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More Hope, More History… November 9, 2020

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[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.]

“Fate is what you are given. Destiny is what you make of it.”

– original source unknown

Let’s talk about the difference between fate and destiny. Often, especially in (American) English, we use the words interchangeably, and without distinction. We sometimes do this even if we know “destiny” shares etymological roots with “destination” and “fate” is rooted in the mythology of the three goddess, sisters, or witches (depending on the depiction) who weave (or stir) together the circumstances of one’s life. Either way you look at it, both are related to cause and effect – something we pay attention to in the Eastern philosophies like Yoga and Buddhism.

The concept of will, or determination, is one of the challenges that comes up when discussing fate and destiny; because, our understanding of the concepts may involve a level of predestination. One way to distinguish the two concepts, and the role predestination plays, is to think of fate as the present moment – which has been determined by all the previous moments – and destiny as a possible future moment – which will be determined by fate (i.e., this present moment and all the previous moments). If we look at it this way, we can’t change our fate, but we can change our destiny.

Yes, yes, it might be possible to present and argue the reverse, but I think that way gets really muddled. I’d rather go back to the “seat” of the words. Fate comes to the English from Latin, by way of Italian and Middle English, from a phrase that means “that which has been spoken.” Destiny comes through Old French and Middle English, from the Latin meaning “make firm, establish.” So, again, fate is what has happened and destiny is what we make happen. As an example, step back to Saturday with me and let’s revisit Philoctetes from The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes.

“Human beings suffer.
They torture one another
They get hurt and they get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

– The Greek Chorus in The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney

Remember that Philoctetes was a great archer who had a magical bow. According to Sophocles accounting of events, the bow was a thank you gift from Heracles, the divine protector of mankind and patron of gymnasiums, whose funeral pyre could only be lit by the great archer. So, by using his skills to light the pyre, Philoctetes has the means to (eventually) assist Odysseus in winning the Trojan War by mortally wounding Paris with a poisoned arrow. Those circumstances, along with the fact that he is bitten by a poisonous snake, make up Philoctetes’ fate. His destiny could be to die of his wounds on the island where his colleagues abandoned him – because they couldn’t stand the sound of his belly aching – or he could go to Troy, win the war, and have his snake wound healed.

Now, keep in mind that like all the other characters, the fate and destiny of Philoctetes are tied up with the fate and destiny of Paris who, once wounded, could have been healed if he hadn’t pissed off and abandoned his first wife. (Alas, poor, pitiful Paris, he thought his destiny was power, rather than the love of a “good woman,” and let that thirst for power be his dharma or guiding principle.)

“Fate is your karma. Destiny is your dharma.”

– Livnam Kaur

Some people think the power of fate and destiny can reside not only in our actions, but also in a date. Take today, for instance: November 9th. In Germany it is known as Schicksalstag – “Destiny Day” or “Fateful Day” – because of all the historical events that happened today and shaped the history of Germany. IT’s kind of wild, when you think about it. But, also, when you start to go deeper into the events, you start to realize that some (but not all) of the events were planned because people believed in the power of the day.

In talking about the events of today throughout German history, most people start with 1848 and the execution of the democratic politician, poet, and publisher Robert Blum. One of the leaders of the National Assembly of 1848 and a prominent figure during the Vienna revolts, Blum was arrested after the Vienna revolts and argued in vain that his role as a deputy from the German Diet should protect him from execution. Instead, his death was used as an example and a method for crushing the subsequent revolution in Germany in the spring of 1849.

Fast forward 70 years, to 1918, and Emperor Wilhelm II was dethroned by his chancellor, Max von Baden, and socialist and social democratic politicians proclaimed the beginning of the “Free” German Republic. As a side note, Albert Einstein was named winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics today in 1922.

In 1923, the failed “Beer Hall Putsch” marked the initial emergence and downfall of the Nazi Party. Even though the march officially failed it was the beginning of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, and during the Nazi regime it was considered a national holiday honoring the Nazis who died today in 1923. As a side note, German Crown Prince Wilhelm (son of the ousted Emperor) chose this day to return out of exile.

Another example of people using previous events to infuse their actions with the power of the day’s history tragically, and horrifically, happened today in 1938: Kristallnacht (“Night of Glass”). The Nazis symbolically chose this night to begin destroying synagogues and Jewish properties. More than 400 Jewish people died and, after this demonstration of far-reaching anti-Semitism, the Nazi’s arrested approximately 30,000 people on November 10th, many of whom would ultimately die in concentration camps.

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was ‘civis romanus sum’ [‘I am a Roman citizen’]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner!… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner!

– U. S. President John Kennedy, speaking to the public in West Berlin, June 26, 1963

“Every stone bears witness to the moral bankruptcy of the society it encloses.”

– English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as quoted in the New York Times article “Mrs. Thatcher Visits the Berlin Wall” by John Tagliabue (published Oct. 30, 1982)  

One of the outcomes of the World War II was the division of Germany and, ultimately, the construction of the Berlin Wall. However, today in 1989 marked the beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of German separation. In many ways, this event can be seen as an accident. I mean, it wasn’t like anyone planned it to happen today. Yes, people, including Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, had called for the end of the Wall. Furthermore, musicians like David Bowie (1987), Bruce Springsteen (1988), and David Hasselhoff (1989) boldly played songs about freedom in concerts near the Wall – and, in Hasselhoff’s case, over the Wall! There was also the announced intention (by the East German government) to change policy. But the changes were intended for a different day.

“We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it’s our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer Paul Lincke understood something about American presidents. You see, like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin. [I still have a suitcase in Berlin…..]”

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!”

– U. S. President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the public at Brandenburg Gate, June 12, 1987

When the policy changes were announced by Günter Schabowski, an official of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), during a press conference on November 9th, he hadn’t actually been briefed about the details. Based on the wording of the announcement he had been given, when asked when the policy changes would go into effect, he said, “As far as I know… effective immediately, without delay.” That wasn’t actually true, but, the metaphorical wrecking ball was swinging. In answering follow up questions, and in subsequent interviews that day, Schabowski “confirmed” that the decrease in travel restrictions applied to every part of the Wall and to travel in every direction – including into West Berlin. Naturally, people started showing up at the Wall demanding to be let through and, by 11:30 PM, at least two gates were open.

On the flip side, I would not be surprised if the German drug company BioNtech intentionally chose today to announce that their COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Pfizer, is 90% effective. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if someone thought drawing on the power of the day would give people more hope than a basic announcement on any other day. After all, the announcement today, means the end of the world’s suffering isn’t just fate, it’s destiny.

“Call miracle self-healing,
The utter self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
And lightening and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

– The Greek Chorus in The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices. (But, if there were, it would definitely include some Bruce….)

“I’m not here for or against any government. I’ve come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down”

– Bruce Springsteen, speaking German in East Berlin, before playing “Chimes of Freedom” with the E Street Band, during the “Rocking the Wall” concert, July 19, 1988

### dóchas / dúchas // història /  esperança // histoire / espoir // historio / espero ###

You Moustache This Out! November 8, 2020

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“We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God – please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”

– quoted from “Love Is The Measure” printed in The Catholic Worker (June 1946, 2) by Dorothy Day (b. today 1897)

Maybe it’s just me; but have you noticed that this year (in particular) there seems to be more awareness around the fact that there’s a “wrong” way to ask someone how they are doing? Don’t get me wrong – I think we all appreciate when someone cares enough to ask about our overall well-being (and then sticks around to listen). And anyone who is over the age of five knows that there are levels of “Fine” and “OK” that either hold a wealth of subtext or a complete lack of context.

Earlier this year, after the world watched George Floyd being killed, there were articles (like this one) about how to check in with POC – in particular, Black people – and I had more than one people say to me, “I’m not going to ask how you’re doing, because….” To some, especially my white male friends, I explained that if they would ask me how I was doing at any other time in our kinship (anthropologically speaking), they could ask me during a time when pretty much everyone in the world was horrified, terrified, exhausted, angry, and sad.

That said; I appreciated the awareness that the question (and the opportunity to ask it) were not simple and perfunctory. Similarly, I appreciated the friends, especially my close white friends, who might have done some soul searching before calling me, but were also quite aware of the fact that they could call me, “should” call me, and ask, “How are you today?” Simple as that – with no other explanations or apologies needed. I also loved that before one of my Tuesday night Zoom classes, when we were all checking in (and basically saying, we were doing “OK”), someone called out the fact that none of us was really doing “OK.” Because while checking in with each other, and ourselves, is important, being honest about how we’re doing in any given moment is also important to our overall well-being.

“And there are Father Zossima’s unforgettable words in The Brothers Karamazov – ‘Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.’ What does the modern world know of love, with its divorces, with its light touching of the surface of love. It has never reached down into the depths, to the misery and pain and glory of love which endures to death and beyond it. We have not yet begun to learn about love. Now is the time to begin, to start afresh, to use this divine weapon.’”

– quoted from “Love Is The Measure” printed in The Catholic Worker (June 1946, 2) by Dorothy Day (b. today 1897)

This morning I came across an article entitled “6 Questions to Ask Instead of ‘How Are You?’, According to Therapists.” And, I’ll be honest, when I first saw the headline; I wasn’t going to open it. But once I did, I realized how fortunate I am to have people in my life who ask questions like, “But how are you, really, really?” (Which is not on the list, by the way.) I also noticed that the 6 ways reference can actually lead to dialogue and honesty – and that those are two parts of “sharing and caring” that can also lead to improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

In an earlier Movember post, I mentioned information on the (US) Movember website that always strikes me as off – but also oddly accurate: “70% of men say their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48% say that they rely on their friends.” I feel like this year, with everything that’s been going on, there might be more people checking in with each other, but not really, really checking in with each other. Which brings me to Alec (and Brendan Maher)

Brendan Maher is a “Mo Bro” and the Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Movember. If you go to the (US) Movember Foundation’s “Men’s Health – Mental Health and Suicide Prevention” website you will find a picture of Mr. Maher. He’s smiling gently, and looks like the kind of guy you could talk to about almost anything. At first, I thought he was “Alec.” It turns out, however, that ALEC is actually an acronym for four simple steps a person can take when checking on someone who is going through a hard time:

Ask

Listen

Encourage Action

Check (Back) In

If you check out the website for more details about ALEC (a model developed by “R U OK?”) and you compare it to the six questions referenced in the aforementioned Huffington Post article, you will find that each and every one of us can be Alec… and Alec’s friend. Each and every one of us has the ability to identify and (help) eliminate three-fold sorrow. It’s one of six our “super” human powers after all!

One of the reasons why checking in about how someone is feeling in the present moment, is that things change and the way we feel changes – physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetic/spiritually – moment to moment. As the world changes around us, it’s OK – more than OK – to be happy about certain things while simultaneously angry and frustrated (sometimes about the same things). We can simultaneously hold gratitude and sadness about a lost loved one – gratitude that they were in our lives and sadness that they are no longer with us on physical plane. We can be confused about which way to go moving forward, while also very confident about our desire not to go backwards.

One thing it is important to remember is that we embody all of the sensations, thoughts, and emotions we experience. So, as we are checking in with each other, be sure to check in with your own self. The physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) is a great opportunity to tune in and tune up. Also, take some time – maybe while you walk or sit or write – to ask yourself, “How YOU Doin’?”

“What’s happening now is impacting us all in different ways. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, where to start or what to say. As we push through this together, we hope we can empower people to connect with others who are struggling and find the help they need now.”

– Brendan Maher, Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Movember

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, Movember 8th) at 2:30 PM. I am in the process of updating the links from the “Class Schedules” calendar; however, the Meeting IDs in the calendar are the same and are correct. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is in effect. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [“Look for Movember 3rd 2020”]

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.)

Some of you definitely moustache this out!


“What we would like to do is change the world–make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute–the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor in other words, we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We can give away an onion.”

– quoted from “Love Is The Measure” printed in The Catholic Worker (June 1946, 2) by Dorothy Day (b. today 1897)

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.


### I MOU YOU ###

To Have Peace In the World… November 7, 2020

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[My apologies for not sorting out today’s technical difficulties in time to post before the class. I believe I’ve worked some of it out so that tomorrow is better.

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.)

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

“History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

– The Greek Chorus in The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney

Like some of you – and like the Irish poet, playwright, translator, and 1995 Nobel Laureate in Literature Seamus Heaney – I like to know the origins of things. We can call them the beginnings, the foundations, the roots… But, for the sake of today’s practice, let’s call them the seats of words.

As some of you know, I’ve studied bits and pieces of a variety of languages, including a little Irish Gaelic years and years and years ago. However, my teacher Sean was from Galway (nowhere near the province of Ulster) and I can’t honestly say that I ever had anything close to the wealth of knowledge and vocabulary contained inside of his self’s own head (meaning the brain of Sean or Seamus Heaney). So, I have to give credit to Darach Ó Séaghdha for pointing out that in Ulster Irish (which has more common threads with several Scottish dialects than what I learned), the words hope and trust can be translated to dóchas “(pronounced duh, hass…),” while the word for heritage or ancestral claim (i.e., history) is dúchas “(pronounced doo, hass….).” Even if you only speak one language and can’t tell an Irish accent from an Australian accent (or a Brooklyn accent from a New Orleans accent), you can see how the words of the Greek Chorus in Heaney’s play The Cure At Troy (a translation of Philoctetes by Sophocles) rhyme… in Ulster Irish.

dóchas / dúchas / dúchas / dóchas

But, in English… not so much.

True story, as if they are in a twisted version of the Buddha’s poisoned arrow parable, the Greek Chorus in the play is giving advice to an archer (Philoctetes) who has been bitten by a poisoned snake. Philoctetes must decide if he will use his skill (not to mention his magic bow) to help Odysseus win the Trojan War – or if he’s going to continue suffering, caterwauling, and blaming other people for his state. Just like the person in the Buddha’s story, Philoctetes is firmly established in his pain, suffering, and righteous indignation. Included in his deliberations, however, is the knowledge that he will be healed if he goes to Troy. The message from the Greek Chorus is clear: When you are given the means and opportunity to do something that will make a difference, do it!

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

– quoted from an 1853 sermon by Theodore Parker

Seamus Heaney’s translation includes allusion to political problems around 1990 and is often quoted by politicians and other leaders faced with troubling times. It’s a reminder that, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who was paraphrasing Theodore Parker) we have to do something to keep the arc of the moral universe bending towards justice.

Similarly, the U2’s song “Peace on Earth,” which includes a reference to the Greek Chorus message, is a reminder of what happens when we do nothing – or do the wrong thing. The song is about a bombing that took place August 15, 1998 in Omagh, Northern Ireland (in Ulster province). The bombing injured 220 people and killed 29 (including children – some of whom are mentioned in the song, a couple of Spanish tourists, and a 30-year old woman, Avril Monaghan, who was pregnant with twins). Part of the reason Bono sings, “But hope and history won’t rhyme” is because of what people didn’t do when given the chance. Despite telephone warnings intended to alert officials about the bombing – with the appropriate code words for authentication, cause that’s a thing they did/do in Northern Ireland – no one took immediate action. Even worse, once officials did start evacuating, people were moved toward the assault area rather than away from it.

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”

If the last few years (not to mention thousands of years of world history) have taught us nothing, it’s that we have to be careful where we stand. This is true politically, socially, religiously, and spiritually; because our support of something (or someone) can create divisiveness or can be healing. Note, in this case I’m not talking about whether the thing (or person) itself creates suffering or healing – that’s a different philosophical conversation. (See one of my posts on āvidya, “ignorance.”) No, what I’m talking about here is that the way we carry ourselves, and the way we move through the world, provides both the means and the opportunity for healing or suffering – or, as Patanjali puts it, fulfillment and freedom.

This is also true physically. On and off the mat, how we sit – or stand or lie down or kneel or walk or talk or think – contributes to whether or not thoughts, words, and deeds create suffering or alleviate suffering. We can do “poses” all day, every day, and for every moment of our lives – but that, in and of itself, does not guarantee that we find peace and freedom from suffering. Getting on the mat regularly does not necessarily mean we are engaged in a healing practice. To access that healing, which the sūtras tells us is already in us, requires effort. To this point, Patanjali’s instruction on the fourth limb of the Yoga Philosophy, āsana, is succinct and points to continuous action. We don’t just plop into a position and find peace and joy, or even some of the healing benefits described in sacred and modern text. No, we have to “cultivate” – which is an ongoing experience.

“We are living in a body imbued with vast potential, and yet our mental faculty is so dull and dense that we are only dimly aware of its internal dynamics.

We have become disconnected from our body’s intrinsic intelligence. This dims our recognition of our inherent beauty, charm, vigor and vitality, and healing power, and eventually blocks their flow completely. As a result, our ability to be happy with what we are and what we have, our ability to embrace all and exclude none, our ability to cultivate and retain a robust and energetic body, and our ability to heal ourselves and each other plummet. This disconnection also disrupts the incessant flow of information among the body’s various systems and organs, and so they begin to function chaotically. This is how we become unhealthy and succumb to disease.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.46 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

The Spanish Infanta Maria Teresa (also known as Marie-Thérèse) was born heir to the Spanish and Portugal throne, Archduchess of Austria, a member of the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg, and would eventually (by marriage) become Queen of France. Before you get the idea that she lived an easy life in the lap of luxury, I will point out that 5 of her six (known) children died before she did, she endured a lot a suffering during her lifetime, and she died a painful death. She is, however, an example of someone who, once given the means and opportunity to make a difference, had to adapt to changes in order to continue making a difference.

Her marriage to her double first cousin, Louis XIV (also known as “The Sun King” and “Louis the Great”), was stipulated as part of the “Peace of the Pyranees,” which was signed today in 1659, Isle of Pheasants. The peace treaty ended 24 years of warfare between France and Spain and was part of the 30 Years War, which started as a religious conflict between Catholic and Protestants (similar to the situation in Northern Ireland). Unfortunately, neither the marriage nor the treaty was perfect.

Perhaps it wasn’t much of a hardship for Maria Teresa at first, since the 21-year olds were supposedly in love. However, about a year into their marriage, Louis was clearly cheating. Yet the marriage was still considered “necessary” to the treaty. In fact, previously, talks had stalled because Maria Teresa was (at one time) first in line to the Spanish throne. When she renounced her claim to the Spanish throne, and her younger brother was born, she was suppose to receive a settlement – which was never paid, and led to another war.

The treaty fixed a new border between France and Spain at the Pyranees; but, it also gave most of Catalonia and any “villages” north of the Pyranees to France. Spain got everything else north of the border and also kept Llívia (because it was considered a “town” not a “village”). In exchange for Spain’s loss of territory, France agreed to stop supporting Portugal and also renounced its claim to the county of Barcelona. The treaty also gave Dunkirk to England, which sold it to France.

Overall, the Treaty of the Pyranees, combined with the “Peace if Westphalia” provided stability to France and a significant period of peace throughout Europe. That did not mean, however, that there was no “internal” conflict. For example, some of the people directly affected by the treaty, the Catalans, were excluded from the negotiations and lost the autonomy they might have had with Spain. Some of the ensuing culture conflicts continue to this day – and the Catalan language was not recognized as “valid” until 2007.

“A diseased body demands constant attention – we busy ourselves caring for it and have no time or energy to enjoy living in it. But as soon as we restore our connection with our body, our inner balance and harmony return. We become healthier, and we have ample time and energy to discover the purpose of having a human birth.

Restoring the natural connection with our body and reestablishing inner balance and harmony begin with the practice of asana.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.46 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

Here’s a groovy version of the strangest dream that’s on YouTube, but not Spotify.

### …THERE MOUST’ BE PEACE IN THE SEAT ###

I Moustache You to Remember to Breathe November 6, 2020

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This is just a reminder that it’s the First Friday and tonight at 7:15 PM (CST) is the first “Friday Night Special!” I hope you can join us in a little breath work. The blog entry below was originally posted on October 31st.

In addition to the items listed below, you may need tissues (or something you can use to blow your nose) and a key ring. I would also highly recommend that you wash your hands and face just before the practice. Namaste.

“Yes I understand
That every life must end
As we sit alone
I know someday we must go

Oh, I’m a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah, others they got none

Stay with me
Let’s just breathe”

 – quoted from “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam


Coincidentally, the lyrics of the (above quoted) Pearl Jam song could be a great way to start off an October 31st class that also happens to be a class about Yoga Sūtra 2.45 – but that’s not this post. (That post is coming in a few hours.) But this post…. This post is to officially announce that I am offering the first in a series of “Friday Night Specials” on Friday, November 6th. These specialty practices, offered periodically (maybe once a month), will focus on a particular element of the practice or a style of practice other than vinyasa. First up: Prānāyāma.

“Let us go forth a while and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms.”

– Walt Whitman (writing about baseball in the Brooklyn Eagle, 1834)


We are living in interesting (a.k.a. challenging and stressful) times – times which can make it harder and harder to breathe. When bad breathing becomes a habit, it compromises our physical, mental, and emotional health. On the flip side, proper breathing lowers stress, cultivates clarity, and supports our nervous system. And it all starts with the awareness and extension of breath, or prānāyāma, which is the 4th limb in the Yoga Philosophy.

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Friday, November 6th at 7:15 PM (CST). The meeting ID and link are available in the “Class Schedules” calendar. (You will need to open the event entry for details). You can request a link by emailing myra(at)ajoyfulpractice(dot)com.

This practice will begin with limited movement, includes several breathing techniques you can practice on and off the mat, and concludes with a breath-focused meditation. It is accessible and open to all, regardless of age, experience, or fitness level. You will need something on which you can sit comfortably (chair, mat, and/or cushion, etc.) and possibly a mat or something on which you can recline. It is best if you begin the practice with a (relatively) empty stomach.

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. You can also purchase a drop in class.

### “MEET YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE” PJ ###

Don’t Let Yesterday Take Up Moustache Today November 4, 2020

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“Well, what shall I talk about? I ain’t got anything funny to say. All I know is what I read in the papers.”

– Will Rogers

Since I started doing Movember classes, almost a decade ago, people have asked (and I have wondered) whether this month dedicated to “changing the face of men’s health” has made a difference. I say yes, and have anecdotal evidence to back it up; but a lot of the scientific evidence is based on the importance of stage migration, whereby improved detection of an illness leads to a change in the average life expectancy of people who are clinically healthy and also the average life expectancy of people who are considered unhealthy.

As recently as last year, Italian researchers were studying how improved diagnostic scanning could improve life expectancy as well as quality of life for patients with oligometastatic prostate cancer. Another example of this type of stage migration in prostate cancer was documented in 2005 by researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut. Researchers had noticed a decline in the reported incidence of “low-grade” prostate cancers and, therefore, a change in overall life expectancy of people with prostate cancer. Based on a “population-based cohort of 1,858 men,” 75 years or older, the researchers compared prognosis and outcomes of prostate tissue (“retrieved and reread in 2002-2004”) based on the original Gleason score readings versus more contemporary interpretations of the Gleason score.

The Gleason score is a combination of two “grades” assigned to the two most dominant tissue cell patterns (with the lowest “grade” being the closest to normal or healthy tissue). The more contemporary readings changed which tissue patterns were considered “low grade” cancer, hence the decline in population numbers. However, they also found that since the contemporary score readings were significantly higher than the original readings, the overall mortality rate lowered by 28%. Both the examples above (from Italy and Connecticut) are indicate how early detection saves lives. They are also classic examples of why stage migration is known as “the Will Rogers phenomenon.”

“When the Oakies left Oklahoma and moved to California, it raised the I.Q. of both states.”

– Will Rogers

Born today in 1879, in Oologah, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), Will Rogers was known as “America’s Cowboy Philosopher,” “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son,” and “Ambassador to the World.” He was a cowboy and circus performer, a stage and motion picture actor, as well as a vaudeville performer, a humorist, and a syndicated newspaper columnist. He was also a Cherokee citizen who traveled the world three times and was, at one time, the highest paid Hollywood star.

Rogers was known for his folksy, down-home wit and his rope tricks. His smile, attitude, and intellect allowed him to make fun of everyone from politicians to gangsters (yes, there’s a Will Rogers’s joke in there) and everything from prohibition to gender interactions (and, yes, there’s probably a joke in there too). He once joked that his ancestors weren’t on the Mayflower, but that “they met the boat” and was proud of the fact that while he could joke about everyone, he’d never met a man he [didn’t] like.

While he spun his jokes, Will Rogers spun his rope. He earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records by simultaneously throwing a rope around a horse’s neck, a second rope around the rider, and a slipping a third rope under the horse so he could loop all four legs together. He randomly roped a wild steer in Madison Square Garden, before it could hurt an spectators – gaining front page attention and a job on a rooftop: just him, his rope, and his horse. He eventually performed with the Ziegfeld Follies, appeared on Broadway, and showed he could rift about anything and anybody – including President Woodrow Wilson.

“A gag, to be any good, has to be fashioned about some truth. The rest you get by your slant on it and perhaps by a wee bit of exaggeration, so’s people won’t miss the point.”

– Will Rogers

He was also known for getting people to laugh at themselves – a skill which enabled him to serve as a goodwill ambassador to Mexico and mayor of Beverly Hills. Will Rogers was a symbol of the self-made man and the common man, who believed in working hard, progress, and the possibility of the American Dream. All of which is pretty ironic when you consider that when he was growing up (as the youngest of 8), his father thought he needed to “be more responsible and more business-minded.” While he did eventually buy land in Oklahoma, where he had intended to retire, Will Rogers did not follow in his father’s footsteps. On the flip side, the three of his four children who survived into adulthood all seemed to follow some aspect of Will Rogers: one was a World War II hero who starred in two films (as his father) and served in Congress; one was a newspaperman who worked a ranch; and his only daughter became a Broadway actress.

“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

– Will Rogers

Please join me today (Wednesday, Movember 4th) 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. [“Look for “Movember 4th”]

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.)

Don’t forget to add the first “Friday Night Special” on Friday, Movember 6th to your schedule!

“Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

– Will Rogers

### “Common sense ain’t common.” WR ###

I Moustache You An Important Question November 3, 2020

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Today is a big day. Not just in the United States, but all over the world, today is a day for changing and also for gaining insight. Today is Movember 3rd – also known as the 3rd day of No(shave)mber, a month dedicated to “changing the face of men’s health.” This month of awareness started in Melbourne, Australia in 2004, but has its origins in a 1999 story about a group in Adelaide, South Australia who were coined the word “Movember.” The Adelaide group of about 80 spent the month “growing whiskers for whiskers” (possibly while drinking whiskey since they started in a pub) while also raising money for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) by selling Movember t-shirts.

When Adam Garone, Travis Garone, Luke Slattery, and Justin (JC) Coughlin started the Melbourne group, of 30 “Mo bros” raising awareness for prostate cancer and men’s mental health (specifically depression), they didn’t realize that they were starting a movement. In 2005, almost 500 people joined the original 30 and raised over $40,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, the PCFA’s largest donation at the time. Today the Movember Foundation is an official charity in Australia and the movement has spread all over the world. Furthermore, the movement no includes “Mo sistahs”and other “Mo folks” and the focus has shifted to all aspects of men’s health and the discrepancies between men’s health and women’s health.

“Globally, men die an average of six years earlier than women, and for reasons that are largely preventable. Which means that it doesn’t have to be that way: we can take action to live healthier, happier and longer lives.”

“Mo your own way….”

 

– quoted from the (US) Movember website

Statistics show that the average life expectancy for men is 76.2 years, versus 81 years for women. This year, 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer (versus 1 in 3 women) and that a third of all cancers are preventable through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices. Those same lifestyle choices benefit everyone’s cardiovascular systems, digestive systems, and mental health. Yet, a large percentage of men are overweight (with 34.9% of Americans, in general, considered obese).

The term “obese” is tricky, especially in the United States, because our metrics can diagnose a very fit and muscular person as “obese.” Consider this then: 12.1% of men over the age of 18 are in fair to poor health – and suffer from diabetes and heart disease without even knowing it.

Globally, around 9.9 million men (1 in 7) are diagnosed with prostate cancer – which is treatable and recoverable – while testicular cancer (which is also treatable and recoverable) is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35. There’s about 70,000 new cases of testicular cancer every year, with a little over half a million men (worldwide) living with (or beyond) it. The risk of both prostate cancer and testicular cancer increase if someone has a brother or father who has had that particular cancer; if a person has African-American ancestry; and (in the case of testicular cancer) if they have previously had that type of cancer. To make matters worse, men can also get breast cancer – which also has a genetic component.

All of the physical aspects of poor health take a mental health toll in a typical year. Keep in mind, however that 2020 has been anything but typical – especially when it comes to mental health. Then consider that earlier this year about 51.5 million Americans adults reported experiencing mental health issues within previous 12 months and that that was an increase from previous years. In previous years, 15 million Americans (in general) were specifically diagnosed with depression. In 2018, an estimated 11.4 million people attempted suicide – with 48,344 Americans reported as dying from suicide. However, men die by suicide almost 4 times more than in women, and the highest rate of suicide is in middle-ages white men (who accounted for 69.67% of the suicides indicated above). Veterans are also at a high risk for suicide, regardless of gender.

And, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: gender. One set of stats that is only recently being tracked is the physical and mental health of transgender people. Just as diet and exercise affect physical and mental, so too does everyone’s level of hormones – which means hormone treatments could increase or decrease risk of certain illnesses. Additionally, physical and mental health improves when people have emotional support on their life’s journey. In my opinion, the high rate of suicide within the transgender community – as well as the high rate of violence against transgender people – indicates a lack of support and awareness. Thankfully, this is changing; however, as our perceptions change we need to make sure we do not leave transgender (or even non-binary) people out of the conversation.

  1. Spend time with people who make you feel good.

  2. Talk, more.

  3. Know the numbers. (If you are male and over 45, ask your doctor if you need a PSA test.)

  4. Know thy nuts. Simple.

  5. Move, more.”

 

– quoted from the (US) Movember website

According to the (US) Movember website, “70% of men say their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48% say that they rely on their friends.” This is always a wild (and frankly ridiculous) static to me – but it points directly to the stigma and social mores or norms that make it challenging to be a healthy man in today’s society. Don’t get me wrong, as Dr. M. Scott Peck pointed out, “Life is difficult” for everyone. The individual aspects of each person’s life comes with distinct physical and mental health risks; however, life is easier and people are healthier when we pay attention to what we’re feeling and also share what we’re feeling with people who respect us and treat us well. If you can’t count five people (or even three people) with whom you can have a mutually beneficial conversation – and between those five or three conversations cover every subject under the sun – you might want to consider how that lack of support translates into your quality of life and general well-being.

  1. Get your annual physical.

  2. Don’t smoke.

  3. Stay active.

  4. Eat heart healthy foods.

  5. Manage your stress.

  6. Drink in moderation.

  7. Know your family history.”

 

– Tips printed in Men’s Health

Please join me today (Tuesday, Movember 3rd) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where will get our mou(ve) on. 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 “Movember 3rd”]

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.)

Don’t forget to add the first “Friday Night Special” on Friday, November 6th to your schedule!

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.

### MO BREATHE, MO BETTA ###

Recuerda Todas Almas November 2, 2020

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“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)“

– quoted from “[i carry your heart with me(I carry it in)]” by e e cummings

Take a moment to bring your awareness to your hearts. Not just your physical heart, or even just your emotional heart – take a moment to bring your awareness to your energetic heart and all of its connections. You can even think of that energetic heart as a spiritual heart and all of its connections. Either way, when I talk about the various ways we can map out our energy – and especially when I specifically refer to the energy system of nadis (“rivers”) and chakras (“wheels”) as outlined by Yoga and Ayurveda, as they come to us from India, I often mention that we can be genetically and energetically (even spiritually) connected to people we have never met and will never meet. Similarly, we are connected, genetically and energetically (even spiritually), to people we will never meet again… people who have passed from the physical world (back) into the energetic and spiritual world.

Throughout history, people from various cultures around the world have had (and continue to have) different ways of honoring these connections – especially the spiritual and energetic connections we have with those who passed on into another realm of existence. Yes, I said, “another realm of existence;” because, while someone ceases to exist in the material and physical sense, they can continue to exist in an emotional, energetic, and spiritual sense – as long as we remember them.

“No two reports were ever the same. And yet always there was the drumlike thumping noise.

Some people insisted that it never went away, that if you concentrated and did not turn your ear from the sound, you could hear it faintly behind everything in the city….”

– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Today, November 2nd, is All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed – the last day of Allhallowtide in the Western Christian tradition and the final Día de (los) Muertos in Mexico and the Mexican diaspora. Like All Saints’ Day (which was yesterday), there was a time when this holy time was celebrated in the Spring – and, in fact, there are still traditions, like the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which remember the dead around Easter. However, the fifth Benedictine Abbot of Cluny, St. Odilon of Cluny, established this Western observation in the 10th century and the practice has endured. Unlike All Saints, today is a day dedicated to all departed souls and, in particular, to those who may or may not have lived a “faithful” life according to the Church.

While it is not a national holiday in Catholic countries, nor is it one of the five days of holy obligation within the Catholic Church, it is a day of prayer (and, for some, quite a few masses). Here, the prayers are not so much as for the living as for the dead, because Christians who have a “fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (Christian triumphant) and the living (the Christian militant)” may also believe that those who die without being baptized and/or living a faithful life (the Church penitent, also known as “the Church suffering” and “the Church expectant”) will languish in Purgatory without God’s grace.

So, today people pray for that grace so their dearly departed loved ones will no longer suffer. In addition to the vibrant Día de (los) Muertos traditions I mentioned yesterday, as well as the traditions of guising, souling, and the exchange of soul cakes (that I mentioned on Halloween), All Souls’ Day is known for bell tolling and candle lighting, which both represent the cleansing of souls and power of light overcoming darkness.

“If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them. In his firm and devout conviction that all of God’s faithful people would receive a wonderful reward, Judas made provision for a sin offering to set free from their sin those who had died. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

2 Maccabees (12:44 – 46)

Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, November 2nd) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom.

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, 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 this practice via a comment below.

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.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

Don’t forget to add the first “Friday Night Special” on Friday, November 6th to your schedule!

“One particular issue of the L. Sims News & Speculation Sheet—the Sims Sheet, people called it—addressed the matter of this sound. Fewer than twenty per cent of the people Luka interviewed claimed that they could still hear it after the crossing, but almost everyone agreed that it resembled nothing so much as—could be nothing other than—the pounding of a heart. The question, then, was where did it come from? It could not be their own hearts, for their hearts no longer beat. The old man Mahmoud Qassim believed that it was not the actual sound of his heart but the remembered sound, which, because he had both heard and failed to notice it for so long, still resounded in his ears. The woman who sold bracelets by the river thought that it was the heartbeat at the center of the world, that bright, boiling place she had fallen through on her way to the city. ‘As for this reporter,’ the article concluded, ‘I hold with the majority. I have always suspected that the thumping sound we hear is the pulse of those who are still alive. The living carry us inside them like pearls. We survive only so long as they remember us.”’

– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier


### “BA-DUM. BA-DUM. BA-DUM.” ###

Recuerda a las inocentes November 1, 2020

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“All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints, those people we believe are in heaven, through good works and God’s grace…. On All Saints’ Day there’s a call to live as saints, to remind us how we’re supposed to live.”

– Very Reverend Richard A. Donohoe, vicar of Catholic Charities for Diocese of Birmingham

Today, November 1st, is the end of Samhain and the second day of Allhallowtide. It is known as All Hallows Day, meaning it is holy, or All Saints Day in Western Christianity and it is the beginning of Día de (los) Muertos for Mexicans and the Mexican diaspora. Traditionally today is a memorial day for saints and innocents, i.e. young children, and is a national holiday in some Christian countries. In the Methodist tradition, it is a solemn occasion of remembrance and thanksgiving observed by Christians who have a “fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (Christian triumphant) and the living (the Christian militant). People will pray for blessings and protection; tend graves; leave flowers – like chrysanthemums in Belgium and France – and; in some country there is an exchange of traditional (and symbolic) treats. In Mexican and for the Mexican diaspora, however, Día de (los) Muertos is traditionally all of the above and a giant celebration full of brightly colored parades, music and dancing, candy skulls, marigolds, and ofrendas (“offerings”) or home or graveside alters curated around the life of a loved one.

This year, however, it is hard to remember to celebrate when so many have died. In the United States, people of color – including thousands of Mexican-Americans – have been hit hard by the pandemic. According to the nCov2019 Coronavirus Dashboard, almost 92k people have died (as of this morning) – and that number does not include people who have died over the quarantine months because of the additional physical, mental, and emotional strain of the pandemic. In response to the toll, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced three days of national mourning, beginning with Halloween. The government canceled parades, asked for cemeteries to close, and announced that the flag at the National Palace in Mexico will be flown at half mast in honor of those lost during the pandemic.

Even though it is hard to remember to celebrate when there is so much tragedy, the human spirit perseveres and always finds a way. That people will find a way is not surprising when we remember that some of these traditions date back to the rituals of the Mayans, Aztecs, and over 40 other indigenous cultures that survived despite colonization. So, in addition to flying the flag at half mast, the government has created an official ofrenda for all victims of the pandemic and annual ofrenda contests are being held virtually or in appropriate socially distant ways. And, of course, people continue to make pan de muertos, the traditional bread of the dead, and decorate with sugar skulls and paper banners.

“Since living in Merida, I have been able to witness the deep connection Yucatecans have to this special time of year honoring the souls of their departed loved ones. One of the things that I have always admired about Yucatecans is that they keep many of their traditions alive by believing, practicing and teaching their children about them. They don’t just go through the motions; they truly pay attention to detail and live the experience.”

– quoted from Yucatan’s Hanal Pixan: How It Differs from the Day of the Dead in other parts of Mexico” in the Yucatan Times (10/31/2018) by Stephanie Carmon

There are several days dedicated to all saints and innocents in the Eastern and Western Christian traditions. In particular, there is a Day of the Holy Innocents (December 28th) which commemorates children under two who were killed by order of King Herod I the Great in his attempt to kill the newborn Jesus. And, Pope Boniface IV formally established an All Saints’ Day in May, when he dedicated the Parthenon in Rome to the Virgin Mary and all martyrs. When Pope Gregory III dedicated Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all saints, he moved the feast date to November 1st – but that only applied to people in Rome. It was Pope Gregory IV, in 837, who ordered the date to officially apply to all Western Christians. Within the Catholic Church it is considered a Holy Day of Obligation.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church all saints are commemorated in the spring on the Sunday after Pentecost. This Byzantine tradition became more popular during the reign of the Emperor Leo VI, also known as “Leo the Wise.” The Empress Theophano was so devoted to the church that she left her reign and retired to a monastery around 893. After she died on November 10th, a series of miracles occurred and the emperor decided to build a church to hold her relics. However, he was not allowed to name the church after her and decided instead to dedicate the church to “All Saints,” whether martyred or not, so that her life would be celebrated every year. She would be remembered.

“The woman who sold bracelets by the river thought that it was the heartbeat at the center of the world, that bright, boiling place she had fallen through on her way to the city. ‘As for this reporter,’ the article concluded, ‘I hold with the majority. I have always suspected that the thumping sound we hear is the pulse of those who are still alive. The living carry us inside them like pearls. We survive only so long as they remember us.’”

– quoted from The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, November 1st) at 2:30 PM. I am in the process of updating the links from the “Class Schedules” calendar; however, the Meeting IDs in the calendar are the same and are correct. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is in effect. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’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.)

Don’t forget to add the first “Friday Night Special” on Friday, November 6th to your schedule!

### “BA-DUM. BA-DUM. BA-DUM.” ###

Houdini’s Last Month (and Allhallowtide) October 31, 2020

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“My brain is the key that sets me free.”

– Harry Houdini’s motto, as quoted in the Houdini Museum (Scranton, Pennsylvania)

October 1926 was not a good month for Harry Houdini. On October 11th, during his Water Torture Cell escape, a piece of equipment struck him and fractured his left ankle. But, “the show must go on” and so Houdini continued his tour. He did, however, rest his ankle whenever he could and so he was lying down, having a casual conversation with students, after giving a lecture at McGill University in Montreal on October 22nd. One of the students cited the Bible and asked if it was true that he could sustain blows to the belly without being hurt. The magician/illusionist casually said yes, and I can only imagine him lying there and smiling or chuckling as he said it. He had no idea the student wanted a demonstration and, therefore didn’t stand up and brace himself (as he normally would for the “trick”).

Neither Houdini nor the students, including the student who hit him, knew that Houdini was suffering from acute appendicitis. Some have speculated that had he not been hit, the magician/illusionist would not have ignored the stomach pains he felt during that evening’s performance and over the following two days. Furthermore, some people think he would have gone to see a doctor sooner. I argue that it might not have mattered, because when Houdini (suffering from by then constant pain and a 102˚ fever) finally saw a doctor and received the diagnosis, he disregarded the advice to have immediate surgery. Instead, he continued to perform. On October 24th, at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan, he gave his last performance – with a 104˚ fever, cold sweats, and acute appendicitis. He was rushed to the hospital after the performance, but it was too late. His appendix had burst, the toxins had spread, and he would spend his final days in Grace Hospital’s Room 401. He died at 1:26 (EST) on Halloween 1926 (and this year’s annual séance to contact his spirit is on Zoom, but you’d have to skip today’s practice if you plan to log into it).

Given his background and his beliefs, I find it very interesting that Harry Houdini died on Halloween, which is the beginning of the Western Christian feast of Allhollowtide and connected to the pagan celebrations of Samhain.

Samhain, “summer’s end,” was a time when the Celts believed that the door between “this world and the next” was opened just enough for the dearly departed to step back for a visit. Some of those visitors were welcomed… some not so much. Either way, people developed rituals to pay respect to the dead and also to ward off evil. Those customs included guising or mumming (also souling), where people would dress in disguises and go door-to-door offering prayers and songs in exchange for alms and treats (like soul cakes). Fire is a big element in the celebrations as it is an element of purification. Additionally, it was believed that passing cattle around a bonfire would reveal any spiritual possession. Pope Gregory IV moved the Christian feast All Hallows’ Day, or All Souls’ Day, to November 1st in 835 – thereby making October 31st All Hallows’ Day Eve. In Scottish, the word “eve” is “even” and contracted to “e’en” or “een,” making today Halloween – the scariest day of the year!

“My chief task has been to conquer fear. The public sees only the thrill of the accomplished trick; they have no conception of the tortuous preliminary self-training that was necessary to conquer fear.”

– Harry Houdini

One of the greatest escape artists of all times failed to escape the thing many people fear most: death. That fear of loss, fear of death, is the very last of the afflicted or dysfunctional thought patterns which cause suffering (according to the Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras) and it can be the most paralyzing because it is, in some ways, the culmination of all the other afflicted/dysfunctional thought patterns. People hate change because it is – in some way, shape, or form – the end of what is known/perceived; who we think we are; and what we like and don’t like. Even when we acknowledge that an ending is also a beginning, even when we can see how the end of something can also be the end of suffering, we cling to what is familiar, known, and tangible. We don’t want to let go…. Even though, Patanjali (and all the other mystics and seers) tells us, again and again, that the secret to ending suffering is letting go.

Yoga Sūtra 1.23: īśvarapraņidhānādvā

– “[A perfectly still, pristine state of mind] also comes from trustful surrender to Ishvara [the Divine].”

Yoga Sūtra 2.45: samādhisiddhirīśvarapraņidhānāt

– “From trustful surrender to Ishvara [the Divine], [a perfectly still, pristine state of mind] is achieved.”

Even though repetition (japa-ajapa) is an integral part of the practice of mantra, and the practice of the mantra OM (or AUM) is highlighted in the sūtras, Patanjali doesn’t normally repeat (almost verbatim) what he has previously instructed. With this week’s sūtra, however, we find ourselves tossed right back to the “secret of concentration” found in the first section of the book. So there must be something to this “trustful surrender” – something that lifts the veil between the known and the unknown, the natural and the supernatural. Or, you can think of it as something that opens the door between the sense world and the “Other” world.

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, October 31st) at 12:00 PM. You can 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 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.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes – including the first “Friday Night Special” on Friday, November 6th!

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

### TRICK OR TREAT? ###

Drum roll, please… (& breathe) October 31, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Yes I understand
That every life must end
As we sit alone
I know someday we must go

Oh, I’m a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah, others they got none

Stay with me
Let’s just breathe”

 – quoted from “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam


Coincidentally, the lyrics of the (above quoted) Pearl Jam song could be a great way to start off an October 31st class that also happens to be a class about Yoga Sūtra 2.45 – but that’s not this post. (That post is coming in a few hours.) But this post…. This post is to officially announce that I am offering the first in a series of “Friday Night Specials” on Friday, November 6th. These specialty practices, offered periodically (maybe once a month), will focus on a particular element of the practice or a style of practice other than vinyasa. First up: Prānāyāma.

“Let us go forth a while and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms.”

– Walt Whitman (writing about baseball in the Brooklyn Eagle, 1834)


We are living in interesting (a.k.a. challenging and stressful) times – times which can make it harder and harder to breathe. When bad breathing becomes a habit, it compromises our physical, mental, and emotional health. On the flip side, proper breathing lowers stress, cultivates clarity, and supports our nervous system. And it all starts with the awareness and extension of breath, or prānāyāma, which is the 4th limb in the Yoga Philosophy.

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Friday, November 6th at 7:15 PM (CST). The meeting ID and link are available in the “Class Schedules” calendar. (You will need to open the event entry for details). You can request a link by emailing myra(at)ajoyfulpractice(dot)com.

This practice will begin with limited movement, includes several breathing techniques you can practice on and off the mat, and concludes with a breath-focused meditation. It is accessible and open to all, regardless of age, experience, or fitness level. You will need something on which you can sit comfortably (chair, mat, and/or cushion, etc.) and possibly a mat or something on which you can recline. It is best if you begin the practice with a (relatively) empty stomach.

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. You can also purchase a drop in class.

### “MEET YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE” PJ ###