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Rigid Bodies (mostly the music) July 5, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Music, Science, Yoga.
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“Every body continues in its state of rest, or uniform motion in a right line, unless compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”

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– “Law 1” quoted from “Axioms, or Laws of Motion” in Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (published 07/05/1687) by Sir Isaac Newton

NOTE: Some editions use the term “straight line.”

Please join me today (Tuesday, July 5th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05262020 Fearless Play with Miles & Sally”]

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Click here if you are interested on a philosophical take on fear and liberation.

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.)

### Feel Free… To Move ###

Words One Lives By (the “missing” Wednesday post) February 22, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Faith, First Nations, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Love, Men, Movies, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tragedy, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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This is the “missing” post for Wednesday, February 16th, which was Elizabeth Peratrovich Day! You can request an audio recording of this 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.)

“a káa ñududziteeyi yoo ý’atánk (noun) law, words one lives by

  • Tléil oowaa wé aan káa ñududziteeyi yoo ý’atánk géide

    ñudunoogú. It is wrong to act against the law of the land

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– quoted from Dictionary of Tlingit by Keri Edwards, Anita Lafferty, John Marks, June Pegues, Helen Sarabia, Bessie Colley, David Katzeek, Fred White, Jeff Leer

Some of the best themes, in my opinion, come from conversations. Take Wednesday’s theme, for instance. I could go into any number of reasons why it hasn’t come up before – and go back to several conversations over the years as to how and why it could have come up. Ultimately, however, I was primed to notice certain things this year – when there was an opening in my calendar.

First, there was a February 10th text message from a friend (A), kind of wondering why I hadn’t mentioned that the Dawes Act (also  known as the General Allotment Act) passed on February 8, 1887. The legislation allowed the United States government to seize and break up tribal land and, honestly, I would much rather spend the 8th focused on how we can come together. Then, a couple of days later, after a practice where the weekly sūtra lined up perfectly with the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, one of my yoga buddies (J) mentioned that some languages don’t have words for “freedom” and “liberation.” I thought that was interesting, but didn’t agree that that meant those communities didn’t value freedom – just, perhaps, that the didn’t think of freedom and liberation in a legal sense, as we do in the United States. After all, why would so many ancient texts (like the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sūtras, the Upanishads, the Ashtavakra Gita, the Torah, and so many Buddhist texts) spend so much time on the subject of freedom and liberation if the concepts weren’t important? But, I got my friends meaning – especially, because (as I’ve mentioned several times this month) some words just don’t translate into English.

Then, I pseudo-randomly decided to watch a discussion related to the fact that the team previously known as “The Washington Football Team” changed their name to the “Washington Commanders” [insert your favorite pun here]. The discussion was between Roy Wood Jr. (of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah); sports journalist Bomani Jones, and Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of IllumiNative and a Pawnee citizen. After watching the slightly over 48 minutes of conversation, I probably spent twice that amount of time ranting (via text) to my brother about how there could possibly be (as statistics indicate) people in this country that don’t know Native people exist… like still exist. It was just hard to wrap my brain around the idea that just by virtue of the places I’ve lived, I’ve known more people than others. (Note, this is not the first time such statistics have flabbergasted me.) Finally, as I was thinking about what I would do for Wednesday’s practice, I came across this 1945 civil rights anniversary – and I thought it was going to be a story we all (already) knew.

“moksha (mokṣa), mokkho, mōkṣa, moksh, mōkṣaṁ, mōkaśa, mokhya, mokshamu,

vimoksha, vimukti, vīdupēru,

kaivalya, apavarga, mukti,

nihsreyasa, and/or nirvana”

*

– words related to the end of suffering, the end of ignorance, and the end of the reincarnation cycle that are often translated into English as “freedom,” “emancipation,” “enlightenment,” “liberation,” “release,” and/or “enlightenment”

 

Wednesday’s class was another “answer” to the Tuesday riddle (Always old, sometimes new…). It was based on a story that I thought I knew – a story, maybe, that you think you know too. It’s a story about the “beginning” of the civil rights movement in the United States and the story about the beginning of the end of segregation and “Jim Crow” laws. It’s a story about the first anti-discrimination law in the United States (and its territories).

Knowing that, just that, you may be scrambling through your knowledge of history (and law) and thinking about what came first in the timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement. But, I’m going to ask you to set aside most of what you know – just for a moment. I’m going to ask you to set aside what immediately comes to most people’s minds when they think about discrimination and Jim Crow laws. Because, this is a story that (probably) predates what most of us learned in school. It’s a story that dates back to the early 1900’s, not the 1950’s or 60’s – and really has nothing to do with the South, or African-Americans. It’s a story about people who, to this day, are still fighting for their rights: Indigenous and aboriginal people.

That’s right, the first (20th century) state or territorial anti-discrimination law in the United States was specifically intended to criminalize discrimination against indigenous people. Specifically, the Alaska Equal Rights Act of 1945 (also known as the Anti-Discrimination Law of 1945) banned discrimination against individuals in public spaces based on race. It was signed into law on Friday, February 16, 1945, by then Governor Ernest Gruening. Prior to the enactment of the new law, many white-owned Alaskan businesses segregated Alaska Natives and/or completely denied them service. People were told they could not live and/or work in some areas of the city. Some even went so far as to deny employment based on race and would advertise “All White Help.” Just like in the South, there were lots of others signs that explicitly stated that some people had the same status as dogs.

Although he supported the bill, the governor – who would become one of the first Alaskan senators (1959-1969) – was not a resident of the territory nor someone being directly affected by the discrimination that the law eventually criminalized. But when those affected spoke, he listened. One of the people to whom he listened was Roy Peratrovich, then president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). Another person the governor not only heard, and also echoed, was Elizabeth Peratrovich, then president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS). Both Mr. and Mrs. Peratrovich were members of the Tlingit nation and, by all accounts, Elizabeth Peratrovich was someone whose very presence commanded everyone’s attention.

But, let me not get ahead of the story.

“With measured composure, [Elizabeth Peratrovich] flawlessly articulated the extent of discrimination against Alaska Natives. ‘There are three kinds of persons who practice discrimination. First, the politician who wants to maintain an inferior minority group so that he can always promise them something. Second, the Mr. and Mrs. Jones who aren’t quite sure of their social position and who are nice to you on one occasion and can’t see you on others, depending on who they are with. Third, the great Superman who believes in the superiority of the white race.'”

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–  quoted from the February 16, 2019 Indian Country Today article entitled “February 16 in Alaska honors Tlingit activist on ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day’: Anchorage School District, ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day provides an opportunity to remind the public of the invaluable contribution of this Native Alaskan leader.'” by Leslie Logan

Similar to what happened in the Lower 48, the first part of the battle around civil rights in Alaska was related to education. The Nelson Act of 1905 established funding and guidelines for segregated schools in Alaska (as well as for “the care and maintenance of insane persons in said district… [and] the construction and maintenance of wagon roads, bridges, and trails in said district”). It explicitly stated that  the schools would be established and supervised by a board “elected annually by the vote of all adults who are citizens of the United States or who have declared their intention to become such and who are residents of the school district.” The problem, of course, was that many of the affected parents were not considered citizens even though they had lived in the area prior to the government being established. So, they couldn’t vote and the couldn’t be on the board. In other words, they had no say over the education of their children. A “path to citizenship” would eventually open up in 1915, but it would require a person to obtain the endorsement of 5 white citizens – which was challenging, given segregation – and to cut “all tribal relationships and adapted the habits of a civilized life[,]” which people were (understandably) reluctant to do.

In 1908, William Paul, who was the first Tlingit attorney in Alaska, won a case in Ketchikan (Tlingit: Kichx̱áan) that allowed mixed heritage children to attend regular public school. Despite the victory, there was still segregation in most public spaces and so the fight continued. In 1912, thirteen men from a private college in Sitka (Tlingit: Sheetʼká; Russian: Ситка) founded the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB), which pushed wider access to education, voting rights, desegregation, social services, and land rights. In 1915, the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANB), joined the fight. By the 1920’s, Mr. Paul and his older brother Louis were active ANB members. In 1929, the ANB and ANS successful boycotted a segregated movie theatre in Juneau (Tlingit: Dzánti K’ihéeni) and got the establishment to desegregate.

Other theatre’s followed suit; however, even when the buildings were desegregated, the seating areas were still segregated. In 1944, Alberta Schenck, a sixteen-year old mixed-heritage member of the Inupiat nation, had a part-time job as an usher at the Alaska Dream Theatre in Nome (Inupiaq: Sitŋasuaq). Part of her job was to make sure non-white customers sat in the designated / segregated area. When she complained about the segregation, she was fired. After she was fired, the determined teenager did two things: she wrote an essay that appeared in the op-ed section of the newspaper and she showed up at her former place of employment with a white army sergeant as her date. Naturally, they sat in the “Whites Only” section. When the couple refused to move, the police were called to arrest Alberta Schenck. Her arrest fired up the people and, once she was released, she wrote a letter to Governor Ernest Gruening – whose response included the reintroduction of anti-discrimination legislation.

Section 2. Any person who shall violate or aid or incite a violation of said full and equal enjoyment; or any person who shall display any printed or written sign indicating a discrimination on racial grounds of said full and equal enjoyment, for each day for which said sign is displayed shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than thirty (30) days or fined not more than two hundred fifty ($250.00) dollars, or both.”

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– quoted from the “Penalties” section of Chapter 2 of Anti-Discrimination Act, House Bill 14, from Session Laws of Alaska, 1945

Around the same time the activists started the boycott in Juneau, the Peratrovich’s were getting married – and encountering racism. Of course, the young couple had dealt with racism throughout their young lives. Roy, after all, was born in 1908 – the same year William Paul won his landmark desegregation case – and Elizabeth was born in 1911 – the year before the formation of the ANB. Both were of mixed heritage and initially met, as children, in Klawock (Tlingit: Láwaak), a small town on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island.  In some ways, they had similar schooling experiences. For her part, though, Elizabeth was surprised to find, when she first started school, that there were no Native Alaska teachers and “speaking Tlingit was not allowed.” In fact, students speaking Native languages were often punished. Eventually, she would go to her father’s alma mater and Roy went away to a boarding school in Oregon. It would be several years before they reconnected and, of course, they would be different versions of themselves.

Many people make a point to emphasize Elizabeth Peratrovich’s birth date, July 4th, as it seems she was destined to bring people more liberation and freedom. It was not only her birth date, however, that made her memorable. There was also the combination of her demeanor and her efforts. Born under problematic circumstances, in Petersburg (Tlingit: Séet Ká or Gantiyaakw Séedi “Steamboat Channel”), Alaska, she was mixed heritage and taken to the Salvation Army, where she was adopted by Andrew and Jean Wanamaker (née Williams). The Wanamakers were also members of the Tlingit nation and Mr. Wanamaker, who had attended the aforementioned private school in Sitka, was a charter member of the ANB and a lay minister of the Presbyterian Church. The Wanamaker’s gave their daughter an English name (Elizabeth Jean) and a Tlingit name (Ḵaax̲gal.aat). 

“Understanding the meanings of Tlingit names can be difficult. Lance Twitchell, assistant professor of Alaska Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast, says Andrew’s Tlingit name, Chalyee Éesh, means ‘the father of Chalyee,’ which may mean ‘beneath the halibut.’ Jeans’s name, Shaax̲aatk’í, means ‘root of all women.’ Elizabeth’s Tlingit names was Ḵaax̲gal.aat, which may mean ‘person who packs for themselves.'”

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– quoted from “2. Growing Up the Alaska Native Way” in Fighter in Velvet Gloves: Alaska Civil Rights Hero Elizabeth Peratrovich by Annie Boochever with Roy Peratrovich Jr.

Roy Peratrovich’s Tlingit name was Lk’uteen.

The Peratrovich’s were very active in their community. They had three children (Loretta Montgomery, Roy Jr., and Frank); Elizabeth attended the Presbyterian Church; and Roy was repeatedly elected mayor of Klawock. They moved to Juneau, in part, to be more involved in the movement and became the first Indigenous people to live in a neighborhood that was not specifically designated as “Native.” Eventually, their second child (Roy Jr,) would be one of the first Indigenous children to attend a public school. (He would also write parts of a book about his mother’s story.)

After she and her husband helped to draft the anti-discrimination bill, Elizabeth Peratrovich had the opportunity to testify in front of the Alaskan legislature. Her efforts had already earned her a great ally in the governor. However, they also drew the attention of her own personal “master teacher / precious jewel” in the form of a territorial senator named Allen Shattuck, who opposed the anti-discrimination legislation from start to finish. Throughout the public hearing in 1945, the senator challenged Mrs. Peratrovich and questioned her authority to speak to the legislature. I can only imagine that she found him infuriating and annoying, but her responses to him were rational and measured. Her words convince me that underneath those velvet gloves, she had an iron fist.

“Shattuck is on the record as having stated: ‘The races should be kept further apart. Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?’

Peratrovich was not daunted by the derision and responded to Shattuck in her testimony, famously stating: ‘I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.’”

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–  quoted from the February 16, 2019 Indian Country Today article entitled “February 16 in Alaska honors Tlingit activist on ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day’: Anchorage School District, ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day provides an opportunity to remind the public of the invaluable contribution of this Native Alaskan leader.'” by Leslie Logan

Media and eyewitness accounts of the senate hearing indicated that pretty much everyone was moved by the words of Elizabeth Peratrovich. There were descriptions of people cheering, applauding, and even crying. When the anti-discrimination bill passed, with a vote of 11 to 5, on February 8, 1945, I can only imagine that Allen Shattuck looked like he was tasting something bitter. My guess is that he was further chagrined by Governor Gruening’s statement that “Although we cannot by legislation eliminate racial prejudice in public places from the minds of men, legislation is useful to stop acts of discrimination.” Those words, as you will see, mirrored the closing statements of Mrs. Peratrovich.

Many people in Alaska credit Elizabeth Peratrovich with ending (legal) school segregation and discrimination in public places. Note, this was nineteen years before similar legislation would be signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson – and, in both cases, many people participated in the process. In April of 1988, then Alaska Governor Steve Cowper established April 21 as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.” The date was later changed to February 16th, so that it would coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the anti-discrimination legislation. The civil rights activist has been honored in many other ways including with a Google Doodle designed by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade (who is also a member of Haida). The doodle appeared in the United States and Canada on December 30, 2020, the anniversary of the date in 1941 when Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich decided to petition the governor because they were sick of the “No Natives Allowed” signs. Earlier in 2020, Mrs. Peratrovich was also depicted on the reverse of the revised Sacagawea dollar coin.

The “golden dollar” coin was first issued by the United States Mint in 2000, and then minted for general circulation in 2002. General circulation was briefly halted, in 2008, and then reinstated in 2012. The coin was intended as a replacement for the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and there was a lot of debate about who (or what) would appear on the face of the coin. One fairly popular idea was that it should be a Statue of Liberty coin, but the Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee recommended a coin to honor the Shoshone guide Sacagawea, essentially making her the first mother – and the first working mom – depicted on U. S. currency. With the assistance of a Shoshone-Bannock/Cree model named Randy’L He-dow Teton, the sculptor Glenna Goodacre designed the obverse picture of Sacagawea and her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Thomas D. Rogers Sr., a U. S. mint sculptor-engraver designed the original reverse picture of a soaring eagle. 

On September 20, 2007, President George W. Bush signed what is known as the Native American $1 Coin Act, which allowed for changes in the original design of the Sacagawea dollar coin. Those changes included provisions for the reverse design to be changed every year, beginning in 2009. The United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Native American Caucus and the National Congress of American Indians appoint a liaison (to the U. S. Mint), who works with the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee to select potential ideas and the ultimate design. Since 2009, the reverse has depicted:

  • the “Three Sisters” (winter squash, maize, and climbing beans);
  • the “Great Tree of Peace” (symbolized by the Hiawatha Belt wrapped around five arrows, above the words “HAUDENOSAUNEE*” and “GREAT LAW OF PEACE”);
  • the hands of the Supreme Sachem Ousamequin Massasoit and Governor John Carver, symbolically passing the ceremonial peace pipe after the initiation of the first formal written peace alliance between the Wampanoag tribe and the European settlers (in 1621);
  • a Native man and horses to symbolize trade;
  • a turkey, a howling wolf, a turtle, and thirteen stars to symbolize the 1778 treaty between the Delaware Nations** and the colonies; 
  • a Native couple offering hospitality, in the form of a peace pipe and provisions, with a stylized image of a compass pointing NW to symbolize the Lewis and Clark Expedition;
  • a steelworker over the New York City skyline to honor the Kahnawake Mohawk and Mohawk Akwesasne communities whose “high iron” construction work helped build of New York City bridges and skyscrapers, beginning in the 19th century;
  • a World War I era helmet and a World War II era helmet laid over two feathers in the shape of a “V” to honor the over 12,000 World War I code talkers who served during World War I and the over 44,000 who served during World War II***;
  • Sequoyah writing, “Sequoyah from Cherokee Nation” in Cherokee syllabary, the written language he devised – which created the opportunity for a new form of journalism and diplomacy;
  • three images of Jim Thorpe, the Olympian and professional athlete who was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation and whose given name was Wa-Tho-Huk (“Bright Path”);
  • symbols of Native contributions to space exploration, including depictions of the 2002 space walks of Captain John Herrington, of the Chickasaw Nation, and Mary Golda Ross, of the Cherokee Nation, who is recognized as the first female engineer at Lockheed Corporation and the first Native female engineer in the United States;
  • civil rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich depicted with a stylized raven, a symbol of the Tlingit Raven moiety;
  • two eagle feathers and five stars, surrounded by a hoop, to honor “distinguished military service since 1775;”
  • Brevet brigadier general Ely Samuel Parker, born Hasanoanda (Tonawanda Seneca), later known as Donehogawa, with writing utensil and book in hand – as if he were writing the final draft of the Confederate surrender terms at Appomattox, as he did while serving as adjutant and secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant

All of the coins listed above are legal U. S. tender, however, they are produced as collectibles and often only available online. While you could use them for your next purchase, it is most likely that the person at the register has never seen anything other than the original Sacagawea.

“Senator Shattuck asked, in what was described as combative in tone, if she thought the proposed bill would eliminate discrimination. Peratrovich responded, ‘Do your laws against larceny and even murder prevent those crimes? No law will eliminate crimes but at least you as legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.'”

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–  quoted from the February 16, 2019 Indian Country Today article entitled “February 16 in Alaska honors Tlingit activist on ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day’: Anchorage School District, ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day provides an opportunity to remind the public of the invaluable contribution of this Native Alaskan leader.'” by Leslie Logan

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

Musical Note: With the exception of the fourteenth and twenty-first tracks, all the music on the playlist features musicians and/or groups recognized by the Native American Music Awards (NAMA), which awards “Nammy’s” for styles of music associated with Native Americans and First Nations and to nominees who are Native American or when at least one member in a group or band is from a State for Federally recognized tribe. Most of the songs feature people who have been inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame or have been awarded NAMA Lifetime Achievement Awards. Some songs simply won a Nammy (or two). To my knowledge, I only covered ten (maybe eleven) nations. I wanted to include “One World (We Are One)” – which is the result of a collaboration between Taboo, IllumiNative and Mag 7 – but the song was not available on Spotify.

 

*NOTE: Haudenosaunee literally means “people who build a house” or “people of the longhouse” and refers to the Iroquois confederacy, which is comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca people and, as of 1722, the Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora people. The indigenous confederacy was initially known to the English as “The Five Nations” – hence the five arrows on the coin – and later as “The Six Nations.”

**NOTE: The Delaware Nation are sometimes known as the three Clans of the Lenape: the Monsi (Munsee) or Wolf, the Unami or Turtle, and the Unilactigo or Turkey. Today the clans are known as the Tùkwsit (Wolf Clan), Pùkuwànko (Turtle Clan), and Pële (Turkey Clan) – with the Delaware Nation being the Pùkuwànko (Turtle Clan).

*** NOTE: Approximately 9% of the overall U. S. population was actively serving in the U. S. military by September 1945. On the flip side, over 12% of the First Nations population, from a variety of communities, served as code talkers.

“According to the Anchorage School District, ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day provides an opportunity to remind the public of the invaluable contribution of this Native Alaskan leader who was an advocate for Native citizens and their rights. This courageous woman could not remain silent about injustice, prejudice, and discrimination.’ A 2012 school district board resolution stated: ‘Because of her eloquent and courageous fight for justice for all, today’s Alaskans do not tolerate the blatant discrimination that once existed in our state.’”

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–  quoted from the February 16, 2019 Indian Country Today article entitled “February 16 in Alaska honors Tlingit activist on ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day’: Anchorage School District, ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day provides an opportunity to remind the public of the invaluable contribution of this Native Alaskan leader.'” by Leslie Logan

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### breath is daséikw is life ###

State of the “Union” (mostly the music w/a link) January 8, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Religion, Yoga.
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“My expectations were reduced to zero at twenty-one. Everything since then has been a bonus.

Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free.

 

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– Dr. Stephen Hawking (CH CBE FRS FRSA), born 01/08/1942

 

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, January 8th) at 12:00 PM. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

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

 

“He is One, without beginning, middle, or end; he is all-pervading. He is infinite wisdom, and he is bliss.

The seers meditate on him and reach the source of all beings, the witness of all. He goes beyond all darkness. He is Brahma, he is Shiva, he is Indra, he is the supreme, the changeless Reality. He is Vishnu, he is the primal energy, he is eternity. He is all. He is what has been and what shall be. He who knows him conquers death. There is no other way to liberation….

He, as the Self, resides in all forms, but is veiled by ignorance. When he is in the state of dream that men call waking, he becomes the individual self, and enjoys food, drink, and many other pleasures. When he is in the state of dream that men call dreaming, he is happy or miserable according to the creations of his mind. And when he is in the state of dream that men call dreamless sleep, he is overcome by darkness, he experiences nothing, he enjoys rest.”

 

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– quoted from “Kaivalya” in The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal (The Principal [sic] Texts Selected and Translated from the Original Sanskrit by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester

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Knowing, Feeling, Being… Free (mostly the music w/a link) December 18, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Religion, Yoga.
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Happy Holidays!

“He is One, without beginning, middle, or end; he is all-pervading. He is infinite wisdom, and he is bliss.

The seers meditate on him and reach the source of all beings, the witness of all. He goes beyond all darkness. He is Brahma, he is Shiva, he is Indra, he is the supreme, the changeless Reality. He is Vishnu, he is the primal energy, he is eternity. He is all. He is what has been and what shall be. He who knows him conquers death. There is no other way to liberation….

 

 

He, as the Self, resides in all forms, but is veiled by ignorance. When he is in the state of dream that men call waking, he becomes the individual self, and enjoys food, drink, and many other pleasures. When he is in the state of dream that men call dreaming, he is happy or miserable according to the creations of his mind. And when he is in the state of dream that men call dreamless sleep, he is overcome by darkness, he experiences nothing, he enjoys rest.”

 

*

– quoted from “Kaivalya” in The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal (The Principal [sic] Texts Selected and Translated from the Original Sanskrit by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, December 18th) at 12:00 PM. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “0619 Juneteenth 2021”]

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.)

 

Click here for a post related to this date.

Reminder: Class is cancelled next week and there will be a special offering the following week (January 1, 2022).

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The Effort to Free/Liberate Yourself – a philosophical perspective (a “missing” post) July 6, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Life, Loss, Meditation, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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[This is the “missing” post for Monday, July 5th. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes. If you are using an Apple device/browser and the calendar is no longer loading, please email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com at least 20 minutes before the practice you would like to attend.]

“The liberating current brings us excitement, energy, and novelty, while the descending current brings us peace, grace, and stability. In order for either of these pathways to really be complete, all of the chakras need to be open and active. Liberation without limitation leaves us vague, scattered, and confused. We may have wonderful ideas and lots of knowledge, but we are unable to bring these fruits to any tangible completion. On the other hand, limitation without liberation is dull and stifling. We become caught in repetitive patterns, clinging to security and fearing change.”


– quoted from  “Chapter 1 – And the Wheel Turns: Liberation and Manifestation” of Wheels of Life: A Users Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.

Sometimes in yoga, I talk about the inhale literally being an “inspiration” (from the Latin, by way of Old French and Middle English) whereby we are filled with spirit. The exhale is, by the same logic (Latin by way of late Middle English), an “expiration” whereby something is literally expiring, returning to the source. Some of you have even heard me say, “Inhale down your spine, in the direction of the manifesting current; taking all the possibilities of the Universe and making them your unique experience. Exhale back up your spine, in the direction of the liberating current, taking your unique experiences (and efforts) back to the source.” In Wheels of Life: A Users Guide to the Chakra System, Anodea Judith explores the fact that “we must limit” in order to manifest – and the ancient texts back her up in the idea that there are ways in which we are limited. There are ways we can have a lot, but we can’t have it all.

If we think of the source of all things – whatever that means to you at this moment – then we’re thinking of the source of unlimited possibilities. We’re thinking of something infinite and something limited only by our imagination/understanding – which is finite. On the flip side, we are not omnipotent and/or omnipresent. We can experience multiple sensations at one time, but we can only truly focus-concentrate-meditate on one thing at a time. While our initial possibilities are limitless, our whole lives are built around the experience of “narrowing things down.” So, we do.

There’s nothing wrong with narrowing things down and establishing boundaries. That’s all part of the human experience. Being human means we are constantly swinging like a pendulum between having everything and having nothing – in every area of our lives. We run into problems, however, when we don’t recognize (and appreciate) what we have; when we operate from a perspective of scarcity instead of a point of abundance. We run into problems when we are paralyzed by what we don’t have and/or by something that hasn’t happened.

“The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.”


– Dr. Noam Chomsky

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”


– quoted from Latin America: From Colonization to Globalization by Noam Chomsky (in conversation with Heinz Dieterich, with additional collaboration by Edward Herman; introduction by Denise Glasbeek and Julian Semphill)

Like a lot of people associated with the United States, I spent the last week-plus thinking, contemplating, and discussing the concept of freedom, liberation, and independence. On a certain level, I do that all the time; but there is an acute awareness between PRIDE, Juneteenth, and the Fourth of July – and I start thinking about those concepts on a lot of different levels. The most obvious level in this context, of course, is the legal aspect. However, last Tuesday I referenced the nine obstacles (and their four accompanying physical-mental experiences) outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras and, if you go back, those obstacles and ailments are kind of floating under all of this week’s posts, classes, discussions, and meditations. Because, as it turns out, our minds are one of the biggest obstacles to anyone of us experiencing true freedom, liberation, and independence.

Tonight (Monday, July 5th), as well as during the Juneteenth class and in the First Friday Night Special post-practice blog post, I shared the story of how circus elephants are trained not to move beyond a designated circumference.  It’s a story I’ve seen and heard a lot of people tell, but I first came across it because of Steve Ross’s yoga practice. The story is a great reminder about how powerful the mind is, how it can literally stop us in our tracks. And, while we might name an endless list of things holding us down and holding us back, it really comes down to one thing: our relationship with fear.

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. I say it all the time: The threat doesn’t have to be real, but the emotional and embodied experience is real. Additionally, a perceived threat can be in the past and yet the emotionally embodied experience can still actively experienced in the present (and, as Lisa Nichols points out, projected into the future). Both fear of failure and fear of success can paralyze us, because at a very early age we were taught that fear equals danger and, when we feel the associated sensations, we have to be still or turn back.

Yes, on a neurophysiology level, fear activates our sympathetic nervous system which activates our fight-flight-freeze response. However, adults teach children what to fear and how to respond to that fear. We know not to stick our hand in the fire or on a hot stove for the same reason we know to look both ways before crossing the street: someone taught us to fear the consequences. Similarly, we teach those who come after us. As we grow through life, we keep the tool of fear – sometimes even more than we use the tool that is our awareness. Eventually, these lessons in fear are just like everything else we experience in life; they hardwire our brains and create samskaras (“mental impressions”).

We view our experiences through previous experiences. Over time our reactions to certain sensations (including certain thoughts) feels instinctual – even though  they’re conditioned. Over time, there’s very little (if any) difference between the way we react to the possibility of failing, falling flat on our face, and/or embarrassing our self  and the we  react to the possibility of a snake in our path.

“As a rope lying in darkness, about whose nature one remains uncertain, is imagined to be a snake or a line of water, so Atman is imagined in various ways.


When the real nature of the rope is ascertained, all misconceptions about it disappear and there arises the conviction that it is nothing but a rope. Even so is the true nature of Atman determined.”


– quoted from “Chapter 2 – Vaitathya Prakarana (The Chapter on Illusion)” (verses 17 and 18) of Mandukya Upanishad [English translation by Swami Nikhilananda]
   

Remember, I’m talking about the possibility here. I’m talking about the point when the brain goes, “What is that?” Someone can tell you, “Oh, that’s just a big hank of rope someone left out when they pulled their boat in,” but, if you’ve lived around water moccasins your whole life, the adrenaline might already be pumping. It may not even matter that you’re in a part of the world that doesn’t have cottonmouths. You’ve been conditioned – by yourself and others – to stay safe. Just the idea of something we fear can bring up the sensations. In fact, just reading the words above might have caused your body to tense up in preparation. (I know just typing it does the same for me!)

Sacred texts from India, like the Upanishads (“sitting near” devotedly) and the Ashtavakra Gita (The Song of the Man with 8-Bends in His Limbs), often use the idea of a snake to describe our experience with māyā (“illusion”). Interestingly, Death sometimes shows up in Hindu mythology as a snake called Yama, which can be translated into English as “binder” and is also the same Sanskrit word used for the first limb of the Yoga Philosophy (Yamas), which consists of five “external restraints.” In other words, the snake we see in the road is a limitation – even if it’s not a snake.

“It is not that you must be free from fear. The moment you try to free yourself from fear, you create resistance against fear. Resistance in any form does not end fear. What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it, not how to resist it.”


– Jiddu Krishnamurti

I don’t think J. Krishnamurti was telling people to walk up on something that might be a snake and poke it with your finger – just as the writers of the Vedic texts were not necessarily telling people to put themselves in dangerous situations in order to confirm the nature of reality versus illusion. Instead, the practice is about going deeper into the mind-body experience. Where, for instance, do you hold your tension, discomfort, and dis-ease? Where do you hold your fear, anger, disappointment, grief, and confusion? Where, as I asked people on Zoom, do you not feel free, liberated, and independent?

Breathe into those spaces where you don’t feel free, liberated, or independent. Remember, your awareness and your breath are tools you carry with you everywhere. Don’t be a fool! Use those tools! Use the inhale to explore those places where you are holding tightness and create space around those places. Maybe imagine that you are blowing into those areas like you blow into a balloon and feel that expansion. Then, use your exhale to let something go. You may not be ready to let go of everything – and, it’s important to acknowledge that. Just release what you can release and let go of whatever is ready to go.

“There’s a darkness
Living deep in my soul
It’s still got a purpose to serve”


– quoted from the song “Put Your Lights On” by Santana and Everlast

One of my favorite songs, and one of the star-studded collaborations included on Santana’s record-breaking album Supernatural, was written by Everlast. The title comes from what we do when we’re driving as the sun sets, when we start driving at night, or when it starts to rain: We put our lights on so we can see and be seen. We put our lights on to avoid danger. We put our lights on so we can be less afraid. One of my favorite verses (quoted above) is a reminder that sometimes we need the limitation. Remember, fear is an important neurophysiological tool – that’s why it’s such a great teaching tool. However, we can’t let the tool rule our whole life. Sometimes we have to remember, as the angel in the song also reminds us, “I got nothing to fear.”

When we can, and when we are willing, letting go of something – some attachment to the past, some fear of the unknown – makes us like the elephant that looks down and realizes there’s no stake, no chain, and no shackle. We’re free!

I’ve heard stories about elephants that are considered “escape artists” and no amount of “training,” no matter how brutal, can keep them from testing the limits of their binds. Most elephants, however, never seem to look down. I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about pachyderms. I know the location of their eyes limits them in some way, as does bright lights; so, maybe they can’t see around their trunk and tusks. But, the most likely scenario (especially in cases where the shackle is removed) is that they have been conditioned to fear what happens if they go beyond the originally established boundary.

Ultimately, the circus elephants are limited by their mind-body connection. As are we; which means, if we want to be truly free, in a physical-mental and emotional-energetic way, we have to recognize our stakes to pull them up. We have to recognize our chains to break them. We have to recognize our shackles to release ourselves.

“‘You are the one witness of everything and are always completely free. The cause of your bondage is that you see the witness as something other than this.

If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound. Here this saying is true, “Thinking makes it so.”’”


– quoted from the Ashtavakra Gita (1.7, 1.11) [English translation by John Richards]

There is no playlist for the Common Ground Practice.

Do you need your high beams or your parking lights (to see your chains)?

“We may think that if we ignore our fears, they’ll go away. But if we bury worries and anxieties in our consciousness, they continue to affect us and bring us more sorrow. We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us. We can transform our fear….


Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”


– quoted from “Introduction – Fearlessness” of Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

### Let Wisdom Speak Over Fear ###

Wait…what exactly are we celebrating? (blink and you’ll miss it) July 4, 2020

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“…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?”

“…such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn….”

– from the “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech by Frederick Douglass (July 5, 1852)

On Wednesday, July 3, 1776, the future President of the United States, John Adams, wrote two letters to his wife Abigail. In one of the letters he theorized about the pros (like Canada being included in the declaration) and cons (like still having to deal with “The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest well meaning tho weak and mistaken People…” ) of making the declaration earlier. He then wrote, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Meanwhile, Caesar Rodney rested and, on Thursday, July 4, 1776, he wrote a letter to his younger brother Thomas indicating, “I arrived in Congress (tho detained by thunder and rain) time enough to give my voice in the matter of independence… We have now got through the whole of the declaration and ordered it to be printed so that you will soon have the pleasure of seeing it.” He, like a good majority of the signers, would sign the finalized “Declaration of Independence” on August 4th – although others would sign all the way up until November.

“‘I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda.’ I had written to these friends. ‘I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.’”

– from The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley  (in reference to a 1964 letter to friends)

On Monday, July 4, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson announced to the American people that the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had signed the Louisiana Purchase, thereby selling the territory of Louisiana. Per this agreement, the United States of America nearly doubled in size and France received 15 million dollars (approximately $18 per square mile) in exchange for 828,000 square miles – even though France did not control the majority of the land. The majority of the land was inhabited by Indigenous Americans. The land included in the agreement now makes up portions of 2 Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan) and 15 states, including the entire states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the majority of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming; as well as parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Minnesota, and (of course) Louisiana.

On Tuesday, July 4, 1826, Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died. Adams’s last words were reportedly, “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” However, Jefferson did not; he had died mere hours earlier. While the may not have been his very last words, Jefferson had asked (the night before he died), “Is it the Fourth?”

On Monday, July 4, 1831, President James Monroe died. (His last words reportedly were a lament that he would never see his friend President James Madison again. Madison would die 5 years later; however he was a few days short of July 4th.)

On Saturday, July 4, 1863, General Robert E. Lee began to retreat from Gettysburg, which the North took as a sign that the Confederacy had lost the war. Lee’s retreat came after Union soldiers defeated the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania, July 1 – 3), the Tullahoma Campaign (Tennessee, June 24 – July 3), the battle in Helena, Arkansas (July 4), the Fall of Vicksburg (Mississippi, July 4). The United States Army credits the Union success to skillful military strategy and the introduction of Christopher Spencer’s newly invented, seven-shot “Repeating Rifle,” which gave the Union soldiers the ability to shoot up to 14 rounds per minute (as a opposed to three rpm with the traditional muzzle-loading muskets).

Yoga Sutra 2.27: tasya saptadhā prāntabhūmih prajñā

– “A person [with discerning knowledge] has seven levels [of insight] the highest being ‘prajñā’ [intuitive wisdom]”

Yoga Sūtra 2.27 picks up on the idea that discerning knowledge or insight, which nullifies sorrow (or suffering) created by ignorance by breaking down the different levels, stages, or degrees of awareness/insight that lead to complete freedom. The seventh stage, the ultimate freedom or liberation from suffering, is a great accomplishment (siddhi) in itself comes with an extra boon: knowing the exact response to all situations. To understand the seven (7) stages, we go back to the first chapter of the Yoga Sūtras (1.17 – 1.18 and 1:42 – 1.51) where Patanjali breaks down two types of concentration/meditation – referred to as “lower Samādhi” (which requires a “seed” or object of focus) and “higher Samādhi” (which is “seedless”) – and notice how continuous, dedicated, and devoted practice without interruption changes the way we think and the way we perceive the material world.

The (4) “seed” Levels Where the Veil of Ignorance Thins:

  1. The practitioner begins to see cause and effect (of suffering) and cultivates “not afflicted” (or functional) thoughts in order to move away from suffering.
  2. The practice of cultivating “not afflicted” or functional thoughts attenuates or scorches the cause and conditions of suffering.
  3. The habit of the practice gains momentum and that realization fills the practitioner with unshakeable faith; one now practices for the sake of the practice.
  4. There is less inquiry (into cause and effect), because there is less anxiety. One is rooted in the thought-practice and is “…at peace. At this stage, trustful surrender becomes our nature.”

The (3) “seedless” Levels Where the Veil of Ignorance Begins to (and ultimately does) Disappear:

  1. The mind/intellect (which may now be referred to as buddhi) is illuminated, and fully aware of the true nature of all things – including itself.
  2. The buddhi becomes buddhi sattva, wise and stable there is no fluctuation of the mind, instead there is yoga (“union”).
  3. Samādhi as “Union with Divine” whereby pure consciousness (Purusha) enables the practitioner to see all as one.

“Commenting on this sutra, Vyasa makes a point of dismantling widespread confusion about yogis and their achievements. Long before Patanjali, and up to this day, poorly informed spiritual enthusiasts have been fantasizing about high-caliber yogis sitting in caves with their eyes closed, completely unconcerned with the outside world. Contrary to this stereotype, Vyasa calls the accomplished yogi kushala, one who is skillful. A yogi is skillful, for she knows the true nature of the world; the true nature of her body, mind, and senses; and the true nature of her core being. A yogi is free from all illusions, including the illusion of expecting more than what this world can offer. At the same time, a yogi is able to identify the wonderful gifts contained in the body, mind, and senses, as well as in the phenomenal world. Therefore, a yogi is able to discern, decide, and act in the light of her prajna. Because she is operating at the level of pure and penetrating wisdom of inner reality, she is confident about the appropriateness of her actions and their consequences.

While living in the world, a yogi is active as – if not more active than – anyone else. The only difference is that the actions of an accomplished yogi are free from doubt and fear, whereas our actions are contaminated by them. An accomplished yogi is comfortable while performing actions and equally comfortable when refraining from action. A yogi’s accomplishment is characterized by freedom, not by action or the absence of it.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.27 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me, on the path to freedom, for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, July 4th) 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.

You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (The playlists are slightly different, but mostly with regard to the before/after class music. The biggest difference is that the videos below do not appear on Spotify.)

Who are you not seeing?

 

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (descendants in 2020)

 

What to My People is the Fourth of July

 

 

### Rest in Power, Rest in Peace: Elijah Al-Amin ###

Because Every Vote Counted (Part 2) July 2, 2020

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[While each sequence is slightly different on July 1st and 2nd, this is essentially an expanded version of the story I tell about Caesar Rodney’s Ride and why John Adams thought future generations would celebrate July 2nd.]

“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”)

Freedom. Liberty. Independence. There are certain times a year when these ideas are front and center in the consciousness of people in and around the United States of America. We talk about them around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. We talk about them around the anniversaries of tragic events like 9/11. D-Day, and the attack on Pearl Harbor. In recent years, they’ve come up in conversations, debates, and arguments related to athletes protesting during the national anthem. I talk about these ideas all the time, as they are related to Eastern philosophies like yoga and Buddhism. And, of course, we talk about them as we approach the Fourth of July, a theoretical celebration of freedom, liberty, and independence. However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, most of these conversations about leave out a two big pieces of the discussion: (1) what people did to ensure the freedom, liberty, and independence (of some) and (2) all the people who were not included in that initial declaration of independence (and the subsequent revolution that followed).

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

– from “The Declaration of Independence” drafted by the Committee of Five and (eventually) signed by delegates of the Second Continental Congress

“The Declaration of Independence” was the formal announcement and explanation of the “Lee Resolution” (aka “The Resolution for Independence).” Its second sentence is often referenced as “one of the best-known sentences in the English language” and is possibly the most quoted sentence in American history. It provided justification for revolution and the building blocks for a new nation. It was, however, not completely true. While we may want to delude ourselves into thinking the founding fathers meant all humans when they signed off on the declaration – or even all males – the “all men” was very specific in that it meant “white men only.” And, if we are being honest, there was also a religious subtext which further restricted who would be granted the subsequently mentioned Rights. (Yes, yes, we can go around and around about religious freedom, but there was a definite assumption within the text that “all men,” see above, believed in one God – even if they had slightly different ways of worshiping said God.)

The Second Continental Congress would approve the resolution and the declaration unanimously, but it was never a sure thing. There was debate with the Committee of Five as to how to present their argument to the other delegates in a way that would sway things in their favor. Remember, everyone on the committee and every one of the delegates was, at the time, a subject of the Crown – meaning they were citizens of the British Commonwealth – and what they were proposing was straight-up treason. They knew this would be evidence of treason. Furthermore, they knew that they were placing their family, friends, and neighbors at great risk. They also thought freedom, liberty, and independence were worth the risk. So, they drafted the resolution and prepared to take a vote.

“If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound. Here the saying is true, ‘Thinking makes it so.’”

 

Aşțāvakra Gītā 1.11 (“The Song of the Man with 8 Bends-In-His-Limbs”)

The vote was scheduled to take place in Philadelphia at the beginning of July 1776. There was one problem: a unanimous vote was not guaranteed. The Delaware territory was represented by Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean, and George Read. Rodney and McKean were for independence; Reed was against. While this looks like a slam dunk on paper, Rodney was not in Philadelphia when the vote was announced. He was in Delaware, and if he didn’t vote, Delaware’s vote would not be counted.

If you talk about freedom, liberty, and independence, and then reference a significant horse ride, most people in America will think about Paul Revere and his midnight ride (of April 18, 1775). If you ask someone from Delaware, however, they might also mention Caesar Rodney, whose ride is depicted on the back of the “Delaware quarter.” Caesar Rodney was a life-long bachelor who spent his life in public service. He was a soldier, a lawyer, and a judge whose many roles included Brigadier General of Delaware Militia, Sheriff of Kent County, Justice of the Peace, and delegate and Speaker of the Colonial Assembly of the Delaware Counties (as was his grandfather before him). As I previously mentioned, Rodney was also delegate to the American Continental Congress and would eventually serve as President of Delaware. When Rodney heard the vote for independence had been called he was resolving Militia issues in Delaware, 70 – 80 miles away from Philadelphia depending on the route.

Keep in mind that this was before planes, trains, and automobiles. There were no paved roads or freeways as we know them today. Still, there is no indication that Caesar Rodney hesitated. He heard the call to adventure and set off to ensure freedom, liberty, and independence for his family, friends, neighbors, and future generations (of “men”). Some (including his brother) say he spent part of the trip in a carriage, which makes sense given the situation. However, he is depicted and remembered as riding his horse 70 – 80 miles from Monday, July 1, 1776 until later afternoon on Tuesday, July 2, 1776. He rode across muddy roads, rickety bridges, slippery cobblestones, and swollen streams. He endured extreme heat, dust, and thunderstorms. And he did it all while wearing a mask, in the form of a handkerchief, across the lower portion of his face.

Let me repeat that last part in case you missed it: He rode for two days, over rough terrain and in inclement weather while wearing a face mask.

“This Forenoon, Mr. Caesar Rodney, of the lower Counties on Delaware River, two Mr. Tilghmans from Maryland, were introduced to us…. Caesar Rodney is the oddest looking Man in the World. He is tall—thin and slender as a Reed—pale—his Face is not bigger than a large Apple. Yet there is Sense and Fire, Spirit, Wit and Humour in his Countenance.

 

He made himself very merry with Ruggles and his pretended Scruples and Timidities, at the last Congress.”

 

– from diary entry dated 1774. Saturday. Sept. 3, by John Adams

“[He was] remarkably genteel and elegant in his person, dress, and manners, had a great fund of wit and humor of the pleasing kind, so that his conversation was always bright & strong and Conducted by Wisdom… He always lived a bachelor, was generally Esteemed, and indeed very popular.”

 

– Thomas Rodney, in describing his older brother (after Caesar Rodney died)

Caesar Rodney suffered from asthma and facial cancer. The cancer would eventually kill him, but in the latter part of his life he was in a great deal of pain and the cancer ravaged his face. While there are no portraits of him, people like John Adams would write about him and (see above) describe him in letters and journals. Read that passage from John Adams diary again. Get a picture in your head of Caesar Rodney tired, dusty, and still wearing his boots and spurs – as well as a green handkerchief or scarf across his nose and mouth. Imagine such a man walking into a congressional assembly in order to cast his vote for independence.

“As I believe the voice of my constituents and all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, and as my own judgment concurs with them, I give my vote for independence.”

 

– Caesar Rodney, Delaware delegate to the Second Continental Congress, July 2, 1776

When I teach on July 1st and 2nd, I tell the story of Caesar Rodney as we move through a sequence of poses inspired by Jivamukti Yoga. Jivamukti Yoga takes its name from the term “jivan-mukti,” a soul liberated while living. So, we are literally, physically, metaphorically, and energetically on the road/path to freedom. The poses would be good recovery poses if you had just spent two days riding on a horse and, when we are in the studio, the soundtrack features music that would have been popular back in the day. By “back in the day,” I mean today in 1776.

Delaware is known as “The First State” and therefore, when the United States Mint started its “50 State Quarters Program” it started with Delaware. If you look at the back of the Delaware quarter you will find an image of Caesar Rodney, riding his horse, in order to ensure the boon of freedom, liberty, and independence. Delaware school children learn about his ride to Philadelphia, sometimes in schools and/or school districts named after him. His name can also be found on town squares, parks, church monuments, streets, and various institutions. There are also statues, in Delaware and elsewhere. One of those statues, in Wilmington’s Rodney Square, was recently taken down by order of the mayor. (The city also removed a statue of Christopher Columbus and the state has removed “whipping posts” from city centers.) Part of the discussion” surrounding what to do with the statue from Rodney Square includes the idea of putting it in a museum and putting his (and Delaware’s) history into context.

“We cannot erase history, as painful as it may be, but we can certainly discuss history with each other and determine together what we value and what we feel is appropriate to memorialize. In this period of awakening for our City, State, and country, we should be listening more to each other and building a more just City and a better America.”

 

– Press Statement from Wilmington, Delaware Mayor Mike Purzycki regarding removal of statues and the related “overdue discussion”

Some of the historical context is included in the story above. Here’s a little more, and this is the part that directly relates to why the Wilmington statue was taken down.

Caesar Rodney was born in 1728, on family’s farm, “Poplar Grove” (now known as “Byfield”) on St. Jones Neck in East Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. Both sides of his family were fairly prominent and Byfield was a successful 800-acre farm. It was successful, even described as “prosperous” farm that sold wheat and barley. Needless to say, there were slaves. At some point the farm expanded to 1,000 acres with at least 200 slaves. Caesar Rodney, named for his father, was the oldest of 8. His father died when he was 17 and while he “officially” became head of the household, he was also placed under a guardianship by the Delaware Orphan’s Court.

There was some debate about slavery in Delaware in 1767 (when Rodney was 39). While records indicate that he was on the side that wanted to end or limit slavery, a closer look implies that such a decision might have been in his family’s best financial interest. Caesar Rodney was 48 when he made that famous trek to Philadelphia – now, clearly and legally, a slave owner. While I am not sure when he made the provision, his last will and testament included provisions for the education of his nephew and instructions to free all of his slaves when he died, “or shortly thereafter.”

“I arrived in Congress (tho detained by thunder and rain) time enough to give my voice in the matter of independence… We have now got through the whole of the declaration and ordered it to be printed so that you will soon have the pleasure of seeing it.”

 

– from Caesar Rodney’s letter to his younger brother Thomas, dated July 4, 1776

Caesar Rodney cast the deciding vote on July 2, 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776. (Yes, that’s correct.) Believe it or not, the “2nd” is very important in this history. In fact, on July 3, 1776, John Adams, who would go on to become president, spent the day writing letters – including the one quoted (below) to his wife Abigail Adams.

“But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it…. This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.

 

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

 

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

 

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

 

– from letter John Adams wrote to Abigail Adams, with the heading “Philadelphia July 3d, 1776”

Now, if you’re wondering why we celebrate the 4th of July… you’ll have to come back on Saturday.

 

 

### LET FREEDOM RING ###

Because Every Vote Counted (Part 1) July 1, 2020

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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.”

 

“The soul itself is the centre where all the different perceptions converge and become unified. That soul is free, and it is its freedom that tells you every moment that you are free. But you mistake, and mingle that freedom every moment with intelligence and mind. You try to attribute that freedom to the intelligence, and immediately find that intelligence is not free; you attribute that freedom to the body, and immediately nature tells you that you are again mistaken. That is why there is this mingled sense of freedom and bondage at the same time. The Yogi analyses both what is free and what is bound, and his ignorance vanishes. He finds that the Purusha is free, is the essence of that knowledge which, coming through the Buddhi, becomes intelligence, and, as such, is bound.”

 

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.20 from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

 

Freedom. Liberty. Independence. These ideals form the basis of every Eastern philosophy and, one can argue, they are cornerstones of human existence. They are definitely supposed to be the cornerstones of the United States of America – after all, the country was founded on these principles. So, it’s not surprising that when my yoga practice overlaps with my American experience there’s some extra energy. You may even call that energy excitement, as I definitely get jazzed by the idea of all people everywhere experiencing absolute freedom, liberty, and independence.

There’s one little hitch – and it’s something, I admit with some chagrin, that I don’t often mention explicitly when I have taught previous classes on freedom, liberty, and independence: When my yoga practice overlaps with my American experience it also overlaps with my experience as a Black American. In other words, I celebrate freedom, liberty, and independence fully aware that everyone in my country of birth wasn’t originally intended to be free. I celebrate freedom, liberty, and independence knowing full well that the Committee of Five, which drew up the Declaration of Independence, decided it was more important to present a “united front” than it was to condemn slavery. I celebrate freedom, liberty, and independence with a very definite understanding that the majority of the forefathers who signed the declaration never considered fighting for the freedom, liberty, and independence of people who look like me. So, all of that energy is churning up inside of me – along with the awareness that some people in my country of birth take their freedom for granted, while others are still fighting to experience that which they are (now) legally entitled to experience.

“Who is free? The free must certainly be beyond cause and effect. If you say that the idea of freedom is a delusion, I shall say that the idea of bondage is also a delusion. Two facts come into our consciousness, and stand or fall with each other. These are our notions of bondage and freedom. If we want to go through a wall, and our head bumps against that wall, we see we are limited by that wall. At the same time we find a willpower, and think we can direct our will everywhere. At every step these contradictory ideas come to us. We have to believe that we are free, yet at every moment we find we are not free. If one idea is a delusion, the other is also a delusion, and if one is true, the other also is true, because both stand upon the same basis — consciousness. The Yogi says, both are true; that we are bound so far as intelligence goes, that we are free so far as the soul is concerned.”

 

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.20 from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

 

In any given year, for the last decade or so, I have taught at least 9 classes specifically related to freedom, liberty, and independence as it relates to the United States (plus classes related to the Civil Rights and Suffragists Movements, as well as classes related to freedom in a religious or philosophical context) and most people have never given a second thought to what’s going through my mind (or heart) as I do it. More importantly, most people never give a second thought to why I do it (let alone that I love doing it) given all that’s in my heart (and on my mind).

So, of course, now you’re wondering why….

I do it, and I usually love doing it, because I think history is important. I think it is important to understand, as much as we are able, how we got where we are as a country and as a community of people. (This is the same reason I teach so much about various religions.) With respect to the United States, I think it is particularly important to understand our history, because this country has never lived up to its ideals. While that can be seen as hypocrisy – and on a certain level it was and is – we still hold the ideals up as a standard. More importantly, we still have the possibility of dwelling within those ideals. But, we can only “dwell in possibility” if we understand that we are not currently “living the dream.”

“And the Yogi shows how, by junction with nature, and identifying itself with the mind and the world, the Purusha thinks itself miserable. Then the Yogi goes on to show you that the way out is through experience. You have to get all this experience, but finish it quickly. We have placed ourselves in this net, and will have to get out. We have got ourselves caught in the trap, and we will have to work out our freedom…. [Experience] leads, step by step, to that state where all things become small, and the Purusha so great that the whole universe seems as a drop in the ocean and falls off by its own nothingness. We have to go through different experiences, but let us never forget the ideal.”

 

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.18 from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

 

I say all of this, online, knowing that there are people who can easily take my words out of context. More importantly, I say this knowing that we are living during a time when certain people relish taking such statements out of context. And, even though I doubt very many of the latter will see this, I still want to address people who might say, “See, see, here’s a black person who understands the importance of history.” To those people I say, “Yes, that is correct; I understand the importance of history.” To those same people I also say, “I understand the importance of history AND I also understand the importance of myth. So, when I teach, I make sure to distinguish one from the other. Give a statue of Robert E. Lee horns and wings and I will gladly teach the importance/significance of that.” {NOTE: I am not suggesting here that General Lee was a devil – although certain Union soldiers might disagree –rather, I am pointing to the fact that statues of him play the same role in society as artwork and literary references depicting a certain fallen angel.)

“Now comes the practical knowledge. What we have just been speaking about is much higher. It is away above our heads, but it is the ideal. It is first necessary to obtain physical and mental control. Then the realization will become steady in that ideal. The ideal being known, what remains is to practice the method of reaching it.”

 

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.28 from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

Even though he wasn’t riding specifically for me and most of my ancestors, Caesar Rodney, the distinguished gentleman from Delaware, spent two days on a horse in order to vote for freedom. He did it while experiencing great pain and dis-ease. He did it because he knew that his vote counted. And, the fact that he did it means there’s a possibility – somewhere down the line – that people who look like me will one day experience true freedom, liberty, and independence in “the land of the free.”

Please join me today (Wednesday, July 1st) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Stay tuned for more on Caesar Rodney and why John Adams thought future generations would be celebrating July 2nd!

 

“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”)

 

Hard to watch, harder to live.

 

Easier to watch, still challenging to live.

### PURSUE HAPPINESS WITHOUT SUFFERING ###

Can You Handle the Truth? December 23, 2018

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This time last year I wrote, “2018 promises to be a year full of challenges.”

Little did I know how true that statement would be.

Oxford Dictionaries define “true” as an adjective meaning “in accordance with fact or reality…genuine…real or actual…accurate or exact…. in tune.” True can also be used as a verb when applied to something that is bringing “(an object, wheel, or other construction) into the exact shape or position required.” It originates from Old English words meaning “steadfast, loyal” and is related to a Dutch word meaning “faithful” and a German word meaning “loyal to.”

I could continue going down the rabbit hole, examining the meaning and origins of all the target words, but ultimately we know the truth when we see it…or hear it. Or do we?

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking promotes the power of insight and intuition; of knowing without knowing why we know something is true. Yet, Malcolm Gladwell also points out that, “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” In other words, the brain gets in the way of the heart.

Our brains make us humans notoriously bad witnesses. Our brains fill in the gaps to make sense of puzzles we’ve created and, theoretically, to preserve the idea that we are not ignorant about things we are supposed to know. We make up stories, even when we’re the only one paying attention to the story in our head. In Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote, “The brain needed to stay incessantly active, and if it was not getting its usual stimulation…, it would create its own stimulation in the form of hallucinations.”

Oxford defines “hallucination” as “an experience involving the apparent perception of something not present.” This last year, really the last two – going on three – years, it’s felt a little like the quality and state of being true was a hallucination. People say one thing and do something completely opposite. People accuse one another of lying. Technology allows us to morph our faces, our voices, our words, and to create realistic holograms of people who are no longer living. More and more it seems that everything real is an illusion.

Of course, the idea that everything we are experiencing is a dream, an illusion, a delusion – or a computer generated program – is nothing new: It’s part of the foundation of many philosophies, including yoga. Another part of philosophies like yoga and Buddhism is that there is a path to seeing things clearly, and that seeing things clearly is liberation.

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see overall patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or at least the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology or in states of mind which allow us to travel to other worlds, to transcend our immediate surroundings. We need detachment of this sort as much as we need engagement in our lives.”

– excerpt from Hallucinations by Dr. Oliver Sacks

The fourth and final section of the Yoga Sutras focuses on liberation. Liberation, as Patanjali describes it, involves lifting the veil of ignorance and seeing the truth about everything, including ourselves. Patanjali also explains that the barrier/veil of ignorance can be thinned and then dissolved by birth, herbs, mantra (ajapa-japa), tapas (practices of intense discipline/austerity), or meditation. (YS 4:1)

Clarity; right view; seeing the truth – whichever way you describe it, it seems to be lacking in our current version of reality. And, as the war on truth continues, more and more people will desire it. If you are longing for a new year where you are in tune with your core values and connected to your intuition, consider starting 2019 with a practice, like yoga, which fits into that final definition of truth (see above): something that is bringing (an object, wheel, or other construction) into the exact shape or position required.

The following practices include at least three of the liberating methods mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras:

Monday, December 31st – New Year’s Eve:

7:30 PM – 12:15 AM, Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration and Potluck, Common Ground Meditation Center (PLEASE REGISTER HERE)

 

Tuesday, January 1st – New Year’s Day:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM, 108 Solar Powered Sadhana with Susan Meyer, Yoga Center Retreat (Please register)

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 108 Sun Salutations with Myra (reservations required, THIS EVENT IS FULL)

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM, New Year’s Day – Restorative Yoga with Shelly Pagitt, Yoga Sanctuary (please register, only 2 spots left as I post this!)

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, New Year’s Day – All-Humanity Class with Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions (Please register)

10:30 AM – 1:00 PM, New Year’s Day Yoga with Nancy Boler (reservations required, THIS EVENT IS FULL)

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, 108 Sun Salutations + Champagne with Meghan Foley, UP Yoga (please register)

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM, New Year’s Donation Class with Indu Arora, Devanadi Yoga (please register)

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM, Vinyasa, Minnehaha Yoga

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM, 108 Sun Salutations with Greg Hines & live Cello music by Cory Grossman, Yoga Sanctuary (please register)

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM, New Year’s Day Sankalpa with Justyn O’Neill, Radiant Life Yoga (please register)

12:15 PM – 2:15 PM, 108 Sun Salutations with Jennifer Davis, Blaisdell YMCA (open to YMCA  members and their guests)

12:30 PM – 3:00 PM, Sankalpa~New Year Intentions workshop with Shelley Pagitt (please register)

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Ganesha and New Beginnings for 2019 with Tara Cindy Sherman, Yoga Center Retreat (please register)

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Sankalpa Shakti: The Power of Inspired Intention with Ben Vincent, One Yoga (please register)

4:30 PM – 6:30 PM, Restorative + Yoga Nidra with Tara Cindy Sherman, Yoga Center Retreat (please register)

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM, YIN Yoga + Meditation with Myra, Nokomis Yoga (reservations required)

 

Saturday, January 5th:

1:00 PM – 3:30 PM, New Year’s Intention Setting Ritual with Amy Patee (please register)

 

Sunday, January 6th:

9:30 AM – 5:30 PM, Vincent Yoga New Year’s Retreat: A Day of Reflection, Illumination and Resolution

 

My apologies to any teachers or studios in the Twin Cities who are hosting an event that is not listed above.

 

~ OM SHANTI ~