966) – who had to reconcile their abilities, their sometimes suddenly discovered powers, with all the need in the world… and the fact that people often thought they were freaks … and the fact that they couldn’t always solve every problem. But, neither, could they look away.

We are all able to do something. Sometimes we think what we are able to do is not much – which can be a self defeating attitude. Sometimes that attitude comes from not think about people who are not able (physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or energetically) to do what we can do. Nor do we always think about the importance of doing things the special way we do them. In neglecting to appreciate what we have to offer, we run the risk of missing an opportunity to make the world a better place.

“‘Nevermore shall men make slaves of others! Not in Asgard — not on Earth — not any place where the hammer of Thor can be swung — or where men of good faith hold freedom dear!’”

 

– quoted from the end panel of “Tales of Asgard, Home of the Mighty Norse Gods: Trapped by the Trolls” in Journey Into Mystery Volume I, with the Mighty Thor #108 (1964) by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Art Simek, et al (1964)

Ultimately, each Marvel character is charged with doing “what they can, as much as they can, for as long as they can” in order to help the people around them. While that description fits two of the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, today I’m mostly going to focus on today’s principle, the third principle; Ujima (collective work and responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. Ujima is connected to the first green candle on the kinara (special candelabra), which is a symbol of the future and prompts celebrants to consider a future free of some of our current struggles, suffering, and plights.

We may not be able to travel through time and change the future like Dr. Strange, Rina Patel, or Iron Lad, but each of us has the power to consider cause-and-effect. We can take a look at how our past actions are reflected in our current circumstances and how our actions in this moment are the seeds that blossom into “tomorrow’s” circumstances. In fact, in the Yoga tradition such abilities are included in a list of siddhis, supernormal “powers” or abilities.

Some siddhis very much seem like Marvel Universe powers or Jedi Knight Tricks. However, there are six that are described as being “powers unique to being human.” We not only find these specifically human powers (as described in the Sāmkhya Karika) in every Marvel comic book, we find them in every one of ourselves:

  1. the power of discovery (i.e., intuitive knowledge);
  2. the power “to give a form to sound, assign meaning to each segment of sound, and to store both sound and meaning in memory….[and] the capacity to communicate both sound and its meaning to others. We also have the capacity to give a visual form to each segment of sound and the meaning associated with it[;]”
  3. the power to “study, analyze, and comprehend” abstract ideas no matter how they are (effectively) communicated;
  4. the power to eliminate “three-fold sorrow – physical, mental, and spiritual;”
  5. the power to “[cultivate] a good heart; finding friends;”
  6. the power of dana, which is “the ability to give.”

In addition to being the Stan Lee’s birthday and the third day of Kwanzaa, today corresponds with the third or fourth day of the “12 Days of Christmas” (depending on when you start counting). For those of you keeping track of the gifts related to the catechism myth, today’s gifts and symbols are: “a partridge in a pear tree” for Jesus (and the cross); “two turtle doves” representing the Old and New Testament; “three French Hens” for the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love); and “four calling birds” for the four canonical New Testament Gospels (or their corresponding evangelicals, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Finally, as many Christians (and in particular Catholics) observe these days between  Christmas and Epiphany as “fast free days,” I will mention that one of the feast days associated with today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, also known as Childermas or Innocents Day. This is a day devoted to the remembrance of young children killed in Bethlehem when King Herod the Great learned that the Magi, at the suggestion of an angel, had tricked him and would not lead him back to the newborn Jesus. This day (today in Western Christianity, but December 29th in some Eastern traditions) has been observed as a fast day and was even, at one time, associated with practices considered a mockery of the faith and religion. However, today some consider it a day for children to be children… and do the things that children do (especially when they do not fear persecution, oppression, hunger, famine, or disease).

“All six of these stories – nearly half the stories in the book – speak to me of a longing in our human condition, a desire for more life (either here or in the hereafter) or a desire to turn regrets around to something joyous….

 

None of the characters in this collection are more powerful than a locomotive, none are faster than a speeding bullet, but what they are able to do, I believe, reveals something of our desires, something of our humanity – the best and worst in us.”

 

– quoted from the introduction to able to…: a literary look at super powers by…, edited by Neil Ellis Orts

Please join me today (Wednesday, December 28th) 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 “12282021 Power, Responsibility, & Children”]

 

CHECK OUT THE CALENDAR! You can kick off New Year’s Day 2023 in two ways: with the very active practice of 108 Sun Salutations at 10:00 AM or with the very “chill” practice of a Yin+Meditation practice beginning at 5:00 PM. All times are Central Standard. Details are posted on the class schedules calendar. And, yes, some folks have done both!!

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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

“Umoja (unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

 

Kujichagulia (self-determination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

 

Ujima (collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

 

Ujamaa (cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

 

Nia (purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

 

Kuumba (creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

 

Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”

 

 

– The Nguzo Saba (or “Seven Essential Pillars”) of Kwanzaa

### You’ve Got the Power! ###

We Remember This Date (mostly the music w/2 links) December 7, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Life, Loss, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“I was beginning to see then what I have learned now. It’s not forgetting that heals. It’s remembering.”

.

– quoted from Bloodroot by Amy Greene

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 30th) 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 “12/7 and Healing 2021”]

 

Here are two (2) posts related to December 7th. The first one is personal. The second one is the one to be expected.

 

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 and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

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### 🎶 ###

 

FTWMI: This Room, This Music, This Light, This Darkness: This Dance November 22, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Hope, Life, Loss, Peace, Philosophy, Texas, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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For Those Who Missed It: The following was originally posted on November 22, 2020 (and reposted in 2021). Class details and links have been updated.

“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why. Not until the future eats the present, anyway. We know when it’s too late.”

– quoted from 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Life changes in a moment…in a heartbeat, in a breath. Sometimes we don’t even notice the change until it is coupled with a bunch of other changes. Every once in a while, however, something makes us pause, stop in our tracks, breathe, reflect. Sometimes we pause because of something breathtakingly beautiful. Other times, our breath is taken by something heartbreakingly tragic.

Today in 1963 was a Friday, and a little girl missed her first sleepover. Had she been any other 5-year old girl, nobody would have cared or even noticed, but the reason this little girl missed her first sleepover is the same reason high school, college, and professional football games were cancelled or postponed. It was the same reason people all over the world were glued to the radios and televisions. Today in 1963, a wife lost her husband; three children (that five-year old girl, her almost three-year old brother, and her yet to be born brother) lost their father; and the whole world paused, stopped, as a Nation lost – and then gained – a leader meant to usher in a new era of civil rights and environmental conservation.

Today in 1963, at 12:30 PM (Central Standard Time), President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade drove down Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Governor of Texas John Connally – who was riding in the motorcade with his wife Nellie, President Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and two members of the United States Secret Service – was seriously wounded. A bystander was also injured by a ricochet.

“We did not ask for this room or this music. We were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces to the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. We have been given life to deny death. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance.”

– a poem by Stephen King and Bridget Carpenter, featured in the miniseries 11.22.63

President Kennedy was not a perfect man, but he remains a key figure in American history and, for many, a symbol of democracy and “American” ideals. He was the first Catholic president; the youngest person to be elected president; and the sixteenth U. S. Senator to serve as president – one of three people who moved directly from the Senate floor to the Oval Office. He was also the fourth sitting United States President to be assassinated (by gunshot, although one could argue that Presidents James Garfield and William McKinley could have survived with better medical attention). Many people saw President Kennedy’s assassination as a moment when Americans lost their (collective) innocence and many felt his death as a personal loss, as if they had lost a member of their family or a dear friend.

Whichever way you see it (or him), President Kennedy’s death was the middle and the beginning of a cascade of events that, arguably, changed history. It also started the domino effect on conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Many people have wondered what would have happened if he had not been assassinated.  As he was beginning to campaign for a second term, people have theorized what the country would have been like if he had run and won – or even had an opportunity to deliver either of the speeches he had written for events scheduled on November 22, 1963.

“For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.

So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause–united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”

– quoted from a speech President John F. Kennedy had planned to deliver to the Texas Democratic State Committee in Austin, Texas, in the evening, on November 22, 1963

Historians and political scientists have likewise contemplated what would have happened to the country if his brother Bobby, who served as Attorney General and as a U. S. Senator, and/or Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been assassinated. After considerably research, Stephen King wrote a novel about a man who goes back in time with the intention of preventing JFK’s assassination. Of course, as is always the case when dealing with chaos theory, things are not as simple as changing one thing and moving forward.

There is always an inner ripple and an outer ripple; there is always a sticky domino; there is always a butterfly – and, in the case of 11/22/63 (which was turned into the television miniseries 11.22.63), history pushes back. We may not like how life unfolds, collapses, and converges, but we must sometimes consider the words of Namagiriamma Krishnamacharya, who said, “Maybe this situation has happened for a reason. A reason that will unfold later.”

“My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions – it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations – it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

– quoted from a speech President John F. Kennedy had planned to deliver at the Trade Mart in Dallas, Texas, in the afternoon, on November 22, 1963

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 22nd) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “11/22/63”]

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.)

“Dear Mr. President

Thank you for walking yesterday – behind Jack. You did not have to do that – I am sure many people forbid you take such a risk – but you did it anyway.

Thank you for your letters to my children. What those letters will mean to them later – you can imagine. The touching thing is, they have always loved you so much, they were most moved to have a letter from you now….

But you were Jack’s right arm – I always thought the greatest act of a gentlemen that I had seen on this earth – was how you – the Majority Leader when he came to the Senate as just another little freshman who looked up to you and took orders from you, could then serve as Vice President to a man who had served under you and been taught by you….

But of course [Jack’s ship pictures] are there only waiting for you to ask for them if the walls look too bare. I thought you would want to put things from Texas in it – I pictured some gleaming longhorns – I hope you put them somewhere –

It mustn’t be very much help to you your first day in office – to hear children on the lawn at recess. It is just one more example of your kindness that you let them stay – I promise – they will soon be gone –

Thank you Mr. President

Respectfully

Jackie”

­

– excerpts from a short letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson, written by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, dated “November 26 Tuesday” (the day after JFK’s funeral)

“All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today.

The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Today, John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen. No words are sad enough to express our sense of loss. No words are strong enough to express our determination to continue the forward thrust of America that he began….

We will carry on the fight against poverty, and misery, and disease, and ignorance, in other lands and in our own. We will serve all the nation, not one section or one sector, or one group, but all Americans.

These are the United States: A united people with a united purpose.”

– quoted from the “Let Us Continue” speech delivered to Congress and the public by President Lyndon B. Johnson, November 27, 1963  

NOTE: In anticipation of the holiday(s), I have cancelled classes on November 23rd – 27th. Don’t forget to be grateful.

### “Life turns on a dime” again and again (11/22/63, SK) ###

FTWMI: More Hope, More History… November 9, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Life, Loss, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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For Those Who Missed It: The following was originally posted on November 9, 2020 and reposted in 2021. Class details and links have been updated, as have some date notations. *Granted, things don’t always turn out the way we expect.

“Fate is what you are given. Destiny is what you make of it.”

– original source unknown

Let’s talk about the difference between fate and destiny. Often, especially in (American) English, we use the words interchangeably, and without distinction. We sometimes do this even if we know “destiny” shares etymological roots with “destination” and “fate” is rooted in the mythology of the three goddess, sisters, or witches (depending on the depiction) who weave (or stir) together the circumstances of one’s life. Either way you look at it, both are related to cause and effect – something we pay attention to in the Eastern philosophies like Yoga and Buddhism.

The concept of will, or determination, is one of the challenges that comes up when discussing fate and destiny; because, our understanding of the concepts may involve a level of predestination. One way to distinguish the two concepts, and the role predestination plays, is to think of fate as the present moment – which has been determined by all the previous moments – and destiny as a possible future moment – which will be determined by fate (i.e., this present moment and all the previous moments). If we look at it this way, we can’t change our fate, but we can change our destiny.

Yes, yes, it might be possible to present and argue the reverse, but I think that way gets really muddled. I’d rather go back to the “seat” of the words. Fate comes to the English from Latin, by way of Italian and Middle English, from a phrase that means “that which has been spoken.” Destiny comes through Old French and Middle English, from the Latin meaning “make firm, establish.” So, again, fate is what has happened and destiny is what we make happen. As an example, step back [a couple of days] with me and let’s revisit Philoctetes from The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes.

“Human beings suffer.
They torture one another
They get hurt and they get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

– The Greek Chorus in The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney

Remember that Philoctetes was a great archer who had a magical bow. According to Sophocles accounting of events, the bow was a thank you gift from Heracles, the divine protector of mankind and patron of gymnasiums, whose funeral pyre could only be lit by the great archer. So, by using his skills to light the pyre, Philoctetes has the means to (eventually) assist Odysseus in winning the Trojan War by mortally wounding Paris with a poisoned arrow. Those circumstances, along with the fact that he is bitten by a poisonous snake, make up Philoctetes’ fate. His destiny could be to die of his wounds on the island where his colleagues abandoned him – because they couldn’t stand the sound of his belly aching – or he could go to Troy, win the war, and have his snake wound healed.

Now, keep in mind that like all the other characters, the fate and destiny of Philoctetes are tied up with the fate and destiny of Paris who, once wounded, could have been healed if he hadn’t pissed off and abandoned his first wife. (Alas, poor, pitiful Paris, thought his destiny was power, rather than the love of a “good woman,” and let that thirst for power be his dharma or guiding principle.)

“Fate is your karma. Destiny is your dharma.”

– Livnam Kaur

Some people think the power of fate and destiny can reside not only in our actions, but also in a date. Take today, for instance: November 9th. In Germany it is known as Schicksalstag – “Destiny Day” or “Fateful Day” – because of all the historical events that happened today and shaped the history of Germany. It’s kind of wild, when you think about it. But, also, when you start to go deeper into the events, you start to realize that some (but not all) of the events were planned because people believed in the power of the day.

In talking about the events of today throughout German history, most people start with 1848 and the execution of the democratic politician, poet, and publisher Robert Blum. One of the leaders of the National Assembly of 1848 and a prominent figure during the Vienna revolts, Blum was arrested after the Vienna revolts and argued in vain that his role as a deputy from the German Diet should protect him from execution. Instead, his death was used as an example and a method for crushing the subsequent revolution in Germany in the spring of 1849.

Fast forward 70 years, to 1918, and Emperor Wilhelm II was dethroned by his chancellor, Max von Baden, and socialist and social democratic politicians proclaimed the beginning of the “Free” German Republic. As a side note, Albert Einstein was named winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics today in 1922.

In 1923, the failed “Beer Hall Putsch” marked the initial emergence and downfall of the Nazi Party. Even though the march officially failed it was the beginning of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, and during the Nazi regime it was considered a national holiday honoring the Nazis who died today in 1923. As a side note, German Crown Prince Wilhelm (son of the ousted Emperor) chose this day to return out of exile.

Another example of people using previous events to infuse their actions with the power of the day’s history tragically, and horrifically, happened today in 1938: Kristallnacht (“Night of Glass”). The Nazis symbolically chose this night to begin destroying synagogues and Jewish properties. More than 400 Jewish people died and, after this demonstration of far-reaching anti-Semitism, the Nazi’s arrested approximately 30,000 people on November 10th, many of whom would ultimately die in concentration camps.

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was ‘civis romanus sum’ [‘I am a Roman citizen’]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner!… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner!

– U. S. President John Kennedy, speaking to the public in West Berlin, June 26, 1963

“Every stone bears witness to the moral bankruptcy of the society it encloses.”

– English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as quoted in the New York Times article “Mrs. Thatcher Visits the Berlin Wall” by John Tagliabue (published Oct. 30, 1982)  

One of the outcomes of the World War II was the division of Germany and, ultimately, the construction of the Berlin Wall. However, today in 1989 marked the beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of German separation. In many ways, this event can be seen as an accident. I mean, it wasn’t like anyone planned it to happen today.

Yes, people, including Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, had called for the end of the Wall. Furthermore, musicians like David Bowie (1987), Bruce Springsteen (1988), and David Hasselhoff (1989) boldly played songs about freedom in concerts near the Wall – and, in Hasselhoff’s case, over the Wall! There was also the announced intention (by the East German government) to change policy. But the changes were intended for a different day.

“We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it’s our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer Paul Lincke understood something about American presidents. You see, like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin. [I still have a suitcase in Berlin…..]”

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!”

– U. S. President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the public at Brandenburg Gate, June 12, 1987

When the policy changes were announced by Günter Schabowski, an official of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), during a press conference on November 9th, he hadn’t actually been briefed about the details. Based on the wording of the announcement he had been given, when asked when the policy changes would go into effect, he said, “As far as I know… effective immediately, without delay.” That wasn’t actually true, but, the metaphorical wrecking ball was swinging. In answering follow up questions, and in subsequent interviews that day, Schabowski “confirmed” that the decrease in travel restrictions applied to every part of the Wall and to travel in every direction – including into West Berlin. Naturally, people started showing up at the Wall demanding to be let through and, by 11:30 PM, at least two gates were open.

On the flip side, I would not be surprised if the German drug company BioNtech intentionally chose this date to announce that their COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Pfizer, is 90% effective. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if someone thought drawing on the power of the day would give people more hope than a basic announcement on any other day. After all, the announcement [a year ago] today, *means the end of the world’s suffering isn’t just fate, it’s destiny.

“Call miracle self-healing,
The utter self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
And lightening and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

– The Greek Chorus in The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 9th) 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 (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is on YouTube and Spotify.

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.)

(And, if you want some Bruce….)

“I’m not here for or against any government. I’ve come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down”

– Bruce Springsteen, speaking German in East Berlin, before playing “Chimes of Freedom” with the E Street Band, during the “Rocking the Wall” concert, July 19, 1988

### dóchas / dúchas // història /  esperança // histoire / espoir // historio / espero ###

Cèlèbrer Une Vie & FTWMI: Recuerda Todas Almas November 2, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Love, Mysticism, One Hoop, Religion, Yoga.
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Many blessings to those observing All Souls y Día de (los) Muertos!

That was what the living did: they died.”

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– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

On Sunday (10/30/2022), I was shocked to hear that one of my Minneapolis yoga buddies was terminally ill. Just a few hours later, I was shocked and saddened to hear that he had passed. His family hosted a celebration of life so that he could spend his final hours surrounded by people who loved and respected him. It was hard; but I heard the opportunity gave him and them some comfort.

For years, AB practiced yoga at the old Downtown Minneapolis YMCA. He was partially responsible for me meeting one of my favorite people on the planet and, additionally, his mother once joined us for a class during one of her visits to the Twin Cities. (I have a vague idea that she might have taught yoga at one time; however, since I never read her autobiography, don’t quote me on this point. Either way, she definitely started practicing long before I ever did!)

AB loved the music and especially appreciated my Christmas-story playlist. For many years, he gave me an Amazon gift card so I could purchase more music for class! In addition to swapping music, we swapped a few books – including Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead, which I mention at this time every year. We also shared an occasional meal. For better or for worse, I got to watch his life change.

I also got to see his practice change.  (NOTE: For those who knew whom as an esteemed attorney and French academic editor, here I am talking about his yoga practice.) At one point, while we were still at the old Y, he asked me what would make certain aspects of the practice more accessible to him. Later, he decided he was getting enough cardio and strength from boot camp (and other cardio classes) and that what he needed/wanted from his yoga practice was the meditation and deep tissue work he experienced when he dropped into one of my Yin Yoga classes. Unfortunately, the Yin Yoga classes didn’t always fit into his schedule. So, we talked about how he could add a little Yin to the very yang vinyasa practices that worked for his schedule. Eventually, when the Y moved to it’s fancier digs and more classes overlapped, he made the decision (as so many did) to take classes that were more active than yoga. We still caught up in the lobby and, occasionally, outside of the Y; but…. Time marches on.

As reports and tributes come in from all over the world, I can’t help but notice how “one of those random people who came to yoga and became a friend,” meant so much to so many different people and for so many different reasons. AB’s life and death are a reminder that a person can affect the lives of a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.

Today’s sequence reflects the yin/yang that AB appreciated. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate a life that touched so many. Repose en paix, mon ami. Nous nous souviendrons de toi. Nous nous souviendrons de toi.

For Those Who Missed It: The following was originally posted November 2, 2020. Class details and links have also been updated or added.

“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

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my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)“

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– quoted from “[i carry your heart with me(I carry it in)]” by e e cummings

Take a moment to bring your awareness to your hearts. Not just your physical heart, or even just your emotional heart – take a moment to bring your awareness to your energetic heart and all of its connections. You can even think of that energetic heart as a spiritual heart and all of its connections. Either way, when I talk about the various ways we can map out our energy – and especially when I specifically refer to the energy system of nadis (“rivers”) and chakras (“wheels”) as outlined by Yoga and Ayurveda, as they come to us from India, I often mention that we can be genetically and energetically (even spiritually) connected to people we have never met and will never meet. Similarly, we are connected, genetically and energetically (even spiritually), to people we will never meet again… people who have passed from the physical world (back) into the energetic and spiritual world.

Throughout history, people from various cultures around the world have had (and continue to have) different ways of honoring these connections – especially the spiritual and energetic connections we have with those who passed on into another realm of existence. Yes, I said, “another realm of existence;” because, while someone ceases to exist in the material and physical sense, they can continue to exist in an emotional, energetic, and spiritual sense – as long as we remember them.

“No two reports were ever the same. And yet always there was the drumlike thumping noise.

Some people insisted that it never went away, that if you concentrated and did not turn your ear from the sound, you could hear it faintly behind everything in the city….”

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– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Today, November 2nd, is All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed – the last day of Allhallowtide in the Western Christian tradition and the final Día de (los) Muertos in Mexico and the Mexican diaspora. Like All Saints’ Day (which was yesterday), there was a time when this holy time was celebrated in the Spring – and, in fact, there are still traditions, like the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which remember the dead around Easter. However, the fifth Benedictine Abbot of Cluny, St. Odilon of Cluny, established this Western observation in the 10th century and the practice has endured. Unlike All Saints, today is a day dedicated to all departed souls and, in particular, to those who may or may not have lived a “faithful” life according to the Church.

While it is not a national holiday in Catholic countries, nor is it one of the five days of holy obligation within the Catholic Church, it is a day of prayer (and, for some, quite a few masses). Here, the prayers are not so much as for the living as for the dead, because Christians who have a “fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (Christian triumphant) and the living (the Christian militant)” may also believe that those who die without being baptized and/or living a faithful life (the Church penitent, also known as “the Church suffering” and “the Church expectant”) will languish in Purgatory without God’s grace.

So, today people pray for that grace so their dearly departed loved ones will no longer suffer. In addition to the vibrant Día de (los) Muertos traditions I mentioned yesterday, as well as the traditions of guising, souling, and the exchange of soul cakes (that I mentioned on Halloween), All Souls’ Day is known for bell tolling and candle lighting, which both represent the cleansing of souls and power of light overcoming darkness.

“If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them. In his firm and devout conviction that all of God’s faithful people would receive a wonderful reward, Judas made provision for a sin offering to set free from their sin those who had died. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

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2 Maccabees (12:44 – 46)

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 2nd) 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 (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “11022021 All Souls / Dia de los”]

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.)

“One particular issue of the L. Sims News & Speculation Sheet—the Sims Sheet, people called it—addressed the matter of this sound. Fewer than twenty per cent of the people Luka interviewed claimed that they could still hear it after the crossing, but almost everyone agreed that it resembled nothing so much as—could be nothing other than—the pounding of a heart. The question, then, was where did it come from? It could not be their own hearts, for their hearts no longer beat. The old man Mahmoud Qassim believed that it was not the actual sound of his heart but the remembered sound, which, because he had both heard and failed to notice it for so long, still resounded in his ears. The woman who sold bracelets by the river thought that it was the heartbeat at the center of the world, that bright, boiling place she had fallen through on her way to the city. ‘As for this reporter,’ the article concluded, ‘I hold with the majority. I have always suspected that the thumping sound we hear is the pulse of those who are still alive. The living carry us inside them like pearls. We survive only so long as they remember us.”’

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– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

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### “BA-DUM. BA-DUM. BA-DUM.” ###

FTWMI: Recuerda a las inocentes (*UPDATED*) November 1, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Faith, Health, Life, Loss, Mysticism, Yoga.
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Many blessings to those observing All Saints y Día de (los) Muertos!

For Those Who Missed It: A variation of the following was originally posted in November 2020. This version has been revised to include information about celebrations in 2021. Class details and links have also been updated or added.

“All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints, those people we believe are in heaven, through good works and God’s grace…. On All Saints’ Day there’s a call to live as saints, to remind us how we’re supposed to live.”

*

– Very Reverend Richard A. Donohoe, vicar of Catholic Charities for Diocese of Birmingham

Today, November 1st, is the end of Samhain and the second day of Allhallowtide. It is known as All Hallows Day, meaning it is holy, or All Saints Day in Western Christianity and it is the beginning of Día de (los) Muertos for Mexicans and the Mexican diaspora. Traditionally today is a memorial day for saints and innocents, i.e. young children, and is a national holiday in some Christian countries. In the Methodist tradition, it is a solemn occasion of remembrance and thanksgiving observed by Christians who have a “fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (Christian triumphant) and the living (the Christian militant).” People will pray for blessings and protection; tend graves; leave flowers – like chrysanthemums in Belgium and France – and; in some country there is an exchange of traditional (and symbolic) treats. In Mexico and for the Mexican diaspora, however, Día de (los) Muertos is traditionally all of the above and a giant celebration full of brightly colored parades, music and dancing, candy skulls, marigolds, and ofrendas (“offerings”) or home or graveside alters curated around the life of a loved one.

In 2020, however, it was hard to remember to celebrate when so many had died. In the United States, people of color – including thousands of Mexican-Americans – have been hit hard by the pandemic. According to the nCov2019 Coronavirus Dashboard, almost 92k people had died (as of the morning of November 1, 2020) – and that number did not include people who died over the quarantine months because of the additional physical, mental, and emotional strain of the pandemic. In response to the toll, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced three days of national mourning, beginning with Halloween. The government canceled parades, asked for cemeteries to close, and announced that the flag at the National Palace in Mexico would be flown at half mast in honor of those lost during the pandemic. A year later, over 288,000 people in Mexico had died from Covid-19, BUT the country was reporting a 95% vaccination rate – which meant it was time to once again celebrate lives well lived. This year, people will again remember and celebrate – not only those lost because of Covid, but also those lost in recent mass shootings that deeply affected people in Mexico and the Mexican diaspora.

Even though it is hard to remember to celebrate when there is so much tragedy, the human spirit perseveres and always finds a way. That people will find a way is not surprising when we remember that some of these traditions date back to the rituals of the Mayans, Aztecs, and over 40 other indigenous cultures that survived despite colonization. So, in addition to flying the flag at half mast in 2020, the government created an official ofrenda for all victims of the pandemic and annual ofrenda contests were held virtually or in appropriate socially distant ways. And, of course, people continued to make pan de muertos, the traditional bread of the dead, and to decorate with sugar skulls and paper banners.

“Since living in Merida, I have been able to witness the deep connection Yucatecans have to this special time of year honoring the souls of their departed loved ones. One of the things that I have always admired about Yucatecans is that they keep many of their traditions alive by believing, practicing and teaching their children about them. They don’t just go through the motions; they truly pay attention to detail and live the experience.”

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– quoted from Yucatan’s Hanal Pixan: How It Differs from the Day of the Dead in other parts of Mexico” in the Yucatan Times (10/31/2018) by Stephanie Carmon

There are several days dedicated to all saints and innocents in the Eastern and Western Christian traditions. In particular, there is a Day of the Holy Innocents (December 28th) which commemorates children under two who were killed by order of King Herod I the Great in his attempt to kill the newborn Jesus. And, Pope Boniface IV formally established an All Saints’ Day in May, when he dedicated the Parthenon in Rome to the Virgin Mary and all martyrs. When Pope Gregory III dedicated Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all saints, he moved the feast date to November 1st – but that only applied to people in Rome. It was Pope Gregory IV, in 837, who ordered the date to officially apply to all Western Christians. Within the Catholic Church it is considered a Holy Day of Obligation.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church all saints are commemorated in the spring on the Sunday after Pentecost. This Byzantine tradition became more popular during the reign of the Emperor Leo VI, also known as “Leo the Wise.” The Empress Theophano was so devoted to the church that she left her reign and retired to a monastery around 893. After she died on November 10th, a series of miracles occurred and the emperor decided to build a church to hold her relics. However, he was not allowed to name the church after her and decided instead to dedicate the church to “All Saints,” whether martyred or not, so that her life would be celebrated every year. She would be remembered.

“The woman who sold bracelets by the river thought that it was the heartbeat at the center of the world, that bright, boiling place she had fallen through on her way to the city. ‘As for this reporter,’ the article concluded, ‘I hold with the majority. I have always suspected that the thumping sound we hear is the pulse of those who are still alive. The living carry us inside them like pearls. We survive only so long as they remember us.’”

*

– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 1st) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “11012020 All Saints / Día de los”]

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.)

*

### “BA-DUM. BA-DUM. BA-DUM.” ###