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Are You Ready? Are You Ready…to Kiss My Asana? April 1, 2017

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Mathematics, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tantra, Texas, TV, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Are you ready? Are you ready? / For what’s to come…Oh, I said Are you ready? / Are you ready? For what’s to come / Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one / Count down to…”

Are You Ready by Creed

It’s that time again! Spring? Yes, but also it’s time for Kiss My Asana. For the fourth year in a row, I am joining joyful yogis everywhere to raise awareness and resources for Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga programs.

Matthew Sanford and the other teachers at Mind Body Solutions are committed to a yoga practice which “transcends ability and disability, opens people’s lives to new possibilities, and transforms the delivery of health care.” The annual yogathon is a virtual four-week challenge open to anyone, anywhere, and it’s pretty much open to any way you want to do more yoga, learn more about yoga, and share more yoga.

“Are you ready? For what’s to come?”

Then let’s get started. There are a lot of ways to help raise awareness and resources during the month of April. Here are just a few suggestions.

Erika teaches a Vin-Yin class at Nokomis, and her KMA class will be a Slow Flow Vinyasa. The classes I host (or co-host) will be inspired by the practice principles featured in the adaptive yoga DVD “Beyond Disability” as led by Matthew Sanford. (Please RSVP using the links above if you would like to join one of these donation-based classes.)

  • You can challenge yourself by practicing one thing (an asana, pranayama, or a meditation) every day for 30 days.
  • You can use yoga to embody your favorite story, song, emotion, poem, prayer, visual art, person, or moment in time.
  • You can blog, tweet, instagram, or Facebook link about how your yoga practice on the mat transforms your experiences off the mat.

This is all good, but “What,” you might ask, “are you (Myra) doing as the virtual part of this year’s Kiss My Asana?”

Good question. As you may have noticed (especially after last year), I love questions. I’ve fallen for “Questions” by R. S. Thomas and, like the Creed song quoted above, my personal playlist currently features question-centered songs by Fink, X Ambassadors, Ed Sheeran, Cole Swindell, and Garth Brooks (naturally)!

 

In my favorite “Letters To A Young Poet” passage, Ranier Maria Rilke urges Franz Kappus: “… try to love the questions themselves…. the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”

 

Oh, and did I mention that questions led me to yoga teacher training?

 

When I started practicing in Texas, I often encountered people whose only intersection with yoga was me. These people had questions – lots and lots of questions. I, unfortunately, had no answers…other than telling people they could come with me to practice. When some of my teachers suggested teacher training, I thought, “Sure, someday. Then I’ll know some answers – or, at least, know a resource where someone could live (or practice) their way into their own answers.” Flash forward to “someday” and I’m in Minneapolis attending a teacher training focused on teaching people how to teach – and everybody had to teach.

 

So, last year I asked people questions. This year, you get to ask me questions. Answer word count will be divisible by 108.

Want to ask me a question? You can make a comment below, ask me before or after a class, or send an email to myra at ajoyfulpractice.com. Subscribers to ajoyfulpractice.com will receive my answers as they are posted – or, you can check back here throughout April.

 

### Peace In, Peace Out ###

Yet another reason I love Dianne Bondy! July 19, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Life, Love, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Science, Super Heroes, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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(Not that we really need more reasons, but if you’re viewing this through your email you might need this link.)

### THIS IS WHAT A YOGI LOOKS LIKE ###

2016 Kiss My Asana #27: You’re a Wonder, Wonder Woman! February 29, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Texas, Tragedy, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

– William Moulton Marston in “The American Scholar” (1943)

 

If you had asked me, years ago, what I admired and found so endearing about a certain friend of mine, I would have floundered a bit. Oh, it wasn’t that I couldn’t have come up with hundreds, maybe thousands, of platitudes – after all, she’s authentic, fun and funny, quirky, one half of an amazing couple, emotionally intelligent, beautiful and strong, driven, unexpectedly deep, full of grace and love …. See, the list goes on. No, the issue wouldn’t have been finding words to describe Amber K. (Yogi #27); the issue would have been capturing her essence. The issue would have been describing the multidimensional heart beneath the surface.

 “Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.”

“Wonder Woman Theme” by Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

 

“… beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules, and as swift as Hermes.”

– attributes of Diana Prince, as described in “Wonder Woman (Vol 1) #159”, April 1959

People back in 1941, had some of the same concerns we have right now: debates over gun control and birth control; struggles with equality in the work place; war around the world, especially between people with different ethnicites and religious beliefs; politics and economy being driven by the war efforts; and immigration issues related to the war. The list goes on. What’s different, perhaps, is that towards the end of 1941, psychologist William Moulton Marston, inspired by his two wives, gave the world the hero they so desperately needed: Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman. She was a role model – not just for women, but for everyone.

NOTE: The original Wonder Woman was not born an American, but she defended the United States and all its inhabitants. She had a strong relationship with the divine – which was the source of her powers. She was so dedicated to the truth that she had a “Lasso of Truth” – along with a healthy physique, indestructible bracelets, and a tiara (cause, duh, princess). I’m pretty sure her invisible plane had a nonexistent carbon footprint. And, unlike other classic superheroes, she wasn’t from outer space – or tasered by an alien race, she wasn’t poisoned by something (like a radioactive spider), she didn’t have mutant DNA, and she wasn’t driven by childhood traumas or struggling with dark triad psychosis. Wonder Woman was just all human – unapologetically strong, fierce, proud, beautiful, intelligent, humble, and compassionate. When she faced challenges (like losing her powers) she found a solution (learning martial arts). She focused on restoration rather than retaliation and believed people could be redeemed.

If you look at Amber K. and see Wonder Woman, you’re getting closer to the truth.

 “Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fold,
Change their minds,
and change the world.”

– “Wonder Woman Theme” by Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

I’m convinced Wonder Woman was a yogi. Look at the evidence: She consistently exhibited strong mental focus and clarity, plus her agility was a sign of balance between strength and flexibility. Also, her capacity for turning loving-kindness into a game changer was reminiscent of the siddhis (so-called “supernormal powers” outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras). Finally, consider how the world would be a really different place if more of us interacted with each other the way Wonder Woman interacts with the people around her.

By the same token, Amber K. is a verified yogi as well as a belly dancer. She is generous with her comments – both positive and negative – in a way that is constructive and insightful. She works with and around her limitations with grace – never complaining, always breathing through what comes up. Her interactions with herself and the people around her imply a certain level of respect for herself and the people around her. Her personal and professional interactions also require a certain level of awareness about the rhythm of life, how things ebb and flow. I guarantee you, the world would be a really different place if more of us related to each other the way Amber K. relates to the people around her.

Oh, and did I mention that I’ve never seen Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and Wonder Woman/Amber K. in the room together? Makes me wanna go, “Hmmm.”

 

“Steve is impressed with Diana’s understanding, compassion, and belief that people can change. ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘Where I was raised we were taught that good must triumph over evil; and that women and men can change.’”

– Excerpt from Ink-stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology By Jennifer K. Stuller

 

“I did nothing! It was Wonder Woman!”

– Captain / Major Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman series

Amber K. is one of those people who consistently reminds me that we don’t have to stop practicing yoga just because our bodies and minds (or even our personal situations) change. But, changes in our mind-body may sometimes require a change in the way we practice. And, ultimately, that’s the beauty of yoga: it meets us where we are, accepts us as we are, and embraces all that we are.

Mind Body Solutions and the KISS MY ASANA yogathon raise awareness about the fact that our physical practice of yoga can change to accommodate our needs. If we (or a teacher) have the knowledge base to change and grow within the practice our yoga practice will advance – which doesn’t always mean we’re doing more “advanced” poses. Sometimes the challenge is accepting our limitations with grace. Sometimes, to get the most benefit out of the pose (and our practice) we have to fully commit to the modification. William Moulton Marston said, “Every crisis offers you extra desired power…. Besides the practical knowledge which defeat offers, there are important personality profits to be taken.” Our time on the mat allows us to cultivate life skills we can use off the mat – but, here again, we have to turn inward and be honest about what we find. We have to keep moving, keep breathing, and keep flowing.

Please, KISS MY ASANA if you are grateful for what you find in your yoga practice! Your donation will help others find a practice for which they too will be grateful – and the circle will be unbroken. Remember, Lynda Carter said, “You know that if you can affect one person’s life in your entire lifetime in a positive way, that your life is worth living.”
 

A big giant thank you to the 15 yogis who held the space and shared the practice my donation-based KISS MY ASANA class on Saturday, February 27th(details coming soon). If you’re interested, there are still spaces available for March 5th (6:30 – 8:00 PM at Flourish). Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two). Space is limited.

2016 Kiss My Asana #12: The Fixer February 13, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tantra, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“…every person is obligated to say, ‘For my sake alone the world was created.’ That doesn’t mean the world is mine to consume everything indiscriminately (although God does want us to enjoy the pleasures of this world).

What it does mean is that we must take responsibility for any problem in the world. If you recognize a problem – whether it be a piece of litter on the street or a major social issue that needs adjusting – you shouldn’t just say ‘someone else will deal with it.’ There is nobody else. In God’s eyes, the rule is: You saw it, you fix it.”

– Aish Rabbi on Tikkun Olam

 

Underlying the mystical Jewish concept of tikkun olam is the idea that everything and everyone was once part of a divine whole, that everything and everyone is somehow disconnected, and that everything and everyone has a role in putting the pieces back together again. In modern times this concept is often translated as “repair the world.” However, some scholars also refer to tikkun olan as “establish the world” – which brings me to another of my favorite ideals (the story of the 36) and one of my favorite yogis (Meghan G, #12).

According to the Talmud, there are always at least 36 righteous people in the world. These Lamed-Vav Tzadikim (“36 righteous ones”) are also known as Nistram (“the concealed ones”); so called because they are unknown even to themselves. They live quiet, unassuming lives. They do the right thing as much as they are able – simply because it is the right thing, and they are able. They are so humble they could never imagine that they will “greet the Shekhinah” – Divinity in a feminine form – or that their very existence ensures humanity’s continued existence.

If we let go of dogma, add the idea of the Tikkun Olam to the concept of Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, and use the result as a model to guide our lives, we might just embody the “Prayer of St. Francis” – or a Pearl Jam song.

When something’s dark, let me shed a little light on it
When something’s cold, I wanna put a little fire on it
If something’s old, I wanna put a little shine on it
If something’s gone, I wanna fight to get it back again

– Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer” from Los Angeles 1 USA 9-30-2009 concert

 

I’m not going to say Meghan G is one of the 36 – but, I’m not going to say she’s not. What I will say is that she lives and practices, on and off the mat, with a powerfully humble and grace-filled awareness. Her awareness stays fixed on the idea that while we may feel disconnected, we are all connected to (and through) the Divine. She reminds me of the “sort of optimistic and playful melody and lyric” side of Eddie Vedder’s personality that Stone Gossard says we glimpse in “The Fixer.”

 

“I’ll say your prayers, I’ll take your side
I’ll find us a way to make light”

– Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer” from Los Angeles 1 USA 9-30-2009 concert

 

In 2009, when asked if the title of “The Fixer” referred to him, Vedder said, “My answer is, aren’t we all? Maybe I’m wrong to think that, but it seems like we are…. I’m thinking more on a worldview or a community view.” In a later interview, he would also say, “This is a reminder song to me, to stop fixing.”

If you attend a traditional class led by Matthew Sanford, he might greet you by asking what ails you. He has said that, when people come to his teacher training, he often asks them, “Who are you trying to fix?” Ultimately, both questions lead to the awareness that while we think we need to fix (or establish) ourselves – in order to fix (or establish) the world – what we are really “fixing” through our practice is our awareness. The connection is already there; our yoga practice is just a way to awaken it! Please KISS MY ASANA to help Mind Body Solutions transform the way people think about their mind-body.

~ LOKAH SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

2016 KISS MY ASANA #7:Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now! February 7, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Helen Keller, Hope, Karma Yoga, Langston Hughes, Life, Loss, Mantra, Maya Angelou, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Suffering, Texas, Tragedy, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom (Sophia) is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Proverbs 8:10 – 11

 

“One does not accomplish great ends in some by-and-by future, O Warrior. Only in the present can you hammer out real achievement….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 meant by “yoga” (union with God). Indeed, equanimity is “yoga”!

Bhagavad Gita 2:47-48, abridged

 

Where to begin was the challenge in writing today’s post. Do I focus on Yogi #7’s inner light? Her outer beauty? Her kindness? Her intelligence? The strength of her character; and, the fact that she and I in a room together is like an exclamation point on “I Dream a World” by Langston Hughes and the similarly named speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?!?!?!?

Hmm, maybe I should just focus on the practice. But, even then, I could write a book about what a privilege it is to be a small part of Yogi #7’s practice.

Mathea (Yogi #7) has the strength, the grace, the focus, the discipline, the wisdom, and the devotion to practice anywhere. What she doesn’t have is the luxury to spend all her time on the mat – she’s a householder (meaning she has the luxury of a lovely family, an extended circle of friends, a variety of interests, and a demanding job). Still, she could choose to practice anywhere. And, being a true yogi, she would appreciate and learn from the experience. So, whenever Mathea walks through the door, grins, giggles, asks a question, offers guidance, learns something new, or breathes in my vicinity I feel truly blessed.

“Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.”

– Excerpt from Wouldn’t Take Nothing From My Journey Now by Maya Angelou

Even more than appreciating the gift that is her presence in the present, I appreciate Mathea’s constant (albeit tacit) reminder that our yoga practice, like life, is a messy, messy process – and an unexpected heroine journey which requires us to fearlessly play with wise caution.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over His works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

– Excerpt from Let Us Have Faith by Helen Keller

 “There’s nothing in the world that’ll ever take the place of God’s love. / Silver & gold couldn’t buy a mighty touch from above. / When my soul needs healin’ I begin to feelin’ His power, / I can say thank the Lord, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.

– “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing” (traditional gospel)

 

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”

Philippians 3:17

 

Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”

 “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

– Excerpts from Wouldn’t Take Nothing From My Journey Now by Maya Angelou

There are people who appreciate the benefits of their yoga practice just as much as (if not more than) Mathea and I appreciate ours. However, not everyone has the privilege we do. Not everyone has the luxury of walking into a studio or a gym anywhere on the planet and practicing with whomever is leading. Not everyone feels welcomed. Not everyone knows they can practice yoga – even in a wheelchair, or a brace, or after experiencing trauma and loss. Matthew Sanford and Mind Body Solutions are changing how people think about yoga; they are transforming how people integrate their mind-body on and off the mat. You can KISS MY ASANA if you want to be part of this change!

~ Jai Guru Dev Jai Jai ~

Happy Wisdom Day: To Noble Kings January 16, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Mathematics, Men, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Tragedy, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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Today we celebrate the birthday
of a man who believed in angels and dreams.
We know he believed in the latter,
because he told us straight up,
“I have a dream…”
He was a man of faith,
who believed he could hear God’s voice (when Mahalia Jackson sings).
But did you know that
Dr. Martin Luther King
believed in living a three dimensional life?

– the beginning of my 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday class

 

This week has been a week of wisdom and legacy – or, maybe, that’s the legacy of wisdom. Monday was the birthday of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (b.1/11/1907), one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, who said, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” And, after each of my Monday classes, at least one person mentioned how inspired they have been (throughout their lives) by the blessing of Rabbi Heschel’s life. The thing is, on the outside, these people couldn’t have been more different (from each other and from Heschel) if they tried – and that’s the living legacy of Heschel: on the inside, we are all amazed by evidence of the Divine; on the inside, we are all seeking a relationship with the Divine.

“I prayed with my feet.” – Rabbi Heschel when asked if he found time to pray when he was marching to Selma.

The idea that one can pray with your whole body is not a foreign concept to me – nor would it have been to Rabbi Heschel, who was a professor of the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). According to Marcus J. Freed (whose The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment combines weight training and yoga with Jewish mysticism), seven of the “10 Divine energies that emanate different attributes of God…are located in the body.” Malchut (Mastery/Nobility), Freed explains, is associated “with the hands, feet, and mouth. This makes perfect sense on reflection , as these are the organs that we can use to master ourselves and to complete the relationship with others, depending on the words we speak and the way we interact (e.g., Who we are giving to or walking towards and away from).” In Rabbi Heschel’s words and deeds we see this explanation of Malchut-Mastery/Nobility embodied.

Although Malchut-Mastery/Nobility is feminine in nature, it is often referred to as “Kingship.”And, today January 15th, we started the celebration of a King. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (b. 1929) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, four days and 22 years after Rabbi Heschel was born in Poland. Their beginnings seem as disparate as their appearances. But, go deeper and the similarities reveal themselves.

Both men descended from prominent religious leaders. Both men experienced ethnic persecution. Both men were called and ordained – and both men believed part of their calling was social action. By directly influencing Vatican II and by marching from Selma with Dr. King, Rabbi Heschel’s life became an instrument of the Divine used to combat racism, which he called “man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum hatred for a minimum of reason.” And, of course, Dr. King, himself, epitomizes a non-violent struggle for freedom, equality, peace, and brotherhood.

“Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs but how to remain human in the skyscrapers” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Oh, there will be a day, the question won’t be, “How many awards did you get in life?” Not that day. It won’t be, “How popular were you in your social setting?” That won’t be the question that day. It will not ask how many degrees you’ve been able to get. The question that day will not be concerned with whether you are a “Ph.D.” or a “no D.” It will not be concerned with whether you went to Morehouse or whether you went to “No House.” The question that day will not be, “How beautiful is your house?” The question that day will not be, “How much money did you accumulate? How much did you have in stocks and bonds?” The question that day will not be, “What kind of automobile did you have?” On that day the question will be, “What did you do for others?” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (from “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”)

In 1954, at the age of 25, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Some sources state that his first sermon, his trial sermon at Dexter, was the earliest version of a sermon he would give throughout his life: “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.”* Reading and listening to a 1967 version of Dr. King’s sermon, I am struck by the similarities between King’s description of a complete life (based on Judeo-Christian texts) and the concept of yoga (union) as described by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (“The Song of the Lord”).

The Bhagavad Gita captures the moment when the young prince Arjuna pauses in the middle of a civil war. He literally steps into the middle of the battlefield and contemplates laying down his arms. He says, “I shall not fight,” (BG 2:9) even though he is on the righteous side of the conflict. His close friend and charioteer, Krishna, reveals himself as “the Divine Teacher” (i.e., an avatar of God). Krishna then proceeds to explain the nature of the soul as well as the various types of yoga (union paths) by which a person may live a life connected to the Divine.

Last year, during the 50th anniversary of those seminal Civil Rights marches in Alabama, I drew a parallel between Krishna and Arjuna’s relationship in the Bhagavad Gita and the relationship between (Representative) John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams. Then I saw the movie Selma, and realized the filmmakers created a similar conversation/relationship between (Representative) Lewis and Dr. King. (The movie version even took place in a chariot/car!) Now, in Dr. King’s first sermon, the conversation about dharma (law) or one’s duty in life; karma (action) or one’s responsibility to others; and bhakti (devotion) or one’s love for God is directed to us.

“When you know the true nature of the material world your grief is destroyed; when you understand the true nature of the Spirit, bliss is acquired…. Divinity is subtle and beyond comprehension. It appears to be many but is one undivided.” – Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 13:1, 16

And when you get all three of these together, you can walk and never get weary. You can look up and see the morning stars singing together, and the sons of God shouting for joy. When you get all of these working together in your very life, judgment will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream…. When you get all three of these together, you will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”

(*NOTE: The three (3) links above for Dr. King’s sermon will take you to the same page, which contains the written text, as well as an audio recording of the text. You may also purchase recordings of Dr. King’s sermons and speeches on Amazon.)

~ LOKAH SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

On the road full of promise (and light) April 25, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Loss, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Surya Namaskar, Texas, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Thanks to everyone who came out to support Mind Body Solutions on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  The essence of Matthew Sanford’s teaching is transformation. It was deeply inspiring to see everyone open their minds and bodies to this exploration.” – Kari Anderson’s message to the yogis who donated $315 at our April 18th donation-based event.

Don’t despair if you missed our donation-based class last Saturday, because Kari and I are hosting another one on Saturday, May 2nd, 3:30 PM at Flourish!

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

As we approach the end of the 2015 KISS MY ASANA yogathon, I find myself overwhelmed on so many occasions that I sometimes feel like I have lost my “big girl words.” Time and time again, I have been blown away by the generosity and kindness of people on the mat. I set my 2015 donation goal thinking I could raise a few more dollars than last year – and already some joyful yogis from at least two (2) states have more than doubled my initial goal! (Thank you all for that!)

Time and time again, I have been moved by an encounter with a Mind Body Solutions teacher, student, or volunteer. And, every time – every single time – I take a class from Matthew Sanford, I am blown away and my mind is completely boggled. In fact, I shudder to think how many times I said, “I was blown away…” or described something as “mind boggling” during last Saturday’s donation-based class. Maybe it’s cute at first, especially if you’re expecting further explanation down the road; however, some things can only be experienced to be fully understood. So, I invite people to catch a Monday class with Matt and, every once in awhile, I mention Mind Body Solutions in class and try to channel a little Matt the way I sometimes channel a little Yoda. During last Saturday’s donation-based class, I felt my words were so inadequate I relied on words written by Bruce Kramer and Cathy Wurzer in We Know How This Ends.

For those of you unfamiliar with his story, Bruce Kramer was a former dean at the University of St Thomas Twin Cities who chronicled his life with ALS on Cathy Wurzer’s Minnesota Public Radio show. We Know How This Ends describes their parallel journeys through this process of living and dying, while sharing the process of living and dying. The book is raw, and rich, and so real I had to set it aside for a moment after I first received it from a mutual friend and student of Bruce and mine. But, before Saturday’s KISS MY ASANA class, I read the chapter where Bruce and Cathy talk about “Dis Ease Yoga.” And I was so moved (read, “blown away”), I decided to share Cathy Wurzer’s words as part of our introduction and Bruce’s words as our conclusion.

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light / And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

In We Know How This Ends, Bruce Kramer describes aspects of yoga that are very familiar to me – even though I’ve never been in a wheelchair or felt the extreme decline of my body. He describes benefits from and challenges in his yoga practice that may be familiar to anyone who spends a little time on a mat. And, like me, he was a big music fan. (Thank him for the Avett Brothers song referenced here! And like it on YouTube!) He and Cathy Wurzer also talk about a point before ALS, before “Dis Ease Yoga,” when they didn’t really get the significance of the practice.

“If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected / Decide what to be and go be it” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

I was fortunate in that my introduction to yoga included an introduction to yoga as a philosophy and to the idea that yoga can be practiced by anyone – you just have to find your practice. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I discovered people who would stop practicing yoga, because of an injury or an unfortunate circumstance. And, it never fails to break my heart when someone gives up what can be a healing practice, because their body (and/or their doctor) says, “No more push-ups.” That’s when a yoga teacher can step in and say, “OK, you’re not doing that anymore, but you can do this!” Only, I remember hearing former paratrooper Arthur Boorman’s healing story and thinking, “How is it possible that Diamond Dallas was the only yoga teacher willing to help this guy?!?” Well, bottom line, too many Western yoga teachers are ill-equipped to teach the physical practice (let alone the meta-physical practice) to someone who isn’t already considered physically and/or mentally “able.” Thankfully, Matthew Sanford and the other teachers at Mind Body Solutions are changing that!

“There was a dream and one day I could see it / Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it / And there was a kid with a head full of doubt / So I’ll scream till I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

Mind Body Solutions is on “a mission to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.” It sounds all lofty and wonderful, right? But, it’s also very real and very raw. It’s a mission that, as the Avett Brothers sing, gets “the last of those bad thoughts” out so we can realize that as long as we’re breathing there is a mind-body-spirit connection. And it’s there, even when machines are helping us breathe.

Despite occasionally practicing with Matt; implementing some of what he teaches in my own practice and teaching; and having a few personal connections to people being served by the mission, I am slightly removed from the very real and very raw experiences found in adaptive yoga. If you’re not living the mission or deeply connected to someone being served by the mission, I think it is easy to fall into a space where this whole adaptive yoga thing just sounds like a good idea – you know, a worthy cause – but somehow separate from what the rest of us are doing. As I mentioned earlier, reading the “Dis Ease Yoga” chapter in We Know How This Ends helped remind me that we are all in bodies together and so, therefore, we are all in this yoga thing together. It’s not the style or the tradition that makes something yoga, it’s the coming together.

 “ I feel part of the universe open up to meet me / My emotion so submerged, broken down to kneel in/ Once listening, the voices they came / Had to somehow greet myself, read myself /Heard vibrations within my cells, in my cells “ – Better Days by Eddie Vedder

There are plenty of times when I feel part of the universe – and I feel connected to every other part of the universe. There are times I relish that feeling. Superficial as it may seem, I sometimes relish that feeling when it comes from seeing someone with a yoga mat and thinking, “Hey, that person’s a yogi, like me!” Even without knowing anything about them, or their practice – even knowing sometimes the person could be going to Pilates or something else altogether – I still have that moment of affinity; that moment when I feel connected and want to go deeper, find out more about them. But, it’s very rare that I have that feeling about someone in a wheelchair, or someone on a ventilator, or someone missing a limb. Cognitive, I know we are connected – but I very rarely have that visceral, bone-deep, cellular feeling like I do with someone with whom I have a shared experience.

Last Sunday I had a one of those rare bone-deep, visceral yoga/union moments.

I wore my Yoga and Body Image Coalition “This is what a yogi looks like” t-shirt while teaching, but (y’all know how I layer) between classes I wore my long sleeved 2015 KISS MY ASANA shirt. Somehow, despite my hoodie and my winter coat, a woman in a wheelchair spotted my yogathon t-shirt. We were going in opposite directions, but as we passed one another she shouted, “I practice there too!” I said, “It’s awesome.” She sighed, “I know,” with a big smile on her face.

About twenty minutes later, Carrie and I ended up in the same coffee shop – and we got to talk about yoga. She encouraged me to try a practice at Courage Center and told me about her teachers, only two (2) of whom were familiar to me. For a moment I thought about how by supporting the yogathon, teachers and students like me create opportunities for more teachers and students like Carrie, and her teachers.

But, ultimately, when I remember my discussion with Carrie, I will remember her saying she loved how friendly everyone is when she practices. I will remember that big Cheshire grin on her face when she said her favorite part of class was the relaxation part – and how her grin looked exactly like the big Cheshire grin my regulars get when they ask if we can do a 60-minute Savasana. I will also remember how that feeling I had when she first noticed my shirt, was the same feeling I have when I notice someone carrying a yoga mat: I will remember that moment when we were one and the same.

 

### NAMASTE ###

KISS MY ASANA 2015 Starts….NOW! April 1, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Karma, Karma Yoga, Love, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Peace, Philosophy, Super Heroes, Texas, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Women, Yoga.
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No joke! We really are starting the second annual KISS MY ASANA Yogathon on April Fools Day. And, again, no joke – I’m offering a way for my regular yogis to do a little bit more yoga – and maybe encourage some of your family and friends to join you.

You can make a donation online to support Mind Body Solutions and/or you may contact me about attending a donation-based class on April 18th (details to follow).

Last year’s 30 Poses in 30 Days is still available. If you’re new to yoga, or need some adaptations, this is a great place to start.

For those of you wondering about all my announcements regarding “something special” for this year’s yogathon, well….drum roll, please… HERE IT IS! (If you go to the playlist tab you will also find the musical prequel from March 2015, all cued up and ready for your listening pleasure.)

The first 5-minute practice is Savasana. (Unfortunately, some technical difficulties prevented me from posting before 9 AM on April 1st. So…I guess it really is April Fools! The video is now available. I appreciate your patience!)

 

~ NAMASTE ~

 

Gazing Into the Heart December 14, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Love, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Taoism, Texas, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“SOLUTION” by Franz Wright
What is the meaning of kindness?
Speak and listen to others, from now on,
as if they had recently died.
At the core the seen and unseen worlds are one.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, given all the things that have happened in the world; however, somehow last week I was caught off guard by people’s request that I hold space for their sadness/grief/anger/fear. And yes, this is something I do on any given Sunday. It’s even, on a certain level, what I signed up to do. And yet, for one blinding moment I was pissed – I mean really royally pissed – to come back from my working vacation/week of Thanksgiving/week of fellowship and find all was not sunshine and light in the world.

As is recommended, I sat with the anger. The anger passed. I got back to my baseline, and I got back to work.

But that’s the short, simple version of the story. And, it’s not nearly as real or messy or satisfying as the whole story.

I say the anger passed; however, really it felt like it diminished or receded to a place where rather than reacting to the craziness in the world I was able to respond in an appropriate manner. But, before that happened, I had to acknowledge that what I was feeling was anger. I know people who are angry all the time – and they have very valid reasons for their anger – but we don’t always acknowledge or articulate the emotion. Oh, sure, we may act angry or spew angry words, but consider the last time (the last angry time) you took a deep breath and explained to someone, “I’m really angry.” Have you ever done that? Have you ever articulated the emotion without directing it at someone or something? Have you ever gone deep beneath the emotion, and found what’s beyond it (as opposed to what’s behind it)?

“…really pay attention to what’s happening internally…. Meditation is learning how to get so still, and so calm, tranquil, through the directing of the attention, to this present moment, that we begin to see really deeply…. And so we go more and more and more deeply into the nature of things, and when that happens, and reactivity ceases, then responsiveness arises.”

– Gina Sharpe, Suffering and the End of Suffering

When I first came back from Texas and started reacting, I hadn’t heard Gina Sharpe’s super skillful teaching on Suffering and the End of Suffering (see Thursday’s link below). All I had were emotions (mine and other people’s), desires/requests (mine and other people’s), signs from the Universe, and what I’ll call Divine messages. And I was resisting all of it! I wanted to focus on metta (loving-kindness) meditation or tonglen (giving and receiving) meditation, or sitting in compassion. You know me; I wanted to do that joy thing.

But, when I got on the mat, what came up was the need to be where we were. To feel what we were feeling. To validate and honor what was in the heart – and all that was in the heart.

Here’s a glimpse at a week of heart gazing:

Tuesday, December 2nd: We started with eyes open; I counted down and then had people quickly shut their eyes. In Bel Canto, Ann Patchett (b. 1963) wrote, “The timing of the electrical failure seemed dramatic and perfectly correct, as if the lights said, ‘You have no need for sight. Listen.'” Pratyahara (sense withdrawal, Yoga’s fifth limb) heightens our awareness. This heightened awareness happens even if we just withdraw one sense. It also happens when we are in a crisis situation similar to the hostage situation that takes place in Patchett’s beautifully written novel.

“She sang as if she was saving the life of everyone in the room.”

And while listening to Maria Callas, Ingrid Michaelson, Indie.Arie, Nelly Furtado, Jj Heller, Pink!, Raya Yarbrough, Sylvia Syms, Kate Bush, Dinah Washington, Amy Lee (of Evanescene), – my examples of “beautiful singing” – I asked people to breath as if they were hitting the high notes.

Ultimately, Bel Canto is a multilayer, multilevel love story set during a horrible crisis. It shows the heart’s ability to feel more than one thing at a time. But, more than that, it shows the heart always wants to find a way to love.

 

Wednesday, December 3rd: We started in Balasana (Child’s Pose) and asked people to gaze into their hearts – while listening to the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne (b. 1948).

Friedrich Nietzsche’s words about gazing into the abyss seem applicable (maybe even prophetic) when dealing with Heart of Darkness on Joseph Conrad’s birthday (b. 1957). Conrad wrote his short novel after his own experiences in Africa in the late 1800’s and while his own words best describe the world he sees, I think the world he sees is the world in his own heart.

I resisted this book and this birthday, in part because literary greats like Chinua Achebe criticize Conrad and his work as racist and xenophobic – and I don’t think there’s any way to get around that. Neither did I want to seem to celebrate a depiction of racism given currents events in Ferguson and around the United States. However, Professor Peter Mwikisa said Heart of Darkness can be “…the great lost opportunity to depict dialogue between Africa and Europe…” and that makes me wonder: Are we, right now, losing an opportunity for dialogue in the U. S.?

Or, are we just not ready for dialogue?

“People look to me and say / Is the end near, when is the final day? / What is the future of mankind? / Don’t look at me for answers / Don’t ask me / I don’t know.” – “I Don’t Know” from Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz

 

Thursday, December 4th: I usually don’t teach yoga on Thursdays. This was, however, one of the Thursdays when I facilitated my meditation group. We sat briefly and then listened to Gina Sharpe’s Suffering and the End of Suffering. The discussion around the talk, current events, and the additional resources (see below) also informed my weekend classes at the YMCA.

 

Friday, December 5th: We started in Balasana (Child’s Pose), again gazing into the heart – this time with the intention of listening to the heart until it, as Gina Sharpe puts it, flutters. Physically, emotionally, and musically, this was a heart focused class.

“Venerable Maha Ghosananda, who was considered to be the “Gandhi of Cambodia” taught the power of the intention of kindness all his life, even though his life and his culture were fraught with suffering, trauma, violence and war of the Khmer Rouge and the “Killing Fields.” He taught it this way:

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into the habit;
Habit hardens into the character;
Character gives birth to the destiny
So, watch your thoughts with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of respect for all beings…

 

Saturday, December 6th: Same beginning as Wednesday and Friday, but this time Bear McCreary’s Taiko drums sounded like the heartbeat and Anne Frank’s thunder.

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again.” — Anne Frank, July 15, 1944

 

Sunday, December 7th: In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that today was “a date which will live in infamy.” The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and, in a moment, 2,300 people died. As a result of the attack, the United States entered World War II and, subsequently, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States entry into the war saved countless lives. Yet, in the moments when we dropped the bombs, 149,000 – 266,000 people died (this includes POWs). So, we begin with a moment of silence for all.

~ Taps + 1 minute of silence + Reveille ~

Feeling stuff is hard, messy, icky work. But, the moment you feel is also the moment you heal.

“I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”  — Anne Frank, May 3, 1944

“Third we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but to win his friendship and understanding. At times we are able to humiliate our worst enemy. Inevitably, his weak moments come and we are able to thrust in his side the spear of defeat. But this we must not do. Every word and deed must contribute to an understanding with the enemy and release those vast reservoirs of goodwill which have been blocked by impenetrable walls of hate.” — Martin Luther King. Christmas 1957

“Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil- Hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”  — Martin Luther King. Christmas 1957

 

Sunday’s class ended with the same Larry Yang quote from Friday. Both classes also ended with a reminder to honor your work/karma*:

  • Hands at heart: Honor what is in your heart, as what is in your heart becomes what is in your mind.
  • Hands at third eye: Honor your thoughts, as they become your words.
  • Hands at mouth: Honor your words, as they become your deeds/actions.
  • Hands back to heart: Honor your deeds/actions as they give the world a glimpse into your character and pave the way of your destiny.

Thank you to everyone who was in class last week, as well as to everyone in my meditation group. Thank you also to my housemate Meghan (who listened to me explaining that I was angry). Thank you to all of my family and friends (who help me return to my baseline of joy). Thank you to the teachers (on and off the mat, musical and otherwise) who inspired the messages behind these classes. Thank you to Eileen for the Sunny Side post and video that made me cry. And, finally, a special shout out and HUGE, TEXAS-SIZED Utkatsana Woohoo!, to Carolina at YogaOne’s Heights location, whose Humble Warrior flow inspired this week’s physical practice and helped me remember the power of being “a great spiritual warrior.”

 ~ NAMASTE ~

Matthew Sanford Conversation Tonight 5/8! May 8, 2014

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Surya Namaskar, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Volunteer, Writing, Yoga.
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Award-Winning Author and Yoga Master Matthew Sanford will be at Mayflower Church tonight (Thursday, May 8th) at 7 PM. (click here for details)

 

This event is free, open to the public, and fully accessible.