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The Teacher In Me Honors The Teacher Also In You July 5, 2020

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 “Sir Isaac Newton said, If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”

– Hubert K. Rucker, PhD, eulogizing his mother (Altramae Laverne McCarty, a teacher)

Days like Teacher Appreciation Day or Administrative Assistant Day are a lot like a cultural appreciation day, or month, in that they make me wonder why there is only appreciation (or awareness) in this single moment of time. I mean, it’s not as if every Black, Asian, Hispanic, Woman, Mother, Dad, GLBTQIA+, or Service person was born on the same day or accomplished something great within the same month. It’s ridiculous thought, right? It’s especially ludicrous when you consider all the teachers in your life – not just the professional ones like my dad and paternal grandmother, but all the non-professional ones whose lives and instruction guide you throughout your life. It seems if you wanted show your appreciation for those teachers – including the “master teachers / precious jewels” who give you a master class on yourself – you would live your life in accordance with their teachings.

“The best thing you can do is don’t poison yourself with all those things, that’s the best thing you can do for your guru … I want all of you to remember this… the best thing that you can ever do for you guru, if at all if you feel like you want to do is, that you drop your nonsense and grow. What’s the best thing a garden can do for a gardener? Hmm? To grow and bloom, isn’t it? ‘No, no, we want to do this to you, we want to do that to you,’ that’s not the intention, that’s not the goal….

The concern is that people will be here and if they don’t grow. I’ve planted people in my garden and they never blossomed, that I’m terrified of.”

 

– Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of the Isha Foundation, answering the question “What Is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Guru?”

People often translate the word “guru” as “teacher” – and that is truly a definition for the Sanskrit word. But, go a little deeper and you find the roots for the word are “gu,” which means “darkness” or “ignorance” and “ru,” which means “the remover of darkness” or “light.” Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, the Dalai Lama, and (Kundalini’s) Yogi Bhajan are considered what I call “Big G” Gurus within their various traditions. Just to avoid confusion, let me clarify my designation by saying that these are not examples of “Big G” Gurus because they are sometimes worshiped (depending on the tradition). I call them “Big G” Gurus because they are so venerated that people follow their examples as a lifestyle. In this way, Tara, Mary, Saint Teresa of Ávila, Fatima, Saint Clare of Assisi, and (Svroopa’s) Swami Nirmalananda are also “Big G” Gurus. “Little g” gurus are no less important than “Big G” Gurus – in that they are still honored as “removers of darkness;” however, “little g” gurus aren’t followed in the same way as their counterparts.

Keep in mind that the most important “Big G” Guru is inside of you and the most important “little g” gurus are all around you at all times. This is one of the reasons why Sadhguru instructs people who say they love him to, “from today on, I want you to treat everybody – man, woman, child, animal, plant, if possible even inanimate things – everything that you see, everything that you set your eyes upon, you must see it and treat it as Sahdguru…. You do just this one thing.” This is the same teaching taught by Krishna, the Buddha, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad (just to name a few). Still, (to quote Thornton Wilder) “All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it.”

“Every relationship you develop, from casual to intimate, helps you become more conscious. No union is without spiritual value.”

 

– from “Morning Visual Meditation” (focus for Chakra 2) by Caroline Myss

According to the Permaculture Home Garden (by Linda Woodrow) and the “Permaculture Calendar,” a full moon is a good time to sow or plant root crops and decorative or fruiting perennials (“[l]ike apples, potatoes asparagus and rhubarb. It’s also a good time to cut and divide plants.”). As I subscribe to this belief as it relates to planting karmic seeds, a full moon is a good time to plant something you really want to take root, in a way that will nourish and sustain you for years to come. So, get ready to do some karmic planting as we have a full moon tonight.

The first full moon after the Summer Solstice is known as the “Buck Moon” (because it’s when First Nations people reportedly noticed buck’s antlers were in “full growth mode”), Thunder Moon, Hay Moon, and Rose Moon. You’ll notice that these names are associated with natural observation (and if you were watching last night you might have noticed a partial penumbral lunar eclipse as the almost full moon passed through the Earth’s shadow). On the flip side, the full moon in July is also known by some as the Guru Moon. It designates Guru Purnima, also known as Ved Vyasa, Dharma Day (in some Theraveda Buddhist countries), or Treenok Guha Purnima (in Jainism).

Guru Purnima is observed by Hindus, Jains, Buddhist, and (yes) yogis. Each tradition has a different story to explain the significance of the day. In Buddhism it is the day the Buddha gave his first sermon in India. In Hinduism and Indian philosophies, like some traditions of Yoga, it is a day to remember the teachings of Vyasa, as it is believed to be the day he started writing the Brahma Sūtras. It is also the day, in certain yoga traditions, when Shiva became “Adiyogi” (the first yogi) as well as the first guru. In the country of Nepal and in the Jain tradition, today is also celebrated as the day of the first teacher; in this case, the day Mahavira made Indrabhuti Gautam / Guatam Swami his first disciple.

“Maybe I have problems in other ways, and when I come to you I put energy of a certain kind; because that’s where I’m good. You see someone suffering and you have opportunity to touch that person. And if you touch that person from the depth of the energy that you’ve got from inside your own heart, if you touch them with that, they feel it. If someone’s very peaceful, has a tremendous amount of energy, you feel it. What becomes most important? How clear can I be in my mind, how vital can I be in my energy. And it’s not a matter of making myself comfortable – because then I won’t grow….

So, you have to take some risks; you have to build some energy; you have to have clarity of mind; you have to create stillness, silence, and space. If you do these things, you’re smiling in the midst of controversy and deceit and war and famine and everything else – and you have the possibility of helping people….”

 

– Robert Boustany (my first yoga teacher) explaining “Healing / Yoga Therapy”

Depending on the tradition, it is a day of prayer and/or meditation, as well as (spiritual) offerings. In some places there is music and dance – in others there is silence. In Nepal and parts of India, this is also a day to celebrate non-religious teachers. There are art competitions and assemblies where teachers, as well as great scholars from the school, are recognized and honored. Sometimes alumni will visit their teachers and bring gifts of gratitude. Of course, the greatest gift a teacher can receive is the recognition that they have helped someone achieve success in life.

“I would define yoga as liberation. For me, it was getting past all the obstacles and conditioning and training that, I think, life has put in my way to make me think less of myself and to teach me that I’m not enough. And I found the beauty of yoga is it said, ‘You are enough. You’re perfect as you are. And let us show you how’….

… I felt like a lot of people were missing out on the opportunity to practice because they weren’t super athletic, or young, or flexible, or able-bodied. And I thought to myself, ‘there’s got to be a way to be able to bring everyone who felt like they were at the margins of this practice to the center.

I think a yogi is anyone who believes in elevating everyone, who believes that the collective is powerful, and that we inspire everybody, and that we’re in this – and anyone who wants to serve the greatest good.”

– Dianne Bondy, in an “Omstars” introduction  

Today, just like every day, I quote some of my teachers – not all of my teachers… that would take years and several volumes of books. Today, just like every day, I practice, teach, and live in a way that (I hope) honors all of my teachers. Today, just like every day, I appreciate what I have learned and what I am still learning. I am today, just like every day, so grateful for my teachers because they shared their practice and, ultimately, enable me to share mine. This gratitude extends to those who think of themselves as my students. Sure, I think of you as my students too; however, today (just like every day) I also think of you as my teachers. Gratitude is best felt when the thanksgiving is specific and while I could, easily (and have) articulate why I am so grateful for my practice (and therefore my teachers), I’m going to use this as another excuse to quote someone who greatly impacted my practice even before I ever trained with her.

 “If it wasn’t for a yoga practice, a prayer practice, and a meditation practice, I don’t know if he work that I’ve done in the world over the years would have been in any way sustainable. I have no doubt in my mind that without a daily and committed practice, that, the more shadow sense aspect of who I am – which is intense, angry, often overwhelmed, reactive – would be the thing that would determine the choices that I’ve made. And I’ve been able to turn my rage into passion, my over-emotionality into compassion. And it’s because of the commitment to the practice of yoga – and I’m personally so grateful that I have this particular tool, and there are many tools – to be able to utilize every single day, so that in my own service my personality doesn’t get in the way of being able to service in a way that is inclusive, supportive, open-minded, and that is healing….”

 

– Seane Corn at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, regarding “Not Burning Out in Service to Others”

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, July 5th) at 2:30 PM to celebrate Gurus and gurus – inside and out. 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 is in effect. 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.

 

“Seeking begins when the options presented are unacceptable. The path before me included a troubled mind-body relationship and dwindling prospects of health. At thirteen, these truths were not obstacles to confront. They were part of the air that I was breathing. If I was going to live, I need to live the mind-body relationship life had dealt me.”

 

– Matthew Sanford writing in Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (2006)

 

Don’t forget, Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams is hosting 12.5 hours of radical anti-racism readings online today 10:30 AM – 11 PM. Click here to register, even if you only have a little time to listen. Listen!

My first yoga teacher

 

### OM OM AUM ###

Speaking the Language of Hope April 23, 2020

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– Title of the third sigur rós album, on which all songs are “sung” by jónsi (born 4/23/1975) in Hopelandic (“Vonlenska” in Icelandic)

A lot of people, me included, find sigur rós music relaxing. I also find it visceral, something felt deep in the body. So, sometimes, when I want people to really tune in and pay attention to how they are feeling – deep in their bodies – I play sigur rós. There are albums where jónsi sings in Icelandic. On the third album, however, he sings in an imaginary language the band calls Hopelandic.

Hopelandic. How can you not love that name, or the idea of a place where the native language is hope?

“it’s of course not an actual language by definition (no vocabulary, grammar, etc.), it’s rather a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music and acts as another instrument. jónsi likens it with what singers sometimes do when they’ve decided on the melody but haven’t written the lyrics yet.”

– from the faq section of the sigur rós website

When I play sigur rós in class, I remind people that they are hearing an imaginary language, but also point out that if you listen long enough you can not only sing along you can also feel as if you understand what is being sung – if not the words (since they aren’t, technically, words), at least the sentiment. I also explain that it is a little like listening to the mind-body.

Our minds and bodies speak in sensation, that’s how they communicate information. The only problem is, we’re not always fluent in sensation. So, just like we do when we are learning a new language, we need to experience the “vocabulary” in context and then repeat and repeat them until they are ingrained. Living our lives in our bodies is a little like being immersed in a foreign language – except for the part where we can ignore all of the sensation/information and only converse in our native tongue because, in some ways, it is easier than trying to understand this language no one spends a lot of time teaching us how to understand. The physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) is a way to start learning the language.

It’s not that hard to find a yoga class, if you consider yourself able-bodied and/or of sound mind. Even now, under the worldwide lockdown, there are lots of options. It may take a little effort to find a yoga practice that works for you, but it’s out there. What if, however, you (or someone around you) didn’t consider you able-bodied and/or of sound mind? What if you had been told that because you couldn’t move parts of your body on your own, couldn’t breathe without a machine, and/or didn’t feel sensation the way others felt it, you couldn’t practice yoga? What if your body didn’t look like the teacher’s body? What if you had experienced a loss or a traumatic event so devastating that it was hard to get out of bed? What if you were burnt out from taking care of people? What if a doctor told you that you were all but dead?

“Or do you need to get quiet enough to understand that some person – maybe close to you, maybe you – needs a beautiful place to come to, just to be, to come back to the purity of your existence.

 

And whatever’s dragged you through your life up to this point, beaten you forward to solve whatever problems, you drop all of that. And find yourself.”

 

– Robert Boustany describing that ‘Every answer is inside you.’

I started practicing yoga between professional dancers and musicians, people who used their bodies to make a living. They were also people (pardon the pun) very in-tune with their bodies. Then there was me, and on the first day, Robert Boustany explained that I already practiced yoga (philosophically speaking).

Because I knew Robert’s  background and knew some of the people who practiced with him under various conditions, it would be decades before it occurred to me that some people thought they couldn’t practice yoga. It was heartbreaking to realize that some people were being denied a really profound internal experience, a profoundly healing experience, because of a misconception about what yoga is and what it is not. It was heartbreaking to realize that there were yoga teachers all of the world who only knew how to teach a single, sometimes stereotypical, person – especially since there are so many people in the world who are not stereotypical.

“As I write this book, I am a yoga teacher, and I still get around in a wheelchair. I teach bodies that can stand when I cannot, that can feel things where I do not. This is possible because I have explored a different kind of connection between mind and body. Although I still cannot move my legs – and have no goal to do so – I do feel a heightened level of presence throughout my entire consciousness, including my paralyzed body

 

It is a connection that we all share. Most of us, however, have not needed to bring it fully to consciousness. I believe this shared connection has profound implications not just for the shape and quality of our consciousness, but for the aging process, for the experience of trauma, for our approach to disability and rehabilitation, and even for our survival on this planet.”

 

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

Matthew Sanford is one of those people who is not stereotypical. He founded Mind Body Solutions 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. This year’s yogathon, the 7th annual yogathon, is only a week long. Seven days, starting Saturday, 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.

Pucker Up & Kiss My Asana!!!

The livestream, all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering is (this) Saturday, April 25th at 10 AM on YouTube (in The Hub). MBS founder Matthew Sanford will share his insights into the practice, plus there will be live conversation with MBS students and mind-body practices for all. Get a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program and help raise $50K of essential support.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting Saturday. (I will still host my Zoom classes on Saturday and Sunday, so consider doing all three!) You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, 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 23rd (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 23rd)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 23rd)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions

A Poetry Practice

A Preview of the April 22nd Practice (use “A Poetry Practice” link above)

 

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Exploring the Wren Cycle on Saint Patrick’s Day 2020 March 17, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Faith, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, Religion, Uncategorized, Yoga.
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“So listen people what I tell you now
Life is hard but it’s worth keeping on
Listen people what I can tell you straight
It’s not too late to

Try and get through
I’m just trying to get through”

– from “Trying to Get Through” by Hothouse Flowers

 

All of my in-studio classes are officially cancelled for at least 2 weeks.

When I taught what turned out to be my last few in-studio classes for a bit, I ended by explaining that one of the reasons I was doing my regular March 15th theme, based on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “American Promise” (aka “We Shall Overcome”) speech, was because I recognize that sometimes we step on the mat to help us deal with what’s going on off the mat and, also, sometimes to just have a moment away from what we’re dealing with off the mat. It is a few minutes, or hour, where the practice requires us to be fully present, right in the here and now – without getting sucked into what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Those much needed respites … they are part of how we get through all this. So, keeping that in mind…

Beannachti na fėile Pádraig, dia dhui. Mise Myra. Conas ata tu? Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone. My name is Myra. How are you? OK, since it doesn’t seem like anyone else speaks Gaelic, I’ll stick to English and Sanskrit for the rest of the practice.”

– My usual introduction on March 17th

The physical practice of yoga features a lot of bird poses. I mean, there are a lot, a lot, a lot of poses inspired by birds. Ergo, on Saint Patrick’s Day I usually guide a practice that tells the story of how the wren became the King of the Birds. The legend is usually associated with the Saint Stephen’s Day (instead of Saint Patrick’s Day) and the wren is the villain. However, I first heard about the legend in relation to “wren singers” singing in the round and the idea that it’s great “craic” for the music to never end at a “ceili.” So, when I tell the story, the wren is the heroine…and there are lots and lots of bird poses. (Not all of them, but a lot.)

You can read more about the ideas behind the physical sequence in a post from 2012. At some point on Tuesday, I will record a class for people who would normally attend on Tuesdays at Nokomis. (I apologize for not having it together in time for you to practice at your regular scheduled time.) If you’re not on my Tuesday list (you can message me) or you want to practice now, you can use the poses and playlist below to create your own sequence.

FEATURED BIRD POSES IN THE WREN CYCLE:

  1. The Ruddy Goose: There are two (2) so-called “Ruddy Goose” poses or sequences. Today we’ll just do the first. Come to your hands and knees – or into a standing squat if you need to modify. Stack shoulders over elbows, elbows over wrists, hips over knees. This is a good place to do a little cat-cow. Balance the weight in all form limbs, even as you curl your right toes under and stretch the right leg back. Use your core to lift the back leg up and then, if it’s accessible to you, lift the left arm up. Now, to turn your 2-Legged Table into Ruddy Goose, bend your lifted knee as if you are standing on the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths and then repeat on the other side (including the cat-cow).
  2. The Wren: My so-called Wren Pose doesn’t really exist, except in the Wren Cycle and maybe in some kids yoga classes. From standing or Downward Facing Dog, make your way into a standing forward fold. Look up and lengthen into a “Half-Lift, Flat Back” position. Find that place where your spine is long, shoulders are relaxed, and core is engaged. On an inhale, stretch your arms back behind you, so wrists are beside the hips. In “Wren Pose” you can wiggle your fingers to “shake your tail feathers.” In a vinyasa practice, “Half-Lift, Flat Back” is one of the repeated poses so whenever you inhale into the half-lift on Saint Patrick’s Day, simultaneously extend your heart-gaze forward and your arms backwards. To release, exhale into a Standing Forward Fold. (NOTE: You can also turn a low lunge into a modified “Flying Wren.”)
  3. Flamingo: Yes, yes, I know, you’re unlikely to see a Flamingo in Ireland outside of a zoo. That said, it’s in my version of the story and comes courtesy of my first teacher, Robert Boustany. It’s a big hip pose, so be warned. If you are not familiar with the sequence, just stick to Standing Splits (from a Standing Forward Fold), which is the beginning of the sequence.
  4. Eagle: Come into Chair Pose, knees over ankles, shoulders over hips, big awkward smile on your face (just cause). Take a deep breath in and the exhale your right arm under your left, taking the double bind or the single bind. Lift the bound elbows up and the move the bound hands away from your face. As you inhale, step your right leg over your left (taking the double bind or using your right toes as a kickstand). Squeeze the thighs together and press the right hip back. Hold the pose for several breaths and then make your way through any additional (2 – 3) standing poses on the right.
  5. “Flying Eagle”: From Warrior I on the right side, making sure hips are balanced (right hip back, left hip forward), stretch up as you inhale and then cross LEFT arm under the right for “Eagle arms.” Exhale and bring elbows to the right knee so that back is flat. Shift your weight forward as you inhale. Engage your core on the exhale and then use your inhale to soar into Warrior III with Eagle Arms. Stretch the arms out on an inhale (as the Eagle spreads out its wings and turns around to claim its crown). On an exhale, sweep the arms backwards into “Flying Wren” and hold. I usually add a Tree Pose here or before the first Eagle (so the other birds can watch the end of the competition). Repeat the Eagle/Flying Eagle/ Flying Wren section on the other side.
  6. Pigeon and Royal Pigeon: These are fully puffed-up Pigeon poses (not one of the One-Legged Royal Pigeon variations). These are big heart openers, so if they are not in your practice modify with the prep pose. For Royal Pigeon, set yourself up for Floor Bow (prep pose) and then bring your head and feet together. For Pigeon, come into Camel Pose and then, if this variation is in your practice, work your head and elbows down to the floor behind you. Bind off with the feet and shins.
  7. Heron: Come into Staff Pose, sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your left knee to the left, with the knee on the ground, if you need more support. Hug your right knee into your chest and then use your hands (or a strap) to hold onto your arches or ankles. In Heron Pose, it is more important for your back to be straight (spine long) and for your to be balanced on your sit bones (fully upright, not leaning back) than it is to have your leg straight. So, first align your head, neck, and trunk. If you can keep your back straight, shoulders over the hips, use an inhale to straighten out your right leg. If it’s accessible to you, you can bring your shin to your chin. Hold for a few breaths, then release into a twist to the right (prenatal is to the left) before repeating on the other side.
  8. Crow: Here’s one of the poses everyone expected. If it’s in your practice, use your Crow for one final vinyasa into Savasana.

Below is a playlist that features Irish artist and tells the story in 65 – 90 minutes (with or without the featured bird poses). Some songs on my in-class playlist are not available on YouTube so I’ve left them out. Also, you can easily skip a few towards the end to fit a shorter time frame. The HemiSync track is the last Savasana track. Garth, of course, marks the after party!

(This is freely given and freely received. I do not own the rights to these songs, but highly encourage you to buy them!)

 

### LET’S SOAR ###