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Holy April 2020 April 5, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 7-Day Challenge, Baha'i, Bhakti, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma Yoga, Lent, Loss, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Passover, Peace, Ramadan, Religion, Suffering, Wisdom.
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“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”

– Matthew 18:20

When I was growing up in the church(es) down South, I heard it all the time, “we are gathered here today” – and not just for weddings. For a minister or a preacher to mention that we were gathered was to remind us WHY we were together. It was an implied invocation, just as it is intended in Matthew 18:20. It is also a bit of a shibboleth.

West Wing fans will smile and tell you they understand, if not the word, at least the modern lesson: that being able to pronounce the word correctly was a password of sorts that distinguished one Tribe of Israel from another. Nowadays that meaning also extends to shared-experiences, like hearing or thinking the words “we are gathered here today” and imagining a Western wedding…or a tent revival.

Etymologist, linguists, rabbis, and Hebrew scholars will smile and nod, and perhaps point out that the Hebrew word itself refers to “ear of grain” or “the part of the plant that contains the grain.” So, when you sow (or plant) it is with the intention of reaping (or harvesting) the sibbolėt.

Sometimes, however, we miss the point – and start focusing on the word instead of the harvest or the fruits of our labor.

For weeks, months, (even a year for some), people have been getting ready for this month (and even for this time next year). This year, April brings all the things I mentioned in an earlier post, plus a plethora of religious and spiritual holidays. In fact, for many people around the world this month marks their holiest times – even though they are of different faiths from each other.

However, it’s not only the month that these different faiths have in common this year. From Chaitra Navaratri and Rama Navami to Hanuman Jayanti (in Hindu traditions); from 2 different Holy Weeks and Easter (in the Roman Catholic/Western Christian and the Eastern/Greek Orthodox traditions) to Passover (in the Jewish tradition) and Ramadan (in the Muslim tradition); from celebrations of the Buddha’s birth (in April and in May) to Sikhs celebrating the beginning of their faith with Vaisakhi and Baha’I commemorating Ridván, all of these holy celebrations are traditional observed in community. This year, of course, there’s an extra test of faith as people are figure out how to observe their faith and, simultaneously, practice social distancing.

Or not; because the reality is that some will not observe social distancing and that decision will come with consequences.

Those outside of a certain faith may not understand the compulsion of tradition and faith. Those within a certain faith may not understand what is most important. What is the grain? What is the original intention? Did Jesus say you couldn’t gather on Zoom or YouTube? (I’m asking for friends.)

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”

– Psalm 24:3-4

At the beginning of Lent, I often tell the story of “a little old lady” who goes to a fast food restaurant and almost forgets that it’s Lent. I tell the story to describe something I think we are currently seeing highlighted all over the world:

There was a time when everything people did had a purpose.

Over time, some of the meaning was lost and those rituals became traditions or customs.

Over time, some more meaning was lost and those traditions just became something we do because our ancestors and elders told us it was important to do.

As more time passes, and more meaning was lost, what once had a purpose just becomes something we say. Shibboleth.

If you are available, please join me for a (Western) Palm Sunday yoga practice on Zoom, today (Sunday, April 5th) 2:30 PM – 3:35 PM CST. You can find my Palm Sunday playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

Due to security concerns, Zoom has updated their protocols and additional security measures go into place today/Sunday. One of these features means you will be in a “waiting room” until I open the virtual doors of the virtual studio.

Please check the “Class Schedules” calendar for links to upcoming classes. You can use the same Meeting ID as last week’s class, however, if you are prompted to use a password, please try using the link from the calendar. If you were unable to attend last week, check out the access details in the calendar description for Sunday, April 5th. Feel free to text or email me if you run into a problem before the class begins.

“Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There’s room for all
Among the loved and lost

Now there ain’t no room
For the hopeless sinner
Whose hard on mankind
Just to save his own”

– from “People Get Ready” by Eva Cassidy


Don’t forget we’re getting ready for Kiss My Asana!

Kiss My Asana is an annual yogathon, to raise awareness and resources for Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program. Founded by Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions helps those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. They provide classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals.

This year’s yogathon is only a week long. Seven days, at the end of the month, to do yoga, share yoga, and help others.  By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

Are you getting ready?

You don’t need to wait until the end of the month, however, to consider how you might participate. Start thinking now about how you can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day, how you can learn something new about your practice, or even how you would teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 5th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 5th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 5th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

A Poetry Practice

A Preview of the April 5th Practice OR (A Preview of the Palm Sunday Practice)




#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 ~