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FTWMI: “This is why you were brought [here]” November 29, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Love, Men, Mysticism, Pain, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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For Those Who Missed It: The following was originally posted November 29, 2020. Class details and links have been updated.

“Surprised by joy — impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport — Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind —
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? —”

– quoted from the poem, “Surprised by Joy – Impatient As The Wind” by William Wordsworth (written in memory of his daughter)

If you’re anything like me, when you think of C. S. Lewis, born today in 1898, you think of Narnia and Aslan, and Christian allegories sometimes disguised as fantasy and children’s books. Like me, you might express a little confusion over why Mr. Lewis himself said the Chronicles of Narnia were not “allegories” and you might absolutely love The Screwtape Letters even though (or maybe because) it is super dark and written so well that it almost always feels as if no one will win and “The Patient” – as well as the demons – will be condemned to everlasting turmoil. Regardless of how he defined his work, you might recognize Mr. Lewis and his writing as falling under the heading of Christian apologetics. However, if – like me – you’ve read more C. S. Lewis than you’ve studied, you might be surprised by the author’s multi-layered relationship with “Joy.”

Christian apologetics is a category of study and theology focused on the defense of Christianity. It has its foundations in Torah study and Greek philosophical discourse, but there is a long list of New Testament Biblical references to the need for “a verbal defense” of belief. One of the best examples comes from The First Epistle General of Peter.

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”

1 Epistle General of Peter (3:14 – 15, NIV)

Unlike the epistles, or letters, attributed to Saint Paul and titled to reference specific Church communities (e.g. in Corinth, Galatia, Colossae, etc.), the letters attributed to Saint Peter are more generically addressed to “strangers” in a variety of areas (in 1st Peter) and “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (in 2nd Peter, KJV). The meaning of “strangers” is debatable, but what is consistent in the letters, and in modern understanding of the letters, is that the letter are addressed to people who were subject to persecution (because of their faith), people who might have been tempted to give up their faith because of the persecution, and who – despite the persecution – experienced a faith-related longing. This longing, which Saint Peter described as “hope,” C. S. Lewis defined as “Joy.”

“The reader who finds these three episodes of no interest need read this book no further, for in a sense the central theme of my life is about nothing else. For those who are still disposed to proceed I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences; it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

 – quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was the Belfast-born youngest son of Albert James Lewis (a solicitor) and Florence “Flora” Augusta Lewis, who could be considered Irish royalty. Flora’s father was an Anglican priest; one of her great-grandfathers was Bishop Hugh Hamilton; and another of her great-grandfathers was the Right Honourable John Staples, who served as an Irish Member of Parliament for 37 years and was a descendant of titled persons in Northern Ireland. Naturally, C. S. – later known as “Jacksie” and then “Jack” – was baptized in the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, which is the second-largest church in Ireland (after the Roman Catholic Church) and identifies itself as both Catholic and Reformed. All that is to say that, he and his older brother Warren “Warnie” Hamilton Lewis were raised in a very structured, family-embedded tradition of faith.

Somewhere along the way, for a variety of reasons – and based on a variety of experiences – both brothers fell away from the Church and away from their family’s traditional beliefs.

While “Warnie,” the elder brother, finished his schooling and went on to serve 18 years in the military, the younger Lewis brother was drafted, sent to the front line on his 19th birthday, was wounded and traumatized by the death of his friends, and was sent home within a year. Once he physically recovered, “Jack” (whose nickname came from a beloved pet) went back to England to finish his studies.

Previously, at around age 15, “Jack” became interested in the occult and began to actively and publicly define himself as an atheist. As such, he spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about God, explaining why God didn’t exist, and surrounding himself with like-minded people and things. The problem was that when he returned to Oxford and started paying attention to his experiences (and the way he felt as he read, wrote, and interacted with people), he found he was being (spiritually and emotionally) sustained and nurtured by things and people who were theistic as opposed to atheistic. And the more he delved into his embodied experience, rather than just his analytical experience, the more he realized… there was something more.

“But soon (I cannot say how soon) nature ceased to be a mere reminder of the books, became herself the medium of the real joy. I do not say she ceased to be a reminder. All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. But Nature and the books now became equal reminders, joint reminders, of – well, of whatever it is. I came no nearer to what some would regard as the only genuine love of nature, the studious love which will make a man a botanist or an ornithologist. It was the mood of a scene that mattered to me; and in tasting that mood my skin and nose were as busy as my eyes”

– quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis

At around the same time, 1931, both brothers reclaimed their Christian roots and deepened their brotherly bond. They had been living together in Oxford for about a year, went on walking tours together, and participated in the weekly Thursday night “Inkling” meetings – which featured works-in-progress of the various members who were and would become literary giants in the English language. The “Inklings” – who were all white, Christian men of Oxford – included in their number the Lewis brothers, their close friend J. R. R. Tolkien (and his son Christopher, who were both raised Catholic), Charles Williams (a devout member of the [Anglican] Church of England), Henry Victor “Hugo” Dyson Dyson (a lecturer and literary collector known as H. V. D. Dyson, who was instrumental in C. S. Lewis’s return to Christianity), and Arthur Owen Barfield (“the first and last Inkling,” whose anthroposophical beliefs in a spiritual world accessed through human experience heavily influenced all the other Inklings).

C. S. Lewis’s spiritual memoir, Surprised by Joy, concludes in 1931, but wasn’t published until 1955. In the interim (around 1950), he started corresponding with a Jewish American poet (in the United States) who was estranged from her abusive husband. This woman – a child prodigy, an atheist, and former Communist, whose husband (also an author) may have introduced her to C. S. Lewis’s work – started the transatlantic correspondence because she had faith-related questions. Intrigued, and ultimately attracted, to each other’s intellect, the correspondence became more personal than theological. She frequently referenced him to others and once wrote, “Just got a letter from Lewis in the mail. I think I told you I’d raised an argument or two on some points? Lord, he knocked my props out from under me unerringly; one shot to a pigeon. I haven’t a scrap of my case left. And, what’s more, I’ve seldom enjoyed anything more. Being disposed of so neatly by a master of debate, all fair and square – it seems to be one of the great pleasures of life, though I’d never have suspected it in my arrogant youth. I suppose it’s unfair tricks of argument that leave wounds. But after the sort of thing that Lewis does, what I feel is a craftsman’s joy at the sight of a superior performance.”

The poet officially divorced her husband, converted to Christianity, and moved with her two school-aged sons to England to be with “Jack.” In April of 1956, several years after her arrival (in 1953), the couple entered into a “civil marriage” so that she and her children could stay in England. It was described as a marriage of friendship and convenience. However, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer (in October of 1956), C. S. Lewis realized he not only admired her, he loved her. He was 58 years old and surprised by Joy* – as his beloved wife was Helen Joy Davidman.

(*NOTE: C. S. Lewis was teased by his friends, but said that the title and intention of the book Surprised by Joy had nothing to do with his wife being Joy. So, you can take the overlap as serendipity… or God winking.)

“Total surrender is the first step towards the fruition of either. Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all. (And notice how the true training for anything whatever that is good always prefigures and, if submitted to, will always help us in the true training for the Christian life. That is a school where they can always use your previous work whatever the subject it was on.)”

– quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis

Yoga Sūtra 1.23: īśvarapraņidhānādvā

– “[A perfectly still, pristine state of mind] comes from a special process of devotion and letting go into Ishvara [the Divine], the creative source from which we emerged.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.45: samādhisiddhirīśvarapraņidhānāt

– “From trustful surrender to Ishvara [the Divine], [a perfectly still, pristine state of mind] comes.”

“‘To work without desire may seem impossible, but the way to do it is to substitute thoughts of Divinity for thoughts of desire. Do your work in this world with your heart fixed on the Divine instead of on outcomes. Do not worry about results. Be even tempered in success or failure. This mental evenness is what is mean by yoga…. Indeed, equanimity is yoga!’” (2.48)

“‘Those who see Me in everything and everything in Me, know the staggering truth that the Self in the individual is the Self in all. As they live in constant spiritual awareness, I am never out of their sight or lost to them – nor are they every out of My sight or lost to Me. ’” (6.30)

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

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 29th) 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 belowor (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “11292020 Jack’s Surprising Joy”]

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.)

“Your remarks about music would seem to lead back to my old idea about a face being always a true index of character… not of course exactly, but its general tone. What type of person is this girl of whom Debussy has been talking to you? As to your other suggestions about old composers like Schubert or Beethoven, I imagine that, while modern music expresses both feeling, thought and imagination, they expressed pure feeling. And you know all day sitting at work, eating, walking, etc., you have hundreds of feelings that can’t (as you say) be put into words or even into thought, but which could naturally come out in music. And that is why I think that in a sense music is the highest of the arts, because it really begins where the others leave off.”

– quoted from a letter addressed to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves (who he called “after my brother, my oldest and most intimate friend”), written by C. S. “Jack” Lewis, dated 20 June 1916

The connection between home and Joy….

“It was this that forced me to write. I longed to make things, ships, houses, engines. Many sheets of cardboard and pairs of scissors I spoiled, only to turn from my hopeless failures in tears. As a last resource, as a pis aller, I was driven to write stories instead. You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table.”

– quoted from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis


### TASTE JOY (But don’t get it twisted and confuse “lower” pleasure with the “higher”)! ###

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

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

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

– original source unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Livnam Kaur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 9th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is on YouTube and Spotify.

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

(And, if you want some Bruce….)

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

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

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

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

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

That was what the living did: they died.”

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

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

by only me is your doing,my darling)“

.

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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2 Maccabees (12:44 – 46)

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 2nd) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

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

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

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### “BA-DUM. BA-DUM. BA-DUM.” ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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### “BA-DUM. BA-DUM. BA-DUM.” ###

Curious About: Houdini’s Last Month (and Allhallowtide)? November 1, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Mysticism, Religion, Suffering.
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Many blessings to those observing Allhallowtide y Día de (los) Muertos!

“My brain is the key that sets me free.”

– Harry Houdini’s motto, as quoted in the Houdini Museum (Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Harry Houdini died October 31, 1926 – it was a tragic end of a very bad month for the magician/illusionist. Click here to read a little history of Halloween and about why Houdini had such a bad month.

### This is just a teaser. Trick or Treat? ###

FTWMI*: Introducing….Your Mind-Body October 18, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Health, Life, Music, Mysticism, Philosophy, Yoga.
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[*This time last year, I mentioned that the Carry app had won an American Heart Association startup grant and was in the running for a second national grant. While we didn’t win the public popularity vote, the initial grant is funding the videos we are currently filming – videos featuring some new (to Carry) yoga teachers and a wide range of pregnant and postpartum people. During our first day of filming, we completed videos suitable for all trimesters – and the things one might experience during the different trimesters: different moods and schedules, as well as different aches and ailments. There’s a little something for everyone, and I think everyone experiencing the journey of parenthood will see themselves reflected on the app.

For Those Who Missed It: A variation of the following was originally posted in October 2021. References to a “floating holiday” have been deleted.

“Enormous activities are going on in our body; in our brain, in our heart, in our digestive system and in every cell of the body. Few people are aware of their physical beings. Body is the starting point in the spiritual journey.

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The dynamic play of the energy of pure consciousness is taking place in each cell of our body, in every moment. The subtle vibrations and the movement of the energies in the body are the doorways to realize the Divine union.”

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– quoted from OM Sutra: The Pathway to Enlightenment by Amit Ray and Banani Ray

 

It is easier to remember that other people have had experiences that I have never had than it is to remember that I have had experience that other people have never had. For instance, I am amazed at how often I have to remind myself that everyone – even people with whom I have shared the practice for over a decade – haven’t taken every class; read every blog post, article, and book; seen every movie, play, ballet, and concert; and/or heard every dharma talk, sermon, parashah, lecture, interview, and TedTalk that I have taken, read, seen, and/or heard. Sometimes I actually chuckle at the number of times a week that I have to remind myself of Yoga Sūtra 2.20, which states that we can only see what our mind-intellect shows us and we can only understand what we are shown.

So, every once in a while, I chuckle at myself and remember to reintroduce some foundational aspect of my practice. 

Today is one of those foundation days.

Since I am not teaching on Zoom today, people on the Wednesday class list, will receive links to previously recorded practices. If you are not on the Wednesday list, you can request an audio recording of either practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.]

The playlist that we originally used for this practice is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “07112020 An Introduction”]

Alternatively, another playlist that will also work is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05252022 Pratyahara II”]

Here is a previous post related to this practice.

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

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### WHAT ARE YOU PRACTICING? ###

 

For Those Who Are Grateful (just the music & felicitations) October 11, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Life, Music, Mysticism, Religion, Sukkot, Women, Yoga.
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“Chag sameach!” to anyone who is observing Sukkot.

Please join me today (Tuesday, October 11th) 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 “Sukkot 2.75 for 10112022”]

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’s “In There” That’s So Important? (just the music & felicitations) October 4, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Life, Music, Mysticism, New Year, Religion, Women, Yoga, Yom Kippur.
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“Chag sameach!” to anyone who is observing the High Holidays and (“Happy Festival!”) also to anyone celebrating Navaratri.

Please join me today (Tuesday, October 4th) 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 “High Holidays: Drop Your Bags”]

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.)

###  🎶 ###

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 ###

Just A Little (More) Alchemy (mostly the music) August 17, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Music, Mysticism, Yoga.
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“7. He saw the brilliant gem before him, but became mistrustful of his sight and the reality of the object before it; as a poor man hearing of his sudden elevation to royalty, mistrusts the report and doubts its being meant for him.”

“27. The affections which are brought to one by his own ignorance, are by far greater than those which are caused by his old age and the torments of death. The calamity of ignorance supercedes [sic] all other earthly affections, as the black hairs rise on the top of the body and cover the crown of the head.”

– quoted from “CHAPTER LXXXVIII. The Tale of the crystal Gem.” in The Yoga-Vasishtha Maharamayana of Valmiki (translated by Vihari-Lala Mitra)

Please join me today (Wednesday, August 17th) 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 “08172021 A Little More Alchemy”]

 

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.)

###  🎶 ###