jump to navigation

An Auspicious and Holy Time April 21, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Baha'i, Books, Faith, Healing Stories, Lent, Life, Meditation, Mysticism, One Hoop, Peace, Ramadan, Religion, Riḍván.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Rama Navami / Chaitra Navaratri and those who are Counting the Omer.

“The truth, from my perspective, is that the world, indeed, is ending — and is also being reborn.  It’s been doing that all day, every day, forever.  Each time we exhale, the world ends; when we inhale, there can be, if we allow it, rebirth and spiritual renewal.  It all transpires inside of us.  In our consciousness, in our hearts.  All the time.”

 

 

– Tom Robbins quoted in the Reality Sandwich article “The Syntax of Sorcery: An Interview with Tom Robbins” by Tony Vigorito (posted online June 6, 2012)

“Renewal” is a funny word, because I don’t think it is (technically) a homonym (i.e., a word that has multiple meanings), but it is a word that can conjure up very different sentiments. Simply stated, a “renewal” is the continuation or extension of something. Sometimes we think of it in the context of an activity or state that has been continuous, but had a set ending date – like when we borrow a book from a public library. Other times, we think of it in the context of continuing something that has been interrupted. Renewal can also be used to refer to something that has been repaired and/or restored to its original state… so that it can continue fulfilling its purpose.

Regardless of how you think of the word, “renewal” is a concept that we often associate with Spring. In fact, similar to how cultures all over the world celebrate light overcoming darkness during the darkest times of the year, cultures all over the world spend some portion of Spring celebrating renewal. In many cases, these celebrations mark a renewal of faith and a celebration of the continuation of a covenant with God.

Today, April 21, 2021, at least five different communities around the world are observing rituals related to renewal. This is the penultimate week of Great Lent for people within the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition; this is the second week of the month of Ramadān in Islām; for people within the Jewish community who are Counting the Omer, this afternoon/evening marks the end of the 24th Day and the beginning of the 25th Day; this is the second day of the Festival of Ridván for the Bahá’I; and this is the ninth day and final night of Chaitra Navaratri – which is also Rama Navami – in the Hindu community. Each ritual has different customs, traditions, and significances; however, what is important to note is how each observation renews people’s connection with their faith, their community, and the deepest parts of themselves.

As I’ve mentioned before, the word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for “spring season” and is a period of 40 days meant to mirror the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness prior to being betrayed, crucified, and resurrected. For Christians, it is seen as a period of preparation (for Easter) and involves fasting, prayer, reflection, redemption, and (yes) renewal. While the story is the same, the Roman Catholic and Western Christian traditions use a different calendar than the Eastern / Orthodox Christian traditions. Another difference in the way the season is observed is that in the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions Sundays are considered “Feast Days” and excluded from the count, while during “Great Lent” Sundays are included.

The holy month of Ramadān is another observation within an Abrahamic religion and it also involves a different calendar than the others – so the overlap in holy times is not always the same. While the fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month is a holy obligation (for those who are physically able) and one of the Five Pillars of Faith in Islām, I normally don’t focus on the ritual until the end of the holy month – which includes a night that is considered the holiest night of the month, a night of revelation and destiny.

Within the Jewish community, there are people who started observing the sacred ritual of Counting the Omer on the second day of Passover. This is a period of 49 days, a total of 7 weeks, leading up to Shavuot (also known as the “Festival of Weeks”) – which itself is a commemoration of the Jewish people receiving the Torah. Commonly associated with Jewish mysticism (Kabbalism), the practice of Counting the Omer involves 7 of the 10 attributes of the Divine that are found on the Tree of Life. Each day is associated with a different attribute, as is each week – which means that for 49 days people are focusing-concentrating-meditating on the interrelation of two attributes.

This week the overall focus is Netzach, (“endurance” or “sustainability”) which is associated with the right hip and leg. Netzach can also be associated with “flow” in that it is the drive that keeps us flowing and going. Like a good majority of religious observations, sunset marks the beginning of a new day – which means at least one of my classes overlaps Days 24 and 25: endurance in balance (or compassion) and endurance in endurance.

“Every hero begins their mission by trying to avoid it…. We do the same in many areas of our life, and the focus of Netzach-Endurance is healing this spiritual-emotional character-flaw to achieve more in our life.”

 

 

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

Of course, there are other lenses through which we can view attributes of the Divine. If you look at a Bahá’i calendar, for instance, you will notice that each of the 19 months is named for an attribute (or name) of God – as each day. People within the Bahá’i Faith are currently in the second month of the year, which is particularly notable because it is the month of Ridván, “The Most Great Festival.”

Exactly one month after the Vernal Equinox, which also marks the beginning of the Bahá’i New Year, the twelve-day festival of Ridván honors the time that the founder of the Bahá’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh spent in the original garden of Ridván prior to being exiled to Constantinople. The Arabic word ridván means “paradise” and I indicated “the original garden,” because in addition to the garden outside of Baghdad, where the great spiritual leader (considered a manifestation of the Divine) prepared for his exile, there is a second garden with the same name in Israel, which Bahá’u’lláh visited after years of exile.

The festival is a time of a sacred time of prayer, reflection, and celebration. It begins two hours after sunset to commemorate the actual time in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh entered the Najíbíyyih Garden with his family and secretary and began to receive the visitors who wanted to wish him well before his departure. It was during this time, in the space he called “paradise,” that Bahá’u’lláh declared himself as the most recent manifestation of God; that all religious wars were repealed; that there would not be another manifestation of the God for another 1,000 years; and that the names of God (or attributes of the divine) are manifested in all things. To honor the fact that he made these announcements, the Universal House of Justice issues an annual Ridván message. There are also elections held during this time. The first day (yesterday), the ninth day, and the twelfth day are considered the most holy of days.

In Hinduism, the fall celebration of Navaratri is a celebration of divine feminine energy, specifically of Durga, the divine mother, in various manifestations. There are three other celebrations, also referred to as Navaratri (which means “nine nights” in Sanskrit) including this spring celebration, which is also considered by some to be the Indian New Year. In some regions of India, the spring celebration of Chaitra Navaratri, culminates on the final day with Rama Navami – a celebration of the birth of Lord Rama. Many people mark this occasion by telling stories of Rama, including reciting parts of the epic poem the Rāmāyana and partaking in various forms of bhakti (“devotional”) yoga like kirtan. Some people will wash and clothe miniature statues of a baby Rama, before placing the baby in the cradle. Many will also fast and engage in spiritual reflection on this special day that is, in some regions, an optional government and bank holiday.

“Lord Ram gave Hanuman a quizzical look and said, ‘What are you, a monkey or a man?’ Hanuman bowed his head reverently, folded his hands and said, ‘When I do not know who I am, I serve You and when I do know who I am, You and I are One.’”

 

– quoted from the epic Sanskrit poem Ramacharitmanas (Lake of the Deeds of Rama) by Goswami Tulsidas

 

Please join me today (Wednesday, April 21st) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, playlists, 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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

### AUM ###

If only it was Taco Tuesday… July 22, 2020

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

 “I like it when a man puts thought into the kind of restaurant we’re going to. That doesn’t mean it needs to be fancy – some of the best meals of my life have been having a taco on a street corner.”

– Meghan Markle (now, Duchess of Sussex) quoted in an Esquire Magazine article dated Dec. 15, 2016

 

“I like to take a day off and enjoy fast food for what it is. I have to say that in New York I’m really partial about taco trucks. I mean I really can’t handle it. There is something about catching all those ingredients piled on top of each other it puts me in a tizzy. I love it. I’m kind of a taco truck junkie.”

 

– Alex Guarnaschelli (when asked if she eats fast food, TooFab 03/01/2011)

Imagine the perfect taco. “‘What is “The perfect taco?” Alex.’” What makes it perfect? Is it the outside? I mean, I know people who will throw down over hard shells versus soft. (And, just for the record, there’s no such thing as an “open-faced taco” – that’s a chalupa or a tostado, for goodness sake!)

So, maybe, what makes your perfect taco is what’s on the inside. Hmmm… given that everyone has different tastes, different needs, and desires, it seems that there could be a different taco for every person in the world (and two tacos per person on Tuesdays). The poet Emma Lazarus was born today in 1849, so think about what “all your huddled masses” have been seeking over the years. I once heard Bryan Kest say that there’s at least one version of a pose for every person in the world; he estimated 8 billion ways to do every pose. And, it turns out that practicing yoga is a lot like searching for “the perfect taco.”

“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”

– quoted from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

I’m not much for beer, but I’m a huge fan of a well-made taco and I’m a huge fan of Tom Robbins’s fourth novel, Jitterbug Perfume. Born today in 1932, in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Robbins is a self-described “hillbilly” who grew up in a Baptist household, went to a military college prep school, studied journalism in college, enlisted in the Air Force, and spent a year as a meteorologist in Korea and two years in Nebraska before being discharged. He returned to Richmond, Virginia (where his family had moved during his early childhood) and started reading poetry in a coffee shop.

Robbins returned to school and also put his journalism degree to good use, while (occasionally) hitchhiking, researching a book on Jackson Pollack, and (eventually) hosting a weekly alternative radio show for KRAB-FM, Seattle. All the while, Tom Robbins was writing – searching for his perfect writing style, his voice. He found it and used it to write Another Roadside Attraction, a novel that you could theoretically say is “just” about a kind of wacky couple who open a hot dog stand. His first novel had all the elements you will find in most of his novels: wacky, bohemian characters; strong-willed women; animals; religion; existential philosophical musings; science; food (always food); and the occasional mythical character.

Jitterbug Perfume definitely has all of the elements described above and, to me, it is one the most visceral novels by Robbins. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and yet, when I look at “Nighthawks” by Edward Hooper (who was born today in 1882), I may feel a lot, but I smell very little. On the flip side, I can’t even think about Jitterbug Perfume without smelling it. I know, I know, you’re thinking well, of course, the word “perfume” is in the title and it’s all about perfumers trying to capture this magical essence. That’s the way the brain works.

Yeah, no. When I think of this particular novel, I’m thinking about another element that shows up in all of Tom Robbins’s work: s-e-x. And Pan.

“The word desire suggests that there is something we do not have. If we have everything already, then there can be no desire, for there is nothing left to want. I think that what the Buddha may have been trying to tell us is that we have it all, each of us, all the time; therefore, desire is simply unnecessary.”

– quoted from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

As we’ve discussed before, suffering is a part of the human condition. We can say, as the Buddhist and Yoga philosophies instruct us, that suffering comes from attachment; however, what we are really saying is that suffering comes from desires. There are lots of different kind of desire, and they can lead to all different kinds of attachment (rooted in pleasure or rooted in pain); but Robbins suggests in Jitterbug Perfume that the desire itself isn’t the problem. Robbins suggests that maybe we suffer because “we do not desire wisely.” It’s an interesting thought – especially if you consider that we are psychologically and physiologically wired to desire, to want certain things and to not want other things.

Considering that there may be a better way to desire, makes me think of certain Buddhist and/or Yoga practices. For instance, shoshin is the Zen Buddhist practice of “beginners mind” and I often liken it to the niyama (internal observation in Yoga) santosha, which is the practice of contentment. Just as Robbins says (above) the practice focuses not on the idea that we are missing out on something but focuses instead on the fact that in this moment there is something, something extraordinary, something… perfect. In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki explains that “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the experts mind there are few.” When we show up and practice shoshin and/or santosha we open ourselves up to find something perfect in the moment, be it the perfect scent, the perfect quantum physics equation, the perfect taco… or the perfect pose.

“If you lack the iron and the fuzz to take control of your own life, if you insist on leaving your fate to the gods, then the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don’t be surprised at what inappropriate port you find yourself docked. The dull and prosaic will be granted adventures that will dice their central nervous systems like an onion, romantic dreamers will end up in the rope yard. You may protest that it is too much to ask of an uneducated fifteen-year-old girl that she defy her family, her society, her weighty cultural and religious heritage in order to pursue a dream that she doesn’t really understand. Of course it is asking too much. The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.”

– quoted from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Go back to the questions at the beginning of this post and think about them in terms of the “perfect” yoga pose. Even better, think about your pursuit of the perfect expression. Do you think about the inside first, or is your primary focus on the outside? Do you recognize that there are hundreds of thousands of elements, which translate into millions and billions of expressions? Do you recognize that there is no one way to do something and so, therefore, there can be billions of perfect poses? There is, however, an even more important question (inspired by one of my yoga teachers). Seane Corn said, “It’s not about the pose. It’s about the purpose. Be In Yours.” So, the better question as you seek your so-called perfect pose, is “What’s the purpose?”

When we get around to asking that question, we find that sometimes the perfect pose isn’t a taco at all… It’s a chalupa (or a tostado).

“When we accept small wonders, we qualify ourselves to imagine great wonders.”

– quoted from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

As a former meteorologist, Tom Robbins would be familiar with chaos theory (the idea that small changes in initial conditions can translate into big outcomes) and it’s those little things that make a difference, unexpected differences, in his stories. Those little changes can also make a difference in your yoga practice…and in your meal preparation.

In the TV show Ugly Delicious, David Chang says, “The dishes that we’re making… it’s about telling a story.” The practicing yoga is also about telling stories, it’s about your body and mind telling your story. It’s about finding your voice, your themes your ingredients, as Tom Robbins has done all his life, and then putting it out there. It is, also, about listening – really, truly, deeply listening to your own heart, your own soul, and your own story. If you really listen, you can also hear the stories around you. And, it is delicious (even when it smells a little ripe).

“He was becoming unstuck, he was sure of that – his bones were no longer wrapped in flesh but in clouds of dust, in hummingbirds, dragonflies, and luminous moths – but so perfect was his equilibrium that he felt no fear. He was vast, he was many, he was dynamic, he was eternal.”

– quoted from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Please join me today (Wednesday, July 22nd) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom, where will find your “breathe properly,  stay curious, and [afterwards] eat your beets.” Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

In case you were confused or missed it (above), only one of the Alex’s mentioned above is celebrating an 80th birthday today!

 

 

### WHAT’S YOUR PERFECT TACO? ###