jump to navigation

Fire Thread (mostly the music w/ links) August 22, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Abhyasa, Music, Philosophy, Vairagya.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

“I knew something important had happened to me that day because of Mr. Electrico. I felt changed. He gave me importance, immortality, a mystical gift. My life was turned around completely. It makes me cold all over to think about it, but I went home and within days I started to write. I’ve never stopped.

 

Seventy-seven years ago, and I’ve remembered it perfectly. I went back and saw him that night. He sat in the chair with his sword, they pulled the switch, and his hair stood up. He reached out with his sword and touched everyone in the front row, boys and girls, men and women, with the electricity that sizzled from the sword. When he came to me, he touched me on the brow, and on the nose, and on the chin, and he said to me, in a whisper, ‘Live forever.’ And I decided to.”

 

– Ray Bradbury (b. 8/22/1920)

 

“Almost every book I’ve ever read has left its mark.”

 

– Annie Proulx (b. 8/22/1935)

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, August 22nd) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

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

 

Click here for a blog post related to last year’s practice on this date or click here to see how one of today’s writer’s is related to Chaos.

 

 

 

### Do you see the threads? ###

Consider What’s Upstream August 22, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

[My apologies to Anushka Fernandopulle, the teacher whose name I couldn’t remember last week, but whose dharma talk about getting on the right or wrong emotion/thought train has stuck with me for 6 years! You can find her article here and one of her talks here.]

“There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house, there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

– quoted from Fahrenheit  451 by Ray Bradbury

“Almost every book I’ve read has left its mark.”

– Annie Proulx

Every writer’s work is directly or indirectly the result of everything they’ve experienced, done, seen, thought, and heard. Just like each point in our lives is the direct and indirect experience of everything we’ve experienced, done, seen, thought, and heard. Writing is, after all, just a reflection of life. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to distinguish the seams or pull apart the threads that make up the tapestry. But then you read work by writers like Ray Bradbury and Annie Proulx and it’s as if every word and every page is an instruction manual in how things are put together and how things come apart. It’s as if they are saying, “Here, here, pull here.”

Both born today, Bradbury (in 1935) and Proulx (in 1935) were and are writers whose works leave impressions, while simultaneously pointing out the impressions that are being left by the lives we lead. Their works, like Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 and “The Sound of Thunder” and Proulx’s The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain” illustrate the cause and effect continuum that in yoga philosophy is referred to as karma (act, word, and deed – as well as the result or effect of effort) and samskāra (the mental and energetic impression left by the act, word, and deed). In life, while we are living it, we don’t always see where things begin and end. Reading brings our awareness to the edges, the extremes of the continuum – as does a meditation practice.

“Quoyle: A coil of rope.

‘A Flemish flake is a spiral of coil of one layer only. It is made on deck, so that it may be walked on if necessary.’  THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS “

– quoted from The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

“‘Stay on the Path. Don’t go off it. I repeat. Don’t go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there’s a penalty.’”

– from “A Sound of  Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

If you could connect all the dots, follow all the threads, and re-trace every path of your life and the lives that intersect your life, you would have the story of how you got where you are, why you think what you think, and why you feel what you feel. There is a layer of that statement that might feel obvious and trite – or maybe even oversimplified. Go a little deeper, however, and you start to appreciate the layers and layers of vibrations that coil and stack to create this moment.

According to Eastern philosophies like Vedānta and Buddhism, we experience 108 types of sensations, emotions, or feelings. If you click here to see the math, you will notice that our attitudes towards what we perceive can be positive, negative, or neutral. Experience teaches us that when we have negative attitudes we are on a direct path towards suffering. (NOTE: As Patanali points out in the sūtras, positive attitudes can also, eventually, lead to suffering, but that’s the scenic route.) The direct path to suffering manifests in 27 different ways (and, according to some commentary, there are 81 sub-categories). Those 27 manifestations break down as follows:

  • 3 ways afflicting thoughts and acts of violence are put into action (by ourselves, through others, or by tacit (silent) consent)

  • 3 mental conditions that inspire dysfunctional or violent acts (greed, anger, confusion)

  • 3 degrees of intensity (mild, moderate, or intense)

This week’s yoga sūtra is Patanjali’s way of giving us sign posts that indicate, as Anushka Fernandopulle might say, that we have gotten on the wrong train. By breaking down the way in which our dysfunctional or afflicted thoughts lead to dysfunctional or violent words and acts, Patanjali reinforces the importance of the yamas and niyamas, the ethical components of the practice, as a way to train the mind. Getting on the right train of thought begins by noticing our thoughts and how they become our words and deeds. Notice, also, that from Patanjali’s perspective one is not off the hook because the violent act is perpetrated by another person – neither are we off the hook if our only “crime” is not saying something when we see something.

Yoga Sūtra 2.33: vitarkabādhane pratipakşabhāvanam

— “When troublesome thoughts prevent the practice (of yamās and niyamās), cultivate the opposite thoughts.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.34: vitarkā himsādayah kŗtakāritānumoditā lobharkrodhamohapūrvakā mŗdumadhyādhimātrā duhkājñānānantaophalā iti pratispakşabhāvanam

– “These troublesome thoughts are put into action by ourselves (directly), by others (indirectly caused by ourselves), or by our approval of others (and their actions). All of these are preceded by, or performed through, anger, greed, or confusion and can be mild, moderate, or intense in nature. Cultivating opposite thoughts is a reminder that these troublesome thoughts lead to unending suffering.”

Annie Proulx named one of her main characters after a coil of rope and used quotes from The Ashley Book of Knots to indicate what inspired her to write a novel. Ray Bradbury explained that he was “putting one foot in front of the other” when he described the inspiration for one of his short stories. If you don’t know where to begin, there’s more confusion; but, follow the thread and suddenly things make more sense.

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, August 22nd) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (This is the “07112020 An Introduction” playlist.)

You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

### FIRST STEP: NOTICE. ###

Let’s See…Where We Go May 23, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

(“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan.)

“I stopped explaining myself when I realized other people only understand from their level of perception.”

– Anonymous

 

 

“‘Stay on the Path. Don’t go off it. I repeat. Don’t go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there’s a penalty.’”

– from “A Sound of  Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

There are some things that once seen (heard, felt), cannot be unseen (unheard, unfelt). Those things – whether we like them or dislike them; whether we truly understand their nature or not – become part of us and part of our world. Those things – whether we recognize/identify them as part of ourselves and/or part of our world – become how we perceive ourselves and the world. Those things – whether they are specific, unspecific, barely describable, or absolutely indescribable – play a part in how we understand ourselves and our world. Those things… are (almost) everything: and everything can lead to fulfillment and freedom.

The statements above are a way to view Yoga Sutras 2.17 – 2.20, which we’ve covered on Saturdays in the last few weeks. (The calendar on the side will link you to posts on any given date if you want to review.) Those statements are also the scaffolding for this week’s sutra (2:21) which gets to the heart of why (to paraphrase the anonymous quote) everyone can only understand from our level of perception – as well as why one person doesn’t automatically “get” what another person “gets.”

Yoga Sutra 2.17: draşțŗdŗśyayoh samyogo heyahetuh

 

– “The union of the seer and the seeable is the cause of pain (that may be avoidable).”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.18: prakāśkriyāsthitiśīlam bhūtendriyāmakam bhogāpavargārtham dŗśyam

 

– “The objective world (what is seen), consisted of a combination of elements and senses, and having a nature of illumination, activity, and stability, has two purposes: fulfillment and freedom.”

 

Yoga Sutra 2.19: viśeşāviśeşalingamātrālingāni guņaparvāņi

 

– “The “gunas” fall into four categories: specific/identifiable, unspecific/unidentifiable, barely describable (by signs), and absolutely indescribable (because it is beyond reference).”

Yoga Sutra 2.20: draşțā dŗśimātrah śuddho’pi pratyayānupaśyah

– “The Seer is the pure power of seeing, yet its understanding is through the mind/intellect.

 

Yoga Sutra 2.21: tadartha eva dŗśyasyātmā

 

– “The Seer is the pure power of seeing, yet its understanding is through the mind/intellect.”

 

One of the reasons I share/teach the things I share/teach is that I understand we (read: our minds) have to be prepared for epiphanies. In other words, we (our minds) have to be prepared to understand what we are seeing. Also, once we have that epiphany – that “aha” moment – where we start to see things in a different way (a special way), we can’t “unsee” that different perception of reality. It’s like the dress or the sound or the picture of the animal or the picture I once shared in the downtown studio.

Some people only ever see/hear/experience things a certain way. It doesn’t matter what the reality is, we can only believe what we understand; and so, you can talk until you are blue (or gold) in the face and some people will never understand anything other than what they first perceived. Their minds have not shown them any other possibility (YS 2.20). On the other hand, some people, when presented with the truth about the reality of the dress, the sound, or either picture will start to perceive the object in a different way. And, once they do, that new perception becomes part of their understanding of reality (YS 2:18 – 19). When presented the object of experience again, they may first still see what they initially perceived, but their mind/intellect will now also present them with the other option(s). Add to this the fact that there are some people who will initially experience both/all options (YS 2:15 – 17). While people in this last category can isolate what others perceive, they will also still understand the ultimate reality: it’s all about perception, baby.

And, our perceptions play a starring role in our actions, our suffering, and our ultimate freedom from suffering.

“We must wholeheartedly believe in free will. If free will is a reality, we shall have made the correct choice. If it is not, we shall have still not made an incorrect choice, because we shall not have made a choice at all, not have a free will to do so.”

 

– from The Essence of Chaos (1993) by Edward Norton Lorenz

 

We have reached the end of the month of Ramadān, which can be viewed through the Yoga lens of Kriyā Yoga (a prescription or path to union). Part of the reason I share some of the history, pillars, and articles of faith related to Islam (as well as to Judaism and Christianity) is because if one person gains insight or additional understanding it not only changes their perception, it changes the way they relate to themselves and to the world. Sure, I hold out for the possibility of more than one person, but I also acknowledge that one person can make a big difference… if you know where to look for the change.

“‘A little error here would multiply in sixty million years, all out of proportion. Of course maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe Time can’t be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and finally, a change in social temperament in far­-flung countries. Something much more subtle, like that. Perhaps only a soft breath, a whisper, a hair, pollen on the air, such a slight, slight change that unless you looked close you wouldn’t see it. Who knows? Who really can say he knows? We don’t know. We’re guessing. But until we do know for certain…we’re being careful. ’”

– from “A Sound of  Thunder” (June 28, 1952) by Ray Bradbury

 

“ Lest I appear frivolous in even posing the title question, let alone suggesting that it might have an affirmative answer, let me try to place it in proper perspective by offering two propositions.
   1. If a single flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, so also can all the previous and subsequent flaps of its wings, as can the flaps of the wings of millions of other butterflies, not to mention the activities of innumerable more powerful creatures, including our own species.
   2. If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.
   More generally, I am proposing that over the years minuscule disturbances neither increase nor decrease the frequency of occurrence of various weather events such as tornadoes; the most that they may do is to modify the sequence in which these events occur.”

 

– from initially untitled speech given by Edward Norton Lorenz at the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, D.C, on December 29, 1972

 

It might seem random that a technical talk to a science organization in 1972 would popularize a theory that dates back as far as 1800. Turns out, however, that it’s not random, it’s chaos (theory) and changing a seagull’s wings to a butterfly’s wings was just the beginning of a ripple of effect with a “strange” legacy. According to Edward Norton Lorenz (born today in 1917), he did not submit a title for his now famous speech (“Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”). The title, which came from the session chair, Dr. Philip Merilees, carried “the idea that small changes in initial conditions could result in vast differences in the initial outcomes” beyond mathematics, physics, computer science, and meteorology. It carried it everywhere – even into the social sciences, even into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. (Even though sometimes people don’t actually understand – or even know – the actual theory.)

If you are interested in experiencing some theory and “seeing” where it takes you, please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, May 23rd) at 12:00 PM. We will continue exploring the connection between what we perceive and what we understand, this time using the lens of Ramadan and chaos theory. 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. (Note: The links are for the “Ramadan 2020 75+ mins” playlist.)

Two quick notes about the music: First, while the most of the musicians featured on the playlists during these final days of Ramadān are Muslim there are some exceptions. One of the notable exceptions – notable, because she is the only female soloist and the only non-Muslim singer on the list – is Reba McEntire. Her song “Pray for Peace” is on the playlist because she released it during the month of Ramadān in 2014 – but not just randomly in the month, the song was released in the last ten days of the month! Second, there are some songs on the playlist that are Nasheeds (meaning they are religiously moral songs) that, in some traditions, are meant to be sung without instrumentation or only with percussion. I have, however, included orchestrated versions of these songs, because this seems to have worked best in an in-studio setting. As far as I know, percussion or voice only recordings of each song are available (if you want to build your own playlist). Alternatively, you can practice without the music (or use this “chaos” music).

 

(A little theory to go.)

### X Y Z ###