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It Is Happening Again… August 29, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“The dwarves were still passing the cup from hand to hand and talking delightedly of the recovery of their treasure, when suddenly a vast rumbling woke in the mountain underneath as if it was an old volcano that had made up its mind to start eruptions once again. The door behind them was pulled nearly to, and blocked from closing with a stone, but up the long tunnel came the dreadful echoes, from far down in the depths, of a bellowing and a trampling that made the ground beneath them tremble.


Then the dwarves forgot their joy and their confident boasts of a moment before and cowered down in fright. Smaug was still to be reckoned with. It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”


– quoted from “Chapter XII. Inside Information” of The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien

Most times, when I refer to this passage from The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again, I only use the last sentence. It’s one that Dr. Daryl Koehn highlights in Living With the Dragon: Thinking and Acting Ethically in a World of Unintended Consequences, which is all about what happens when we don’t think things through – and, as I mentioned yesterday, I get a little hooked by the times when people (myself included) don’t think things through. However, when I went back to the original text, something else jumped out at me – two things actually: the joy of the dwarves, who are ever present in the moment (or swept up in the joy of the moment) and the anger of the awakening dragon, Smaug.

Of Smaug, who wakes to find dwarves within his den, Tolkien wrote, “His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted.” This, this emotionally response to the fear of loss/death, was part of the focus last year’s practice on this date.

This year, however, I got to thinking about the fact that it’s not enough to recognize our fears and/or the fact that we may “live near a dragon.” We must also consider what type of person we are. After all, there are people who are so fearful of dragons that, if they can, they avoid living near them. Then there are those people who invite the proverbial dragon to a “tea” party. There are those for whom calculating the effects of living near a dragon are an afterthought. And, also, those who never calculate the effects of living near a dragon. Finally, there are those who are always prepared for the possibility of an enraged dragon waking up in their midst.

It is all too easy, to think that the different types of person/personality are based on experience. However, history teaches us otherwise. We can look at the current public health situation – not (just) the crisis; but the fact that people have had such different reactions and responses to the issues at hand. I could say the same about the issue of guns in America, mental health in America, homelessness in America, racism in America….

I could go on and on, but today – as it has been for the last 16 years, my thoughts make their way to Louisiana, Mississippi, and to the rest of the Gulf Coast. In this case, the dragon(s) is the hurricane(s) that hit today in 2005 (Katrina, Category 5) and 2017 (Harvey, Category 4, on its fifth landfall). Not to mention Hurricane Andrew (Category 5), which dissipated today in 1992. Then there is Hurricane Ida (currently, Category 4, but still moving) which is hitting landfall today… in the same areas that have been decimated not just by the big storm systems I mentioned above, but also by the “dragons” I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

If you’re not living near this particular dragon, you can send thoughts and prayers, make donations, volunteer, offer safe haven, and/or generate some good energy. But, keep in mind, for next time: None of us is on a “dragon-free” island in the middle of nowhere.

“‘I’d like to be better prepared. There’s a few things I’m thinking we could have done. But this storm came pretty quick, so you only have the time you have,’ [Nick] Mosca said.”


– quoted from the 08/29/2021 Huffington Post article “Hurricane Ida Intensifies To Category 4 As It Barrels Toward Gulf Coast” by Kevin McGill, Jay Reeves

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, August 29th) 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. [Look for “08292020 Katrina, Harvey…”]

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.)



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

 NOTE: Yes, another surprise! This post from Kiss My Asana 2016 was never posted in real time. In other words, it’s a bonus!)

“And so you have found out that secret – one of the deep secrets of Life – that all, that is really worth the doing, is what we do for others? Even as the old adage tells us, ‘What I spent, that I lost; what I gave that I had.’ Casuits have tried to twist ‘doing good’ into another form of ‘doing evil,’ and have said ‘you get pleasure yourself by giving this pleasure to another: so it is merely a refined kind of selfishness, as your own pleasure is a motive for what you do.’ I say ‘it is not selfishness, that my own pleasure should be a motive so long as it is not the motive that would outweigh the other, if the two come into collision?’ The ‘selfish man’ is he who would still do the thing, even if it harmed others, so long as it gave him pleasure; the ‘unselfish man’ is he who would still do the thing, even if it gave him no pleasure, so long as it pleased others. But, when both motives pull together, the ‘unselfish man’ is still the unselfish man, even though his own pleasure is one of his motives! I am very sure that God takes real pleasure in seeing his children happy!”


– from letter Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) wrote to the actress Ellen Terry, dated November 13, 1890*

There’s a certain family, with siblings all around the world, who are, even as you read this, pointing out that Yogi #30 (Anthony) is not “Bonus.” And, I want to go on record as saying, “I know that, however…” He and Yogi #31 (Paula) are the bonus yogis for a Kiss My Asana yogathon offering that started four years ago (2016) when the yogathon was in February, during Leap Year, and I only needed 29 yogis. You can say I’m four years, 2 months, and 2 weeks late with this post (or maybe, just a week, or 2, late), but none of that changes the fact that these two yogis are two of the kindest people you’re ever going to meet.

First and foremost, let me point out that Anthony and Paula don’t really know me. They know of me. We’ve met once, and that was the one time they took a class from me. If memory serves, I’ve answered yoga questions for Anthony, over the telephone, a time or two. But, they live in another part of the country and they found out about the 2016 Kiss My Asana yogathon from a friend of mine. The friend told them that making these video would help a lot of people. So, simply out of the kindness of their hearts and without having a whole lot of knowledge about Mind Body Solutions or how making the video would help people do yoga, they answered my questions. And then, they waited to see what would happen.

And they waited…

And they waited…

And they waited…

(but only through 398 days of summer)

“I’ve got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house oh oh oh
And we’ll collect the moments one by one
I guess that’s how the future’s done oh oh oh


How many acres how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map


Old dirt road (mushaboom, mushaboom)
Knee deep snow (mushaboom, mushaboom)”



– from “Mushaboom” by Feist

And, while they were waiting, life changed. Anthony and Paula got married. Then, as they were still waiting, they had a baby. A very lucky baby who will spend her life surrounded by kindness and love, an appreciation for the great outdoors, and an appreciation for all that the world – and all the different cultures in the world – have to offer. (A baby who will be happy and cherished even when she starts saying the very word her papa tries not to say in yoga!)

All the while they waited they continued their adventures in the mountains, in the world, and in yoga. My guess is that they didn’t give these videos a second thought.

At first glance, Anthony isn’t the person you would automatically assume practices yoga. Yet, he’s the first to admit that he has received a lot of physical and mental benefit from his practice. He’s even encouraged others to practice. If you read the description in her video, you will see that I mention clapping for Paula. She is a nurse and, although I haven’t spoken to her recently, my guess is that even if she isn’t able to actively practice yoga right now, she is still benefiting from the practice.

Yogi #30


Yogi #31

I mentioned in the last 2016 Kiss My Asana post (two weeks ago) that there’s a method in the madness. But, I’m off schedule and, you might think that throws everything off. It does and it doesn’t, but (for those of you who are curious) here’s the bonus behind-the-scenes look at why I do what I do:

If I were teaching today, it would be a bonus day of teaching and I’d either carry forward the themes of love, kindness, and compassion from earlier this week – with a little (double bonus) focus on mastering the beautiful art of humility – or I would take a look at George Lucas’s view of the Hero’s Journey (as today is GL’s 76th birthday). Had I stayed on schedule, this year, I would have posted this on the birthday of the author Annie Dillard, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or given myself a little grace and posted this during International Nurses Week, a fitting tribute to Yogi #31.

Back in 2016, had I stayed on schedule, Anthony and Paula’s videos would have been posted on March 1st, Saint David’s Day. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales, poets, and vegetarians. He is associated with dragons and doves and his miracles include healing the sick and (as I like to joke) creating mountains out of molehill. According to the legends, Saint David was giving a sermon to a large crowd, which was having a hard time hearing him, when a dove landed on his shoulder and then, suddenly, the ground beneath him rose and lifted him up above the crowd.

Mountains, doves, miraculous healings… – Can you see why I thought March 1st would be a good day for this pair? But, there are also dragons. So, on Saint David’s Day I usually quote Sarah Ban Breathnach (who wrote in Simple Abundance, “Always remember it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.”) and conclude with J. R. R. Tolkien (who wrote in The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him.”). Today, however, we’ll wrap up with a quote inspired by Tolkien:

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”


– from the movie version of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, adapted by Peter Jackson

Mind Body Solutions, and the work they do to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body, thrives because of “small everyday deeds of ordinary folk…. Small acts of kindness and love.” That’s what gets a person with limited mobility to their yoga class; that’s what inspires a person using a BiPAP machine to keep practicing; that’s what gets the caregiver to get up every morning and take it day-by-day, moment-by-moment; that’s what gets a teacher in Rochester, New York or somewhere in England to study adaptive yoga in Minnesota; that’s what got Matthew Sanford to load up his lap with mats and roll into Courage Center for the first time; that’s what gets every single one of us coming back to the mat, knowing that a bad day off the mat can turn into a good day on the mat, because we will be surrounded by “ordinary folk” and “small acts of kindness and love.”

A Big Hallelujah Asana / Five-Pointed Smile goes to Anthony and Paula, as well as to Meghan and Kelsey (who were the ordinary folk in the background rocking their own small acts of kindness and love). Thank you, also, to everyone who did yoga, shared yoga, and helped others during this year’s yogathon (and the previous 6 yogathons). Friday is the last day to donate and I have one more Kiss My Asana post for y’all. Stay tuned!

*In 1998, November 13th became World Kindness Day (so far as I know, it’s just a happy coincidence that someone picked the date that coincided with Lewis Carroll’s letter on kindness…but I could be wrong about that.)


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