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It Is Happening Again… August 29, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“The dwarves were still passing the cup from hand to hand and talking delightedly of the recovery of their treasure, when suddenly a vast rumbling woke in the mountain underneath as if it was an old volcano that had made up its mind to start eruptions once again. The door behind them was pulled nearly to, and blocked from closing with a stone, but up the long tunnel came the dreadful echoes, from far down in the depths, of a bellowing and a trampling that made the ground beneath them tremble.


Then the dwarves forgot their joy and their confident boasts of a moment before and cowered down in fright. Smaug was still to be reckoned with. It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”


– quoted from “Chapter XII. Inside Information” of The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien

Most times, when I refer to this passage from The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again, I only use the last sentence. It’s one that Dr. Daryl Koehn highlights in Living With the Dragon: Thinking and Acting Ethically in a World of Unintended Consequences, which is all about what happens when we don’t think things through – and, as I mentioned yesterday, I get a little hooked by the times when people (myself included) don’t think things through. However, when I went back to the original text, something else jumped out at me – two things actually: the joy of the dwarves, who are ever present in the moment (or swept up in the joy of the moment) and the anger of the awakening dragon, Smaug.

Of Smaug, who wakes to find dwarves within his den, Tolkien wrote, “His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted.” This, this emotionally response to the fear of loss/death, was part of the focus last year’s practice on this date.

This year, however, I got to thinking about the fact that it’s not enough to recognize our fears and/or the fact that we may “live near a dragon.” We must also consider what type of person we are. After all, there are people who are so fearful of dragons that, if they can, they avoid living near them. Then there are those people who invite the proverbial dragon to a “tea” party. There are those for whom calculating the effects of living near a dragon are an afterthought. And, also, those who never calculate the effects of living near a dragon. Finally, there are those who are always prepared for the possibility of an enraged dragon waking up in their midst.

It is all too easy, to think that the different types of person/personality are based on experience. However, history teaches us otherwise. We can look at the current public health situation – not (just) the crisis; but the fact that people have had such different reactions and responses to the issues at hand. I could say the same about the issue of guns in America, mental health in America, homelessness in America, racism in America….

I could go on and on, but today – as it has been for the last 16 years, my thoughts make their way to Louisiana, Mississippi, and to the rest of the Gulf Coast. In this case, the dragon(s) is the hurricane(s) that hit today in 2005 (Katrina, Category 5) and 2017 (Harvey, Category 4, on its fifth landfall). Not to mention Hurricane Andrew (Category 5), which dissipated today in 1992. Then there is Hurricane Ida (currently, Category 4, but still moving) which is hitting landfall today… in the same areas that have been decimated not just by the big storm systems I mentioned above, but also by the “dragons” I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

If you’re not living near this particular dragon, you can send thoughts and prayers, make donations, volunteer, offer safe haven, and/or generate some good energy. But, keep in mind, for next time: None of us is on a “dragon-free” island in the middle of nowhere.

“‘I’d like to be better prepared. There’s a few things I’m thinking we could have done. But this storm came pretty quick, so you only have the time you have,’ [Nick] Mosca said.”


– quoted from the 08/29/2021 Huffington Post article “Hurricane Ida Intensifies To Category 4 As It Barrels Toward Gulf Coast” by Kevin McGill, Jay Reeves

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, August 29th) 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 always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “08292020 Katrina, Harvey…”]

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.)


When Did It Start, Where Does It Stop? August 29, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Depression, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Yoga.
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“For most of us, this distorted self-identity constitutes our personal world. Because this is what we feel ourselves to be, the prospect of losing it is deeply frightening. We do everything in our power to protect and perpetuate our distorted identity. When we fail, we become angry and we direct our anger at people who have harmed us or who have the potential to harm us., This is how animosity is born and how it thrives.”

– quoted from commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.35 in The Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Fifteen years ago today, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast, causing over 50 levees and flood walls protecting to New Orleans , Louisiana to fail. At least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent flooding and the total property damage was estimated (at the time) at $108 billion (USD). At the time it was ranked as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States. It was also ranked as the costliest tropical cyclone on record – although, it is now tied with Hurricane Harvey, which hit the same area in 2017. While Katrina affected the Bahamas, Cuba, Eastern Canada, and multiple states in the United States (including two deaths in Ohio), the majority of the world’s attention landed in Louisiana – specifically because of the levee breaks that flooded 80% of New Orleans and all of St. Bernard Parish, with the Ninth Ward taking the hardest hit.

Along with all the other emotions people were feeling as a result of the death and destruction was anger. People were angry about the response – or, in some cases lack of response – by FEMA. People, specifically Black Americans, were angry at what they viewed as yet another sign of America’s racism. People around the world were shocked, appalled, and then angry at the poverty they didn’t know existed in the Ninth Ward and then at the disregard for suffering that people endured before, during, and after the storm. Fueling the anger was a rumor, a powerful conspiracy theory that the levees didn’t just fail because of the severity of the storm. According to the conspiracy theory (which was ultimately investigated by the United States House of Representatives) the levees “failed” because they were dynamited in order to save the more white-populated neighborhoods. While many, including the press, called the theory an “urban myth,” it had a foundation in history: when Hurricane Betsy flooded the Mississippi River in 1927, city officials reportedly set off 30 tons of dynamite at one levee in St. Bernard Parish, in order to ease pressure on the levees protecting New Orleans.

“Many things about the United States are wonderful, but it has a vile underbelly which is usually kept well out of sight. Now in New Orleans it has been exposed to the world.”

– quoted from an article in the UK Mirror dated September 3, 2005

Just like with Katrina, people died and homes were lost in unequal numbers that can be attributed to race (and the United States historically race-related policies). Just like with Besty, people living in the Ninth Ward during Katrina said they heard what first sounded like gunshots and then the sound of explosions. Granted, in the middle of hurricane, concrete cracking and breaking would sound the same as concrete being busted apart by an explosion. Ultimately, the facts don’t matter once the seed is planted and the anger takes root. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you mow down the top of the anger-flower; you still have the roots… waiting for the next good rain.

After laying the foundation for the practice of yoga, Patanjali starts to explain the benefits of practicing the yamās and niyamās. Specifically, he explains how cause and effect extends beyond the person practicing: non-violence leads to peace, a dedication to truth leads to realization, non-stealing leads to prosperity, walking in the footsteps of God leads to spiritual power, non-possessiveness leads to full awareness, cleanliness leads to an awareness of impurities before they take root in the mind-body, contentment leads to unsurpassed happiness, discipline and austerity lead to beauty, self-study leads to the ultimate connection to wisdom (intuition), and devoted surrender leads to the enlightenment. The detailed instructions and explanations Patanjali offers in the last two chapters of the Yoga Sūtras makes the accomplished yogi sound like a mystical wizard capable of all manner of Jedi Knight tricks and Vulcan mind melds. Before we get to those detailed explanations, however, Patanjali offers us a little taste of what’s to come: the promise of cause and effect.

Yoga Sūtra 2.35: ahimsāpratişţhāyām tatsannidhau vairatyāgah

– “In the company of a yogi established in non-violence, animosity disappears.”

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, August 29th) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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.