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Today is the Birthday of Poets June 7, 2020

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Today I bring you poetry. True

It is no longer poetry month / but

It is the birthday of poets – and so,

I bring you their words, their lyrics, their music.

I bring you their movement, and

their Movements.

I bring you POC [Poets of Color],

NOT because of what’s happening…

BUT because…

That is what I’ve always done, while you pose… {Did you not notice?}

AND

Today is the birthday of poets.

 

Nikki dared you to listen to “The Song of the Feet” (and apply

The Laws of Motion.”)

Hear The Painted Drum (Louise, please…more:)

Tales of Burning Love

Gwendolyn wrote “about what I saw and heard in the street,”

and asked us what we would do “with all this life.” Then she warned us

“that we are each other’s

harvest:

we are each other’s

business:

we are each other’s

magnitude and bond.”

 

Looks like we failed to listen, even

To the royal “Condition of the Heart”

Now, birds cry in the snow and the rain,

“I think I know a better way y’all.”

And I ask,

are you “Willing and Able”

“America”? “Around the World…”?

Anybody?

– whisper, shout, scream, or –

will we continue to be “like a child lost in the wilderness [?]”

 

If we live, we [still only] have two choices:

[we’ll] either learn or we won’t;

“growing up or decaying.”

(One requires love & listening “to [y]our own Black heart[s].”)

Of course…

those were our choices all along.

©MKR 2020

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, June 7th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 has gone into effect yesterday. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Interlude music is different between the playlists. YouTube is the original.)

 

 

### DON’T WASTE ANY SWEETNESS ###

 

 

Once More With Feeling! May 15, 2020

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

 

At my core, I am a storyteller, a griot, a bard. I spent a good portion of my life helping others tell their stories and then, I started helping people get in touch with their stories. Sometimes I tell other people’s stories; every once in a while, I tell my stories. So, it made sense to request stories for this year’s Kiss My Asana yogathon. I did this before I realized Matthew Sanford, the founding teacher of Mind Body Solutions (which benefits from the yogathon) was also going to share stories of some adaptive yoga students. Of course, it makes sense that, Matthew is also a storyteller who helps people get in touch with their stories. In fact, in his first book, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, he talks about “healing stories,” which he defines in the introduction as “my term for stories we have come to believe that shape how we think about the world, ourselves, and our place in it.” In recent years, he has co-hosted “Body Mind Story,” a series of writing workshops with Kevin Kling and Patricia Francisco.

“Healing stories guide us through good times and bad times; they can be constructive and destructive, and are often in need of change. They come together to create our own personal mythology, the system of beliefs that guide how we interpret our experience. Quite often, they bridge the silence that we carry within us and are essential to how we live.”

 

– from Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

The physical practice of yoga, can be a way to access our personal stories. In fact, Father Laurence Freeman OSB makes a very compelling statement (in Episode 14 of the podcast “Contemplate This!”) about why the body is a vital tool when it comes to accessing, telling, and understanding our healing stories. Father Laurence doesn’t use the term “healing stories” and, in fact, what he mentions in the podcast is Christianity, which has its own tradition of moving the body in order to access the story.

If you have ever attended a Catholic mass, you know that there is a lot of moving – like a lot, a lot of moving. People stand, people sit, people kneel; people bow their heads to pray – and then they repeat it all again. It is like a sun salutation, especially if you consider it from the perspective of the hips and knees. Even when people reach out their cupped hands or open their mouths in the shape of an “O” to receive communion, there is a kind of repetition and symbolism that parallels what we do in yoga. Another way, people use their bodies to access an important story in Christianity is by moving through the Stations of the Cross.

As I mentioned in April, I did not teach a Good Friday class for the first time in eleven years. My normal Good Friday class uses the yoga poses to mirror walking through the Stations of the Cross, which in turn is a way to mirror the Via Dolores – all three of which are ways people access the story of Jesus’s last moments and, in doing so, access their stories as Christians. I do the class, despite occasional criticism, because it is also a way to access a story of radical love and radical compassion.

Think about what that means to you for a moment – even if you take it out of context: radical love and radical compassion.

In my Good Friday post, I alluded to some people who would miss my Good Friday class. One of those people that immediately came to mind was Meghan G (who some of you will remember as Yogi #12: The Fixer during Kiss My Asana 2016). When I requested stories for Kiss My Asana 2020, Meghan G sent me the following Good Friday story:

“My story has happened quite recently. On Good Friday, just last week, I was feeling so disconnected from my faith community of Saint Joan of Arc, my yoga community Downtown YMCA Friday night yogis and really the whole human community.  Every tradition or ritual that I/we have grounds me in the meaning of Holy Week was uprooted.  Holy Week, and Good Friday contemporary stations of the cross in particular, is one of the most sacred times of the year.  It almost felt to me that day as though it was being ignored.

 

In an effort to stop the downward spiral of disconnectedness, I sought out Saint Joan of Arc’s Good Friday celebration on video, posted on the website.  I had tried to worship this way on Holy Thursday, but found myself distracted, multi-tasking and unfulfilled by the experience.  So this Friday I decided to stop the swirling in my mind I would lead myself through a series of poses to calm and focus my mind.  Myra had prepared me well for this.  As I listened to the Stations of the Cross and the familiar music and stories from my faith community I progressed through a series of poses that were also as familiar and soothing as the service.  I was able to connect Jesus’s suffering on the cross with the greater suffering in our world right now (and always) and feel again a part of the human community.

 

Thank you, Myra, for teaching me over the years to do yoga as you do life…with intention and love. Happy Easter, Meghan”

Like other yoga teachers, I say it all the time, “This is YOUR practice. This is YOUR time.” One of the things that has come up again and again in my conversations with various yogis is how the pandemic has forced us to take ownership and stewardship of our individual practices. Meghan’s story reinforces the fact that not only is it your practice / your time, YOU are completely capable of OWNING IT!

And, this is an important piece; it reinforces the fact that you are completely capable of telling your healing stories. You have what you need to guide yourself through the good times and the bad. You don’t have to go it alone, however, we are with you. Notice, even when Meghan felt alone, she knew where to turn.

Thank you to Meghan G and everyone else who supported Mind Body Solutions and the Kiss My Asana yogathon, this year and every year. Today is the final day to donate via my 2020 Kiss My Asana campaign.

Remember, when you do yoga, share yoga, help others you join a global movement, but in a personal way, and you open up a world of possibilities. Mind Body Solutions was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals.

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

 

### HONOR THE STORIES ###

 

 

An “All Will Be Well” Wednesday May 13, 2020

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

“We are kept all as securely in Love in woe as in weal, by the Goodness of God.”

 

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and (in) all manner of thing(s) shall be well.”

– from Chapters 1 and 27 Revelations of Divine Love (Revelations of Love in 16 Shewings) by Julian of Norwich

Hurray! It’s finally here; one of my favorite days, devoted to one of my favorite people: the Roman Catholic feast day for St. Julian of Norwich. (Her Lutheran feast day is May 8th.) Julian (which may or may not have been her given name) was a 14th century anchoress who is always going to make my Top 10 list of favorite mystics/contemplatives. Scratch that, she always makes my ever-changing Top 5. Let’s be honest; she’s always in the Top 3. And her life and writing are very relevant – and very similar – to what we are experiencing today.

Julian is noteworthy not only because she is the author of the oldest surviving book written in English by a woman, but also because she lived an extraordinary life – most of it in seclusion. As an anchoress (sometimes referred to as anchorite or anchoret) she withdrew from the secular world, for religious reasons, and spent the majority of her life in a tiny cell in the “corner” of a church in the city of Julian. You can think of her as a hermit-in-place. Taking a vow of stability, as anchoresses did, and even being given a symbolic funeral – as anchorites would be considered “dead to the world” – were very common practice in the Middle Ages. Julian’s experience, however, was a little atypical.

While we typically think of anchorites as living in seclusion, with even more isolation than people who retreat into an abbey or convent, Julian lived in the bustling city of Norwich. As a spiritual counselor and model of devout life, she was permitted to engage with the populace through the window of her cell and provide people with what they needed, whether that be clothing for the poor, spiritual advice, and/or prayers. She could also accept alms, food, and other gifts as she served the community. We have it on great authority that not only did the locals take advantage of Julian’s spiritual guidance, but that she was sought out by mystics and others, like Margery Kempe, who would be remembered in their own right. Additionally, the city of Norwich was full of poverty, famine, social conflict, religious schism, and disease during her lifetime so, we can conclude that, for a hermit, Julian was quite busy.

“These Revelations were shewed to a simple creature unlettered, the year of our Lord 1373, the Thirteenth day of May. Which creature afore desired three gifts of God. The First was mind of His Passion; the Second was bodily sickness in youth, at thirty years of age; the Third was to have of God’s gift three wounds.”

 

– from Chapter 2 of Revelations of Divine Love (Revelations of Love in 16 Shewings) by Julian of Norwich

At some point in her life, Julian asked God for three gifts. At 30-and-a-half, Julian became so ill that she believed she was going to die. Her conclusion was based, in part, by the fact that in her short lifetime Norwich had experienced the Black Death three times – the first time when she was 6 years old and at one point resulting in the death of a third of the population. Also, she was very, very sick. She was so sick that she was given last rites on May 8, 1373. During these very scary and traumatic moments – moments all believed would be her last – Julian received her three gifts from God: (1) to experience the Passion (“suffering”) and love of Christ; (2) to experience personal suffering/illness in youth; and (3) to receive the spiritual wounds of true contrition, genuine compassion, and a sincere longing for God. She received her gifts in the form of 16 “shewings” and, when she recovered wrote them all down.

“He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.”

 

“In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it. But what is to me verily the Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover, — I cannot tell; for till I am Substantially oned to Him, I may never have full rest nor very bliss: that is to say, till I be so fastened to Him, that there is right nought that is made betwixt my God and me.”

 

– from Chapter 5 of Revelations of Divine Love (Revelations of Love in 16 Shewings) by Julian of Norwich

There are two official copies of Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love (A Revelation of Love in 16 Shewings), a short version (“short text”) and a longer version (“long text”). The Short Text is believed to be the one she initially wrote after her recovery and the Long Text is believed to have been written over time, and with some encouragement. Both versions were copied over time, during Julian’s lifetime, and sometimes given as gifts.

One might expect that Julian’s writings were scary and filled with doom and horror, but they are not. In fact, both versions are full of hope and trust in God’s goodness. Additionally, Julian comes across as intelligent, sensitive, and very much grounded in reality. Even though she includes theological points, like presenting God as Father and Mother, which were not authorized by the Church, Julian was neither sanctioned nor criticized as a heretic. In fact, like Saint Teresa of Ávila, another remarkable Christian mystic who happened to be a woman, Julian was encouraged by the church to write and distribute her work. Both women, within their texts, downplayed their intellect and influence and yet are remembered while some of the religious leaders of their time have been forgotten. Another curious thing to note is that, unlike other scholars and religious authors of the time, Julian wrote in English (not Latin).

“We shall suddenly be taken from all our pain and from all our woe, and of His Goodness we shall come up above, where we shall have our Lord Jesus for our meed and be fulfilled with joy and bliss in Heaven.”

 

“I saw that God rejoiceth that He is our Father, and God rejoiceth that He is our Mother, and God rejoiceth that He is our Very Spouse and our soul is His loved Wife. And Christ rejoiceth that He is our Brother, and Jesus rejoiceth that He is our Saviour. These are five high joys, as I understand, in which He willeth that we enjoy; Him praising, Him thanking, Him loving, Him endlessly blessing.”

– from Chapters 1 and 52 of Revelations of Divine Love (Revelations of Love in 16 Shewings) by Julian of Norwich

 

Over the years, my friend Lori and I have discussed Julian and her work, and the circumstances within which she worked her spiritual magic. We have, over the years, craved the ability to retreat while simultaneously still serving a purpose in the world. We have also, over the years, wondered at the mindset and fortitude required to not only ask for the gifts Julian requested, but also to receive them and utilize them as she did. This, to paraphrase the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault (a modern day contemplative and mystic), is not for sissies.

Now, here we are, and Lori and I recently discussed – via the wonders of technology – that we are all experiencing some of Julian’s circumstances. The whole world is experiencing some of Julian’s circumstances and, while we may not request or even want her gifts, we can definitely appreciate her lessons and what they have to teach us. Regardless of our spirituality or religiosity, we can definitely benefit from her “shewings” of divine love.

“It is thus logical that God, being our Father, be also our Mother. Our Father desires, our Mother operates and our good Lord the Holy Ghost confirms; we are thus well advised to love our God through whom we have our being, to thank him reverently and to praise him for having created us and to pray fervently to our Mother, so as to obtain mercy and compassion, and to pray to our Lord, the Holy Ghost, to obtain help and grace.

 

I then saw with complete certainty that God, before creating us, loved us, and His love never lessened and never will. In this love he accomplished all his works, and in this love he oriented all things to our good and in this love our life is eternal.

 

With creation we started but the love with which he created us was in Him from the very beginning and in this love is our beginning.”

 

– from Chapter 59 of Revelations of Divine Love (Revelations of Love in 16 Shewings) by Julian of Norwich

 

Please join me today (Wednesday, May 13th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM, if you are interested in seeing what may be “shewn.” Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Kiss My Asana, the yogathon that benefits Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program is officially over. But, I still owe you two posts and you can still do yoga, share yoga, help others by donating to my KMA campaign through May 15th.

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

 

### SHEW ME THE LOVE! (BUT SHOW IT GENTLY) ###

 

Threads, Instructions, Truth, Practice, To Contemplate May 12, 2020

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

SŪTRA [Sanskrit; also, “sutta” in Pali] – Thread or String, refers to a statement or collection of statements which make up sacred text and scripture in Indian philosophy and religions.

TALMUD [Hebrew] – Instruction or Learning, refers to collection of work which makes up the central text in Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish law and tradition. It is part of the “Torah,” which can also mean “instruction” – as well as “teaching” and “law” – so that it is “instruction on the teaching.”

GOSPEL [Latin > Old English] – a portmanteau meaning Good Narrative, Story, Sermon, or Speech (also, Good News), refers to accounts of Jesus’ life as told by his disciples in the Christian New Testament – often translated as “Truth.”

SUNNAH [Arabic; also “sunna” and “sunnat”] – Habit or Practice, refers to a collection of traditional social and legal practices and customs within Islam. It is written in the “Hadith” – which means “speech,” “narrative,” “talk,” and “discourse” – and is one of the primary sources of Islamic belief, theology, and law.

MEDITATE [Latin > Old French > English] – To Think, Contemplate, Devise, Ponder, refers to the act, habit, and practice used by religious mystics and contemplatives, philosophers, and non-religious people dating back Before the Common Era.

 

Maya Angelou starts off her poem “Human Family,” by stating, “I note the obvious differences / in the human family.” She then goes on to explore the world and a myriad of people in various situations and relationships (including a literal myriad of “women/ called Jane and Mary Jane”) who are all different. Yet, she states at the end, “I note the obvious differences / between each sort and type, /
but we are more alike, my friends, / than we are unalike.”

“We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.”

 

– last lines repeated at the end of “Human Family” by Maya Angelou

As compelling as it is to notice how different we are, those differences can be a distraction that make us forget we are all part of the same human family and, also, that we are more alike than different. Forgetting really basic things like the fact that we all breathe; we all have a heart pumping blood through veins and arteries; we all experience some form of suffering and desire (and deserve) to be free of suffering; we all love something (“even if,” as Chögyam Trungpa famously said, “it’s only tortillas.”) leads to polarization and more suffering. Forgetting becomes a vicious cycle of separation, isolation, pain, and suffering. And here too, unfortunately, we are alike in that our suffering as a result of separation and isolation can lead us to inflict pain and suffering on others.

 

The funny thing is, lashing out at others becomes a source of what we desire most: connection, union, (dare I say it) yoga. It’s really messed up, co-dependent, and abusive connection, but it’s still connection. Like in the movie (and the song) “Crash,” sometimes the only time people who perceive themselves as different from each other connect is through pain, trauma, tragedy, and loss. Here’s the thing though, what brings us together is not nearly as important as how we choose to come together. What I mean by that is, when we crash into each other, our interaction can result in more pain or an alleviation of pain, maybe even joy. When we come together, for any reason, we can do so in a way that creates further separation and isolation (in other words, more pain and suffering) or in a way that reinforces our connections (sometimes on a much deeper level).

 

“Where do we go from here, where do we go?
And is it real or just something we think we know?
Where are we going now, where do we go?
‘Cause if it’s the same as yesterday, you know I’m out
Just so you know

Because, because our paths they cross
Yesterday was hard on all of us
On all of us”

 

– “Yesterday Was Hard On All of Us” by Fink

 

I could honestly copy the entire Fink song “Yesterday Was Hard On All of Us” to make my point, but I feel like the pandemic and social isolation that we are all experiencing also makes the point. Even introverts are craving a little social interaction. And those people you see on the news or social media, who are doing things you think are crazy, nonsensical, and selfish (or even independently thinking and patriotic) want the same things you and I want: to be safe, to be peaceful, to be happy, to be at ease, to experience joy and freedom from suffering.

 

We may have different ways of understanding what we desire, but ultimate what we want (and what we need) are the same all around the world. So, how do we get on the same page? Well, I’m going to ask you to consider – just for a moment – that maybe we don’t get on the same page, per se. Maybe, each of us turns towards the book(s) that make the most sense to us and notice what we find. I mean, sure, you could do the whole “choose your own ending” / fortune telling shtick, but I’m being serious. Pick up your sacred text or bible and you will find the truth of Maya Angelou’s words.

 

“Furthermore, Subhūti, in the practice of compassion and charity a disciple should be detached. That is to say, he should practice compassion and charity without regard to appearances, without regard to form, without regard to sound, smell, taste, touch, or any quality of any kind. Subhūti, this is how the disciple should practice compassion and charity. Why? Because practicing compassion and charity without attachment is the way to reaching the Highest Perfect Wisdom, it is the way to becoming a living Buddha.”

 

The Diamond Sutra (4)

 

 

“Undisturbed calmness of mind comes by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, joy or happiness towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil (non-virtuous).

 

 

Yoga Sutra (1.33)

 

“You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

 

Vayikra – Leviticus (19:18)

 

“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

 

The Gospel According to Matthew (22:35 – 40, NIV), this speech also appears in Mark (12:28 – 31) and Luke (10:17)

 

“On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) — the servant of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) — that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself. [Al-Bukhari]”

 

– 40 Hadith Nawawi 13

 

 

“Accept the things and occurrences to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so truly, sincerely.”

 

– from Meditations (Book 6) by Marcus Aurelius

 

Yes, yes, just because it’s there doesn’t mean anyone has to listen, pay attention, or practice what they preach. This too, we have in common: the ability to stare what we need right in the face… and not see it. The fact that it’s there, however, is an invitation to practice. So, today, we will practice variations on a theme.

Please join me today (Tuesday, May 12th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM, if you are interested (to paraphrase Metallica) in opening yourself up in a different way. (This practice is also Martha Graham inspired.) Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Since I couldn’t cover every practice, tradition, and belief in my little window, feel free to comment below with a “love offering” of your own.

Kiss My Asana, the yogathon that benefits Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga program is officially over. But, I still owe you two posts and you can still do yoga, share yoga, help others by donating to my KMA campaign through May 15th.

You can also check out the all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. This practice is all themes mentioned above and includes a focus on spinal breathing that would make Martha Graham dance. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

### WHERE IS THE LOVE? ###

[The One] Who Exercises Care and Tenderness Towards Another May 10, 2020

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

“Keep it between the lines.
Don’t take any wooden nickels.
Breathe.
Laugh. Laugh. LAUGH!”

words to live by, from my mommy (who is our family oar)

 

“I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

 

— the end of 1876 Sunday school lesson by Ann Reeves Jarvis (words that inspired her daughter Anna Maria Jarvis)

 

 

Even though I am far from home, I am surrounded by motherly love. I don’t mean that metaphorically; I am literally surrounded by incredible and incredibly loving moms. Trust me when I tell you, I can spot a fabulous mom from a mile away, because I was raised by a fabulous mom.

Well, to be honest, given the maternal legacy on both sides of my family, I was raised by a whole village of fabulous moms – and I am who am (and who I will be) because of their strength, courage, and wisdom. I am also who I am, and who I will be, because of their love, joy, and perseverance. Finally, I am who I am, and who I will be, because of their food (and love of food), their relationships (with each other and the world), and their stories – stories of both successes and failures. Even though I don’t have any kids, people often say (especially around Mother’s Day) that I am like a spiritual mother; and, if that’s the truth, I am what I am, and what I will be, because of the mothers in my family.

“MOTHER, noun [Latin mater, mother; matrix, the womb; materia, matter, stuff, materials of which any thing is made. We observe that in some other languages, as well as in English, the same word signifies a female parent, and the thick slime formed in vinegar; and in all the languages of Europe here cited, the orthography is nearly the same as that of mud and matter. The question then occurs whether the name of a female parent originated in a word expressing matter, mold; either the soil of the earth, as the producer, or the like substance, when shaped and fitted as a mold for castings; or whether the name is connected with the opinion that the earth is the mother of all productions; whence the word mother-earth. We are informed by a fragment of Sanchoniathon, that the ancient Phenicians considered mud to be the substance from which all things were formed. See Mud. The word matter is evidently from the Ar. madda, to secrete, eject or discharge a purulent substance; and I think cannot have any direct connection with mud. But in the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, the same word madre signified mother and a mold for castings; and the northern languages, particularly the German and Danish, seem to establish the fact that the proper sense of mother is matrix. Hence mother of pearl, the matrix of pearl. If this word had its origin in the name of the earth used for the forms of castings, it would not be a singular fact; for our word mold, in this sense, I suppose to be so named from mold, fine earth. The question remains sub judice.]”

 

Webster’s Dictionary 1828

 

For years, I taught my classes on Mother’s Day as a tribute to my Mother and grandmothers, great-grandmothers (because I was lucky enough to know a few) and all the great-aunts, aunts, adult cousins, neighbors, and family friends who have had a hand in raising me. (Not to mention the sister-in-laws, contemporaries, and nieces who have taught me so much as they raise their kids.) Sometimes I wished my elders could take one of those classes, but I knew that probably wasn’t ever going to happen.

Then, in 2018, I went home to spend the day with my mother and maternal grandmother. This was the grandmother I would call between classes every Sunday and, as it turned out, that Sunday in 2018 would be her final Mother’s Day on Earth. I went back the following year, because it was where I wanted to be (with my mommy) and it felt like the right place to be. In my heart, I wasn’t planning to teach any more Mother’s Day classes. It was bittersweet, because it meant I wouldn’t lead the classes I considered a tribute, but – on the other hand – I got to spend the day back home with my mom, which seemed very much in the spirit Anna Jarvis always intended.

“Mother’s Day is a personal, family and memorial day. It’s a celebration for sons and daughters; a thanks and offering for the blessings of good homes…. Make Mother’s Day is a family day of reunions, messages to the absent and the spirit of good will to all. It is a constructive movement emphasizing the home as the highest inspiration of our individual and national lives. Mother’s Day is a day of sentiment — not sentimentality; a day for everybody, but is well named Mother’s Day, for where better can sentiment start?”

 

– Anna Marie Jarvis in a 1924 Miami Daily News interview, explaining how the commercialization of Mother’s Day was “the wrong spirit”

 

Like so many others, the pandemic means I don’t get to go home for Mother’s Day this year. Once again, for me, the feeling is bittersweet. While I will not spend this 112th anniversary of the first official Mother’s Day (May 10, 1908) at home, with my mom, I do get to spend it with some fabulous moms (and some of their children). Please join us for a celebration of all mothers, by way of a virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, May 10th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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

You can also check out the all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. This practice features several stories about mothers and one mother in particular doing what fabulous mom’s do best – supporting her child. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.

 

###

To my Mom, and all Mothers everywhere,
May you be safe & protected;
May you be peaceful & happy;
May you be healthy & strong;
May you love and be loved, today and always.

###

 

Old and New Commandments April 9, 2020

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“Oh, the gospel train is coming
I hear it just at hand
I hear the car wheels rumbling
And rolling thro’ the land”

– “The Gospel Train (Get On Board),” a traditional Negro Spiritual sung by Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, April 9, 1939*

Thursday, April 9, 2020, marks the first full day of Passover in the Jewish tradition and, for Roman Catholics and Western Christians, it marks Maudy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday). Judaism and Christianity are tied together, historically, as they are both Abrahamic religions. They are also connected, historically, because Jesus was a Jewish teacher, a rabbi, who spent the last week of his life observing Passover and preparing for what only he knew was coming: the Crucifixion and Resurrection. What people believe and how they practice their faiths can seem so different that it’s easy to forget they are connected. Pay attention to the details, however, and you will notice there’s a whole lot of hand washing and feet washing during today’s observations.

During a Passover Seder, when Jewish people commemorate their ancestors’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, they wash their hands before and after the story of exodus is told through the lens of four questions. The first time, hands are washed without a blessing; the second time, hands are washed with a blessing. Like everything else in the Seder, even the name and the questions, the hand washing is crucial and symbolic.

The Hebrew word “Seder” means “order, procedure.” Just like in our yoga practice, everything happens in a very specific order that tells the story of the people, of their faith, and of their exodus. Symbols are used to engage not only the numerically young children at the table, but also those who are spiritually young and may not have studied the Torah. For example, the elements of the four questions (leavened vs. unleavened bread; all vegetables vs. bitter herbs; dipping the herbs in brine or vinegar and also in a sweet paste; eating in a variety of positions vs. eating in a reclining position) are symbolic of how quickly people fled when given the chance to escape Egypt; the bitterness of slavery; the sweat and tears of the enslaved people, as well as the bricks-and-mortar the enslaved were forced to build; and the luxury and privilege implied in eating in a reclining position – as if one has not a care in the world.  The symbolic nature of the different aspects of the observation means that the ritual is both a mental experience and a visceral experience. Still, it’s easy to overlook the hand washing, even though it’s in the Bible.

“For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”

– Exodus 30:19 – 30:21 (NIV)

In the Eastern philosophies (like yoga) and religions (like Judaism) arms and hands are recognized as extensions of the heart. They are how we reach out to others, embrace others, embrace ourselves, and even embrace a moment. We use our hands and arms to build the world around us. We also use our hands and arms to love one another, or not, and to defend or support what we love (or not). Two of the aspects of the Divine (found on the Tree of Life) are love (chesed) and strength (gevurah). Furthermore, Jewish mysticism identifies these elements of the Divine as being embodied by the right and left arms, respectively. It is no accident then, nor is it only an element of good hygiene, that hands are washed before handling the sacred food. In fact, in the Hasidic tradition, “Water represents the healing power of wisdom. Water flows downward, carrying its essential simplicity to each thing. It brings them together as a single living, growing whole. We pour water over our hands as an expression of wisdom pouring downward passing through our heart and from there to our interaction with the world around us.”

Of the 613 commandments within the Jewish tradition, at least 21 – 27 are directly related to the observation of Passover, the Seder, the Counting of the Omer (which begins on the second night of Passover), and Shavuot (which begins at the end of the Counting of the Omer). The Last Supper (or suppers, depending on who you ask) is acknowledged as Jesus’ last meal and the source of the Eucharist or Holy Communion in Christian faiths. While the one of the four Canonical Gospels (John) places Passover after Jesus’s death, the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) present The Last Supper as a Passover Seder. Therefore, it would make sense that Jesus – a Rabbi, a teacher, long before he was considered by some to be the Messiah – would make sure everyone washed their hands, twice during the Seder. It’s part of the Law, part of the Commandments. What is interesting is that before the Seder, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. This is one of the events commemorated by some Christians on Maundy Thursday.

You may recall that one of the events of Spy Wednesday, the day before Maundy Thursday, is Mary of Bethany washing Jesus’ feet with expensive oil (and even before that, a woman offering hospitality by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair). The occasion with Mary, theoretically, causes Judas to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. In John, Judas leaves (after what will be Jesus last meal) and Jesus prepares to wash the feet of the remaining disciples. When Simon Peter objects, Jesus tells him three particularly noteworthy things:

“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” (John 13:8, KJV )

“Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12 15, KJV )

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34 – 35, KJV)

The word “Maundy” comes to us, by way of Middle English and Old French, from a Latin word that means “command, order” and while it may be associated with the ritual of washing the feet of a saint, showing hospitality, or preparing a body for burial. The command or order associated with this Thursday before Easter is that “new command,” which John reiterates in 15:12 and 15:17. It is a sentiment echoed by one of the last things Jesus says on the cross, when he connects his own mother with one of his disciples as if they are mother and son.

Sunset on Thursday night marks the beginning of the Counting of the Omer in Jewish mysticism (Kabbalism). The Counting of the Omer is a 49-day observation which reflects the days the freed Jews were in the desert and segues into the commemoration of the people receiving the Torah. When people observe the Counting of the Omer there is an extra element of prayer, of offering, and also contemplation on two connected elements of the Divine (from the Tree of Life). The first night the connect elements are Chesed She b’Chesed (Lovingkindness in Lovingkindness).

Even though it is a completely different tradition, my offering to you on this Thursday, April 8th, is a Metta (Loving-Kindness) Meditation:

May you be safe and protected

May you be peaceful and happy

May you be healthy and strong

May you have ease and well-being, today and always.

If you are interested in combining a physical practice (yoga or weightlifting) with the Counting of the Omer, you can purchase a copy of Marcus J. Freed’s The Kabbalh Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment. Meanwhile, I will upload a guided Metta Meditation on my YouTube channel and post information about how you can offer a little metta to yourself by way of Yin Yoga (April 15th) and mo’ metta to Mind Body Solutions and their adaptive yoga programs by way of the Kiss My Asana yogathon (beginning April 25th).

Founded by Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions helps those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. They provide classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long. Seven days, at the end of the month, to do yoga, share yoga, and help others.  By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

That’s plenty of time to Kiss My Asana!

You don’t need to wait until the end of the month, however, to consider how you might participate. Start thinking now about how you can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day, how you can learn something new about your practice, or even how you would teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 9th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 9th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 9th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

A Poetry Practice

A Preview of the April 9th Practice

* NOTE: Despite what is initially said in the introduction, Marian Anderson’s performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939 was made possible by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused the use of Constitution Hall for a concert with an integrated audience.

### MAY ALL BEINGS EVERYWHERE BE HAPPY & BE FREE ###

THROWBACK THURSDAY! March 26, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Dharma, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Minneapolis, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Passover, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Robert Frost, Suffering, Tantra, Tennessee Williams, Texas, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Lonely . . . When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.”

– Don Quixote in the Prologue to Camino Real by Tennessee Williams (b. 3/26/1911)

Just because we are alone – and in some cases lonely – is not a reason to go it alone. Tennessee Williams wrote, “For time is the longest distance between places.” “Throwback Thursday” is a way to look back, but we can’t actually go back in time, we can’t bridge that distance of which Williams speaks. We can, however, bridge the physical distance of social isolation by reaching out (virtually speaking, of course).

Call, text, email, write a letter, make a chalk drawing, or use any of a variety of technological advances to connect to a stranger or a friend. Remember, we are all in this together – and we will succeed or fail based on how we are together, even when we are apart. Remember, in A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois says, “I always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Right now, we are all Blanche…but we are also those strangers.

Love/ loving-kindness (chesed in Hebrew) is an aspect of the Divine. In fact, not only is it one of the ten ways (according to Jewish mysticism) that G-d is revealed to the world, it is one of the 7 aspects people contemplate if they are counting the Omer during Passover. Just like in Eastern philosophies, like yoga, Kabbalism associates loving-kindness with the arms (specifically, the right arm). As you go through your practice – or through your day – bring awareness to how you use your right arm. Are you using it to express your heart or withhold your heart?

“(1) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. (3) If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

– 1st Corinthians 13:1 – 3 (the part just before all the “famous parts” people use in weddings, movies, and songs)

Consider, for a moment, that when Saint Paul and Sosthenes wrote their letter to the church in Corinth, before they spoke of what love was, they spoke of what love was not. This is very similar to passages which appear in the Upanishads, ancient Sanskrit texts, where a teacher – and then his spouse – point out that the Divine is not this or that (neti, neti) thing that is so obvious. The Divine is not (just) what is obviously seen, but what is unseen, what is felt. (Yes, yes, but neti,neti: this is not the throwback you’re looking for.)

We can never really know how much it means to someone when we do something nice for them simply out of the kindness of our hearts. They can say thank you a million times – and we may even feel the sincerity of their gratitude – and yet that feeling pales in comparison to the love they felt from the kindness.

“Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.”

– excerpt from the poem “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost (b. 3/26/1874)

For Throwback Thursday, here’s last year’s post about the birthday authors I typically include in today’s practice.

While I am not teaching today (Thursday), I am going to spend part of today and Friday updating my schedule to reflect streaming classes I will start offering Saturday – Wednesday.

Right now I am planning to offer seven (7) classes on Zoom. These are (mostly) during times when I had studio classes and they will be (mostly) open for anyone to attend. You can purchase or renew a package on my online store or you can make a donation to Common Ground. (Donations are tax deductible and I will receive the bulk of the donation.)

I want you to practice; so don’t let any financial issues be an obstacle you can’t get over! If you need it, I got you. Yoga means union.

 

### BETTER & BETTER ###

Just… Look – Part II: Beginnings and Endings September 10, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Basketball, Books, Depression, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Love, Minneapolis, Movies, Music, New Year, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Rosh Hashanah, Suffering, Texas, Vairagya, Wisdom, Women.
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 “To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

– from In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Today (Monday) is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and my grandmother’s birthday. Had she lived, she would have turned 90 today. Given a few more months beyond this, she would have seen me reach the half century mark. So, this is me, holding space for beginnings and endings.

As many of you know, my grandmother was one of my constants. Through her example and her work as a nurse (especially for children, veterans, women, shut-ins, and those experiencing end-of-life care), I saw the various stages of life and the importance of being treated with respect and dignity as we all move through those stages. She was the person who always reminded me to be proud of my hair, proud of my body, proud of my spirit, and proud of my life.  And, maybe more than anyone, she illustrated how life is an adventure…an opportunity to fly…a dream…and a dance between the physical and the spiritual.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of superior role models, but Miss Jean (aka Miss Jean Rockets) was the elder in whom I saw myself. We were kindred spirits. And I wanted to be her when I grew up. I still do.

At her funeral in June, I was charged with following the Neighbor/Nurse remarks with the family remarks. Even now, on her birthday, I can think of so many more rich and endearing memories that I could have shared. However, I stand by these:

“Steady yourself heart; talk to me, God; listen.” Taraji P. Henson started her 2017 SAG Awards speech with those 8 words. “Steady yourself heart; talk to me God; listen.” While her speech goes on record as an awards acceptance speech, it was really a thanks giving, an expression of gratitude for women who were trailblazers and light bringers, a celebration of women who lived lives no one expected them to live. Since today my family charged me with giving thanks and celebrating the life of a trailblazer and a light bringer, I start the same. “Steady yourself heart; talk to me, God; listen.”

Before I was born, she was Miss Jean and she remained Miss Jean after I was born because, as she said, she was too young to be a grandmother: She was 40 then. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, this was one of her first lessons to me – I say me, but really, to all of us: be yourself, define yourself, live for yourself.

That last part, “live for yourself” might seem odd given how much of her life she devoted – and lived – for all of us, and for all of her patients. Long before I knew the words from John 17 (verses 16 and 18), Miss Jean taught me – taught all of us – what it meant to be in the world, but not of the world; to recognize the Spirit in everyone and everything; and to honor mind, body, and spirit through action. She was a living, breathing instrument of God who – as she told me now and again – was stuck together with spit, glue, and chewing gum.

I don’t really remember her chewing gum, but she sure had a lot of gumption. That spirited initiative allowed her to listen to her heart and follow her heart, fiercely – even when it led her to cold places, like Kansas City, and back home again. Clearly, given how far some of us traveled this week, we learned that lesson too.

Miss Jean taught me the power of being still, being quiet, and appreciating your own company. She taught me the power of a smile; the power of getting on your knees at the end of the day and first thing in the morning; and she taught me the power of prayer even when you’re not on your knees. All the way to the end of her life, she taught me the power of the Serenity Prayer: to accept the things you cannot change; to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

She taught me to not only tell stories and listen to stories, but to really hear other people’s stories. She taught, by example, the power of being open to other people’s ideas even while standing in your own truth. She’s the reason we cousins and siblings have the conversations we have.

Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in.” But, throughout my life [Pleasantville] has been my home, because that’s where Miss Jean and Paw-Paw WANTED to take us in. It was the place where there were always chocolate chip cookies and a biscuit in the cookie jar; your favorite dessert on the cake tray, sweet tea in the fridge, homemade popsicles in the freezer, baked potatoes and salmon on the grill, Cornish hen in the oven, and the only friends I’ve known my whole life. Standing in her doorway first thing in the morning, stretching and greeting the day and standing in the doorway waving as we drove away, Miss Jean taught me – taught us – to savor life and savor love.

She was passionate about the things and people she loved: music, movies, books, God, her friends, her family, teddy bears, and the Houston Rockets – not necessarily in that order. I could tell you stories she probably wouldn’t appreciate me telling in church, but if she were here to hear me repeat some of our conversations she would just get that sparklingly defiant look and say, “Well, it’s the truth.”

Here’s one more truth: Despite how I started today, I don’t think of my grandmother as a hidden figure. I think of her as a beacon of life and light. I have lived my whole life in Miss Jean’s light. Make sure you heard that right – not in her shadow, IN HER LIGHT! And although her physical body is gone, her light still shines bright. If you have any doubts today, look around you; if you have any doubts tomorrow, look in the mirror: See your life, see your light, and honor it – as she did.

If this were one of my yoga classes, I’d end by saying, “Namaste,” which is a Sanskrit word that literally means, “I bow thou,” and is often translated as “The light in me honors and acknowledges the light that is also in you.” However, today, I’m finishing up one of our last conversations and sending my grandmother off with words from Joy Unspeakable by Barbara Holmes. Holmes wrote,

“For Africans in bondage
in the Americas,
joy unspeakable is that moment of
mystical encounter
when God tiptoes into the hush arbor,
testifies about Divine suffering,
and whispers in our ears,
“Don’t forget,
I taught you how to fly
on a wing and a prayer,
when you’re ready
let’s go!”

### Ecclesiastes 3:4 ###

 

 

Just… Look – Part I: Love September 10, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Abhyasa, Art, Black Elk, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Love, Men, One Hoop, Peace, Poetry, Wisdom, Women.
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“‘Cause when you love someone
You open up your heart
When you love someone
You make room
If you love someone
And you’re not afraid to lose ’em
You probably never loved someone like I do
You probably never loved someone like I do”

– from “Love Someone” by Lukas Graham

Click here if you do not see the video.

### Ecclesiastes 3 ###