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THROWBACK THURSDAY! March 26, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Dharma, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Minneapolis, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Passover, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Robert Frost, Suffering, Tantra, Tennessee Williams, Texas, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Lonely . . . When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.”

– Don Quixote in the Prologue to Camino Real by Tennessee Williams (b. 3/26/1911)

Just because we are alone – and in some cases lonely – is not a reason to go it alone. Tennessee Williams wrote, “For time is the longest distance between places.” “Throwback Thursday” is a way to look back, but we can’t actually go back in time, we can’t bridge that distance of which Williams speaks. We can, however, bridge the physical distance of social isolation by reaching out (virtually speaking, of course).

Call, text, email, write a letter, make a chalk drawing, or use any of a variety of technological advances to connect to a stranger or a friend. Remember, we are all in this together – and we will succeed or fail based on how we are together, even when we are apart. Remember, in A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois says, “I always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Right now, we are all Blanche…but we are also those strangers.

Love/ loving-kindness (chesed in Hebrew) is an aspect of the Divine. In fact, not only is it one of the ten ways (according to Jewish mysticism) that G-d is revealed to the world, it is one of the 7 aspects people contemplate if they are counting the Omer during Passover. Just like in Eastern philosophies, like yoga, Kabbalism associates loving-kindness with the arms (specifically, the right arm). As you go through your practice – or through your day – bring awareness to how you use your right arm. Are you using it to express your heart or withhold your heart?

“(1) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. (3) If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

– 1st Corinthians 13:1 – 3 (the part just before all the “famous parts” people use in weddings, movies, and songs)

Consider, for a moment, that when Saint Paul and Sosthenes wrote their letter to the church in Corinth, before they spoke of what love was, they spoke of what love was not. This is very similar to passages which appear in the Upanishads, ancient Sanskrit texts, where a teacher – and then his spouse – point out that the Divine is not this or that (neti, neti) thing that is so obvious. The Divine is not (just) what is obviously seen, but what is unseen, what is felt. (Yes, yes, but neti,neti: this is not the throwback you’re looking for.)

We can never really know how much it means to someone when we do something nice for them simply out of the kindness of our hearts. They can say thank you a million times – and we may even feel the sincerity of their gratitude – and yet that feeling pales in comparison to the love they felt from the kindness.

“Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.”

– excerpt from the poem “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost (b. 3/26/1874)

For Throwback Thursday, here’s last year’s post about the birthday authors I typically include in today’s practice.

While I am not teaching today (Thursday), I am going to spend part of today and Friday updating my schedule to reflect streaming classes I will start offering Saturday – Wednesday.

Right now I am planning to offer seven (7) classes on Zoom. These are (mostly) during times when I had studio classes and they will be (mostly) open for anyone to attend. You can purchase or renew a package on my online store or you can make a donation to Common Ground. (Donations are tax deductible and I will receive the bulk of the donation.)

I want you to practice; so don’t let any financial issues be an obstacle you can’t get over! If you need it, I got you. Yoga means union.

 

### BETTER & BETTER ###

RELAX * RELEASE * REST * RENEW * HEAL – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2019 December 18, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Advent, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Football, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma Yoga, Life, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mysticism, New Year, Passover, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Surya Namaskar, Tantra, Taoism, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Yin Yoga, Yoga.
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Start the New Year with a 2-hour retreat into yourself. Enfold into the wisdom of your heart and let your heart’s desire unfold. Be inspired.

Despite our modern day penchant for fireworks and parties, a new year begins much as it ends: quietly. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we observe the secular New Year when much of nature is hibernating. We hustle and bustle, struggling to start, continue, or end. Meanwhile, beneath the surface, things and beings are waiting.

Waiting…it seems so passive and unyielding.

Waiting…it is easy to forget the importance of resting, relaxing, and being still…letting things germinate and take root.

Waiting…. In many philosophies and religions, including the Abrahamic religions, great emphasis is put on the importance of waiting, specifically because something or someone is coming.

Yet, no one really wants to wait for our dreams to come true. We want it now! And, we want to be actively working towards that goal. Unfortunately, sometimes, we forget about the importance of waiting…resting…reflecting…planning.

As one year ends and another begins, we are given the opportunity to reflect and plan. We can reflect on the events of the previous year – and how we dealt with them. We can plan for a new year of events – and how we want to deal with them. Making a resolution, even informally, seems natural to some and inevitable to others. It can also seem futile when you consider that (according to some statistics) only about 8% of people who make a resolution actually follow through with them.

Why are resolutions so hard to keep?

Resolutions are just like any other goal or dream that has a lot of expectation attached to it. In order for us to succeed we have to be all in – otherwise, we falter at the first obstacle. In order to be all in, we have to understand what it is we really want or need.

Ask yourself, how does this goal or desire serve me?

Every goal, every desire, every resolution has a purpose. Tapping into the power of the purpose, how the goal or desire serves us, allows us to connect to the underlying intention. Intention is compelling. Intention is the driving force that allows us to see an opportunity to succeed where we might otherwise falter.

Consider this sports analogy: Let’s say you’re a football team with a stellar passing game. Everybody knows your team has a stellar passing game; but, when you’re in the zone it doesn’t matter that the other team is trying to sack your quarterback or intercept every pass – there’s always a pocket, there’s always a hole. The problem comes in when you’re not in the zone and/or when you’re playing a team with an exceptional defensive line. A professional team, ideally, has practiced other options. However, even the pros play to their strengths and, sometimes strengths become blind spots. When it feels like everything is on the line – but nothing is going their way – that’s when we hit our blind spots. And, even the pros can end up in a situation where they’re strengths no longer serve them. Even the pros may forget that there are different ways to achieve the goal.

In The Four Desires, Rod Stryker outlines a formula for success which he calls the Creation Equation. Simply stated, the sum of the intensity of your desire plus the intensity of your efforts to achieve the goal has to be greater than the intensity of the resistance. Keep in mind, the resistance can come from a lot of different sources – including other people. Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes the intensity of the resistance increases when your desire gets misplaced or transferred.

In the aforementioned sports analogy, for example, both teams have a strong desire to win. Each team’s desire represents a portion of the other team’s resistance. When practicing, however, the team with the stellar passing game focused their desire on having a stellar passing game. On the other hand, the exceptional defensive line focused on stopping everything. When it’s game time, the latter doesn’t care what you throw at them, they’re intense desire (i.e., their focus and their intention) is on stopping everything – by any means necessary. That intention puts them in the zone.

Every year, at the end of the 108 Sun Salutations, I lead a guided meditation which includes a group sankalpa that I then incorporate into my Saturday classes at the YMCA. The word sankalpa means will, determination, vow or intention. It can also mean resolution. But, the difference between the English and the Sanskrit is that within the Sanskrit word there is the vow and the way to achieve the vow, there is a guiding principle and the dedication to following it. A sankalpa combines the desire with the effort. To connect and to stay connected to that highest vow, it is important to clear the mind and focus/concentration/meditation on the heart’s desire.

When outlining the philosophy of the yoga in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali put particular emphasis on the combined power of the last three (3) limbs of the practice: focus, concentration, and (perfect) meditation (YS 3:4-6). He also mentioned that there are five (5) ways, including tapah (“training the senses” or “austerity”) and samadhi (“meditation”), to reach higher awareness (YS 4:1).

The New Year’s Day japa-ajapa mala if 108 Sun Salutations is a vigorous practice which fits into the category of tapah and can involve samadhi. While not vigorous, a Yin Yoga practice, which involves settling into a special series of poses for long holds, also fits into the categories of tapah and samadhi. Both can clear the mind so that you can bring your full awareness to your heart’s desire.

My 2019 New Year’s Day mala is full, but I will post other practice opportunities. Also, I am excited to offer a Yin Yoga practice with guided mediation (5 – 7 PM). If you are interested in joining me for this special candlelight practice on New Year’s Day, please email me (Myra at ajoyfulpractice.com).

WHO: Everyone is welcome!

WHAT: A Yin Yoga practice addresses the deep tissue and connective tissue through a special series of supported poses held for 3 – 5 minutes. Props and awareness of the body creates an opportunity to relax the outer musculature. This candlelight practice also includes guided meditation.

WHERE & WHEN: Nokomis Yoga at 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

WHEN: Tuesday, January 1, 2019

COST: This is a donation-based event. Since space is limited, please email Myra at ajoyfulpractice.com to save your spot.

~ HAPPY NEW YEAR! ~

#PrayforPeace August 2, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Karma Yoga, Lent, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Passover, Peace, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Science, Suffering, Sukkot, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Yoga.
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A funny thing happened when I was getting ready for the classes I do at the end of Ramadan. I say “funny” meaning “ironic,” but it’s also something that got a laugh. And, it was also something incredibly profound and fitting.

Reba McEntire released a new song.

For the last three (3) years, at some point during the last 10 days of Ramadan – and for 2 – 3 days after Ramadan, my class themes focus on this holy time for Muslims. My “lessons” are pretty basic: I outline Kriya Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras and briefly explain that “ritual actions” which combine purification/training of the senses, self study in the context of sacred teachings, and dedication to a divine source occur in every major religion and philosophical practice. (Think, for example, about Lent, a Vipassana retreat, Sukkot, Passover – or Ramadan.) After explaining the basic premise of Ramadan, I outline the Five (5) Pillars of Islam; and break down six (6) Articles of Faith. I point out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all Abrahamic religions – meaning they share one historical origin. I also talk about the importance of the last 10 days with regard to Laylat al-Qadr and the power of prayer, especially as it relates to peace. And, as always, I try to include poses and music which reinforce the message.

OK, before I go any further, let me answer the two (2) most popular questions: Why would you do that? What’s it to you?

More often than not, I pick a theme because it has MEANING. The all caps means it has BIG meaning, so big that (dare I say it) it is universal. Or, at the very least, is accessible to a large group of really diverse people. The theme is a way to get everyone on the same page. And, getting everyone together (on the same page) is one definition of yoga.

Going deeper, going off the mat: It is also an opportunity to expose people to information that might not otherwise discover or seek out on there own. The Twin Cities have a large Muslim population – and, an estimated 1.6 billion people in the world practice Islam. However, many people in the West (including here in the Twin Cities) only know about the faith when it is in the news. And, unfortunately, Islam is in the news a lot because of negative situations. (Keep in mind, the majority of the people in the world who faithfully practice a religious faith are not making the news!) So, here again, is an opportunity to practice yoga – to come together.

If I play a song with lyrics during a Ramadan class, then the musician is Muslim. That’s been my personal modus operandi. I realize that within the Muslim community there is debate about what is permissible (halal) when it comes to music. I have considered only playing a cappella  music or voices accompanied only by percussion; however, in the end I’ve played a wide variety – all inspirational and devotional in some way. And, again, all songs with lyrics are performed by Muslim musicians.

This year, however, I felt like something – a song – was missing. I kept going back and forth between my Ramadan mixes and music in my library that I had chosen not to use. Nothing extra fit. So, for the first class, I left well enough alone. But, I still had that nagging sensation. Between classes, I was surfing the internet and I came across Reba’s new song Pray for Peace.

When I decided to include Pray for Peace in my remaining Ramadan mixes I wanted to be very clear that (so far as I know) Reba is not a Muslim. People seemed to find that statement funny – or maybe it was nervous laughter. Either way, I thought being clear was the best way to respect all the musicians on my playlists. This song, Reba’s call to prayer, was also another way for people to come together.

At first, all you hear are beats/foot steps; then what sounds like bagpipes (and maybe a fiddle). Then, for about 2 minutes, Reba sings, “Pray for Peace.” Over and over. “Pray for Peace.” Even when the lyrics evolve she doesn’t tell you how to pray or to “whom” you pray – she just asks that you pray. And, although the song requests that you pray for peace, the request is open ended: the nature of peace is not defined.

Granted, there was a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when Reba wrote the song last year. And a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when she released the song. But, I find it very interesting/ironic that this call to prayer was released (for free) during a time when 1.6 billion people on the planet believe their prayers are magnified.

Right about now, somebody is doing the math and thinking, “Well, yeah, 1.6 billion seems like a lot – but that’s only about a sixth of the world’s population.” This is very true. But before you discount the value of those 1.6 billion people, add in all the non-Muslims who were going to pray during Ramadan anyway. Now, add in all the other people on the planet who were meditating, or singing, or sighing, or dancing, or crying, or wishing and hoping.

Now, let’s say all people were on the same page.

 

~ Om Shanti Shanti Shanthi Om ~