Like a Rolling Stone (No Direction of Its Own)

A Meditation: We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon 

- Joni Mitchell 

Inspired by energies that resound and pound gently with heart, I have found some calm after being stunned and sickened by gunmen in Paris, San Bernardino, and elsewhere

What started this particular mind thread was: 
Life is change; that's how it differs from the rocks.
—Jefferson Airplane
This quote, sent by a friend, did not sit right. Really? Rocks don't change? Of course they do! They ARE alive. They just change at a different rate. And aren't stars just big hot rocks? (or burning masses of oxygen and helium.) If we are all made of particles of hot rocks or more poetically, star dust—then we are all—star, saint, holy person, sinner, terrorist, cockroach—the same. 
(NASA scientist in video: when the stars die what remains? NO THING—form and emptiness. Us, dead stars? Not poetic, just scientific.)
However, what do star rocks or rock stars have to do with yoga or me? Who better to answer the Airplane than Bob Dylan? A FB friend asked for titles of great literature to describe their yoga practice. (She chose War and Peace.) The final redemptive verses of Dylan's classic were in my head:

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

There is exhilaration in having nothing, without anything to lose, being invisible and without secrets. Yielding to what is—on and off the yoga mat has been a gift: I'm on my own, no way to get home, a complete unknown; can't hide flaws, and at my age nothin' to lose—a rolling stone! 
Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan     
(Dylan's lyrics are brilliant, so poetic and so unapologetically angry, genuine!) 

The rolling meditation leads to my brother and a friend whose pen name is Katriel. After hearing about my brother in hospice, he dedicated his poem "Stone kicking" to him. 

Stone kicking
the stone he was kicking along the road
through a grille into a drain
bending  for another pebble
he found a truth
and put this in his pocket

I carry this in my coat
sometimes my jacket
it tells me who I am, hints who I was
anchors my present

like stone it is not cold
it hums and vibrates there
alive, it will outlive me
says to take love
the only thing that lasts

the stone sits like a cat
on my papers
but holds them in place
without judging

This poem is dedicated to Gary – in kinship
 Katriel, Constitution Road, 18 March 2012

The thread now rolls toward Laurie Anderson's movie "Heart of a Dog" (itself a meditation on life, love, death:  "Heart of a Dog" Preview ) where Anderson tells her Buddhist teacher that she is not sure that she loved her dying mother...

And finally back to stone, stars, and terrorists. Until recently, I had not even a sub-atomic particle of understanding of anyone responsible for the extreme and brutal acts around the world. Why could or would anyone do such a thing? Often feeling helpless and heartbroken by world suffering and tragedy, I asked, 
What can I do?  
WE are stardust!  
We all dream of butterflies.

I will let Joni Mitchell explain, as a conclusion to this round-about:
I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me...
I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm
I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land
I'm gonna try and get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
I don't know who l am
But ya know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion-year-old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil's bargain
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

And this too is yoga...and art...and rock n roll...and grass...and birds...and clouds....and stars...and bugs...and ...

love to you who see 
the meandering metta 
by and by all ways

note: I cannot get this google blog template to do anything I want. The fonts are all messed up, the wrong size, etc. I apologize and plead innocent to this visual mess. 


Can I Get a Witness

form and emptiness: Ryoanji Temple rock garden, fall  

I've studied deeply in philosophy and religions, but cheerfulness kept breaking through. — Leonard Cohen

neti neti

 bank beige hooked rug
supermarket music
black stairwell
magic carpet oh
 those exquisite notes

Getting stronger, rediscovering poses, adding chaturangas. Thrilled with renewing vigor and rigor. 

Pain has led to sampling different kinds of yoga and to respect. Some classes were helpful.

Always to return to the wisdom of the Ashtanga sequence. Deep bow to the lineage, past and current teachers. There is nothing like yoga chikitsa, nadi shodhana. Healing.

art  : life : heart :  (360 Project)    

His body does not heal; although his first and second families do (I feel)—making peace with each other, with themselves, and with him. 
Is love the gift the dying give to themselves and us? 
With luck. 

It has to be the other gift. 
May your passage be easy and filled with exquisite notes, my brother. I too will hear such music. 



Dealing with Injury

Ganapati, remover of obstacles

Since beginning Ashtanga practice over four years ago, my back has been injured exactly three times. I remember each episode clearly—location, length, effect on practice. By far the most intense and disruptive is the third and current one.  

This time, I have been unable to force my back into an agenda of what will happen and when. 

Next Monday I will do the entire first series.
Every day, forward bends will hurt less.
Because they are the only thing that doesn't hurt, my backbends will improve.

The usual rules of how to behave and to heal do not apply. I have become a space traveler, researching and examining everything about myself, the practice, my body. And if I truly want to know anything, being forced to inquire, is not a bad thing.

What is pain?
What is warning or harmful pain?
How far do I push? How much do I rest?
To what degree is what I do and think affected by ego and conditioning?
And so on
Everyone's answer will be unique, so the applied particulars of my inquiry are not important (and subject to change) but here are a few: sun salutations are a meditation on body in the present moment and help determine the day's practice. Am doing very few forward bends and no counterposes to many backbends. Stretches replace some poses; I use a roller between others. Some days it's running instead of practice; some days it's rest! 

Maybe the most helpful words are—look with an open mind for the questions. This one wins the door-prize:
To what degree is what I do and think affected by ego and conditioning?

May we all be free of suffering!

And this too is yoga.


Gratitude to Greg Nardi for this support, paraphrased: adapt, do what feels right AND your injury will take about three months to heal. Three months?! (Did not believe him then.)


mud bud

pedestal to petal pink
yoga streets to city mats
mind pose to heart dance 
 all mud all muscle 
all petal

It feels like everything in my he(art) is coming together. We are almost ready to put the 360 Project - bottles out all over the world and the web site has been tweaked all the way from mud to lotus and back! This Quiet art project is about to hit the streets and the peeps! 

The entire process begun about a year ago, vibrates in the present. It germinated slowly and quietly, and folding those maps of Kathmandu, Ferguson, and Charleston into tiny cranes released a lot of good energy in all directions. And the seeds! Pure magic—from mustard seed to global "seed," I am in awe of them all.

And within this beautiful circle of earth and mud—lotus and bud, I will leave soon to visit my brother. I will struggle with sun salutations with a (still) injured back. I will get angry, cry, and laugh.

I am humbled by the fullness.

And this too is yoga (and art)! 



Occam's Razor: Kino's Hip: Mandelbrot's Fractals

What do Occam's Razor, Kino's Hip, and Mandelbrot's fractals have in common? 

Well, here's the simplest answer (Occam's Razor): we are all basically individual components, exactly the same as the whole (fractals) and we should forget about Kino MacGregor's (hip) yoga mat/issues and focus on our own mat—our concerns are all the same! What could be simpler than that, Occam?

Guess that's it for this entry! 

OK, not quite. 

It's been an interesting week, with a focus on injury. My old back issue—quadratus laborum strain/pain—showed up with a vengeance after John Bultman's workshop. Taking it easy for three days with (too much) time for social media, I saw a link related to Kino's recent hip injury that went into detail about Kino, her public image, injury details, and her training with a circus acrobat(!)

Kino has a monumental following in social and print media, making her in my mind something like an Ashtangi Kim Kardashian. Like Kardashian, her public and popular culture outreach is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave them both open to the projections and judgements of people with proclivities of every kind. And everyone seems to have an opinion about both of them.

So at least on one FB site, a long list of judgements and responses trailed down the page about and beyond Kino! 
"Really? A circus acrobat trainer? She's a yogi not a circus performer!" 
We are all dealing with essentially the same issues in life and on our mats, trying to do our best and seeking happiness, and the fuss made me that much more aware of a lot of things.

I had one recurring question. Does Kino realize the power of her public actions and pronouncements?  I want Kino to be more responsible and honest. But what does that mean?  My reaction reveals more about me than it does about her! So thank you, Kino for being such a flashpoint for so many issues, and inspiring me/us to greater self-awareness. 

Now about my own injury. It's perfect! Tailor-made. Back bends feel wonderful! Forward bends are horrible—eek-ish! (Day1, I couldn't touch my toes.) I also feel very clear and unconflicted about how to deal with it day to day—do back bends and whatever else doesn't hurt (not much), and as things improve add in more poses. Scheduled a therapeutic massage and ran a few miles  today. Every morning things are  a little better. Also, I'm taking boatloads of turmeric so if I look bright yellow, this is why.

So Occam, I do believe your razor has cut through the bullshit; Mandelbrot, thank you for making me SEE our beautiful sameness; and Kino, your hip has brought it all back home again!

And this too is yoga! Including and especially this—
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.  —Albert Einstein




"Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself." 

- paraphrased from Bhagavad Gita

The topic of aging has surfaced again thanks to teacher and Ashtangi extraordinaire, David Garrigues. Today my thoughts are ever more focused, largely a result of his post a few days ago.

When I started this blog, I had hoped to get answers and clarity about aging, life, and yoga by way of comments and discussion here. If I knew what others were feeling and experiencing, perhaps I could better understand my experience; however, answers have not appeared! And even if hundreds of us had discussions here, I would have still realized this: it is not (entirely) possible to find/know Truth outside myself.

I am the expert—as we ALL are experts of our own bodies, hearts, and realizations. So this is what I know is true about aging, yoga, and life (same things!): resisting and denying the inevitable is just as useless as TRYING not to resist and deny. In an odd way, energetically they are the same thing.

Does that make sense? One of my teachers always says: let everything be as it is. This gentle guidance results in a sense of freedom and peacefulness for me. It encompasses everything—enjoying life and even resisting life (and aging). If you fight it some days and love it other days, observe it and enjoy it either way.

And here's another discovery: there is a huge anxiety and fear about aging out in the world that most of us automatically support. A big part of it is trying to hold on to things as they are now. But listen—yes! things are going to change because they are always changing and always have been

If every moment is approached with a beginner's open, non-judgmental mind, and with awareness, all will be well. The truth is: there is no better or worse or progress. Such words are weighted with an inherent sense of judgement and comparison, and words such as "dissolution" and "death"—are understood almost universally with an unconscious negativity. However, they can be neutralized by substituting CHANGE in their places allowing us to experience curiosity and acceptance about what IS. 

Take your practice, these and all words/thoughts with mental lightness, be curious, and enjoy! Not only will your practice be joyful, your life will be beyond beautiful.

Have I been able to do this every day all day?   NO! 

Sometimes I am like this: 

Sometimes inside a transparent shell and  led by conditioning:

Obsession, M. Roland

Sometimes, all prickle and no sign of me:
Car from movie "Mad Max: Fury Road"

What stays the same is the observing and enjoying. It's fun to "fluff my aura" (words of yet another teacher) and get all exhausted trying to get a pose, feeling frustrated, angry or successful about whatever, or ranting about age. Underneath, it feels like a game, a bone thrown to ego to make it feel like it's accomplishing, feeling, and changing things. 

Where I'm at in my practice and life at the moment is a willingness to be on the edge, to think and act big  because what have I got to lose?  What am I waiting for? Nothing! As Karen Cairns, who is close to my age, has said, she has learned to live with uncertainty. Me too! (And the fact is ALL of life is uncertain.) 

And it's crept up on me, but I have also learned to tolerate the consequences of being myself! 

metta! metta! metta!

David Garrigues' Facebook page with comments on aging

I'm going to include below a lovely statement by Mary Taylor (Richard Freeman's wife)  about Ashtanga (substitute "life" for Ashtanga words) and aging. She says it with such grace!

But a fundamental reason we practice is to bring deeper and subtler levels of awareness to the body, mind and emotions on a daily basis. A foundation of the practice—beyond the particular poses we might be practicing—is watching changes within these fields of experience, and catching oneself sooner when the mind is “being lazy,” when we’re believing our presuppositions rather than observing what’s actually arising, when we’re trapped by samskaras or overrun by the obstacles that are constantly tossed in our path. Our minds all have one part of them that wants to rationalize its way out of practicing—that can convince us it’s hopeless to adjust alignment or take a second look with a teacher at a persistent injury or mental state that is blocking the path that might deepen our insight. 
So as you age you may find it harder to do certain poses like you’ve always done them, to move so swiftly through the forms as you did 10 years ago, or that you are actually feeling lazier than you used to. All that’s good to see and to work with, with a sense of kindness and curiosity within the context of breathing, and an integrated practice. Once you’re hooked, (and 12 years counts) yoga is with you forever—it’s already ruined your life! Short answer: Always look again.


my brother wants hot chocolate


It's Sunday, at last a quiet moment to reflect.

But on what? Events and emotions feel so densely compressed these days, they cannot even be observed. Maybe if opened, peeled apart, inspected one at a time, the truth/beauty in them can be seen.

On the surface, it all looks manageable. Went to California and attended a remarkable retreat where I experienced wordless and unmoving silence, a vast nothingness (that was something); did my yoga practice every day; meditated with and beyond sleepiness for the first time (hooray); and enjoyed good food and cold Tahoe weather. At the end when retreatants "re-entered" the world, I felt sadness because I had no one to hug(!) and because my heart was already breaking from family stuff. 

There was no savoring the small satoris. In Woodland my brother was lying prone in a bed at the far end of a darkened room he shared with two other men whose TV's were at shout volume. His curtained cubicle contained a hanging TV, an old, beige land-line phone, and a table that swiveled to and from the bed, which offered cookies, books, and a pee-bottle. In the corner, behind a wheelchair was a window with blinds pulled down. Black butterflies adorned an event calendar pinned to a framed cork board, and below it, was a note written in block letters:


I started to cry. How could this be? My brother here in this strange place, alone, apparently dying? But this was not about me. My brother has always been indifferent to surroundings, clothes, material things, and appearances. Underneath an unhappy, "difficult" (in the extreme) nature was/is a loving, charismatic man with a monk's focus  toward the world. He had in fact, wanted to become a monk and entered the Christian Brothers Order his third year of high school. Believing that he was too young to make such a decision, our parents  insisted he abandon this life choice. I have wondered without assigning blame, if part of the source of his problems was that parental interference. Of course, who can know where other paths might have led? 

We talked. I cried. Was he happy? What did he think of dying and being in hospice? How was he feeling? I trimmed his overgrown and neglected beard and mustache. I brought him pen and paper; held his hand (while sitting in the wheel chair moved from the window corner), watched him eat overcooked zucchini, ignore a slab of pizza, and experience physical pain; I showed him emails from our cousins, pinned up a drawing from his granddaughter, and true to my conditioning, tried to fix things—things that cannot be fixed.

He is very sharp minded and tough. I believe it will be a while before he leaves. His family and everyone are doing their best for him and for themselves. 

All is as it should be. Even deep deep heartache.

Is there anything more powerful than birth and death? Love is too small a word. 

And yes, this too is yoga.


Got to add these 2 beauties again

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

wherever we are then.

I want to look at death
with eyes like my own baby eyes,
not yet blinded by knowledge.
I told this to my friend the monk,
and he said Want, want, want/

from a poem by Chase Twichell