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& What We Know (the “missing” Saturday post) September 11, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Books, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Love, Meditation, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Poetry, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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[This is a “missing” post for Saturday, September 10th. 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, 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.]

“Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.”

 

– quoted from the poem “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver

Earlier this year, during a practice for the Lunar New Year’s birthday celebration for all humans, I got to ask some of my dharma/yoga buddies what it means to be human. People had great answers: it means we’re part of a community; it means experiencing the dichotomy of being compassionate but also holding grudges; it means we’re imperfect; it means messiness. That last one tied back into a point someone made at the beginning: we make things up. 

Yes, well….

As someone who makes things up and loves reading and experiencing things that other humans make up, I have to admit that our penchant for making things up also makes things complicated, messy, and it leads to suffering. The world, as it turns out, is really simple. Each of us is a microcosm of the families and groups to which we belong, which are themselves microcosms of the macrocosm that is the world. So, as we learn in the Yoga Sūtras, if we really pay attention to ourselves – focus, concentrate, meditate on different aspects ourselves – we can learn more about ourselves and also more about the world. 

“The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings.” 

 

– Martin Buber 

So we embrace ourselves and, along the way, we learn to embrace to others. Although it is really that simple, I can already hear someone sputtering, “But, but, what about…?” 

Yes, sure, as I’ve already acknowledged, life can be complicated and messy; but we make it that way. And despite all the nuances, which I have mentioned before, all the great religious and philosophical teachings say the same things: Love yourself and love all others. Sure, different religions, philosophies, and cultures have different ways of phrasing that. For instance, we could substitute the word “respect” for “love” and maintain the same intention. 

Likewise, all the philosophies, religions, and cultures have different ways of explaining how the Universe works. Ultimately, however, all those different ways can be summed up with love/respect and the Laws of Motion. So, Robert Fulgum’s idea that “all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” is not as hyperbolic as some might think. That’s why I sometimes say that there’s a Garth Brooks song for every situation. It’s also why I have said that everything you need to know about this practice (or about life) can be learned from a Mary Oliver poem.

“You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”

 

– quoted from the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

Born today in 1935, Mary Oliver grew up loving the outdoors, reading and writing poetry. She went to college, because that’s what girls from good families in Ohio did in the 50’s, but then she dropped out and made her way to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s 800-acre estate in Austerliz, New York. She met Vincent’s sister and husband and decided to stay. Eventually, she fell in love with another woman that came to visit, Molly Malone Cook, and eventually they moved to Massachusetts together.

Mary Oliver wrote and published and wrote and published and did the things one does when they love the woods and all that is natural in the world. In fact, she once said “I’ve always wanted to write poems and nothing else. There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you’re working a few hours a day and you’ve got a good book to read, and you can go outside to the beach and dig for clams, you’re okay.” Then, in 1983, after publishing several collections, she won the Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive. Suddenly, everyone wanted more of and from Mary Oliver. She once said she couldn’t remember doing any readings before the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry announcement was made, but then, suddenly, people were calling for her to do readings and book promotions.

“Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a

little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from

one boot to another – why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And too tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists 

of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,

I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.”

 

– quoted from the poem “Black Oaks” by Mary Oliver

Molly Malone Cook, her love and life partner, was also Mary Oliver’s official photographer, literary agent, and the person most editors and miscellaneous strangers would talk to when the called the Oliver-Cook household. Cook would not only answer the phone, she would go to (what I consider) hilarious extremes to convince whomever was on the phone that the next voice they heard was that of Mary Oliver – even though it was still Molly Malone Cook.

Now I’m not suggesting people go around pretending to be people they are not – even when they have permission to do so – but, there is a lesson in that story. Consider how much lovelier and simpler the world would be if we all accepted each other as we are; supported the ones we love as they are; allowed others in the world to get what they wanted/needed from us without compromising our own wants/needs, and let go of all the rest. 

Simply stated: Consider how much lovelier and simpler the world would be if we love/respected each other, helped each other out, and let go of all the rest.

“To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

 

– quoted from the poem “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver

I am woefully behind in my Saturday posts and so I apologize to anyone who was following along with our Saturday study of the Yoga Sūtras. Especially considering that I am just jumping back in with this one and, on a certain level, it is missing context and continuity. That said, I have to smirk at myself when I think about how attached I’ve gotten to posting these. Especially since I was not blogging as much when we started this study in January of 2019 and, therefore, I didn’t provide a post for all of those original practices. In other words, there’s already a gap and context and continuity and yet… We keep figuring it out and moving forward.

Not just on Saturdays, but on any other day that I teach, there is the possibility that someone new will enter the practice. Maybe they are new to yoga; maybe they are new to me; or maybe they have been physically practicing for a long time and are just new to the philosophy. Also, as I have to continuously remind myself, life happens and even people who are “Saturday regulars” sometimes miss a practice. Finally, people don’t absorb and remember things the same way. All of which means that I always need to include a little context and continuity. I just don’t always have to repeat everything I’ve ever said and every lesson ever explored chapter and verse. It’s not that complicated. Like everything else, it can be quite simple. It can be quite simple, because you already know everything you need to know.

“One day you finally

Knew what you had to do, and

began”

 

– quoted from the poem “The Journey” by Mary Oliver

Right at the beginning of the sūtras, specifically in Yoga Sūtras 1.3-1.4, Patanjali defined the practice by explaining what comes from the practice. It is a promise, of sorts. As we move through the practice – which is just like the hero’s journey – we find ourselves faced with obstacles (and their accompanying ailments), trials and tribulations, challenges and triumphs. We encounter some people who seem to magically assist us along the way; some people we need to forgive and some who need to forgive us; and we experience great loves and great loss. All along the way, there are temptations and boons – which can sometimes be one and the same. In fact, after detailed explanations about the benefits of the practice and warnings about what happens when we get too attached – even to the rewards and benefits – Patanjali reveals that the biggest boon of all awaits us… if we don’t get distracted. 

That biggest boon is megah samadhih, which is sometimes translated as “a cloud of virtue” or “a cloud of clarity.” Along with that cloud comes the end of ignorance and, therefore, the end of suffering. Additionally, there is infinite knowledge or wisdom. This could all be interpreted as having every bit of knowledge that has ever existed suddenly rushing into you or raining down on you. But, honestly, it’s not that overwhelming or complicated. Simply stated, with clarity comes pure understanding of how everything is connected and how everything works. 

Yoga Sūtra 4.29: prasankhyāne‘pyakusīdasya sarvathā vivekakhyāterdharmameghah samādhih

 

– “[The one] who remains undistracted even when he is in possession of all the psychic powers, achieves, as the result of perfect discernment, that samadhi which is called the ‘cloud of virtue’.”

[Alternate translation: “When there is no longer any interest even in omniscience, that discernment allows the samadhi, which brings an abundance of virtues like a rain cloud brings rain.”]

 

Yoga Sūtra 4.30: tatah kleśakarmanivŗttih

 

– “Thence comes cessation of ignorance, the cause of suffering, and freedom from the power of karma.”

Yoga Sūtra 4.31: Tadā sarvāranamalāpetasya jñānasyānantyājjñeyamalpam

 

– “Then, by the removal of those veils of imperfection, there comes the experience of the infinite, and the realization that there is almost nothing to be known.”

[Alternate translation: “Then the whole universe, with all its objects of sense-knowledge, becomes as nothing in comparison to that infinite knowledge which is free from all obstructions and impurities.”]

 

It is important to note that this shower of clarity, knowledge, and wisdom is not a case of Dunning-Kruger Effect (i.e., someone thinking they are an expert on something about which they know very little). Instead, one is aware of what they don’t know and there is a true understanding of the Universe (and everything in the Universe) as described in Yoga Sūtras 2.18 – 2.19. This is truly understanding – through direct experience – how everything is “composed of elements and senses and having the inherent properties of illumination, action, and stability” and, furthermore, recognizing that everything has a purpose. It is recognizing the simplicity (and simple beauty) of the Universe.

Having that clarity of mind is not confusing or conflating a drop of water with the whole ocean, but rather recognizing that the drop and the ocean share qualities, traits, and properties. It’s recognizing that these qualities, traits, and properties are consistent whether the item is flowing freely, frozen, or boiling and then evaporating. It is understanding that it’s all water (H2O) and then also understanding that other elements have similar states of manifestation. Finally, it is understanding how that plays out inside of us and all around us. (Especially, in the case of water, when we note that our physical forms are mostly water.)

“To man in his ordinary sense-consciousness, the universe seems full of secrets. There seems so infinitely much to be discovered and known. Every object is an invitation to study. He is overcome by a sense of his own ignorance. But, to the illumined yogi, the universe does not seem at all mysterious. It is said that, if you know clay, you know the nature of everything that is made of clay. So, if you know the Atman, you know the nature of everything in the universe. Then, all the painstaking researches of science seem like efforts of a child to empty the ocean with a spoon.”

 

– commentary quoted from How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (4:31), translated and with commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

 (NOTE: A child gets a lot of delight from that spoon and ocean combination. As we journey through life, we too can take delight at what we have at hand – especially since that spoon can be rinsed off and used for dessert. Stay curious and enjoy the best parts of your life!)

 

Saturday’s playlist is on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05252022 Pratyahara II”]

 

“When it’s over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into

my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made my life something

particular, and real.”

 

– quoted from the poem “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver 

Mary Oliver shared a birth date with one of my favorite people. Click here to read how I remembered my maternal grandmother when death came.

### SO HUM, HAM SA ###

 

FTWMI: The Art of Moving Meditation September 6, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, California, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Life, Loss, Love, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Vipassana, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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For Those Who Missed It: A version of the following was originally posted in 2020. Links and class details have been added or updated.

“If something is boring after 2 minutes, try it for 4. If still boring, then 8. Then 16. Then 38. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

– John Cage

Words are amazing! In fact, shabda, our ability to create and use words, is one of our siddhis or “abilities” described in Indian philosophy as “unique to being human.”  And, when you know where they come from, words (and the way we use them) can be really funny. Take the word zen, for instance. The word zen is a Japanese word that comes to us from Sanskrit by way of Chinese, from a word that means “meditation.” So, when we say that someone practices “Zen meditation” what we are really saying is that someone practices “Meditation meditation.”

It’s funny to think of it that way, but it is also true – not only of a Zen practice, but of all meditation practices. When we sit, or even when we practice a moving meditation, the mind focuses on something again and again and again; meaning, it keeps coming back to the object of focus. Similar to japa-ajapa, we repeat and repeat, repeat and remember, repeat and understand – in other words, we gain insight. Not coincidentally, the Sanskrit word dyana (“thought, meditation”), which is the source word for zen, comes from the Greek root meaning “to see, look.” So, when we look at something again, and again, and again – even looking, as Paulo Coehlo suggested, from different perspectives – we see things “in a special way” (which is just another way to say “insight”). Our understanding of the moment (and movement) is a matter of perspective.

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.”

– quoted from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig

It’s like a road trip. The vehicle is moving but we are still inside the vehicle; the scenery is still, but appears to be moving. Everything merges and converges while we are still. Do you see where we’re going?

It’s OK if you don’t. This is kind of like that old joke where someone says, “I’m not lost. I know exactly where we are. We’re in the car.” Now, consider what happens if we could get out of the box or cage we’re in and become part of the scenery. Not walking necessarily, but riding. So that the scenery is simultaneously still and moving… but so are we. And, just like with a moving meditation, there is some part of us that always stays still.

“Get yourself out of whatever cage you find yourself.”

– John Cage

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

– quoted from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig

Born today in 1928, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Robert Pirsig was a writer and philosopher whose way above average IQ was identified at an early age. While he ultimately served in the United States Army and  became a professor of creative writing, he is most well-known as the author of a fictionalized autobiography that centers around a road trip Pirsig took with his son Chris. The trip took them from Minneapolis to San Francisco. The book takes the reader along for the ride and also on a philosophical road trip, moving readers through a history of philosophy and an exploration of “quality” (an object of contemplation). While Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values received over one hundred rejection letters and no one expected it to have much of a shelf life, the book initially sold at least 5 million copies worldwide and has consistently appeared on best seller lists.

Pirsig served as vice-President of the Minnesota Zen Mediation Center and spent two additional years on its board of directors. But while he was familiar with motorcycles and Zen Buddhism (as well as electroshock therapy, which is also chronicled in the book), Robert Pirsig said that his seminal book shouldn’t be considered “factual” about either. The same can be said about his follow-up book, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, which recounts a sailboat trip down the Hudson River. Lila picks up where the philosophical road trip left off and explores “quality” as Static or Dynamic and divides everything in the universe into four “static values” (inorganic, biological, social, and intellectual). His exploration about morals is also an exploration of perspective, and how perspectives change over time. Even though biographies indicate that a 1974 Guggenheim Fellowship “allowed” him to write the second book and the philosophical discourse into metaphysics is continuous, there is a seventeen-year gap between the books.

In the 17 years between his books, Pirsig divorced his first wife, married his second wife, lost his oldest son (who had been featured in the first book), and had a daughter. His son Christopher was killed in a mugging outside the San Francisco Zen Meditation Center. Pirsig would eventually explain that one of the reasons he and his second wife had their daughter Nell was because they believed she was a continuation of Chris’s “life pattern.” In other words, Nell was part of the same trip (metaphysically speaking, of course.)

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge. And if you project forward from that pattern, then sometimes you can come up with something.”

– quoted from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig

Please join me today (Tuesday, September 6th) 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 “09062020 The Art of Moving Meditation”]

“The thing to understand is that if you are going to reform society you don’t start with cops. And if you are going to reform intellect you don’t start with psychiatrists. If you don’t like our present social system or intellectual system the best thing you can do with either cops or psychiatrists is stay out of their way. You leave them till last.”

– quoted from Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert Pirsig

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

– quoted from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig

### ZOOOOOOM ###

FTWMI: Impossible x3 August 3, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Men, Movies, Mysticism, Pain, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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The following was originally posted in 2020. Class details and links have been updated.

“Here there is a role reversal of what was related in bSotah – instead of the woman [Queen Salome Alexandra] being “nameless” now she is named and cunningly tries to get around the rabbinic prohibition, while the male character, her son, is unnamed and plays no role in the matter in dispute.”

– commentary on bShabbat (16b – 14b) in doctoral thesis entitled “Queen Alexandra: The Anamoly of a Sovereign Jewish Queen in the Second Temple Period” by Etka Liebowitz, PhD

There was a time when being a female (non-nun) member of the clergy would have been considered impossible. But, imagine for a moment, someone who was not only the first woman to be ordained in their religion, but to receive the highest orders during a time when it was hard to even be a male member of your religion. Allow me to introduce you to (or re-acquaint you with) Rabbi Regina Jonas ([‘re-ghee-na yo-nas]). Born today in 1902, Rabbi Jonas was not only the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi; she was ordained in Berlin in 1935. In other words, she became the first woman to be named as a Jewish teacher during the height of Nazi Germany.

Throughout history, you can find plenty of women who fulfilled rabbinical duties. They did not, however, hold the title. These women, like Beruryah (Rebbetzin Meir), Yalta, the Hasmonean queen Salome Alexandra (also known as Alexandra of Jerusalem), and the daughters and granddaughters of the great Talmud scholar Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzachaki), are found in the Talmud and would have been studied by Rabbi Jonas and other women who studied at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, the Jūdisch-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau, and other theology schools that admitted women. Unlike her female peers, however, Rabbi Jonas didn’t just want the academic teacher’s degree; she wanted the title and the responsibilities. And this desire was something that she felt and expressed from a very young age.

“If I am to confess what drove me, as a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of my fellow man. God has bestowed on each one of us special skills and vocations without stopping to ask about our gender. This means each one of us, whether man or woman, has a duty to create and work in accordance with those God-given skills.”

– quoted from the doctoral thesis entitled “May a woman hold rabbinic office?” by Rabbi Regina Jonas

Rabbi Regina Jonas had a passion for Jewish history, the Bible, and the Hebrew language; a passion that was remembered even by her high school friends and supported by Orthodox rabbis like Isidor Bleichrode, Delix Singerman, and Max Weyl (who officiated at the synagogue the Jonas family attended). When she decided to pursue her degree and also the title, Rabbi Jonas wrote and submitted a final theses, which was a requirement for ordination. Her final theses topic, which was based on Biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinical sources, was near and dear to her heart: “May a woman hold rabbinic office?”

While halakhic literature did not specifically with ordination, she combined halakhic theory related to women’s issues with a modern attitude about women’s roles. She did not, however, use a Reform movement argument. Instead, Rabbi Jonas wanted to establish gender equality within the (and as a) continuity of tradition – and, in doing so, established herself as independent of both the reform movement and Orthodoxy. She also included in her argument very specific gender qualities and expectations centered around Zeni’ut (“Modesty”), which she viewed as being essential to someone’s role as a rabbi. Interestingly, some of her thesis is very much consistent with the ideas Hannah Crocker expressed in 1818.

Rabbi Jonas concluded that yes, a woman could be a rabbi according to halachic sources. She went even further by saying that female rabbis were a “cultural necessity, in part because of so-called female qualities like compassion, interpersonal skills, and psychological intuition. Her final thesis, which was supervised by Eduard Baneth, renowned professor of Talmud at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, was submitted in June 1930. Unfortunately, Rabbi Baneth died soon after her submission and his successor was not willing to ordain women. Ironically, a leader in the Reform movement, Rabbi Leo Baeck, also rejected her submission.

“Almost nothing halakhically but prejudice and lack of familiarity stand against women holding rabbinic office.”

– quoted from the doctoral thesis entitled “May a woman hold rabbinic office?” by Rabbi Regina Jonas

Despite the fact that her professors were not willing to ordain her, she received a “good” grade for her thesis and graduated as a religious teacher. She then began teaching religion at several girls’ schools in Berlin. At this same time, however, anti-Semitism created an increased need for Jewish teachers and religious education. Rabbi Max Dienemann, executive director of Liberaler Rabbinerveband (Conference of Liberal Rabbis) agreed to ordain Rabbi Jonas on behalf of the conference and, within two years, she began to serve the official community as “pastoral-rabbinic counselor.” She particularly ministered to those in the Jewish Hospital, those who were considering emigrating, and people economically affected by “Kristallnacht.” As more and more rabbis were imprisoned by the Nazis or fled the persecution, she began to lecture to various groups, preach in liberal synagogues and lead some Havdalah (“weekday”) services in the Neue Synagogue, the flagship of German Jewry. At one point, during the winter of 1940 – 1941, the Germany Jewry organization established by the Nazis actually sent her to cities that no longer had rabbis. Even when she was forced to work in a factory, she continued her ministry.

On November 2, 1942, Rabbi Jonas was compelled to fill out a declaration form where she listed her property, including all of her books. Two days later, all of her property was confiscated by the Nazis. The next day, she and her mother were arrested. They were deported November 6th, to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she continued to preach and counsel. The psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl asked her to help him with crisis intervention, including meeting and assessing new arrivals and helping to prevent suicide attempts. On October 12, 1944, at the age of 42, Rabbi Jonas and her mother were deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed.

“Since I saw that her heart is with God and Israel, and that she dedicates her soul to her goal, and that she fears God, and that she passed the examination in matters of religious law, I herewith certify that she is qualified to answer questions of religious law and entitled to hold the rabbinic office. And may God protect her and guide her on all her ways.”

– quoted from the Diploma of Ordination for Rabbi Regina Jonas (approved by Rabbi Max Dienemann)

None of the male religious leaders who survived the Holocaust spoke of Rabbi Regina Jonas. However, a copy of her thesis, her teaching certificate, her rabbinical diploma, personal documents, and two photos have been preserved at the Centrum Judaicum in Berlin. Included in those personal documents were letters of gratitude from refugees she had counseled (and whose families she continued to counsel in Germany). There is also a list of 24 sermons and lectures she delivered, along with notes for at least one full sermon. In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas is a documentary about her life and legacy, which features rabbis like Gesa Ederberg, who celebrated the 75th anniversary of Rabbi Jonas’s ordination with a Havdalah service – the very type of weekday service Rabbi Jonas led in Berlin.

“God has placed abilities and callings in our hearts without regard to gender. If you look at things this way, one takes woman and man for what they are: human beings.”

– quoted from a 1938 news article by Rabbi Regina Jonas

Please join me today (Wednesday, August 3rd) 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. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. 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 “08032022 Always Answering the Impossible Call”]

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.)

 

### SHALOM  שָׁלוֹם ###

What (and How) Do You Recollect? July 12, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Pain, Suffering, Tragedy, Yoga.
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“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

*

– quoted from a journal entry dated August 5, 1851, as printed in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Journal, Walden Edition by Henry David Thoreau, compiled and edited by Franklin Benjamin Sanborn and Bradford Torrey

You’re probably familiar with that old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but what’s the value of a thousand words that paint a picture? Born today in 1817, in Concord Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau was a teacher and a writer, who is remembered as a writer and naturalist. He self-published his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (published May 30, 1849), which was the story of a trip he took with his brother John over 10 years before. Like Walden, or Life in the Woods, Thoreau’s first book was full of words that painted pictures. He was, after all, a “mental picture” taker.

After his brother died unexpectedly, Henry David Thoreau was undoubtedly comforted by the images formed by his words, but think of how he might have felt had he and John been born decades after George Eastman. Born today in 1854, in Waterville, New York, Eastman was an entrepreneur, inventor, and philanthropist who founded the Eastman Kodak Company. Like Thoreau, Eastman was familiar with unexpected loss – his father died when he was 8, one of his older sisters (Katie) died a few years later, and his father’s death resulted in the loss of the family farm. Perhaps, he too, found comfort in “mental pictures,” but he also developed a way for people to more easily take (and develop) photographs.

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth….”

*

– George Eastman

Click here to read more about Henry David Thoreau and George Eastman in my 2020 post (which includes a link, at the bottom, to my 2021 post about photos and “mere-exposure effect” (also known as the familiarity principle).

Please join me today (Tuesday, July 12th) 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 “07122020 Strenuous, Deliberate Life Photo”]

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.)

### “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.” ~ GE ###

The Importance of Feeling/Being Safe June 20, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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May we all be safe and protected, especially if we find ourselves seeking asylum.

“This startling discrimination against central, eastern and southern Europe points out the gap between what we say and what we do. On the one hand we publicly pronounce the equality of all peoples, discarding all racialistic theories; on the other hand, in our immigration laws, we embrace in practice these very theories we abhor and verbally condemn.”

*

– United States Representative Emanuel Celler (D-NY) speaking to the Senate about immigration quotes in 1948

Beware, ya’ll, I’ve got my hammer out; because I feel like some things need to be hammered home.

I could say that that this feeling started when I re-read the quote above and started thinking about how much it (unfortunately) still applies. However, the truth is a little more complicated than that. The truth is that I’m always thinking about “the gap between what we say and what we do” – in any situation – but that I especially started thinking about in relation to refugees when Russia invaded Ukraine towards the end of February. That invasion, and the escalation of a war that began when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea at the end of February 2014, highlighted the fact that refugees can come from anywhere and look like anyone. However, that heightened awareness of who can be a refugee, also reinforced the fact that many people in the world have stereotypes and biases that make life harder for people who are already facing horrific challenges.

Some people, at various points along Ukraine’s border, said they saw no discrimination happening as people fled the conflict. Others witnessed and/or experienced racial bias which resulted in people being stranded in a volatile situation. We can all believe what we want – or believe what we must to sleep at night – but if you were paying attention as the events unfolded, you saw and heard newscasters attributing value based on race, ethnicity, and nationality. If you were paying attention, you witnessed countries and local governments setting policy based on race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender.

Even if you weren’t paying attention to any of those things, you could look inside of your own heart and mind and observe how you felt about refugees fleeing Ukraine versus refugees fleeing Afghanistan… or Syria… or Vietnam… or Venezuela… or South Sudan… or the Congo….

“Whoever. Wherever. Whenever.
Everyone has the right to seek safety.”

*

– the 2022 theme for World Refugee Day 2022

Today is World Refugee Day.

The United Nations General Assembly declared June 20th as World Refugee Day in December of 2000. The United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention defined a refugee as “someone who fled his or her home and country owing to ‘a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Additionally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recognizes that “many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.” Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Stateless Persons, and Returnees all fall under the Refugees category. Although they are granted certain rights and protections under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world, because we often say one thing and do something completely different.

World Refugee Day is an internationally observed day to honor the humanity of all refugees. It is a day to celebrate the strength, courage, and resilience of people who have held onto their families, cultures, languages, and dreams despite being forced to flee their home country either to escape war, famine, pestilence, persecution, or all of the above. It is also a day to raise awareness and solicit support, while cultivating empathy, compassion, and understanding. Finally it is a time to recognize the generosity of host countries. So, ultimately, it is a day to engage and honor those powers “unique to being human.”

“We will continue to represent the best of American values by saving lives and alleviating suffering, working with our partners at home and abroad to assist the forcibly displaced in their time of need – no matter who or where they are, on World Refugee Day and every day.”

*

– quoted from the 2022 World Refugee Day statement by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken*

As I have mentioned before, I can be skeptical of the idea that only humans can cultivate the six siddhis (“attainments” or abilities) that are described as being “unique to being human” in the Sāmkhya Karika. Similarly, I question the idea that certain values can (or should be) described as if they only belong to a certain group of people – especially since so many different groups share the same values. I strongly encourage us, however, to look at our own personal values and what we each (individually) believe to be true. In the process, I also strongly encourage us to look at whether or not what is in our hearts is also in our minds and reflected by our words and deeds. When we do this, we give ourselves the opportunity to look at whether or not our affiliations reflect what’s in our hearts and in our minds. This is one way to practice svādhyāya (“self-study”).

Svādhyāya (“self-study”) is the fourth niyama or internal “observation” in the Yoga Philosophy. And, I want to emphasis that it is an exercise in OBSERVATION. I often place it in the same category as discernment and contemplation, as those practices appear in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola – meaning, these are ways to note the “interior movement” of one’s own heart, especially in certain contexts. Like discernment and contemplation, svādhyāya can be in our judgment toolbox, but it’s not about making or passing judgments; it’s about making good, virtuous, choices.

By “good,” I mean it is something that has meaning and purpose. By “virtuous,” I mean something that is generous in it’s ability to alleviate suffering (i.e., something that does the least amount of harm to the most amount of beings and/or over the longest amount of time).

“According to this principle, a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom. This protection may not be claimed by refugees who are reasonably regarded as a danger to the security of the country, or having been convicted of a particularly serious crime, are considered a danger to the community.

The rights contained in the 1951 Convention include:

  • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions;

  • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State;

  • The right to work;

  • The right to housing;

  • The right to education;

  • The right to public relief and assistance;

  • The right to freedom of religion;

  • The right to access the courts;

  • The right to freedom of movement within the territory;

  • The right to be issued identity and travel documents.

Some basic rights, including the right to be protected from refoulement, apply to all refugees. A refugee becomes entitled to other rights the longer they remain in the host country, which is based on the recognition that the longer they remain as refugees, the more rights they need.”

*

– from the United Nations

According to the United Nations, refugees are entitled to certain rights that are, theoretically, human rights. The United States is NOT on the top 10 list of countries who receive the most refugees, however, according to U. S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “The United States is the world’s largest single donor of humanitarian assistance….” Within those statements, there is a huge contradiction. I’m not talking about the fact that many people believe the U. S. myth and talking point that “people are always coming here,” I’m talking about the fact that the United States doesn’t even guarantee all of the aforementioned rights to it’s citizens. When you look at how that contradiction (and, some could argue, hypocrisy) plays out in real time, it’s easy to see how we end up with a conflict between theory and practice. Another way to look at that is: This is one of the reason’s there’s a “gap between what we say and what we do.”

So, today, I think it’s important acknowledge that gap and why it’s here (inside of each of us as well as in the world). Also, given this year’s theme, I think it’s important to contemplate what “safety” means to us. The UN has five points that define “seeking safety” means:

  1. Right to seek asylum
  2. Safe access
  3. No pushbacks
  4. No discrimination
  5. Humane treatment

Even with those five points (and the descriptions outlined by the UN), we can only define what it means to us individually. We can only define what finding safety would look like to us if we were forced from our home and from our homeland. Once we do that, however, once we define it, we are one step closer to being able to extend it.

“Once you’ve woken up to the understanding that vulnerable people literally die for their lives

There is no alternative but to decide to care.

So you resolve to care.

You realize that vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness

That all of us are vulnerable in some way. / That some days we’re weaker than most / and that some of us don’t have that option.

So you grieve for those who lost their lives / and you grieve for the ones that you lost too. / Not just during this crisis / but during every one before it….” 

*

– from the poem that begins “The Seven Stages of Grief during Coronavirus: Acceptance.” (see end of post) by Emi Mamoud (@EmiThePoet)

Please join me today (Monday, June 20th) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the classYou can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice.

The 2020 playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “06202020 #WorldRefugeeDay”]

NOTE: One song is no longer available on either streaming platform. It is still listed, but will not play.

Emi Mamoud, an incredible poet

Some elements of the above post were included in my 2020 World Refugee Day post, which philosophically focused on Yoga Sūtra 2.25 and the connection between avidyā (“ignorance”) and suffering. Click here to read that post.

*NOTE: Since I made a point, yesterday, of mentioning my certain aspects of my own legacy, please note that Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from what is now Ukraine, his maternal grandparents were Hungarian Jews, and his step-father was a Holocaust survivor (and refugee). 

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.)

### May we all be peaceful and happy / May we all be healthy and strong / May we all have ease and wellbeing ###

When Nothing Expands or Opens (a side note) June 1, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Mantra, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom.
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Nobly humble and grateful.

Trigger Warning: I reference very current events in this post.

“If you have spoken to another and your words did not help, it is proof you did not speak with him, but with yourself. Your words may be the words you wanted to say, the words you believe, but they are not the words he needed to hear.

*

If you would speak to him and speak his words, then certainly he would hear.”

*

– quoted from the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory; words and condensation by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

During the Wednesday afternoon (4:30) class, there was yet another mass shooting here in the United States. This one was in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The practice I was in the middle of teaching (and the subsequent practice) revolved around the truly devastating and tragic events that also took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. It’s an important story and even though (as I referenced in the link above) I sometimes skip items on my pedagogical calendar, I probably would have still told the story. However, I  probably would have told it in a different way had I been aware of the shooting.

Years and years ago, a teacher offered me the mantra “Jai Jai Guru Dev” (or some variation of “Jai Jai Guru Deva”). This mantra can be translated in different, but related, ways. The way it was first explained to me was “victory to the big mind” (or “big brain”). It is a healing mantra that I often offer when friends are ill. It can be a reminder that there is something bigger than ourselves and bigger than our egos. It can be also a reminder that we can play around all we want and get really excited about how we’re winning, but eventual the Universe (i.e., the House) always wins – which is itself a reminder that there is wisdom bigger than our ego-driven opinions.

At the end of the day, we may have different opinions about why we, here in the USA, have a problem – but we really can’t deny that there is a problem. We also can’t afford to deny or ignore the fact that it’s a problem no one else in the world is having. Neither can we deny or ignore the fact that if we keep speaking with ourselves, instead of with each other, than we will keep having this problem.

“‘It is a difficult question, my friends, for any young man– that question I had to grapple with, and which thousands are weighing at the present moment in these uprising times– whether to follow uncritically the track he finds himself in, without considering his aptness for it, or to consider what his aptness or bent may be, and re-shape his course accordingly. I tried to do the latter, and I failed. But I don’t admit that my failure proved my view to be a wrong one, or that my success would have made it a right one; though that’s how we appraise such attempts nowadays–I mean, not by their essential soundness, but by their accidental outcomes.’”

*

– quoted from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (b. 06/02/1840)

If you’re interested in a short 2020 post about Thomas Hardy, please click here.

*

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can 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 talk, call the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).

Jai Jai Gurudeva Jai Jai ###

When Awareness Expands (a “renewed” and expanded post) June 1, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, First Nations, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Men, Movies, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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Nobly endure through humility and gratitude.

The following includes a 2020 post and an abridged version of a post from 2021. Trigger Warning: There are references to war and violent conflicts. Date and class related information have been updated. If you are short on time, the video marks the break between the related themes.

“The coverage was as unprecedented as it was surreal. Viewers from around the world gathered around their television sets in the comfort of their living rooms to watch the first bombs drop in real time.

*

There was another first for the Cable News Network. While the Big Three had celebrity anchors reading from the teleprompters, at CNN the news had always been the star and the anchors largely anonymous, seemingly interchangeable with each other. Now, for the first time, CNN had its own media stars, with the cool and collected Bernard Shaw becoming an overnight pop phenomenon.”

*

– excerpt from The Drudge Revolution: The Untold Story of How Talk Radio, Fox News, and a Gift Shop Clerk with an Internet Connection Took Down the Mainstream Media by Matthew Lysiak

*

“This is, uh…something is happening outside. Umm…The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We are seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.”

*

– Bernard Shaw, reporting live from Baghdad for CNN on Thursday, January 17, 1991  

 

Take a breath – a deep breath in, a deeper breath out – and take a moment to notice what you notice; bring your awareness to your awareness. You can “do that 90-second thing.” (I’ll wait.) Or, you can just take a few breaths and really pay attention to something. What I mean is, when you notice any the many things you can notice in this moment, pick one thing to make important. Now, focusing on that one thing – as you take a deep breath in, and a deeper breath out – consider if you stuck with that one thing and made it so important that it informed your next decision. What if everything else you noticed was understood through the perspective of that one object that is your focal point?

Don’t go back and try to pick something that you think should be a guide post. Stick with the first thing that came to mind. Whether it was a smell, a taste, a sight, a sound, a sensation of the skin, or a random thought, doesn’t matter. Make whatever you noticed paramount. Now, consider not only building a whole life around the one thing you noticed, but also having to explain that one thing. Like, right now. (I’ll wait… but I might get impatient.)

When Ted Turner’s CNN (Cable News Network) premiered today, Sunday, June 1, 1980, at 5 PM EST, it was the first 24-hour news channel and the first all-news television in the United States. Other outlets made fun of the new network, but Ted Turner had a slogan, a mantra to keep people focused: “Go live, stay with it, and make it important.” The fact that they were able to put those words into action, for going on over 40 years, changed the face of television, politics, and social science. The way CNN tuned into the world, and the way the world tuned in to CNN, created a phenomenon that is studied by political scientists, media analysts, and journalism students all over the world: the CNN Effect.

“The one thing it does, is to drive policymakers to have a policy position. I would have to articulate it very quickly. You are in real-time mode. You don’t have time to reflect.”

*

– former Secretary of State James Baker, “clarifying the CNN Effect”

*

“Time for reaction is compressed. Analysis and intelligence gathering is out.”

*

– Margaret Tutwiler, former press secretary to James Baker, “clarifying the CNN Effect”

There have been a couple of times in the last four years, when current events and politics made me re-think a class theme. For instance, I stopped doing a class based on the Chanukah story “if the Maccabees had Twitter” and, for a couple of years I stopped doing classes on the CNN Effect. But I’ve missed those classes, because I’ve missed the point of those classes. With the class around the CNN Effect, I particularly miss the focus on focus, and how it relates to concentration and meditation. Focus, concentration, and meditation being one way to translate the last three limbs (dhāraņā, dhyāna, samādhi) of the 8-limbed Yoga Philosophy. Another way to translate these final limbs is concentration, meditation, and spiritual absorption. Either way you translate them, Patanjali referred to the combination of the three as a powerful tool for integration called Samyama.

Yoga Sutra 3.5: tád jayat prajñā lōkāh

*

– “Through the mastery of that [three-part process of samyama] comes the light of knowledge, transcendental insight, or higher consciousness.”

Theoretically, the more informed we are, at any given moment – about the given moment – the better we are able to make any decisions needed in a given moment. That, however, is just a theory. That theory is based, in part, on the idea that all the information is correct and/or that the incorrect information is easily identifiable. One of the growing pains CNN encountered early on (and something that has sometimes become a problem over the years) is that real time coverage can often include misinformation or incomplete information. Yes, the internet allows for “real time” fact checking, but that really only works when you have some indication that someone is going to lie to you on air (nope, not going there); someone is sitting off-camera pulling up the necessary information; and/or the person on-air is an expert in the field they are covering. A reporter’s job, however, is not to be an expert in anything other than witnessing/observing the facts of the story and communicating the facts of the story. That’s journalism; that’s the job – even when they, the reporters, become part of the story.

“Hello, Atlanta. Atlanta, this is Holliman. I don’t know whether you’re able to hear me now or not. But I’m going to continue to talk to you as long as I can.”

*

– John Holliman, reporting live from Baghdad for CNN on Thursday, January 17, 1991 (after the CNN feed went dead during the bombing)

*

CNN staff remembers covering the beginning of the Persian Gulf War

 

No one has the same experience on the same day every year; time forces us to overlap experiences. So, while we can associate a certain day with a certain meaning – and we can communicate that meaning to others – we still might not always share the same experiences. Not sharing the same experiences also means that we do not always share the same awareness. 

For example, take this past Monday, which was Memorial Day (in the United States). For some it was a time “to get better air in our lungs” and a time for holiday sales; others were remembering, memorializing, veterans who were lost during wars and conflicts here and abroad. But, time is tricky, and the fact that Memorial Day doesn’t happen on the exact same date every year, means that (this year) some people were remembering George Floyd – as well as the protests and riots that erupted after he was killed. Still others were remembering a Memorial Day 100 years (and a day) ago – Memorial Day 1921, when a 19-year old shoe shine boy known as Dick Rowland got on an elevator operated by a girl known as Sarah Page (who was reported as being 17 years old, but may have actually been 21) and what happened next set-off a riot and massacre the ramifications of which people are still experiencing today. 

Of course, there was no CNN (or anything like it) a hundred-plus years ago. And, even if there had been, there’s no telling how different the outcome might have been. After all, when the dust settles today, people can be just as conflicted as when the dust settled today in 1921… and the results can be just as tragic. 

The following is an excerpt from a 2021 post. It does not include the fact that an Oklahoma judge ruled (in May 2022) that three survivors of the massacre could proceed with a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa, Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners, Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Tulsa Development Authority, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa County Sheriff, the Oklahoma National Guard, and the Oklahoma Military Department.

No one knows for sure what happened that day, other than that on a holiday when they were both working, “Diamond Dick Rowland” took his only means of transportation to go to a segregated bathroom and something startled Sara, making her scream and him run – after all, she was white, he was Black and they were in an enclosed area.

No one knows for sure what happened but, by all accounts, there was no assault – sexual or otherwise – committed by Dick (who was Black) and Sara (who was white) never claimed that there was. However, there were rumors and innuendo, and “Diamond Dick” was arrested. A front page story in the Tulsa Tribune stated that he was arrested for sexual assault and – as was a common occurrence at the time, when a Black man or boy was arrested (especially if it was related to the harming of a white woman or girl) – a lynch party gathered at the jail. In this case, the sheriff (Willard McCullough) told the group to go home that their presence was unnecessary. He even moved the young man in order to protect him (and possibly kept him hidden even after the riots).

Another thing that was different was the presence, in segregated Tulsa, of a prominent Black community – a thriving community of businesses and residences that, in some ways, was independent of the white community. Established in 1906 by O. W. Gurley (who relocated during the 1889 Land Rush), the area was called the Greenwood District and it sat in Indian Territory. Today, we remember it is as “Black Wall Street.” Some members of this Black community, including some World War I veterans newly returned from the war, showed up to support and protect one of their own. Of course, conflict arose, a shot was fired, someone died, and in a matter of hours – from May 31st to June 1st – a whole community was destroyed.

“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

*

– Ralph Waldo Emerson  

Martial law was declared. The National Guard came in to squash the violence, but it was too late to save the Greenwood District; too late to save those who had died and too late to save the homes of those who were displaced. The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics and a 2001 Oklahoma state commission both recorded 36 confirmed deaths (26 Black and 10 white) as a result of the Tulsa Massacre. However, historians have offered a wide range of estimated deaths and injuries, estimates that go all the up to 300. The Red Cross repeatedly stated “there was no reliable way of accounting for people that died” and indicated that, because of the ensuing cover-up and mass burials, any recorded numbers were sheer conjecture. However, the Red Cross officially documented and offered estimates of damages: approximately 1,256 houses were burned (some by firebombs dropped by airplanes); 215 others were looted (but not torched); 2 newspapers, a school, and a number of churches, hotels, stores, and black-owned business destroyed or damaged by fire.

Because Tulsa was segregated and the Black Frissell Memorial Hospital (established in 1918) was one of the places that burned down, very few Blacks were actually taken to the hospital. This just added to the confusion. Some people were treated in the basement of Morningside Hospital, which had also been established in 1918 (because of the influenza pandemic) and the Red Cross registered 8,624 people (about 2,480 families) as being affected. Of that number, “183 people were hospitalized [see above]; 531 required first aid or surgical treatment;” and 19 people died from their injuries by the end of the year. Additionally, eight miscarriages were attributed to the massacre.

The National Guard helped put out fires, but a lot of their energy was dedicated to rounding up and “capturing” Black Tulsans. By June 2nd, approximately 6,000 Black people were under guard at the fairgrounds and convention hall. An all-white jury blamed the “riot” on “Black mobs” and indicted over 85 individuals, however no one was convicted of anything. Just as happened after public lynchings, photographs of corpses, Black Tulsans being captured, and Black people attempting to recover their belongings from their ravaged homes were turned into postcards.

“When the bullets stopped flying and the fires ceased on June 2, Tulsa Mayor T. D. Evans sent a short communication to the Red Cross Society:

 

‘To the Red Cross Society:

Please establish headquarters for all relief work and bring all organizations who can assist you to your aid. The responsibility is placed in your hands entirely.

T. D. Evans, Mayor’

 

Director of Disaster Relief Maurice Willows arrived in Tulsa with the stated purpose of ‘picking up the fragments – the relief of human suffering – the care of the sick and wounded, and bringing order out of the chaos.”

 

– quoted from the Rediscovering Black History article “‘The Responsibility is Placed in Your Hands Entirely’ – Red Cross Relief after the Tulsa Race Massacre” by Netisha Currie, archives specialist at the National Archives in College Park (which also appeared in The National Council of Social Studies’ Social Education (volume 85, no. 1)

 

The white citizens who actually carried out the destruction were not arrested, as most of them (approximately 400) had been deputized by Police Commissioner J. M. Adkison and Chief of Police John A. Gustafson. Over half of those deputized (at least 250) were also armed by the chief – who would later be investigated for a plethora of corruption violations. The chief of police was ultimately indicted (on five counts) and, on July 30, 1921, found guilty of two counts: failing to stop and conspiracy and fraud/embezzlement in a different situation. He went to jail for the latter count. Since “Diamond Dick” reappears on the jail rosters after John Gustafson’s conviction, some believe the young Black man was kept hidden because of the chief’s corruption (and his part in a previous lynching).

All charges and indictments against “Diamond Dick” were eventually dropped. It is believed that he fled Tulsa after his release at the end of September 1921, possibly with assistance from the Sheriff Willard McCullough and his deputy Barney Cleaver (who had been Tulsa’s first African-American police office – until he was fired by police chief Gustafson). Although no one seemed certain about what happened to “Diamond Dick,” sightings were reported in Kansas City, Missouri; South Omaha, Nebraska; back in Tulsa; and – as late as the 1960’s – in Oregon. Some of the confusion about what happened to the man at the center of the events that lead to the destruction of Black Wall Street may be due to a name change. It has been reported (by several sources, including by Tulsa-based This Land Press in May 2013) that the shoe shining teenager may have actually been named James Jones and that people called him “Jimmie” Jones until he changed his surname to Roland, to honor the adopted grandparents who helped raise him. He appears in the police custody logs as “Dick Rolland” (with an exta “L”), but Dick Roland is the name which appears on his sworn affidavit from September 1921. At some point, he decided he liked Dick more than James or Jimmie – although one classmate said that he also went by “Johnny.” According to This Land Press, the extra “w” in the young man’s name was a mistake made by reporters.

Reports about Sarah Page were just as convoluted – especially after she refused to press charges against “Diamond Dick” (who, again, by all legitimate accounts, didn’t do anything illegal). According to the Tulsa-based Center for Public Secrets, records show a Sarah “Sarie” Elizabeth Beaver born in Arkansas on July 27, 1899, who married and divorced twice – first married to Robert H. Fisk in March 1918 (divorced by January 1920) and then married to Raymond M. Page in Missouri in February 1920. The Pages divorced after a 1-year waiting period, in 1921, and Sarah’s divorce petition was served by Tulsa County Sheriff Willard McCullough (yes, the one and only), who would falsely malign her character. Her second divorce was decreed on June 4, 1921 at which point she returned to Missouri and the name “Sarah Bever.” After testifying as a witness during the grand jury investigation into the Tulsa massacre, returned to Tulsa in September 1921 and eventually married Fred E. Voorhies (who had also testified during the grand jury). The 1940 census shows a couple fitting their stats living in California, and having a daughter named Sue. Additional records indicate that lived out their remaining days together.

“On Thursday morning, June 2, 1921, one of Tulsa’s many problems was that of optics. A large chunk of the city had been obliterated in a matter of hours and an embarrassingly large portion of the city’s population had a hand in the obliterating. How this was going to look to outsiders was far from an irrelevant concern for many Tulsans, especially the city’s elite for whom pride in the city’s accomplishments was keen…. Would businesses go elsewhere? Would other ‘better citizens’ from other places look down their noses?”

 

– quoted from The Center for Public Secrets Journal article entitled, “Mask of Atonement: The Plan to Rebuild the Homes of Greenwood” by Randy Hopkins

Efforts to rebuild Black Wall Street were hampered by trauma, a lack of resources, a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, and the fact that many of the 35 blocks previously designated as the Greenwood District were co-opted by the city. Some Black survivors fled Tulsa and never returned. Those that stayed lived in tents as they tried to rebuild and, subsequently, were referred to as “destitute.” Meanwhile, national news outlets immediately started running front page headlines stating that Tulsa would rebuild the homes, in a way that served as “an atonement for the harm done,” and that Tulsa would serve as an example for other cities in the country. Public fundraising efforts kicked off immediately, but barely any of the funds made it to the Greenwood residents and, by June 4th, the Associated Press was telling major news outlets not to donate. A committee of seven, which would eventually name itself the Board of Public Welfare, was referred to as the “reparations committee” – knowing good and well there were no reparations, because they were not only telling people not to donate, they were returning some of the donations.

While city officials were publicly applauded for assisting the impoverished, white developers (with the backing of the mayor) attempted to enact city (fire) ordinances and get new zoning in place that would have prevented Blacks from rebuilding in what was considered prime real estate. The Oklahoma Supreme Court deemed the primary ordinance unconstitutional; but, constantly battling restrictions in how and what residents could build created more and more setbacks. It was also demoralizing. Even though they were backed and supported by their “angels of mercy” (as the called the Red Cross), Black residents found themselves up against the interests (and substantial efforts) of the mayor and the all-white reconstructing committee that wanted a larger “industrial” separation between the races.

The committee wanted Black residents to sign over their land to a holding company so that the land could be appraised by a white appraisal committee, which would then pay the Black citizens at the lower industrial-zoned value – even though the property was residentially zoned. Naturally, the Black citizens balked; but, to little avail. By the time the Red Cross pulled out of Tulsa, 700 “semi-permanent buildings and homes” had been constructed, but 49 families were still living in “tent-homes.” Over the next decade, a smaller, less elegant Black Wall Street emerged. The difference in size was partially due to the fact that city officials expanded earlier plans for a small rail hub. They used the destruction of Black Wall Street as an excuse to construct Tulsa Union Depot, a large rail hub connecting three major railroads traveling through Oklahoma and onward to Missouri, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and California.

The construction of Tulsa Union Depot cost $3.5 million dollars, which was paid by a bond passed in 1927. (And trust me when I tell you don’t want me to get into Tulsa’s history with bonds right now.) The Depot was hailed as “the single best [Public Works Administration] symbol of hope for economic recovery during the bleak days of the depression” and opened in 1931 to crowd of at least 60,000 people. It operated as a train station until 1967; was purchased by a private company in 1980; and was renovated (by the same contractor company that built it). In 1983, it re-opened as a privately held office complex. In 2004, the county purchased the building for $2.2 million and used $4 million for renovations. After an internal transfer (between different divisions within the county), the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (TCIA) signed a 99-year lease with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. The Jazz Hall’s lease was for $1, with the stipulation that they would pay (the city) for operating expenses. As of 2020, the space was in the middle of a legal dispute that will ultimately cost millions to resolve.

I don’t know if you’re keeping track, but that last paragraph detailed almost $10 million that was spent on something other than rebuilding the Greenwood District – and it does not account for any revenue earned by the city because of the depot. In many ways, you could say the initiative to build the Depot was the very opposite of Ujamaa (“Cooperative Economics”), the fourth principle of Kwanzaa.

“The extent of aid and relief, as in many aspects of the Red Cross work, stopped short of a supportive hand. Survivors of the massacre were only supplied the lumber to rebuild their homes; for labor they had only themselves to rely on and any other able-bodied friends who could pitch in. Greenwood, once lined with homes ranging from fancy mansions to modest well-kept abodes, resembled a shantytown emerging from a way.”

 

– quoted from the Rediscovering Black History article “‘The Responsibility is Placed in Your Hands Entirely’ – Red Cross Relief after the Tulsa Race Massacre” by Netisha Currie, archives specialist at the National Archives in College Park (which also appeared in The National Council of Social Studies’ Social Education (volume 85, no. 1)

 

Ujamma is in practice when people within a community buy locally, support local businesses and each other – that’s what Black people were doing in the Greenwood District before it was destroyed. That’s what Black people were doing all around the segregated South. Think about it for a moment and it’s easy to see that it’s what’s happening in most ethnic-minority communities around the country. But that local rallying doesn’t happen so much, any more, in African American communities (comprised of the descendants of emancipated Africans) – and the reason why comes back to what happened to Black Wall Street.

But, people’s hesitancy is not just about the devastation that happened in Tulsa in 1921. It’s also about the devastation that happened in Colfax, Louisiana in April of 1873 (when at least 150 Black men were murdered). It’s about the fact that after Black officials were elected in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898, white supremacists decided to overthrow the Wilmington government and destroy the press – somewhere between 60 – 300 Black people were killed (Again, exact numbers are hard to ascertain when there’s a cover-up that lasts over 100 years.) It’s also about the Atlanta Massacre in 1906 (when at least 100 people were killed) – as well as what happened in Chicago, Illinois; Knoxville, TN; Washington, D.C.; Omaha, Nebraska; and several dozen cities during the “red summer” of 1919.

The “red summer” included what happened in Elaine, Arkansas in 1919 when Black sharecroppers (who outnumbered their white peers) created a union and white people showed up to riot. One white man was shot and killed at the meeting (at least 4 others were killed as things unfolded); anywhere between 50 to 200+ Black people – including veterans and children were also killed. Many of the Black workers were arrested and tortured until they “confessed” to an insurrection that never happened. The imaginary insurrection that never happened was reported by major news outlets, including the New York Times and Arkansas Gazette. Sixty-seven Black men were convicted by an all-white jury and received sentences from 20 years to life. The trial for twelve additional men lasted about 1 hour; at the conclusion of which, the man had been given the death penalty. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and ensured the exoneration of the “Elaine 12” – exonerations which were partially based on the 14th Amendment.

There was also Rosewood, Florida in 1923 – the history of which sounds a lot like Tulsa, plus 102 years. About 150 Black people were killed, but a grand jury and special prosecutor decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute any white men that might have been involved in the murders. If you add it up, just using the minimum of the estimates, over 700 people were killed just because they had Black skin and were creating their own little piece of the American dream. Again, that’s the bare minimum and it doesn’t take into account any individuals who were murdered outside of these incidents nor does it include anyone killed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

 

– quoted from the preface to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Please join me today (Wednesday, June 1st) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. 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 “06012021 The Difference A Day Made”]

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.)

*

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can 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 talk, call the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).

### PEACE IN, PEACE OUT ###

Remember Rachel’s Challenge, Especially When You’re Suffering (the “missing” Wednesday post) April 22, 2022

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“Chag Sameach!” “Happy Festival!” to anyone celebrating Passover. “Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who was observing the holy month of Ramadān. Many blessings to all, and especially to those celebrating or observing Great Week, Easter Week, Counting the Omer, Riḍván, and/or Earth Day! 

This is A 3-in-1 “missing” post (with a coda) for Wednesday, April 20th. It features information on overlapping sacred traditions and also on an anti-bullying non-profit and is a bit of a “renewed” post (since it contains some previously posted material). You can request an audio recording of any of these practices via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

If you are following the Orthodox Christian calendar and would like a recording of last week’s classes, feel free to comment or email me.

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.)

“[Bridge: P!nkKhalid & Both]
Hope floats away
If you could spend a day in my shoes
Your mind would change
If you knew what I’ve gone through
We want the same (Yeah, we do)
Maybe then you’d understand
How it hurts to be human, oh”

*

– quoted from the song “Hurts 2B Human” by P!nk, featuring Khalid

A lot of this week was devoted to the subject of suffering, on and off the mat. Sure, we all have friends that were suffering this week – and then there’s all the general suffering in the world. Because there is, and has always been, a lot of suffering in the world; there is, and has always been, a desire for the end of suffering. There is, and has always been, people actively seeking an end to suffering. That’s why there are so many paths, practices, and methods that – on some level – promise an end to suffering. That’s why there are so many really great books, poems, movies, plays, and songs about suffering and how people deal with suffering.

Suffering, it turns out, is interesting and inspiring.

One of the things I find interesting about humans and suffering is how often we tie our salvation to something more than ourselves and our own agency. What’s particularly interesting to me is that when we look at religious traditions (and philosophical traditions that are sometimes culturally religious), the teachings very specifically connect the end of suffering to our own agency and something more than ourselves… something divine, or Divine.

“[Chorus]
What if you were told that today
Was the last day of your life
Did you live it right?
Love is a gift you give away
And it reignites
Don’t wait, don’t let it pass you by
(don’t let it pass you by)”

*

– quoted from the song “The Fight” by Taboo

Over the course of this week, all the Abrahamic religious traditions – and at least one tradition with ties to the Abrahamic religions – have been engaging in sacred celebrations and rituals that are tied to suffering and the end of suffering. Jewish communities have been celebrating Passover and, as of Sunday, some are also Counting the Omer. Western Christian communities (including Roman Catholics) observed Easter on Sunday and then, for some, Easter marked the beginning of the Octave of Easter (or Eastertide). On the flip side, this week marked the Holy Week or Great Week for people within Eastern Orthodox Christian communities. This month (in 2022) is also the holy month of Ramadān in Islām. Finally, Thursday marked the beginning of Riḍván in the Bahá’í community.

Since several of these holy observations started on Saturday, I’m going to point out that Hanuman Jayanti (or Hanuman Jannotsav) – which is celebrated in India, Nepal, and throughout the Hindu diaspora – also has a connection to suffering and the end of suffering. Oh, and then there’s Earth Day – which is not a religious holiday, per se, but is still connected to suffering on this planet, a desire to end that suffering, and the realization that the path to that freedom from suffering must come from a global community acting together… which would be divine.

Because everyone uses different calendars, this conflux doesn’t happen every year. Yes, there is usually an overlap between Passover and at least one Holy Week; however, this year is different. This year, these sacred times overlapped tragic anniversaries related to April 19th and 20th. This year, there’s more suffering and more awareness of the different ways we could/can/might end suffering – in ourselves and in the world around us.

There’s just one problem. Actually, there are several problems.

One, we don’t always pay attention to the right part of the stories. You know, the part where we have to practice what we preach, act in ways that are congruent to our beliefs, and – like Hanuman (or Nahshon) – take giant leaps (or wade in the water) in order to help and/or save others. Two, we sometimes forget that we are community; that while it may hurt 2b human, we have each other and we (can) have each other’s backs. We forget how breaking bread with someone (whether it be on Spy Wednesday or Easter Wednesday) can reveal the true nature of things. Finally, we all too often lash out at others when we are suffering.

Sometimes we lash out like Pharaoh – and our hardened hearts result in everyone being plagued with more and more suffering. Other times we are like Judas – and we lash out in ways that seem small, inconsequential, and petty; but have magnificent consequences. Then there are those times when our personal suffering is like that of Jesus’s followers who, once their suffering is alleviated by a striking realization, go on to share the good so that others may also find relief from their suffering.

All the stories told during this week’s holy observations and celebrations are reminders that we are in community – even when we are not in a religious community. While there are bullies and bad guys in these stories, there are also reminders that any one of us can make a good (meaningful) difference. We can be Moses or Aaron or Miriam or Nahshon. We can be any of the disciples or Marys or Martha or Joanna. We can be like Hanuman. We can be like Baháʼu’lláh, in that we bring communities together even as we are being separated.

Finally, we can be like Rachel Joy Scott whose legacy is a challenge. It’s not a religious challenge, it’s an existential challenge. It’s a challenge that could not only change your life, it could change the lives of those around you.

SO MUCH SUFFERING…

NOTE: Portions of the following were originally posted in 2020. However, I have revised and expanded some sections related to Moses and Passover.

“First and foremost, we believe creation of the world, G-d created a world in which he wanted the human being to actually be able to do something – that is to say, to exercise free will, to be like G-d, meaning to be a creator, not to be lab rats…. He wants us to have a relationship with Him. But to have a relationship with G-d requires that I have an exercise of my free will…. Free will means an environment in which not necessarily do I always have pleasure when I make the right decisions and not necessarily does someone always suffer when they make the wrong decision. Free will is having real power to create stuff. Free will is having real power to alleviate suffering.”

*

– Rabbi Mordechai Becher, in vlog explaining one of several reasons why suffering exists

If you look back over this last week of blog posts, you will see a lot of different takes on suffering. So much suffering, in the midst of so much that is holy. I could point back to any number of quotes from this week’s post, any number of quotes from various traditions and belief systems. But, just focus on something simple…a simple list, the Four Noble Truths from Buddhism:

  1. Suffering exists
  2. Suffering is caused by attachment, clinging, craving
  3. There is an end to suffering
  4. The Noble Eight-fold Path is the way to end suffering

In the Passover story, Moses has similar experiences and a similar journey as Prince Siddhartha has in relation to Buddhism. (Both also have parallels to Arjuna’s experience at the center of the battlefield during The Bhagavad Gita.) There are some obvious differences, but let’s focus on the similarities for a moment. Both were raised in wealthy households, lived lives of privilege, experienced the suffering of others, and – instead of turning away, as some would do – both took the opportunity to alleviate themselves and others from suffering.

According to an oft quoted proverb, G-d is in the details – or, in the detail. And, it turns out, that the element of G-d is one of the big differences between the two stories. Another big difference is that while both heroes were raised in wealth, Moses was born a slave – and knew his connection to the Jewish people, people who were suffering. Prince Siddhartha, who becomes the Buddha (or “Enlightened One”), was 29 years old when he left the palace gates and saw suffering for the first time. At 35, when he became enlightened, the Buddha codified the 4 Noble Truths and began teaching. He died at the age of 80. This all happened in India, during the 6th Century (~563) BCE.

On the other hand, Moses was born into suffering during the 14th Century (placing Exodus between 1446 – 1406) BCE. Not only are the Jewish people, his people, enslaved when he is born, but because Pharaoh declared that all baby boys should be killed, Moses was born during greater than normal suffering. Theoretically, he always knew some amount of suffering existed. In fact, one way to look at Shemot / Exodus 2, is that Moses left the luxury of the palace specifically to witness the suffering of his first family, his tribe, his community of birth. He was 40 years old when he had to flee his home after stepping in to protect a Jewish man who was being beaten; and he was 80 when G-d (in the form of the burning bush) commanded him to return to Egypt and speak to Pharaoh about freeing the Jewish people. Theoretically, he was also 80 when he received the Torah, G-d’s truth for his people and he was 120 when he died.

Yoga Sutra 1.5: vŗttayah pañcatayyah klişțāklişțāh

– “The tendencies that cause the mind to fluctuate (or rotate) are fivefold, and are either afflicting or non-afflicting.”

Yoga Sutra 2.3: Avidyāmitārāgadveşābhiniveśāh kleśāh

– “Ignorance (or lack of knowledge), false sense of identity, attachment (rooted in pleasure), aversion (attachment rooted in pain), and fear of death or loss are the afflictions.”

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlined how the mind works and how to work the mind. The mind, he explained, has a tendency to wander, move around, and get caught up in those fluctuations. Those fluctuations are either afflicted or not afflicted – meaning some thoughts bring us pain/suffering and others alleviate or don’t cause pain/suffering. He went on to describe how afflicted thoughts cause nine obstacles, which lead to five conditions (or states of suffering). Eventually, he described exactly what he meant by “afflicted thoughts.” Throughout these first two chapters of the text, he gave examples on how to overcome the afflicted thoughts; on how to alleviate the suffering they cause; and on how to overcome the obstacles and painful states of suffering. His recommendation: Various forms of meditation.

One technique Patanjali suggested (YS 1.33) is offering loving-kindness/friendliness to those who are happy, compassion to those who are sad, happiness to those who are virtuous, and indifference to those who are non-virtuous. (Metta meditation is a great way to start this practice.) Knowing, however, that everyone can’t just drop into a deep seated meditation, Patanjali also offered physical techniques to prepare the mind-body for meditation. Those physical techniques are the physical practice.

I find the yoga philosophy particularly practical. But then again, I tell my own stories.

Historically speaking, Patanjali was in India compiling the Yoga Sutras, outlining the philosophy of yoga, during the Buddha’s lifetime. I have heard, that at some point in his life, the Buddha was aware of yoga – but that doesn’t mean he was aware of the yoga sutras, simply that he was aware of the lifestyle and the codes of that lifestyle. Perhaps he even had a physical practice. The Buddha, however, did not think the yoga philosophy was practical enough. In theory, this explains some of the parallels between yoga and Buddhism. It may also help explain why there are so many lists in Buddhism and why the Buddha taught in stories.

I have no knowledge of (and no reason to believe that) Moses knew anything about yoga, the yoga philosophy, or the sutras. However, he can be considered a “desert brother” or Jewish mystic for much of his adult life – meaning that he undoubtedly engaged in prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Even if he didn’t attribute certain aspects of the body to the aspects of the Divine that are found on the Tree of Life, and even if he didn’t physically move his body with the intention of connecting with G-d, Moses spent much of his adult life as a shepherd. As a shepherd, moving around the hills with his ship, Moses connected with nature and with G-d, which is the ultimate dream of some philosophers and truth seekers.

“Then Job stood up, and rent his robe and tore his hair; then he fell to the ground and prostrated himself. And he said, ‘From my mother’s womb, I emerged naked, and I will return there naked. The Lord gave and the Lord took; may the name of the Lord be blessed.’”

*

– Job, upon learning that how much he’s lost in a single moment (Iyov / The Book of Job 1.20-21)

Moses probably didn’t know the story of the Buddha. He would have, however, known the story of Job. Some traditions even credit him as the author of The Book of Job, the events of which took place around the 6th Century BCE – the same time as Prince Siddhartha’s evolution into the Buddha. The Book of Job is the story of a man who endured great suffering. From Job’s perspective, there was a point when it could even be considered pointless suffering. But only to a point, because eventually Job’s suffering was alleviated and the way in which he endured the suffering is rewarded.

Job clung to his faith and believed that G-d was always with him. Moses, as I mentioned in a previous post, was told by the burning bush that G-d will always be with him and with the Jewish people. So the lesson is, “[we] are not alone in this. / As brothers [and sisters] we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.”

Sometimes, when I sing-along to the Mumford and Sons’ “Timshel” (even when I embellish the lyrics, see above) I don’t point out that the title of the song does not translate to “you are not alone in this.” There is a reference in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden that refers back to Beresh’t / Genesis 4:7 and the story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck translated G-d’s words to Cain as “thou mayest.” In reality, if you’re going to use Steinbeck’s reference, it’s “thou mayest rule;” but it is sometimes translated as “you can rule/master” or “you will rule /master” and the object of this command or explanation is “sin.” As in: You can (or will, or mayest) rule (or overcome, or master) Sin.

I’m not going to get into the various understandings and meanings of sin. Suffice to say, anything one would categorize as a sin can also categorized as an affliction and therefore something which causes suffering. The key part here is that many translations of “timshel” reinforce the concept of free will. We choose how we deal with suffering. Even when we don’t realize we are choosing, our choice can alleviate or increase our suffering.

The Buddha’s parables about the second arrow and the poisoned arrow brilliantly illustrate how this choice works. So too, do the stories of Cain and Able, Job, and Moses and the Jewish people during Exodus. (Remember, not everyone celebrated that first Passover and not everyone left Egypt when they had the chance.) Even the story of the Passion of the Christ – the story of Jesus and his last week of life – includes a correlation between free will and suffering, a connection between our actions and the end of our suffering.

“This year however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday.  We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day.  They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly.  They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts.  Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master?  Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt.  A painful memory, a hope cut short.  For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour.

*

Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed.  They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. They were doing something simple yet extraordinary: preparing at home the spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy.  Our Lady spent that Saturday, the day that would be dedicated to her, in prayer and hope.  She responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord.  Unbeknownst to these women, they were making preparations, in the darkness of that Sabbath, for “the dawn of the first day of the week”, the day that would change history.  Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower.  How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what those women did, sowing seeds of hope!  With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.”

*

– Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis, Easter Vigil, Holy Saturday, 11 April 2020

ACCEPTING RACHEL’S CHALLENGE

NOTE: Portions of the following were originally posted in 2021. 

WARNING: This post specifically references a horrific and tragic event from 1999. You can skip most of these references by jumping from the first highlighted quote to the second highlighted quote.

“Compassion is the greatest form of love that humans have to offer. According to Webster’s Dictionary, compassion means a feeling of sympathy for another person’s misfortune. My definition is forgiving, loving, helping, leading, and showing mercy for others. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

*

– quoted from the essay “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” by Rachel Joy Scott (written in period 5)

Back in 2018, as one of my Kiss My Asana yogathon offerings, I referenced a lot – well, some – of the people who tragically lost their lives throughout history on April 19th and 20th. One of the people I mentioned was Rachel Joy Scott – the first person shot at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. In some ways, it is hard to believe that 22 23 years have passed since that mass shooting. Remember mass shooting that some people thought would change everything? It’s equally hard to believe that there are adults – people who can serve in the armed forces, legally vote, and in some cases legally drink alcohol in the United States – who were not even born when 2 high school seniors killed 12 people and injured 24 others before taking their own lives. It’s mind-boggling to me that (based on recent events in early 2021 and data compiled by The New Yorker and Trace in 2019) there have had been over 200 mass shootings in the United States since April 20, 1999. (As of April 2022, there have been over 300 mass shootings in schools since this week in 1999.) Those shootings have affected thousands upon thousands of lives. Furthermore, it is astounding that what was (at the time) the fifth deadliest shooting in the United States (after World War II) “is now not even in the top ten.”

I’m not going to spend my time here (or in class) talking about my opinion about gun control and/or the 2nd Amendment. Nor am I going to spend a lot of time stating the obvious fact that, as the statistics and the lives lost clearly attest, we have a problem – because, let’s be honest, we have a lot of problems right now. What I am going to focus on today is Rachel’s Challenge. Not the program (although I will mention that) so much as the idea(l).

“I am sure that my codes of life may be very different from yours, but how do you know that trust, compassion, and beauty will not make this world a better place to be in and this life a better one to live? My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself, and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction.”

*

– quoted from the essay “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” by Rachel Joy Scott (written in period 5)

Somewhere on her person, perhaps in her backpack, 17-year old Rachel Joy Scott had a notebook. It was one of several notebooks that turned up after Rachel’s death. Some of the notebooks were full of thoughts, poetry, and art she was just sharing with herself. Some of the notebooks, however, were a form of communication between her and her “big brother” Mark Pettit. They would each write in the notebooks and then swap them during small groups at church.

The notebooks became a way for Rachel’s family to tell her story and also a way to spread her message about the importance of compassion. They, along with the stories that other people shared about their encounters with Rachel, led her family to start Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit that creates “programs that promote a positive climate in K-12 schools.” They also have comprehensive programs for colleges and businesses.

On the foundation’s website, the Rachel’s Challenge mission is stated as “Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.” They also indicate that when the program is fully implemented, “partner schools achieve statistically significant gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate; along with reductions in bullying, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.”

“ANTROBUS: …. Oh, I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for — whether it’s a field, or a home, or a country. All I ask is the chance to build new worlds and God has always given us that second chance, and has given us [opening the book] voices to guide us; and the memory of our mistakes to warn us. Maggie, you and I must remember in peace time all those resolves that were clear to us in the days of war. Maggie, we’ve come a long ways. We’ve learned. We’re learning. And the steps of our journey are marked for us here.”

*

– quoted from The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

I did not know Rachel Joy Scott or Cassie Bernall (17), Steven Curnow (14), Corey DePooter (17), Kelly Fleming (16), Matthew Kechter (16), Daniel Mauser (15), Daniel Rohrbough (15), Isaiah Shoels (18), John Tomlin (16), Lauren Townsend (18), Kyle Velasquez (16), William “Dave” Sanders (47), nor (to my knowledge) do I know anyone else that was at Littleton, Colorado, today in 1999. I did not know the two seniors that wrecked so much havoc (and whose names I am choosing not to post, even though their families also suffered greatly.) I am not affiliated with the foundation Rachel’s family started and neither have I gone through their program. However, I believe in the message and I believe in the idea(l).

I have seen the chain reaction that starts with compassion and kindness – just as I have seen the chain reaction that begins with a lack of empathy and a lack of equanimity. In that essay she wrote in period 5, Rachel talked about first, second, and third impressions and how they don’t always give you a full picture of someone. She wrote, “Did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and not just at their appearance?” We are, right here and right now, experiencing the chain reactions that occur when we don’t really see each other and when we don’t recognize the fact that we are all connected. We are – right here and right now – about to set off a new chain reaction.

Quick, ask yourself: What is motivating you and what do you expect to come out of your actions?

“One of the big things we’re focused on is how you see yourself. Each and every one of us in this room has a great capacity to do great things.”

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– Craig Scott speaking to a small group of students during a Rachel’s Challenge event

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“I challenge students to choose positive influences. Rachel wanted to make a positive difference. So, she surrounded herself with the right influences that helped her be a powerful, positive person.”

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– Craig Scott speaking in a 2018 TODAY feature story

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𝄌

“‘Consider purification, tapas, which literally means “to melt,” as in refining ore. The purpose of purification is not pain and penance, but to deliberately refine one’s life, to melt it down and recast it into a higher order of purity and spirituality. The goal is very important; it is not self-punishment but refinement – to shift from human existence into Divinity!

*

There are three main methods of purification: the refinement of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds – also called the purification, respectively, of one’s instruments of mind, speech, and body. When you modify these three you automatically change for the better.’”

*

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (17.14) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

In the past, when I’ve talked about Rachel’s Challenge, I’ve used a fairly non-religious playlist. This year, however, the overlapping holidays inspired me to remix the playlist for these holy times. I wanted music that would reflect the different traditions and the different stories, while also reflecting Rachel Joy Scott’s ethics and codes of life. I also wanted something that was inspiring and hopeful, like the young woman herself.

As I was remixing, I came across “Godbone” by (one of my favorite composers) Bear McCreary. In the the television series See and in games like “King of Dragon Pass,” “godbone” is a term used for metal and/or concrete. I’m not 100% positive about the etymology of the term, but it reminded me of the Lunar New Year story about the Kitchen God and how the fireplace poker came into existence. It also made me think about Krishna’s explanation of tapas – which can be defined as heat, discipline and austerity, as well as the practices that cultivate heat, discipline, and austerity.

Whenever I reference tapas, which is one of the niyamas (“internal observations” in the Yoga Philosophy), I mention that it can be applied physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually. It can also be applied religiously. In fact, fasting during the holy month of Ramadān, giving something up for Lent, and giving up leavened bread during Passover are some of the examples I use throughout the year. Those same traditions also incorporate the the final two internal observations – svādhyāya (“self-study”) and Īśvarapraṇidhāna (“surrendering to [a higher power]”) – which combine with tapas to form kriya yoga (“yoga in action,” or an ongoing process moving towards union with Divine). (YS 2.1) These sacred rituals are all about refining the (c)ore of who we are.

“And he shall sit refining and purifying silver, and he shall purify the children of Levi. And he shall purge them as gold and as silver, and they shall be offering up an offering to the Lord with righteousness.”

*

– quoted from Malachi (3.3)

Back in 2010, Sara Yoheved Rigler wrote an article about bitter herbs, suffering (in Passover and in life), and a group of women who were inspired to go deeper into the Biblical idea that the Jewish people’s suffering in Egypt was “the ‘kur habarzel ― the iron crucible[.]’” She wrote about how these women went to see a silversmith at work and how, through their observations and questions, they gained a better understanding of the process of suffering and how to deal with suffering. Like Rachel’s challenge, Sara Rigler’s insight gives us a better understanding of how we can graceful engage our own suffering: Always look for the image of the Divine in ourselves and always look for that same reflection in others.

“As the silversmith held a piece of silver over the fire, he explained that he needed to hold the silver where the flame was hottest in order to burn away all the impurities. The woman, remembering the Biblical verse, asked if he had to sit there the whole time the silver was being refined. The silversmith responded that not only did he have to sit and hold the silver the entire time, but he had to keep a careful eye on it, because if the silver was left in the flame a moment too long, it would be destroyed.

‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ the woman asked.

‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I see my image in it.'”

*

– quoted from the aish.com article “Why Celebrate with Bitter Herbs? – Yes, God took us out of Egypt, but He put us there in the first place!” by Sara Yoheved Rigler

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “04202022 Rachel’s Challenge, Holy Remix”]

“She was a real girl, who had real struggles, and – just was in the pursuit to, you know, pretty much just show compassion and love to anybody who needed it. You know: Whatever religion, whatever race, whatever class – any of that stuff. I mean, it did not matter to Rachel…. She saw my heart.”

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– Mark Pettit, talking about the movie I’m Not Ashamed, a 2016 film based on their journals

If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can 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 talk, contact the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).

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If you are interested in combining a physical practice (yoga or weightlifting) with the Counting of the Omer, you can purchase a copy of Marcus J. Freed’s The Kabbalh Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment.

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### AMEN, SELAH ###

Another New Year, Another New Season (a “renewed” post) March 20, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 19-Day Fast, Art, Baha'i, Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Meditation, Music, New Year, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Nowruz Mubarak!” Happy New Year to those who are celebrating and Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Many blessings to all, and especially to those observing Lent, Great Lent, and/or completing the Baháʼí 19-Day Fast!

“At a time of another crisis, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offered these words of counsel: ‘In a day such as this, when the tempests of trials and tribulations have encompassed the world, and fear and trembling have agitated the planet, ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.’ The world stands more and more in need of the hope and the strength of spirit that faith imparts. Beloved friends, you have of course long been occupied with the work of nurturing within groups of souls precisely the attributes that are required at this time: unity and fellow feeling, knowledge and understanding, a spirit of collective worship and common endeavour. Indeed, we have been struck by how efforts to reinforce these attributes have made communities especially resilient, even when faced with conditions that have necessarily limited their activities. Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquillity, confidence, and reliance on God.”

 

– quoted from a rare “New Year” message from the Universal House of Justice “To the Bahá’is of the World,” dated Naw-Ruz 177 (March 20, 2020, in reference to COVID-19 recommendations)

I mentioned in my last “9 Days” video that we all have patterns. One of my patterns seems to be falling behind at certain points in the year. Maybe you have noticed that same pattern in yourself. Maybe, like me, there are times when you can pinpoint reasons, explanations, stories about why your engagement in the world changes – e.g., those years when Februarys were extra challenging and the fact that my maternal grandparents and my mother all died during (different) summers. Then there are times when the pattern seems odd (i.e., when you forget that those extra challenging Februarys still have a hold on you). Either way, when you start noticing those patterns, you may also start noticing correlating patterns – like when you start catching back up.

The following is a revised, updated, and abridged version of a 2021 post. The original post included information about the March 6th and 13th practices. 

Today, Saturday, March 20th, is the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere – which coincides with Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year or Iranian New Year, which is also the Zoroastrian and the Bahá’i New Year. Nowruz is a compound of two Persian words and literally means “new day.” As this is a new beginning for so many around the world, it feels like an auspicious time to start catching back up on my blog posts!

The date of this New Year (and of the Vernal Equinox) is established every year through the astronomical observations that result in the Solar Hijri (Persian) calendar, which is the oldest and most accurate solar calendar. Technically, today is the end of the Bahá’i 19-Day Fast and the beginning of the Bahá’i New Year is at sunset this evening; but it is also a moveable based on the change in seasons.

In “the Most Holy Book” of the Bahá’i faith, the Kitáb-i-Agdas, the prophet Bahá’u’lláh explained that the equinox was a “Manifestation of God” and, therefore, would mark the new day/year. He also indicated that the actual date would be based on a “standard” place chosen by the Universal House of Justice (the nine-member ruling body of the worldwide community) in Haifa, Israel. In 2014 (which was year 171 in their community), the Universal House of Justice chose Tehran as the special place in the world that would serve as the observational standard. This is year 178 179.

People within the Bahá’i community spend the last month of the year preparing for the New Year by observing the 19-Day Fast. Throughout various parts of Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans people from a variety of faiths have traditions which sometimes include a month’s worth of (preparatory) celebrations. These celebrations include “spoon-banging” and costumed visitors in a practice similar to Halloween’s trick-or-treaters; rituals related to light; a celebration of the elements; a celebration of ancestors; and stories about how light (literally and symbolically) overcomes darkness.

“But his splendid son, Jamshid, his heart filled with his father’s precepts, then prepared to reign. He sat on his father’s throne, wearing a golden crown according to the royal custom. The imperial [divine glory] was his. The world submitted to him; quarrels were laid to rest, and all demons, birds and fairies obeyed Jamshid’s commands. The royal throne shone with luster, and the wealth of the world increased. He said, ‘God’s glory is with me; I am both prince and priest. I hold evildoers back from their evil, and I guide souls towards the light.’”

 

– quoted from “The First Kings” in Shanameh – The Persian Book of Kings by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (translated by Dick Davis)

One such story appears in the Shāhnāma (“The Book of Kings”), an epic Persian poem written by Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusione around the 10th and 11th centuries and one of the world’s longest poems attributed to a single author. According to the legend, there was a time when the world was plunged into darkness and a deadly winter that caused most people to lose hope. However, the mythical King Jamshid, who spent over 100 years building a great kingdom, saved the world and restored hope by building a throne out of gems and precious metals. He then sat on the throne and had “demons” lift him up to catch the dying light so that he became as bright as the sun. More gems were gathered around him and he became even brighter. This became the “New Day.”

I often mention that every day, every inhale, and every exhale is the beginning of a New Year. We don’t often think of it that way, and we certainly don’t (as a whole) view and celebrate life that way. But, the bottom line is that every moment of our lives is a “liminal” moment: a transitional or threshold moment that serves as a doorway between times. We mark notice we have more daylight, more sunshine, and we call it “Spring!” But, in some ways, this moment is arbitrary because we have been getting more daylight since the Winter Solstice.

Sometimes, when the winter is really cold and really dark (or we’ve been cooped-up inside too much) we pay attention to the little incremental differences between one day and the next. We notice the lengthening shadows and the extra seconds. Most times, however, we don’t start noticing the changes until we are told to notice the changes. Even then, however, what we notice is the end result – the culmination of all the little changes; not the transitions themselves. In the Yoga Sūtras, however, Patanjali underscored the importance of paying attention to the transitions.

In fact, when detailing how the practice of “concentration” “progresses,” Patanjali highlighted the final three limbs of the Yoga Philosophy (dhāranā, dhyāna, and samādhi) and referred to them collectively as samyama. Once he explained how each one flows from the previous ones (all stemming from the earlier practices of prāņāyāma and pratyāhāra) – and cautioned against efforts to skip the stages of progression – he delineated the difference between external and internal experiences. We often think of these as being very obviously related to things that are happening outside of the body and/or separate from us versus things happening inside the body and/or directly related to us. We may even break things down as things we can touch/hold versus things that are not tangible. However, there is also an aspect of the practice that transcends these arbitrary delineations: outside becomes inside.

Endings become beginnings.

“The transition from one year to the next year happens in an infinitely short moment that is actually non-existent in time. So too, there are transitions in the moments of life and the moments of meditation. Mindfulness of transitions in daily life and during meditation time is extremely useful on the spiritual journey to enlightenment.”

 

– quoted from the commentary on “Yoga Sutras 3.9-3.16: Witnessing Subtle Transitions With Samyama” by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (“Swami J”)

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, March 20th) at 2:30 PM. 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.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “032021 New Year, New Season”]

NOTE: Due to artist protests, one song may not play on Spotify. As I support artists in their efforts to bring about change, I am not re-mixing affected playlists.

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.)

 

 

### RIDE THESE WAVES ###

I Hope You See The Light (the “missing” Tuesday post) February 17, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Art, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Love, Music, Mysticism, New Year, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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My apologies for the delay, but I was not feeling 100% this week. Here, finally, is the “missing” post for Tuesday, February 15th. You can request an audio recording of the 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.)

“Always old, sometimes new…”

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

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

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

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

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself.”

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– Galileo Galilei, as quoted in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Born February 15,1564, in Pisa, Duchy of Florence, Tuscany, Italy,  Galileo Galilei is remembered as the Father of observational astronomy, modern physics, the scientific method, and modern science. The Indigo Girls even called him “the King of Insight,” which makes sense given the aforementioned definition of insight. Galileo was able to see things others had not seen thanks to advancements in telescope technology and also because he was willing to pay attention. He was open to new information and to how that information supported or did not support his understanding of what had previously been observed by himself and others.

Galileo was an astronomer, a physicists, an engineer, and a polymath who studied all aspects of physical science and invented the thermoscope and a variety of military compasses. He used the telescope to track and identify the moons of Jupiter; the phases of Venus (which are similar to moon phases); and the rings of Saturn. He also analyzed lunar craters and sunspots and supported Copernican heliocentrism (the idea that the Earth rotated on it’s axis and also rotated around the Sun). In fact, his observations became the basis of his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) – which was banned in Italy for a while and resulted in Galileo being convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church.

Despite the fact that the ban extended to the publication of his future books, Galileo wrote Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences while he was under house arrest. This latter work, which was basically a summation of thirty years worth of physics, could not find a publisher in France, Germany, or Poland. It was ultimately published in Leiden, South Holland and featured the same characters who were conversing in his Dialogue. There was one notable change in the characters, however, the “simple-minded” one that had previously been viewed as a caricature of the pope was not as foolish or stubborn. When the text made its way to Roman bookstores, it quickly sold out.

“But I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations.”

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– quoted from the 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany (mother of Cosimo II de ‘Medici) by Galileo Galilei

Susan B. Anthony, who was born February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts, was also considered quite controversial by the establishment of her time. Like Galileo Galilei, she was an observer. Her primary observations, however, were related to the social interactions of humans. She was a suffragist as well as an abolitionist and is remembered for her great friendship and collaborations with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The two women had different backgrounds made different life choices, but they were firmly united in the quest for equal rights.

The second-oldest of seven, Susan B. Anthony was born into a liberal Quaker household despite the fact that her mother (Lucy Read Anthony) was Methodist and her father (Daniel Anthony) was shunned (for marrying outside his religion) and disowned (for allowing dancing in his home). The Anthony children were taught Quaker values, as well as the importance of self-sufficiency and social responsibility. At least three of her siblings were activists. Ms. Anthony herself, attended a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia until 1837 when the Anthony’s, like so many, faced financial ruin and depression. She left school for a bit, but ultimately became a teacher at a different Quaker boarding school. By this time, the family had moved to New York and eventually joined what would become the Congregational Friends, and offshoot of the Quakers.

The Congregational Friends were active social reformers and many attended services at First Unitarian Church of Rochester, which was also socially active. Around the late 1840’s, the Anthony farm in Rochester had become a favorite place for activists to come together. One of those activists was Frederick Douglass, with whom both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony would develop a friendship.

“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”

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– quoted from the end of Susan B. Anthony’s “Power of the Ballot” speech (probably on July 12, 1871) as printed in “Chapter XXIII: First Trip to the Pacific Coast (1871)” from The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (Complete Illustrated Edition – Volumes 1&2): The Only Authorized Biography containing Letters, Memoirs and Vignettes of the life of the World Renowned Suffragist, Abolitionist and Author and Friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Ida Husted Harper

In 1846, Susan B. Anthony accepted a position as headmistress of the girls’ department at Canajoharie Academy in Canajoharie, Montgomery County, New York. A year or two later, she was offered the position of superintendent or director of the women’s department. She was in Canajoharie, almost 173 miles away from her family, during the Seneca Falls Convention (July 19-20, 1948) and the Rochester Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 (on August 2nd), but at some point she was aware that her parents and her sister (Mary Stafford Anthony) had (at least) attended the latter.

The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women’s rights convention organized by women (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Coffin Mott, and Martha Coffin Wright) and it produced the Declaration of Sentiments. One hundred of the approximately 300 attendees to the conference signed the declaration, which Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with assistance from Mary Ann M’Clintock, had modeled after the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Cady Stanton (and her sister, Harriet Cady Eaton), Mrs. M’Clintock (plus her daughters Elizabeth W. and Mary M’Clintock and her half-sister, Margaret Pryor), Mrs. Mott, and and Mrs. Wright were among the 68 female signers; Frederick Douglass, Thomas M’Clintock, and James Mott were among the the 32 male signers.

Several online sources indicate that the three Anthony’s signed the declaration; however, they are not listed by the National Parks Service (NPS) and their names do not appear on the original document preserved by NPS. According to a media report included in The History of Women Suffrage, edited by Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper (published in 1902), no attendees at the National-American Convention of 1898 (February 13th – 19th, in Washington, D. C.) attended the Seneca Falls Convention. However, the report indicated that Mary W. Anthony stated that she had attended the Rochester convention and signed the declaration at that time.

Between her unhappy experiences as a student and the observations she made as a teacher, Susan B. Anthony found herself more and more disenchanted with the disenfranchisement of women and enslaved people. She didn’t have the same agenda as her parents and siblings, but she wanted to be paid the same as her male counterparts – for doing the same work. When she left the Canajoharie Academy around 1849/1850, she went home and found herself feeling more and more at home with the radical ideas around her. She even started to dress less and less like a traditional Quaker woman and more and more like a radical feminist. She even wore started wearing the pantaloons associated with the publisher and editor Amelia Jenks Bloomer. In fact, it was the erudite and entre Mrs. Bloomer that introduced Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851.

“It is often said, by those who know Miss Anthony best, that she has been my good angel, always pushing and goading me to work, and that but for her pertinacity I should never have accomplished the little I have. On the other hand it has been said that I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them. Perhaps all this is, in a measure, true.”

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– quoted from “X. Susan B. Anthony” in Eighty Years and More (1815 – 1897): Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a writer; Susan B. Anthony was an organizer; and their friendship was the ultimate collaboration. By the time the dynamic duo met, Mrs. Cady Stanton was a proud wife and mother of four and would eventually be the mother of seven. Contrary to the social norms of the time, she believed women should control a couple’s sexual relationships and that a woman should absolutely have domain over her body when it came to childbearing. She was equally as bold about declaring her motherhood (when others were more demure silent) and would raise a red or white flag in front of her house depending on the sex of her newborn child. Of course, her “voluntary motherhood” required a compromise when it came to social reform and that compromise required her to be at home when her husband was away. Henry Brewster Stanton was a lawyer and a politician, who was traveling ten months out of the year in the 1850’s. So, Elizabeth Cady Stanton felt she was “a caged lioness.” Her partnership with Ms. Anthony made the compromise less restrictive.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote; Susan B. Anthony organized and spoke.

This relationship, too, required compromise – and not only because the ladies had different personalities and working styles. Susan B. Anthony stopped wearing bloomers so people would listen to her rather than get distracted by her clothes. And the whole Stanton family made room for “Miss Anthony.”

When the Stanton family moved to New York City in 1861, the women had established a finely tuned system. Sometimes they would write together, sometimes Ms. Anthony would take care of the kids while Mrs. Cady Stanton wrote – but both methods required the pair to be in the same place. So, whenever the Stanton’s moved, the set up a room for Susan B. Anthony and she became part of the family.

“Eventually Anthony supplanted Henry in Elizabeth’s affections. Both Henry and Susan moved in and out of her life and her household, but overall, Stanton probably spent more hours and days with Anthony than any other adult.”

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– quoted from the “Methodological Note: Stanton in Psychological Perspective” section of In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Elisabeth Griffith

The collaboration between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton was not restricted to speeches. They co-founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society – after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was female – and the Women’s Loyal National League in 1863. The league, which used different iterations of the name, was specifically formed to lobby for the abolition of slavery. At one time they collected almost 40,000 signatures in support of abolition, which was the largest petition drive in United States history at that time. They also initiated the American Equal Rights Association (1866) and founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (1869).

On January 8, 1868, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started publishing the weekly paper The Revolution. The paper’s motto was “Men, their rights and nothing more; Women, their rights and nothing less.” In addition to women’s rights and the suffrage movement, the paper covered general politics, the labor movement, and finance. Ms. Anthony ran the business end of things. Mrs. Cady Stanton co-edited the newspaper with the abolitionist minister Parker Pillsbury. The initially received funding from the transportation entrepreneur George Francis Train – who shared their views on women’s rights, but not on abolition – but eventually transferred control of the paper to the wealthy writer and activist Laura Curtis Bullard, who toned “the revolution” down a bit.

The ladies that started it, however, did not tone down at all.

“Miss [Anna] Shaw said: ‘On Sunday, about two hours before she became unconscious, I talked with Miss Anthony and she said: “To think I have had more than sixty years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel!”’

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“I replied: ‘Your legacy will be freedom for all womankind after you are gone. your splendid struggle has changed life for women everywhere.'”

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– quoted from the obituary “Susan B. Anthony” in the Union Labor Advocate (Vol. VII. May, 1906, No. 9)

Anna Shaw was correct: Susan B. Anthony’s legacy includes the 19th amendment to the United States constitution, which was ratified fourteen years after the Miss Anthony’s death. That legacy also includes United States v. Susan B. Anthony, a very public and very publicized 1873 criminal trial that changed the fight and helped change laws that had nothing to do with the suffrage movement.

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony was arrested, indicted, “tried,” and convicted after she and fourteen other women attempted to vote in Rochester, New York. The judge over the circuit court was the newly appointed Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Associate Justice Ward Hunt. The election official, a Mr. Beverly W. Jones, testified that when he said he wasn’t sure if he could register her, she asked him if he was “acquainted with the 14th amendment.” He also testified that when said that he was, and she asked if he would consider her a citizen, the Supervisor of Elections said there was no getting around her argument. After establishing that “the defendant was, on the 5th of November, 1872, a woman,” the judge instructed the all male jury – all male because women were prohibited from serving on juries – to find the defendant guilty without discussion or deliberation, which they did. Ms. Anthony was instructed to pay a fine, of $100 plus court cases, which she did not.

Because the judge refused to jail her (for refusing to pay the fine), she was unable to take the case to the Supreme Court. The other women, who also registered and voted in that election, were arrested, but never tried. On the other hand, the election inspectors who allowed them to vote were arrested, tried, convicted, and jailed (for not paying their fines). President Ulysses S. Grant eventually pardoned the inspectors and all of the attention from the trials pushed suffrage to the front of the women’s rights movement. Justice Hunt’s controversial actions during Susan B. Anthony’s trial resulted in years of legal debate and, in Sparf v. United States, 156 U.S. 51 (1895), or Sparf and Hansen v. United States, the SCOTUS decision that a jury must apply the law based on the facts of the case; the court  may not direct the jury to return a guilty verdict; a jury may convict a defendant of a lesser crime if that is part of the case (in some cases); and that juries can – but do not have the explicit right to – dispute the law.

Over the years, Susan B. Anthony gave hundreds and hundreds of speeches. In addition to giving up the “bloomers” she considered more sensible and reasonable, she was subjected to yelling mobs that would throw rotten eggs and sometimes even furniture at her. People would brandish guns and knives and, of course (I say sarcastically) she had to continuously contend with questions about why she wasn’t married. Her answers to the questions changed depending on her mood, or perhaps, who was asking the question. My personal favorite answer was when she said that she had never wanted to spend the majority of her life as “a housekeeper and a drudge [which she would have been had she married someone poor]” and neither had she ever wanted to be “a pet and a doll [which she would have have been had she married someone rich].” But, all that being said, she believed in a woman’s right to choose… whether she got married or not.

“Marriage, to women as to men, must be a luxury, not a necessity; an incident of life, not all of it. And the only possible way to accomplish this great change is to accord to women equal power in the making, shaping and controlling of the circumstances of life.”

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– quoted from the speech “Social Purity” by Susan B. Anthony

As I mentioned over the last two weeks, some people celebrate the Lunar New Year for a handful of days and then go back to their regular routines. For some, however, there’s the Spring Festival, a 15-day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. This year, the Lantern Festival occurred on February 15th, and one of the customs turns the event into something similar to modern-day Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, women would write their contact information on oranges and then toss the oranges in the river where men would scoop them up. Then, the men would eat the oranges. A sweet orange meant the couple could potential have a good relationship, but if a bitter orange meant the match was best avoided.

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

There are several different legends associated with the Lantern Festival. There is a story about the Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty wanting every person in every class to honor the Buddha as the monks would on the fifteenth day of the year. According to another story, Dongfang Shuo (a  scholar and court jester) came upon a homesick maiden from the place. To console her and lift her out of her despair, he told the young lady that he would reunite her with her family. Then he dressed up like a fortune teller and told everyone who came to his stall that they must beg the “red fairy” for mercy on the thirteenth day of the new year or else everything would burn down in a couple of days. When the maiden, Yuan Xiao, appeared all dressed in red, people flocked to her and all that she could think to do was say she would take a message to the emperor. Of course, Dongfang had already “tricked” the emperor and convinced him to tell Yuan Xiao to make her sweet-rice dumplings called tangyuan, because they were the favorite dessert of the God of Fire.

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

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

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

There are more variations on this them, but the legend with which I am most familiar, and the one I share in the practice, is the story of the Jade Emperor and his favorite bird, a crane. This crane was beautiful and unlike any other bird or species. In some stories, the ruler of heaven and earth decided to treat people with a glimpse of the exotic bird. In other versions of the story, the crane got discombobulated and flew close to the earth. Either way, what happened next is why we can’t have nice things: Someone shot the exotic bird. The Jade Emperor was furious and decided to send down fire breathing dragons to destroy the towns and villages. The Jade Emperor’s daughter warned the townsfolk and someone suggested that if they lit lanterns, started bonfires, and set off fireworks, the dragons – who are not that smart in these stories – would think everything was already on fire. The trick worked… on the dragons. The Jade Emperor was not tricked, but his anger had passed and he decided to offer a little compassion to the people on Earth.

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

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

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

The spectacular display looks like a blossoming tree and so the name of the art form translates into English as “beating tree flowers.” Although there are a few other places in China where this art form is showcased, it is traditional to Nuanquan and there is a square in the village (“Tree Flower Square”), which was specifically built to hold tourists who travel to the village to see the display. In addition to three days of performances at the end of the Spring Festival, the tradition is also performed during the Dragon Boat Festival. Also called Double Fifth Festival, this second event takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar New Year (June 3 of this year). Although UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated Da Shuhua as a prime example of China and Hebei province’s intangible cultural heritage, the tradition may be dying out. In 2019, there were only four blacksmiths trained in the art form and the youngest was 50 years old. Wang De, one of the four, had trained his youngest son; however, like so many of the younger generations, his son had moved to the big city and started working in a different industry. His concerns, and hopes, for his legacy are not unlike those of Galileo Galilee and Susan B. Anthony.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Lantern Festival 2022”]

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

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