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Focus+Concentrate+Meditate = Sweet Heaven (just the music) February 20, 2021

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Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, February 20th) at 12:00 PM. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

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

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Laissez les bons temps rouler on Day 5 (the “missing” posts) February 20, 2021

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Happy Mardi Gras and Happy New Year! Many blessings to those observing Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday!

[This is the post for Tuesday, February 16th, with information relevant to the practice that was cancelled on Wednesday, February 17th. You can request an audio recording of Tuesday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

 

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

 

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

 

Today has many names, but for many it is Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, the end of the Carnival season and the day before the Lenten season in the 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 may 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 celebration of the seasons, 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 Janiero is the largest and most well known Carnival celebration and 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. And 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. This year, 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 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!”

Today is also the fifth day of the Lunar New Year. For many people celebrating the Lunar New Year, this is the day to go back to work after a four-day holiday. Businesses opening back up are met with great fanfare: parades, music, and fireworks. There’s also the promise of “lucky money,” in red envelopes; which business owners will give to their customers – who will then promptly spend some of the money in the business. This fifth day is particularly auspicious in parts of China where it is recognized as the birthday of the God of Wealth.

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 devotion) and vairāgya (“non-attachment”). What is always interesting to me is that when you combine abhyāsa and vairāgya with the niyamās (“internal observations”) you end up with a practice that can looks very much like Lent – and even though it looks odd on the outside, celebrating Carnival and Mardi Gras / Pancake Tuesday are all preparation for the observation of Lent.

In the Christian traditions, Lent is a 40-day period (46 when Sundays* are counted) when people actively focus on their spiritual life and connection to God by fasting, praying, and either giving up something – something to which they have a strong attachment (or aversion) – and/or doing something positive. When people give something up they will often donate the money they would have spent on whatever they gave up. The 40-day ritual is a mirror of the days Jesus spent in the desert and is an opportunity for Christian contemplation, discernment, and self-reflection. Like the observation of Passover, the month of Ramadan, and the Baha’i Nineteen-Day Fast, observing Lent falls under the rubric of what Patanjali describes as kriyā yoga (“yoga in action”), the combination of tapah (“heat, austerity, or discipline”), svādhyāya (“self-study”), and īśvarapraņidhāna (“trustful surrender to [God]”).

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

 

– Ceremonial words used on Ash Wednesday (drawn from Genesis 3:19)

 

“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

 

Ceremonial words used on Ash Wednesday (drawn from The Gospel According to Mark 1:15), Roman Catholic tradition after 1969

The Lenten season officially begins with Ash Wednesday. For many it is a day of fasting and prayer – and it is also the day when people truly begin to get ready for Easter. Many take a moment out of their day to attend Mass or services and receive ashes, which are traditionally made from the previous year’s Palm Sunday fronds. In a ritual that has ties to Judaism and Biblical times, the ashes are a sign of penance and preparation. They are sometimes sprinkled on the crown of the head, but the more common practice in modern times is for a priest or pastor to use the ashes to make the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead. People are not required to wear the mark of the cross throughout the remainder of their day; however, many choose to maintain that link and reminder.

The practice is considered sacramental in the Roman Catholic tradition, but the ashes and receiving the ashes are not sacraments; which means they serve as a symbol and preparation aide for holy sacraments, as well as a reminder of the grace of the sacraments. The fact that receiving ashes is not a sacrament also means that, in the Roman Catholic tradition, anyone (including non-Catholics and those who have been excommunicated by the Church) may receive ashes.

“When I was in college, my Jewish roommates used to tell me what to give up for Lent….

 

Since then, for over 20 years my friend Rob has phoned me every Ash Wednesday to assign me a Lenten sacrifice. The sacrifices have grown easier over the years since Rob is running out of things for me to give up. For a few years he favored spices. One Lent I was suppose to avoid anything with oregano. It sounded easy until it dawned on me that pizza was out of the question for six weeks. Having another person choose your sacrifice adds an extra dimension to Lent. Since my penance is not within my control, it feels a little more spiritual. As with far more serious struggles in life, like an illness or the loss of a job, things outside our control are the most difficult to deal with. They are, in traditional Christian theology, crosses that eventually need to be accepted, much as Jesus finally accepted his cross.

 

When I was dealing with a long illness, I once complained to an older priest that I didn’t want that particular cross. He said, well it wouldn’t be much of a cross if you wanted it, would it?”

 

 – Father James Martin quoted from the interview “Priest Lets Friend Choose His Sacrifice for Lent” with Melissa Block on NPR’s All Things Considered (2/28/2006)

 

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

There is no Wednesday playlist this week.

 

Virtually Mardi Gras

 

*NOTE: Sundays during Lent are considered anniversaries of Easter and the Resurrection; therefore, they are not counted as days of penance.

 

### NOTICE THE SPIRIT OF THINGS ###

Being Red (the “missing” posts) February 20, 2021

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Happy (Lunar) New Year! Happy Carnival! Many blessings to those preparing for Lent.

[This is the post for Sunday, February 14th, with information relevant to the practice that was cancelled on Monday, February 15th. You can request an audio recording of Sunday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

 

“EARNEST, adjective

  1. Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain; having a longing desire; warmly engaged or incited.

They are never more earnest to disturb us, than when they see us most earnest in this duty.

  1. Ardent; warm; eager; zealous; animated; importunate; as earnest in love; earnest in prayer.

  2. Intent; fixed.

On that prospect strange

Their earnest eyes were fixed.

  1. Serious; important; that is, really intent or engaged; whence the phrase, in earnest To be in earnest is to be really urging or stretching towards an object; intent on a pursuit. Hence, from fixed attention, comes the sense of seriousness in the pursuit, as opposed to trifling or jest. Are you in earnest or in jest?”

– quoted from Webster’s Dictionary 1828: American Dictionary of the English Language

Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People premiered on February 14, 1895 at the Saint James Theatre in London. It is a love story (or love stories) of sorts, but it is also a comedy of errors and a social satire full of love, love triangles, double entendres, double lives, mistaken identities, the dichotomy of public versus private life in Victorian society, and so many trivialities that one can hardly be blamed for questioning that about which one should be serious… or earnest. Like his other plays, Earnest was well received and marked a professional high point in Wilde’s life. However, it also marked a personal low point: Wilde’s trial, conviction, and imprisonment for homosexuality – which was illegal in Victorian England. Earnest would be the last play written by Oscar Wilde and, some would argue, his most popular.

While English speakers around the world might not come up with the same definition of “earnest” that was known in Victorian England, I would expect there would be some consensus around it meaning “serious” and “true.” On the flip side, the color red means something different to everyone. Webster’s 1828 dictionary clearly defines it as “a simple or primary color, but of several different shades or hues, as scarlet, crimson, vermilion, orange red etc.” – but even that doesn’t begin to address the fact that, on any given Sunday, the color signifies different things to different people all over the world. I say, “on any given Sunday,” but let’s just look at this year’s Sunday the 14th, when red is associated with Valentine’s Day, The Lunar New Year celebrations (in some countries), and even the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Many people associate Valentine’s Day with red hearts, cards, chocolates, flowers, romantic dates, and romantic love – a very commercial endeavor – but it didn’t start out that way. The day actually started as (and to some still is) the Feast Day of Saint Valentine, in the Western Christian tradition. There are actually two Christian martyrs remembered as Saint Valentine, but the most well-known is the 3rd-century Roman saint (who is honored on July 6th and 30th in the Eastern Christian tradition). According to the legends, Valentine was imprisoned for practicing Christianity during a time when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Before and during his incarceration, Saint Valentine had several conversations with the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Throughout these discussions, the emperor tried to convert the priest to the Roman pagan religion (ostensibly to save the priest’s life) and the priest tried to convert the emperor to Catholicism (theoretically to save the emperor’s soul, and the souls of all that followed him and his decrees).

Around this same time, Valentine had multiple interactions and conversations with the daughter of his jailer. (During class, I mistakenly referred to her as the emperor’s daughter, but she was actually the daughter if Asterius.) Julia, the daughter, was blind and one the last acts Valentine reportedly committed before he was executed was to heal Julie’s sight. After he was martyred (around 269 A. D.), Julia and her household converted to Catholicism in honor of Valentine. His feast day was established in 496 A.D. and around the 18th century, many additional details of the story started cropping up. One such detail was that Valentine married Christian soldiers who had been forbidden to marry (possibly because it would divide their focus and loyalty). Another detail was that he left Julia a letter and signed it “Your Valentine.”

“For this was on Seynt Velentynes day,

Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,”

 

“For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,

When every fowl comes there his mate to take,”

 

– quoted from the poem “The Parliament of Fowls” by Geoffrey Chaucer, translation by A. S. Klein  

 

As to why red became associated with Valentine’s Day, there are lots of theories and they all come back to the embellishments to the story (some of which are attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer), which focused on Saint Valentine as the patron saint of lovers – and love was associated with the heart, which people associate with red. Additionally, a red stain is traditionally viewed in the Western world as the sign that a woman came to her marital bed as a virgin (and so there’s some very suggestive, subliminal messaging going on).

But, let’s go back to the idea of the heart being red. Yoga and Ayurveda, as they come to us from India, use green to symbolize the heart chakra (i.e., the energetic or spiritual heart), but of course, these systems also recognize that the physical heart is red when exposed to the air – or it’s being depicted by an artist, which is why the Sacred Heart of Jesus is depicted as red. And that sacred heart is one of the things motivating Christians who are preparing for Lent.

“Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.”

 

The Gospel According to St. Luke (18:31, NIV)

For some Western Christians, Valentine’s Day this year is a “Regular” or “Ordinary” day – meaning it is outside specifically designated periods of liturgy. For some the day is specifically referenced as Quinquagesima, as it is 50 days before Easter (including the Sundays, which are excluded when counting the 40 Days of Lent); and for others the day is Shrove Sunday (which, in some traditions is also Transfiguration Sunday). Keep in mind that these are all “moveable feasts,” meaning their dates on the secular calendar change depending on the date of Easter each year. Also keep in mind that the Western and Eastern Churches have different calendars. So, these last days of Shrovetide (which includes Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday) will be observed next week by some in the Eastern Christian traditions.

But, regardless of when they start getting ready, many Christians around the world are preparing for the Lenten season, a period of fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter. Shrove comes from the word “shrive,” meaning “to absolve” and for Christians who are focused on “shriving,” Shrovetide is a period of self-examination, repentance, and amendments of sins. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the last Sunday before Lent (which this year will be February 21st March 14th on the Eastern calendar) is known as “Forgiveness Sunday,” which includes “Forgiveness Vespers.” By emphasizing forgiveness of sins and transgressions, as well as fasting, as a foundation for beginning the Great Lent, people believe that they will be better able to focus on the spiritual aspects of life with a pure heart.

“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”

 

The Gospel According to St. Luke (9:29 – 31, NIV)

 

Valentine’s Day 2021 also coincides with the 3rd day of the Lunar New Year. This year we are moving from the Year of the (Metal) Rat to the Year of the (Metal) Ox and the third day, according to some Chinese creation mythology is the birthday of all boars. Some people will also visit the temple of the God of Wealth and some people associate this day with the “marriage of mice.” In addition to providing treats as a “dowry” for the mice, some people will go to bed early to ensure the mice have a peaceful ceremony and will not pester them (the humans) during the rest of the year.

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” and, 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 and he convinces the monster that he will taste better if he can 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.

“恭禧发财
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

 

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice.

 

### “I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital importance of being Earnest.” ~ OW ###

Laissez les bons temps rouler on Day 5 (just the music) February 16, 2021

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Please join me today (Tuesday, February 16th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will see how the practice “evolves.” Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s Noon playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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

 

### 🎶 ###

 

Being Red (just the music) February 14, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, February 14th) at 2:30 PM, CST. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

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

### 🎶 ###

I See Du (a post for Monday the 8th & Saturday the 13th) February 14, 2021

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“Happy New Year!” to all those celebrating the Lunar New Year!

 

[This is the post for Saturday, February 13th (and the “missing post” from Monday, February 8th. You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice (or last Monday’s practice) via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

 

“财神到 财神到
Caishen dao caishen dao [The god of wealth has come! The god of wealth has come!]
好心得好报
Hao xinde hao bao [Good news]
财神话 财神话
Caishenhua caishenhua [Myth of money, myth of money]
揾钱依正路
wen qian yi zhenglu [if you follow the right path]”

 

– quoted from the song “Cai Shen Dao” [“The God of Wealth Has Come!” by Sam Hui, lyrics in Hanzi [Chinese characters], pīnyīn [“spelled sounds”], and English

Today is the second day of the Lunar New Year and, in parts of China and the diaspora, it is the second day of the Spring Festival, a fifteen day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. This year is the year of the (metal) Ox.

In each region that celebrates the Lunar New Year, each day has a special significance and different stories and traditions related to that significance. For some (particularly Cantonese people), today is known as “beginning of the year” and it marks the beginning of a new business year. As such, there are blessings and prayers for a prosperous new year. From 221 B. C. until 1912 A. D., it was common for beggars and the unemployed in China to spend today carrying around a picture of the God Of Wealth and shouting, “Cai Shen Dao! [The God of Wealth has come! in Mandarin]” In exchange for their pronouncement, they would receive “lucky money” from families and businesses.

In some parts of China, people celebrate the birthday of Che Kung on his “actual” birthday (today) and others will celebrate on the third day of the year. A military general of the Southern Song Dynasty, Che Kung is believed to have been capable of suppressing rebellions and plagues. Some even consider him “God of Protection.” Hong Kong and Guangdung Province are two of the places where people traditionally have a procession and visit a temple dedicated to Che Kung. They will give thanks, light red candles and incense sticks, and present offerings. Some will spin a golden pinwheel outside of the temple to maintain good luck from the previous year or to change their fortune in the New Year. Some will even buy a personal pinwheel. Despite the pandemic, thousands of people have already visited the temple in Sha Tin, but this year masks, temperature checks, and a health registration are required.

Finally, today is also a day when, traditionally, daughters who had married and moved away from home would return to visit their birth families – which meant their families would welcome the son-in-laws. So, in some places, today is also a day dedicated to the son-in-laws.

“The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings.”

 

– Martin Buber (b. 2/8/1878, in Vienna, Austria-Hungary)

 

Martin Buber, born in Vienna on February 8, 1878, did not consider himself a philosopher or a theologian (because, he said, he “was not interested in ideas, only personal experience, and could not discuss God, but only relationships with God”). Yet, he is remembered as one of the greatest existentialist in the modern era. He was, specifically, a Jewish existentialist and professor of Chasidic mysticism who grew up speaking Yiddish and German at home and would partially earn a reputation as a translator (even translating the Hebrew Bible into German) and for his thoughts on religious consciousness, modernity, the concept of evil, ethics, education, and Biblical hermeneutics.

Known for his philosophy of dialogue, he was concerned with all the questions of existential philosophy – Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning / purpose of my life? – but, he came at the questions from a distinctly theist point of view. To Buber we could exist in a purely transactional manner, without any real connection – or we could live, really live, which required another…a “du.”

In his seminal work, Ich und Du, Buber describes a state of being that relies on relationship to have meaning and purpose. However, said relationship must be based on an equal meeting; one that requires authenticity and acceptance rather than projection and conditions. The relationship must be real and perceivable, as opposed to being something created in the mind. The classic examples of this type of encounter are two lovers, an observer and a cat, the author and a tree, or two strangers on a train. For the sake of the New Year, we can even consider a person and their in-laws or a rich person and a beggar.

In all of the aforementioned cases, there is the possibility of engaging with other individuals, inanimate objects, and all of reality in a purely transactional manner that relies on mental projection and representation – which Buber would describe as “Ich und Es” (I-and-It). However, there is also the possibility of true dialogue, encounter, or meeting whereby the two entities connect and merge – which Buber describes as “Ich und Du.” The difference between the two experiences or states, however, is not always obvious on the surface.

Martin Buber’s concept of “Ich und Du” is a particularly tricky for an English reader because there is no single English word that carries all the connotations found in the German “Du.” Translators can, as Ronald Gregor Smith does, use “Thou” to represent the kind of reverence one would have towards God. Or, translators can, as Walter Kaufmann does, use “You;” because it is personal, colloquial, and intimate. The translation by Ronald Gregor Smith is the one that was completed during Buber’s lifetime (and under his supervision) – and it would have been the one on the mind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a he wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and at least one of his sermons. However, either translation is still tricky for English readers; because the “Du” Martin Buber intends is simultaneously personal, colloquial, intimate, and reverent.

“Alles wirkliche Leben ist Begegnung.”

“All real life is meeting.”

“All actual life is encounter.”

 

 

– quoted from Ich und Du by Martin Buber (English translations by Ronald Gregor Smith and Walter Kaufmann, respectively)

 

Consider that we can clearly see how falling in love with a stranger on a train – one to who we have never actually spoken – is not the same as falling in love with someone we have known all our lives. Yet, it is possible to grow up with someone and not actually know them. It is possible to live next door to someone for years and be surprised by their actions. So, it is clearly possible to marry someone and know as much about them (or as little about them) as the person who sits silently across from you during a meditation retreat – in that, we know some of their preferences and values, but we layer our impressions on top of that without knowing the inner workings of their heart and mind. Similarly, someone can marry into our family (or we can marry into theirs) and there is always an invisible barrier which prevents them from truly being family – or, we can love and accept them (be loved and accepted by them) in much the same way we love and accept someone to whom we are related by blood.

Another example would be how a parent feels about a child they adopt versus a child born from their body versus a child born to their spouse. Sure, there are less than ideal situations where there is always separation and distinction. Ideally, however, the difference a parent feels is based on personality not legality – and even then, ideally, there is love and acceptance.

Keep in mind that my examples are oversimplified, because there is more to truly knowing another than time and space. We could still objectify someone and be objectified by them, no matter the time or proximity. According to Buber, moving from an “Ich und Es” relationship (to “Ich und Du”) cannot be forced. According to Buber, the change in relationship requires grace and a willingness to open to the possibility of a seamless merging, an absorption, of sorts.

Yoga Sūtra 3.1: deśabandhah cittasya dhāranā

 

 

– “Dhāranā is the process of holding, focusing, or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.2: tatra pratyaya-ikatānatā dhyānam

 

– “Dhyāna is the repeated continuation, or unbroken flow of thought, toward that one object or place.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.3: tadeva-artha-mātra-nirbhāsaṁ svarūpa-śūnyam-iva-samādhiḥ

 

– “Samadhi [meditation in its highest form] is the state when only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if devoid even of its own form.”

 

Samādhi, the eighth limb of the Yoga Philosophy, is sometimes translated into English as “meditation” or “perfect meditation.” However, many traditions refer to the previous limb (dhyāna) as “mediation.” Additionally, throughout the sūtras, Patanjali distinguishes between different levels of consciousness, which he also refers to as (lower) samādhi. To distinguish the different experiences in English, some teachers will describe (higher) Samādhi as “Spiritual Absorption” or “Union with Dvine.”

No matter how it is translated, the final limb is not something that can be forced. It comes from a steady and consistent progression through the other limbs and especially through the preceding five – in that mastery of āsana (“seat” or pose) prepares one to practice prāņāyāma (awareness and control of the breath) which, over time, leads to pratyāhāra (“pulling the mind-senses from every direction to a single point”) which becomes dhāranā (“focus” or “concentration”) which, over time, becomes dhyāna (“concentration” or “meditation”) which ultimately can become Samādhi: a seamless merging of the seer and the seen.

This union between the seer and seen, is the similar to – if not exactly the same as – Martin Buber’s “Ich und Du” experience. According to Buber, life is holy and to really know one’s Self requires really knowing another and, in that knowing, one can know God / the Divine (whatever that means to you at this moment).

More often than not, to better understand the “Ich und Du” relationship, I think of Nara and Narayana, identical twins in Hindu mythology. Nara and Narayana are almost always depicted together and they are identical, but one is in a physical body and one is in a spiritual body. Nara-Narayana is referred to as “the spirit that lives on the water” or “the resting place of all living beings;” it is the ultimate goal. However, until the twins become Nara-Narayana, it is Nara (in the physical body) who does the earthly work that allows for the spiritual connection. Once that connection is made, the soul is liberated and no longer burdened by the ignorance (avidyā) that leads to suffering.

“The basic word I-Thou can only be spoken with one’s whole being. The concentration and fusion into a whole being can never be accomplished by me, can never be accomplished without me. I require a You/Thou to become; becoming I, I say you.”

 

– quoted from Ich und Du by Martin Buber (English translation by Walter Kaufmann)

 

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice (from Monday, February 8th).

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for the “06032020 How Can We See, Dr. Wiesel” playlist.]

A song for the New Year (that’s not yet on the playlist)…

 

“We find, in studying history, one fact held in common by all the great teachers of religion the world ever had. They all claim to have got their truths from beyond, only many of them did not know where they got them from. For instance, one would say that an angel came down in the form of a human being, with wings, and said to him, ‘Hear, O man, this is the message.’ Another says that a Deva, a bright being, appeared to him. A third says he dreamed that his ancestor came and told him certain things. He did not know anything beyond that. But this is common that all claim that this knowledge has come to them from beyond, not through their reasoning power. What does the science of Yoga teach? It teaches that they were right in claiming that all this knowledge came to them from beyond reasoning, but that it came from within themselves.

 

The Yogi teaches that the mind itself has a higher state of existence, beyond reason, a superconscious state, and when the mind gets to that higher state, then this knowledge, beyond reasoning, comes to man. Metaphysical and transcendental knowledge comes to that man.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter VII: Dhyana and Samadhi” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

 

 

 

“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”

 

– quoted from Chapter 1, “Love Can Be Kept Only by Being Given Away” in No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton

 

 

### As they say in Zulu, “Sawubona!” [“I see you!”] and “Yebo, sawubona!” [“I see you seeing me.”] ###

I See Du (just the music) February 13, 2021

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“Happy New Year!” to all who are celebrating the Lunar New Year!

 

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, February 13th) at 12:00 PM. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for the “06032020 How Can We See, Dr. Wiesel” playlist. ]

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

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Songs for Today’s Adventure (just the music) February 10, 2021

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Please join me today (Wednesday, February 10th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

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

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The Invasion & the Mania that Followed (just the music, UPDATED with post link) February 9, 2021

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Please join me today (Tuesday, February 9th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will see how the practice “evolves.” Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s Noon playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Click here for the blog post related to this practice.

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

 

### 🎶 ###

 

What Happens When We Practice Santosha? (the Sunday Post) February 9, 2021

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[This is the post for Sunday, February 7th. You can request an audio recording of Sunday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

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

“It is well worth analyzing the circumstances of those occasions on which we have been truly happy. For as John Mansfield says, ‘The days that make us happy make us wise.’ When we review them, we shall almost certainly find that they had one characteristic in common. They were times when, for this or that reason, we had temporarily ceased to feel anxious; when we lived – as we so seldom do – in the depths of the present moment, without regretting the past or worrying about the future. This is what Patanjali means by contentment.”

 

 

– quoted from How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (2:42), translated and with commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

Over the last few years, and especially over the last twelve months, I think that we have all experienced the highs and lows of life. We have experienced some joys; and also a lot of things not going our way and people not acting in a way we believe is appropriate. And, we can point to all these things as the source of our frustration, anger, fear, and disappointment, as well as the source of our loss and grief and sorrow. Everyone I know has lost someone in the last year – and we have also lost a way of doing things and living life… we’ve even lost, in some ways, the way we grieve and deal with the loss of those we love. While we can, for sure, connect to certain things (specifically things not going our way and people not behaving “appropriately”) to our suffering, the Eastern philosophies clearly state that is not the external factors that cause our suffering: it is the internal factors; our attitudes and our attachments.

In both the Yoga and Buddhist philosophies, suffering is caused by attachment. Patanjali includes two kinds of attachment in his short list of afflicted/dysfunctional thought patterns: attachment rooted in pleasure (which we just call attachment) and attachment that is rooted in pain (which we call aversion). We can think of these as things we like and things we don’t like – or even people we like and people we don’t like, or the behavior we like and the behavior we don’t like. But, whether the attachment is rooted in pleasure or pain does not matter. Because, according to Patanjali, both are tied to the other three forms of afflicted/dysfunctional thought patterns: ignorance to the true nature of things; a false sense of self; and fear of loss or death. Over the last few years, but this last year in particular, we have all been confronted by our ignorance – even when we didn’t realize it.

If you are anything like me, once you know a solution to a problem you want to start fixing the problem. But letting go of what we like and dislike – especially when those likes and dislikes define us – is easier said than done. There is a definite practice of non-attachment and also a practice of detaching, but both can feel a little like giving up pleasure. Who wants to do that? Neither do we necessarily see the benefit of giving up what we don’t like when, in our minds, we believe we are working to avoid the things that cause us pain by staying away from certain things and people. And, who wants to stop avoid things and people we “can’t stand” or associate with suffering? That sounds like bringing in more pain and more suffering. Who’s going to volunteer for that?

But, what if part of the practice immediately changes the way you feel? What if there were one or two things that you could do in any given moment that would change your attitude and engagement in the moment? What if those one or two things are things you normally do when things are going your way (or even better than expected) – and what if you realized that doing those one or two things was not dependent on external factors?

“Logically, there is no reason why contentment should cause happiness. One might – if one had never experience it – reasonably suppose that an absence of desire would merely produce a dull, neutral mood, equally joyless and sorrowless. The fact that this is not so is a striking proof that intense happiness, the joy of Atman [the Soul], is always within us; that it can be released at any time by breaking down the barriers of desire and fear which we have built around it. How, otherwise, could we be so happy without any apparent reason?”

 

 

– quoted from How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (2:42), translated and with commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

 

 

“You don’t start by the action; you start by the motivation, and motivation is something that can be cultivated…..

 

It is the inner quality that you need to cultivate first, and then the expression in speech and action will just naturally follow. The mind is the king. The speech and the activities are the servants. The servants are not going to tell the king how it is going to be. The king has to change, and then the other ones follow up.”

 

 

– Matthieu Ricard, speaking about generosity and other mental attitudes in a 2011 Sounds True interview with Tami Simon, entitled “Happiness is a Skill”

Studies show that gratitude, giving thanks (or even just thinking about things for which you could be grateful) changes the mind-body. Of course, with all that’s gone on this last year, it would be easy to forget to express gratitude. You may have even forgotten what it feels like to feel grateful. Consider, however, that being grateful is not about the external factor. It is all about your feelings toward a person, place, thing, and/or experience. Gratitude is all about appreciation. It is about acknowledging the benefit or merit of something or someone. Even if it is something small, I would encourage you to be very specific about what you are grateful. That’s one little thing you can do that can make a big difference.

A second thing you can do to change your attitude and engagement in the moment, is to practice santoşā (“contentment”), which is the second niyamā (“internal observation”) in the Yoga Philosophy (or, today, you can think of it as the Number 7 in the philosophy’s list of ethics). In sūtra 2.42, Patanjali explains, “From contentment comes happiness without equal.” In his commentary, the 5th century sage Vyasa said, “‘All sensual pleasures in the world and the great happiness in heaven combined do not equal even one-sixteenth of the joy that arises from the elimination of craving.’” This, of course, sounds like something for which we would all sign up: unsurpassed happiness and joy.

Part of the problem, however, is that humans are sensual beings. The other part of the problem is that there’s a part of our minds that is prone to judging. So, while it is natural that our bodies and minds crave sensation, it is also natural that from a very early age, we learn to categorize the sensations as good or bad, pleasurable or not pleasurable: things we like and things we don’t like. Then we proceed to build a life full of what we like and empty (as much as possible) of what we don’t like.

But, that’s not how life works. Inevitably, things don’t go our way; people don’t behave the way we want or expect them to behave; we don’t get some of what we want; and we get some of what we don’t want. And, along the way, we experience suffering. We may even lose sight of what we need; because we are so caught up in what we want and don’t want.

 

“I miss your smile
Seems to me the peace I search to find
Ain’t going to be mine until you say you will
Don’t you keep me waiting for that day
I know, I know, I know you hear these words that I say”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Waiting for the Day” by George Michael

 

 

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need”

 

 

– quoted from the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones (which is sampled in George Michael’s “Waiting for the Day”)

 

All year, people around the world have struggled when faced with the conflict between socially distancing recommendations and their religious and/or family traditions and rituals. Some people took a good hard look at what mattered most to them – what was required or needed to fulfill a commandment or tradition – and decided they could observe virtually or socially distanced in a way that did not compromise their faith. Other people took a good hard look and decided there was no way they could compromise that would satisfy the requirements of their faith or their family. Some people just decided they weren’t willing to compromise. Everybody suffered; but some folks more than others.

While I can’t speak for everyone, I know that some folks in the first group were satisfied, content, when everything was said and done. They were happy, given the circumstances. Some of the people in the second group endured additional hardships, either because others didn’t agree with their position; people got sick (and died); and/or it still didn’t feel like normal. The same is also true, maybe even more so, for the people in the final group.

I’m not implying here that if you “follow all the rules” (some of which were not made by you) that no one in your circle with get sick, no one in your life will ever die, and you will never experience any hardship. That’s not even close to what I’m saying. Instead, what I am pointing out is that during a time of great hardship, our attitude and engagement of the moment can change our level of suffering during the hardship. Even more importantly, as studies have shown that we all have a baseline for happiness and that that baseline can change (either because of our practices or because of additional hardships), how we are enduring this present moment will play a part in how we experience the next moment… which, unfortunately, may include more things not going our way and more people not behaving the way we think is appropriate.

Here’s a little story, about a little thing that caused me a little frustration and grief. Remember, it’s a little thing, just a little thing, but it’s not the details that are important – it’s the moral.

“I’m shameless, I don’t have the power now
But I don’t want it anyhow
So I’ve got to let it go”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Shameless” by Billy Joel, covered by Garth Brooks

For months now, I’ve been thinking about February 7th and how, as a Garth Brooks fan, I like to celebrate the day, his birthday, with a Garth Brooks playlist. Now, keep in mind that I’ve been a country music fan all my life and a Garth Brooks fan pretty much as soon as he started playing concerts outside of Oklahoma. My adoration and pleasure of a good country song has not diminished over the years, despite the sometimes problematic relationship that Black fans like myself have with an industry that is not only predominantly white on stage, but also predominantly white in the lyrics and in the audience.

But, just to be clear, this music is part of my history and part of my heritage – and, more importantly, Garth (born 2/7/1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma) has never let me down. We may not agree on everything, but he has created an atmosphere of inclusivity (on stage and off) that means I have never had to worry about what’s going to happen when I show up for a concert (which I always do) and I have never not sung along with a song because the lyrics are borderline (or over the line) racist or misogynistic. He’s a great storyteller and a great performer, which means that I know I can (and have) taken anyone to a Garth concert and, regardless of their musical preference, they will have a good time. I appreciate that he’s a music fan as well as a music maker. I also appreciate his love of baseball and his philanthropic endeavors that support kids playing sports. And, yes, I get a kick out of the fact that he calls his wife, “Miss Yearwood.”

You can say it’s all an act, and that’s fine, it doesn’t change the impact. Words and actions matter.

Part of the reason I love Garth’s music is that I can, as some of my friends can attest, find a Garth song for every occasion and every story. Up until quarantine, almost every one of my class playlists included at least one Garth song. The obvious exceptions to that rule are the playlists for the end of the month of Ramadan, playlists for the High Holidays in Judaism, International Women’s Day, and any day celebrating the birthday of another musician or composer. So the fact that “my sweet man” (as some of my friends and I call him) shares a birthday with Laura Ingalls Wilder (b. 1867, in Pepin Country, Wisconsin) and Sinclair Lewis (b. 1885, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota) just meant that I got to tell the story of a “Hard Luck Woman” – “[Who’s] Every Woman” – and what life was like down on “Main Street” – especially when you realize the blessing of “Unanswered Prayers.”

But I knew, months ago, that this year would be different. Because Garth Brooks has a definite aversion to streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube, I’ve had to cut much of his music out of my playlists. I’ve also had to figure out a way to get certain messages across with different music. Sometimes, I appreciated the fact that a song recorded by one of the original songwriters still fit in the playlist, and I definitely snuck on a little sing-a-long with the Muppets. I also included a tribute band cover here or there; but it wasn’t the same. And, it’s been consistently frustrating to realize that while “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” has been sung in almost 80 languages and recorded in English by over 50 people or groups, very few people have included “women” in Ed McCurdy’s classic. (Even though, in my opinion, art imitates life and you actually have to work harder to just include “men.”)

So, even though, it’s a little, trivial, frivolous thing… it was causing me grief. I mean, I taught for almost 10 years before the 7th fell on a day when I taught, but it wasn’t a cultural or religious holiday! So, selfishly, I wanted to have a little bit of (my) normal.

I thought about taking the day off. I thought about chucking my ethics for the day. Then I decided to take a deep breath, let go of my attachments, get a good night sleep and wake up with the intention of teaching a class that would satisfy people and that they would appreciate.

But, a funny thing happened in the morning: Garth was on YouTube and Garth was on Spotify. It was just one song – a song I don’t always appreciate when it’s covered or adapted, but I appreciated it on this day. One song, but it’s a song that tells a story… and, ultimately, it’s a story about longing and fear and going deeper.  

“I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself
Longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Shallow” by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, covered by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood

 

 Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“Mr. Midnight, alone and blue
The brokenhearted call me up when they don’t know what else to do
Every song is a reminder of the love that they once knew
I’m Mr. Midnight, can I play a song for you?”

 

 

– quoted from the song “Mr. Midnight” by Garth Brooks

 

 

### LOVE ALWAYS WINS ###