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Another New Year, Another New Season (a “renewed” post) March 20, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 19-Day Fast, Art, Baha'i, Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Meditation, Music, New Year, Philosophy, Religion, Suffering, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“Nowruz Mubarak!” Happy New Year to those who are celebrating and Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Many blessings to all, and especially to those observing Lent, Great Lent, and/or completing the Baháʼí 19-Day Fast!

“At a time of another crisis, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offered these words of counsel: ‘In a day such as this, when the tempests of trials and tribulations have encompassed the world, and fear and trembling have agitated the planet, ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.’ The world stands more and more in need of the hope and the strength of spirit that faith imparts. Beloved friends, you have of course long been occupied with the work of nurturing within groups of souls precisely the attributes that are required at this time: unity and fellow feeling, knowledge and understanding, a spirit of collective worship and common endeavour. Indeed, we have been struck by how efforts to reinforce these attributes have made communities especially resilient, even when faced with conditions that have necessarily limited their activities. Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquillity, confidence, and reliance on God.”

 

– quoted from a rare “New Year” message from the Universal House of Justice “To the Bahá’is of the World,” dated Naw-Ruz 177 (March 20, 2020, in reference to COVID-19 recommendations)

I mentioned in my last “9 Days” video that we all have patterns. One of my patterns seems to be falling behind at certain points in the year. Maybe you have noticed that same pattern in yourself. Maybe, like me, there are times when you can pinpoint reasons, explanations, stories about why your engagement in the world changes – e.g., those years when Februarys were extra challenging and the fact that my maternal grandparents and my mother all died during (different) summers. Then there are times when the pattern seems odd (i.e., when you forget that those extra challenging Februarys still have a hold on you). Either way, when you start noticing those patterns, you may also start noticing correlating patterns – like when you start catching back up.

The following is a revised, updated, and abridged version of a 2021 post. The original post included information about the March 6th and 13th practices. 

Today, Saturday, March 20th, is the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere – which coincides with Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year or Iranian New Year, which is also the Zoroastrian and the Bahá’i New Year. Nowruz is a compound of two Persian words and literally means “new day.” As this is a new beginning for so many around the world, it feels like an auspicious time to start catching back up on my blog posts!

The date of this New Year (and of the Vernal Equinox) is established every year through the astronomical observations that result in the Solar Hijri (Persian) calendar, which is the oldest and most accurate solar calendar. Technically, today is the end of the Bahá’i 19-Day Fast and the beginning of the Bahá’i New Year is at sunset this evening; but it is also a moveable based on the change in seasons.

In “the Most Holy Book” of the Bahá’i faith, the Kitáb-i-Agdas, the prophet Bahá’u’lláh explained that the equinox was a “Manifestation of God” and, therefore, would mark the new day/year. He also indicated that the actual date would be based on a “standard” place chosen by the Universal House of Justice (the nine-member ruling body of the worldwide community) in Haifa, Israel. In 2014 (which was year 171 in their community), the Universal House of Justice chose Tehran as the special place in the world that would serve as the observational standard. This is year 178 179.

People within the Bahá’i community spend the last month of the year preparing for the New Year by observing the 19-Day Fast. Throughout various parts of Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans people from a variety of faiths have traditions which sometimes include a month’s worth of (preparatory) celebrations. These celebrations include “spoon-banging” and costumed visitors in a practice similar to Halloween’s trick-or-treaters; rituals related to light; a celebration of the elements; a celebration of ancestors; and stories about how light (literally and symbolically) overcomes darkness.

“But his splendid son, Jamshid, his heart filled with his father’s precepts, then prepared to reign. He sat on his father’s throne, wearing a golden crown according to the royal custom. The imperial [divine glory] was his. The world submitted to him; quarrels were laid to rest, and all demons, birds and fairies obeyed Jamshid’s commands. The royal throne shone with luster, and the wealth of the world increased. He said, ‘God’s glory is with me; I am both prince and priest. I hold evildoers back from their evil, and I guide souls towards the light.’”

 

– quoted from “The First Kings” in Shanameh – The Persian Book of Kings by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (translated by Dick Davis)

One such story appears in the Shāhnāma (“The Book of Kings”), an epic Persian poem written by Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusione around the 10th and 11th centuries and one of the world’s longest poems attributed to a single author. According to the legend, there was a time when the world was plunged into darkness and a deadly winter that caused most people to lose hope. However, the mythical King Jamshid, who spent over 100 years building a great kingdom, saved the world and restored hope by building a throne out of gems and precious metals. He then sat on the throne and had “demons” lift him up to catch the dying light so that he became as bright as the sun. More gems were gathered around him and he became even brighter. This became the “New Day.”

I often mention that every day, every inhale, and every exhale is the beginning of a New Year. We don’t often think of it that way, and we certainly don’t (as a whole) view and celebrate life that way. But, the bottom line is that every moment of our lives is a “liminal” moment: a transitional or threshold moment that serves as a doorway between times. We mark notice we have more daylight, more sunshine, and we call it “Spring!” But, in some ways, this moment is arbitrary because we have been getting more daylight since the Winter Solstice.

Sometimes, when the winter is really cold and really dark (or we’ve been cooped-up inside too much) we pay attention to the little incremental differences between one day and the next. We notice the lengthening shadows and the extra seconds. Most times, however, we don’t start noticing the changes until we are told to notice the changes. Even then, however, what we notice is the end result – the culmination of all the little changes; not the transitions themselves. In the Yoga Sūtras, however, Patanjali underscored the importance of paying attention to the transitions.

In fact, when detailing how the practice of “concentration” “progresses,” Patanjali highlighted the final three limbs of the Yoga Philosophy (dhāranā, dhyāna, and samādhi) and referred to them collectively as samyama. Once he explained how each one flows from the previous ones (all stemming from the earlier practices of prāņāyāma and pratyāhāra) – and cautioned against efforts to skip the stages of progression – he delineated the difference between external and internal experiences. We often think of these as being very obviously related to things that are happening outside of the body and/or separate from us versus things happening inside the body and/or directly related to us. We may even break things down as things we can touch/hold versus things that are not tangible. However, there is also an aspect of the practice that transcends these arbitrary delineations: outside becomes inside.

Endings become beginnings.

“The transition from one year to the next year happens in an infinitely short moment that is actually non-existent in time. So too, there are transitions in the moments of life and the moments of meditation. Mindfulness of transitions in daily life and during meditation time is extremely useful on the spiritual journey to enlightenment.”

 

– quoted from the commentary on “Yoga Sutras 3.9-3.16: Witnessing Subtle Transitions With Samyama” by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (“Swami J”)

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, March 20th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “032021 New Year, New Season”]

NOTE: Due to artist protests, one song may not play on Spotify. As I support artists in their efforts to bring about change, I am not re-mixing affected playlists.

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.)

 

 

### RIDE THESE WAVES ###

New Year, New Season (a “missing” post for multiple Saturdays) March 21, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, 19-Day Fast, Art, Baha'i, Changing Perspectives, Faith, New Year, Religion.
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“Nowruz Mubarak!” Happy New Year to those who are celebrating and Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere.

[This post is related to three Saturdays, March 6th; March 13th; and March 20th. You can request an audio recording of any of the practices 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.]

 

“At a time of another crisis, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offered these words of counsel: ‘In a day such as this, when the tempests of trials and tribulations have encompassed the world, and fear and trembling have agitated the planet, ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.’ The world stands more and more in need of the hope and the strength of spirit that faith imparts. Beloved friends, you have of course long been occupied with the work of nurturing within groups of souls precisely the attributes that are required at this time: unity and fellow feeling, knowledge and understanding, a spirit of collective worship and common endeavour. Indeed, we have been struck by how efforts to reinforce these attributes have made communities especially resilient, even when faced with conditions that have necessarily limited their activities. Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquillity, confidence, and reliance on God.”

 

– quoted from a rare “New Year” message from the Universal House of Justice “To the Bahá’is of the World,” dated Naw-Ruz 177 (March 20, 2020, in reference to COVID-19 recommendations)

Today, Saturday, March 20th, was the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere – which coincides with Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year or Iranian New Year, which is also the Zoroastrian and the Bahá’i New Year. Nowruz is a compound of two Persian words and literally means “new day.” As this is a new beginning for so many around the world, it feels like an auspicious time to start catching back up on my blog posts!

The date of this New Year (and of the Vernal Equinox) is established every year through the astronomical observations that result in the Solar Hijri (Persian) calendar, which is the oldest and most accurate solar calendar. Technically, the Bahá’i New Year started at sunset on Friday evening; but it is also a moveable based on the change in seasons.

In “the Most Holy Book” of the Bahá’i faith, the Kitáb-i-Agdas, the prophet Bahá’u’lláh explained that the equinox was a “Manifestation of God” and, therefore, would mark the new day/year. He also indicated that the actual date would be based on a “standard” place chosen by the Universal House of Justice (the nine-member ruling body of the worldwide community) in Haifa, Israel. In 2014 (which was year 171 in their community), the Universal House of Justice chose Tehran as the special place in the world that would serve as the observational standard. This is year 178.

People within the Bahá’i community spend the last month of the year preparing for the New Year by observing the 19-Day Fast. Throughout various parts of Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans people from a variety of faiths have traditions which sometimes include a month’s worth of (preparatory) celebrations. These celebrations include “spoon-banging” and costumed visitors in a practice similar to Halloween’s trick-or-treaters; rituals related to light; a celebration of the elements; a celebration of ancestors; and stories about how light (literally and symbolically) overcomes darkness.

“But his splendid son, Jamshid, his heart filled with his father’s precepts, then prepared to reign. He sat on his father’s throne, wearing a golden crown according to the royal custom. The imperial [divine glory] was his. The world submitted to him; quarrels were laid to rest, and all demons, birds and fairies obeyed Jamshid’s commands. The royal throne shone with luster, and the wealth of the world increased. He said, ‘God’s glory is with me; I am both prince and priest. I hold evildoers back from their evil, and I guide souls towards the light.’”

 

– quoted from “The First Kings” in Shanameh – The Persian Book of Kings by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (translated by Dick Davis)

One such story appears in the Shāhnāma (“The Book of Kings”), an epic Persian poem written by Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusione around the 10th and 11th centuries and one of the world’s longest poems attributed to a single author. According to the legend, there was a time when the world was plunged into darkness and a deadly winter that caused most people to lose hope. However, the mythical King Jamshid, who spent over 100 years building a great kingdom, saved the world and restored hope by building a throne out of gems and precious metals. He then sat on the throne and had “demons” lift him up to catch the dying light so that he became as bright as the sun. More gems were gathered around him and he became even brighter. This became the “New Day.”

I often mention that every day, every inhale, and every exhale is the beginning of a New Year. We don’t often think of it that way, and we certainly don’t (as a whole) view and celebrate life that way. But, the bottom line is that every moment of our lives is a “liminal” moment: a transitional or threshold moment that serves as a doorway between times. We mark notice we have more daylight, more sunshine, and we call it “Spring!” But, in some ways, this moment is arbitrary because we have been getting more daylight since the Winter Solstice.

Sometimes, when the winter is really cold and really dark (or we’ve been cooped-up inside too much) we pay attention to the little incremental differences between one day and the next. We notice the lengthening shadows and the extra seconds. Most times, however, we don’t start noticing the changes until we are told to notice the changes. Even then, however, what we notice is the end result – the culmination of all the little changes; not the transitions themselves. In the Yoga Sūtras, Patanjali instructs us to pay attention to the transitions.

“The transition from one year to the next year happens in an infinitely short moment that is actually non-existent in time. So too, there are transitions in the moments of life and the moments of meditation. Mindfulness of transitions in daily life and during meditation time is extremely useful on the spiritual journey to enlightenment.”

 

– quoted from the commentary on “Yoga Sutras 3.9-3.16: Witnessing Subtle Transitions With Samyama” by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (“Swami J”)

When detailing how the practice of “concentration” “progresses,” Patanjali explores the final three limbs of the Yoga Philosophy (dhāranā, dhyāna, and samādhi) and refers to them collectively as samyama. Once he explains how each one flows from the previous ones (all stemming from the earlier practices of prāņāyāma and pratyāhāra) – and cautions against efforts to skip the stages of progression – he delineates the difference between external and internal experiences. We often think of these as being very obviously related to things that are happening outside of the body and/or separate from us versus things happening inside the body and/or directly related to us. We may even break things down as things we can touch/hold versus things that are not tangible.

Obvious, right? But what happens when we “Get Inside” (as we did on Saturday, March 6th)?

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the artist, was born March 6, 1475, in Caprese (then the Republic of Florence and now Tuscany, Italy). Known for works like David, the Pietá, and some of the most well-known frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo was known as Il Divino (“The Divine One”) by his contemporaries, because he had the ability to bring inanimate objects to life and to create terribilitá (a sense of awesomeness or emotional intensity). He said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” He also said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

In the practice of Yoga, we use the first four limbs of the philosophy the way Michelangelo used his carving and painting tools: to bring what is inside out, to set our inner angel free. Or, as I mentioned on the 6th, we can use it to set our inner GOAT free.

“‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.’”

 

– quoted from the Ebony Magazine article, “Muhammad Ali: ‘Don’t Count Me Out’ – Despite his medical problems, ‘The Greatest’ says there is plenty of fight left in his body” by Walter Leavy (published March 1985)

 

In 1964, it was announced to the world that the boxer we now know as The Greatest of All Times would no longer go by his birth name or “slave name” – which was also his father’s name. The heavy-weight champion’s grandfather had named his son (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr.,) after a 19th-century abolitionist politician in Kentucky (Cassius Marcellus Clay) who, by some accounts, strong-armed President Abraham Lincoln to emancipate Confederate slaves and freed some of his own slaves in 1844, but still kept some slaves on hand. Muhammad Ali wanted to distance himself from that legacy of slavery and forge his own path; so, he chose a name that reflected his faith and his skills: Muhammad Ali.

The name change wasn’t even close to instantaneous. In fact, with the major exception of Howard Cosell, who coincidentally had changed his own last name back to his family’s original Polish surname, most journalists and media outlets continued to refer to the prizefighter as “Cassius Clay” for over a decade. And it wasn’t just a matter of people getting use to the new name. Because he refused to answer to his birth name, journalist would address him as Muhammad Ali in-person, but then write about “Cassius Clay.” By their own account, The New York Times wrote about over 1,000 articles about “Cassius Clay” from 1964 to 1968, but only referenced “Muhammad Ali” in about 150. This practice continued well into the 1970’s! But the practice wasn’t even consistent; the media seemed to have no problem referencing “Malcolm X” – even though, at the time, he was still legally “Malcolm Little.”

Muhammad means “One who is worthy of praise” and Ali means “Most high.” The names, as he clearly stated, were symbolic in nature – as all names are. By changing his name, Muhammad Ali honored his outside (i.e., the color of his skin) while also placing emphasis on the inside (i.e., his talent and his beliefs). He also gave the world tools to focus on the inside and to become more intimate. Sadly, some folks kept themselves stuck on the outside.

Yoga Sūtra 3.7: trayam antarangam pūrvebhyah

 

– “These three practices of concentration (dhāranā), meditation (dhyāna), and samādhi are more intimate or internal than the previous five practices.”

Patanjali devotes a series of “threads” to the distinctions between internal/intimate and external in order to illustrate that perspective can make something that feels internal feel “external” simply because there is something more “internal.” One great example of this can be illustrated by comparing different types of physical practices of yoga. For instances: A vinyāsa practice (because it is a moving practice) is more “yang” or active than a YIN Yoga practice (in which part of the practice is not moving for what can feel like an incredibly long amount of time). On the flip side, the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga can be significantly more “yang” or active than a “Slow Flow” and a Restorative Yoga practice can be significantly more “yin” than a YIN yoga practice.

By the same token, focusing on the breath and the awareness of the breath  begins to feel more internal than just moving the body without breath awareness, but the former begins to feel more external when you can concentrate without actively thinking about the fact that you are concentrating on your breath (or anything else). In other words, the object of focus is the “seed” – something tangible and understandable, with a reference point. Then, there is a point in the practice when the focus becomes “seedless” – at which point being “Deeper Inside Makes That ‘Outside’” (which was our thread on Saturday, March 13th).

Yoga Sūtra 3.8: tad api bahir-angam nirbījasya

 

– “These three practices are external, and not intimate compared to nirbija samadhi, which is samadhi that has no object, nor even a seed object on which there is concentration.”

 

In our physical practice, more often than not, we use the breath as our primary “seed.” At first we may simultaneously engage it on multiple levels. After all, we can feel it, we can direct it, and (under the proper conditions) we can see it. Eventually, however, we become absorbed in the experience of breathing and being alive – which is obviously a different experience than actively working with the breath, but it is also a different experience than breathing and living without being aware of the breath. I often think about the breathing (and awareness of breath) of someone like Joseph Priestley, just as I think about the breathing (and awareness of breath) of those three people who left footprints on the side of a mountain in Italy over 350,000 years ago.

On March 13, 2003, Nature Journal published the work of three paleontologists who had identified fossilized footprints (and handprints) as belonging to three homo-genus individuals fleeing the then-actively erupting Roccamonfino volcano. Through those external impressions (embedded deep in the earth), we get an intimate glimpse into a brief moment of their lives. We know two fled the volcano together, one assisting the other. We know about their pace and trajectory, based on the zigzag patterns and the places where it appears one or more supported themselves with their hands. We can use their steps as tools and then, based on our own experiences, move deeper from there.

Joseph Priestley, born March 13, 1733 (according to the Julian calendar) was an 18th-century English theologian, clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, liberal political theorist, and a member of the Lunar Circle (also known as the Lunar Society). He is credited with discovering oxygen in its isolated gaseous state (which he considered “dephlogisticated air”). He also inventing soda water – which, he believed, could cure scurvy and which he called “impregnated water.” He also believed science was integral to theology and, therefore, all of his scientific work was a reflection of his liturgical work, and vice versa.

Even though much of what Joseph Priestley believed, scientifically speaking, has been superseded by advancements in technology and science, his work is one of the steps that brought us closer to the knowledge we have now. Think of his phlogiston theories as “seeds” at the beginning of the process. Now, consider, how – having moved beyond that point of understanding – we start anew… and go deeper. (As we did today, March 20th.)

“Could we have entered into the mind of Sir Isaac Newton and have traced all the steps by which he produced his great works, we might see nothing very extraordinary in the process.”

 

– Joseph Priestley

 

This week’s “threads” can be a little hard to take in just from the sūtras themselves. However, the point is to experience them and, once we have experienced them (in context) we realize they are easier to understand. There are some really great analogies related to movement and transition – which is the whole point of these threads – but the one that came to mind today takes us back to the boat analogy.

Take a moment to imagine your breath as a wave, with you floating on your back or floating in a boat. It doesn’t matter if you are lazily enjoying some time off or in a rush to go somewhere. Either way, there are times when you will have to make an adjustment – a course correction, if you will. Sometimes, you have to make big adjustments in order to stay focused; other times, little adjustments. Every now and again, however, there is a moment where you don’t need to make any adjustments or modifications. You don’t have to peddle to stay afloat and you don’t have to steer yourself in the right direction. You are one with the waves, going with the flow and “in the zone.” This is the next level of the Yoga experience. 

Yoga Sūtra 3.9: vyutthāna-nirodhah-samskāra abhibhava-prādurbhāvau nirodhah-kşaņa-chitta-anvayah nirodhah-pariņāmah

 

– “When the vision of the lower Samadhi is suppressed by an act of conscious control, so that there are no longer any thoughts or visions in the mind, that is the achievement of control of the thought-waves of the mind.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 3.10: tasya praśānta-vāhitā samskārāt

 

– “When this suppression of thought waves becomes continuous, the mind’s flow is calm.”

 

The playlist for Saturday, March 6th (the “Getting Inside or ‘What Is Inside, IV’” practice) is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “09132020 What Is Inside, II”]

 

The playlist for Saturday, March 13th (the “Deeper Inside Makes That ‘Outside’” practice) is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

 

The playlist for Saturday, March 20th (the “New Year, New Season” class) is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is nothing.”

 

– quoted from a 2004 Adidas ad campaign written by Aimee Lehto (with final tag line credited to Boyd Croyner), often attributed to Muhammad Ali

 

 

### RIDE THESE WAVES ###

Funken Leftovers (the “missing” Sunday post & the “leftovers” from 2/9) February 22, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Art, Faith, Gratitude, Lent, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Religion, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Happy New Year! Many blessings to those celebrating the Jade Emperor’s birthday and/or observing Lent!

[This is the post for Sunday, February 21st (with information relevant to February 9th and a reference to February 17th). You can request an audio recording of Sunday’s practice (or the February 9th 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.]

 

“I want a little sugar in my bowl
I want a little sweetness down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’, oh so bad
Feel so funny, I feel so sad”

 

– quoted from the song “I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl” by Nina Simone

Before I ask what you do with leftovers, or things left over from previous seasons, it might be prudent to ask how you feel about leftovers (and things left over from previous seasons). Because, while some people are quick to repurpose leftovers; some people (hello, brother) can’t stand leftovers. Then there are people who love leftovers, and may even prefer leftovers to the first serving. There are people who take leftovers for granted and people who are grateful for the abundance that leads to leftovers. So, yes, it might be prudent to ask how someone feels about leftovers (and things left over), because that informs how attached they are and what actions come from that attachment (even when it’s aversion).

The tenth day of the Lunar New Year is, for those who celebrated the Jade Emperor’s birthday, a day that is all about leftovers. Some traditions view the Jade Emperor as the creator and/or ruler of heaven and earth, whose origins are beyond the physical; however, in some traditions, it is believed that the Jade Emperor was originally a (real) man who took away the suffering of others.

According to one set of stories, the Kitchen God leaves the kitchen alter just before the New Year and returns to heaven in order to give the Jade Emperor an accounting of each household’s activities during the previous year. In the final days of the old year, people will clean up their homes – so the alter(s) will be ready for the return of the gods and ancestors – and, sometimes, smear honey on the lips of the Kitchen God so that his report is extra sweet. Then the Kitchen God and other household gods return on the fourth day of the New Year.

I always imagine that some years the Kitchen God’s report is really, really, wild. Take last year’s report for instance – or the last few years – or the report from the Year of the (Water) Rabbit that coincided with January 25, 1963 – February 12, 1964 (on the solar calendar).

In 2014, the first time I led a practice associated with leftovers from the Jade Emperor’s birthday celebration, the tenth day of the Lunar New Year coincided with February 9th on the solar calendar – so, I decided to incorporate the idea of the Kitchen God’s report. Specifically, I mentioned the wild report from that (Water) Rabbit year… you know, that year when there was a bit of mania all over the world and an invasion that moved across the pond: by that I mean Beatlemania and the British Invasion.

“First of all I want to congratulate you: You’ve been a fine audience, despite severe provocation.”

 

– quoted from Ed Sullivan’s remarks at the conclusion of The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964

The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on two consecutive Sundays (February 9th and February 16th, 1964). Of course, they had already made an impression in the United Kingdom and, towards the end of 1963, there were some North American radio stations that had played their music and a couple of times when prerecorded footage had appeared on television. Notably, Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar had both shared prerecorded footage with their audiences. But, it was Ed Sullivan that brought the lads to the United States and had them perform live, in front of a studio audience – a studio audience that, for all intensive purposes, was hysterical with excitement.

I say, as many people say, that the crowd was hysterical with excitement – one could even say that they were out of control. However, it’s important to note that before the first song, Ed Sullivan made the audience promise to reign in their enthusiasm when he was making introductions – and they did (even though he sometimes had to remind them of their promise). Mr. Sullivan soliciting that promise from the audience wasn’t random. Remember, he had some previous experience with this kind of audience; after all, he hosted Elvis three times, starting on September 9, 1956.

Before the first set in 1964, Ed Sullivan actually mentioned that Elvis and Colonel “Tom” Parker sent a telegram wishing the British group “a tremendous success in our country.” The Beatles started off by playing three songs: “All My Loving;” “Till There Was You” (a show tune written by Meredith Wilson in 1950 and then used in the 1957 musical The Music Man, which was made into a movie released in 1962); “She Loves You.” During the performance of “Till There Was You,” Paul, Ringo, George, and John were each featured in a close up with their names underneath. Ringo can be seen mumbling a comment to George, who seemed to get the biggest display of excitement. Of course, that excitement was only rivaled by the audible sounds of disappointment when John’s picture and name included the words, “SORRY, GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED:”

After the first set, Ed Sullivan said that the first three songs were dedicated to Johnny Carson, Randy Paar (who he mentioned with a directional gesture), and Earl Wilson. On the surface, it was an odd grouping of people. Randy Paar was Jack Paar’s 14-year old daughter. She attended the performance as Ed Sullivan’s guest and brought along then former Vice President Richard Nixon’s daughters, Tricia and Julie. (There were a couple of times throughout the show when the camera focused on what I believe was the excited trio.) Johnny Carson was Jack Paar’s successor as host of The Tonight Show and Earl Wilson was a journalist. Part of what made the dedication so odd was that Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan had a contentious rivalry that started when Mr. Paar was hosting The Tonight Show and continued into the premiere of The Jack Paar Program (in 1962). Some would say the animosity increased when Jack Paar insisted that his show was the first United States variety show to televise The Beatles (back in December 1963) – but, of course, that footage wasn’t live. When questioned about the dedication, 14-year old Randy said that it was essentially an olive branch on Ed Sullivan’s part** (a claim, I find highly suspect after watching the footage again).

Before the second set, there was an Anacin pain reliever commercial and a five minute act by a world class, prize-winning magician named Fred Kaps – the only magician in the world to win the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (FISM) Grand Prix three times. He was also inducted into the Society of American Magicians (SAM) Hall of Fame. Even if you’re not a magic aficionado, you have probably seen people perform some of the tricks he created and/or made famous, including: color-changing silks, the “long-pour” salt trick, and the “Dancing and Floating Cork” (which you could only purchase after signing a contract promising not to reveal the mechanics of the trick). Mr. Kaps interspersed humor and exaggerated facial reactions and mannerisms with his tricks and, by all accounts, he was his usual amazing self on February 9, 1964. But, what people would remember (as the Kitchen God would have reported to the Jade Emperor) was The Beatles.

Ed Sullivan reminded the audience that The Beatles would be back the previous weekend, but his actually introduction of the band was “Once again….” The second set featured “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” That’s it. All in all the two segments, including introductions; the round of handshakes; and Ed Sullivan expressing gratitude to the New York Police Department – plus the newspapers and magazine writers and photographers – lasted a little under 15 minutes. But, based on the expressions on people’s faces and the way some of the men were wiping the sweat off of their brows, it was an overwhelmingly warm and visceral 15 minutes.

“This is a magnificent building… but I think the roof is leaking.”

 

FISM Grand Prix Champion Fred Kaps, when he worked up a sweat during a performance

 

“Now, I’m delighted – all of us are delighted – and I know The Beatles on their first appearance here have been very deeply thrilled by their reception here. You’ve been fun. Now get home safely. Good night!”

 

– quoted from Ed Sullivan’s remarks at the conclusion of The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964

One thing I should point out is that my Day 10 playlist in 2014 wasn’t The Beatles playlist from 1964. Instead, it was the “leftovers” – or, what one might call “B-sides.” Similarly, in 2016, the Year of the (Fire) Monkey, the tenth day of the Lunar New Year fell on February 17th, Ed Sheeran’s birthday and so the playlist featured what might have been “B-sides” if, you know, musicians still released 45s. In 2018, we were back to The Beatles – sort of; since the 10th day of the Year of the (Earth) Dog fell on February 25th, George Harrison’s birthday. (Serendipitously, I came across Mike Love’s tribute to George, “Pisces Brothers,” just as I was putting together the appropriate tracks.)

This year, the tenth day of the Lunar New Year coincides with the anniversary of the birth of a Pisces Sister. Born today in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon was known to the world as the incomparable Nina Simone. Ms. Simone was a singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger, as well as a civil rights activist. Her music doesn’t fit neatly into one genre box; as she created music that could be considered blues, classical, folk, gospel, jazz, pop, and R&B. Then there were her activist songs. Nina Simone, it seems, could turn any situation into a song and, in doing so, became one of the most compelling voices of the Civil Rights Movement.

It would be understandable, given her range and talent, that this year’s playlist would be overflowing with Nina Simone songs. However, as sweet as it is, there is only one Nina Simone song on Sunday’s playlist. This year her birthday not only falls on the tenth day of the Lunar New Year, but also on the first Sunday of Lent in the Western Christian tradition. When so many different calendars overlap, I contemplate how I can integrate them and then, in some ways, prioritize elements based on several different considerations – including what is most directly tied to the Yoga Philosophy. The single Nina Simone track on today’s playlist ties back into the Hokkien legend and is a reminder to give thanks for whatever sweetness we are given.

“I want some sugar in my bowl, I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar
In my bowl”

 

– quoted from the song “I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl” by Nina Simone

In Belgium, northern France, and parts of Germany and Switzerland, the first Sunday of Lent is referred to as Funkensonntag. Sometimes translated as “Spark Sunday” or as “Bonfire Sunday,” it is a day when people build Lenten (bon)fires in order to burn their Christmas trees and other debris left over from winter. Effigies of the Winter Witch and Old Man Winter are also tossed into the bonfires and thus the tradition becomes a way to welcome – even hasten – the arrival of Spring.

Errata: Just as it is in the Western tradition, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is part of Shrovetide in the Eastern Christian tradition – people just use a different calendar. Sometimes the calendars overlap so that the Lenten seasons are exactly a week apart. Unfortunately, I mixed up my calendars this year and erroneously referred to this Sunday as the Sunday before Lent in the Eastern tradition. However, this year Shrove Sunday, also known as “Cheesefare Sunday” and “Forgiveness Sunday” will coincide with March 14th (on the secular calendar). Please accept my apologies for the confusion.

One final note, even though I mixed up the calendars. Some within the Eastern Christian communities refer to Shrove Sunday as “Forgiveness Sunday” and there is an extra emphasis on fasting, prayers, and letting go of past transgressions, sins, animosity, and rivalries. (**Hmm, so even though I’m not sure how observant he was, I might have to give Ed Sullivan a break. He was Roman Catholic of Irish descent and exposed to a lot of different cultures. More to the point, Sunday, February 9th was Shrove Sunday in 1964 – so maybe he really was asking for and offering forgiveness with his dedication.)

“Think of a space in your heart, and in the midst of that space think that a flame is burning. Think of that flame as your own soul and inside the flame is another effulgent light, and that is the Soul of your soul, God. Meditate upon that in the heart. Chastity, non-injury, forgiving even the greatest enemy, truth, faith in the Lord, these are all different Vrittis. Be not afraid if you are not perfect in all of these; work, they will come. He who has given up all attachment, all fear, and all anger, he whose whole soul has gone unto the Lord, he who has taken refuge in the Lord, whose heart has become purified, with whatsoever desire he comes to the Lord, He will grant that to him. Therefore worship Him through knowledge, love, or renunciation.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter VIII: Raja-Yoga in Brief” in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

 

The playlist for Tuesday (2/9) is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

The playlist for Sunday (2/21) is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“You’ve got to learn to leave the table
When love’s no longer being served”

 

– quoted from the song “You’ve Got to Learn” by Nina Simone

 

### DON’T BE GREEDY, BE GRATEFUL ###