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What It Means To Be Clean on Day 13 (the “missing” Wednesday post, with a nod to Sunday) February 28, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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[My apologies for this very late Wednesday (the 24th) post (which is also a preview for Sunday the 28th). You can request an audio recording of Wednesday’s practices via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes. *** DON’T FORGET THERE’S A “FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL ON MARCH 5th! ***]

 

“But, before we enter on the subject, let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin. ‘Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.’ Agreeably to this, good Mr. Herbert advises every one that fears God: —

 

Let thy mind’s sweetness have its operation Upon thy person, clothes, and habitation.

 

And surely every one should attend to this, if he would not have the good that is in him evil spoken of.”

 

– quoted from Sermon #88 (“On Dress”) by John Wesley, inspired by The First Epistle General of Peter (3:3,4)

There are hundreds of references to washing and being clean in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and in the Qur’an. In Judaism and Islam, people are commanded (by God) to wash before certain acts and, in particular, before certain prayers – and also to avoid certain elements because they are deemed “unclean.” In Judaism, specifically, ritual washing is divided into hand washing and full body immersion. In Islam, ritual cleansing includes washing specific body parts (i.e., face, arms, head, and feet) and also full body immersion. In the Christian New Testament, there is an emphasis placed on ritual feet washing. Yet, for all these references to being clean, one of the most well-known “Biblical” quotes about “cleanliness” doesn’t actually appear in any sacred text associated with the Abrahamic religions. Instead, the earliest recorded English reference is from a sermon John Wesley gave in the mid-to-late 1780’s.

The sermon, “On Dress,” was inspired by a letter addressed to Churches in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor who were experiencing religious persecution. The letter, attributed to Saint Peter the Apostle, not only recommended appropriate conduct in how one should interact with people from different stations (“Honour all….”); live under non-Christian rulers (“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”) and deal with false accusations (“… with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;”); it also outlines how one should conduct one’s self when faced with suffering (“… ye take it patiently…”) and how women should or, more specifically, should not dress. However, The Reverend Wesley’s sermon did not just address the dress of women. Instead, the good reverend spoke of all Christians. He outlined how extreme people could go in their interpretations and applications of Saint Peter’s guidance – and also, emphasized the idea that extreme interpretations and applications miss the point. Then he explained that the importance of the Biblical instruction lies not in outward appearance but on the inward experience.

Yoga Sūtra 2.40: śaucāt svāngajugupsā parairasamsargah

 

– “From purity/cleanliness arises sensitivity to the unclean nature of one’s own body and [physical] unmixing.”

 

Yoga Sūtra 2.41: sattvaśuddhisaumanasyaikāgreyendriyayātmadarśanayogyatvāni ca

 

– “[From purity/cleanliness arises] pure wisdom of the heart, cheerfulness of mind, the power of concentration, victory over the senses, and the ability to directly experience our Self.”

In outlining and explaining the Yoga Philosophy, Patanjali offered ten ethical components: five “external restraints” or universal commandments (yamā) and five “internal observations” (niyama). The very first internal observation is śaucāt, the practice of “cleanliness.” I have a bad habit of just referencing śaucāt as it relates to the physical body (e.g., food, drink, bathing, etc.); but the practice is intended to cover everything that we consume. And, eons before John Wesley shared his observations from the pulpit, Patanjali offered the same conclusion: to quote the good reverend, “Then only when you have cast off your fondness for dress, will the peace of God reign in your hearts.”

It is all too easy to look back, historically speaking, and focus on hygiene. We can even point to specific historical conditions – or to the fact that certain texts specify what kinds of water are permitted and which kinds are not acceptable (according to religious law). What do we do, however, with the fact that some scripture outlines ritual cleansing that does not involve water? Closer examination reveals, however that these ritual practices are about more than physical hygiene and the elimination of contaminants. The practices are about purification; a fact that is reinforced with the practice of the niyamās in yoga.

“‘Consider purification, tapas, which literally means “to melt,” as in refining ore. The purpose of purification is not pain and penance, but to deliberately refine one’s life, to melt it down and recast it into a higher order of purity and spirituality. The goal is very important; it is not self-punishment but refinement – to shift from human existence into Divinity!

 

There are three main methods of purification: the refinement of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds – also called the purification, respectively, of one’s instruments of mind, speech, and body. When you modify these three you automatically change for the better.’”

 

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (17.14) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

The purification of mind and speech can be experienced when practicing the second niyamā, santoşā (“contentment”), which is a foundation for the practice of non-attachment. Patanjali combines the final three niyamāstapa (“austerity or heat”), svādhyāya (“self-study”), and īśvarapraņidhāna (“trustful surrender to [the Divine]”) – and refers to the combination as kriyā yoga or “union in action.” Anyone can practice these elements at any time, but it is interesting to note that these elements – as a combined practice – are found in rituals from around the world. For example, the observations of Lent; Passover; and fasting during the Baha’i 19-Day Fast, the month of Ramadan, and/or for Yom Kippur all full under the rubric of kriyā yoga. Celebrating Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage involving a ritual bath in one of four sacred rivers (determined by a 12-year cycle of rotation) also falls under this same umbrella. (Note that, with the exception of Yom Kippur, all of these rituals are either currently being observed or will be observed between now and the 2nd week in May.)

All that being said, Day 13 of the Lunar New Year does not, in and of itself, involve ritual cleansing. It is, however, a day when people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival traditionally eat “clean.” A lighter, often vegetarian, meal on day 13, is a way to help the body clean itself after the heavy feasting over the previous two weeks and to prepare for one more round of feasting during the Lantern Festival (on Day 15).

Day 13 is also the day when some people celebrate the birthday of the “God of War.” There are lots of different stories (and names) associated with the “God of War.” Some of the legends relate to a general who showed great loyalty; other stories relate to an acclaimed general who became a goddess who showed great empathy. While this is not seen as a good day to get married or have a big celebration, it is believed that offering prayers and gifts to the God of War on Day 13 will bring peace to a household and give businesses a winning edge. Regardless of the title that is used, the God of War is viewed as a protector of individuals, homes, and businesses; as well as the patron of “fraternities,” including the police (and other brotherhoods).

“‘We three—Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei—though of different families, swear brotherhood, and promise mutual help to one end. We will rescue each other in difficulty; we will aid each other in danger. We swear to serve the state and save the people. We ask not the same day of birth, but we seek to die together. May Heaven, the all-ruling, and Earth, the all-producing, read our hearts. If we turn aside from righteousness or forget kindliness, may Heaven and Human smite us!’”

 

– quoted from “Chapter 1. The Oath of the Peach Garden” in Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (English translator unknown)

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

DON’T FORGET! This Friday (March 5th) there’s a “First Friday Night Special” (7:15 PM – 8:20 PM, CST) – at which time, I will encourage you to “give something up” / “let someone go.” Additional details are posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar!

### “THUS WILL WE ENTER UPON OUR GREAT TASK.” ~LG ###

 

Getting Things Moving on Day 12 (the “missing” Tuesday post) February 24, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Food, Health, Hope, Lent, Mirabai Starr, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yin Yoga, Yoga.
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Happy New Year! Many blessings to those observing Lent!

[This is the post for Tuesday, February 23rd. You can request an audio recording of Tuesday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

 

“Some could think that if turning back is so bad it would be better never to begin but to remain outside the castle. I have already told you at the beginning – and the Lord Himself tells you – that anyone who walks in danger perishes in it and that the door of entry to this castle is prayer. Well now, it is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves, coming to know ourselves, reflecting on our misery and what we owe God, and Him often for mercy.”

 

– quoted from “The Second Dwelling Places” of The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Ávila (Translation by Kieran Kavanaugh, O. C. D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O. C. D.)

 

If you spend any amount of time with me – on or off the mat, even on or off the blog page – I think it becomes very clear that I am fascinated by human commonalities. I love the way different cultures and different people’s ways of being in the world overlap. Anthropologically speaking, I am fascinated by the things that (I think) come from being human: like the desire for a deeper connection with more than ourselves. It is interesting to note that when it comes to existential questions – that is to say, questions related to our existence – philosophies and religions (even the physical sciences) end up down the same rabbit holes, racing or strolling down the same paths… just sometimes coming at the path from different directions.

It’s kind of like when you walk through a labyrinth with other people, as many of us did on retreat in Minnetonka a little over 4 years ago. In some ways, everyone was on the same path; but, because we were on different parts of the path – walking in different directions, entering and leaving at different times – one’s perspective could easily be that we were on vastly different paths. Also, the perspective was different when you were on the inside versus the outside and/or when you were looking at the practice before you walked the labyrinth versus after you walked it. Then there was the fact that we all came to the retreat and came to the practice from different places and came with different experiences so that our understanding and processing of the shared experience was, in some ways, different. And yet the same.

And yet the same. Because if we learn nothing else from the ancient yogis and mystics from various traditions around the world, it is this: that the deeper you go inside of yourself, the more parallel your journey and experience is to someone else. This is why Joseph Campbell could codify a cycle/journey after studying a hero with a thousand faces. It is why so many philosophical, spiritual, and religious paths have similar elements – and why those paths work after hundreds and thousands of years.

“Remember: If you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love.”

 

– quoted from “The Fourth Dwelling .1.” of The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Ávila (New Translation and Introduction by Mirabai Starr)

We all know that if we eat something or drink something, we are going to have to digest that something. We may not understand how physical mechanics, but at an early age we start learning that the body processes what we consume. It absorbs the nutrients it needs and discards the waste/toxins; and when the body doesn’t absorb what it needs and/or doesn’t get rid of the waste/toxins in an efficient manner, we experience physical pain, discomfort, and disease. We know this about what we eat and drink – and, when we think about it, we recognize that this is also true about what we inhale and/or absorb through the skin/tissues.

What we may not always realize is that we are continuously consuming things that we don’t eat, drink, inhale, or absorb through the skin/tissues. The principle of consumption, digestion, absorption, and elimination also applies to things we consume with our minds. In other words, everything we experience (i.e., everything we see, hear, say, think, and do) is something we are consuming and therefore something that must be processed and digested so that we can absorb what we need – what serves us – and eliminate the waste/toxins (that no longer serves us). When we fail to appropriately process what we consume mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually, we can experience (physical) pain and (mental/emotional) suffering – which can be just as excruciating as when we are physically constipated or otherwise debilitated by the things we consume.

The mind-body is designed to find balance. It is designed to convert food into energy and even to store the fuel for those times when we are depleted. It is designed to eliminate toxins and anything that could cease our existence. While the mind-body does so much of what it does to keep us moving without any involvement or conscious thought on our part, there are ways in which we can assist the processes. One way we can assist these processes is to be mindful of what we consume. Of course, since we can’t always control every little thing that we consume, it’s important to keep three key elements in mind: water, rest, and movement.

“Rest and digest,” as well as create, are associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the mind-body’s brakes. Of course, the only reason a system needs brakes is if it is in motion (or could be in motion). One of the many reasons movement is important is because the engagement of our muscles serves as the pump for the lymphatic system – which provides nutrients for healthy cells and brushes or washes away dead cells. A combination of tissues, vessels, and organs, the lymphatic system is a crucial part of our immune system – and on the first line of defense against disease.

So, it makes sense that after 11 days of celebrations that involve rich, heavy food and drink, people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival as part of the Lunar New Year celebrations need a break before the Lantern Festival that concludes the celebrations. Day 12 is that day of cleansing and resting – and also for getting ready for what’s to come. Under “normal” (i.e., not pandemic) circumstances, most businesses have opened back up and people are back at work. There will still be prayers, offerings, and a remembrance of elders. There might even still be some leftovers. However, for the most part, this is a day when people rest, relax, eat light… and process/digest all that’s happened before.

“… and our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”

 

– quoted from “Chapter X” of The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Ávila

Throughout our physical practice of yoga, we either break up the movement with stillness and quiet (as we do in vinyāsa) or break up the stillness and quiet with movement (as we do with Yin Yoga) – and, even though that looks and feels very different, the path is still about processing, digesting, absorbing, and eliminating what has been consumed. This applies to what has been consumed physically, as well as mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually. While any movement can help someone process what they have consumed, the physical practices of yoga can allow us to be very deliberate and very intentional in the way that assist the digestion process. Again, when I say “digestion” here, I mean the processing of what has been consumed by all the aforementioned methods.

From the outside looking in, the way we move through our vinyāsa practice can seem mysterious, odd, or even magical. However, the deeper we go into the practice (and into ourselves) the more we recognize that there is a science and a system to the movement. We move in a way that exaggerates the mind-body’s natural tendencies while, at the same time, moving through the mind-body-spirit’s symbolic manifestation of our biography. Thus, the poses and the sequences are very intentional on a physical-mental level, as well as a psychic-symbolic level, and an emotional-energetic level. Each practice is, in some ways, intended as a non-alcoholic apértif and digestif; simultaneously something to increase your appetite (for life) and to help you digest what you’ve consumed.

“Before fully uniting himself with her, he fills her with burning desire for him. He does this in such a delicate way that the soul doesn’t understand where her longing comes from, nor could I successfully explain it except to those who already know from experience what I’m saying. These impulses rise from so deep inside that the soul and are so subtle and refined that I can’t find a fitting metaphor to describe them.

 

This experience is far different from anything we can taste in the world. It is even different from the spiritual delights we have talked about so far.”

 

– quoted from “The Sixth Dwelling .2.” of The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Ávila (New Translation and Introduction by Mirabai Starr)

 

Tuesdays playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “March 28th Dogs & Castles 2020”]

 

DON’T FORGET! The next “First Friday Night Special” is March the 5th – at which time, I will encourage you to “give something up” / “let someone go.” Time and additional details are posted on the “class schedules” calendar!

### MOVE YOUR (OWN) SELF ###