6/20/16

MU HAND MOON SOLSTICE CLAPPING





MU (often translated as emptiness or void)
Eikaku Hakuin, 1686 - 1768 


Today is special. It is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and on this shortest night there is a full moon! It will be over 20 years before this event occurs again. So I am celebrating with a moonlight walk around the lake and here, images from my favorite Zen artist, Hakuin. These paintings express better than any words what I—and I believe we all—experience.  

A few days ago I had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) done for my shoulder. Tied down to a  table to prevent movement, given puny ear plugs, and gripping a panic button, I was electronically moved into a small tube. There I experienced sound vibrations so aggressive, loud, and threatening that all thought was forced from my mind. 

Emptiness. 

I walked out to the car, ears ringing, dazed, and zapped into a stupor of happiness. Had I experienced a rare form of torture or a very confrontational form of meditation?  A vibrational version of electroshock therapy?

MU

And my shoulder? I have now tried everything. Finally gave in to a week's course of steroid tabs—certain, after reading the side effects—they were going to land me in the ER. Hasn't happened. With some pain relief, I am surprised how much that ever present drain of energy (pain) in the background and/or foreground affected me. Am getting glimpses of a fully restored (cautiously) yoga practice. 



TWO BLIND MEN CROSSING A BRIDGE




DEATH


I know, death (and a lot of things) are not pleasant. Even Hakuin's kanji above has an ominous and vaguely violent look. But there are many kinds of deaths. Death of illusion. Death of desire, frustration, hurt—suffering and ego. Seeing what is causing suffering and letting it go is a beautiful type of death.  But you have to see it and allow it to be, first. Not easy.

Not easy. Yesterday I recalled something as a result of a discussion in Ashtanga circles about sexual assault in Mysore. Something unpleasant happened my first time at the shala in India. My second day ever in class, a Conference day, after a week of being in bed with the flu, I ended up scrunched behind a huge man who was probably close to double my weight of 107 lbs. and about a foot taller. I felt weak, miserably uncomfortable, and squirmy on the crowded floor. When we all got up to leave, this man, angered by my squirms, elbowed me hard. I was shoved back several steps and fell. I could not believe this had happened inside the shala. (Apparently, no one else could either, because no one said a word to him or me.) Outside, this man confronted me angrily, and whether it was fear or good sense, I did not/could not respond. I could only gaze deeply, uncomprehendingly into his eyes. He turned away and moved on. Whew! I felt shaky and sick again.

Realizing, that I, like many victims, feel/felt shame, guilt, and later, anger over this incident is liberating. 

Like sunlight on vampires, these emotions are turning to dust. 


ENSO

So on this beautiful longest day of the year, I honor crossing bridges, death, form, yes-no, oneness, and emptiness.


mu
metta
gratitude
one hand clapping
One question I want you to hold is 'Can I be only aware right now?' I don't mean exclusively, that nothing else intrudes upon your awareness, but 'Can I be aware without judgment, without an opinion, without a description, without any story?' 
~ Adyashanti 
The Way of Liberating Insight



6/5/16

The Illuminating MEH



Ai Weiwei work in Berlin, Germany at the Gendarmenmarkt:
14,000 life jackets worn by refugees trying to come to Europe

Art tries to have a deeper understanding of color, of our sensitivity, our rationality, ultimately who we are. What is the real mystery and what matters. My conclusion is we are one humanity. If anyone is being hurt, we are all being hurt. If anyone has a joy, that’s our joy. 
“Be more involved. Take responsibility. Do what you should do. You may help and you may not help. But your intentions will be expressed. Provide yourself opportunities at the same time you provide opportunities to others.

This quote by Ai Weiwei lights up the sky with lightning and thunderbolts for me. Art, yoga, life, body, spirit - kaboom! it comes together. Omit certain words like "color" (though even that works), and Weiwei speaks to the essence of everything—yoga, spirituality, life, love, nature. Beautifully, the second paragraph seems to say, do something, do your best, express your intentions (artistic or otherwise) and you will be changing the world for the better. 

As for getting a deeper understanding of microcosmic/macrocosmic chunks of life, I've been contemplating the effects of not having a daily yoga practice. I have been doing an adapted first series twice a week and stretching out daily. The shoulder issue/injury has led me back to running, which I believe is a wonderful, primal form of movement.

But it's not the same. 

My days have felt off and oddly directionless without a morning moving meditation that affects every part of my body. The joy of visiting another city without the promise of practicing with teachers and fellow Ashtangis is diminished to meh. NYC without a visit to the Brooklyn Yoga Club or another Ashtanga studio leaves art, theater, and food. Sound great? Sigh.... 

And there's more. Had not realized how attached I had become to this practice. At the root is ego. Ashtanga is one of the last things that mind still identifies as "me." There's a few more layers left to this onion, but this is getting way close to the core. 

Four months of this dukkha! It's time to give it up. 

It is said that pain is inevitable; suffering, optional. I get it. 

And underneath all is the source, expressed inadequately and incompletely with various words— love is one of them. 

Metta  
May all beings everywhere be happy and free.



May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue
For protecting the welfare of all generations.
May the religious, and all people be forever blessed,
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Om peace, peace, perfect peace

Swathi Praja Bhyaha Pari Pala Yantam
Nya Yena Margena Mhim Mihishaha
Go Brahmanebhyaha Shubamastu Nityam
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi

Ashtanga closing mantra




5/22/16

the cruelest month(s)





Manjusri, the Boddhisattva of Wisdom from Rubin Museum. 
He is supposed to be gentle - so this must his wrathful aspect. Perfect. 
He is cutting through the baloney of our/my illusions. The path to truth is not always easy.




The Wasteland (opening verse)


April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 

Memory and desire, stirring 

Dull roots with spring rain. 

Winter kept us warm, covering 
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding 
A little life with dried tubers. 

- T.S. Eliot


How perfectly the Manjusri and TS Eliot express my experience! But where to take it from here? Usually in these vignette-like posts (blogs, as it were), there is a general direction. Much like riding a horse (at which I was never good), the writer leads and restrains an episode.



Not I. Not a clue.
Dull roots and dried tubers.
No horse.

In the Future
they shall be called
the atavistic months when
memory, desire, and despair were
awkwardly twined, and talk between
the coupled body-soul shouted
and whispered
Insidiously


"As we go through our trials and tribulations, outer circumstances seem to be exquisitely put together specifically to test each part of our realization. These trials and tribulations will also occur from the inside. Your unconscious at some point will start to reveal itself...


shoulder pain can't sleep
yoga practice wreckage
fear and sorrow
emotional rawness (thesaurus: unprocessed, untreated, unrefined, crude, natural; unedited, undigested, unprepared.)
heart and body sting-zing
despair
shame
vulnerable (thesaurus: helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent, weak, susceptible.)
hello past heartache
years since feeling that
what is happening
thought this self was long gone
nope
ice packs

....with awakening our means of suppression and denial are either torn apart completely or wounded so severely that we can’t repress as much. The unconscious elements of our mind come into conscious awareness, and that is another kind of trial...

This week I had an x-ray physically and emotionally. The view of my shoulder bones indicates calcific tendonitis—finally an explanation for the pain and a possible solution! An unkindness from a volunteer yogi led me to realize (and feel) many things. Then all the other stuff (including a persistently obsessing ego) faded in dukkha dominance.


So I am left with what? Gratitude for the support I received—unknowingly from friends, teachers (see quotes!) and my physical therapist, a true healer. Even if yours truly is headed for more grit, she is buoyed by the loving energy of many.

...What’s being asked of you is to meet all of that inner material from the standpoint of divine being, from the standpoint of eternity - to meet it, to understand it, to resolve it. That may sound quite easy, but when it’s actually happening it’s a little more gritty and real than the description suggests." ~ Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus


And this too is yoga.
Metta, metta metta!

Yoga was created to free people
in all ways—from the limitations
of our minds and bodies,
from teachers, teachings, attachments,
expectations, from dependency
on any person or thing.
It is a personal, private journey to liberation

- Danny Paradise

No matter what spiritual path you’ve walked or what teachings you’ve followed, they must lead you back to no path and no teaching. A true teaching is like a blazing fire that consumes itself. The teaching must not only consume you, but consume itself as well. All must be burned to ash, and then the ash must be burned. Then, and only then, is the Ultimate realized.
~ Adyashanti, The Impact of Awakening


Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared, and your life will have meaning, and your heart will have peace.
- Kent Nerbern, Letters To My Son - (via Lewis Rothlein's Ashtanga led primary class)

4/15/16

Spiritual Maturity



bridge, Lake Junaluska, Waynesville, NC 



At a retreat a few weeks ago, the teacher quoted his teacher: enlightenment is simply being a spiritual adult.


Agree and believe many of us have a mostly unconscious need to find someone or some systematic path to tell us what to do - to be happy, wise, or enlightened. How do I find Truth, God, or—a rose by any other name? 


The Rose Walk, Lake Junaluska

Someone, show me the way, please! In my case, this conditioning probably came straight from my DNA. Raised a Catholic, my mother's ancestors and I were given a clear-cut map of how to get to heaven. When that no longer made sense to me, I was sure the way was as simple as a macrobiotic diet, and then, encounter groups, Zen, and several other paths to get there 


sign, Lake Junaluska

On a very deep, wordless level I believed it had to be through a teacher or system, one that required me to unconsciously or consciously give up responsibility for knowing truth for myself. 

What is a spiritual adult? Wonderful, grounding, and difficult, at the moment. Getting glimpses of what I can only call truth has not been fun, easy, or for that matter—stoppable. Am thinking the so-called "dark night of the soul" is for some of us—a deep sadness and despair at how utterly alone we are after a certain point.** At the same time, and this feels humorous—I have a serious allergy to proclamations, memes, interpretations of how we should behave, and what we need to do in life. Especially in spirituality words can be so far off the mark, and so solid and inadequate as guides to truth that they become impediments to it. (Slap me with a sweaty yoga towel if I ever start spouting advice here!)

So I give up! The things I care about are falling away, and I'm left with...nothing—which is exactly the point, my teacher would say. No one told me it would be so UN-fun. My yoga practice is in shambles from shoulder pain; genuine communications are at a standstill; dear cat Buster died unexpectedly last week; and my brother languishes in hospice. I don't want to do anything, and so many things hurt in so many different ways.


bridge, Lake Junaluska

Oddly, a useful meme/cliché comes to mind, "It's all good."  And I am doing something: observing, letting things be, not running away/running away, and mostly not looking at life through anyone else's (no matter how venerated) truth lens. 

showing up, growing up
amazing grace
metta

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

- William Shakespeare

Rose is a rose is a rose.
- Gertrude Stein


sign, Lake Junaluska
a ritual involving Coca Cola or notice that one's travel plans are affirmed?

sign, Lake Junaluska
Am I there yet?

Please excuse the errors and typos in the original post. Edited  4/17/16 




LIKE A ROLLING STONE
sweet words from Bob Dylan:


You used to be so amused


At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used


Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse


When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose


You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal



How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

3/8/16

LIGHT : SHADOW : DREAM : REALITY




I'm hearing birdsongs these days! Awakening is happening. Thrilled by snowdrops, croci, cardinals, robins, daffodil blades, and swelling buds, am seeing the light of all things change. I know in my head it happens, but it is ever an amazement, a miracle. 

Today is astrally special. The moon is new AND it will eclipse the sun in some parts of the world. Additionally, the equinox, a day made for those who cherish balance and the perfect equality of light and dark, will arrive in 12 days. It's a great time to honor life, which is perhaps what Easter season is supposed to do (with cultural rituals, I must add, that have become so rote, they seem unrelated to the magic of what is actually occurring.) 

So, in the spirit of yin and yang, light and dark—and without judging either to be positive or negative—it is great to be back in North Carolina AND I miss Encinitas, yoga, the weather, and the ocean. These feelings exist without value one way or another. But they do exist!

Something very bright happened recently in the dark hours—a dream in which I remembered another dream. How is this possible? Recalling a previous dream within a new one? The remembering was so powerful when I awoke, it took several minutes to understand that the rediscovered dream (resolution with a long lost friend) had not occurred in "reality."  My awareness shifted with the dawning light: the dream state had facilitated healing, subconsciously unrealized until now. Gratitude for this gift of love and healing.

And is this guy below another dream of light and dark? Coincidentally, he showed up wet and cold at the same time I returned from California. A friend suggested the name "Mao" because his dark "hairline" is reminiscent of Mao Tse Tung's. Chairman Miao? Sweet boy. He could probably rule China. 


Mao, the Adopter. Again. #4. 

Finally, to balance without judgement—the yes and the no, I'm about ready to cut my arm off to spite my shoulder. It is my brand new 7 week old injury! WHEN will this body get back to whatever once was normal? 

All will be well. I know it. Spring and vernal equanimity are coming! 

and this too is yoga

metta






2/22/16

Cosmic Bacteria : Imponderables and Aging

gate gate paragate parasam gate boddhisvaha



It's time for obtuse summaries, fluttery goodbyes, and absurd conclusions. My Encinitas stay is coming to a close.

However before the earthy, the stellar shines; so—macrocosm before microcosm. I read a remarkable article, (Where are all the aliens? ) that examines why we have no evidence other than mathematical probability to prove we are not alone in the universe. I intuitively favor the theory that we have no tools to detect alien communications.

However, mostly the article supported (my) imaginings about our infinitely vast and small universe. Could our mighty sun be a small atom-like particle? Could earth and planet be electrons? And could humans be "quarky" sub-sub-sub-atomic particles composing an immeasurably huge being? Could earth and humans be molecules or bacteria on another life form?  Could large and small be infinite in both directions? Consider this mind boggling piece of information from the article:
....for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxy out there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 10^22 and 10^24 total stars, which means that for every grain of sand on every beach on earth there are 10,000 stars out there.
In Buddhism, speculating about the truth of the universe is said to lead to madness and is one of the the Four Imponderables. True to the teachings, my puny thoughts try to mentally grasp infinity, but it always ends the same way: I give up. Madness—only if one continues in the loop by trying to "get" it.

Now beaming back to earth and what at times seems like the petty concerns of a bit of bacteria doing yoga and trying to be "happy." And speaking of bacteria, I was invaded by a rhinovirus a few days ago, sabotaging plans for my final days in Southern California. The tone of the week, however, was set by Tim Miller who wrote his birthday (65) blog about aging gracefully. It is one of the very few writings that have resonated with both my winter body and spring mind. (See this wonderful article)

Tim Miller: reflections-on-aging-gracefully.html
The one great gift of the aging practice in regards to asana practice is this: the longer you practice, the better the quality of attention that you bring to the practice. Isn’t this what it’s all about anyway? — Tim Miller
Saw an excellent healer/Japanese-style acupuncturist, Janie (an Ashtangi), twice this week. Among many other things, we talked about aging. Does age make us more prone to injury and slower to heal? Although some generalizations can be made, every body is different. I started this Ashtanga practice comparatively recently—four years ago, so I am going to be different from someone who has been practicing from 10 to 40 years or more. What I am exploring (the hard way, via injury) is what my limits are. And maybe that's the issue for all of us. How hard do we push? When do we need to have compassion for ourselves? I am discovering the line between pushing through and pulling back (without guilt.) Then today I saw this lovely Iyengar quote:

Even as the body ages and is able to do less, there are subtleties that reveal themselves, which would be invisible to younger more athletic bodies. You have to create love and affection for your body for what it can do for you. Love must be incarnated in the smallest pore of the skin, the smallest cell of the body, to make them intelligent so they can collaborate with all the other ones, in the big republic of the body. - BKS Iyengar
And by loving the smallest cells of our bodies are we not simultaneously loving everything else including the largest "cells" of the universe (and all others)?

Tomorrow is a moon day. I plan to take rest and to watch Luna's round luminosity move toward Moonlight Beach.

May all your suns and moons be imponderably perfect.
  And this too is yoga.

GATE GATE PARA GATE PARASAM GATE BODHI SVAHA 

(Gone, gone, gone to the Other Shore, attained the Other Shore having never left)

metta




2/7/16

seeing the light (milkweed seed)




a milkweed seed (photo by Jeff Goldberg)

Don't know why I feel light.
My Mysore practice was aborted this morning. It was a mess. Could feel that the SI-femur joint had slipped out again, so back and shoulder movements hurt and had to be restricted.  (Wished for my rubber mallet to bang it back in.)

Why I feel light
Tomorrow I will see chiropractor and get my joints back into gear. Andrew Hillam is sensitive and wise!  His teaching reflects and channels Sharath's compassion and care. My practice feels much improved, and I feel so much better since coming here that I am doing a happy dance/asana!

Don't know why I feel light.
After the dreams and meditation on the irretrievable (1/26/16 post), I was revisited by three separate, painful memories relating to my mother, a friend, and a student—where I was a screen for their projections.
It seems there is a type of wound unique to us as individuals. Perhaps because it is an injury that has recurred for generations or incarnations, it always cuts deep. I met a young woman at Deer Park a few weeks ago who was clearly suffering. The details she shared involved a problem with her boss, resulting in her being fired—though that was not the source of her pain. She was hurt by how her boss had treated and spoken to her. Recognizing the depth and quality of her suffering in myself, I also saw the particulars as unique to her.
When the day's sessions ended, I looked for her, wanting very much to give her a hug and good wishes. Heartache that I was unable to find her. 

Why I feel light.
Like most people, without knowing it, I block emotional hurt. My own revisiting painful episodes was different this time. Observed straight on, it was not pleasant; and while there was a strong (even nauseous) urge to turn away, I was able to allow it to be. Am I healed? Don't know. But like a traveler who has lost her luggage, I am vulnerable, durable, and much much lighter.
Dear Deer Park woman, may your path forever more be filled with love and peace.     
Why I feel light.
It is a glorious day, going to be 78 degrees in Encinitas. The Super Bowl will be on later, so I will have a quiet time beaching at the ocean today. The thought of a vegan meal at Native Foods and talk with friend C makes me smile. 

I feel light.
Also ideas for a new project are floating up—Monarch butterflies and milkweed seeds are filling my brain—with delicate, simple and elegant themes.

Feel light

milkweed seeds fan out
floating light hearted ahead 
emptiness a head
Light
Substitute "life" for "yoga" and "practice":
When we start yoga we experience many things—ups and downs in our practice. If there is pain, enjoy the pain also... Experience both good and bad: take sukkha* and dukkha* equally. —Sharath Jois
**Sanskrit: happiness and suffering  

Light 
May all the worlds be free of suffering. 
Metta. 


ICEBERG ILULISSAT*
by Jean Valentine

In blue-green air & water God
you have come back for us,
to our fiberglass boat.

You have come back for us & I’m afraid.
(But you never left.)

Great sadness at harms.
But nothing that comes now, after,
can be like before.

Even when the icebergs are gone, and the millions of suns

have burnt themselves out of your arms,

your arms of burnt air,
you are with us