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2016 Kiss My Asana #24: Guiding and Pulling (In) the Light February 26, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, California, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Daoism, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Kirtan, Kundalini, Life, Loss, Mantra, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mirabai Starr, Music, Mysticism, Oliver Sacks, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Qigong, Religion, Science, Suffering, Tai Chi, Tantra, Taoism, TV, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear.”

– Excerpt from Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

 

“When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out – because that’s what’s inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what’s inside.”

Wayne Dyer

Yogi #24 (Marilyn) gave me some amazingly delicious oranges once. She told me a little of their back story – they had been given to her by a friend who, if I remember correctly, has a grove in California. Eating the oranges gave me great joy (as she intended) and thinking of their back story filled me with awe and gratitude – but it also made me realize that, in reality, I knew very little of their back story.

How many people were responsible for the planting, the nurturing, the harvesting, and the transporting? How were their lives affected by the oranges? Who even had the idea to start all these endeavors? There was just no way to know. In the end, I could only be grateful.

“Gratitude is our ability to see the grace of God, morning by morning, no matter what else greets us in the course of the day. That has the effect of making us gracious as well.”

– Excerpt from Hustling God: Why We Work So Hard for What God Wants to Give Us by M. Craig Barnes

Marilyn herself is a lot like those oranges: Bright sunshine on a cold January day and present after long journeys, she is delightful, joyful, and fills me with awe and gratitude – yet I only know bits and pieces of her back story. I know she teaches; I know she heals; I know she loves animals, travel, and bicycling. Bottom line: I know just enough about Marilyn to know she has seen amazing places, people, and things in the world and encountered the very best and, possibly, the very worst that the world has to offer. Yet, she is always kind and graciously grateful, for the smallest things, even when someone has wronged her. And her smile lights up a room, even when she is frustrated.

“No other light, no other guide,
Than the one burning in my heart.
This light led the way
More clearly than the risen sun
To where he was waiting for me
– The one I knew so intimately –
In a place no one could find us.”

– Excerpt from Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross (translated by Mirabai Starr)

 

“Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical and depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, summer and winter?”

– Excerpt from the introduction to Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals by Thomas Moore

Marilyn practices qigong as well as yoga, which means she’s one of the people who get’s my little energetic puns when I describe one set of arm movements as “Gathering Prana” and the complimentary set of movements as “Gathering Qi.” Both qi and prana are words used to describe the life-force energy that is within us and all around us. Like ruach, pneuma, and spiritus, these are also words which were once used to simultaneously define breath and spirit.

Our ancestors, from all their different cultures, didn’t distinguish between spirit and breath – they were both divinely given and received. Our ancestors, from all their different cultures, believed spirit/breath was the light of the world – it was in them and all around them. Now, the modern mind turns to quantum physics to confirm the Truth our ancestors already knew: We can gather it, guide and pull it; dance with it and in it. Like Marilyn. Or not.

 “Of the deities presiding over light, I am the one for January, loved by all for turning the world’s course toward warmth. Of the wind gods who bring immense good in the world, I am the whirlwind. Of the daytime luminaries I am the radiant sun, and of the lights of the night I am the moon.”

Bhagavad Gita 10:21

 

“Of David: YHVH is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? YHVH is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

– Tehillim (Psalms) 27:1

Jesus said, ‘I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. / Split a piece of wood; I am there. / Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.’”

The Gospel of Thomas 77

 “I sit in my own splendor. / Wealth or pleasure, / Duty or discrimination, / Duality or nonduality, / What are they to me? / What is yesterday, / Tomorrow, / Or today? / What is space, / Or eternity? / I sit in my own radiance.”

– Excerpt from Heart of Awareness: Translation of the Gita by Thomas Byrom 19:2 – 3

One of my favorite sacred texts is the Ashtavakra Gita (The Song of the Man with 8-Bends in His Limbs). It presents the wisdom of a person whose outside is considered less than ideal, by the people around him. According to one of Ashtavakra’s back stories, he was 12-years old when he walked into the court of the King (who would eventually become his pupil) – and everyone laughed at him. Ashtavakra also laughed, and then he started to cry.

When the King asked why he first laughed, as everyone laughed at him, and then cried, Ashtavakra said, “I started laughing because you saw only my outside. I started crying because I crawled all this way to discuss the Truth with great scholars and all I find here are shoemakers and leather workers.” When the King took great offense and proclaimed his court a court of great scholars, Ashtavakra shook his head and said, “It is only shoemakers and leather workers who are so concerned with the quality of the outside that they can’t see the Truth within.”

I’d like to believe that, in these modern times, we’re not so one dimensional that a shoemaker and a leather worker can’t also be great scholars. Yet, too often, people in a position to teach the Truth get caught up with the quality of the outside. Too often, people in a position to receive the Truth get turned away because their outsides are considered less than ideal. Too often we all forget that we are in bodies together – and these bodies are the ideal vehicle for our spirits. The work being done by Matthew Sanford and Mind Body Solutions allows more people to experience the Truth of who we all are and how we are all connected. KISS MY ASANA if you see the Truth – or the light.

 

My donation-based KISS MY ASANA class on Saturday, February 27th is full; however, I still have spaces available for March 5th (6:30 – 8:00 PM at Flourish). Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two.)Space is limited. Bay Area yogis, don’t forget: Sandra Razieli’s KISS MY ASANA class is in Oakland on Sunday, February 28th.

 

 

~ “If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable – each segment distinct. – Excerpt from Family Politics: Love and Power on an Intimate Frontier Letty Cottin Pegrebin ~

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2016 Kiss My Asana #23: This Yogi is No Slouch! February 25, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 40-Day Challenge, Bhakti, Books, California, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Sukkot, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Be Yourself. Have Fun.”

Seane Corn on “the best advice she’s been given as a teacher

 

“Find your struggle, learn your lesson, and then know your purpose.”

– a “Monaism” (saying by Mona Miller, as quoted by Seane Corn)

People who come to my classes always talk about how the experience (of practicing asana with philosophy) is different from their other yoga experiences. From day one, my original teachers all included some aspect of the philosophy into their classes, so that’s the only practice I knew. It’s a practice that resonated with me, because even as a child I was preoccupied with the idea that we are connected to something more than ourselves, something divine.

Early in my life, I assumed everyone was a little preoccupied with issues of theology and existentialism. But, over time, I’ve realized everyone doesn’t consciously question and struggle with philosophical and spiritual matters – even when they crave the answers to that struggling and questioning.

In listening to feedback from people, I’ve now started to realize that every teacher doesn’t teach the way I teach. So, last year when I was ready to host my first yoga practice, I wanted someone who could teach the kind of classes I teach: alignment focused classes with spirit! Two teachers immediately came to mind – and Yogi #23 (Sandra) was one of those teachers.

“Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): ‘From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation.’”

– Excerpt from Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) 4:1

 

“The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”

– Luke 6:40

Sandra and I met almost five years ago at a Seane Corn vinyasa teacher training in Minneapolis. Unlike some of the other teachers in the training, we were already spirit-focused in our teaching. We had lunch together the first day, touched base throughout the week, and stayed in touch after she returned to California. One of the many reasons Sandra left such an impression on me is that she obviously teaches from her experiences – one of her specialties is Yoga for Scoliosis because she is a little curvy and has first-hand knowledge of how yoga benefits physical well-being. Another reason she left an impression on me is that she gave me her CD, “Morning Blessings”.

“The tent that houses you / houses your soul. / The Mischan, the hollow dwelling place / Be a vessel / for the love-song of God”

– Excerpt from “Morning Blessings” by Sandra Razieli (with reference to Hanna Tiferet)

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; … Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I spent the week of Thanksgiving 2011 practicing with Sandra’s “Morning Blessings” CD. Even though my annual trip to Texas is always busy, that year it felt like a retreat. Years later, when I was thinking about the takeaway experience I wanted people to have on a retreat I hosted, I thought about how I felt after practicing with Sandra’s CD.

Sandra is an Iyengar teacher, as well as a certified Yoga for Scoliosis Trainer, as well as a Yoga and Jewish Spirituality teacher, as well as an Anthropologist, a spiritual leader, and…I could keep going with her accomplishments; because, bottom line, she’s no slouch. Sandra is a person of integrity and honor, a true mentsch.

A mentsch is someone who respects the needs and wishes of others—especially the desires of those in his care.

In the care of each of us is entrusted a divine soul. She has a terrible allergy to all those messy deeds that darken her world, and desires only those beautiful deeds that will bring in more light.”

Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

 

I can only imagine what a delight it would be to practice with Sandra on a weekly basis. What I know first-hand is that every time I am in her presence I learn something. Sometimes what I learn is obviously information inside me, just waiting for a way to be articulated; however, sometimes it feels like the information is just outside of myself, waiting to be invited in. Sandra has a way of inviting inspiration, grace, and spirit in – and she does it in a way that even someone who has refused the information in the past, suddenly is open to the invitation.

There are two ways to hug somebody. The first is to grab them and draw them in, but the second, perhaps a more refined approach, is to open your arms and create space for the other person. This opening is a passive energy of Hod (humility/gratitude) that makes room for others.”

– Excerpt from The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment by Marcus J. Freed

(words in parenthesis are mine)

I will always be grateful for the lessons I learned from collaborating with Sandra last year. We definitely enhanced what we each already bring to the table – and, in the process, we strengthened each other’s weak spots. However, Sandra once again upped my game when (at the end of our Sukkot/Gratitude retreat) she gave me a copy of The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment. I started the practice during my annual Thanksgiving trip, finished on my birthday, and experience a transformation I am still processing.

“Rabbi Ishmael the son of Rabbi Yossei would say: One who learns Torah in order to teach, is given the opportunity to learn and teach. One who learns in order to do, is given the opportunity to learn, teach, observe and do.”

– Excerpt from Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) 4:5

I get a little goose-pimply when I think about all the ways my life-journey and Sandra’s life-journey have mystically, energetically, and spiritually overlapped. Take this weekend for example: We’re both leading donation-based classes which benefit Mind Body Solutions and the adaptive yoga program. My KISS MY ASANA class is in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 27th; Sandra’s KISS MY ASANA class is in Oakland on Sunday, February 28th. (Click on each of the KISS MY ASANA links above to find out more information about each class, as well as information about my second Minneapolis class on Saturday, March 5th.)

Just in case you’re not convinced Sandra is no slouch, you can also see her here in another Kiss My Asana video.

 

~ SHANTI, SHALOM, SALAAM, PEACE ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #19: And Now For Something Completely Different / Various Positions February 20, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma Yoga, Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind & the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

– B. K. S. Iyengar

 

“Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.”

– Sting

 

The physical practice of yoga (Hatha Yoga) regardless of style or tradition has a lot in common with the song mentioned by Yogi #19 (Mary D.). In relation to each, people experience and express sorrow, joy, ecstasy, confusion, and/or spiritual transcendence. Maybe that’s why, as the songwriter puts it, so “many different (ones) exist.” Maybe that’s why so many different people try to put their spin on both. And maybe that’s why pretty much everyone who has ever heard the song, or practiced yoga, has a favorite version – and can be fairly fanatical about that favorite. Ironically, after the songwriter edited down at least 80 verses of the aforementioned song, his record label didn’t want to release the album containing the song because, he said, “They didn’t think it was good enough.”

“It was the first time I could really see and intuitively feel what it was I was doing, making or creating in that enterprise. After a long period of barrenness, it all just seemed to click. Suddenly, I knew these weren’t discrete songs I was writing…I could see – I could sense a unity. Various Positions had its own life, its own narrative. It was all laid out and all of a sudden it all made sense. It was almost painfully joyful, if that makes some sense. The pulling and the putting of the pieces together coherently, the being inside of that process and knowing, once I’d done that, it would be finished and I would have to leave it and go back to the world.”

– Leonard Cohen in a Globe and Mail 2000 interview

Underlying all the different types of yoga practice is a sense of unity. In fact, the Sanskrit word “yoga” means union. Of course, there are lots of different ways to experience yoga. Patanjali defines one way in the Yoga Sutras, when he highlights three (3) of the internal observations (niyamas) as a prescription for union through purification (Kriya Yoga). You could experience Tapas (heat/discipline/austerity), Svadyaya (self study), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering efforts) in any number of practices. However, physical yoga practices like Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram (Hot Yoga) are deliberately built around the Kriya Yoga rubric. Each has a sequence of specific poses, practiced in a specific order and manner – Hot Yoga, in particular, has that “minor fall, and the major lift…” And, each guarantees 90 minutes of internal focus and heat, lots and lots of heat.

Keep in mind, tapas (heat) isn’t always about the temperature of the body. It can just as easily be defined as the focus on alignment found in Iyengar as the external (physical heat) found in Bikram Yoga or the internal (physical heat) found in Ashtanga Yoga. One thing is for certain, however, as a person experiences tapas on the mat, that person has the opportunity to study themselves as they encounter challenges and let go of anything that doesn’t serve them.

 

You put yourself into it, go through your hard work – or if you want to take it easy , you take it easy as much as you can, but you’re still moving. The body carries emotional baggage and you’re just getting rid of this baggage.”

 “One thing is this – people should see the result. If the result is effective and positive in their life, they should stick with it. I always say my Guru is my heart because I always listen to my heart – is it mentally, spiritually, and physically enhancing me, or not? If I see I am growing and it is helping me, then I’d rather stick with it.”

 “Bikram’s method is really consistent with people in building their personality; their perspective of life, their will power, and self esteem is helped by the 26 2.”

– Rajashree Bikram

 

Mary D. and I have only met once, in passing, several months ago. I had no idea at the time that she practiced any kind of yoga, let alone Bikram. When my housemate (who facilitated the video) asked her, Mary D. didn’t hesitate to participate in my Kiss My Asana challenge. My housemate said, “She likes yoga. She likes to help people.” Hmmm, based on the little bit I know about this Hot (Bikram) Yogi, I think what she really likes to do is to feed people – and it doesn’t matter if she’s feeding their bodies, their minds, or their souls. It’s all one.

When Mary D. “retired” a few years back, in order to start her own business, people at a certain university in St. Paul missed what she had to offer. But, pay attention and one starts to notice that while people obviously missed the food she prepared, those same people are just as likely to mention her personal engagement. She not only knew their favorite sandwiches (and how they liked them), she knew bits and pieces about their lives. Just as she knew it’s not a sandwich if it’s only bread on the outside, Mary D. knew no person is complete without their insides. After all, it’s the “guts” (physically and metaphysically speaking) that make us human. Mind Body Solutions offers people an opportunity to unleash what makes us human – regardless of what’s on the outside. KISS MY ASANA and you’re taking advantage of the opportunity to feed someone’s mind-body.

 

Want to KISS MY ASANA while you practice? Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two) at a donation-based class on Saturday, February 27th (3:30 - 5:30 PM) or Saturday, March 5th (6:30 - 8:00 PM). Space is limited.

 

 

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FROM THIS BROKEN HILL / ALL YOUR PRAISES THEY SHALL RING / IF IT BE YOUR WILL / TO LET ME SING (Leonard Cohen, again)

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2016 Kiss My Asana #18:This Is Why a Tree Bends Toward the Light February 19, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Tantra, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.”

– preface to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

 

Since a lot of people come to my classes, I could reiterate the passage above and claim they are too many to be considered beautiful. But it wouldn’t be true. Some people stand out. Some people are beautiful inside and out. It’s not a showy thing, and I don’t think it’s something they do on purpose. However, some people are just so naturally themselves that, no matter where they go or what they do, their energy shines through. Maybe it’s because people like Yogi #18 (Tracy) aren’t wasting a lot of energy trying to be someone other than themselves.

“Your very nature dictates that you perform the duties attuned to your disposition. Those duties are your dharma, your natural calling. It is far better to do your own dharma, even if you do it imperfectly, than to try to master the work of another. Those who perform the duties called for by their obligations, even if those duties seem of little merit, are able to do them with less effort – and this releases consciousness that can be directed Godward.”

The Bhagavad Gita (18:47)

Tracy is a natural scientist, who spends a lot of time outdoors. I don’t imagine it was easy, getting where she is in her life and in her career, but she makes things look easy. From what I can tell, that ease comes from loving what she does, on and off the mat. Her appreciation for what’s she’s doing, in the moment, is one of the reason it’s a pleasure to work with her. She’s also got one of the best smiles. And, no matter how hard I work her, she always shares that smile and expresses gratitude for the work we’ve done together. Those are just a few of the reasons Tracy is one of my favorite co-workers.

At this point, someone who knows me and/or Tracy is thinking, “Wait, Tracy works with you?!?!?” Yep. She’s one of the people I see when I go to work each week, and we collaborate on special projects (i.e., ourselves).

Now, I realize that my perspective is a little different from everybody else in the studios – after all, most people see me when they’re on a break from their work. Still, I’m lucky to work with a really great group of people – and Tracy is one of the people I look forward to seeing when I go to work. Like that person you see once or twice a week for a status report, Tracy and I occasionally share little tidbits about our lives and celebrate random successes. She shared her “favorite musical yoga moment” with me when it happened a few years back; she got her (now) husband to practice a little yoga during the first Kiss My Asana yogathon; and over the years she’s mentioned times when she’s brought the practice off the mat. But what strikes me most when we’re in the middle of the practice is how Tracy works it, gloriously – like she’s so glad to be there.

 

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

 

 

A seed settles into the soil and waits. Once it germinates, it moves stone and earth to tunnel the shoot that will become its roots. The seed projects a second shoot skyward, which will allow it to convert sunlight into the energy it will use to sustain itself for the rest of its life. Drawing upon every resource available, a seed is compelled to become the thing it was meant to be: a tree, grass, vine, bush, shrub, or flower. If unsuccessful, it will have died trying, but not before exhausting every last fiber of its being to fulfill its potential.

 A honeybee, drawing nectar from a blossom, bats its wings 11,400 times per minute. Salmon swim as much as a thousand miles upstream, or more, in order to spawn. An ant will carry twenty times its weight to serve a colony. This same drive, all but invisible, pervades everything in the natural world. The world we live in is little more than an endless and vibrant expression of energy.”

– Excerpted from The Four Desires by Rod Stryker

Tracy strikes me as the kind scientist who appreciates the energy of nature with every inhale and every exhale. But it’s easy to overlook the simple and profound things happening around us and within us. It’s easy to take nature for granted – and, in the process, to take ourselves for granted. A physical yoga practice is an opportunity to tap into our natural resources, on and off the mat. It’s an opportunity to reconnect to the reason we have bodies and minds.

Sometimes, however, there’s a whole lot of mental and physical busyness (or business) keeping a person off the mat. Sometimes that mental busyness is the idea that the body already has to be a certain way in order to practice yoga. Unfortunately, a lot of us teaching yoga here in the West are so focused on the outside we can’t feel the forest or the trees. If you take a class from Matthew Sanford, you will feel the energy of your mind-body. That’s what he does: practices from the inside out (instead of the outside in). JOIN my KISS MY ASANA when you donate and you not only support more teachers learning how to teach the essence of the practice, you’ll also have the opportunity to take some free yoga classes at area studios (through the end of February).

 

Want to KISS MY ASANA while you practice? Contact Myra at a joyfulpractice.com to reserve a spot (or two) at a donation-based class on Saturday, February 27th (3:30 - 5:30 PM) or Saturday, March 5th (6:30 - 8:00 PM). Space is limited.

~ OM, NAMAH SHIVAYA ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #16: Peace Like A Gardener/Farmer February 17, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Jane Hirshfield, Julian of Norwich, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Tantra, Tragedy, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

“It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford

 

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

– Excerpt from A Revelation of Love – in Sixteen Shewings by Julian of Norwich

 

Towards the beginning of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali emphasizes that cultivating friendliness/loving-kindness, compassion/mercy, gladness/goodwill/joy, and acceptance/equanimity creates a calm, peaceful, and undisturbed mind (1:33). A bit later, he states that a person can be so firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa) that other people lose their hostility just be being in the vicinity (2:35). Towards the middle, he indicates that samyama (the collective practice of focusing, concentrating, and meditating/becoming) on these qualities produces the great strength or power of these attitudes (3:23). Finally, towards the end of the sutras, he explains that in order to realize great power through the practice, a yogi has to be like a farmer or gardener (4:3, although he hints at this throughout).

Some people read about the siddhis (great powers) described in the Yoga Sutras and think them as “supernormal” or psychic powers – while others reference quantum physics or Jedi Knight tricks. And, some people just think the whole text is an extended metaphor. How ever one thinks about siddhis on paper, there’s no denying the power of being in the presence of someone grounded in love. Considering Julie (Yogi #16) is a gardener, it should come as no surprise that being around her is a little like being hugged by love.

The moment you walked inside my door
I knew that I need not look no more,
I’ve seen many other souls before – ah but,
Heaven must’ve programmed you”

“Heaven (Where True Love Goes)” by Yusuf Islam

 

“More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, where foam returns over and
over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the
light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.”

– Excerpt from “Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield

 

Julie is one of my favorite people and part of another one of my favorite yoga couples. I met her and her husband within my first year of teaching – and I am always thrilled to see them. Every once in a blue moon one will come without the other; but, more often than not, they come together. (And, spoiler alert! I started writing their posts in tandem because I think of them as my two anchors, or touchstones, in the corner of the room.) They come when it’s cold; they come when it’s hot; they come when they’re tired; they come when they’re busy; and sometimes they come when they’re not feeling 100%.

Julie mentions me helping her adapt her yoga practice during one of those times when she wasn’t at 100%. However, I wasn’t her only resource. She also practiced with the amazing Michelle P-W who, in addition to being a world-class yoga therapist, has practiced and taught with Matthew Sanford.

There are lots of people in the world who could benefit from a yoga practice if they had the resources to facilitate their practice. Sometimes the necessary resource is a knowledgeable teacher, sometimes it’s an accessible studio, and sometimes it’s just the awareness that there is more than one way to practice yoga. Either way, if you KISS MY ASANA, you help create more resources and opportunities for more people to discover and continue practicing yoga.

 

~ Forever, and ever, Amen. ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #12: The Fixer February 13, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tantra, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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“…every person is obligated to say, ‘For my sake alone the world was created.’ That doesn’t mean the world is mine to consume everything indiscriminately (although God does want us to enjoy the pleasures of this world).

What it does mean is that we must take responsibility for any problem in the world. If you recognize a problem – whether it be a piece of litter on the street or a major social issue that needs adjusting – you shouldn’t just say ‘someone else will deal with it.’ There is nobody else. In God’s eyes, the rule is: You saw it, you fix it.”

– Aish Rabbi on Tikkun Olam

 

Underlying the mystical Jewish concept of tikkun olam is the idea that everything and everyone was once part of a divine whole, that everything and everyone is somehow disconnected, and that everything and everyone has a role in putting the pieces back together again. In modern times this concept is often translated as “repair the world.” However, some scholars also refer to tikkun olan as “establish the world” – which brings me to another of my favorite ideals (the story of the 36) and one of my favorite yogis (Meghan G, #12).

According to the Talmud, there are always at least 36 righteous people in the world. These Lamed-Vav Tzadikim (“36 righteous ones”) are also known as Nistram (“the concealed ones”); so called because they are unknown even to themselves. They live quiet, unassuming lives. They do the right thing as much as they are able – simply because it is the right thing, and they are able. They are so humble they could never imagine that they will “greet the Shekhinah” – Divinity in a feminine form – or that their very existence ensures humanity’s continued existence.

If we let go of dogma, add the idea of the Tikkun Olam to the concept of Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, and use the result as a model to guide our lives, we might just embody the “Prayer of St. Francis” – or a Pearl Jam song.

When something’s dark, let me shed a little light on it
When something’s cold, I wanna put a little fire on it
If something’s old, I wanna put a little shine on it
If something’s gone, I wanna fight to get it back again

– Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer” from Los Angeles 1 USA 9-30-2009 concert

 

I’m not going to say Meghan G is one of the 36 – but, I’m not going to say she’s not. What I will say is that she lives and practices, on and off the mat, with a powerfully humble and grace-filled awareness. Her awareness stays fixed on the idea that while we may feel disconnected, we are all connected to (and through) the Divine. She reminds me of the “sort of optimistic and playful melody and lyric” side of Eddie Vedder’s personality that Stone Gossard says we glimpse in “The Fixer.”

 

“I’ll say your prayers, I’ll take your side
I’ll find us a way to make light”

– Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer” from Los Angeles 1 USA 9-30-2009 concert

 

In 2009, when asked if the title of “The Fixer” referred to him, Vedder said, “My answer is, aren’t we all? Maybe I’m wrong to think that, but it seems like we are…. I’m thinking more on a worldview or a community view.” In a later interview, he would also say, “This is a reminder song to me, to stop fixing.”

If you attend a traditional class led by Matthew Sanford, he might greet you by asking what ails you. He has said that, when people come to his teacher training, he often asks them, “Who are you trying to fix?” Ultimately, both questions lead to the awareness that while we think we need to fix (or establish) ourselves – in order to fix (or establish) the world – what we are really “fixing” through our practice is our awareness. The connection is already there; our yoga practice is just a way to awaken it! Please KISS MY ASANA to help Mind Body Solutions transform the way people think about their mind-body.

~ LOKAH SAMASTHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #11:Spiritual Activists, Feel the Vibration! February 12, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Loss, Love, Mantra, Meditation, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Volunteer, Wisdom, Women, Yoga.
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Bringing this to the entire nation
Black, white, red, brown
Feel the vibration

Come on come on
Feel it feel it
Feel the vibration

“Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, featuring Loleatta Holloway

In Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar spends approximately two (2) pages explaining the importance of studying AUM. Two pages may not seem like a lot, until you realize that many people just think of Light on Yoga as a practice manual for the physical practice. In fact, people often buy the book to “master the poses.” However, Iyengar begins the book by introducing the philosophy of yoga and stating, unequivocally, “one can master nothing” without single-pointed concentration. “Without concentration on Divinity” he writes, “one cannot unlock the divinity within oneself or become a universal man.”

Tom H (Yogi #11) has spent his life unlocking the divinity within himself. This becomes obvious if you spend any amount of time (at all) talking to him. He and I have talked in the studios; on the rooftop; in restaurants and bars; and in cars. We seem to talk about everything. Yet, it doesn’t matter where the conversation starts (or ends) there is always an underlying connection to the subject of the Divine, how the Divine is connected to us, and how we are connected to each other.

Turns out, it’s all one and the same.

“Master Patanjali describes AUM – that which is indescribable – by using the Sanskrit word pranavah. Like most words, pranavah has numerous meanings.”

– Excerpt from Sweeping the Dust by Jivamukti Yoga teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti (“Lady Ruth”)

I am the innate nature of everything. In pure water I am the sweet taste. In the sun and moon I am the radiance. In the very center of human beings I live as virility and courage. I am (pranavah) the sacred word Om, which designates the Divine, and I am the sound of it heard throughout the universe” – Excerpt from The Bhagavad Gita (7:8)

Tom H is a spiritual activist because his practice doesn’t stay on the mat. When he’s unlocking the divinity within himself, he’s also figuring out how to help the rest of us unlock the divinity within ourselves. His commitment to individual and social change, as well as his efforts towards uplifting people of all ages and backgrounds, is the direct result of his eclectic spiritual life. He blends his physical practices, in different modalities, with his philosophical practices and beliefs. He continually questions, only to examine the questions and the answers he finds. He consistently takes his practice off the mat (and the cushion) – then brings it back again! When he practices yoga, you can practically see his heart-energy vibrating, shimmering, and shining. He literally vibrates.

And, that vibration has a ripple effect.

“Can you feel it baby? / I can too //1 2 3 now we come to the pay off” – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, featuring Loleatta Holloway

If you practice yoga for any significant period of time, you will find the physical practice affects more than your body. It affects your life. And, the more you practice, the more you vibrate, shimmer, and shine. Mind Body Solutions adaptive yoga program is an opportunity for more people to feel the vibration. Your donation may just be a drop in the 2016 KISS MY ASANA bucket, but it will ripple!

 

Join me for meditation at the Walker this Saturday the 13th (5 PM & 7 PM)and you might find yourself sitting next to a yogi!

 

 

~ AUM…, Tat Twam Asi (That Thou Art) ~

2016 Kiss My Asana #4: Couldn’t Be Much More From The Heart! February 4, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Peace, Philosophy, Tantra, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Women, Yoga.
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“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

As some of you know, I love a great love story. What you may not realize is that sometimes what makes a love story great is the hero. The hero’s gotta be a real man – meaning, he must acknowledge his mistakes, and learn from them; he must be willing to try something new (even if it scares him); he has to be strong enough to show that he has a heart; and he has to have a really great laugh (or cry). But, most of all, he has to respect the people in his life – especially his significant other. According to this criteria, Yogi #4 ranks right up there with James Hetfield (circa Francesca), Johnny Cash (circa June), Carey Hart (circa P!nk), Elton John (circa David), and Bill Gates (circa Melinda).

I never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way”

– Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”

If you know anything about the men listed above, you know their spouses are no slouches – which is another reason their stories are so great! If you read the post for Day #3, you know John G (Yogi #4) is part of a great love story. But, ultimately, what makes a man like John G a great hero is that he is, unapologetically, nothing if not himself.

 

Speaking of not being a slouch, Sandra Razieli is dedicating her Kiss My Asana teaching to not slouching! Be sure to check out her donation-based class on February 28th if you are in the Oakland area! Or, you can donate directly to her 2016 Kiss My Asana page.

2016 Kiss My Asana #3: Be Where You Are! February 3, 2016

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Daoism, Depression, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, James Baldwin, Karma, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Mantra, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Mysticism, Peace, Philosophy, Sukkot, Taoism, Texas, Twin Cities, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.”

– James Baldwin

 

 “Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh / As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh / Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love/ Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they’ve got none / Stay with me… / Let’s just breathe…”

“Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam

 

There are people who spend a lot of time worrying about what’s ahead of them or what’s behind them. Lao Tzu says, the first group is depressed and the second group is anxious. He also mentions a third group, a group of people who are present and at peace. Like that third group, Ann G (Yogini #2 or Yogi #3, depending on how you keep track) takes life as it comes.

That’s not to say that she doesn’t have her moments of worry or anxiety – Ann G is a mom, after all – but she somehow manages to ride the ebbs and flows of life; rising and falling, as if surfing through life is the most natural thing in the world. I have watched her literally, figuratively, and physically fall down and get back up. And, like a surfer catching the big waves, she always seems grateful for some aspect of the wild ride. In the end, isn’t that what the practice is all about? Isn’t that what life is all about?

The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others.” – James Baldwin

Not running from something / I’m running towards the day / Wide awake // A whisper once quiet / Now rising to a scream / Right in me // I’m falling, free falling / Words calling me / Up off my knees // I’m soaring and, darling, / You’ll be the one that I can need / (and) Still be free // Our future’s paved with better days” – Eddie Vedder’s “Better Days”

Ann G is one-half (or maybe it’s more like one-fifth, when you start counting kids) of an incredible love story. Stay tuned for the other half…or fifth.

In the interest of full disclosure, Ann G’s favorite musical moment may have happened with another teacher. Which I think is totally groovy!

Speaking of other teachers, Sandra Razieli just joined a joyful team!We taught together at last year's Sukkot retreat and this is our third year asking you to Kiss (Our)Asanas!Check out her yogathon promo video!

~ SO HUM , HUM SA ~

#PrayforPeace August 2, 2014

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A funny thing happened when I was getting ready for the classes I do at the end of Ramadan. I say “funny” meaning “ironic,” but it’s also something that got a laugh. And, it was also something incredibly profound and fitting.

Reba McEntire released a new song.

For the last three (3) years, at some point during the last 10 days of Ramadan – and for 2 – 3 days after Ramadan, my class themes focus on this holy time for Muslims. My “lessons” are pretty basic: I outline Kriya Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras and briefly explain that “ritual actions” which combine purification/training of the senses, self study in the context of sacred teachings, and dedication to a divine source occur in every major religion and philosophical practice. (Think, for example, about Lent, a Vipassana retreat, Sukkot, Passover – or Ramadan.) After explaining the basic premise of Ramadan, I outline the Five (5) Pillars of Islam; and break down six (6) Articles of Faith. I point out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all Abrahamic religions – meaning they share one historical origin. I also talk about the importance of the last 10 days with regard to Laylat al-Qadr and the power of prayer, especially as it relates to peace. And, as always, I try to include poses and music which reinforce the message.

OK, before I go any further, let me answer the two (2) most popular questions: Why would you do that? What’s it to you?

More often than not, I pick a theme because it has MEANING. The all caps means it has BIG meaning, so big that (dare I say it) it is universal. Or, at the very least, is accessible to a large group of really diverse people. The theme is a way to get everyone on the same page. And, getting everyone together (on the same page) is one definition of yoga.

Going deeper, going off the mat: It is also an opportunity to expose people to information that might not otherwise discover or seek out on there own. The Twin Cities have a large Muslim population – and, an estimated 1.6 billion people in the world practice Islam. However, many people in the West (including here in the Twin Cities) only know about the faith when it is in the news. And, unfortunately, Islam is in the news a lot because of negative situations. (Keep in mind, the majority of the people in the world who faithfully practice a religious faith are not making the news!) So, here again, is an opportunity to practice yoga – to come together.

If I play a song with lyrics during a Ramadan class, then the musician is Muslim. That’s been my personal modus operandi. I realize that within the Muslim community there is debate about what is permissible (halal) when it comes to music. I have considered only playing a cappella  music or voices accompanied only by percussion; however, in the end I’ve played a wide variety – all inspirational and devotional in some way. And, again, all songs with lyrics are performed by Muslim musicians.

This year, however, I felt like something – a song – was missing. I kept going back and forth between my Ramadan mixes and music in my library that I had chosen not to use. Nothing extra fit. So, for the first class, I left well enough alone. But, I still had that nagging sensation. Between classes, I was surfing the internet and I came across Reba’s new song Pray for Peace.

When I decided to include Pray for Peace in my remaining Ramadan mixes I wanted to be very clear that (so far as I know) Reba is not a Muslim. People seemed to find that statement funny – or maybe it was nervous laughter. Either way, I thought being clear was the best way to respect all the musicians on my playlists. This song, Reba’s call to prayer, was also another way for people to come together.

At first, all you hear are beats/foot steps; then what sounds like bagpipes (and maybe a fiddle). Then, for about 2 minutes, Reba sings, “Pray for Peace.” Over and over. “Pray for Peace.” Even when the lyrics evolve she doesn’t tell you how to pray or to “whom” you pray – she just asks that you pray. And, although the song requests that you pray for peace, the request is open ended: the nature of peace is not defined.

Granted, there was a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when Reba wrote the song last year. And a lot of chaos, confusion, pain, and war going on when she released the song. But, I find it very interesting/ironic that this call to prayer was released (for free) during a time when 1.6 billion people on the planet believe their prayers are magnified.

Right about now, somebody is doing the math and thinking, “Well, yeah, 1.6 billion seems like a lot – but that’s only about a sixth of the world’s population.” This is very true. But before you discount the value of those 1.6 billion people, add in all the non-Muslims who were going to pray during Ramadan anyway. Now, add in all the other people on the planet who were meditating, or singing, or sighing, or dancing, or crying, or wishing and hoping.

Now, let’s say all people were on the same page.

 

~ Om Shanti Shanti Shanthi Om ~