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Fearless Play with Miles & Sally May 26, 2020

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“I’ve discovered that half the people would love to go into space and there’s no need to explain it them. The other half can’t understand and I couldn’t explain it to them. If someone doesn’t know why, I can’t explain it.”

 

– Sally Ride

 

“If you understood everything I say, you’d be me!”

Miles Davis  

I often say that when I think of being fearless, I think of jazz and the rules of improve. I think of saying “yes, and….” I think of people like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Dinah Washington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Joshua Redman, the Marsalis family, and Jason Moran.

I also think about Miles Davis, who would have turned 94 today. But we’ll come back to him, because when I think of being fearless I also think of women like Christa McAuliffe and Sally Ride.

Ride, who was born today in 1951, was the first American woman in space and the third woman overall, (after Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya). She is still the youngest American astronaut to have traveled into space and, although it wasn’t known at the time, she is now acknowledged as the first GLBTQIA astronaut. She once said, “I love the John Glenn model… I may call NASA in 25 years or so, and see it they’d like to send me to Mars.” And, she probably would have if she hadn’t been so busy teaching, running public-outreach programs for NASA, serving on two aerospace accident investigation boards, writing 7 books for children, and starting and running “Sally Ride Science” (which creates entertaining science programs and publications aimed at upper elementary and middle school children).

Part of what made Sally Ride fearless was that not only did she (to paraphrase McAuliffe) say yes to a seat on a rocket, she also said yes to being a role model. She kept the focus on the science even as she endured the most sexist questions from the public and the press; however, when she realized certain people were going to keep coming back to her gender, she used the platform she was being given to make room for more women and girls in the sciences.

“I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

– Sally Ride

The fact that pretty much anyone (and everyone) in the public eye ends up as a possible role model can be dangerous – especially when people don’t accept the responsibility, or take it for granted. Miles Davis fits into this category. Born today in 1926, Davis said, “The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does the man have ideas.” Davis did and had both. He was a musical innovator who studied at the Institute of Musical Art, now known as Julliard, but also studied in jam sessions with jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He was a trailblazer, who kicked off the “cool jazz” movement, developed “hard bop,” and ultimately fused jazz with rock and funk. He would lose old fans, win new fans, and then gain the old fans back – because he did the thing he told other musicians to do: he didn’t play what was there, he played what wasn’t there.

“A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.”

 

– Miles Davis

For all his musical success, however, Davis battled demons. He grew up in a fairly well off family, but people often assumed he grew up poor and was uneducated. He struggled with the fact that although albums like his Birth of the Cool were historically and musically important, they didn’t have the same success as albums by white musicians in the same genre. He also struggled with cocaine and heroin addiction, once broke both ankles in a car accident, and by all accounts (including his own) he was physically and emotionally abusive to all three of his wives (and most likely any other women with whom he had a romantic relationship).

Miles Davis was a narcissistic abusive jerk. He was also a genius. Interestingly, even now, Pearl Cleage is one of the few people to speak of his abuse. Not because she personally experienced it, but because she wanted people (especially men) to stop and think about how they engage in relationships. She wanted shine a light on how not to act in relationships.

“No, you should not feel guilty. Miles is dead. We can just hope the next time he comes around his spirit and his personality will be as lovely as his music.”

 

– Pearl Cleage, author of Mad at Miles: A Blackwoman’s Guide to Truth, in a 2012 interview for Atlanta Magazine (when asked about listening to music by Miles Davis)

This week, we reconnect and remember those that came before and consider what lessons their lives have to teach us. Please join me today (Tuesday, May 19th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a little fearless play in the form of a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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

 

### THERE’S A COUPLE OF ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM ###

That’s the Eid May 24, 2020

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 “Eid Mubarak, Blessed Festival!” to anyone who was observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings to everyone, everywhere (even if you weren’t).

“When butterflies leave their silk palaces
And the scent of the garden blows
Towards Heaven’s way,
Like the toils of man,
Those who worked for tomorrow
Will not miss the dreams of yesterday.”

 

– “When Butterflies Leave” by Yusuf Islam

 

“It’s a blessing to have seen another Ramadān but it’s also a blessing to see the first day of Shawwal and every tomorrow that I will see. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Definitely don’t focus on what others see that you have. But just take a moment and think about all that you do have and let gratitude carry you through the days.”

 

– Imam Khalid Latif in a 2013 “Ramadān Reflection” (Day 30) for Huffington Post

 

There are times – in particular there are really challenging times and really fortuitous times – when it is hard to remember that an ending is also a beginning. We reach the end of something and, even if it’s the end of a not so great time, we may feel a little anxious about moving forward. We fear the future, even when we look forward to it. We grieve the loss of what was familiar, even when it no longer serves us (and especially when we feel like it still serves us).

When I worked in theatre, especially when I freelanced, I experienced an emotional and energetic crash at the end of every production. There was so much energy, effort, and momentum to getting ready and then the thrill of the performances, and then…nothing. Even the wrap up and postmortem didn’t carry the same energetic charge; it was something that needed to be done, not something anyone looked forward to doing. (And there were no collective gasps, sighs, or thunderous applause.) When I was in a staff position, the crash was easier to manage. First, because I knew it was coming and I knew what I need to recover. However, it was also easier to manage because something else was coming; there was the next production in the rep.

These feelings I’ve described are natural, normal, human even. We all feel them at some point in our lives. There are times when those very human feelings feel overwhelming. Sometimes they may even feel bigger than what led up to them. Personally, I’ve been feeling those feelings a lot during this pandemic and especially now that places are starting to open back up. While this is not completely over, we are ending one phase and beginning another. As Muslims around the world finish the month of Ramadān and mark the beginning of the new month with Eid al-Fitr (“The Breaking of the Fast Festival”), they too may feel these very normal feelings magnified.

“Many of us at times leave the month of Ramadān in a state of anxiety rather than a state of gratitude or appreciation. As I’ve said before, the last 30 days and nights were not meant to be an escape from reality, but rather a means to enhance our understanding of it. It’s understandable to long for Ramadān, but don’t do so without asking yourself where that longing comes from. You can carry with you what you took from the month. You just have to let yourself. You can still lift your soul by feeding it more than you feed your stomach. You just have to see the benefit in the former and not focus on the deprivation that comes with the latter. You can still give, be generous, and gain a sense of fulfillment by serving others. You just have to keep seeing what others will gain and not focus on what you are losing. You can diminish the anxiety experienced by Ramadān coming to an end. You just have to see it with gratitude and appreciate that you witnessed it rather than focusing on it being gone.”

 

– Imam Khalid Latif in a 2013 “Ramadān Reflection” (Day 30) for Huffington Post

Fasting during the month of Ramadān is one of the Five Pillars of Islām (part of the framework of worship and signs of faith) and it is traditionally practiced in community. Muslims mark the end of the month of Ramadān with a celebratory feast, a sermon, prayers, and extra alms giving. In particular, people will give the gift of food (one of the very things they have given up for a month) to those who are less fortunate. Just like the month of fasting that precedes it, Eid al-Fitr is traditionally a time of community. But, even as some people are coming out of quarantine – and even taking diagnostic tests to see if they can break bread with their ummah (“community”) – people all over the world are faced with challenging choices. Everyone has to reconsider (or, maybe for the first time consider) what it means to be in and with community.

UMMAH [Arabic] – Community, refers to a group of people who share common religious beliefs, often used as a synonym for “ummat al-Islām” (“the Islāmic Community”). Also appears in the Qur’ān as “Ummah Wāhida” (“One Nation”).

 

SHA’B [Arabic] – A Nation or Community which share common ancestry and geography (but not necessarily culture, language, or beliefs).

 

DHIMMĪ [Arabic] – Protected Person, historically used in reference to non-Muslims living within an Islamic state and conveys certain legal rights related to life, property, and religious freedom.

Part of yesterday’s practice was about looking at the divergences between the Abrahamic religions through the lens of chaos theory. It was just a passing point; however, to really do that kind of work – to really see how Judaism, Christianity, and Islām developed to the point where many people do not see (or are often unaware) of the commonalities – we would have to look at the various points in history where each religion emerged and, also, where the denominations of each religion diverged from the main body. If we just look at Islām for a moment, then we see that the Qur’ān was revealed during a time of great tribalism and that one of the missions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was to deliver God’s message to a community that extended beyond his bloodline: Hence, the emergence of the ummah as a religious concept. (Christians may argue here that Jesus and the disciples had a similar mission, but that’s a conversation for another day. As is the conversation about how we’re back to, or never really left, the trouble with tribalism.)

The word “ummah” appears in the Qur’ān over 60 times and, like other words which reappear consistently throughout a sacred text, it has nuanced meanings throughout the text. Religious scholars indicate that the term evolves throughout the main body of the text. Scholars also point to the fact that at times the term specifically includes Jewish and Christian people as part of the same faith-based community.

Bottom line, we are all part of more than one community and sometimes we not only haven’t considered how we are connected – we haven’t considered what it means to be “in community.” What we are finding, when we really pay attention, is that it means more than being in the same physical space with someone. Furthermore, it has always meant more… we just have a habit of taking that more for granted, or ignoring that more all together.

Finally, as we really take a look at how we are in and with community, we also might want to consider that our beliefs are on display. What we really believe down to our core, those guiding principles that determine how we act and interact with ourselves and the world around us (with our communities), are not only on display they are also defining some of the communities to which we belong.

“Take a moment to break your mind free of any distraction that causes your heart to be shackled in anxiety or pain. Remove from yourself any feeling of emptiness or remorse that comes from having to put on a face that is not your own to gain acceptance from a society that won’t take you as you are. Let your thoughts move away from those who can’t look beyond the color of your skin, the texture of your hair, the accent that you speak with, or anything else that makes you beautiful. Don’t chase after words that are unfamiliar to you but seek and speak with words that are sincerely your own. Be with those who give you hope and courage, who help you to be bold in your prayer. Forget the judgments and harshness of any who have lead you to believe that you cannot ask of your Creator for whatever your heart wishes. Don’t inhibit yourself in anyway. God is Most Generous and Most Merciful, and we all are entitled to benefit from that generosity and mercy. You are going to stand in front of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, One who looks for a reason to accept from you, not push you away.”

 

– Imam Khalid Latif in a 2012 “Ramadān Reflection” (Day 26) for Huffington Post

 

It’s time to celebrate, and also to continue reflecting. Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, May 24th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is an upgrade that goes into effect on Saturday (May 30th). If you have not upgraded by Saturday, you will need to give yourself extra time the next time you use Zoom.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Note: The links are for the “Ramadan 2020” playlist.)

Two quick notes about the music: First, while the most of the musicians featured on the playlists during these final days of Ramadān are Muslim there are some exceptions. One of the notable exceptions – notable, because she is the only female soloist and the only non-Muslim singer on the list – is Reba McEntire. Her song “Pray for Peace” is on the playlist because she released it during the month of Ramadān in 2014 – but not just randomly in the month, the song was released in the last ten days of the month! Second, there are some songs on the playlist that are 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. 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.

 

### KINDNESS & MANY BLESSINGS ###

 

 

 

Let’s See…Where We Go May 23, 2020

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(“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan.)

“I stopped explaining myself when I realized other people only understand from their level of perception.”

– Anonymous

 

 

“‘Stay on the Path. Don’t go off it. I repeat. Don’t go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there’s a penalty.’”

– from “A Sound of  Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

There are some things that once seen (heard, felt), cannot be unseen (unheard, unfelt). Those things – whether we like them or dislike them; whether we truly understand their nature or not – become part of us and part of our world. Those things – whether we recognize/identify them as part of ourselves and/or part of our world – become how we perceive ourselves and the world. Those things – whether they are specific, unspecific, barely describable, or absolutely indescribable – play a part in how we understand ourselves and our world. Those things… are (almost) everything: and everything can lead to fulfillment and freedom.

The statements above are a way to view Yoga Sutras 2.17 – 2.20, which we’ve covered on Saturdays in the last few weeks. (The calendar on the side will link you to posts on any given date if you want to review.) Those statements are also the scaffolding for this week’s sutra (2:21) which gets to the heart of why (to paraphrase the anonymous quote) everyone can only understand from our level of perception – as well as why one person doesn’t automatically “get” what another person “gets.”

Yoga Sutra 2.17: draşțŗdŗśyayoh samyogo heyahetuh

 

– “The union of the seer and the seeable is the cause of pain (that may be avoidable).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

– “The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.19: viśeşāviśeşalingamātrālingāni guņaparvāņi

 

– “The “gunas” fall into four categories: specific/identifiable, unspecific/unidentifiable, barely describable (by signs), and absolutely indescribable (because it is beyond reference).”

Yoga Sutra 2.20: draşțā dŗśimātrah śuddho’pi pratyayānupaśyah

– “The Seer is the pure power of seeing, yet its understanding is through the mind/intellect.

 

Yoga Sutra 2.21: tadartha eva dŗśyasyātmā

 

– “The Seer is the pure power of seeing, yet its understanding is through the mind/intellect.”

 

One of the reasons I share/teach the things I share/teach is that I understand we (read: our minds) have to be prepared for epiphanies. In other words, we (our minds) have to be prepared to understand what we are seeing. Also, once we have that epiphany – that “aha” moment – where we start to see things in a different way (a special way), we can’t “unsee” that different perception of reality. It’s like the dress or the sound or the picture of the animal or the picture I once shared in the downtown studio.

Some people only ever see/hear/experience things a certain way. It doesn’t matter what the reality is, we can only believe what we understand; and so, you can talk until you are blue (or gold) in the face and some people will never understand anything other than what they first perceived. Their minds have not shown them any other possibility (YS 2.20). On the other hand, some people, when presented with the truth about the reality of the dress, the sound, or either picture will start to perceive the object in a different way. And, once they do, that new perception becomes part of their understanding of reality (YS 2:18 – 19). When presented the object of experience again, they may first still see what they initially perceived, but their mind/intellect will now also present them with the other option(s). Add to this the fact that there are some people who will initially experience both/all options (YS 2:15 – 17). While people in this last category can isolate what others perceive, they will also still understand the ultimate reality: it’s all about perception, baby.

And, our perceptions play a starring role in our actions, our suffering, and our ultimate freedom from suffering.

“We must wholeheartedly believe in free will. If free will is a reality, we shall have made the correct choice. If it is not, we shall have still not made an incorrect choice, because we shall not have made a choice at all, not have a free will to do so.”

 

– from The Essence of Chaos (1993) by Edward Norton Lorenz

 

We have reached the end of the month of Ramadān, which can be viewed through the Yoga lens of Kriyā Yoga (a prescription or path to union). Part of the reason I share some of the history, pillars, and articles of faith related to Islam (as well as to Judaism and Christianity) is because if one person gains insight or additional understanding it not only changes their perception, it changes the way they relate to themselves and to the world. Sure, I hold out for the possibility of more than one person, but I also acknowledge that one person can make a big difference… if you know where to look for the change.

“‘A little error here would multiply in sixty million years, all out of proportion. Of course maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe Time can’t be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and finally, a change in social temperament in far­-flung countries. Something much more subtle, like that. Perhaps only a soft breath, a whisper, a hair, pollen on the air, such a slight, slight change that unless you looked close you wouldn’t see it. Who knows? Who really can say he knows? We don’t know. We’re guessing. But until we do know for certain…we’re being careful. ’”

– from “A Sound of  Thunder” (June 28, 1952) by Ray Bradbury

 

“ Lest I appear frivolous in even posing the title question, let alone suggesting that it might have an affirmative answer, let me try to place it in proper perspective by offering two propositions.
   1. If a single flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, so also can all the previous and subsequent flaps of its wings, as can the flaps of the wings of millions of other butterflies, not to mention the activities of innumerable more powerful creatures, including our own species.
   2. If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.
   More generally, I am proposing that over the years minuscule disturbances neither increase nor decrease the frequency of occurrence of various weather events such as tornadoes; the most that they may do is to modify the sequence in which these events occur.”

 

– from initially untitled speech given by Edward Norton Lorenz at the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, D.C, on December 29, 1972

 

It might seem random that a technical talk to a science organization in 1972 would popularize a theory that dates back as far as 1800. Turns out, however, that it’s not random, it’s chaos (theory) and changing a seagull’s wings to a butterfly’s wings was just the beginning of a ripple of effect with a “strange” legacy. According to Edward Norton Lorenz (born today in 1917), he did not submit a title for his now famous speech (“Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”). The title, which came from the session chair, Dr. Philip Merilees, carried “the idea that small changes in initial conditions could result in vast differences in the initial outcomes” beyond mathematics, physics, computer science, and meteorology. It carried it everywhere – even into the social sciences, even into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. (Even though sometimes people don’t actually understand – or even know – the actual theory.)

If you are interested in experiencing some theory and “seeing” where it takes you, please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, May 23rd) at 12:00 PM. We will continue exploring the connection between what we perceive and what we understand, this time using the lens of Ramadan and chaos theory. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Note: The links are for the “Ramadan 2020 75+ mins” playlist.)

Two quick notes about the music: First, while the most of the musicians featured on the playlists during these final days of Ramadān are Muslim there are some exceptions. One of the notable exceptions – notable, because she is the only female soloist and the only non-Muslim singer on the list – is Reba McEntire. Her song “Pray for Peace” is on the playlist because she released it during the month of Ramadān in 2014 – but not just randomly in the month, the song was released in the last ten days of the month! Second, there are some songs on the playlist that are 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. 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 (or use this “chaos” music).

 

(A little theory to go.)

### X Y Z ###

 

 

 

Just Leave The Light On May 20, 2020

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(“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan.)

“‘Remember, dear friend, that I am subtly inherent in everything, everything in the universe! I am the all-illuminating light of the sun, the light in the moon, the brilliance in the fire – all light is Mine. I am even the consciousness of light, and indeed, I am the consciousness of the entire cosmos.’”

 

The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (15:12) by Jack Hawley

 

 

Yoga Sutra 1.36: viśokā vā jyotişmatī

 

– “Or [fixing the mind] on the inner state free of sorrow and infused with light, anchors the mind in stability and tranquility.”

 

“Kuraib reported that Ibn ‘Abbas spent a night in the house of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and he said: The Messenger of Allah may peace be upon him) stood near the water-skin and poured water out of that and performed ablution in which he neither used excess of water nor too little of it, and the rest of the hadith is the same, and in this mention is also made (of the fact) that on that night the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made supplication before Allah in nineteen words. Kuraib reported: I remember twelve words out of these, but have forgotten the rest. The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Place light in my heart, light in my tongue, light in my hearing, light in my sight, light above me, light below me, light on my right, light on my left, light in front of me, light behind me, place light in my soul, and make light abundant for me.’”

Sahih Muslim 7673 (Book 4 Hadith Muslim 1680)

 

In a 2012 “Ramadān Reflection” in the Huffington Post, Imam Khalid Latif mentions the importance of searching for the Night of Power when it comes to the last days of Ramadān. My understanding is that, regardless of our faith or overall beliefs, we have to actively participate in our fate and in our practices. We have to actively seek in order to find. So, while, I could point out all the different ways in which “light” comes up in different religious and spiritual practices, while I could outline a little comparative analysis between the sacred texts of the Abrahamic religions and songs by Yusuf Islam, Santana and Everlast, Matisyahu, and the Maccabeats, I’m not going to do it. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to seek and see what you find.

True, you can follow the links (above) and maybe find something new (or remember something you had forgotten). However, more than anything, I encourage you to sit with your own history and tradition for a moment and consider what comes up. How does light come up? When and where does light come up? How do your internalized references to light compare to those I’ve mentioned (above and below)? How do you describe those moments when you put your light on and let it shine?

 

“I used to trust nobody, trusting even less their words,
Until I found somebody, there was no one I preferred,
My heart was made of stone, my eyes saw only misty grey,
Until you came into my life girl, I saw everyone that way.
Until I found the one I needed at my side,
I think I would have been a sad man all my life.

I think I see the light coming to me,
Coming through me giving me a second sight.
So shine, shine, shine,
Shine, shine, shine,
Shine, shine, shine.”

– from “I Think I See the Light” by Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam

 

As I recently (and virtually) discussed with two dear friends (as well as in classes), the similarities between the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – is no coincidence. These traditions share historical, spiritual, and liturgical roots. How do we explain, however, these same similarities when they come up in non-Abrahamic religions? Yes, yes, the cynical parts of us can say that language and customs were co-opted in order for missionaries to more easily conquer and convert. But, how do we explain that the elemental foundations – the opportunity to co-opt – already existed? How do we explain, for instance, the focus on light other than it is a fundamental and universal experience? We can be cynical for days, but at some point we have to “step into the light, baby.”

 

 “‘O Allah ! place light in my heart, light in my hearing, light in my sight, light on my right, light on my left, light in front of me, light behind me, light above me, light below me, make light for me,’ or he said: ‘Make me light.’”

 

 – Sahih Muslim 7673 (Book 4 Hadith Muslim 1677)

 

Please join me today (Wednesday, May 20th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM, if you are interested being the light you want to see in the world. 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.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Two quick notes about the music: First, while the most of the musicians featured on the playlists during these final days of Ramadān are Muslim there are some exceptions. One of the notable exceptions – notable, because she is the only female soloist and the only non-Muslim singer on the list – is Reba McEntire. Her song “Pray for Peace” is on the playlist because she released it during the month of Ramadān in 2014 – but not just randomly in the month, the song was released in the last ten days of the month! Second, there are some songs on the playlist that are 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. 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.

Please let me know if you would like an audio recording of the practices related to the month of Ramadān.

 

### OHR OR DAW ###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night of Great Power, A Night of Great Peace May 19, 2020

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(“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan.)

SUNNAH [Arabic; also “sunna” and “sunnat”] – Habit or Practice, refers to a collection of traditional social and legal practices and customs within Islam.

 

HADITH [Arabic] – Speech, Narrative, Talk, or Discourse, refers to one of the primary sources of Islamic belief, theology, and law. It contains the words and recorded actions of “the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)” which make up the SUNNAH.

 

QUR’ĀN [Arabic; also “Quran” and “Koran”] – The Recitation, refers to the primary sacred text of Islam as it was reveled by Allah (God). It consists of 114 “sūrahs” (or portions).

 

RAMADĀN [Arabic] – derived from root word meaning “scorching heat” or “dryness” and refers to the 9th month of the Islamic 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”).

 

In the Yoga Sutras, when Patanjali codifies the 8-Limb philosophy of Yoga, there are certain elements that he combines in order to emphasize their power. For instance, the philosophy begins with 5 Yamas (“External Restraints” or “Universal Commandments”) and 5 Niyamas (“Internal Observations”) and Patanjali combines the last five niyamas (tapas, svādyāya, īshvarapraņidhāna) to form Kriyā Yoga, which is a prescription for union. This prescription, or path, to the ultimate union – Union with Divine – is a cleansing ritual consisting of tapas (“heat”, “discipline”, and “austerity”, as well as the practices that build heat, discipline, and austerity); svādyāya (“self-study” – which is reflection); and īshvarapraņidhāna(“trustful surrender to the Divine”). Examples of kriyā yoga – that is to say, rituals made up of these exact three elements – exist outside of yoga and include observing a silent retreat (Buddhism), giving up leavened bread during Passover (Judaism), fasting for Yom Kippur (Judaism), fasting during Lent (Christianity), observing the 19 Day fast (Bahá’í), and fasting during the month of Ramadān.

“Use your time wisely. Spend it only in pursuit of things that are good. Hold the world in your hand if you so desire, but never let the world use your heart as its abode. Your understanding of the world around you will be based off of how you take care of the world within you. Treat your heart as something precious and let only what is good for [it] have the privilege of receiving its love.”

 

– Imam Khalid Latif in a 2013 “Ramadān Reflection” for Huffington Post

People who are not familiar with the tenets of Islam are often surprised to learn they believe things that Muslims believe. For instance, in Islam there are Six Articles of Faith: a belief in the Oneness of God, a belief in Revealed Books, a belief in the Prophets of Islam (which include Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed), a belief in the Days of Resurrections, a belief in Angels, and a belief in Qadair (“predestination”). The Five Pillars of Islam (in Sunni order), which make up the framework of worship and signs of faith, include: the Islamic Creed (a declaration of faith, proclaiming one God); daily prayers; alms giving; fasting during the month of Ramadān; and a Pilgrimage to Mecca (the holy city). To comply with that 4th pillar, those who are able must refrain from eating, drinking, cursing, violence, any of the vices (including sarcasm and gossip), and engaging in sexual activity from dawn to sunset during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar-based calendar. The month lasts 29 – 30 days and the fast begins with the sighting of the crescent moon. Like some of the instances mentioned above, this is a moveable feast… I mean, fast – although, at the end of each day and at the end of the month there is an eid or “feast” to break the fast.

“We sent it [the Qur’ān] down on the Night of Power.
And what can make you know what is the Night of Power?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
The Angels and the Spirit [the inspiration] descend therein by their Lord’s leave for every affair.
Peace! It is till the rising of the dawn.”

 

Sūrah Qadr (“Portion 97 of the Qur’ān”) 1 – 5

Even though Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions with very definite historical (and theological) ties to Christianity and Judaism – and even though I have known Muslims throughout my life – I did not spend a lot of time studying Islam in the earlier part of my life. I did a lot of soul searching before I decided to teach a series of yoga classes focused on the theme of Islam and the observation of the month of Ramadān. Even though I sometimes have Muslim students in my classes, I knew that it was unlikely that any would attend during the month – which meant these practices would mostly be for people whose only intersection with Islam might be the news, passing someone in the locker room or some other publicly accessible space, and/or random encounters at school or work. Contrary to popular belief, there are conservatives (even conservative Christians) who attend yoga classes (even my yoga classes) and so I knew that there might be some people in the practice who were Islamophobic or regularly associated with people who were Islamophobic. So, in many ways, the practice served as an “explanatory comma” as well as an opportunity for svādyāya (“self-study”). As I was not expecting many Muslim students, but wanted to really touch on some key elements, I decided to lead these classes at the end of the month, which is the most powerful time of the month.

Laylat al-Qadr, translated as “Night of Power,” “Night of Destiny,” “Night of Value,” Night of Measure,” Night of Decree” or “Night of Honour” is commemorated as the anniversary of the Qur’ān being reveled to the angel Gabriel in a verse-by-verse recitation, which Gabriel then recited to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) over the last 23 years of his (the Prophet’s) life. It is also considered the night when a certain evil spirit can do no harm/evil, when past transgressions are forgiven, and when Allah decides everyone’s destiny. (Notice the similarity to the High Holidays in Judaism?) It is a night so powerful that people will stay up all night praying because it is believed their prayers are more powerful on this most holy night.

There’s just one problem….

No one knows which night is the holiest night.

“Many Muslims will give emphasis to the 27th of Ramadān… but, the opinions on what day it is varies. The Qur’ān doesn’t mention a specific date for Laylat al-Qadr and the Prophet Muhammad’s recommendation: to ‘Seek it in the last 10 days, on the odd nights,’ indicates the importance of searching for it.”

 

– Imam Khalid Latif in a 2012 Ramadān Reflection” for Huffington Post

Some people set their eyes on this past Sunday, while others will be praying tonight (Tuesday, May 19th) as it is the 27th night of the month of Ramadān. There are at least 1.8 billion Muslims in the world (almost a quarter of the world) and about 3.5 million Muslims (or a little over 1%) in the United States. Even when you consider that the pandemic (and the fact that illness is an exception to fasting) means not everyone is fasting or praying; that’s still a lot of people fasting and praying. It’s an even larger number of people when you consider that some non-Muslims are also observing.

“Whoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not to show off) then all his past sins will be forgiven.”

 

Sahih al-Bukhari 35 (Vol. 1 Book 2 Hadith Bukhari 35)

 

All that is to say, tonight is the night we’re going to open our eyes, or hearts, our bodies, and our minds. If you’re interested and available, please join me today (Tuesday, May 19th) at 12 Noon 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.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Two quick notes about the music: First, while the most of the musicians featured on the playlists during these final days of Ramadān are Muslim there are some exceptions. One of the notable exceptions – notable, because she is the only female soloist and the only non-Muslim singer on the list – is Reba McEntire. Her song “Prayer for Peace” is on the playlist because she released it during the month of Ramadān in 2014 – but not just randomly in the month, the song was released in the last ten days of the month! Second, there are some songs on the playlist that are 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.

 

### PRAY FOR PEACE ###

Coming (& Going) Through The Door May 18, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open for the night of power.)

 “Be happy for this moment.
This moment is your life.”

 

– Omar Khayyám

One of the most influential polymaths of the Middle Ages – a mathematician, astronomer, and scientist who wrote treatises on algebra and astronomy and whose calendar calculations still provide the basis for calendars used in Iran and Afghanistan – is primarily remembered in the West as a poet. One wonders if Omar Khayyám (born today, Mary 18, 1048) would find it amusing or annoying that when most people outside of his homeland think of him they think not of cubic equations or Euclidean geometry and the parallel axiom, but of quatrains, complete poems written in four lines. I personally think he might be amused, especially considering the fact that many historians believe he wrote the poems as a diversion, a little personal entertainment to relieve stress. Some historians even have good solid reasons to believe that many of the quatrains attributed to Khayyám were not actually written by him. Especially since the poems did not start appearing in the public sphere until 43 years after Khayyám’s death.

“The inner spiritual message is for all mankind, no matter what form it is contained in. The message is greater than any sect’s way of understanding it and goes out to all, just as the Sun shines on everyone, sinner and saint.

 

Fitzgerald’s first translation of the Rubáiyát was inspired for the benefit of all mankind. Allah works in mysterious ways. Whenever he wants something to come through in a pure way, it will happen in spite of everything.”

– from Who is the Potter? A Commentary on The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám by Abdullah Dougan (based on translations by Edward FitzGerald)

 

Khayyám’s popularity in the West is primarily due to a collection of translations by Edward FitzGerald. FitzGerald, an aspiring English poet and writer, was a contemporary of William Makepeace Thackeray and Lord Alfred Tennyson, but his literary aspirations never met with the acclaim of his friends. His friend and professor, Edward Byles Cowell (a noted translator of Persian poetry and the first professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge University) sent FitzGerald the quatrains in the form of two manuscripts: the Bodleian (containing 158 quatrains) and the “Calcutta” manuscript. While the initial pamphlet of the Rubáiyát, didn’t receive much fanfare, it would eventually become so popular that FitzGerald approved four editions of the “collection of poems written in four lines” and a fifth would be publish after his death. According to a 2009 article in the book review section of The Telegraph, The Rubáiyát has been published in at least 650 editions, with illustrations by 150 artists, and translated into 70 languages. All this, plus, it has been set to music by no less than 100 composers.

“Even if a man had lived for a hundred years and had changed his religion, philosophy, and beliefs twice a day, he could scarcely have given expression to such a range of ideas.”

 

– commentary by Sadegh Hedayat in In Search of Omar Khayyám by Ali Dashti (translated by L. P. Elwell-Sutton)

Edward FitzGerald was a Christian skeptic and his skepticism comes through the translations loud and clear, as if he found a kindred spirit in the Persian poet. On the flip side, some see Omar Khayyám as a Sufi mystic – even though, he was reviled by prominent Sufi leaders during his lifetime. Lines like “Who is the Potter, pray, and who is the Pot?” further the confusion as they can be seen as a very definitely acknowledgement of a Divine Creator or as a philosophical question posed by a writer who believes God is a construct of man. Those religious and spiritual contradictions, the sheer volume of poems, and the lack of provenance are some of the problems critics have with all of the quatrains being attributed to Omar Khayyám. In fact, while there are 1,200 – 2,000 quatrains attributed to Khayyám, prominent scholars have estimated that the actual number of verified lines is 121 – 178, as little as 14 – 36.

In addition to some poems, and his work in math and astrology, Omar Khayyám wrote several philosophical essays about existence, knowledge, and natural phenomena. One such essay, on free will and determination, is entitled “The necessity of contradiction in the world, determinism and subsistence” – which puts a whole other spin on the poems if, in fact, he wrote them as a kind of brain candy.

“Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

 

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

 

 

– XXVII and XXIX from The Rubáiyát by Omar Khayyám

You can come to the practice as a physical-mental exercise, as a spiritual exercise, or even as a mathematical exercise. The question is: will you leave it the same way you came to it? What will shift, what will change along the way? These are the questions we ask each and every time we step on the mat. Please join me on the virtual mat today (Monday, May 18th) at 5:30 PM for a 75-minute yoga practice on Zoom.

This is a 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice that, in the spirit of generosity (dana), is freely given and freely received. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible, class purchases are not necessarily.)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

 

#### 22 ####

 

 

 

 

Let’s See… What We See May 16, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

“I stopped explaining myself when I realized other people only understand from their level of perception.”

– Anonymous

If you take a moment to consider the anonymous quote above from two different angles (first as if you are “I” and then as if you are “other people”), you realize that the statement holds true for everyone. In other words, each one of us can only understand (anything) from OUR level of perception (or awareness). We might even add “from OUR conscious level of perception (or awareness).” Patanjali states, at the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, that yoga (the philosophy) quiets the mind and allows us to “rest in our own true nature” and that at all other times we identify ourselves as “the fluctuations of the mind.” Through the practice, we elevate our level of perception (and awareness) and, in doing so, elevate our level of understanding.

Yoga Sutra 2.17: draşțŗdŗśyayoh samyogo heyahetuh

 

– “The union of the seer and the seeable is the cause of pain (that may be avoidable).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

– “The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.19: viśeşāviśeşalingamātrālingāni guņaparvāņi

 

– “The ‘gunas’ fall into four categories: specific/identifiable, unspecific/unidentifiable, barely describable (by signs), and absolutely indescribable (because it is beyond reference).”

Yoga Sutra 2.20: draşțā dŗśimātrah śuddho’pi pratyayānupaśyah

 

– “The Seer is the pure power of seeing, yet its understanding is through the mind/intellect.”

Remember, Patanjali explains in earlier sutras that everything we do creates an impression (samskara) and that we have constructed the world and ourselves – as well as our understanding of the world and ourselves – from a lack of knowledge (avidyā) and attachment that is rooted in (either) pleasure (rāgah) or pain (dveşah). There is a part of us that is pure consciousness, but our connection to that part of us lies behind the veils of samskara. Until the veils are lifted, we will only ever see what the mind shows us. That is to say, we will only ever see what the mind understands – and the mind is often clouded.

 “You are the witness of all things, and are always totally free. The cause of your bondage (suffering) is that you see the witness as something other than this.”

 

Aşțāvakra Gītā 1.7 (The Song of the Man with 8 Bends-In-His-Limbs)

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, May 16th) at 12:00 PM, when we will continue exploring the connection between what we perceive and what we understand.  You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Note: The links are for playlists dated “March 31.” If you are so inclined, the playlist dated “05032020” also works for this practice.)

 

### OM OM AUM ###

Let’s See… Clearly May 3, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

“I’m in the here and now, and I’m meditating
And still I’m suffering but that’s my problem
Enlightenment, don’t know what it is”

 

– from “Enlightenment” by Van Morrison

Every philosophy, every religion, every one of humankind’s thought paradigms takes suffering into consideration; because suffering is part of our existence. We can have everything we need, but not have one thing that we want; and suffering ensues. We can have everything we need, everything we think we want, and one thing we do not want; and suffering ensues. It’s one of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism (“Suffering Exists”). And yet, some people seem to suffer more than others. Some people endure great hardships and seem to suffer very little. How is that possible?

In philosophies like Buddhism, there is a distinction made between pain and suffering. Pain is a physical experience, over which we have very little control. Suffering, however, is seen as an emotional/mental experience, and therefore something within our control. This is why the Buddha spoke of the second arrow – the one that causes additional pain, and also suffering. Another thing the Eastern philosophies have any common is the idea that suffering comes from attachment. So, either way you look at it, it comes down to the way we think.

It’s up to you, everyday
Enlightenment, don’t know what it is
It’s always up to you
Enlightenment, don’t know what it is
It’s up to you, the way you think”

 

– from “Enlightenment” by Van Morrison

 

Yoga Sutra 2.3: Avidyāsmitārāgadveşābhiniveśāh kleśāh

 

– “Ignorance (or lack of knowledge), false sense of self, attachment (rooted in pleasure), aversion (which is attachment rooted in pain), and fear of death of loss are the afflicted thoughts.”

In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali spends quite a bit of time talking about how the mind works and how we can work the mind. He specifically states in the first chapter that our thoughts fall into two distinct categories, klişțāklişțāh (“afflicted and not afflicted”); that is to say, thoughts which cause suffering and thoughts which do not cause suffering. In Yoga Sutra 2.3 (see above), he explains that there are five afflicted or suffering causing thoughts (see above). There are two very critical parts about this breakdown of afflicted thoughts. First, that avidyā (“ignorance”) about the true nature of things leads to a false sense of self – which is created by our attachments/likes, aversions/dislikes, and fear of death/loss. The second critical element at play here is that it is not only ourselves that we create out of the last three afflictions, it is also (philosophically speaking) the world that we create based on these same thoughts. So, here we are stuck in that feedback loop again.

Yoga Sutra 2.17: draşțŗdŗśyayoh samyogo heyahetuh

 

– “The union of the seer and the seeable is the cause of pain (that may be avoidable).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

“The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.

 

What happens if we can gain step back and gain some perspective? What happens if we take a look at ourselves and distinguish the forest from the trees and the trees from ourselves – but in a way that recognizes we are the forest and the trees? What happens if we can see (ourselves, our world, and others) clearly? What happens if we recognize that everyone and everything has spiritual value and can point us in the direction of enlightenment (whatever that means to you at this moment)? These are philosophical questions and, as Yoga is a practical and active philosophy, these are some of the questions that can be answered through the practice.

Let’s see what happens when you join me for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, May 3rd) at 2:30 PM. Please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

***NOTE: Tomorrow is May the 4th, and yes, I’m going there. Feel free to join me. There will be space. ***

 

Kiss My Asana, the yogathon that benefits Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program is officially over. But, I still owe you two posts and you can still do yoga, share yoga, help others by donating to my KMA campaign.

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

### SO HUM HAM SA ###

 

Let’s See… May 2, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

“The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.

Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was born today in 1903, started off his bestselling book Baby and Child Care with advice to parents that also applies to our yoga practice: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Even if this is your first time on the mat, trust yourself. Even if this is your 50,000th time on the mat, trust yourself. See what you see and notice how you engage what you see, inside and outside. Bring awareness, also, to how you engage what is unseen – and, how you engage yourself. This is the practice.

You can see what happens when you join me for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday,May 2nd) at 12:00 PM. Please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Kiss My Asana, the yogathon that benefits Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program is officially over. Thank you to ever one who did yoga, shared yoga, and helped others this week! But, I still owe you two posts and you can still do yoga, share yoga, help others by donating to my KMA campaign.

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

 

### NAMASTE ###

 

The Philosophy of Opening Locks (& Measuring Internal Movement) April 26, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

 

“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it A) extremely comforting that we’re so close, and B) like Chinese water torture that we’re so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection… I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.”

 

– Playwright John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation

 

“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” or “Bacon’s Law” is based on the “six degrees of separation” theorem and the idea that Kevin Bacon has made so many movies he is the very essence of connectivity. (Although at least one study has shown Samuel L. Jackson is even more connected than Kevin Bacon, but that’s another story for another day.)

Simply stated, the ideas together indicate that by way of a series of (virtual or metaphorical) handshakes anyone (yourself included) is more closely connected to Kevin Bacon (or Samuel L. Jackson) than you might think. It’s a fun trivia game, something you can do when cabin or quarantine fever kicks in. It’s also a little surreal when you consider it in the context of your own life and realize how small the world is, and how connected you are to people you have never met and will never meet. (For example, during most of my lifetime – even as a kid – I have always been one to two handshakes away from the President of the United States, at least from Ronald Reagan forward.)

There is a similar idea related to the internet and Wikepedia. According to the “Getting to Philosophy” game, if you click on the first link in the main portion of a Wikepedia article, and continue clicking on the first link in subsequent articles, you will inevitably land on the “Philosophy” page. Sometimes it only takes seven clicks, sometimes it takes 14. Although, in all fairness, there are times when the fifth or sixth article contains two conjoined links in the first sentence and since the second link is “philosophy” you have to keep going all the way around red Robin’s barn. Bottom line, no matter where begin we always end up in philosophy.

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

 

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher

 

Most of you have heard or seen me state that the physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) is part of an 8-limbed philosophy. But what does that mean and why does that matter?

The word philosophy comes to us from Greek, by way of Latin, Old French, and Middle English, from a word that means “love of wisdom.” It is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, thought, reality, and existence. It provides a way to think about and understand the world, the universe, and everything. As stated in Wikepedia, it “is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” The most basic question being, “Why?” which spirals out as:

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

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

At least, that’s one way to look at the practice.

“It’s a gift*; it’s like there’s a moment in which the thing is ready to let you see it. In India, this is called darshan. Darshan means getting a view, and if the clouds blow away, as they did once for me, and you get a view of the Himalayas from the foothills, an Indian person would say, ‘Ah, the Himalayas are giving you their darshana’; they’re letting you have their view. This comfortable, really deep way of getting a sense of something takes time. It doesn’t show itself to you right away. It isn’t even necessary to know the names of things the way a botanist would. It’s more important to be aware of the ‘suchness’ of the thing; it’s a reality. It’s also a source of a certain kind of inspiration for creativity. I see it in the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.”

– Poet Gary Snyder on Indian philosophy

 

Consider, however, that the philosophy of yoga is one of six major Indian philosophies or darśana in Sanskrit, which means “point of view” or “ways to see.” As I referenced yesterday’s blog post and mentioned in yesterday’s class, one of the other six philosophies is Sankhya, which is the one most closely related to Yoga. Sankhya is the oldest Indian philosophy and focuses on the way in which one thinks/reasons and understands purusha (“pure consciousness”) and prakriti (unmanifested, primordial “matter”), and how everything and everyone manifests/exists as a result of these two elements combining with the forces of three “energies” (gunas) inherent in matter.

Yoga and Sankhya are so closely related that a philosophical question arises at all times: (Once you are aware of yourself, doing whatever you are doing) are you practicing yoga or sankhya? And is there a non-subjective way to measure, qualify, or quantify the degree to which you are doing one versus the other? For that matter, is there a non-subjective way to measure the interior movements of the heart and how practicing can shake us to our core?

“We would have been happy if we could have assigned just three categories, large, medium, and small; the point is, we wanted to avoid personal judgments. It actually turned out to be quite a finely tuned scale.”

 

– Charles Richter, seismologist and physicist (born today in 1900), on the scale he developed with Beno Gutenberg

 

Born today in 1889, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” If you’re interested in using your body to answer that age old DJ Shadow question (“What does your soul look like?”), please join me today (Sunday, April 26th) at 2:30 PM, for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom. Some of the new Zoom security protocols have definitely kicking in; so, please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems. Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Can you knock my socks off when you Kiss My Asana?

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

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

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

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 26th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 26th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 26th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

 

* Psst…Ella’s story was my first KMA 2020 offering and her pose is Tadasana / Samasthiti (Mountain Pose / Equal Standing) as if you are offering a gift. Today’s story is the story philosophy and connectivity via a little bit of the histories of Charles Richter and Ludwig Wittgenstein. So far I only have one yogi submitted story, which means I need 4 more. Please tell me your story!

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

 

### WELL, HELLO HEGEL ###