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. 


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?


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. 



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. 


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

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


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. 

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