jump to navigation

The Journey Continues… (a “long lost” Sunday post) June 5, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Meditation, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Shavuot, Suffering, Super Heroes, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

This is the “long lost” post related to Sunday, June 5, 2022. It is the third post related to Bill Moyers (and the second one being posted for the first time). Links for the 2021 post are embedded below. You can request an audio recording of this 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.)

“Joseph Campbell said that all the great myths, the primitive myths, the great stories, have to be regenerated if they’re going to have any impact…. Are you conscious of doing that?”

– Bill Moyers, quoted from the transcript of “The Mythology of Star Wars, with George Lucas”

Let’s talk about heroes, heroines, and great adventures. I love them! I can’t say I was a huge fan of The NeverEnding Story, but I did appreciate the idea and, when I was a kid, I always got a kick out of “choose your own adventure” books. I also loved Star Wars, Star Trek, Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and almost any series of books with reoccurring characters who went places I had never gone, had experiences I never had, and met people I had never met. Part of what I loved was that I recognized the places, the experiences, and the people. How could I not? After all, they were all the same – just using different names, and dressed up in different clothes and faces.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about Joseph Campbell or Harold Bloom, but their works around literature, mythology, and anthropology (as it intersects literature and mythology) seem to be like long shadows towards the end of the day. They’re always there, you just can’t always see them. Towards the end of college, I took a publishing course and one of the people in my small group ended up working at a major publishing house. A few months later, he sent me a big box full of books. Joseph Campbell’s A Hero with a Thousand Faces was one of those books. I knew about it, but had never read it.

If you watch movies, read comics and/or books, or just like listening to someone weave a good adventure, odds are you fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) you love heroes because you’re always looking for someone to save you; (2) you love adventure and fancy yourself as someone who could save yourself or someone else – given the right means and opportunity; and/or (3) you love the life lessons found within a good story. After all, every good story comes with at least one life lesson. That’s one of the boons of living vicariously through a fictional or historical character.

“LUCAS: I guess it’s more specific in Buddhism, but it is a notion that’s been around before that. When I wrote the first Star Wars, I had to come up with a whole cosmology: What do people believe in? I had to do something that was relevant, something that imitated a belief system that has been around for thousands of years, and that most people on the planet, one way or another, have some kind of connection to. I didn’t want to invent a religion. I wanted to try to explain in a different way [than] the religions that have already existed. I wanted to express it all.

MOYERS: You’re creating a new myth?

LUCAS: I’m telling an old myth in a new way. Each society takes that myth and retells it in a different way, which relates to the particular environment they live in. The motif is the same. It’s just that it gets localized. As it turns out, I’m localizing it for the planet. I guess I’m localizing it for the end of the millennium more than I am for any particular place.”

– quoted from the Time Magazine article “Of Myth and Men” by Bill Moyers; George Lucas (published April 18, 1999; based on “The Mythology of Star Wars, with George Lucas”)

Born on June 5, 1934, in Hugo, Oklahoma (and primarily raised in Marshall, Texas), Bill Moyers is more than a journalist who has spent a lot of time talking to and about heroes. He is even more than a journalist who has also spent a lot of time talking to and about people who create heroes. But, he has done all of that… and more.

In addition to being an ordained minister, he served as the 13th White House Press Secretary (working with both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson). Along with his wife, Judith Suzanne Davidson Moyers, he has produced a variety of programming, including Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (filmed on George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch, in 1988); The Mythology of Star Wars, with George Lucas (also filmed at Skywalker Ranch, in 1999); Faith and Reason; and Healing and the Mind. He has also produced and facilitated conversations about a wide range of topics, including evil, racism, prayer, democracy, poetry, art, and the experiences of U. S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. His many books include Listening to America: A Traveler Rediscovers His Country, A World of Ideas : Conversations With Thoughtful Men and Women About American Life Today and the Ideas Shaping Our Future, A World of Ideas II: Public Opinions from Private Citizens, The Language of Life (which is a conversation with poets), Genesis: A Living Conversation, and the book based on the series Healing and the Mind.

More often than not, when I lead a practice on Bill Moyers’s birthday, it centers around Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and references superheroes from comic books and movies. My intention is to highlight how we are all the hero(ine) of our own story – and, additionally, how we can also be someone else’s hero. Sometimes, I even reference a specific historical and/or religious figure. Someone like Moses.

Click here if you are interested in a different kind of journey (from 2021) inspired by the life and work of Bill Moyers.

I mentioned Moses, specifically, because sunset on Saturday (June 4, 2022) marked the beginning of Shavuot. Known in English as the “Festival of Weeks,” Shavuot is the anniversary, the celebration, and the commemoration of the Jewish people receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. It occurs on the 50th day after the 2nd night of Passover – making it a moveable feast – and is the culmination of the counting of the weeks, which is observed by the Counting of the Omer. Since the 49 days of counting make up a spiritual journey of preparation, Shavuot marks the end of one journey and the beginning of a new journey. Or, you could think of it more specifically as the beginning of a new time.

Technically speaking, the Hero’s Journey is always about moving into a new time, a new era, or a new season of life. It’s about coming out of an old season, shedding the old skin, and moving forward with that “Ultimate Boon” – that life lesson that serves the heroine and their community. While I often compare Moses’ hero journey to the hero journey of the Buddha (or Jesus), the parallels do not stop with the beginning of their lives and their “calling” to alleviate the suffering of the people in their community. In fact, an additional parallel is found in what some might consider the end of the journey: a path (i.e., a set of instructions or commandments), which can be seen as their own calling/journey.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”

– quoted from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell

Every adventure begins in the “Ordinary World.” It’s not a perfect world; it’s just the everyday, mundane world. If everything and everyone were perfect, there would not be a “Call to Adventure.” But there is a call. In real life, individual people have things they are called to do and then there is a philosophical call issued to everyone who is exposed to systems like the the Noble Eightfold Path (in Buddhism); the 8-Limbs of the Yoga Philosophy (as codified in Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras); the various paths of yoga (as described in the Bhagavad Gita); and/or the teachings in the Torah, the Christian New Testament, and/or the Qur’ān.

Of course, in the monomyth, the hero or heroine initially refuses the call. The “Refusal of Call” happens everyday in modern times and in biblical history – and for the same reasons. It is a refusal to give up the status quo. It is the rejection of a new way of living. Think of Moses (and Joshua) returning from the Mount to find that the newly freed Hebrew people are actively breaking their newly established covenant. According to Shemot – Exodus (32:1), the people were motivated by fear – specifically, fear of the unknown and fear of loss. If we go deep inside ourselves, we may find that similar fears cause each of us to stray from our chosen path. In Buddhism, all clinging leads to suffering. In the Yoga Sūtras, Patanjali described five types of attachment that lead to suffering. The final type, described in Yoga Sūtra 2.9, is fear of loss/death – and getting beyond that is part of the practice and, also, another practice from another year.

“GEORGE LUCAS: What happens is that no matter how you do it, when you sit down to write something all other influences you’ve had in your life come into play. The things that you like, the things that you’ve seen, the things — the observations you’ve made. That’s ultimately what you work with when you’re writing. And you — you are influenced by the things that you like. Designs that you like, characters you like, moments that you remember, that you were moved by. It’s — it’s like trying to compose a — a symphony in a way.”

– George Lucas responding to a question Bill Moyers asked about the creative process, quoted from the transcript of “The Mythology of Star Wars, with George Lucas”

In some ways, every mindfulness-based practice is like sitting down to write: things come up and all of those things, in the moment, become part of the practice. In fact, one of the lojong (“mind-training”) aphorisms in Tibetan Buddhism is “Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.” (16) Additionally, the theme is that “localizing” that George Lucas referenced when talking about how Star Wars fit into the rubric. The theme details, the poses and sequences, even the duration of the practice are simply the unique details of the moment. But, every practice is the same journey.

For every mindfulness-based practice, our breath is the “Supernatural Aid” that facilitates our transition from the external to the internal and then back again. Every practice takes us deeper into our own belly – which can also be that metaphorical “Belly of the Whale.” While they may not all be physically challenging, the practice is a “Road of Trials” with the opportunity to experience the deep love and acceptance of the “Goddess” and the “Atonement of the Father.” There is always the “Temptation” to stay in Śavāsana (“Seat of the Corpse” or Dead Man’s Pose); to give up mid-way through the practice; or to just not show up. There is also the temptation to do more simply because it is suggested.

Finally, every practice has that final Śavāsana-moment – and, even if we are not actually in Śavāsana, that moment symbolizes the death of the practice: an “Apostasis.” All the preparation, all the getting ready leads to a moment of meditation that, ultimately, brings an understanding of every plane of existence and freedom from suffering: that’s the “Ultimate Boon” – that is what allows someone to be “Master of Two Worlds.

That mastery or stewardship leads to the ultimate freedom: “Freedom to Live.” The final stage of the journey is partially defined as the freedom to live “in the moment, neither anticipating the future, nor regretting the past” – which is also one of the goals of Eastern philosophies like Yoga and Buddhism, to be fully present in the moment.

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

– Gina Sharpe, Suffering and the End of Suffering

The playlist for this practice is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “06052022 Hero(ine)’s Journey”]

GEORGE LUCAS: [] The average human being has much more awareness of the other cultures that exist — co-exist with them on this planet, and that certain things go across cultures, and entertainment is one of them. And film and the stories that I tell cut across all cultures, are seen all around the world.”

– quoted from the transcript of “The Mythology of Star Wars, with George Lucas”

### Peace ###

The Force of the Mother May 14, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Super Heroes, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Many blessings to everyone, and especially to anyone Counting the Omer! 

“I’m telling an old myth in a new way. Each society takes that myth and retells it in a different way, which relates to the particular environment they live in. The motif is the same. It’s just that it gets localized.”

– George Lucas (b. 05/14/1944) in the Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms. No matter how you came to be a mom (or what your kiddos call you), you are a powerful force in the world and represent a powerful Force in the world. The Mother archetype is present in every life story, every healing story, and in every religious and cultural story or myth. In the monomyth (or “Hero’s Journey”), the Mother can represent life, death, and time; nurturing, nourishment, and protection; unconditional love, acceptance, and devotion; as well as unselfishness. The Mother can present as the Matriarch, as Mother Nature/Gaia, as a Fairy Godmother, or as a Divine Mother/Goddess. The Mother can be seen as the Good Mother, the Working Mother (which opens up into a whole host of other archetypes), the Stay-at-Home Mother, the Perfect Mother, the Devoted Mother. the Co-Dependent Mother, the Abusive Mother, the Abandoning Mother, the Critical Mother, or the Hovering/Helicopter Mother.

I used the word “or” for the aforementioned archetypal patterns; because, in many stories, maternal figures are often portrayed as one-dimensional. In real life, however, mothers can be more than one thing… simultaneously – and sometimes in ways that may seem contradictory. In real life, mothers are people: they love, they hope, they desire, they fear, and the fit into so many boxes it doesn’t even make sense to put them into a box… let alone to regulate them to a single day.

And yet, here we are… Mother’s Day in the United States.

“I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

– quoted from the end of 1876 Sunday school lesson by Ann Reeves Jarvis (words that inspired her daughter Anna Maria Jarvis)

I added that “in the United States,” because for years I willfully ignored the fact that other countries – not to mention, a variety of religions – celebrate Mother’s Day at other times during the year and in very different ways than the way the observation has evolved here in the US. While I don’t know if I will ever go back to teaching on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I will continue to offer the 2020 recordings for those who are on my Sunday mailing list (or who request the recording via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.).

Click here to check out my 2020 blog post about Mother’s Day (which lands in a special way since my mom unexpectedly passed in 2020). For a deeper dive, check out the April 28, 2023 episode of Cautionary Tales with Tim Hartford – The Dark Money Behind Mother’s Day. (This link takes you to the episode on Tim Hartford’s website.)

The Mother’s Day playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify[Look for “Mother’s Day 2020”]

“Leia saw her mother coming through the crowd toward her; those nearby parted before her, clearing a path without Queen Breha having to hold out a hand or say a word. At last, Leia would be able to talk with her mother about what she’d accomplished, about the splendid rescue she’d just completed on a world most people were afraid to even mention, much less visit. Breha Organa would have to talk to her daughter as an equal.”

– quoted from Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray 

Since Mother’s Day falls on George Lucas’s birthday in 2023, I am also sending the Sunday mailing list an opportunity to consider how being a mother is it’s own “Hero’s Journey.” The May 14, 2022, practice does not specifically focus on mothers in movies by George Lucas. However, take note of how motherhood checks all the monomyth boxes, beginning with “The Call” and moving through “The Return.”

You can check out my posts about “the Force” in yoga here and more about using “the Force” in yoga here.

The playlist related to George Lucas and Yoga Sūtra 4.14 is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05142022 That Same Force”]

“‘When last you stood before us, you swore to undertake Challenges of Mind, Body, and Heart. This you have done.’

Leia gripped the hilt even more tightly. ‘How do you judge me, my mother and queen?’

‘I judge that you have completed your three challenges with great strength and even greater spirit. In all ways, you have proved yourself worthy.’ Gesturing for Leia to step closer, Breha rose from her throne.

As Leia ascended the dais to join her parents, she held the Rhindon Sword aloft in one hand. Breha reached up to clasp the hilt along with her: two rulers, not fighting over the symbol of power but sharing its weight.”

– quoted from Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray 

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.

I will be back on schedule (and on Zoom) tomorrow. If you are interested in receiving one of the aforementioned practices, please comment below or email me via myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

### AUM ###

FTWMI: Shy & Fearless, Take 2 April 25, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, 7-Day Challenge, Abhyasa, Baha'i, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Music, Philosophy, Riḍván, Vairagya, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

“Happy Riḍván!” to those celebrating “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings to everyone, and especially to anyone Counting the Omer!

For Those Who Missed It: The following post (from 2021) is about one of my favorite storytellers and her “healing story.” Class details, yogathon details, and some links have been updated. Some embedded links connect outside of this blog.

“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 quote one more time, 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 in 2021. 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 was directly tied to the 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 today (Tuesday, April 25th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. 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 or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

“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!!

You can click here to Kiss My Asana Now! (Or, you can also click here to join my team and get people to kiss [your] asana!) 

Yes, yes, it’s that time again! The 10th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions (MBS), 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 live, online resources to people living with disabilities, worldwide. In addition to 11 live online yoga classes a week, MBS has also created a comprehensive library of recorded adaptive yoga classes for students, instructional videos for adaptive yoga teachers, and insightful interviews between Matthew Sanford, and adaptive students. It all helps people with disabilities live more fully, where they are and how they are.

This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days (which started on 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, I’m posting on my YouTube Community page and dedicated to raising $300 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.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; you can 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.”

If you’re interested in my previous Kiss My Asana (KMA) offerings, check out the following (some links only take you to the beginning of a series ad/or to YouTube):

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).
This week you can also click here to Kiss My Asana Now! (Or, you can also click here to join my team and get people to kiss [your] asana!)
Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Updated 2023.


The Authority to Do & Say What Needs Doing & Saying (the “missing” Monday post) April 3, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Abhyasa, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Lent, Life, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Suffering, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Blessings to anyone observing Holy Monday / Passion Monday or Great Lent! “Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the holy month of Ramadān. Many blessings to all during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This “missing” post for Monday, April 4th. You can request an audio recording of this practice (or a date-related 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. Donations are tax deductible.

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

“If You See Something, Say Something®

– the original New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority slogan to promote public safety

The message is everywhere (at least in the United States). It’s on billboards and posters, commercials and print ads, public service announcements and t-shirts. In fact, the message is so ubiquitous, it feels like it’s been around forever. And maybe, on some level it has. However, the slogan was actually a campaign that was trademarked and implemented by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY MTA) after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001. Nine years after the attack (in July of 2010),  the NY MTA granted the U. S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permission to use slogan as part of a national anti-terrorism campaign. That campaign created partnerships with state and local governments, federal agencies, major sports leagues, transit stations, entertainment venues, private businesses, places of worship, nonprofits, schools, and many other types of organizations – which is why the message is, quite literally, everywhere.

There’s even a National “If You See Something, Say Something®” Awareness Day (September 25), also known as #SeeSayDay, which serves the same two-fold purpose as the overall campaign:

  1. To remind everyone to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, that might be related to terrorism
  2. To empower people to report suspicious activity to the proper authorities

Part of that first part requires people to be able to recognize suspicious activity (that might be related to terrorism) and, also, to recognize that we all play a part in public safety. The second part gives people the authority to act. All in all, it is a great campaign. Of course, some interesting things have happened since 2001, with regard DHS’s national campaign. First, the definition of “suspicious activity” has expanded to include anything that might be criminal and/or that makes someone uncomfortable. Second, some people feel more empowered than others. Then there’s a third outcome, predicated by the other two. One might even call it an “unintended consequence.”

Sometimes the people who feel most empowered to report “suspicious activity” are uncomfortable with innocuous activities – which can create (and has created) situations where actually suspicious activity is not reported. It’s a double-edged sword that, in some ways, presents every individual with a moral (and practical) conundrum:

How do we fulfill our purpose (according to the “law”) and by whose authority can we exert our judgment/opinion about someone else’s behavior?

The following is an abridged (and slightly revised/expanded) version of this 2019 Kiss My Asana Offering, which included a featured pose.

“One’s personal duty in life (one’s sva-dharma) should be viewed as one’s highest responsibility to his or her highest Self, the Atma. This ultrahigh level of duty carries with it the requirement that one never does anything that is contrary to this True Self Within. And even if you consider your sva-dharma more narrowly from the standpoint of being true to your profession, you should not hesitate to fight. For a warrior, war against evil, greed, cruelty, hate, and jealousy is the highest duty.”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (2.31) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

Sacred texts from a variety of different cultures, tell us that everyone has a purpose. However, even if you don’t believe the old adage, science has shown that people who live a purpose driven life have better physical and mental health and stronger resilience than their peers. It’s a bit of a cycle: we need our mind-body-spirit to fulfill a purpose and fulfilling the purpose strengthens our mind-body-spirit so that we are better equipped to fulfill the purpose.

Sometimes, however, we do things – or don’t do things – that sap our energy and drag us down. If our mind-bodies are temples, then the things that sap our energy are like thieves in the temple. Thieves can be eating the wrong foods; drinking too much of the wrong beverages and/or not drinking enough water; not resting; not exercising; partaking in illicit drugs;  not managing stress; and/or being surrounded by negative opinions. Doesn’t matter what they are though, because at some point we have to throw the thieves out of the temple in order to restore the temple to its original purpose.

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,” (Matthew 21:12 KJV)

“And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13 KJV)

 – The Gospel According to Matthew

Passion Monday, or Holy Monday, is associated with the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. According to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus is very clear about his purpose as he enters the last week of his life. He understands that there will be suffering (hence, the passion), trials, tribulation, and betrayal, and joy. He knows he will be tested and tempted (yet another passion/suffering). It is unclear if he knows how quickly the suffering will begin, but suffice it to say, it is immediate.

When he returns to Jerusalem for Passover, Jesus finds that the Temple of Jerusalem had been turned into a defacto market place. All four (4) canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) state that Jesus runs the livestock and the merchants out, and overturns the tables of the money changers and the dove sellers. He then begins to heal the sick and to teach, thus restoring the temple to its original purpose. Children praise him and this, along with everything else, riles up the establishment.

In three (3) of the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) several groups of the establishment question Jesus’ authority and his views on taxes. First he is asked, “By what authority are you doing these things?” To which, Jesus asks his own question regarding the authority of the then wildly popular John the Baptist:

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Matthew 21:24 KJV)

“The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?” (Matthew 21:25 KJV)

“And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” (Matthew 21:26 KJV)

Later, in another attempt to trap Jesus, the elders ask him if the Jewish people should pay taxes to the Roman Empire. He asks them to show him a coin suitable for payment and, when they present a coin with a Roman face on the front – specifically, Caesar’s face – Jesus says, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

“But if you do not fight this battle of good over evil, you will fail in both your worldly duty and in your duty to your very Self. You will violate your sva-dharma. Not doing the right thing when it is required is worse than doing the wrong thing.”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (2.33) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

Just like Jesus in the New Testament, we can all find ourselves in situations where we feel the responsibility to speak up and do the right thing. We may even find that someone questions our authority to do what we feel must be done. In fact, we may be the one questioning whether we have the authority (or the correct information) to do something. And that last part is crucial; because – as we must remember – part of the DHS campaign was about awareness.

Just like Patanjali, Western Science, delineates a conscious, unconscious, and subconscious part of the mind. In the Yoga Sūtras, Patanjali also described four levels of conscious-awareness: gross, subtle, bliss, and I-ness. (YS 1.17) Those first two levels (gross and subtle) must be engaged in order for us to fulfill our purpose. If they are not engaged, then we are like a zombie, sleep-walking through life.

“The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor.”

– quoted from “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving

Passion Week, or Holy Week, is associated with a moveable feast and, therefore, falls at different times on the Gregorian calendar. This year, Passion Monday (in the Western Christian and Roman Catholic traditions) coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Washington Irving (born April 3, 1783), whose “Rip Van Winkle” can be connected to ancient Greek philosophy and to a story about ancient Christians that appears in the Qur’an.

Just like each person has a purpose in life (and with regard to public safety), each part of the mind-body plays a part in our ability to fulfill our purpose. Just like things we consume – food, drink, media, experiences – can be the thieves that prevent us from doing our duty, so too can an injury… or, something as simple as one part of our body “falling asleep.”

Technically (medically) speaking, a body part falling asleep is “transient (temporary) paresthesia,” which occurs when pressure on the nerves and/or reduced blood flow causes a disconnect between the brain and the affected body part. In addition to the affected body part not working properly until it “wakes up,” a person may stop all other conscious activity in order to resolve the issue with the one part that is in pain. To add insult to injury, it’s not only painful when part of the body falls asleep, it’s also painful to “wake” it up. But, we must, if we are to (safely) function as a (united) whole.

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

– quoted from a sermon (or speech at the pulpit) given on March 8, 1965, by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  

Click here for the 2020 Passion Monday blog post (which focuses on one way the mind-body eliminates the thieves.

There is no playlist for the Common Ground Meditation Center practices.

When I do use a playlist for this “detox flow,” this makes the cut.

### “Love come quick / Love come in a hurry” ~ Prince ###

Let Us Go Forth Together, In Peace April 2, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Abhyasa, Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Lent, Life, Loss, Love, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Suffering, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Blessings to anyone observing Palm Sunday or Great Lent! “Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the holy month of Ramadān. Many blessings to all during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons!

“And if a book ever comes from another shelf,

because someone or something drove it away,

make room.

It fits next to you.”

– quoted from the 2023 International Children’s Book Day message “I am a book, read me.” by Vagelis Iliopoulos (translated from Greek by the author)

“Here we see the abyss of our evil immersed in a greater love, with the result that our isolation becomes fellowship.

Brothers and sisters, a love like this, embracing us totally and to the very end, a love of Jesus like this, has the capacity to turn our stony hearts into hearts of flesh, and make them capable of mercy, tenderness and compassion. It is the style of God, this closeness, with passion and tenderness. God is like this.”

– quoted from the 2023 Palm Sunday homily by Pope Francis

How are you feeling today?

How ever you are feeling, these messages are for you:

I hope that, where ever you are (and where ever you roam), you do not feel alone – even if you are by yourself. I hope that you are either physically surrounded by people who respect you, love you, and treat you well – or that you feel the respect, love, and kindness of people who may not be with you physically.

I hope all of that, for everyone; and yet I know that there are people today – way too many people today – who are not feeling that. I know there are people feeling alone, lonely, maybe even abandoned and cast aside. I know some of those people may even be people I know and love and whom I would like to feel my respect and lovingkindness. I also know that, for some, the feeling is just a momentary bleep on the radar – part of being human – and there is no real crisis or danger.

For others, however, the crisis and the danger is a disaster waiting to happen (or already happening) It is something we should all note – and consider what we can do to alleviate the suffering or, at least, to not make it worse.

I know all of this. So, I should not have been surprised that Vagelis Iliopoulos’s International Children’s Book Day message and Pope Francis’s Palm Sunday homily are so closely aligned and so tied to that sensation of abandonment. Because both know it is a human feeling that can absolutely break us. They both also know that even though our individual circumstances may be different, we are all in this life together.

“Brothers and sisters, today let us implore this grace: to love Jesus in his abandonment and to love Jesus in the abandoned all around us, in the abandoned all around us. Let us ask for the grace to see and acknowledge the Lord who continues to cry out in them. May we not allow his voice to go unheard amid the deafening silence of indifference. God has not left us alone; let us care, then, for those who feel alone and abandoned. Then, and only then, will we be of one mind and heart with the one who, for our sake, ‘emptied himself’ (Phil 2:7). Totally emptied for us.”

– quoted from the 2023 Palm Sunday homily by Pope Francis

In addition to being Palm Sunday in Roman Catholic and Western Christian traditions, today is International Children’s Book Day, an annual celebration of children, books, authors, and illustrators that coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen’s (born today in 1805). Many children learn lessons about abandonment, loneliness, and togetherness from fairytales, books and poems by Christian Anderson and other authors, just as they/we learn those same lessons from the Bible (Old and New Testaments).

Those same texts also teach us how to let go, release, our fears and insecurities and to embrace peace… and each other.

Click here to read my 2019 blog post about International Children’s Book Day. You can find Vagelis Iliopoulos’s full message (and accompanying artwork by illustrator Photini Stephanidi) here, on the International Board on Books for Young People website.

Click here to read my 2019 blog post about Palm Sunday. You can find Pope Francis’s full homily here, on the Catholic News Agency website.

“I am a book.

You are a book.

We are all books.

My soul is the story I tell.

Every book tells its own story.”

– quoted from the 2023 International Children’s Book Day message “I am a book, read me.” by Vagelis Iliopoulos (translated from Greek by the author)

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, April 2nd) at 2:30 PM. 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 “Palm Sunday: Peace & Passion”]

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 are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can dial 988 (in the US) or 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. 

If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgement-free place to talk, you can also click here to contact the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).


Auspicious and Holy Stories (the “missing” Wednesday post) March 22, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 19-Day Fast, Abhyasa, Art, Baha'i, Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Kirtan, Lent, Life, Music, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Ramadan, Religion, Suffering, Vairagya, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Many blessings to all! “Happy Ugadi, Happy New Year!” to those who are celebrating! “Nine days and nine nights of blessings and happiness if you are celebrating Chaitra Navaratri!” “Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the holy month of Ramadān. Blessings to anyone observing Lent or Great Lent during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons! Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere & Happy Fall to those in the Southern Hemisphere.

This is the “missing” post for Wednesday, March 22nd. You can request an audio recording of this 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.)

“A good sequence is like a good story. There is a beginning (an introduction), the middle (the heart of the story), and the end (the conclusion)”

– Maty Ezraty

People often tell me that one of the things they like about my classes are the stories, as well as the way the poses and the music tell the stories. They may even wonder why I tell such stories. Bottom line: I come from a long line of teachers who think the practice is a way to tell our stories and also a way to process our stories, every time we inhale, every time we exhale. It’s a way to go deeper into our stories.

But, since we all have different stories, we need to get on the same page – and I just happen to have the privilege of turning that page.

Today is a day when I normally tell the stories of four very famous storytellers born on March 22nd. These storytellers tell/told their stories in different ways; however, the storytellers themselves have something in common – other than the fact that they are all, as it turns out, the same gender and race and share the same profession and birthday. They all know/knew how to tell a good story. Regardless of if you read the adult novels or children’s books of one of my parents’ favorite authors; the poetry of one of my favorite poets; or listen to the brilliant lyrics and music of the two composers on the list, you will find that they follow a simple structure. It is the same structure we follow in the practice; a structure containing the three parts highlighted by Maty Ezraty and, also, a Chekhovian promise (which we’ll get to in the end).

As I said before, today is a day when I normally tell their stories. However, this year, I feel compelled to tell a few different stories. They are the stories being told, celebrated, and observed all over the world today. They are auspicious stories. They are holy stories. They are stories filled with their own promise: a promise of hope and renewal.

Some elements of the following were posted in 2020 and 2021, in a slightly different combination and context. You can click on the years to find the original posts. There are also some embedded links below, which connect to additional context.

“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, March 22, 2023, is a time when at least five different communities around the world are observing rituals related to renewal. While people within the Bahá’i Faith just finished observing the Bahá’i 19-Day Fast and celebrating the Nowruz (the New Year) –  and have a few weeks before their most holy festival, Western Christian and Eastern Orthodox Christian communities are observing the last few weeks of Lent and Great Lent. At this same time, some people in India and the Indian diaspora are celebrating Ugadi, the Hindu (or Indian) New Year, which is also the beginning of Chaitra Navaratri. Finally, the holy month of Ramadān in Islām is scheduled to begin tonight at sunset. (In countries that do not have sightings of the crescent moon, the holy month will begin on Thursday or Friday). Some of these celebrations and observations will extend into April, overlapping even more auspicious and holy times for even more communities around the world. 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.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”

– quoted from The Gospel According to St. Luke (4:1-2, NIV)

NOTE: This is almost identical to The Gospel According to St. Matthew (4:1-2, NIV)

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. The way the Sundays are counted is another difference in the way Lent and Great Lent are observed. In Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, Sundays are considered “Feast Days” – anniversaries of Easter and the Resurrection – and, therefore, they are not counted as days of penance. In Orthodox traditions, Sundays are included in the count.

The holy month of Ramadān is another observation within an Abrahamic religion – and it also involves yet another different calendar; so, the overlap in holy times is not always the same. Ramadān is an Arabic word derived from a root word meaning “scorching heat” or “dryness.” In addition to being the name of the 9th month of the Islāmic calendar, which is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community, it is also one of the 99 “Beautiful Names of Allah” (also known as “99 Attributes of Allah”). 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 this particular ritual and tradition 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.

“I know I’m waiting
Waiting for something
Something to happen to me
But this waiting comes with
Trials and challenges
Nothing in life is free”

“My Lord, show me right from wrong
Give me light, make me strong
I know the road is long
Make me strong”

– quoted from the song “Make Me Strong” by Sami Yusuf

There are several calendars used in India and Southeast Asia which may be referred to as the Hindu calendar (or, in some cases the Buddhist calendar). For the most part, these are lunisolar calendars. Some, like those used in Nepal and certain regions of India, emphasize the lunar cycles and start with the (spring) harvest season. On the flip side, the Tamil calendar emphasizes the solar cycle and begins around the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. (In fact, I have seen the Tamil calendar described as a purely solar calendar.)

The Indian calendars tend to have twelve months, however, in some areas (particularly in the North) a month begins the day after a full moon and in other areas (often in the South) the month begins at sunrise after the “no moon” or new moon. The months are usually divided into the bright half (waxing, when the crescent appears after the new moon) and the darker half (waning, the day after the full moon). Because of the different starting points, the same lunar-oriented religious holidays may start at slightly different times throughout the continent. Either way you look at it, many people are beginning their observations and celebrations of Navaratri.

Navaratri (which means “nine nights” in Sanskrit) technically occurs four times on the Hindu calendar, although extra emphasis is put on the one beginning today and the one in the fall. Like the others, the fall celebration of Sharada Navaratri is a celebration of divine feminine energy – specifically of Durga, the divine mother, in various manifestations. It is considered the most celebrated. Magha Navaratri and Ashada Navaratri are the least celebrated, although they have special significance in certain regions. The second most celebrated Navaratri is Chaitra Navaratri, which begins today and is also Ugadi, the Hindu or Indian New Year.

Like the others, Chaitra Navaratri begins by celebrating Durga as Shailaputri (“Daughter of Mountain”). Shailputri is the daughter of Himavat, the Mountain King or Guardian God of Himalayan Mountains, and is recognized as a divine manifestation of Mahadevi and a reincarnation of Sati (the wife of Shiva), who then reincarnates as Parvati. In art, she holds a trishula or trident in her right hand and a lotus in her left hand, all while riding Shiva’s bull Nandi*, whose name means “happy, joy, and satisfaction.” In some regions, this spring celebration culminates on the final day with Rama Navami – a celebration of the birth of Lord Rama.

“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

All of the rituals and traditions mentioned above could be considered vigils (or feature vigils at some point during the observation) – as they are periods of time when people are “keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray.” Even when people are not literally staying up all night, they are required to be mindful (i.e., awake) to how they can fulfill the obligations of their faith on a day-to-day basis. All of these rituals and traditions are practiced in community. Finally, they all fit into the rubric of kriyā yoga, as described by Patanjali in Yoga Sūtra 2.1-2. They all involve a combination of tapah (“heat, austerity, or discipline” and the practices that cultivate heat, discipline, and austerity on a number of levels), svādhyāya (“self-study”), and īśvarapraņidhāna (“trustful surrender to [God]”). Furthermore, they all have the intention or goal of bringing about that ultimate “union” and the end of suffering – which is, on a certain level, a promise made by all the major religious, spiritual, and/or philosophical traditions.

Which brings us back to that Chekhovian promise.

Anton Chekov said that if there is a rifle (or a pistol) hanging on the wall in the first chapter/act, it must go off in the second or third. He told another playwright, “It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”

Whenever we step on the mat, there’s a part of us that is making a promise (to ourselves). We are also, on a certain level, keeping a promise. Whenever I put together a sequence, there’s a part of me that thinks about that promise and how I can honor it. I also think about a song by Stephen Sondheim (“Putting it together…bit by bit…piece by piece”), as well as about Maty Ezraty’s sequencing advice about the middle (the heart) of the story. I consider how I can build up to a big heart opener (and/or a big hip opener). I also think about how we each need to process our own personal story in order to not only lift and open our hearts, but also to support our lifted and open hearts – especially in times when it is so easy to close off. Then I think about what best moves us into stillness and a period of reflection, after all that we’ve done to get to the middle (the heart). Finally, I think about rituals and traditions.

I often indicate that traditions are rituals that have lost a little bit of their meaning. Saying that may, sometimes, take away from the fact that both rituals and traditions are powerful. They have powerful affects on our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. They are part of our stories – and, also part of the ways we tell and share our stories. They can also be the ways in which we process our stories. Similarly, our practice is full of rituals and traditions that – on and off the mat – renew our connections with our beliefs, our communities, and the deepest parts of ourselves.

“Practicing yoga is a privilege. And with this privilege comes a duty to be kind, to share a smile, and to offer yoga from the mat into the rest of your life.”

– Maty Ezraty

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Two quick notes about the music: First, some of the songs on the playlist are, or could be considered, Nasheeds (meaning they are religiously moral songs) that, in some traditions, are meant to be sung without instrumentation or only with percussion. I have, however, included orchestrated versions of these songs, because this seems to have worked best in an in-studio setting. I mean no disrespect by this choice. As far as I know, percussion or voice only recordings of each song are available (if you want to build your own playlist). Alternatively, you can practice without the music. Second, I broke one of my personal rules and included a song (in Hindi) for which I only have a partial translation. I’m still searching and seeking.

*CORRECTION: During the 4:30 practice, I mixed up Nandi and Nandini, the cow of plenty in the Mahabharata. My apologies for the confusion.

### Unity yields Equity and Equality ###

EXCERPT (FTWMI): It’s Bach’s Day Too! March 21, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Abhyasa, Art, Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Hope, Lent, Life, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

“Nowruz Mubarak!” Happy New Year to those who are celebrating! Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere & Happy Fall to those in the Southern Hemisphere. Many blessings to all, and especially to those observing Lent or Great Lent during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons! & Don’t forget to rock your socks on World Down Syndrome Day!

For Those Who Missed It: This is an excerpt from March 21, 2020. There is a link at the end of the excerpt if you want more of the philosophy. Some embedded links below connect to sites outside of this blog. Class details and links have been added (as I was not yet teaching online three years ago today).

“[Music] should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the re-creation of the soul, where this is not kept in mind, there is no true music, but only an infernal clamour and ranting.”

– Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685)

According to the Old Style / Julian calendar, March 21st, is the anniversary of the birth of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Born in 1685, Bach’s statement about music also works as a statement for yoga: ‘[Philosophically speaking, yoga] should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the re-creation of the soul, where this is not kept in mind, there is no true [yoga], but only an infernal clamour and ranting.’ People who think of yoga only as a form of exercise are often surprised that there’s more. One can only imagine their surprise if they walk into one of my classes – especially on March 21st, when the playlist starts with Bach and then becomes a soundtrack for other events that correspond to this date in history.

Imagine their further surprise when all of that is just the background to a deeper practice.

Click here if you are interested in reading the complete 2020 post and going deeper into some of the ways we explore the Yoga Philosophy.

“Samskaras – the drivers of our mental tendencies – manifest in the form of memory. We are able to remember something because the subtle impressions related to the object have been stored in our mind. Because they are hidden beneath thick layers of the forces of time, the mind is not aware of their existence. But like a seed that lies dormant until spring brings moisture and warmth, samskaras awaken when the conditions inside and outside the mind are conducive.”

– quoted from the commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.11 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me today (Tuesday, March 21st) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the classYou can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “03212020 Bach’s Day Too” or “03212021 Bach’s Day Too” ]

NOTE: Some tracks have slightly different timings on the different platforms.

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.)


Laissez les bons temps rouler! February 21, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Abhyasa, Art, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Lent, Life, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

It’s Mardi Gras, y’all! It’s also Shrove Tuesday and the last week of Shrovetide, for those who are feeling more prayerful!! Peace and ease to all during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is an abridged, expanded, and updated version of a 2021 post.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

– Louisiana French for “Let the good times roll!”

Today has many names, but for a lot of people it is Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” the end of the Carnival season and the day before the Lenten season in Western Christian traditions. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday or (especially in the UK) Pancake Tuesday. It is a moveable feast day of indulgence, when people treat themselves to anything and everything – but especially the things they are planning to give up during Lent.

“Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” meaning “to absolve” and for Christians who are focused on “shriving,” today is a day of self-examination, repentance, and amendments as a way to prepare for the Lent. While people observing Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day may indulge in “fatty foods,” they often do so with an eye on symbolism. Different countries and cultures have different traditional recipes, but the recipes generally include what can be considered symbols of the four pillars of Christianity: eggs for creation; flour as the staff of life or mainstay of the human diet; salt for wholesomeness; and milk for purity. Some churches will make a point of ringing the bells on this day to “call the faithful to confession” – and to remind people to begin frying up the pancakes.

Carnival season begins with Three Kings’ Day (also known as Twelfth Night or Epiphany in some traditions) and ends with the biggest celebrations of the season, Mardi Gras (not to mention Lundi Gras)! In much of the Americas, Carnival and Mardi Gras are traditionally celebrated with parades, beads, masks and costumes, and parties from sunrise to sunset. Of course, Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the largest and most well known Carnival celebration – while New Orleans is practically synonymous with Mardi Gras. However, in the mid-80’s, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Australia started drawing large numbers of celebrants from around the world.

In New Orleans, it is customary to celebrate with a King Cake, featuring a little plastic baby figurine. The person who finds the baby is promised health and wealth – and is often expected to provide the following year’s King Cake. While many people toss or “request” beads during the parades, very few people remember that there was a time when the beads were made of glass and the bead colors had special meanings: purple for justice; gold for power; and green for faith.

“… don’t tell no lie! Cause we gonna have fun, y’all, on Mardi Gras! … I’m not gonna tell no lie. We not gonna let Katrina, y’all, turn us ‘round.”

– Theodore “Bo” Dollis, “Big Chief” of The Wild Magnolias opening the song “Brother John Is Gone / Herc-Jolly-John” on Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album

Carnival and Mardi Gras have outlasted gangs, political coups, police strikes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In 2021, while much of New Orleans was shut down, the good times still rolled on – just not in a way that would turn Mardi Gras into a super spreader. Remember, as glutinous as the tradition may appear on the outside, its roots are deeply embedded in something more than the desires of the flesh. Thus, just as has been the case with so many other cultural traditions and religious rituals, the pandemic forced people to figure out how to honor the traditions while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

One New Orleans business owner decided to follow the normal parade route – but in his car and in the early, early morning. Of course, he was blasting New Orleans jazz all the way! Many others tweeted and created virtual events. Then there were the thousands of people who decorated their homes and businesses in the same way they would have decorated their krewe’s floats: They called it “Yardi Gras!”

In some ways, the creativity and ingenuity to work around challenging conditions while still holding on to what one values is very much part of the human spirit – and very much indicative of the spirit of New Orleans. It is is also a reflection of the seasons themselves: Shrovetide, Carnival, the “Fat” celebrations, and Lent are all about the dichotomy between what feeds the body and what feeds the soul. Of course, all this focus on wealth, indulgences, and vices, makes me think about the things we like and the things we don’t like – and how those preferences contribute to our overall experiences of life.

Yoga Sūtra 2.7: sukhānuśayī rāgah

– “Affliction that has pleasure as its resting ground is attachment.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.8: duhkhānuśayī dveşah

– “Affliction that has pain as its resting ground is aversion.”

Very early on in our human lives, people start to establish preferences. There are things (and people) we like and things (and people) we don’t like – and we will spend an extraordinary amount of time creating situations and environments full of the things (and people) we like and free of the things (and people) we don’t like. When things are not to our liking we experience suffering that we often attribute to things not being the way we want them. However, according to Eastern philosophies, believing things (or people) can make us happy or miserable is ignorant. Specifically, in the Yoga Philosophy, this is avidyā (“ignorance”) related to the true nature of things, which is a dysfunctional or afflicted thought patterns. Avidyā is seen as the bedrock of four other types of dysfunctional/afflicted thought patterns – two or which are rāga (“attachment” or what we like) and devşa (“aversion” or what we don’t like) and it is these afflictions (kleśāh) which lead to our suffering.

To experience freedom from craving and liberation from avidyā, and the subsequent suffering, Patanjali’s recommendations include abhyāsa (a devoted and uninterrupted “practice” done with trustful surrender and devotion) and vairāgya (“non-attachment”). What is always interesting to me is that when you combine abhyāsa and vairāgya with the niyamās (“internal observations”) – especially the last three, which form kriyā yoga – you end up with a practice that can looks very much like Lent. Even though it may look odd on the outside, celebrations like Carnival and Mardi Gras / Pancake Tuesday are just as valid as preparation for the observation of Lent as Shrovetide. They can all be ways in which people demonstrate (and get ready to demonstrate) their faith.

“The power of faith is transformative. It can be utilized in your own personal life to change your individual condition, and it can be used as a lifeline of spiritual strength to change a nation. Each and every one of us is imbued with a divine spark of the Creator. That spark links us to the greatest source of power in the universe. It also unites us with one another and the infinity of the Creation. If we stand on this knowledge, even if it is in direct conflict with the greatest forces of injustice around us, a host of divine help, both seen and unseen, will come to our aid. This does not mean you will not face adversity. You can be arrested, jailed, and beaten on this quest, and sometimes you must be prepared to lose all you have, even your life. But if you do not waver, your sacrifice even in death has the power to redeem a community, a people, and a nation from the untruths of separation and division and from the lies of inferiority and superiority. Once you realize your own true divinity, no one can imprison you, reject you, abuse you, or degrade you, and any attempt to do so will only be an aid to your own liberation.

You will discover that no government, no teacher, no abusive parent or spouse, not even torture or terror has the power to define you. Once you find within you the true ability to define yourself according to the dictates of your conscience and your faith, you will have come a long way down to the path that can lead to social transformation. Faith will be the lifeblood of all your activism, and it has the power to make a way out of no way. You may be in your darkest hour, it may be darker than ten thousand nights on your path to lasting change, but there is something in you that keeps you moving, feeling your way through the night until you can see a glimmer of light. That is the power of faith.

When you pray, move your feet.


– quoted from “Chapter 1. Faith” in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America by Congressman John Lewis (b. 02/21/1940) with Brenda Jones

Please join me today (Tuesday, February 21st) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. 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 or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

NOTE: The first before/after music track hits different on YouTube. If you know, you know.

Virtually Mardi Gras

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.)


The Black Cyclone (a special Black History note) February 4, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Abhyasa, Baseball, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Life, Loss, Men, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Happy Spring Festival! Happy Carnival! Peace and ease to all during this “Season of Non-violence” and all other seasons!

This is a special post for Friday, February 3nd, which is also known as “The Day the Music Died. In 2023, it was also the 13th day of the Spring Festival, which is one of the days when people eat “clean” (more on that in the Friday post). In addition to all of that (and more) it is the anniversary of the birth of a man who (partially) inspired a big, barrier breaking, change in history – a change many people celebrate without ever knowing this particular man’s name.

“Rule 303: If you have the means at hand, you have the responsibility to act.”

“Do what you can, when you can, as much as you can, for as long as you can.”

– the t-shirt and (a paraphrased version of) common refrains on the YouTube channel “Beau of the Fifth Column” 

Normally, on Day 13 of the Lunar New Year, I focus on what it means to be clean and practice some kind of “detox” sequence that highlights how the body naturally eliminates waste and how it is just as important for us to let go of things we don’t need physically as it is for us to let go of things that no longer serve us mentally, emotionally, energetically, and/or spiritually. This is also a day when some people celebrate the birthday of the “God of War” – who is associated with empathy and “brotherhood” – and so it can be a good day to reflect on how letting something go can actually bring us closer together.

Sometimes, however, we are not ready to let go. Sometimes, circumstances force us to figure out how to deal with the loss of a friend, a family member, a “brother” or “sister” – even someone we have never (physically) met and will never meet. Just as their is an inhale, a literal “inspiration,” there is an exhale – a literal “expiration” – and part of being alive is dealing with death. The big difference is that when we consciously bring our awareness to our breath, we can consciously and peaceful engage the concept of beginnings and endings.

Unfortunately, everyone isn’t promised peaceful beginnings and endings. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t get to live long lives and pass peacefully in their sleep, surrounded by people who love them and who treated them well. Like so many recent years, this is one of those years when Lunar New Year celebrations here in the United States have been marred by horrible tragedies and losses that are beyond comprehension. Yet, people continue to come together to figure out how to move forward as a community. People keep connecting in order to honor rituals and traditions despite (or sometimes because of) the fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, grief, and dismay that arises.

People continue to live… and laugh and love… and play music – even though, as I mentioned before, today is the day the music died.

“For years, [Dr. Mike Miller], a research cardiologist, has been studying the effects of happiness — or things that make people happy — on our hearts. He began his research with laughter, and found watching funny movies and laughing at them could actually open up blood vessels, allowing blood to circulate more freely.

Miller thought, if laughter can do that, why not music? So, he tested the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. ‘Turns out music may be one of the best de-stressors — either by playing or even listening to music,’ said Miller.”

– quoted from a 2009 CNN Health segment entitled, “The power of music: It’s a real heart opener” by Val Willingham, CNN Medical Producer

Normally, on this date on the Gregorian calendar, I tell the story of the disastrous “Winter Dance Party” tour and how a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa, today in 1959. The tragic loss of the the three stars and the pilot, Roger Peterson, as they were traveling to Moorhead, MN, is compounded by the fact that they were all so young, that they were all really started to live their lives as husbands and fathers, and that the three musicians were right on the precipice of making sure their names would never be forgotten simply because of their music. Over the years, as I have recounted this story, I have encountered people who were directly connected to the events of 1959, people who remembered when it happened, people who only know the story because of the music the events inspired, and people who realized they only knew the music of the three legends because a popular musician had covered one of their hit singles.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is not uncommon for people to hear one of these stories and realize they knew the big picture, but not all of the details. What happens, however, when you realize that for all the details that you know, there’s a missing piece of history that no one ever mentioned?

“‘Follis was a natural hitter and he had an ease about him and a confident smile that always seemed to worry opposing pitchers,’ one report said. ‘As a football player and as a baseball player he gained the respect of his associates and opponents as well by his clean tactics and his gameness,’ said another.”

– quoted from “Charles Follis” by Milt Roberts (originally in Black Sports, Nov. 1975), reproduced in THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 2, No. 1 (1980)

Charles W. Follis was born February 3, 1879, in Cloverdale, Virginia. One of nine children born to Catherine Matilda Anderson Follis and James Henry Follis, who worked on a farm, Charles had fours sisters and four brothers (one of whom died from an football-related injury when he was about 19 years old). In 1885, the family moved to Wooster, Ohio, and the eldest Follis son started attending Wooster High School, where he helped establish a football team (on which his brothers would also eventually play). With Charles Follis as it’s captain and lead player, the mostly-white Wooster High School football team was unbeatable and, for the first year of it’s existence, no one could even score against them.

When he graduated from high school, in 1901, Charles Follis enrolled at the University of Wooster (now known as the College of Wooster), a private liberal arts college founded by the Presbyterian Church. While he ended up playing baseball for his university team, he decided to play football with the Wooster Athletic Association. It was while playing football that Charles Follis earned the nickname “The Black Cyclone.” He also earned a reputation an amazingly formidable competitor. He was so good, in fact, that after he played against the all-white Shelby Blues (part of the “Ohio League” that competed for the Ohio Independent Championship (OIC) and would evolve into the National Football League (NFL)), the manager of the Shelby Blues convinced Charles Follis to sign a contract – making Charles “The Black Cyclone” Follis the first African American to play professional football on an integrated team. Frank C. Schiffer, the manager of the Shelby Blues, also got Mr. Follis a job at a hardware store that would accommodate his practice and playing schedule.

About a year after the Shelby Blues signed Charles Follis as a halfback, a young student from Ohio Wesleyan University started playing for pay. That student has a name that will forever be enshrined in sports history and even in the minds of lay sports historians: Branch Rickey.

“Rickey later said: ‘I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball.’”

– quoted from the “Sports Heroes Who Served: WWI Soldier Helped Desegregate Baseball” by David Vergun, DOD News (dated July 7, 2020, U. S. Department of Defense website)

Charles Follis and Branch Rickey not only played football together as Shelby Blues, they also play against each other when Mr. Rickey coached the Ohio Wesleyan University football team. So, Branch Rickey had a front row seat to witness the athletic ability of Charles Follis as well as the way “The Black Cyclone” handled the adversity of dealing with racism on and off the field. That racism not only caused Mr. Follis to be isolated and separated from team functions – even in his hometown of Wooster – it also lead to insults and (actually, physical) injuries during the games. One of those injuries, or the culmination of those injuries, ended Charles Follis’s football career.

However, Charles Follis wasn’t finished with sports and football wasn’t the only place where ran into Branch Rickey. The two athletes also found themselves in direct competition when they started playing as catchers for Ohio college baseball teams. Even though they were rivals, they seemed to share mutual respect and friendship with each other. Charles Follis became the first African American catcher to move from the college leagues to the Negro League. Meanwhile, Branch Rickey coached college baseball at Ohio Wesleyan – where he coached another African American catcher, Charles Thomas – and then signed a contract with the Terre Haute Hottentots of the Class B Central League, making his professional Major League Baseball (MLB) debut on June 20, 1903.

“In a 1975 Akron Beacon Journal story, the late John M. Smith of Shelby was interviewed a year before his death. As a teenager, Smith watched Follis star for the Shelby Blues.

‘Could he run?’ Smith asked incredulously, ‘Lord almighty! The man was the best I’ve ever seen. Could he run!’”

– quoted from the Akron Beacon Journal clip posted on the Charles Follis Foundation website 

In 1905, Charles Follis was fast becoming the superstar of the Cuban Giants, the first fully salaried African American professional baseball team. He was an all-around all star who stole bases, made double and triple plays, and was known as a power hitter as well as one of the most popular and well-liked players on the team. He made headlines during every game and forced other teams to pull out all the stops in an effort to best him. A rival team from Elyria, Ohio, thought they could beat biggest “giant” by bringing in a ringer: Herbert “Buttons” Briggs, a former Chicago Cubs pitcher. On May 16, 1906, the MLB pitcher faced the “cyclone”… and lost, big time. As the first batter, in the first inning, against the first pitch, Charles Follis hit a home run. He literally hit it out of the park and would end the game four-for-six against the pitcher who had previously won 20 games in one MLB season.

Within a few years of that 1906 season opener, three of the biggest names on the field that day had all passed away at young ages: John Bright, the Cuban Giants pitcher died in 1909 or 1908; Herbert Theodore “Buttons” Briggs caught pneumonia in 1910 and died of tuberculosis in 1911; Charles Follis caught pneumonia during a game in 1910 and died April 5, 1910.

“The [old-timers] in Wooster, Shelby, and Cleveland still talk about him today… but historians forget him… young sports fans probably never heard of him before. In Wooster [Cemetery], a thin, weathered headstone, slightly tilted by the winds and snow of more than 65 years, marks his final resting place. Today it is viewed as a local historical site.”

– quoted from “Charles Follis” by Milt Roberts (originally in Black Sports, Nov. 1975), reproduced in THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 2, No. 1 (1980)

Around the same time Charles Follis was besting MLB players, his college teammate and rival was moving up to the majors. The only problem was that Branch Rickey’s stats were lacking. Two years into his contract, the St. Louis Browns (formerly the Wisconsin Brewers) became the New York Highlanders (later the New York Yankees). On June 28, 1907, Mr. Rickey, the backup catcher, was forced to play a game while injured. It was a disaster.  He couldn’t throw, he struck out three times, and the opposing team (the Washington Senators) stole a whopping 13 bases. Not surprisingly, that was his one and only season with the Highlanders.

Branch Rickey would go back to coaching college football, make another go as a baseball player (1914) and as a baseball manager with the reconstructed St. Louis Browns (1913–1915, 1919). Then, after serving in the United States Army during World War I and spending that final year in the front office of the St. Louis Browns, he became General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals (which had been the St. Louis Browns née St. Louis Brown Stockings, before the Brewers used the name). The MLB catcher some described as lackluster, excelled as a manager. He was an innovator, especially when dealing with conflict and controversy. He became General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943 and immediately started laying groundwork for some groundbreaking.

In 1945, Branch Rickey and Gus Greenlee, founder and president of the second National Negro League, created the United States League. Mr. Rickey interviewed Jackie Robinson and then signed him to a minor league contract. A good number of people in the United States – even if they don’t know much about baseball – know that Jackie Robinson, #42, broke the color line in major league baseball on April 15, 1947. What people may not know is why Branch Rickey was so determined to make that change. Why he so determined to do what he could – in theory, for people who were perceived as being so different from him.

Even though he would later talk about his experiences as a coach of a Black player and as a member of the military (before the U. S. military integrated), what many people may not know is that, before that, he had a rival, a teammate, a peer, a friend – someone he admired: a man named Charles W. Follis, a man who just happened to be Black.

“On October 17, 1903, Rickey felt the ‘Black Cyclone’s’ full power when he ran their ends dizzy for 20, 25, 35 and 70 yard gains, the last being a touchdown. After that game Rickey praised Follis, calling him ‘a wonder.’ It was the power of his example, his character, and his grace that convinced Rickey, that color could not belie his greatness. The rest is history….”

– quoted from the “Background” section of the Charles Follis Foundation website

PRACTICE NOTES: I actually have several baseball-related sequences and themes in my notebooks. They range from (sort of) silly to (very) serious, from meditative Restorative and Yin Yoga to “slow flow” and vigorous vinyasas. Philosophically, what the all have in common is a focus on teamwork, on doing one’s best and then letting go, and on an awareness of what happens when we become part of something bigger than our individual selves. Physically, what they all have in common is asymmetrically, unilateral poses with special awareness of the feet, hips, core/midsection, and shoulder girdle.

Of course, we can’t have a practice about baseball without a seventh-inning stretch and the wave.

### “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” ~ Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer ###

Seeing Red but/and Finding “Accidental Goodness” January 24, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Abhyasa, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Life, Music, New Year, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Vairagya, Wisdom, Yoga.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Happy (Lunar) New Year! Happy Carnival!

“From a practical standpoint then, svadyaya is the process of employing the power of discernment and maintaining a constant awareness of who we are, what we are trying to become, and how the objective world can help us accomplish our goal.”


– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.1 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

How do you react when things don’t go your way? What happens when you are very specific about what you want and/or what you need, but then you don’t get either? Are you quick to anger? Or, do you get “hangry” when you haven’t eaten and you have to deal with irritating situations? Do you “see red” at the drop of the hat or the blink of an eye? If so, there are (obviously) practices for that.

There are also handy tips (even if you don’t have a mindfulness-based practice). For instance, it’s good to get a good night sleep, eat when you need to, and – as much as you are able – avoid situations and people that push your buttons. Of course, just to be on the safe side, you could just not leave your house on days where you might be easily irritated. You know, like today, the third day of the Lunar New Year when some people will absolutely stay home and go to bed early.

Some portions of the following were previously posted.

Gong Xi Fa Cai [Congratulations and Prosperity!]
Gong Hey Fat Choy [Congratulations and Prosperity!]

– A common New Year’s greeting in Hanzi [Chinese characters], Mandarin and Cantonese pīnyīn [“spelled sounds”], and English

According to some Chinese creation mythology the third day of the Lunar New Year is the birthday of all boars. As I mentioned yesterday, some people will spend this third day of the Year of the Rabbit/Hare visiting the temple of the God of Wealth. Others associate this day with the “marriage of mice” and – in addition to providing treats as a “dowry” for the mice – they will go to bed early to ensure the mice have a peaceful ceremony. The belief is that if the mice have a peaceful ceremony, they will not pester humans during the rest of the year. In Vietnam, where people are celebrating the year of the Cat, this third day is a day to honor teachers.

Another reason people may go to bed early on the third night of the Lunar New Year is that, in certain parts of China, this third day is the “Day of the Red Dog” or “Red Mouth” Day and there is a greater danger of conflict on this day. People may also stay home and avoid anyone outside of their primary family circle in order not to say the wrong thing in anger – as a Chinese word for “red dog” is also a description for the “God of Blazing Wrath.” Some people also associate the tendency to say the wrong thing on the third day with the demon (or monster) Nian.

The Hanzi (Chinese character) for Nian also means “year” or “new year.” According to the legends, the monster Nian would come out of the sea or the mountain once a year looking for crops, animals, or villagers to eat. All the villagers would hide at this time of year, but one time an elderly gentleman was outside during the time Nian came to visit the village. One version of the story says that the man was a Taoist monk (Hongjun Lozu) who, like Br’er Rabbit, was a bit of a trickster. He some how convinced the monster that he would taste better if he could take off his outer clothing. In the version I tell in class, there is a big chase and the monster rips the man’s outerwear with his sharp teeth and claws. Either way, when the gentleman’s bright red undergarments are revealed Nian freaks out, because he is afraid of the color red (and loud noises). Therefore, it became auspicious to start the New Year (or even a marriage) wearing red; placing red throughout the village or town; and making a lot of noise.

“You always want to make it as good as it can be, but… But when you have problems that you can’t do anything about, one after another, you start forgetting what you’re actually doing, until it’s time. And that’s one of the secrets….”

– Keith Jarrett in a 2007 interview about his (01/24/1975) Köln Concert

In the 1970’s, 15-year old Vera Brandes started organizing jazz concerts and tours. At around 17, the German teenager started organizing the New Jazz in Cologne concert series. The fifth concert was scheduled for 11:30 PM on January 24, 1975, and it was going to be the first jazz concert at the 1,400-seat Cologne Opera House. The concert would feature a twenty-nine year old jazz pianist named Keith Jarrett, performing improvised solo piano pieces. Yes, that’s right, he was going to make it up as we went along –  and the sold out concert would be recorded. (According to last.fm, the tickets were 4 DM [Deutsche Mark] or $5; Wikipedia indicates the 4 DM equaled $1.72.)

Here’s a few other salient details about the American pianist: He has perfect pitch and garnered some international attention (as a classical pianist) when he was in high school in Pennsylvania. He started playing gigs in Boston while attending Berklee College of Music and moved to New York City after about a year. In the Big Apple, he started making a name for himself, playing with jazz greats like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Jack DeJohnette, and the Charles Lloyd Quartet. By the mid-to-late 1960’s, he was playing and recording with his own trios and that’s around the time that Miles Davis invited him to join his jams (alternating and/or playing with Chick Corea).

Keith Jarrett and his own band of musicians – Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, (eventually) Dewey Redman, and a handful of other similarly accomplished musicians (including Sam Brown) – recorded over a dozen albums for Atlantic Records from 1971 to 1976. In that same time period, one iteration of the quartet recorded an album for Columbia Records; but then the label dropped him – theoretically so they could promote Herbie Hancock. Right around the same time the Columbia-door closed, another two others doors opened: Keith Jarrett and his quartet got a contract with Impulse! Records and he was contacted by Manfred Eicher, a German record producer and co-founder of ECM Records.

ECM stands for “Edition of Contemporary Music” and the label is known for high quality jazz and classic music – and musicians who give the side-eye to labels. It was a great creative dwelling place for musicians like Keith Jarrett and Steve Reich, whose music I have also used in some practices. The professional relationship between Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher led to the “European quartet” collaborations, solo piano albums, and, eventually, to that legendary concert in Cologne, Germany.

Here’s another important thing to know about Keith Jarrett: He has a reputation for being very, very particular about concert conditions. He doesn’t like audience distractions, especially when he is improvising, so – at the height of his career – audience members were given cough drops during winter concerts and he would sometimes play in the dark to prevent people from taking pictures. He is known for vocalizing while he plays jazz (but not, notably, when he plays classical music) and reportedly led people in group coughs.

Now, imagine you are a musician like this – one who knows their stuff and is also very particular about the instruments you play – and you are presented “the unplayable piano” just hours before you’re meant to play a groundbreaking concert. What if you were also hungry, tired, and sick?

Would you see red? Or would you “accidentally” find goodness?

A version of the following was originally posted in 2022.

“KJ: When I was a teenager, my youngest brother had a lot of issues, and didn’t go to school. He couldn’t go outside, so he couldn’t have friends, so he was basically a prisoner in my mother’s house. There was an upright piano there. And occasionally, my brother, knowing zero — meaning really zero — about piano, would work out anger or frustration, which he must have had gobs of, by going to the keyboard and just playing some shit. He didn’t know what notes he was hitting or what would come out. But I realized there were moments that were so good and they came from his ignorance. I’m not sure he even knew they were good moments. But I found myself thinking: how would a pianist ever — how do you approach that if you know the instrument?

DS: How do you find the accidental goodness?”

– Keith Jarrett in response to David Shenk’s question about having a willingness or eagerness to fail, in “Keith Jarrett, Part II: The Q&A” by David Shenk (published in The Atlantic, October 13, 2009) 

Keith Jarrett is known for eschewing electronic instruments and equipment. Obviously, he appreciates the “need” for recording equipment and he has recorded music while playing electronic instruments. But, it’s not his jam – and it’s definitely not the kind of thing he would request for a solo piano concert in an opera house in 1975. No, someone like Keith Jarrett, at that point in his career, for that concert, would request the piano equivalent of a Rolls-Royce. And that’s exactly what he did; he requested a Bösendorfer Model 290 Imperial, also known as the Imperial Bösendorfer or just as the 290.

The 290 is Bösendorfer’s flagship piano. It is an exquisitely beautiful concert grand piano with an equally memorable sound. In fact, it was specifically designed to be grander than any other piano on the market in 1909. And I mean that in every sense of the word grand. It has 97-keys and a full 8-range octave. For 90 years, it was the only concert grand piano of it’s kind. In 1975, it was easily recognizable by any professional pianist… but probably not by random stagehands (who hadn’t had any reason to deal with such a piano) and possibly not by a teenage concert organizer (who also hadn’t had any reason to deal with such a piano).

Keith Jarrett, however, immediately knew that something was off when he arrived at the Cologne Opera House to find a Bösendorfer baby grand on the stage. To make matters worse, he was tired after traveling and not sleeping for two days, his back hurt, and he was suffering from food poisoning. To add insult to injury, the piano was badly out-of-tune and basically broken. Some of the keys and the foot pedals, one of the distinguishing features on the 290, didn’t work properly. It was simply a rehearsal piano or something someone had put in a backstage corner to warm up their hands before the curtain went up. It was too late to find and move a new piano. Even if they could find what had been requested – or something close, like the Bösendorfer (which would have been 5 keys shorter) – it was raining and Vera Brandes was warned that moving such an instrument in that type of weather would make it impossible to tune in time for the concert.

“Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.”

– Miles Davis

Improvisation – in comedy and in music – is known for things like not breaking the flow (so, not saying “no”); and the concept of “yes, and…;” staying present; and being open to change.  But, Keith Jarrett had made up his mind. He said no to that baby grand piano. He declared it categorically “unplayable” and said the concert needed to be canceled. And there’s no indication, anywhere, that he was being a diva. He was just being realistic given his history and his frame of reference. The fact that he was sick and tired just made everything worse.

But the indomitable Vera Brandes had a different history and a different field of possibility. She convinced him that she could find someone to tune (and repair) the piano onstage, which she did. She sent Keith Jarrett and Manfred Eicher to a restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. In some interviews, Keith Jarrett has said that they didn’t eat much because (a) he wasn’t feeling well, (b) there was a mix-up at the restaurant and their meal was delayed, and (c) they had to get back to the theatre. At some point along the way, they decided to keep the recording engineers – because they were going to get paid no matter what – and record what the musician expected to be a horrible and embarrassing disaster of the first order.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t not even close.

Instead, the three improvised movements, plus the encore of “Memories of Tomorrow,” became the best selling solo album in jazz history and one of the best-selling piano albums. In the Spring 2019 issue of Daedalus, Dr. Gerald Lyn Early, who has consulted on several Ken Burns documentaries (including Baseball and Jazz), pointed out that Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts changed the sound and people’s understanding of jazz (not to mention, who played it); “…made solo piano playing commercially viable by showing that there was a considerable audience for it[;]” and “…proved that the public was willing to take such records seriously…”

From the very first notes, which sound like the warning tones the audience heard in the lobby before the show, Keith Jarrett carried the audience on a sonorous piano journey unlike anything they had ever heard. The album has been praised by musicians, critics, and publishers alike. It was included in Robert Dimery’s book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Eventually, much to the composers dismay, parts of the composition became movie soundtracks. Many wanted Keith Jarrett to transcribe and publish a score of the concert, which he finally, begrudgingly, agreed to do in 1990. The transcribed score, however, came with a very intentional caveat.

“For instance, on pages 50 and 51 of Part IIa there is no way to obtain, on paper, the real rhythmic sense of this section. There is much more going on on  the recording, but this “going on” does not always translate into notes on paper. Many notes are inferred by the rhythmic sense; others depend on the harmonics or attack of the previous note(or notes). So, writing down all the notes would give more of a false view of the sense of this section than selecting some notes. And yet, even this selection cannot reveal the real sense of this section as an improvisation, where listening is what determines the music’s strength.

So – we are at, let us say, a picture of an improvisation (sort of like a print of a painting). You cannot see the depth in it, only the surface. 

As a result of all of this, I am recommending that any pianist who intends to play THE KÖLN CONCERT use the recording as the final-word reference.

Good luck!”

– quoted from the “Preface” to THE KÖLN CONCERT: Original Transcription, Piano by Keith Jarrett

Please join me today (Tuesday, January 24th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. 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 or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “0123-24/2022 Doing: Lessons in…”]

[NOTE: If it is accessible to you, please consider using the Spotify playlist as it contains the original music referenced in the practice. Even better, if you already have the album!

The original recording is not available on YouTube (in the US) without a “Premium” membership and, after listening to several different “interpretations” – which do not / cannot include the vocalizations – I decided the Fausto Bongelli sounded the closest to the original. Sadly, one movement is missing and so I used a recording by Tomasz Trzcinkinski, who was the first person to record the music using the transcription. There are also now transcriptions for other instruments – which I didn’t sample, even though I think some of them would be lovely. There are also “covers” using electronic instruments, which I’m considering a hard pass (even if it seems contradictory to the theme), out of respect for the composer. ]

You can, as I did, also listen to the Cautionary Tales with Tim Hartford episode entitled, “Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano” where ever you get your podcasts.

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.)

### Play On! ###