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The Philosophy of Picking Locks (& Other Things Related to Internal Movement) April 26, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those who are celebrating Chaitra Purnima (Tithi) / Hanuman Jayanti (and the Pink Super Moon), as well as those who are Counting the Omer.

[You can request an audio recording of today’s 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center 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.)

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

“’My main point today is that usually one gets what one expects, but very rarely in the way one expected it.’”

 

– quoted from a draft of Charles Richter’s 1970 retirement speech, as printed in the Appendix of Richter’s Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man by Susan Elizabeth Hough

Over the last month (or so) I have developed a new guilty pleasure: watching the Lock Picking Lawyer’s YouTube videos. To be completely transparent, I will admit that I have known people who spent their down time at work picking locks from the “lost and found” (or locks that had to break, because the owner locked their self out). I will also admit that I found it an odd and eyebrow raising hobby – especially when they did it in full view of the very people who relied on locks for security. However, my previous opinions haven’t stopped me from getting hooked by these videos, starting with the first one I watched (which I will link at the end of this post).

The first video was the Lock Picking Lawyer’s annual April 1st video, which is slightly different from his regular offering (in that it is a joke); but it contains some of the same elements that are, frankly speaking, compelling and addictive. First, the videos are witty, logical, informative, and low-key ASMR. (ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is used to describe content that provides a calming experience for the brain and spine; what some people call a “brain massage.”) Second, the videos are philosophical on several different levels and reinforce some critical elements of our physical practice of yoga.

“Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.”

 

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher

Born in Vienna, Austria today in 1889, Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein was part of one of the richest families in Europe and (although he was the youngest of nine) he inherited his father’s fortune at the age of 24. Many people associate great wealth with great ease and comfort, but none of that wealth prevented Dr. Wittgenstein from suffering severe depression, contemplating suicide, or losing three of his brothers to mental health issues. He made anonymous donations to artists and writers (including Ranier Maria Rilke) and then ended up giving his entire fortune to his brothers and sisters. Throughout his lifetime, he worked in several different areas in an attempt to find some ease this suffering, but he ultimately said that philosophy saved him and was “the only work that gave me real satisfaction.” His work in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of the mind, and the philosophy of language is recognized as some of the most important works of philosophy of the twentieth century.

As I have previously mentioned (specifically in last year’s blog post on this date), “The word philosophy comes to us from Greek, by way of Latin, Old French, and Middle English, from a word that means “love of wisdom.” It is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, thought, reality, and existence. It provides a way to think about and understand the world, the universe, and everything. As stated in Wikipedia, it “is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” The most basic question being, “Why?” which spirals out as:

  • Who/What are you?
  • Why do you exist?
  • Where does the world come from? / Why does the world exist?

The philosophy of yoga addresses all of these questions, and the follow-up questions (like, “Why do we/I/other people do the things we/I/they do?” and “How do I find balance in my life/relationships/pose?”). Yoga addresses philosophical questions even when someone only practices the physical practice, because, ultimately, the physical practice is a container in which we can consider these questions.”

And, one of the questions that we address – especially through the physical practice – is the question of security/stability and comfort/ease. Many commentaries on Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras (in particular, commentary related to YS 2.46 – 49) point out that “stability and comfort go hand in hand.” We see this on and off the mat. There is a bit of a dichotomy, however, between what we think will bring us security/stability and comfort/ease versus what actually gives us those feelings. We could, for instance, have all the wealth of Ludwig Wittgenstein and, just as he did, suffer greatly.

One way people with stuff suffer is when they don’t feel their stuff is secure. For instance, consider the uncomfortable feeling some people have when they think they have forgotten to lock their front door after leaving home. Since the emotional (fear) response is connected to the perception of a threat, the feeling that they may have left the door unlocked is similar to returning home and finding the door wide open. Although the latter may be, understandably, more intense and acute – and combined that the fear that someone with nefarious intentions is inside – both sensations can be eliminated if we are secure in the knowledge that the door is locked (maybe because we checked before we left) and that the door is closed and locked upon our return.

What becomes very clear after a watching a few of the videos from the Locking Picking Lawyer is that in most cases the locks are “easily” picked. On one level, they provide a deterrent, but – more importantly – they are manifested maya (“illusion”). And, philosophically speaking, because they can be opened by someone you may not want to open them the lock and the closed door only give us the illusion of security – and that illusion (or perception) is what gives us the feeling of ease/comfort.

One of the things I appreciate about the Locking Picking Lawyer’s content is that while he readily “picks” apart the illusion, he also provides information that can make us better consumers. In being better informed – about the reality of locks – we make better decisions and, also, may experience more stable comfort and ease. Remember, in the Eastern philosophies, like Yoga and Buddhism, suffering comes from attachment and the end of suffering comes from the practice of non-attachment. No one wants someone to steal or mess with their stuff – that’s why people lock their stuff up! However, letting go of the illusion of the lock (and key or combination) can alleviate some suffering. Letting go can not only alleviate mental and emotional suffering, it can be one of the keys to unlocking physical suffering.

“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”

 

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher

I don’t know much about the Locking Picking Lawyer (other than the obvious and the fact that he’s married to Mrs. Lock Picking Lawyer, who apparently has no interest in picking locks). However, I definitely appreciate that his videos (unintentionally) reinforce the following critical elements which are directly applicable to our physical practice of yoga:

  • You need the right tools.
  • You can access almost anything with the right skills/knowledge.
  • You have to start with stability (i.e., secure what you’re accessing the way you would access it “in the wild”).
  • It’s important to access the core.
  • Take your time and go by the numbers / step by step.
  • It’s important to listen (and pay attention to what’s “clicking” and “binding”).
  • More knowledge comes from the inside than the outside.
  • Sometimes you have to turn things around.
  • Never underestimate the power of a good wiggle/jiggle.
  • It’s important to have a sense of humor.

“The most remarkable feature about the magnitude scale was that it worked at all and that it could be extended on a worldwide basis. It was originally envisaged as a rather rough-and-ready procedure by which we could grade earthquakes. We would have been happy if we could have assigned just three categories, large, medium, and small; the point is, we wanted to avoid personal judgments. It actually turned out to be quite a finely tuned scale.”

 

– quoted from the Earthquake Information Bulletin (January- February 1980, Volume 12, Number 1) article, “Charles F. Richter – An Interview” by Henry Spall, U. S. Geological Survey, Reston, Va. (regarding the scale Mr. Richter developed with Beno Gutenberg

With regard to those last two points, today is also the anniversary of the births of the seismologist and physicist Charles Richter (b. 1900, Overpeck, Ohio) and the award-winning Carol Burnett (b. 1933, San Antonio, Texas). Mr. Richter, along with Beno Gutenberg, developed the Richter Magnitude Scale in 1935. Prior to their creation, shocks were measured based The Mercalli intensity scale, which was developed by the Italian priest Giuseppe Mercalli and used Roman numerals (I to XII) to rate shocks based on how buildings and people were affected. The Richter-Gutenberg collaboration was designed to measure displacement in a non-subjective manner and the idea of using “magnitude” came from Mr. Richter’s interest in astronomy. (There’s a good possibility that if he were alive today he would spend some part of this evening and the next checking out the “Super” Pink Moon.) In addition to being remembered for his knowledge and ingenuity, Charles Richter is remembered as being a little prickly on the outside, but warm on the inside and for having a sense of humor – although he didn’t often laugh at himself.

Maybe Carol Burnett, one of the funniest people on the face of the Earth, could have helped Charles Richter laugh at the fact that a man who wasn’t planning to become a seismologist became synonymous with seismology. She has won 6 Primetime Emmy Awards (out of 23 nominations); 7 Golden Globe Awards (out of 18 nominations); 3 Tony Awards; and 3 Grammy Awards. An actress, comedian, singer, and writer, she has also received everything from 2 Peabody Awards to a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Life Achievement Award; a Presidential Medal of Freedom; and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She was even awarded the very first Golden Globes Carol Burnett Lifetime Achievement Award (for Television) and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But, before all of that, she endured a lot of suffering as a child because of the instability of her first family – specifically her parents, who were alcoholics – and then suffered as an adult when her oldest child suffered from drug addiction (and then died of pneumonia at the age of 39).

A natural born performer and, even before she “went into show business,” Carol Burnett sang, created characters, and developed the imagination that would lead her to a career that has spanned 7 decades. One of the things that “saved” her from a life of complete misery and insecurity was her grandmother Mabel – who not only raised her when her parents moved to Hollywood, but also regularly took her to the movies. As a secret “I love you” to her grandmother, Ms. Burnett would tug on her left ear at the end of every episode of The Carol Burnett Show.

“The first time someone said, ‘What are your measurements?’ I answered, ’37, 24, 38 – but not necessarily in that order.’”

 

– Carol Burnett, comedian

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice.

Unlock Your Generosity & Kiss My Asana!!

Yes, yes, it’s that time again! The 8th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days. And you can start today!!

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to post some extended prāņāyāma practices and to raise $400 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels. You can also add an extra wiggle to your day.

Lock Picking Lawyer Challenges Mrs. Lock Picking Lawyer

 

 

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. 

 

### “That’s All I Have for You Today.” ~LPL ###

Seeing All the Sides of the Story (the “missing” Saturday post) April 25, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those who are Counting the Omer.

 

[This is the “missing” post is related to Saturday, April 24th. You can request a substitute audio recording 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.)

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

 

 

“Everybody knows a hundred stories, you know, a thousand stories – the question is: Why does this story pick on you? Why this story and not that story? My guess is now this: the story or poem you find to write is the story or poem that has some meaning that you haven’t solved in it, that you haven’t quite laid hands on. So your writing—it is a way of understanding it, what its meaning, the potential meaning, is. And the story that you understand perfectly, you don’t write. You know what the meaning is; there’s nothing there to nag your mind about it. A story that’s one for you is the one you have to work to understand.”

 

 

– quoted from “A Conversation” (with John Baker, 1989) in Talking with Robert Penn Warren, edited by Floyd C. Watkins, John T. Hiers, and Mary Louise Weeks

 

Established April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress houses over 168 million items, in over 460 languages. These materials, housed in four buildings, as well as online, include millions of books and printed materials, recordings, photographs, maps, sheet music, manuscripts, “incunabula,” rare books, legal items, and other items designated as non-classified or special. While the Library of Congress was opened to the public in 1897 and is the de facto library of the United States and “the library of last resort” for all US citizens, the general public cannot randomly and at will check out books from the Library of Congress. However, if you find your way into its stacks – virtually or in real life, you will find stories by a number of authors, artists, composers, and cartographers who share the library’s birthday, including Anthony Trollope (b. 1815), Carl Spitteler (b. 1845), Robert Penn Warren (b. 1905), Sue Grafton (b. 1940), Eric Bogosian (b. 1953), and Kelly Clarkson (b. 1982. You will also find within those annals, the stores of those same authors, artists, composers, and cartographers.

Take Robert Penn Warren, for instance. A Southern Gentleman, if ever there was a Southern Gentleman, Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border. He spent his high school and undergraduate years in Tennessee, where he was a member of the poetry group known as “The Fugitives.” Some members of that group, including Mr. Warren, formed a group known as the “Southern Agrarians” (as well as the “Twelve Southerners” and a variety of other combinations of the same), which produced a “pro-Southern agrarian” collection of essays called I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930). Robert Penn Warren’s contribution to the “manifesto” was “The Briar Patch” – pro-segregation essay that was considered so “progressive” by some of the others in the group that it was almost excluded from the collection.

Now, right about here is the point where someone who knows that I’m Black and from the South might wonder why exactly I would highlight, even seem to celebrate, a man (albeit a poet) whose views are so antithetical to my own. I would wonder too, if that were the whole story. But it’s not, it’s not even close.

And, if you know anything about me, you know I’m going to suggest going deeper. Getting more of the story and, as Patanjali suggests, really focusing-concentrating-meditating on the various ways the story (and the subject of the story) changes in terms of form, time, and condition, allows us to see cause-and-effect at work/play.

Yoga Sūtra 3.16: pariņāmah-traya-samyamāt-atīta-anāgata-jñānam

 

– “By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.”

After graduating summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Robert Penn Warren earned a Masters at the University of California, Berkeley; studied at Yale University for a bit; and obtaining a B. Litt as a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford in England. He even received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts which allowed him to study in Italy while the country was under the control of Benito Mussolini.

He held all the national poet titles designated by the Library of Congress: serving as “Consultant in Poetry” 1944 – 1945 and then “Poet Laureate Consultant” 1986 – 1987.  He won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for All the King’s Men, perhaps his best known work) and both the 1958 and 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – making him the only person to win a Pulitzer in both Poetry and “Fiction.” (Last week, I slightly erroneously, identified Thornton Wilder as a winner a Pulitzer in both Drama and “Fiction;” however the latter prize was technically known as the “Pulitzer Prize for the Novel” when Mr. Wilder won it.) He also won the National Book Award for Poetry (for the collection that won the 1958 Pulitzer); was selected by the National Endowment of the Humanities to give the “Jefferson Lecture” in 1974; and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, a MacArthur Fellow in 1981, and the National Medal of Arts in 1987.

And that’s not only a small portion of his accolades; it’s only part of his story….

As if devoting a whole novel to a “controversial,” “radical” politician with “progressive” ideology wasn’t enough, Robert Penn Warren’s essay “Divided South Searches Its Soul” was published in the July 9, 1956 issue of Life magazine and an expanded version of the essay became the booklet Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South. He would write another Life essay, in 1961, that became a book entitled The Legacy of the Civil War. As if his words alone were not enough to walk back his previous words, Mr. Warren started sharing his (very Southern and very prominent) platform with Black Civil Rights activists through a series of interviews published as Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965).

“The asking and the answering which history provides may help us to understand, even to frame, the logic of experience to which we shall submit. History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”

 

– quoted from The Legacy of the Civil War by Robert Penn Warren

Before publishing the collection, Robert Penn Warren traveled around the country and recorded interviews with leaders like United States Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (the first African-American elected to Congress from New York); Whitney Young (of the National Urban League); Dr. Kenneth Clark (the husband half of the husband-wife team of psychologists whose work was cited in the landmark Supreme Court trial “Brown v. Board of Education”); Bayard Rustin (one of the organizers of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”); the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Malcolm X. He also interviewed authors like James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison; as well as (then) students like Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Lucy Thornton, Jean Wheeler, and Ruth Turner; and additional college students at Jackson State University and Tougaloo College (both of which are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Mississippi, although the latter is private and Christian-affiliated).

For a variety of reasons, about some of which we can only speculate, a lot of interviews were conducted but not included in the book. These include interviews with educator Septima Poinsetta Clark (who became known as “the Queen Mother” and “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights movement); the businessman Vernon Jordan; Gloria Richardson (one of the five women who were recognized as Civil Rights leaders – but not allowed to speak – during the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”); and Andrew Young (who would go on to serve in the United States Congress, as well as the 14th U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the 55th Mayor of Atlanta).

The published collection (which was reissued in 2014), additional correspondence and notes, and copies of the recordings – which include interviews that were not published in the book – can be found at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History (“The Nunn Center”) at the University of Kentucky, at the Yale University Library archives, and (naturally) at the Library of Congress. Additionally, the Nunn Center provides digital (and searchable) archives and there is also a digital exhibit hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities and the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries at Vanderbilt University.

Just to be clear, neither Robert Penn Warren nor those he interviewed seemed to (as far as I can tell) steer clear of controversial subjects – including violence with the Civil Rights Movement; social/cultural versus public/political segregation; cultural assimilation; the difference between the North and the South, as well as the difference between the different classes in the United States and the importance of history, education, and wealth in the United States. Mr. Warren has been quoted as stating, “The individual is an embodiment of external circumstances, so that a personal story is a social story.” In keeping with this idea, he not only asked people to define what it meant to be “a Negro;” he also asked their opinions about the works of people like W. E. B. Dubois, the Swedish economist and sociologist Dr. Gunnar Myrdal, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, he asked people to share their thoughts on abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown – not to mention Confederate heroes like Robert E. Lee.

“‘It is easy,’ I said, ‘I can change that picture of the world he carries around in his head.’

‘How?’

‘I can give him a history lesson.’

‘A history lesson?’

‘Yes, I am a student of history, don’t you remember? And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good-and-bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.’”

 

 – (Jack and Anne) quoted from All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“Everybody knows a thousand stories. But only one cocklebur catches in your fur and that subject is your question. You live with that question. You may not even know what that question is. It hangs around a long time. I’ve carried a novel as long as twenty years, and some poems longer than that.”

 

– Robert Penn Warren quoted from a 1981 interview

 

Let’s Share Some Kiss My Asana Stories!!

Last year during Kiss My Asana, I shared a few people’s yoga stories; however, to kick off the 8th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon, Mind Body Solutions, shared bits of stories (see links below) from people who directly benefit from the yoga practices offered by MBS.

This annual yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days. And you can start today!!

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to post some extended prāņāyāma practices and to raise $400 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels. If you want to combine this practice with your Kiss My Asana practice, ask someone to tell you their yoga story!!!

 

A little bit of Rodrigo Souza’s story…

 

A little bit about Mary Peterson’s story…

 

“[B]

Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.”

 

– quoted from the poem “Tell Me a Story” by Robert Penn Warren

 

 

 

### YES, YES, TELL ME A STORY! ###

Shy & Fearless, Take 2 April 25, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those who are Counting the Omer.

 

“To me, fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. Fearless is falling madly in love again, even though you’ve been hurt before. Fearless is walking into your freshman year of high school at fifteen. Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again … even though every time you’ve tried before, you’ve lost. It’s fearless to have faith that someday things will change.”

 

– quoted from the liner notes for the album Fearless by Taylor Swift

Everyone from Taylor Swift (who I’m actually quoting below) to South African President Nelson Mandela have stated that “being fearless is not the absence of fear.” So, what is it if it’s not being with “less” fear?

Turns out everyone from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to Ashley Graham and Thich Nhat Hanh agree that the most important part of “being fearless” is being – and, in some cases, doing, moving, playing.

“This is based on a true story. While hiking in the hills of Rishikesh in India, we encountered a holy man who approached with light in his eyes and love in his heart… just beaming with inspiration. He spoke as if he were channeling the divinity ever present in that wonderful country and spoke these words… “Light of sun in the sky sends the message: Be Fearless and Play!” We were fascinated and inspired by his simple but insightful words.”

 

 

– quoted from the liner notes for the song “Be Fearless and Play” by Wookiefoot

Despite some really divine encounters with a couple of people affiliated with the band/circus/non-profit/adventure that is Wookiefoot, I had never heard the song (or the album) “Be Fearless and Play” before today. However, the inspiration and the lyrics definitely fit in with my overall philosophy on being fearless – that is to say, it always involves a certain amount of “play.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging recklessness. Instead, I am encouraging a little improvisation. See, when I think of being fearless, I think of improve – comedy; yes, yes! And also, mostly, jazz. I think about the kind of play that involves knowing the rules in order to break (or at least bend) the rules. I think about scat. I think about “mak[ing] the moves up as [you] go.” I think about facing the obstacle that is your own self and knowing that today is not a good day for self defeat. I think about people like Ella Fitzgerald.

 

[A portion of this post was part of my 2020 Kiss My Asana offering, which is directly tied to our Saturday sūtra exploration.]

 

Born today (April 25th) in 1917, Fitzgerald would eventually become a bandleader known as the First Lady of Jazz, Mama of Jazz, Lady Ella, and the Queen of Jazz. She would be championed by musicians like Benny Carter and Chick Webb (who gave her one of her big shots); composers like Ira Gershwin (who once said, “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them”); and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra (both of whom challenged segregation laws and racial bias, in their own ways, on Ella’s behalf). She would be heralded by universities and heads of state, awarded the National Medal of Arts (by President Ronald Reagan in 1987), and presented France’s Commander of Arts and Letters award in 1990.

On November 21, 1934, however, when she stood on the stage at the Apollo, Ella Fitzgerald was just a shy, reserved, self-conscious 17-year old orphan with a reportedly disheveled appearance.  She hadn’t become a legendary scat artist, hadn’t recorded a single song (let alone over 200 albums) and hadn’t performed at Carnegie Hall once (let along 26 times). In fact, the woman who would eventually be known for her ability to mimic any horn in the orchestra wasn’t even planning to sing!

“They were the dancingest sisters around.”

 

 

– Ella Fitzgerald describing Ruth and Louise Edwards (known as the Edwards Sisters)

Yes, you read that right: Ella Fitzgerald didn’t enter the Apollo’s Amateur Night as a singer. She intended to dance. The problem was the main event concluded with the Edwards Sisters, a crowd favorite. Seeing the Edwards Sisters’ tap dancing bring the house down – and knowing the critical (and vocal) reputation of the Apollo audience – young Ella froze, and asked herself some variation of those aforementioned questions.

“Once up there, I felt the acceptance and love from my audience. I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life.”

 

 

– Ella Fitzgerald on how it felt after she sang one of her mother’s favorite songs at the Apollo

It’s a weird dichotomy to think of Ella Fitzgerald as both shy and fearless; yet, that is exactly who and what she was. Out of context it sounds odd. When you know more of her story, however, it is inspiring and encouraging. After all, every one of us can make the decision to climb on, to celebrate, and to persevere. All we need is to recognize what is already inside of us, what has gotten us this far. At the same time, what has gotten us this far is also what might have us giving up and turning back….

In that moment of questioning, young Ella’s consciousness, her awareness of herself and her awareness of what she could do, merged with all the possible outcomes and in that moment there was fear of failing on the stage and also, as a teenager already taking care of herself in the world, there was the fear of failing in life. So, there was suffering – and, in this case, (mental) suffering that could also lead to (physical) pain. In that same moment, she also recognized a way to succeed and to alleviate (or avoid) some of her suffering.

“We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us. We can transform our fear. Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”

 

 

– quoted from Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, April 25th) at 2:30 PM, for an experience. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “04252020 Ella’s Shy & Fearless Day”]

 

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.)

“Be Fearless and Play
You could live for tomorrow and still live here in today

When i would play when i was a child
I swore that i would never forget no
I will never forget no!

Be Fearless and Play
This is one thing that no one can ever take away”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Be Fearless and Play” by Wookiefoot

…& don’t forget to fearlessly Kiss My Asana!!

Yes, yes, it’s that time again! The 8th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days. And you can start today!!

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to post some extended prāņāyāma practices and to raise $400 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels. Consider, as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, doing “the thing you think you cannot do.”

 

 

### YOU’VE GOT THIS ###

See All the Sides of the Story (just the music) April 24, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those who are Counting the Omer.

 

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, April 24th) at 12:00 PM, for an experience. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

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). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

 

 

 

### 🎶 ###

An Auspicious and Holy Time April 21, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Rama Navami / Chaitra Navaratri and those who are Counting the Omer.

“The truth, from my perspective, is that the world, indeed, is ending — and is also being reborn.  It’s been doing that all day, every day, forever.  Each time we exhale, the world ends; when we inhale, there can be, if we allow it, rebirth and spiritual renewal.  It all transpires inside of us.  In our consciousness, in our hearts.  All the time.”

 

 

– Tom Robbins quoted in the Reality Sandwich article “The Syntax of Sorcery: An Interview with Tom Robbins” by Tony Vigorito (posted online June 6, 2012)

“Renewal” is a funny word, because I don’t think it is (technically) a homonym (i.e., a word that has multiple meanings), but it is a word that can conjure up very different sentiments. Simply stated, a “renewal” is the continuation or extension of something. Sometimes we think of it in the context of an activity or state that has been continuous, but had a set ending date – like when we borrow a book from a public library. Other times, we think of it in the context of continuing something that has been interrupted. Renewal can also be used to refer to something that has been repaired and/or restored to its original state… so that it can continue fulfilling its purpose.

Regardless of how you think of the word, “renewal” is a concept that we often associate with Spring. In fact, similar to how cultures all over the world celebrate light overcoming darkness during the darkest times of the year, cultures all over the world spend some portion of Spring celebrating renewal. In many cases, these celebrations mark a renewal of faith and a celebration of the continuation of a covenant with God.

Today, April 21, 2021, at least five different communities around the world are observing rituals related to renewal. This is the penultimate week of Great Lent for people within the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition; this is the second week of the month of Ramadān in Islām; for people within the Jewish community who are Counting the Omer, this afternoon/evening marks the end of the 24th Day and the beginning of the 25th Day; this is the second day of the Festival of Ridván for the Bahá’I; and this is the ninth day and final night of Chaitra Navaratri – which is also Rama Navami – in the Hindu community. Each ritual has different customs, traditions, and significances; however, what is important to note is how each observation renews people’s connection with their faith, their community, and the deepest parts of themselves.

As I’ve mentioned before, the word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for “spring season” and is a period of 40 days meant to mirror the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness prior to being betrayed, crucified, and resurrected. For Christians, it is seen as a period of preparation (for Easter) and involves fasting, prayer, reflection, redemption, and (yes) renewal. While the story is the same, the Roman Catholic and Western Christian traditions use a different calendar than the Eastern / Orthodox Christian traditions. Another difference in the way the season is observed is that in the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions Sundays are considered “Feast Days” and excluded from the count, while during “Great Lent” Sundays are included.

The holy month of Ramadān is another observation within an Abrahamic religion and it also involves a different calendar than the others – so the overlap in holy times is not always the same. While the fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month is a holy obligation (for those who are physically able) and one of the Five Pillars of Faith in Islām, I normally don’t focus on the ritual until the end of the holy month – which includes a night that is considered the holiest night of the month, a night of revelation and destiny.

Within the Jewish community, there are people who started observing the sacred ritual of Counting the Omer on the second day of Passover. This is a period of 49 days, a total of 7 weeks, leading up to Shavuot (also known as the “Festival of Weeks”) – which itself is a commemoration of the Jewish people receiving the Torah. Commonly associated with Jewish mysticism (Kabbalism), the practice of Counting the Omer involves 7 of the 10 attributes of the Divine that are found on the Tree of Life. Each day is associated with a different attribute, as is each week – which means that for 49 days people are focusing-concentrating-meditating on the interrelation of two attributes.

This week the overall focus is Netzach, (“endurance” or “sustainability”) which is associated with the right hip and leg. Netzach can also be associated with “flow” in that it is the drive that keeps us flowing and going. Like a good majority of religious observations, sunset marks the beginning of a new day – which means at least one of my classes overlaps Days 24 and 25: endurance in balance (or compassion) and endurance in endurance.

“Every hero begins their mission by trying to avoid it…. We do the same in many areas of our life, and the focus of Netzach-Endurance is healing this spiritual-emotional character-flaw to achieve more in our life.”

 

 

– quoted from The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment by Marcus J. Freed  

Of course, there are other lenses through which we can view attributes of the Divine. If you look at a Bahá’i calendar, for instance, you will notice that each of the 19 months is named for an attribute (or name) of God – as each day. People within the Bahá’i Faith are currently in the second month of the year, which is particularly notable because it is the month of Ridván, “The Most Great Festival.”

Exactly one month after the Vernal Equinox, which also marks the beginning of the Bahá’i New Year, the twelve-day festival of Ridván honors the time that the founder of the Bahá’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh spent in the original garden of Ridván prior to being exiled to Constantinople. The Arabic word ridván means “paradise” and I indicated “the original garden,” because in addition to the garden outside of Baghdad, where the great spiritual leader (considered a manifestation of the Divine) prepared for his exile, there is a second garden with the same name in Israel, which Bahá’u’lláh visited after years of exile.

The festival is a time of a sacred time of prayer, reflection, and celebration. It begins two hours after sunset to commemorate the actual time in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh entered the Najíbíyyih Garden with his family and secretary and began to receive the visitors who wanted to wish him well before his departure. It was during this time, in the space he called “paradise,” that Bahá’u’lláh declared himself as the most recent manifestation of God; that all religious wars were repealed; that there would not be another manifestation of the God for another 1,000 years; and that the names of God (or attributes of the divine) are manifested in all things. To honor the fact that he made these announcements, the Universal House of Justice issues an annual Ridván message. There are also elections held during this time. The first day (yesterday), the ninth day, and the twelfth day are considered the most holy of days.

In Hinduism, the fall celebration of Navaratri is a celebration of divine feminine energy, specifically of Durga, the divine mother, in various manifestations. There are three other celebrations, also referred to as Navaratri (which means “nine nights” in Sanskrit) including this spring celebration, which is also considered by some to be the Indian New Year. In some regions of India, the spring celebration of Chaitra Navaratri, culminates on the final day with Rama Navami – a celebration of the birth of Lord Rama. Many people mark this occasion by telling stories of Rama, including reciting parts of the epic poem the Rāmāyana and partaking in various forms of bhakti (“devotional”) yoga like kirtan. Some people will wash and clothe miniature statues of a baby Rama, before placing the baby in the cradle. Many will also fast and engage in spiritual reflection on this special day that is, in some regions, an optional government and bank holiday.

“Lord Ram gave Hanuman a quizzical look and said, ‘What are you, a monkey or a man?’ Hanuman bowed his head reverently, folded his hands and said, ‘When I do not know who I am, I serve You and when I do know who I am, You and I are One.’”

 

– quoted from the epic Sanskrit poem Ramacharitmanas (Lake of the Deeds of Rama) by Goswami Tulsidas

 

Please join me today (Wednesday, April 21st) 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, playlists, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

 

### AUM ###

Accepting Rachel’s Challenge April 20, 2021

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[“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri and Ridván.]

WARNING: This post specifically references a horrific and tragic event from 1999. You can skip most of these references by jumping from the first highlighted quote to the second highlighted quote.

“Compassion is the greatest form of love that humans have to offer. According to Webster’s Dictionary, compassion means a feeling of sympathy for another person’s misfortune. My definition is forgiving, loving, helping, leading, and showing mercy for others. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

 

– quoted from the essay “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” by Rachel Joy Scott (written in period 5)

 

Back in 2018, as one of my Kiss My Asana yogathon offerings, I referenced a lot – well, some – of the people who tragically lost their lives throughout history on April 19th and 20th. One of the people I mentioned was Rachel Joy Scott – the first person shot at Columbine High School today in 1999. In some ways, it is hard to believe that 22 years have passed since that mass shooting that some people thought would change everything. It’s equally hard to believe that there are adults – people who can serve in the armed forces, legally vote, and in some cases legally drink alcohol in the United States – who were not even born when 2 high school seniors killed 12 people and injured 24 others before taking their own lives. It’s mind-boggling to me that (based on recent events and data compiled by The New Yorker and Trace in 2019) there have been over 200 mass shootings in the United States since today in 1999. Those shootings have affected thousands upon thousands of lives. Furthermore, it is astounding that what was (at the time) the fifth deadliest shooting in the United States (after World War II) “is now not even in the top ten.”

I’m not going to spend my time here (or in class) talking about my opinion about gun control and/or the 2nd Amendment. Nor am I going to spend a lot of time stating the obvious fact that, as the statistics and the lives lost clearly attest, we have a problem – because, let’s be honest, we have a lot of problems right now. What I am going to focus on today is Rachel’s Challenge. Not the program (although I will mention that) so much as the idea(l).

“I am sure that my codes of life may be very different from yours, but how do you know that trust, compassion, and beauty will not make this world a better place to be in and this life a better one to live? My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself, and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction.”

 

 

– quoted from the essay “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” by Rachel Joy Scott (written in period 5)

Somewhere on her person, perhaps in her backpack, 17-year old Rachel Joy Scott had a notebook. It was one of several notebooks that turned up after Rachel’s death. Some of the notebooks were full of thoughts, poetry, and art she was just sharing with herself. Some of the notebooks, however, were a form of communication between her and her “big brother” Mark Pettit. They would each write in the notebooks and then swap them during small groups at church.

The notebooks became a way for Rachel’s family to tell her story and also a way to spread her message about the importance of compassion. They, along with the stories other people shared about their encounters with Rachel, led her family to start Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit that creates “programs that promote a positive climate in K-12 schools.” They also have comprehensive programs for colleges and businesses.

On the foundation’s website, the Rachel’s Challenge mission is stated as “Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.” They also indicate that when the program is fully implemented, “partner schools achieve statistically significant gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate; along with reductions in bullying, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.”

“ANTROBUS: …. Oh, I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for — whether it’s a field, or a home, or a country. All I ask is the chance to build new worlds and God has always given us that second chance, and has given us [opening the book] voices to guide us; and the memory of our mistakes to warn us. Maggie, you and I must remember in peace time all those resolves that were clear to us in the days of war. Maggie, we’ve come a long ways. We’ve learned. We’re learning. And the steps of our journey are marked for us here.”

 

 

– quoted from The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

 

I did not know Rachel Joy Scott or Cassie Bernall (17), Steven Curnow (14), Corey DePooter (17), Kelly Fleming (16), Matthew Kechter (16), Daniel Mauser (15), Daniel Rohrbough (15), Isaiah Shoels (18), John Tomlin (16), Lauren Townsend (18), Kyle Velasquez (16), William “Dave” Sanders (47), nor (to my knowledge) do I know anyone else that was at Littleton, Colorado, today in 1999. I did not know the two seniors that wrecked so much havoc (and whose names I am choosing not to post, even though their families also suffered greatly.) I am not affiliated with the foundation Rachel’s family started and neither have I gone through their program. However, I believe in the message and I believe in the idea(l).

I have seen the chain reaction that starts with compassion and kindness – just as I have seen the chain reaction that begins with a lack of empathy and a lack of equanimity. In that essay she wrote in period 5, Rachel talked about first, second, and third impressions and how they don’t always give you a full picture of someone. She wrote, “Did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and not just at their appearance?” We are, right here and right now, experiencing the chain reactions that occur when we don’t really see each other and when we don’t recognize the fact that we are all connected. We are – right here and right now – about to set off a new chain reaction.

Quick, ask yourself: What is motivating you and what do you expect to come out of your actions?

“One of the big things we’re focused on is how you see yourself. Each and every one of us in this room has a great capacity to do great things.”

 

 

– Craig Scott speaking to a small group of students during a Rachel’s Challenge event

 

“I challenge students to choose positive influences. Rachel wanted to make a positive difference. So, she surrounded herself with the right influences that helped her be a powerful, positive person.”

 

 

– Craig Scott speaking in a 2018 TODAY feature story

Please join me today (Tuesday, April 20th) 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.

 

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.)

 

“She was a real girl, who had real struggles, and – just was in the pursuit to, you know, pretty much just show compassion and love to anybody who needed it. You know: Whatever religion, whatever race, whatever class – any of that stuff. I mean, it did not matter to Rachel…. She saw my heart.”

 

 

– Mark Pettit, talking about the movie I’m Not Ashamed, a 2016 film based on their journals

 

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. 

 

### “BE NICE…. SMILE.” ###

Getting Grounded, Staying Grounded April 19, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri and Ridván.

“I will be your standing stone
I will stand by you”

– quoted from the song “Standing Stone” by Melanie DeMore

This week is about staying grounded and centered – which requires getting grounded and centered. Take a moment to consider what it takes to stand up, for, and beside yourself – let alone what it takes to stand up, for, and beside someone else. In the poem “Here,” from her book One Soul: More Poems from the Heart of Yoga, Danna Faulds reminds us that what we need is right where we need it most: inside us.

“Its always here, the silent

underpinning, the foundation

beneath the foundation. When

I reach deep enough into darkness,

inside fear, self doubt, aversion, or

despair, there’s something so intact

I almost miss it in my focus on

brokenness. Its always here, this

ground of being. Like the water in

which fish swim, its easy to overlook

the eloquence of truth. Its here, this

guiding presence, this calm, abiding

stillness. It’s here when I don’t try”

– quoted from the poem “Here” by Danna Faulds

Please join me today (Monday, April 19th) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute 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.

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice.

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.)

Standing Stone

### BREATHE PEACE IN, BREATHE PEACE OUT ###

A Midnight Ride Into History (give or take 10 hours) April 18, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri and Ridván.

 

 

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Not going to lie: It’s been hard getting geared up to talk about American history today. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to appear to glorify treason and insurrection. And, since I set my own curriculum, I can (relatively easily) change my lesson plan on any given day. However, that can sometimes be hypocritical. It would especially be hypocritical today, because (as I have stated before), I believe in history, I believe in context; and I believe in things that are true. And those are the very reasons why I started teaching today’s theme in the first place.

Remember, April is poetry month and while there’s a plethora of ways to write a poem and any number of reasons why someone may write a poem – let alone why they might write it a certain way – a poem is a form of expression that can tell a story in a way that is both memorable and easy to remember (which are not necessarily the same things) and also inspirational. This fact alone, the overall staying power of a poem, is why Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and why he wrote it the way he wrote it. It’s also the reason I originally chose to highlight the poem: Because it’s a really great example of well-written propaganda that shaped history by shaping the way things are remembered.

We are, once again, at a critical time in history – a time that will be remembered. And, once again, we run the risk of getting so caught up in the momentum of the moment that we forget the importance of how today’s story will be is being told. Yes, I changed the tense there, because the poems, songs, essays, articles, visual and performing art – as well as news stories and texts books – that tell the story of today are already being created. And, thanks to the internet, some are already being “published” and heralded as truth. Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, also known in English as “George Santayana,” famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, let’s take a moment to consider why things are remembered the way they are remembered.

“With wonderful deathless ditties

We build up the world’s great cities,

   And out of a fabulous story

   We fashion an empire’s glory:”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

[The remainder of this post is part of a 2018 Kiss My Asana offering.]

 

Listen, my children, and you shall hear… something new and yet, very familiar. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known poem about the events of April 18, 1775 reads like a historically narrative when, in fact, there’s a lot more going on between the lines. To understand what’s going on and why Longfellow may have fictionalized parts of the story, we have to go back… not only to 1775, but also to the 1860’s.

First, a little about the poet: Longfellow was a successful poet during his lifetime. His success and popularity among readers and critics alike was notable not only because of his poems, but also because his popularity rivaled his British contemporaries. In fact, he was one of several New England poets referred to as Fireside Poets, because his poems served as family entertainment around the fireside. Longfellow recognized that he could use his platform not only to entertain, but also to educate, guide, and inspire. He also recognized that he could best convey his messages if they were served with a Romantic hero.

Enter Hiawatha (1855), Miles Standish (1858), and one Paul Revere (1860), to name a few.

Historians note that when he died, Paul Revere was remembered as a successful silversmith and a good friend. He was not celebrated as the midnight rider until Longfellow’s poem, which is curious unless one considers the discrepancies within the poem. For instance, history reveals that Revere was responsible for sending out the lantern signal, not receiving it. But, seeing the lantern is a much more romantic idea than receiving orders and firmly establishes Revere as receiving the “hero’s call” – which is critical to the hero’s cycle/journey.

Also, Revere was one of three riders who alerted the colonists about the arrival of the British army, the referred to as the Regulars. William Dawes and Revere were both instructed to ride from Boston to Lexington (via different routes) and then on to Concord, raising the alarm along the way. They were eventually joined by a Dr. Samuel Prescott, but then all three were detained by British troops. Dawes and Prescott escaped. Revere was escorted back to Lexington, at gunpoint. Ultimately, Prescott was the only one to make it all the way to Concord. Yet, Longfellow never utters the names Dawes and Prescott.

Another curious note about Longfellow’s poem is how he switches back and forth between past and present tense – seeming to tell it like it was (in 1775), but also like it is (in the early 1860’s). In both time periods, the country was headed towards civil war. Longfellow changing between past and present tense moved readers back and forth between the American Revolution and the Civil War (between the States), and reinforced the message that both civil wars liberated people within the continent. Since he was, essentially, issuing a battle cry to other abolitionists, Longfellow needed a simple story with a simple hero, preferably one whose name had a certain ring to it, a name he could easily rhyme.

“A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo forevermore!

For, borne on the night wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Did you catch that? Back in 1860, Longfellow wanted people woke, and the message (when you bring it forward) is not about the British coming, it’s about the coming danger to life, liberty, and freedom.

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, April 18th) at 2:30 PM, for an experience. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Sunday’s playlist is ONLY available on YouTube. [Look for “04182020 A Midnight Ride”]

If you prefer using Spotify, check out the “102020 Pratyahara” playlist.

 

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.)

 

If you’re interested in a more philosophical take related to today’s date, check out my 2020 Kiss My Asana offering.

 

“He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm’”

 

 

 

– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

### SOMETHING’S DEFINITELY COMING ###

The Order of Things (with all due respect to Michel Foucault) April 17, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri.

“The discrepancy between faith and the facts is greater than is generally assumed. The art of biography is more difficult than is generally supposed.”

 

 

– Brother Juniper in The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder, born in Madison, Wisconsin, today in 1897, wrote a lot of biographies. I mean… a lot of biographies. Granted, he mostly wrote biographies about fictional people, but that didn’t stop him from creating (and then recreating) the layers and layers of these people’s lives – and, in doing so, highlighting cause and effect.  In fact, that process of deep diving into someone’s personal history in order to better understand the end result of their history is Brother Juniper’s primary motivation in The Bridge of San Luis Rey (for which Mr. Wilder won his first Pulitzer Prize).

Ten years after winning that first Pulitzer Prize (in Fiction), Thornton Wilder won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Our Town, a play that not only highlights cause and effect, it includes a scene where a woman (Emily Webb) gets to playback a portion of her life. He would win his third Pulitzer Prize (also in Drama) in 1943, for The Skin of Our Teeth – a play that is notable for being out of sync and full of things that are out of time. In addition to his three Pulitzers and numerous other awards, Mr. Wilder won the 1968 National Book Award for Fiction for The Eighth Day, a multi-family biography disguised as a murder mystery. Or, maybe it’s a murder mystery disguised as a biography of two families. Either way, it highlights a sequence of events and how they are connected.

“This is a history.


But there is only one history. It began with the creation of man and will come to an end when the last human consciousness is extinguished. All other beginnings and endings are arbitrary conventions – makeshifts parading as self-sufficient entireties, diffusing petty comfort or petty despair. The cumbrous shears of the historian cut out a few figures and brief passage of time from that enormous tapestry. Above and below the laceration, to the right and left of it, the severed threads protest against the injustice, against the imposture.

It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.”

 

 

– quoted from The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder

What we find, in just about every work by Thornton Wilder, is that there is always a time and a place, but our understanding of the time (and the place) – as well as our understanding of ourselves – changes based on where we start and how the story unfolds… or, more specifically, how the story is told.

As a writer, Mr. Wilder decided who knew what when for his characters and also for his readers. According to Patanjali, our brains are like the author: showing us different things at different times and, also, not showing us things that other people see/understand with clarity. Additionally, things play out in a certain sequence. Yet that sequence is not always the sequence we (individually and/or collectively) experience or understand.

It can all get quite confusing, which is why (on Monday) I asked the question “Where to begin?” – because where we begin establishes a sequence of events that is paramount to our understanding of cause and effect. Remember, as Edward Norton Lorenz established with chaos theory, changing the beginning of the sequence can change the end results.

Yoga Sūtra 3.13: etena bhūta-indriyaşu dharma lakşaņa-avasthā- pariņāmah vyākhyātāh

 

– “In this [one-pointed] state, [the mind] passes beyond the three kinds of changes which take place in subtle and gross matter, and in the organs: change of form, change of time and change of condition.”

 

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.14: śānta-udita-avyapadeśya-dharma-anupātī dharmī

 

– “A compound object, containing the attributes, and is subject to change, either past, present or yet to be manifested.”

 

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.15: krama-anyatvam pariņāmah-anyatve hetuh

 

– “Change in the sequence of the characteristics is the cause for the different appearances of results, consequences, or effects.”

Swami Vivekananda illustrated Yoga Sūtra 3.13 by describing the changes in form, time, and condition of a lump of gold. For a moment, let’s apply the same thread to water. Water can be in the form of liquid, solid, or gas and it can be pure or sullied or in the process of running clear or becoming muddy. Additionally, water can take the form or shape of its container – whether that is a shoreline or a mug – and can also absorb vibrations in a way that changes its form. All of this happens through spans of time and, under certain conditions, includes a decrease or increase in the volume of water. When we apply this same line of thinking to our thoughts and the fluctuations of our mind, we begin to see how meditation works.

 Of course, for the process of meditation to “work,” we must practice in stages and be willing to let go of previous layers of thought, sensation, and understanding. We must, as Thornton Wilder indicates, move around and view the landscape from different vantage points – which we can only truly do if we practice non-attachment and are willing to see everything (including ourselves) from all sides. This requires a bit of that same suspension of disbelief that we engage when we read a book or watch a movie; it requires us to focus and be fully engaged in the present moment as it fluctuates between the past and future moments.

“‘My friends,’ continued Chrysis, turning her eyes slowly from face to face….

 

‘Suddenly the hero saw that the living too are dead and that we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasure; for our hearts are not strong enough to love every moment. And not an hour had gone by before the hero who was both watching life and living it called on Zeus to release him from so terrible a dream.’”

 

 

– quoted from The Woman of Andros by Thornton Wilder

 

 

“EMILY: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

STAGE MANAGER: No. [Pause.]The saints and poets maybe – they do some.”

 

– quoted from Our Town by Thornton Wilder

 

One of the side effects (some would say “benefits,” others would say “disadvantages”) of this type of practice is the awareness that things are the way they are and work the way they work, because of a very specific sequence of events. If the sequence of events changes, the outcome changes; however, to change the sequence (in order to change the outcome) we have to know where to begin.

Yes, yes, we are back to that – and back to the butterfly effect. Of course, since we cannot go back and change what has happened in the past, we can only move forward. Moving forward with awareness – awareness of how and why things are the way they are and work the way they work – requires understanding cause and effect.

In The Essence of Chaos, Edward Norton Lorenz emphatically argued for believing in free will and wrote, “Before proceeding further, we need to consider the question of free will of human beings, and perhaps of other animate creatures. Most of us presumably believe that the manner in which we will respond to a given set of circumstances has not been predetermined, and that we are free to make a choice…. Our behavior is then a form of randomness in the broader sense; more than one thing is possible next.” However, according to Eastern philosophies like Yoga (and current events), we are conditioned to “respond to a given set of circumstances” based on our previous circumstances and our understanding of those circumstances (i.e., our samskaras, layers of mental impressions). Therefore, while I agree with his basic premise and overall idealization of free will, our behavior might be better described as a form of “random chaos” – in that there are multiple outcomes, but those outcomes are limited by our ability to see the choices within a given situation and the possible outcomes… and our ability to see clearly is limited by the situation and by our previous experiences.

 

“STAGE MANAGER: Wherever you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense….”

 

– quoted from Our Town by Thornton Wilder

 

 

“ANTROBUS: …. Oh, I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for — whether it’s a field, or a home, or a country. All I ask is the chance to build new worlds and God has always given us that second chance, and has given us [opening the book] voices to guide us; and the memory of our mistakes to warn us. Maggie, you and I must remember in peace time all those resolves that were clear to us in the days of war. Maggie, we’ve come a long ways. We’ve learned. We’re learning. And the steps of our journey are marked for us here.”

 

 

– quoted from The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, April 17th) at 12:00 PM, for an experience. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “07112020 An Introduction”]

 

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.)

 

 

“Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.”

 

 

– quoted from The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

 

 

### ABJAD 21 ###

Dwelling in Possibilities April 14, 2021

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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri.

I dwell in Possibility –

A fairer House than Prose –

More numerous of Windows –

Superior – for Doors –“

 

– quoted from the poem “I dwell in Possibility (466)” by Emily Dickinson

Introduced in 1996, National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry organized by the Academy of American Poets. Each year, I offer a class focused on poetry (in motion). If you are interested in reading more about some of the poets that I reference (in April and throughout the year), you can check out my 2018 Kiss My Asana offerings – starting with the blog post from April 1, 2018.

“Even when a man takes revenge on others who hate him, in spite of him not hating them initially, the pain caused by his vengeance will bring him inevitable sorrow.” (313)

“When a man inflicts pain upon others in the forenoon, it will come upon him unsought in the afternoon.” (319)

– quoted from the English translation of the Thirukkural (Sacred Couplets) “Aesthetic Virtue” heading “1.3.8. Not Doing Evil” sampled as the Tamil lyrics of the song “Ahimsa” by U2 and A. R. Rahman, featuring Khatija and Raheema Rahman (translation from IntegralYoga.org)

Please join me today (Wednesday, April 14th) 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, playlists, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

DON’T FORGET! Next month’s “First Friday Night Special” will be May the 7th, which this year falls during the month of Ramadan, in the Muslim tradition.  In the Jewish tradition, it is “forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer” and a time when people will be focused on “Bonding in Bonding.” [If you received a class recording this week, you can obviously see that I got my months mixed up; however we will still consider what holds something together. Time and additional details will be posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar soon!

### PEACE IN, PEACE OUT ###