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Nom de Destiné (the “missing” Sunday post) January 3, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Dharma, Faith, Football, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Mantra, Meditation, Music, Mysticism, New Year, Oliver Sacks, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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Happy 2022 to Everyone!

This is the “missing” post for Sunday, January 2nd. You can request an audio recording of the 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.)

“Me, a name I call myself”

*

– quoted from the song “Do-Re-Mi” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

A couple of months ago, I posted about the difference between fate (what gives us this present moment) and destiny (our next destination in life). At the beginning of each year, on January 2nd, I invite people to consider what name that would pick if they were choosing a name to reflect how they want this year to proceed. This idea is based on the story of the first pope to change his name to indicate how things were going to be different under his papacy and it’s a nice way to consider the changes ahead. Think of it as a nom de destiné, a name of destiny. There’s just one problem… and it’s a problem some folks are not ready to hear/see.

Just to make it a little more palatable (and a little less personal), I’ll just make it about me: Somewhere between the end of March 2020 and the summer of 2020, when my mother died, I stopped expecting things to “get back to normal.” Don’t get me wrong, like a lot of people, there was a time when I wanted to “get back” to some parts of what we had. After all it’s totally normal and human to seek the familiar. As has been pointed out again and again, long before people like Marcel Proust, José Ortega y Gasset, Virginia Satir, Dr. Irvin Yalom, Dr. Oliver Sacks, and Charlie Harary (who all also pointed it out), the brain likes the familiar… and the brain likes the familiar (again). The brain finds comfort in the familiar even when the familiar is uncomfortable.

All of this means that we primarily live in the past and the present, because even our visions of the future are (primarily) mirrors of our past and present. People rarely imagine living in a future – let alone an immediate future – that is completely foreign and unrelated to their past or present. It’s one of the reasons why people stay in abusive situations and/or repeat patterns (even when they are not overtly abusive or detrimental). It’s one of the reasons (neurology notwithstanding) that people numb their pain with their addiction of “choice.” More often than not, we expect the unknowns in our future to be different versions of what we encountered in the past. When we recognize that fear is the emotional response to a perceived threat then we can also start to recognize why fear of the unknown is such a strong and paralyzing experience.

Bottom line, the unfamiliar is threatening.

The unfamiliar threatens the status quo, but it also threatens our life. It threatens our life as we know it which, to the lizard brain, is the same thing as a very real and tangible/physical threat. That perception of threat is why change is so hard, especially when we are not prepared to change. To make matters worse, the unexpected changes that struck the world at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, were extra threatening, because they came wrapped together with an actual medical threat. To add insult to injury, almost everything that’s been recommended as preventative measures (against the medical issue) over the last two years has also taken a physical, mental, psychological, energetic, and emotional toll.

For some, it has also taken a spiritual toll.

And, every day, we see the effects of those tolls.

A familiar refrain when I was growing up was, “{Insert person/people} has/have lost their mind(s)!” Over the last few years, some people have lost their centers. They have lost their connection to what they value and what is important to them. They have lost their sense of being grounded – in themselves and in reality. Some people have allowed their disagreements with others to consume them and, in doing so, they have lost what it means to be alive. Some have even allowed their beliefs to suck them into a vortex that is contrary to life.

I said, “the last few years;” because, let’s be honest, certain changes have been happening for more than two. And while I said “some people,” I really mean all of us, because the statements above could be applied to any of us at one time or another. All of humanity is like that drawing of a person desperately clinging to a crumbling cliff.

“’Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference,’ is the way [Virginia Satir] expressed it at a 1986 meeting of 600 Los Angeles-area psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

*

‘I think if I have one message, one thing before I die that most of the world would know, it would be that the event does not determine how to respond to the event. That is a purely personal matter. The way in which we respond will direct and influence the event more than the event itself.’”

*

– quoted from the Los Angeles Times obituary “Virginia M. Satir, 72; Family Therapy Pioneer” by George Stein (dated September 12, 1988)

The drawing I mentioned was based on Virginia Satir’s “Change Process Model,” which details the following progression: old status quo, foreign element, resistance, chaos, transforming idea(s), practice and integration, and new status quo. It can be very nicely laid over the “Hero’s Journey / Cycle.” People have also overlapped it with Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s “stages of grief,” which I think only makes sense if you draw a labyrinth as switchbacks on a mountain. (But, I digress.) Some illustrated versions of the the Satir Change Process Model show a person running headlong toward the edge of the cliff – as if, with enough momentum, they can jump over the gap and land on the other side (thereby skipping the chaos). Then there’s a “foreign element” and the fall towards chaos. Other versions just start with the foreign element and fall. Either way, there is resistance. Very few people consciously hurtle towards chaos – which, if we are going by chaos theory, is simply the result of a change we don’t understand (because we don’t know where to start). Here’s the thing though, change is happening; we know change is happening; we can engage the change (or not).

Engaging change is the one recommendation that isn’t getting a lot of (proverbial) air time. We’re all still talking about “getting back to normal” – and, yes, yes, I know, “the new normal” is one of those phrases on Lake Superior State University’s “2022 Banished Words List. But, since I’m being honest, sometime after the summer of 2020, I started getting ready for a “new normal.” Not necessarily the one based on my engrained habits developed while I was waiting to get back to normal. No, I wanted a better normal – better even than what I had before lockdown.

Yoga Sūtra 3.16: pariņāmah-traya-samyamāt-atīta-anāgata-jñānam

– “By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.”

As arbitrary as the annual marker is, every calendar new year is marked with some kind of celebration and hope and people talking about change and turning a corner. But, the reality is that some things don’t change. Studies consistently show that the number of people who keep their resolutions steadily declines after the first week of the new year. The decline is so steep that one study indicated that less than half of the people who made them (~46%) successfully kept their new year’s resolution for six months and only 4% of people with similar goals, but no resolution, felt they are successful in achieving their goals after six months – which seems to make the case for setting resolutions. However, a 2016 study indicated that only about 9% of the people who made resolutions felt they are successful at the end of the year.

Which begs the question, “Why bother?”

We bother because we have desires and a basic desire is to have less suffering. Pretty much all the Eastern philosophies (plus Latin, the language) agree that the end of suffering is directly tied to the end of desire. Yet, our desires persist. It’s human nature.

People who study such inclinations indicate that whether or not we succeed or fail in achieving our goals is based on several variables including (but not limited to) how realistic our goals are; whether or not we have calculated the appropriate (baby) steps along the way (which is also whether or not we appreciate the little things along the way); whether or not we have too many goals; whether we keep track and/or have someone to keep us accountable;  whether or not we have reminders/prompts; and how much resistance we encounter along the way. A few years back (December of 2018), I posted a football analogy about resistance, intention, and achieving goals. In thinking about that analogy in relation to now, I think about how much our resistance to change keeps us from achieving our goals. Spoiler alert: turns out, we’re the team we’re playing against.

I can’t speak for you, but I am ready for some transformational ideas. It doesn’t have to be anything new, fancy, and shiny. In fact, it’s probably better if it’s not. It’s probably better if it’s something that we know works; which is why the sankalpa (“intention”) I’m using this year (for my personal practice and the Saturday practices) is an old one and why I added a different framework to the New Year’s Day practices this year.

The sankalpa (see below) was developed by Émile Coué (b. February 26, 1857), a psychologist and pharmacist. (I hesitate to use the word “developed” in reference to a sankalpa, but stick with me.) Years and years ago, I practiced Yoga Nidra with Shar at 5809 Yoga, in Minneapolis, and a sankalpa she used has really resonated with me over the years. When I dug into the origin, I came across the the Coué method and, after sitting with it for a bit, decided that aligned with my focus for this year.

In framing the New Year’s Day practices, I started the way we always start: centering and grounding. Then I considered that so much of our resistances comes from not allowing things to be what they are and not allowing people to be who they are, which brought my focus to allowing and being. Of course, as René Descartes pointed out, we think therefore we are. As José Ortega y Gasset pointed out, because we are (in that we exist), we think and (as Patanjali and other philosophers have pointed out), our beliefs shape our lives. Ergo, the last part of my framework was a compound: being-believing.

This year, my goal resolution intention is to be centered and grounded, to allow (reality to be what it is), and (given reality) to be (i.e, exist) in a way that my thoughts, words, and deeds accurately reflect my beliefs. Feel free to join me, here and/or on the mat.

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

– quoted from the I’m Getting Better and Better: My Method by Émile Coué

Sunday’s  playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

### Centering, Grounding, Allowing, Being-Believing ###

Seeing All the Sides of the Story (the “missing” Saturday post) April 25, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Life, Music, Philosophy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“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 who are Counting the Omer.

 

[This is the “missing” post is related to Saturday, April 24th. You can request a substitute audio recording 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.]

 

“Everybody knows a hundred stories, you know, a thousand stories – the question is: Why does this story pick on you? Why this story and not that story? My guess is now this: the story or poem you find to write is the story or poem that has some meaning that you haven’t solved in it, that you haven’t quite laid hands on. So your writing—it is a way of understanding it, what its meaning, the potential meaning, is. And the story that you understand perfectly, you don’t write. You know what the meaning is; there’s nothing there to nag your mind about it. A story that’s one for you is the one you have to work to understand.”

 

– quoted from “A Conversation” (with John Baker, 1989) in Talking with Robert Penn Warren, edited by Floyd C. Watkins, John T. Hiers, and Mary Louise Weeks

 

Established April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress houses over 168 million items, in over 460 languages. These materials, housed in four buildings, as well as online, include millions of books and printed materials, recordings, photographs, maps, sheet music, manuscripts, “incunabula,” rare books, legal items, and other items designated as non-classified or special. While the Library of Congress was opened to the public in 1897 and is the de facto library of the United States and “the library of last resort” for all US citizens, the general public cannot randomly and at will check out books from the Library of Congress. However, if you find your way into its stacks – virtually or in real life, you will find stories by a number of authors, artists, composers, and cartographers who share the library’s birthday, including Anthony Trollope (b. 1815), Carl Spitteler (b. 1845), Robert Penn Warren (b. 1905), Sue Grafton (b. 1940), Eric Bogosian (b. 1953), and Kelly Clarkson (b. 1982. You will also find within those annals, the stores of those same authors, artists, composers, and cartographers.

Take Robert Penn Warren, for instance. A Southern Gentleman, if ever there was a Southern Gentleman, Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border. He spent his high school and undergraduate years in Tennessee, where he was a member of the poetry group known as “The Fugitives.” Some members of that group, including Mr. Warren, formed a group known as the “Southern Agrarians” (as well as the “Twelve Southerners” and a variety of other combinations of the same), which produced a “pro-Southern agrarian” collection of essays called I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930). Robert Penn Warren’s contribution to the “manifesto” was “The Briar Patch” – a pro-segregation essay that was considered so “progressive” by some of the others in the group that it was almost excluded from the collection.

Now, right about here is the point where someone who knows that I’m Black and from the South might wonder why exactly I would highlight, even seem to celebrate, a man (albeit a poet) whose views are so antithetical to my own. I would wonder too, if that were the whole story. But it’s not, it’s not even close.

And, if you know anything about me, you know I’m going to suggest going deeper. Getting more of the story and, as Patanjali suggests, really focusing-concentrating-meditating on the various ways the story (and the subject of the story) changes in terms of form, time, and condition, allows us to see cause-and-effect at work/play.

Yoga Sūtra 3.16: pariņāmah-traya-samyamāt-atīta-anāgata-jñānam

 

– “By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.”

After graduating summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Robert Penn Warren earned a Masters at the University of California, Berkeley; studied at Yale University for a bit; and obtaining a B. Litt as a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford in England. He even received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts which allowed him to study in Italy while the country was under the control of Benito Mussolini.

He held all the national poet titles designated by the Library of Congress: serving as “Consultant in Poetry” 1944 – 1945 and then “Poet Laureate Consultant” 1986 – 1987.  He won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for All the King’s Men, perhaps his best known work) and both the 1958 and 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – making him the only person to win a Pulitzer in both Poetry and “Fiction.” (Last week, I slightly erroneously, identified Thornton Wilder as a winner a Pulitzer in both Drama and “Fiction;” however the latter prize was technically known as the “Pulitzer Prize for the Novel” when Mr. Wilder won it.) He also won the National Book Award for Poetry (for the collection that won the 1958 Pulitzer); was selected by the National Endowment of the Humanities to give the “Jefferson Lecture” in 1974; and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, a MacArthur Fellow in 1981, and the National Medal of Arts in 1987.

And that’s not only a small portion of his accolades; it’s only part of his story….

As if devoting a whole novel to a “controversial,” “radical” politician with “progressive” ideology wasn’t enough, Robert Penn Warren’s essay “Divided South Searches Its Soul” was published in the July 9, 1956 issue of Life magazine and an expanded version of the essay became the booklet Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South. He would write another Life essay, in 1961, that became a book entitled The Legacy of the Civil War. As if his words alone were not enough to walk back his previous words, Mr. Warren started sharing his (very Southern and very prominent) platform with Black Civil Rights activists through a series of interviews published as Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965).

“The asking and the answering which history provides may help us to understand, even to frame, the logic of experience to which we shall submit. History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”

 

– quoted from The Legacy of the Civil War by Robert Penn Warren

Before publishing the collection, Robert Penn Warren traveled around the country and recorded interviews with leaders like United States Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (the first African-American elected to Congress from New York); Whitney Young (of the National Urban League); Dr. Kenneth Clark (the husband half of the husband-wife team of psychologists whose work was cited in the landmark Supreme Court trial “Brown v. Board of Education”); Bayard Rustin (one of the organizers of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”); the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Malcolm X. He also interviewed authors like James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison; as well as (then) students like Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Lucy Thornton, Jean Wheeler, and Ruth Turner; and additional college students at Jackson State University and Tougaloo College (both of which are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Mississippi, although the latter is private and Christian-affiliated).

For a variety of reasons, about some of which we can only speculate, a lot of interviews were conducted but not included in the book. These include interviews with educator Septima Poinsetta Clark (who became known as “the Queen Mother” and “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights movement); the businessman Vernon Jordan; Gloria Richardson (one of the five women who were recognized as Civil Rights leaders – but not allowed to speak – during the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”); and Andrew Young (who would go on to serve in the United States Congress, as well as the 14th U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the 55th Mayor of Atlanta).

The published collection (which was reissued in 2014), additional correspondence and notes, and copies of the recordings – which include interviews that were not published in the book – can be found at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History (“The Nunn Center”) at the University of Kentucky, at the Yale University Library archives, and (naturally) at the Library of Congress. Additionally, the Nunn Center provides digital (and searchable) archives and there is also a digital exhibit hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities and the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries at Vanderbilt University.

Just to be clear, neither Robert Penn Warren nor those he interviewed seemed to (as far as I can tell) steer clear of controversial subjects – including violence with the Civil Rights Movement; social/cultural versus public/political segregation; cultural assimilation; the difference between the North and the South, as well as the difference between the different classes in the United States and the importance of history, education, and wealth in the United States. Mr. Warren has been quoted as stating, “The individual is an embodiment of external circumstances, so that a personal story is a social story.” In keeping with this idea, he not only asked people to define what it meant to be “a Negro;” he also asked their opinions about the works of people like W. E. B. Dubois, the Swedish economist and sociologist Dr. Gunnar Myrdal, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, he asked people to share their thoughts on abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown – not to mention Confederate heroes like Robert E. Lee.

“‘It is easy,’ I said, ‘I can change that picture of the world he carries around in his head.’

‘How?’

‘I can give him a history lesson.’

‘A history lesson?’

‘Yes, I am a student of history, don’t you remember? And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good-and-bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.’”

 

 – (Jack and Anne) quoted from All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

 

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

“Everybody knows a thousand stories. But only one cocklebur catches in your fur and that subject is your question. You live with that question. You may not even know what that question is. It hangs around a long time. I’ve carried a novel as long as twenty years, and some poems longer than that.”

 

– Robert Penn Warren quoted from a 1981 interview

 

Let’s Share Some Kiss My Asana Stories!!

Last year during Kiss My Asana, I shared a few people’s yoga stories; however, to kick off the 8th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon, Mind Body Solutions, shared bits of stories (see links below) from people who directly benefit from the yoga practices offered by MBS.

This annual yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford 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 is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (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. And you can start today!!

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to post some extended prāņāyāma practices and to raise $400 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. 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. If you want to combine this practice with your Kiss My Asana practice, ask someone to tell you their yoga story!!!

 

A little bit of Rodrigo Souza’s story…

 

A little bit about Mary Peterson’s story…

 

“[B]

Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.”

 

– quoted from the poem “Tell Me a Story” by Robert Penn Warren

 

 

 

### YES, YES, TELL ME A STORY! ###