Author Archive: Elizabeth

An incredibly comprehensive list of energy saving tips small and large

I was reading an article in the NY Times about what one can do to  “green” a home that led me to this list.  There is always something else to learn:  unofficial list of energy saving tips.

FYI, PEPCO Energy Services does offer “green” and “wind” electricity.  Not perfect, but better than regular PEPCO.  I think there are some other alternatives in Maryland.  I have not investigated recently in the District, but switched to the “green” electricity a number of years ago.

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1934

I found the 1934:  A New Deal for Artists exhibit at SAAM quite moving.  The exhibit was put together for the 75th anniversary of the New Deal; it is merely coincidence that paintings commissioned by the United States government to depict American life in a time of dire conditions happen to be on exhibit at this time.  It is a good companion to view along with Robert Frank’s Americans at the NGA West Wing — also on view because of an anniversary, not because of its coincidental timeliness.

The art is not great art, and it is stuck in the period in which it was painted, in part because of the nature of the commission.  The depictions of America show any resilience and beauty inextricably intertwined with hardship and struggle.  In its very datedness, the art on exhibit raises questions about what are society’s priorities today, how we are responding to the crisis of war, environmental devastation, and economic crisis and how we could enhance and celebrate humanity and the planet rather than continue to decimate the earth and ourselves.

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, approximately 43% of your 2008 taxes will pay for war.   President Obama’s proposed budget has a smaller increase than previous years, but does not lower in any way military spending.  I’d rather my tax dollars were buying art.

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“Dry Clean Only” (Don’t Believe Everything You Read)

As I was doing my laundry yesterday, most of which I line-dried, I thought about the fact that I have not been to the dry cleaner in nearly a decade. This is one of the small things I have chosen in order to be a little kinder to the environment.

Some of my clothes, especially things I bought several years ago, say “dry clean only.”  This includes knits made of wool, tencel, modal, or rayon (all of which are natural fibers) and linen and silk unconstructed clothing.  All of these do fine with hand washing (or on the gentle cycle in the washing machine) and being hung up to dry (this also applies to cotton, button-down shirts).   Of course, if it doesn’t say to dry clean then you definitely don’t need to dry clean.

Always believed the label?  How was clothing made of natural fibers cleaned before there was such a thing as a dry cleaner?  Think they look better or it is easier to get them dry cleaned?  Think about the solvents, the plastic, the energy for the cleaning method, and whether you drive to the dry cleaners.  Then make a decision.

Most things do not need to be cleaned by use of poisonous solvents (just because a solvent is “organic” or “natural” doesn’t mean it is good for the environment) and then wrapped in non-recyclable plastic to take home (many dry cleaners will take back the hangers, but will say they need to use the plastic wrap because their premises are too dusty for your clothes to stay clean outside the plastic wrapper).

So look for clothes that say “gentle wash, line dry” instead of “dry clean only.”  If it says “dry clean only” think about whether it really applies.  It will not apply for a wool sweater, most knits, or unlined clothes.  A business suit — yes, it won’t keep its shape unless you dry clean.  Do you really need to wear a business suit?  Will a choice not to wear a suit impact whether some people think you are truly “professional”?  Possibly.  If you decide you need to wear a suit regularly, how many times can you wear it before taking it to the dry cleaners?

PS.  Don’t experiment with things that are new and expensive.  Try it on older clothes and discover whether you need to believe everything you read.

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Iccha, Jnana, Kriya

Above (or perhaps beyond, or maybe more elemental, or more universal — words inevitably tangle us in discussing essential philosophical constructs) the six kanchukas (cloakings or coverings) are the five universal elements.  These are suddha vidya, ishvara, saddha shiva, and shiva-shakti.  John Friend suggests that we think of the first three of these tattvas as corresponding to the principles of iccha (will),  jnana (knowledge), and kriya (action).

When I think of the Anusara principles in practice on and off the mat, I think of them in terms of the tattvas, particularly the five universal elements and the five mahabhutas .   Those of you who practice and study Anusara yoga are familiar with the principles of “open to grace, muscular energy, inner/expanding spiral, outer/contracting spiral, and organic energy.”  As part of the physical practice of asana, I think of these alignment principles as corresponding to the mahabhutas (the five great elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space/ether; see previous posts on how I experience the alignment principles as relating to the mahabhutas).  At that level, “open to grace” has physical characteristics.  These principles, when applied consciously, help us to align the physical body with the energy body, so that we can more fully delight in our bodies.  When we are in alignment and experience expansion through alignment, we can more optimally move in and experience the physical and mental realms in a way that helps us recognize the universal spirit in all beings.

The reason I come to the mat, the ultimate purpose of yoga in an of itself and for me as a practitioner, is informed by the five principles of the universal.  The yearning to connect to the spirit is in essence an opening to grace at an elemental, non-physical level (an uber opening to grace).  The next aspect of our practice, which is more important than the physical technical details of the alignment principles, are what John Friend terms “attitude, alignment, and action.”  These are by definition more universal and fundamental than the physical principles and correspond directly to the principles of iccha (will),  jnana (knowledge), and kriya (action).  The essence of yoga, especially from a tantric perspective, is the will (iccha) to embody and experience the union of mind, body, and spirit with a radical embrace of our being.   Knowledge (jnana), when used as a way to align with our true nature, is not to correct, but to better enable us to align our body, both physically and energetically, and our mind so we best can experience and express our will to connect.   The ultimate action (kriya) of a pose or what we do off the mat is a spontaneous offering or an expression of our will to connect, using ever increasing refinement, skill, and knowledge.

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Are You Wondering

why I did not post an entry about the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq?  I obviously care deeply about the need to end the war and to address the tragic aftermath at home and abroad.  So why choose not to mark an anniversary?  Why instead of marking a dire anniversary, celebrate spring?  Sometimes, by celebrating something small in the midst of a crisis, we can give ourselves the grounding and energy to work harder to bring more light and to seek to end needless suffering.

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Yoga for Householders

Paul Muller-Ortega, who teaches philosophy and meditation from similar roots to those that inform Anusara yoga, spoke yesterday of the differences between the path of the renunciate and the path of the householder.  He strongly stated that neither path was better.  What he suggested, though, was that a householder will better flourish practicing yoga designed for the householder rather than attempting to practice renunciate techniques, while still staying in the householder path.

What does this mean?  I think it means that we become unhappy and conflicted if we try attempt the practices of the path of complete non-attachment and transcendence of body and mind while we are still very much staying in society and responsible for family, work, and citizenship.  The tantric, householder path, including that of the Shaivite tradition of Kashmir and Abhinavagupta, offers practices that enable one to live liberated in society, instead of suggesting that the only way to true liberation is to reject and transcend work, family, and community.  In yoga terms, the householder path is one that realizes moksha (liberation), through ardha (physical and material well-being), kama (love/relationship), and dharma (right work/path) rather than by transcending them.

Taking the householder path does not mean just indulging.  It still requires sensitivity, dedication, discrimination, and alignment.  I think it may be even harder than renunciation.  I know it is easier for me to just stay alone and practice, for example, than to bring yoga off my mat to how I work, consume, relate to others, and participate in society.  The householder path, though, is the one for me.

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One Person’s Weeds

Last year, some romaine lettuce must have bolted.  I have baby romaine lettuce coming up everywhere.  Having reverted to the wild, it is quite bitter.  It is also taking up a fair amount of space, so to be able to plant more appealing things (new herbs and greens) I will be pulling it up.  It has become, in essence, a weed.  Later in the year, I’ll also have a surfeit of volunteer epazote and purslane, which many would pull as weeds.  Those, I actively encourage, eating young the ones that come up over and over again through the bricks and confining in containers a few others to grow larger and to reseed.

Even though it is too bitter to be palatable raw, the now “weed” romaine tastes fine cooked as a tender green.  So it does not get discarded.  I just won’t make myself eat it in its bitter form as the salad green that it is “supposed” to be.  Instead, since it is nourishing and tasty as a cooked green, it is a welcome early addition to the garden.

Just I have challenges and tribulations from whatever is my overall plan for the garden, I have my share of aches, pains, challenges, and disappointments, in life and in my yoga practice.  The question is how to discriminate (viveka) among those that are poisonous, those that are bitter, and those that can be made nourishing and sweet, through the cooking of understanding, practice, and effort.

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Be Smile (from the outside in, and vice versa)

Yesterday, for the first time this year, there was more daylight than darkness.  Today, it will be warm and sunny.  Notice if the light and warmth brighten your mood.  Then try to observe just where and how you are shifted so that when things seem dark and gloomy, you can find the place within yourself that responds to light and dark and invite in your own light to shift.  This is a power of meditation.

be-smile

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