11/9/14

Cheers and Fears : Ego in a Bucket

Tibetan painting at Bayalakuppe, India

The students I love the most are the ones who are broken and beaten yet unbowed. The survivors and the addicts. The humbled and hurting, the kind that sometimes laugh at death and always laugh at life. 
Old young fit fat doesn't matter. I like the one's with the devil on their tail and their ego in a bucket somewhere back in whoknowswhere. I love my wounded warriors. Give me 10,000 more so we can help each other, clean it up bit by bit, breath by breath, one day at a time. 
This yoga is daily trial by fire type of sadhana. Spirit world ancient undeniable. Keep on burning for that third eye fire. 
Awakening that which is not. Unfettered by the fear, the eternity. In awe, in gratitude we actively and consciously surrender. Imagination opens Opening another drop of sweat. One more. One more. One more. a subtle smile as we enjoy the maturated taste of bitter sweet. 
Cheers to all of you who face your fears even in tears continuously through years and years... 
PJ Heffernan *(from a Facebook post)

What an amazing post from PJ Heffernan - all heart and soul.  It gets to the true passion at the core of Ashtanga and all things—of life. It makes me want to jump and shout. Pure poetry—pure truth!


It is so easy for me, all or us—I would guess—to avoid fears in the comfortable familiarity and safety of our nicely arranged lives here. In a little over a week I will discard most or all of (my) usual ways of avoiding the uncomfortable as I experience a culture both bitter and sweet (as they all are) made intensely more so because it is not my own.


So thank you Mother India, though you are neither more wonderful nor horrible than my own culture—I will land in your midst and see you and myself with new eyes that will not and cannot turn away....


...with my ego in a bucket

    breath by breath
   metta metta metta



9/26/14

Art, Love, Yoga, Baseball, Peaches










Yoga is all about love.  The deepest postures crack your heart wide open, so especially when you feel that your heart is breaking and you feel vulnerable then you can rest assured that your practice is doing exactly what it should be doing.  
 So many people think that love coming into our lives is just about the happiness, but love is so big that it sometimes needs to break our limited notions of self before it has the space to move in.   
Yoga practice does just that—it breaks our hearts so that the new expanded terrain of the inner world is big enough for love to embrace all the aspects of our life, light and shadow, pleasure and pain, with compassion and equanimity.         —KinoMacGregor


Things are changing. The equinox has passed. Green diminishes; earth colors emerge. Dawn comes later; dusk, earlier. She sweeps the back deck daily; more leaves appear. Her hair whitens even as she watches the inevitable lurch toward another birth anniversary.

We have lingered in chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown. *


Kino's beautiful encouragement to embrace all aspects of life—light and dark—leads to tranquility in facing every circumstance, sorrow to bliss. Back bends, my personal heart breaker, are said to be heart openers. And indeed, this beating core with its "limited notion of self" has been cracked—wide open—by this practice and by life itself. 

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.**

And art and yoga mats and love and baseball and autumnal joy and kitchen demolition and striving and pain and anger and fear of losing what? Vigor, ego, zest, a yoga pose, life? Is it not all the same? Call something by one name and does that particular name also include every other name and thing? 


I grow old...I grow old
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. ***

There is a such an overt melancholy to Prufrock—that to me has always seemed funny. In high school a pal named Georgeanne Coffey (later called Annapurna) and I, full of youthful mockery, used to quote Eliot and giggle. "Dare I eat a peach?" and "I grow old" were cues for fits of laughter. (Dear Georgeanne, here I am, long after you have gone, quoting TS Eliot, enjoying doleful Prufrock in a new way and remembering you fondly.)

Ah, Monkey Mind—Tarzan Mind—swings from tree to tree this anniversary eve, never settling, never still! Is everything happening all at once? We leave for India in about six weeks; the kitchen will rebuild itself before friends arrive in two; and this broken (open) heart is vulnerable, full and loving
 now and will be long after "I" have disappeared. 

Is spring not included in fall? Summer in winter? And vice versa?


All is well!


Dare I eat a peach????


Metta


 *  ** *** from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, by TS Eliot
In its entirety (undeconstructed by teenagers) this is a truly beautiful poem!

8/15/14

Facebook + Me = Backbends + Fractals

We are all fractals* and part of Mandelbrot's magical image. 

Today, August 14,  I dropped back into Urdhva Dhanurasana (backbend) unassisted. Quiet hurrah.


Only a small cheer because I haven't been able to do a drop back without one of my teachers, Nicky Murphy, standing nearby and watching, which is a (lovely) form of assistance. At home—as I hover upside down and backwards—it seems I am miles from the floor. Yikes, this is impossible! I lose my nerve and pop up. 


Nevertheless, slowly, very slowly it all may be coming. 



Practice and all is coming. 
-Patabhi Jois. 

I see the truth of that, Guruji. Right now, I am feeling happy and a little victorious because until recently, I had never been truly challenged by my Ashtanga practice. Dealing with a stopper—has been, well—an astounding opportunity to observe physical and emotional states of ALL kinds. 

So maybe in mini celebration I'll post a video of my backbend on Facebook. What? Facebook? Isn't it a superficial ego forum and a waste of time? 


Perhaps not. 

An acquaintance from Mysore now back in the USA, posted something reflective today: 
I feel like there is too much serious shit going on in the world right now for me to post about my yoga classes, or cute animal pictures, or great things that I eat. I feel helpless and it's bumming me out.
Indeed, I think. Look at Ferguson, Missouri, the Middle East, the children stuck in Texas. The suffering, the conflict, everywhere. To face it is heartbreaking and our helplessness, overwhelming. I reply that microcosmically if we sincerely do our yoga and meditation practices, we are doing something. 

However, later something more, a Zen phrase, arises:



Buddha nature pervades the whole universe
existing right here and now.
I dedicate the merits of this practice 
to all sentient beings.
Together we will realize liberation.

I start to cry. 

And what are the merits of this practice? Dropping back? Maybe. Maybe not. More, I think—the blessings of wisdom gained via the angst, joy, and sweat on our mats and taking the "me" out of backbend and everything else. With joy I return energy to the whole and celebrate the merit of others.

I hereby dedicate any and all grace received to the people of Ferguson, children everywhere, and to all suffering sentient beings, animals included.

And this too is Yoga. 

Finally, micro-me is still around just the same, wanting to post a photo or video of that insignificant  backbend. (It is such a sweet, little breakthrough.) 


And this too is Yoga.

Rejoice! 

*fractal: a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the wholeThe Mandelbrot image above is a set intricate never-ending shapes.

7/30/14

Heaven on Wheels


kapotasana, pigeon pose 
think: dove pose

I've been enjoying the visual relationships between yoga poses and their names. Here, in Kapotasana I see a pigeon's poofed out chest. Too bad its English name, Pigeon, seems to chain it to ordinariness rather than reveal its true nature—elegance—because most of us (in USA at least) associate pigeons with the opposite of loveliness, maybe even with a large, dirty city rodent...

But check that beautiful, simple arc, the compactness of the body with more vajra-like qualities than even Little Thunderbolt pose. 
And is not a pigeon also a dove? I am thinking—peace, elegance: Dove Pose. 

A dove's calm, ease, flight, and gracefulness—were part of the joy I used to experience during the many recurring flying dreams I had when younger. They were always followed by the waking realization that I (actually?) could not fly. What? I did fly! I know I can do it... No, really I can! 
Although I haven't soared effortlessly through dreamscapes in years, I do still experience the same pleasure (and subsequent waking disappointment) of flying dreams. When I was running consistently, I sometimes dreamt I ran marathons in record breaking time without a trace of fatigue

What I have now are asana dreams where I do poses impeccably, confidently, easily. You should see my perfect Kapotasana! And the other night, I stood up from Urdhva Dhanurasana (backbend/Wheel pose) — dropped back/stood up several times. No problem! Who knew a Wheel could be so joyous and effortless? 

At some point in this happy state, I become conscious of lying in bed, still radiant and certain of my abilities. Then slowly, I descend from asana heaven to earth. 
These days I'm pleased to report my waking Wheel has some movement—but not enough to propel me upright yet (and officially into Second Series - viz: smiley face here!). While waiting at the gate, I am learning to accept and enjoy exactly where I am in my practice and in life, which may be the ultimate asana. I often marvel at the infinite depth and all encompassing teachings of First Series and of this entire beautiful Dhyana. 

And thanks to Aliya Weise, I realize Seventh Series is available to me and all of us every day! (Please see quotes and link below). My wheel of awareness (and karma?) turns from rodents to soaring heights; back to earth and to Seventh Heaven again and again. 

I have even come to love pigeons...sort of.

metta
..... we should start calling any selfless act, any act of unconditional love, a posture of seventh series and see what begins to change in our perspective of the world.  
The hashtag #seventhseries should characterize any act that has begun to take us beyond the little self we see in the mirror, beyond attachment to our own momentary desires, beyond attachment to the results of our work. 
#seventhseries is a commitment to doing good work for good work’s sake. 

—Aliya Weise —excerpts from blog post "Deconstructing Seventh Series" 


7/6/14

Heart Pounds : Grass Grows

  the offerings of an unaided heart



Good will and evil have no self nature; Holy and unholy are empty names;
In front of the door is the land of stillness and quiet;
Spring comes, grass grows by itself.     
 —Master Seung Sahn


On July First, floodgates opened. It was the end of the big drag—the first time in weeks Mercury had moved free of retrograde. 


 small lock, monster handle
That morning even as I awoke, I felt blessed, elated. After several pleasant surprises, I opened an envelope containing an unexpected windfall, and for a couple of hours my spirits and imagination were in the sky. I set out joyfully performing various earthly tasks while envisioning down payments on verdant acreage and elaborate new art enterprises.

Later, pondering the reason for my godsend with someone far more grounded in financial matters than I, he quietly pointed out that the abbreviation "hz" signified something—something that was profoundly disturbing to me. 

How quickly things change. 

I'd had one head in the clouds; another, in the sand. Now both had been slammed together into truth: this manna was not from heaven. It was from the other place! Seriously distressed, I considered my values. What is right? What should I do? 
....an ethical precept is a question to be held up to the light of circumstance, an inquiry rather than an answer. And the nature of this inquiry is not so much the dubious enterprise of trying to figure out the right thing to do as it is an offering of an unaided heart... At the threshold of choice, the Zen Buddhist trusts this ancient heart above all other authority.
—Lin Jensen, "An Ear to the Ground"

Someone else offered Zen wisdom (above), and I began to explore. What is the unbiased truth about all these things I've heard? What is my "ancient heart" telling me? Can I turn this blessing/curse into something beneficial to others? 

 "No mud, no lotus," says Thich Naht Hanh. 

From an unholy place something beneficial and delightful may grow. Had I denied the mud, the possibility of a metaphorical lotus would never have occurred to me. And so my heart pounds with many sweet, resonating rhythms. Each seems to say what I feel: trust the heart's emanations and regard joy - sorrow, good - bad, success - failure—with equanimity—on the mat and off.


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “yoga chittah vritti nirodah”:
yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.  

When we start yoga we experience many things—ups and downs in our practice. If there is pain, enjoy the pain also....  Practice brings mental stability Experience both good and bad; take sukkha and dukkha equally—Sharath Jois



metta

6/14/14

[veggie burgers] DEFINITION - EXPANSION [the inchoate]



USED, altered book 
                                                             
Everything feels like it is blending together these days. All is yoga, life, art, you name it! It's all merging in such beautiful, resonate way.  How can I separate? 

Ironically, here I am writing, which I love to do, but most words and prose seem so limiting. The more words get welded to some idea, the more it renders them indicators of well—just another illusion. I believe poetry and all art, yoga, oh heck everything (but rigid thinking attached to a belief in the solidity of words) can expand and open us to the magic of.... uh...the divine. 

Recently, two words spontaneously arose—words that point toward something less demarcated. Alive words that both define and expand me; words that can be applied to the artist/yogi in all of us: Creative Activist. 

Still inchoate ideas and feelings.  

Anyway, back on earth, while creative activism can be used in relation to everything we do, I've just finished two pieces that are an expression of it in art. 

One of them is a sculpture based on Peace Pilgrim's diagram of her path to awakening; and the other,  an altered copy of Proust's Volume One of In Search of Lost Time, Swann's Way. "USED," is closest to my heart and consists of nine interventions, interruptions in Proust's narrative that appear (I hope) as seamless surprises to readers of the book because of the use of similar paper and the same font.  

And this too is yoga! (For us literal minded ones, consider it a verbal asana.)

Here, in the sixth intervention of "USED",  I make fun of myself and reveal secrets of the (altered) book. 


                                                                 SWANN IN LOVE                                  429
woman, Mme. Roland sat in an overstuffed chair in her salon on fashionable Rue d'Écho. As a faux French philosopher herself, it was utterly natural that she would consider the nature of reality even while sipping her green tea. After a morning of yoga, her Lululemon yoga pants and flowered shelf-bra tank top (which flattened her rather small breasts) were still moist with post-vinyasa sueur. 
She certainly was no Baudrillard, Foucault, or even de Beauvoir for that matter, but there she was staring out at the delicate early spring green of the estate and thinking—we have what we consider reality and then there are these interruptions, interferences, and/or interventions that break into our comfortable little narratives. 
We could be reading a highly regarded early 20th century novel for example, and our thoughts might wander to a job we had last fall. Of course, I didn't need the money! I was intrigued by the work. It was transcribing Marlon Brando's audiotapes—everything from personal conversations to his Tetiaroa housekeeper's monologues. I was fascinated by the glimpses into this man's life. 
Then we would read a bit more of the novel, and our mind might wander to bookmarks and art, in particular an artist named Erica Baum who makes dog-ears on old book pages and photographs them with serendipitous and poetic results.  This banal act of folding down a corner of book page even without reading the resulting word combinations—is visually compelling. Art is everywhere! I think I'll dog-ear the book I'm reading now in homage to Erica Baum... 

At that point Mme. Roland was interrupted by a text message from her friend Francoise who was a ballet dancer. 

"U want 2 comp tkts to swan lake @ d wortham  Saturday?"

                                                 SWANN'S WAY                                 430

"Yes, love em thanx. Good seats?"

                                                        
Well, where was I? Reality and interruptions/interferences in our stories, in our fragile realities. I rest my case. Perhaps I'll read a few more pages of that novel. 

Mme. Roland put down her cell phone, picked up the book, and began reading page 430:

...but the importance of which began once more to feel in proportion as the spontaneous relaxation of his suspicions, often accelerated by the distraction brought to him by reading about art or by the conversation of a friend render his passion less exacting of reciprocities.


Huh? Merde! Who translated this? Then she continued:

Now that, after this swing of the pendulum Odette had naturally returned to the place from which Swann's jealousy had momentarily driven her... 

Mme. Roland stirred in her chair and placed the book in her lap. She thought about the ballet Saturday—Swan Lake, the swan Odette, Swann, the Prince, and the black swan Odile and her 32 fouettes pirouettes. Incroyable!  She had studied ballet also, but had taken up South Indian classical dance, Bharata Natyam, when living in India in her twenties. Distressed by the recent outbreaks of violence against women in India, she often felt helpless and broken hearted by the cruelty and suffering in the world. 

 She wondered—do dreams and daydreams break into reality or does reality intervene in dreams? Is there one narrative or hundreds of narratives at all times? What is the truth resting just beneath the surface of art and life? Mme. Roland certainly had philosophical inclinations but being hungry, she closed the early 20th century novel, went straight to the kitchen, and made herself a veggie burger with vegan mayonnaise and a green pepper on a whole-wheat bun....in seclusion—that perfidious 


metta 



5/12/14

DHANYA



learning to live with risk, uncertainty, awkwardness


I am seeing more writing dealing with issues of older Ashtanga practitioners. Recently, I was thrilled by the resonating words of KPJAYI authorized teacher Karen Cairns. I must share some of her wisdom. 

Karen and I both started Ashtanga very late. She in her fifties; I, much later. I  think the advantage is that we cannot say, "Oh, my practice has changed (implied/stated: for the worse) with age." We have no comparison to an early practice self—It's ALL "progress!"

In Ashtanga Yoga: It’s Not Just for the Young!, I particularly relate to Karen's thoughts about empowerment from facing fears (including death), praying to stand up from backbend (oh yeah!) and viewing the practice as seva or service, free from monetary or teaching goals.

Thank you, Karen Cairns, for expressing your thoughts and feelings so beautifully and putting words to many of mine! 

Here are three quotes for yogis and people of all ages from her essay (boldface, my addition):

Is my difficulty with this pose due to a physical limitation...or is it a psychological limitation or both?  Many of my limitations have been due to fear, I know.  Facing these fears empowers me beyond belief.  So many things I do not know how to do and have never done.  I am learning how to live with uncertainty, with risk, with awkwardness.  And because of this I am less afraid to die- just one more thing I don’t know how to do and have never done. 

Many of the challenges of this yoga are the same no matter what age one is:  issues of youth and age, definitions of “progress” or what it means to be “good” at this yoga, facing one’s limits both physically and mentally, and facing one’s own mortality.  What would be “success” for me with this practice?  These are good questions, the best questions.  For me my success is found in the quality of my daily life off the mat [but this doesn’t mean that I don’t pray, Dear Lord, please let me stand up out of a backbend!]. 

As an older student, often the oldest that has not been practicing ashtanga for years and years [since they were much younger], my ideas of personal success and my “goals” for myself may be quite different from younger students.  Certainly it is easier for me at this life stage to live a quieter, more contemplative lifestyle; I am past the householder stage of life.  Many young students want to teach in a yoga studio and perhaps own their own yoga studio or shala eventually.  These are not my goals.  I do know that I want to share this practice with others, however I can.  At this life stage, since I am retired, I want to do this as some sort of seva or service with others, rather than for profit or to “make a living.”  I know I want to continue my practice, to daily stand on my mat and face all my issues and questions about my life, death, body, mind, what do I consider a life well-lived, and what brings me joy.  When I am at my clearest, most of the time, I know without a doubt that success is here right now for me with how I feel and how I am living.  I am already blessed.  Dhanyo aham.  I am blessed.


—from "Ashtanga Yoga: It's Not Just for the Young. For complete essay, go to: 
http://ashtangapictureproject.com/teacher-started-ashtanga-fifties-now-authorized/

Metta

I am blessed. 
We are blessed!