jump to navigation

Celebrating a “Teacher” Who Lives Well (just the music) January 19, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Please join me today (Tuesday, January 19th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will see how the practice “evolves.” Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (NOTE: I am having problems loading the Spotify on my laptop, but the link does work!)

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.)

 

### 🎶 ###

 

More of What We Need (the Monday post) January 19, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

[This is the post for Monday, January 18, 2021 – Martin Luther King Day for many in the USA.

The 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice, in the spirit of generosity (“dana”), is freely given and freely received. 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 Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.”

 

– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)

The Civil Rights Activist and (1964) Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Since 1986, the third Monday in January has been a federal holiday designated as his “birthday” – even though it was not officially observed on the state level until 1991 and it wasn’t until 2000 that every state actually acknowledged the date with his name. However, even to this day, there are states that combine the observation of Reverend King’s birthday with the acknowledgement of the rights for which he fought or with the celebration of people significant to the Confederacy.

Even in this, the United States is conflicted.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest orators of the 20th Century. One of my personal MLK Day traditions, as a yoga teacher, is to share his words. Specifically, I am in the habit of sharing his sermon on the “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” (which is a natural follow-up to the practice about Benjamin Franklin’s instruction to “live well”). However, this year, it seems like a lot to focus on the three elements within that sermon (the length of life being one’s inward concern; the breadth of life being the outward concern for others; and the height of life being “the upward reach for God”). Reverend King, himself, acknowledged that “A lot of people never get beyond the first dimension of life.” So, this year, I thought we could focus on one thing – just one, simple, little thing that can make a huge difference. This year, I turned to another of his favorite sermons: “Loving Your Enemies.”

I often lament that I cannot truly share the power of his speeches and sermons in class, because I cannot replicate and share his cadence and emphasis (let alone the power of hearing his words along with the congregation or audience). But, I can share that with you here. It doesn’t have to be today, or even tomorrow, but sometime soon, take a moment to listen (or read) one (or both) of these sermons.

As I have noted before, you can find similar teachings on love in other religions and many of the Eastern philosophies. I truly believe that if more of us live these ideas – fully integrate them into our being – we can all live well.

 

“Loving Your Enemies” – audio and transcript (from November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama)

 

“The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” – audio and transcript (from April 9, 1967, Chicago, Illinois)

 

“There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate.”

 

– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)

 

If you are interested in some of my previous posts on Reverend King, you can find my January 2016 post here and a thread of related posts here.

 

 

### DREAM ON, DREAM ON! ###

What We Need to Live Well (the Sunday post) January 18, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

 [You can request an audio recording of Sunday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

*** TRIGGER WARNING: This post references mental health issues and connected traumas. There are no graphic descriptions. ***

 

“Wish not so much to live long as to live well.”

– quoted from a “Maxim” for August 1738 in Poor Richard’s Almanack by “Richard Saunders” and “Bridget Saunders” (a. k. a. Benjamin Franklin)

Being among the living is primarily a matter of science, but what does it mean to “live well?” What did Benjamin Franklin, who was born today in 1706 (when going by the Gregorian calendar), mean by that very basic principle? To answer those questions we most go a little deeper into the meaning of wellness and a little deeper into the life and times of “the First American.”

Nowadays, when people think of wellness or well-being, they think of physical and mental health – and Franklin would have included that in his statement. However, the general meaning of “well” and, therefore the quality of wellness, is something that is good (meaning it has purpose and is fulfilling its purpose); complete; and effective. As a polymath – not to mention a writer, printer, philosopher, and politician – Benjamin Franklin would have been very familiar with all of these meanings and connotations. More importantly, his life is a testament to the value of living well.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts Bay, English America, Benjamin Franklin was also a statesman, diplomat, a postmaster, scientist, inventor, and humorist. He was one of the Founding Fathers; served as the first US Ambassador to France; and created Poor Richard’s Almanack. He also founded Philadelphia’s first fire department, the Library Company, the University of Pennsylvania, and many other institutions that focused on how people could serve one another, be of use to one another.

“When you’re good to others, you are best to yourself.”

– #630 quoted from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1748) by “Richard Saunders” and “Bridget Saunders” (a. k. a. Benjamin Franklin)

Somehow despite everything else he was doing, Benjamin Franklin was still able to find time to experiment and observe life around him. His infamous kite-flying-in-a-storm experiment (which possible occurred in the summer of 1752) was a little more complicated than it is often depicted in paintings and other dramatic medium, because he was aware that there was a potential risk. Thomas-François Dalibard had conducted a similar experiment in France (on May 10, 1752) and Franklin himself reported experiencing some “numbness” when dealing with electricity. Later scientists would electrocute themselves while trying to recreate the efforts of Dalibard and Franklin; however, Franklin’s work specifically emphasized the importance of being grounded. His work also changed the way people understood and categorized different charges (i.e., positive and negative).

He was once critical of himself because, as he wrote, his experiments were “able to produce nothing in this way of use to Mankind.” Yet, he stayed curious, kept trying new things and eventually invented many things that made life easier for people; including the lightening rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove. While these things all served a purpose and made life easier, maybe even more efficient, they didn’t (in and of themselves) help others live well – when living well is related to purpose and, therefore, related to others.

“Though they have few but natural wants and those easily supplied. But with us are infinite Artificial wants, no less craving than those of Nature, and much more difficult to satisfy….”

 

– quoted from the “Hardwicke Papers” copy of a letter addressed to Peter Collinson dated “Philadelphia May 9th, 1753” and signed “B: Franklin”

 

“The findings are in keeping with something called self-determination theory, which holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered “intrinsic” to human happiness and far outweigh “extrinsic” values such as beauty, money and status.”

 

– quoted from Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

Ultimately, once we establish the meaning of the living well, the real question we must ask ourselves is. “What do we need to live well?” Whenever we’re addressing life “needs,” I find that we sneak a whole lot of “wants” and desire into the mix. These are what Benjamin Franklin would classify as “Artificial” and that would fall into the category of “extrinsic” values, according to the definition Sebastian Junger uses in his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, which is a discussion on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Born today in 1962, in Belmont, Massachusetts (give or take 10 miles from Benjamin Franklin was born), Sebastian Junger is a journalist and student of anthropology, whose parents immigrated to the United States, in part, to escape persecution during World War II. From The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea to Fire and from documentaries like Restrepo and The Last Patrol, Junger’s work has focused on the life of individuals experiencing war, trauma, and death. But, one of the common elements in his work – an element that is sometimes overlooked in the face of so much adventure, adrenaline, and danger – is camaraderie, friendship, and tribalism; elements that became the primary focus when he started researching PTSD.  

“As wealth goes up in a society, the suicide rate goes up not down. If you live in modern society you are up to 8 times more likely to suffer from depression, in your lifetime, than if you live in a poor, agrarian society. Modern society has probably produced the highest rates of suicide and depression and anxiety and loneliness and child abuse ever, in human history.”

 

– quoted from a June 10, 2016 TEDTalk entitled “Our lonely society makes it hard to come home from war” by Sebastian Junger

 

“…they visit us frequently, and see the advantages that Arts, Sciences, and compact Society procure us, they are not deficient in natural understanding and yet they have never shewn any Inclination to change their manner of life for ours, or to learn any of our Arts; When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return, and that this is not natural [to them] merely as Indians, but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.”

 

– quoted from the “Hardwicke Papers” copy of a letter addressed to Peter Collinson dated “Philadelphia May 9th, 1753” and signed “B: Franklin”

 

In Tribe, Sebastian Junger actually quotes part of Benjamin Franklin’s letter to Peter Collinson and comes to similar conclusions: that there is something missing from Western society – or, what Junger sometimes refers to as “modern society” – and that something is sense of belonging; a place for all and a purpose for all. Additionally, he proposes that not only is “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” a failure in nomenclature, but that the name itself places the emphasis on the wrong part of people’s experience. His work suggests that it is not the traumatic experience that is a problem – nor is it the person experiencing the mental health issue: the problem is the “post” part; the problem is modern society and what we’re lacking.

Junger doesn’t rely on Franklin’s nearly 300-old observations. Instead, he builds his case using evidence throughout history – and some of the most compelling evidence is about what doesn’t happen, despite trauma. For instance, he describes how different reintegration into society is for Israeli veterans who return to a community where people understand what they have experienced, because military service is part of life. The result of people knowing where you’re coming from and what you’ve experienced? A substantially lower suicide rate. More to the point, a 1% suicide rate among Israeli veterans (which is basically the whole country) versus the United States where the overall rate is higher and 13.5% of all adult suicides are committed by veterans (even though veterans only making about 7.9% of the adult population).

Junger also makes note of the decrease in reported violence, suicide, depression, and other mental health issues when the United Kingdom was experiencing the Blitz during World War II and a similar decrease in New York City after 9/11 – the latter example even applying to combat-experienced veterans who had previously been diagnosed with PTSD. Junger states in a 2016 TedTalk, “The reason is that if you traumatize an entire society, we don’t fall apart and turn on one another; we come together, we unify. Basically, we tribalize.”

“War is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of.”

 

– quoted from War by Sebastian Junger

 

“What would you risk dying for—and for whom—is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves. The vast majority of people in modern society are able to pass their whole lives without ever having to answer that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.”

 

– quoted from Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

 

I’m not a veteran, nor am I an expert on PTSD. So, I can only say that from a layperson’s perspective Sebastian Junger’s work (overall) frames the trauma and challenges of war as well as the trauma and challenges of reintegrating into society. I also think he does a good job of highlighting the physical-mental-emotional ways in which humans cope with danger (and perceived danger) as well as pointing to elements that predispose or making someone more vulnerable to long-term, chronic traumatic stress (such as childhood abuse and trauma, low education, and psychiatric disorders in their family). As a layperson, I feel like he includes the trauma of combat in the discussion. However, his critics disagree.

Junger’s critics (with regard to Tribe) include veterans as well as people who specifically and professionally deal with PTSD and veterans. Those critics include United States Marine Corps Captain Matthew Hoh, whose service to the country includes active duty in Iraq (2006 – 2007) and with the State Department in Iraq (2004 – 2005) and Afghanistan (2009). He has been diagnosed with PTSD, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and depression – and has overcome suicidal thoughts and issues with alcohol. Additionally, even after he resigned from the State Department, in protest of the escalation in Afghanistan, he continues to combine his experience with his skills as a writer in order to better inform the general public and to better inform policy. He seems to strive, as Benjamin Franklin encouraged, “to live well.”

In a 2016 book review of Tribe, Captain Hoh not only have criticized Junger’s premise; he also claimed that Junger did a disservice to veterans by downplaying the role of combat-related trauma. He specifically cited research from the National Center for Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah that indicated a direct correlation between suicide and combat related to veterans who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The evidence – including the examples of a Iraq and Afghan veterans without combat experience having a suicide rate “three to four times that of their civilian peers” and a single battalion (with combat experience) having a suicide rate that was “14 times higher than their civilian peers” – is as staggering as it shocking. It is interesting to note that one of Captain Matthew Hoh’s chief concerns is also one of Sebastian Junger’s chief concerns: that part of the big picture needs to be better understanding of what veterans endure.

“[Tribe] is a very popular book, that has received an enormous amount of media attention, and unfortunately, it is doing a great degree of harm by misinforming people about the nature, magnitude, and reality of PTSD for America’s veterans. It’s hard enough to get people to understand what the guys went through over there and what they are going through at home, let alone if people are misinformed.”

 

– quoted from a “Best Defense” book review entitled, “Junger’s new book ‘Tribe’ is giving the public exactly the wrong idea about PTSD” by Matthew Hoh (under the byline of Thomas E. Ricks, on foreignpolicy.com, June 15, 2016)

 

Over this last year, I have repeatedly compared our shared experiences (dealing with the pandemic and civil unrest) to being on a sinking ship. In The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, Sebastian Junger, writing about the men who lived, worked, and died aboard the Andrea Gail asked, “How do men act on a sinking ship? Do they hold each other? Do they pass around the whisky? Do they cry?” I think, moving forward, that we have to ask ourselves – really look at ourselves – as we experience this shared trauma. I think this is especially true if we want to survive not only the collective trauma, but also what happens afterwards… the “post.”

For myself, I can definitely attest to a reluctance to go outside where I might be exposed to racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, and all the other –isms and –phobias (let alone corona virus) during a time when so many people seem predisposed to express their discontent viscerally and violently. I have considered, on more than one occasion, what happens when society really starts to open back up and we all start working towards reintegration. I have also contemplated the fact that, just like in other traumatic situations, people have not been impacted equally – so, some will have a harder time coming back together. And, I wonder, how we can help each other come back together given all the fear and differences that separate us.

“We evolved as animals, as primates, to survive periods of danger and if your life has been in danger you want to react to unfamiliar noises. You want to sleep lightly, wake up easily. You want to have nightmares and flashbacks of the thing that could kill you. You want to be angry because it makes you predisposed to fight; or depressed, because it keeps you out of circulation a little bit: keeps you safe…. About 20% of people, however, wind up with chronic, long term PTSD. They are not adapted to temporary danger; they are maladapted for everyday life – unless they get help.”

 

– quoted from a June 10, 2016 TEDTalk entitled “Our lonely society makes it hard to come home from war” by Sebastian Junger  

 

“If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different—you underscore your shared humanity….”

 

– quoted from Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

 

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. It is obvious to me this group is prepared to govern.”

 

– quoted from What Really Happened? – A Series of humor essays describing “historical” events  by K. Lenart (describing a fictionalized 1789 speech to the First United States Congress (at Federal Hall in New York City) by Benjamin Franklin)

 

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

 “Pardoning the Bad, is injuring the Good.”

 

– #408 quoted from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1748) byRichard Saunders” and “Bridget Saunders” (a. k. a. Benjamin Franklin)

 

“Haste makes Waste.”

 

– #184 quoted from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1753) byRichard Saunders” and “Bridget Saunders” (a. k. a. Benjamin Franklin)


If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING.

 

### LIVE WELL & LOVE WELL ###

What We Need to Live Well (just the music) January 17, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, January 17th) at 2:30 PM, CST. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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.

Sunday’s playlist is available 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.)

### 🎶 ###

Resurfacing the Quixotic Mind (the Saturday post) January 16, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

[This is the post for Saturday, January 16th. You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

 

“‘Now look, your grace,’ said Sancho, ‘what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.’
‘Obviously,’ replied Don Quijote, ‘you don’t know much about adventures. Those are giants – and if you’re frightened, take yourself away from here and say your prayers, while I go charging into savage and unequal combat with them.’”

 

– quoted from  “Chapter Eight – the great success won by our brave Don Quijote in his dreadful, unimaginable encounter with two windmills, plus other honorable events well worth remembering” in Part 1 of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) by Miguel de Cervantes

 

Two years ago when I decided to start the New Year (of 2019) by introducing my Saturday class to the beginning Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras, it seemed like a grand adventure. Yes, there would be dreams and windmills and friendship, not to mention wild horses and beautiful landscapes. But, on a certain level, a philosophical level, I thought it would be the beginning of four years of relatively pedestrian exploration. Yes, I thought it would be intensive study that could be applied to our lives on and off the mat. Yes, I knew it would be a little too esoteric for some – especially those who just dropped in now and again and/or started new in the beginning of the year. But, no, I didn’t really consider that, off the mat, we would find ourselves in the middle of the same kind of social and political backdrop that inspired Miguel de Cervantes to create the ingenious gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.

First published today in 1605, Book 1 of Cervantes’ El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha is the beginning of what many consider the first “modern novel.” It is the second most translated book in the world (after the complete Bible) and it is also viewed as social commentary disguised as a fantastical farce. The primary character is, at best, idealistic – a dreamer beyond all dreamers; but, at worst, he is completely and utterly delusional. Is he speaking and moving through world as if everything and everyone in the world is a metaphor? Or, does he truly believe the windmills are giants that threaten the fair Dulcinea and all of their neighbors? Furthermore, does Cervantes – in writing what can (and was) easily be seen as social and political allegory – believe that those idealistic individuals who take on the political establishment are incredibly foolhardy or incredibly brave? Sometimes it is hard to tell. What is unquestionable, however, is that Don Quixote has a whole lot of things going on his mind and all of that citta vŗitti (“fluctuations of the mind”) determines how he interacts with the world around him.

“Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head”

 

– quoted from “Windmills of the Mind,” music by Michel Legrand with English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman

 

Don Quixote, the story and the man, might have been very different if the title character did some yoga. Some might think there would be no story without the titular character’s mental confusion and delusion. However, Don Quixote, himself, was often very clear about his understanding of reality and very clear about the fact that the people around him disagreed with his understanding of reality. So… in some ways, maybe it would be the same story. After all, Cervantes frames much of the story around the way Don Quixote’s mind works and that is the same paradigm Patanjali uses in the Yoga Sūtras.

We contemplated the last sūtra of the second chapter last Saturday. Before we “progress” or move forward, I thought it would be a good idea to spend a little time reviewing the first two chapters and possibly delving a little deeper into certain aspects of the practices Patanjali recommends in the those chapters. So, this week’s practice includes a quick summary review of the “Samadhi Pada” (Chapter or Foundation on Concentration), in which Patanjali explains (in 51 sūtras) how the mind works and how to work the mind.

“Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!”

 

– quoted from “Windmills of the Mind,” music by Michel Legrand with English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman 

 

At the beginning, Patanjali explains that the practice of yoga (as well as the state of yoga that is “union”) cultivate stillness or quietude in the mind, thereby restoring or connecting the practitioner to their “own true nature.” He describes five types of mental activity: correct understanding (which is achieved through sense perception, inference, and/or revelation described in sacred text); incorrect understanding; imagination (which is activity not connected or rooted in reality as it currently exists); dreamless sleep; and memory (which can also engage the other types of activity) – and further breaks they types of mental activity into two categories two categories (klişţāklişţāh, “afflicted” and “not afflicted”); meaning they mental activity either creates suffering or does not create suffering.

To work the mind, in order to cultivate quietude, Patanjali recommends abyhāsa (practicing with devotion to the practice for a long period of time, without interruption) and vairāgya (practicing without attachment). He describes four levels of conscious awareness – which are also the four levels of concentration – as gross (meaning the awareness that something is happening); subtle (awareness of the different aspects of what is happening); bliss (enjoying what is happening); and i-ness (a level of absorption whereby there is a seamless connection between the person concentrating and the object on which they are concentrating).

Patanjali also explains in the first chapter that the benefits of the practice – which include faith, vigor, retentive power, stillness of mind, and intuitive wisdom – can be achieved in a time based on the level of engagement (mild, intermediate, or supreme). After detailing the importance of OM and the power of a devoted surrender to the Divine, he adds to the list of benefits by explaining that meditation helps one overcome nine obstacles (disease, mental inertia, doubt, carelessness, sloth, an inability to withdraw from sense cravings, an attachment to misunderstanding, frustration, and failure to retain the highest level of conscious awareness) and their five accompanying ailments (pain, mental agitation, unsteadiness or trembling of limbs, abnormal or disturbed inhalation, and abnormal or disturbed exhalation).

Finally, he offers the following ways to practice concentration (that leads to meditation):

  • heart focus: offering friendliness to those who are happy; compassion to those who are suffering; happiness to those who are virtuous; and non-judgment or disinterest in those who are not virtuous;
  • breath focus: pranayama;
  • single-pointed focus: on a specific part of the body, a sense organ (and corresponding sensation); or an external object;
  • inner light & inner joy focus
  • focusing on a virtuous one who is without desire: choosing either a sacred person whose virtuous history is known or the best/ideal version of one’s own self;
  • wisdom focus: bringing awareness to knowledge gained from dreams and sleep; and
  • focus on a well-considered object (with some understanding of the benefit of the object)

 

“Translating from one language to another, unless it is from Greek and Latin, the queens of all languages, is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they are covered by threads that obscure them, and cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side….”

 

– quoted from  “Chapter Sixty-one – of what befell Don Quijote on his entry into Barcelona, with other Accidents that have more truth than wisdom in them.” in Part 2 of El ingenioso cabellero Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha) by Miguel de Cervantes

 

Again, one of the goals and benefits of the practice described by Patanjali is the clarity of the mind – being able to not only see the beauty of something, but also how everything is put together. Here, in the first chapter, however, he really focuses on smoothing out the mind. One way I think about the meditation practice is that we spend some time touching on and scooping up all the bumpy distractions; then we wash over those same areas with the breath and the mind in order to smooth it all out; and then we use the breath and the awareness to seal in that smoothness. In this way, the practice is like a Zamboni®.

Invented by Frank Zamboni, who was born today 1901, in Eureka, Utah, a Zamboni® is an ice resurfacing machine that shaves the ice, collects the shavings, washes the ice with a cleaner, and then spreads a thin coat of fresh water to seal in the smooth(er) surface. Perhaps being born in Eureka destined Mr. Zamboni to become an inventor, but the resurfacer wasn’t his first (or last) bit of ingenuity. The son of Italian immigrants, he initially moved to California to help his older brother Lawrence run an existing business. But then the Zamboni brothers decided to try something different; they opened an ice-making plant. Not convinced the plant would sustain them once advancements were made in air conditioning and refrigeration; they decided to open Iceland, an ice skating rink in Paramount, California, with their cousin Pete.

Iceland (which still exists) was special and attracted a lot of attention, because Frank Zamboni figured out a way to eliminate the rippling effect that was caused by the pipes underneath the ice. He invented a circulation system and “flat tanks” that enabled them to build a rink that would hold up to 800 skaters at a time – making it one of the largest (and the smoothest) rink in the country.

Well… it was the smoothest, except after a day full of skaters.

“For neither good nor evil can last for ever; and so it follows that as evil has lasted a long time, good must now be close at hand.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter Nineteen – An account of the second discourse that passed between Sancho and his master: the succeeding adventure of the corpse, and other remarkable events” in Part 1 of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) by Miguel de Cervantes

In 1949, a few years after opening the rink, Mr. Zamboni had invented (and eventually patented) the machine that would bear his name. Before his invention, resurfacing the ice required 5 men and 90 minutes. After his invention, resurfacing the ice required 1 person and 15 minutes. Figure skaters and hockey teams were quick to jump on board and, in a relatively short amount of time, Frank Zamboni had a new business venture. But, he wasn’t done. He would go on to invent mechanisms to remove water and paint from outdoor turf as well as to install and remove the turf (the “Grasshopper”). He also invented machines to fill dirt on top of a cemetery vault (the “Black Widow”) and lift and carry burial vaults (the “Vault Carrier”); and had a hand in building and selling machines to deal with snow, trenches, and air craft.

Frank Zamboni was a dreamer and, in some ways, he dreamed of things so fantastical most people couldn’t even begin to imagine them. He was awarded almost twenty patents during his lifetime. In 1988, his son Richard (who is Chairman and President of Frank J. Zamboni & Company, Inc.) told a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, “One of the reasons he stuck with it was that everyone told him he was crazy. When he finally finished, he was so sick of it that he didn’t even bother painting it.” So, in many ways, Frank Zamboni was a little like Don Quixote, trying to find a better way.

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

 

– “Cervantes”, quoted from Act II of Man of La Mancha: A Musical Play by  Mitch Leigh, Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion

 

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“As the author of this great history reaches the events that he narrates in this chapter, he says the he’d have preferred to pass over them in silence , fearing he wouldn’t be believed, because here Don Quixote’s mad deeds approached the limits of the imaginable, and indeed went a couple of bowshots beyond them. But in the end, in spite of these fears and misgivings, he described these deeds exactly as they happened, without adding or subtracting one atom of truth or concerning himself with any accusations that might be made that he was lying; and he was right to do so, because the truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.”

 

 

– quoted from “Chapter Ten – Gives describes Sancho’s cunning enchantment of the Lady Dulcinea; with other events as ridiculous as they are true” in Part 2 of El ingenioso caballero Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha) by Miguel de Cervantes

 

A little note about quotes, translations, and “paramount”: My apologies for not citing the translators in the aforementioned quotes. I actually used more than one translation and, by the time I was putting this together, I realized that I hadn’t ever noted which quote came from where or when I had spliced translations. Part of my error comes from the fact that I don’t always reference translators during the practice.

Additionally, because of the different translations, I was not able to find the original source for the following great quotes, which are attributed to Cervantes and “Don Quixote” – but which may actually be from another (related) source:

“It’s up to brave hearts, sir, to be patient when things are going badly, as well as being happy when they’re going well…”

 

“…for hope is always born at the same time as love…”

Finally, I mentioned “paramount” during the practice (as a synonym for “supreme”) but neglected to tie that back into the theme. Serendipitously, “Paramount” kept coming up today as it is the name of the city where the Zamboni family opened their ice rink and also the name of the studio where the English version of “Windmills of the Mind” was originally recorded. Just a fun trivia fact for those of you who were wondering.

 

### REMEMBERING 1 ###

Resurfacing the Quixotic Mind (just the music) January 16, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, January 16th) at 12:00 PM. This practice will be āsana-light. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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.

Saturday’s playlist is available 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). 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.)

### 🎶 ###

The Habit of Putting Cash in Your Karmic Bank Account (the music) January 13, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Please join me today (Wednesday, January 13th) 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.

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 or donations for New Year’s Day are not necessarily deductible.]

### 🎶 ###

The Habit of Being, With Slogans (just the music) January 12, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Please join me today (Tuesday, January 12th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [“Look for 01102021 Being, The Habit”]

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.)

 

### THAT, ALL THAT ###

Being, the Habit (a 2-for-1 post) January 12, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

[This is the post for Sunday, January 10th and Monday, January 11th. 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.

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.]

I. Being, the Habit – Recognizing “That”

 

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not the same blood or birth, but of the same mind and possessing a share of the divine. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We are born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”

 

– quoted from Meditations (Book 2) by Marcus Aurelius

Bring your awareness to who you are and what you’re all about. Or, as I put it on Sunday, bring your awareness to what you are. This is an inquiry into who and what you are in the habit of being. Remember that a habit is cultivated through repeated behavior that hard-wires the brain and also creates samskaras (“mental impressions”). One could argue that Western scientists and the ancient yogis were talking about the same thing; but, either way you look at it there comes a time when we have repeated certain behavior so much that we no longer realize (if we ever even knew) that said behavior was a choice. Furthermore, at some point our behavior locks us into a pattern – a pattern that is almost free of choice – and the only way to change the pattern is to break the habit of doing… which is the habit of being (a certain way).

One of my favorite mantras, as a yoga practitioner and as a teacher, is “So Hum, Ham Sa” – Sanskrit for “I am That, That I am.” I have heard that the ancient yogis said it was the sound of the breath coming into and out of the body. It is also, in English, a phrase that comes up again and again in sacred and popular text. For instance, in the story of Exodus, when Moses asks how he should identify the voice that speaks to him in the form of the burning bush, he is told, “ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh,” which is often translated into English as “I Am that I Am.” In this context, the mantra becomes a whisper from the Divine; a reminder, if you will. I often explain that the “That” in the mantra is with a “capital T,” indicating “all that and a bag of chips.” The only problem with the mantra, from a modern day perspective, is that we all too often focus on the “That” as being something positive, life affirming, and wholesome. In fact, the “That” is everything – even things we don’t like and/or see as negative, destructive, and evil.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “That’s not who we are” or “That’s not what we’re about” – and it recently that refrain has been repeated so many times it’s like an old record that has been warped from so much usage. I could point out, in great detail, that the phrases above are almost always used in the context of bad or misguided behavior that has existed since the beginning of time – or, in the most recent case, since the beginning of the United States, but that the speaker either didn’t recognize was happening before; finds abhorrent; and/or wants to create some distance between themselves and the people engaged in said behavior. Both variations of the phrase are also used as a kind of shaming, in the same way that a parent teaches a child that certain behavior is unacceptable. In the current context, however, we are not parents teaching our children. And, rather than go into a history lesson here – or run the risk of sounding overly judgmental – let me just pose a couple of philosophical questions (with really practical implications): How does the habit (of denying what is) serve us and how do we change a habit of bad behavior if we don’t acknowledge our connection to it?

As a side note, thinking about our lives and the way we engage our lives (i.e., our way of being) as a habit, brought my awareness to several Christian authors who adamantly reject the idea that “you are what you do.” Obviously, since I’ve only recently become aware of this rejection, I have not read all the books and theological expositions. A quick survey, however, seems to indicate that these writers and speakers, coming from a religious perspective, are focusing on the religious concept of being and the practical applications of spiritually being. In other words, they are looking at each person as being inextricably connected to the Divine and offering guidance on living a spiritual life in a world that focuses on so much profane doing. Here we see the same power that is in the mantra (“So Hum, Ham Sa”) – that you already are something amazing and you don’t have to do anything to be that. Just as is the case with the mantra, the power is in the realization and the lesson seems to point to people rethinking the way they show up in the world by placing their spiritual/religious beliefs as a priority in all that they do.

 

II. Being, the Habit – Of Cultivating Spirit

 

“Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs but how to remain human in the skyscrapers.”

 

– quoted from “Part V: The Meaning of this Hour – 40. Religion in Modern Society” in Between God and Man by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

It is one thing to practice our beliefs and hold tight (but not too tightly) to the tenets of our faith, whatever that means to you, when life is good and everything is easy. But life, as we have recently been reminded, can be hard, twisted, upside down, and backwards; in a word, challenging. So, sometimes the best way to notice how we show up in the world, in general, is to specifically notice how we show up in stressful / challenging situations. For instance, what is your habit when things are so challenging and all consuming, people – including yourself – might expect you to compromise?

I don’t know much about the person who (first) asked Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel if he found time to pray when he participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery, but I know the person – a journalist – was motivated by at least two pieces of knowledge: (1) they knew Rabbi Heschel was a man of faith and (2) they probably knew that Judaism prescribes daily prayers throughout the day. There is another possible piece of motivating knowledge, projection – it’s possible, probable even, that the person asking the question couldn’t imagine how prayer was possible during such a tumultuous time and in a situation where the faithful rabbi was surrounded by Christians. But, here’s the thing about Rabbi Heschel, he was use to praying with his whole body and he was use to being surrounded by Christians.

“I prayed with my feet.”

 

– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1965, when asked if he found time to pray when marching from Selma to Montgomery

Born today in 1907, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a professor of the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), an activist, and is (to this day) considered one of the most significant and influential theologians of the 20th century. The youngest of six, his father died when he was nine, but his family was firmly established in the community as he was the descendant of distinguished Chasidic rabbis on both sides of his family. He grew up in a household and in a religious tradition where prayer and a declaration of faith were prescribed multiple times a day – “when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise” – and where there was an obligation to leave the world better than it was found. He earned his rabbinical doctorate in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party and could chronicle a parallel in that rise and a decline in the esteem he had previously received based on the merit of his scholarship. He felt, at times, abandoned by his Christian teachers, mentors, and peers. But, there was something in him – maybe everything in him – that could not step away from the spiritual path he was on, a path first paved by the prophets and rabbis whose lives he chronicled.

In addition to writing several biographies about his mystical elders, Rabbi Heschel was a student and a professor of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalism), in which the Tree of Life can be seen as a way to understand the world, a way to live in the world, and a spiritual road map for those desiring a deeper connection. He was in the habit of viewing, exploring, and gaining understanding of the world and his engagement in the world through the lens of this tradition that recognizes seven of the pars of the body as ways to express seven of the ten energies/attributes of the Divine (as found on the Tree of Life): Chesed (“loving-kindness”), right arm; Gevurah (“strength”), left arm; Tiferet (“beauty,” “balance,” or “compassion”), the heart; Netzach (“endurance”), right hip and leg; Hod (“humility”), left hip and leg; Yesod (“Foundation” or “Bonding”), solar plexus; Malchut (“mastery” or “nobility”), hands, feet, and mouth. Being in the habit of seeing the body as intending to express elements of the Divine, meant that everything Rabbi Heschel did could be seen as a religious / spiritual experience. Everything was symbolic – and, therefore, the simplest things held great power.

Of course, there was nothing simple about showing up at a Civil Rights demonstration at the height (and site) of defining violence. Yet, for Rabbi Heschel there was no question that he would show up. He knew that his presence, like the presence of so many others who were not Black (and, in his case, not Christian), would be a unifying presence. He knew that showing up sent a message to the world indicating that the issue of civil rights was not only “an American problem,” as President Lyndon B. Johnson would later say, but an international problem.

Additionally, as a man of faith and as a religious leader, Rabbi Heschel simply felt that showing up was a kind of spiritual obligation. In fact, he sent a telegram (dated June 16, 1963) to President John F. Kennedy stating that to continue humiliating (and subjugating) African Americans meant that they (religious leaders) “forfeit the right to worship God.” Let it sink in for a moment that a Jewish mystic demanded leadership in the form of “moral grandeur and spiritual audacity” from a Catholic president on behalf of a group of people led by Black Baptist minister. There’s a lot there that could be divisive – unless, regardless of your religion or denomination, you are bound by the Spirit.

“For my father, though, the march was not simply a political demonstration, but a religious occasion. He saw it as a revival of prophetic Judaism’s political activism and also of the traditions of Hasidism, a Jewish pietistic revival movement that arose in the late eighteenth century, according to which walking could be a spiritual experience.

 

He said it reminded him of the message of the prophets, whose primary concern was social injustice, and of his Hasidic forebears, for whom compassion for the suffering of other people defined a religious person.”

 

– quoted from an article about the 40th Anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery marches, by Dr. Susannah Heschel

 

In addition to marching arm-in-arm with Black Christians like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Representative John Lewis in 1965, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel also participated in the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (more commonly known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II) in 1962. Prior to Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church was “in the habit” of teaching the history of Jesus in a way that demonized Jewish people – and missed the part where a lot of different groups of people were part of the story. Rabbi Heschel worked closely with Cardinal Augustin Bea, the Jesuit head of the Secretariat for the Christian Unity, to write the Nostra aetate, which dynamical changed the way the Church teaches and views Jewish people; fostered mutual knowledge and respect among congregants of the two faiths; and ensured that the Church officially (and categorically) condemned anti-Semitism. Here too, the good rabbi’s work outside of the synagogue was a reflection of his work inside of the synagogue, and vice versa. Here too, honored the traditions (and the ethics) of his spiritual fathers.

Here too, Rabbi Heschel’s spiritual habits showed everyone who was in the habit of being.

“We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub but the spoke of the revolving wheel. It is precisely the function of prayer to shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender….

 

Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy.”

 

– quoted from Man’s Quest for God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

There is no playlist for the (Monday) Common Ground practice.

 

### Amen, Selāh ###

Being, the Habit (just the music) January 10, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
add a comment

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, January 10th) at 2:30 PM. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. 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.

Sunday’s playlist is available 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.)

### 🎶 ###