Community and Family

thoughts on how we fit into the web of community, family and society

Home (and sauca)

It was wonderful to visit another city, to enjoy a change in climate and scenery, to see friends, and to study.  I am happy to be home, though, even with the responsibilities and obligations.  That I am always happy to come home from a trip away (even when I have gone to places perhaps more spectacular or interesting than where I live and met people who are able to do things that are outside of my reach) is one of the things that reminds me that my unassuming life suits me well enough.  Part of this delight in coming home is my having for the past decade steadily practiced the principle of sauca or contentment.

I remember having a talk with a friend a number of years ago about practicing sauca.  She expressed surprise that contentment could be a practice.  She said she had always thought that happiness was something that just came to you.  Happiness may come more easily to some than others, just as some are born with physical beauty or material comfort and others are not.  It is my experience, though, assuming our basic needs are met, that by practicing sauca, we will be happier both with what we have chosen and what we have been given.

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Vacation

I am delighted to be going on a short trip to a warm place (Tucson) to do nothing but yoga and visit with friends and acquaintances.

My work life is such for the next several months that I cannot take a long vacation.  I can find a few days here and there, though, and it is critical to my working well.  I find if I work with too much effort or for too many hours or days in a row, I lose my sense of humor and my creativity.  These are truly essential components of doing a good job.

If you cannot get away for a day or two or five, take five minutes to just breathe without following your thoughts.  It is not a vacation.  It is meditation.  It will not serve in the way of a vacation, but it will provide a needed break from attachment (perhaps to the point of misalignment) with the mindstuff (citta) and will enable you to continue with your efforts more at peace with both the efforts and yourself.

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Kleshas (and the absence of helicopters)

Last night when we walked out of William Penn House from the Tuesday night yoga class onto East Capitol Street, we could see a convocation of police cars in front of the Capitol — presumably in preparation for the President’s speech.  Karen asked, “where are the helicopters?”  “Maybe, Obama doesn’t need them,” I replied, “maybe he is choosing not to live in fear.”  There weren’t any army or police helicopters all night.  This was the first Presidential speech in eight years where helicopters did not relentlessly drone overhead, calling people to be afraid and to act from a place of fear.

Patanjali’s yoga sutra II.3, says:  avidyha asmita raga dvesa abhinivesah klesah.  BKS Iyengar translates this sutra as follows:  “The five afflictions which disturb the equilibrium of consciousness are:  ignorance or lack of wisdom, ego, pride of the ego or the sense of ‘I’, attachment to pleasure, aversion to pain, fear of death and clinging to life.”

The world is far scarier now than it has been for most of the past eight years.  In some ways, though, at least in my neighborhood, it feels less frightening because the signs of being afraid are not being emblazoned everywhere to call all to share in the fear.

We can practice choosing to turn to a place of strength rather than fear on our yoga mats.  When we choose to do the difficult poses that are at our edge that bring up fear and aversion, we can notice the fear and aversion, but not become fully engaged in it.  By using the Anusara principle of opening to grace, we can accept fear and aversion as part of human being, but then soften and open to the full range of being, and not just cling to the fear.  Instead of avoiding the poses or beating ourselves up for being afraid, we can choose to use the yoga principles we know to invite a full experience of the moment and the possible poses.  Remaining open to witnessing the full range of our being through the pose, we next engage muscular energy (strengthening by embracing the muscles to the bone, hugging into our center [midline], and drawing from the periphery into our core).  Having found our strength, we expand more fully (expanding/inner spiral).  We then have space to draw more deeply into our core power (contracting/outer spiral).  With this balance of embrace and expansion of ourselves, we then can fully embody strength by reaching outward (organic energy) and making offering.  This pulsation of principles in poses has led me to discover physical and energetic abilities in my middle age I had not dreamed possible.

Off the mat, the same principles can lead us to move from love and strength instead of fear and clinging.  As I got into bed with the peace of the night uninterrupted, I pondered how these principles can manifest and gave a profound thanks to whomever decided the harbingers of fear — the helicopters — were unnecessary.

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Snowdrops and Crocuses (and Spanda)

Snowdrops have been showing up for more than a week, but crocuses?  They seem a little incongruous with the bitter winds and as much a reminder of global warming as of spring.  I feel a bit confused seeing them, though delighted.

It has been a good winter.  I have learned to appreciate the cold and dark, which gives us time to enjoy the pleasures of home and introspection.  Now, I am looking forward to spring, the effusive colors, the warmth, the ability to get back out into the garden.

This time of year, with the radical contrasts of cold winds and flowers does highlight the play of opposites, the very pulsation of existence — in yoga terms, the spanda.  This time in society seems to have a similar play of bitterness and sweetness.  Staying steady with our yoga practice and our community, we can delight in what we see and what we have, even as we may be worried and working for change.  That too, is part of the play (lila).  To invite in a steady warmth and support from our practice and our community, even as we see difficulties and challenges, want things to be different, and know that our work may not necessarily bring about the change we seek.

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To do list? (Yoga citta vrtti nirodaha)

Twitter?  What would be

The point without an I-phone?

Buy one? Save the nation?

Last night I wrote this “twaiku” (why is it not a “twittiku?”) after having read yet another series of articles on why or why not to Twitter and still more articles on why it is important for a nation of consumers to keep consuming even if that is what got them into trouble in the first place.  One of the articles was lamenting the loss of true communication that comes with being limited to 140 characters, and it set forth some examples of how peculiar, when taken out of context, some twittering can sound, especially to the uninitiated.  In my attempt to keep an open mind about devaluing language while still communicating in language, I was led to think about haikus v. sonnets and other longer poetic forms.   A haiku easily fits into 140 characters.  This led me to wonder whether anyone had created a haiku trend on Twitter?  A quick Google search revealed that I am way behind the times in terms of the twaiku?

One of the articles suggested that Twittering is about being in the moment.  Contrarians say it fosters attention deficit disorder and a host of other language-loss ills.  This led me to think of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali “yoga citta vrtti nirodaha” (yoga is stilling/aligning with the thoughwaves of the mind).  When evaluating what to consume, when to consume, and how to consume (whether it is language and communication methods or electronic goods or anything else), if we are serious about taking yoga off the mat, it is good to think about whether our consumption eases the trials of being embodied or makes daily living more agitating, and whether our consumption brings us more into alignment with nature/spirit (brahmacharya) or turns us away.

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Grandma Rose’s Philodendron

The other day, when I was in NY visiting,  I told my mother about the blog entry on Robert’s dendrobium. (Being physically present and discussing the blog entries is the low-tech way of getting comments).  She pointed to the philodendron and some cuttings she was rooting from it and said, “that philodendron was your grandmother Rose’s; it must be 70 years old.”   It might not be 70 years old, but it is at least 40 or 50, as my grandmother left her body in 1977, and I remember her having houseplants.  It is possible, even, that the plant originally came from a cutting from my other grandmother, as that was how we obtained and grew most of the family houseplants.

My mother offered the plant for me to take home.  I declined, but thought about taking a cutting.  By the next morning, I had forgotten, but I will take a cutting one day.  I did not need the cutting to enjoy thinking about bringing home a bit of life that had been living in my grandmother’s apartment and remembering both my grandmother and a space that I had loved.  That was delightful enough.

(ps — one of the many reasons for the name “rose garden yoga” is in honor of my grandmothers — for my grandmother Rose’s name and for the love of gardening I learned from my grandmother Ann).

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Rain (not quite enough)

It was wonderful to get some rain yesterday, but our area really has been way too dry, suffering from storms going to the north and west or to the south and east of us.  Here are a few ways for those of us staying on the grid to reduce water consumption:

1.  Short showers (under three minutes)

2.  Longer showers or baths only an occasional treat.

3.  If you have space (I don’t; though I keep thinking about how to work it) get a rain barrel or two for your garden.

4. Re-use water when you can.  For example, when changing a pet’s water dish, water plants instead of pouring out dish.  Soak pots without soap (needs longer soaking) and use soaking water for house plants.  Same for water from your hot water bottle (to stay warm while keeping the heat down).

5. Practice the old drought adage all the time (“if it’s yellow, let it mellow”).

6.  When it is time to replace a toilet or faucet, use a water efficient model.

7.  Turn off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, or lathering.

8.  For container plants in the garden, use “Soil Moist” or a similar product.

9.  Drink tap water (it takes about 60 ounces of water to bring you a 20 ounce bottle of water).  If you don’t like the taste, filter it.

10. Forget about washing your car (if you have one) except for keeping the windows clean enough so you can see out.

11.  Replace lawns and annual flowers with hardy, native perennials.

Please share your tips.  I’m always looking to learn.

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In the “ether”

Yesterday, I took the plunge and joined Facebook.  I’d read one too many articles in the New York Times about it without being able to really understand what I was reading.  What an interesting phenomenon — seeing images and reading words of friends and acquaintances through space (friends around the world) and time (friends from way back).

Tomorrow, I will be speaking on a webcast to more than a 1,000 people.

I’ve gotten thousands of hits on this blog.

This is a lot of shared energy without knowing most of those with whom one I am sharing. It is shifting space and time as I think about it.  In the computer world, we say or write about what we are thinking as we type or speak into the computer, and then our words and energies shift and take on their own power as they extend out instantly to anyone who chooses — intentionally or randomly — to receive them.

I think the more we are in the ethereal world, the more we need simultaneously to make certain we are grounded.

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Robert’s Dendrobium

roberts-dendrobium2A number of years ago, when he was moving from Capitol Hill to Denver, my friend and former neighbor Robert gave me this dendrobium orchid, which bloomed this year for me for the first time.  The dendrobium was just an extra.  If you know orchids, you can see that it is planted with a vanda.  These orchids came from Robert’s mother’s garden in Florida.  When she had to give up her place in Florida, Robert brought home some of the orchids, including the vanda.  If I know Robert, he just saw a baby dendrobium in the garden and stuck it in with the vanda when he carried it back north to Capitol Hill.  When Robert moved to Colorado, he left the vanda with me because he did not expect it to tolerate the Colorado climate.  Even here, the vanda is not likely to bloom.  Not enough heat, light, or humidity in DC (really!!!).  But after five or six years of steady care, the dendrobium flourished and finally bloomed.  Robert inspired my affection for orchids; he had a greenhouse and knew each one of his tropical plants intimately.  We would go to an orchid show or nursery, and he would look with love on each and every plant, cherishing their individual traits, no matter how small or large.  At the botanical gardens, he had different plants he visited and enjoyed.  Now his yard has cactii and peppers.  He has a few of his most faithful orchids, which are flourishing and which were delightful to visit, and I have this lovely reminder of a time when Robert was one of my local gardening buddies.  This, I think is one of the extra joys of gardening, especially with houseplants that come from cuttings.  They have a history with our family and friends that is passed on, cherished, and shared.  I also have a night-blooming cereus that was a baby from a plant that started as a baby of one in his mother’s garden.  The night mine first bloomed (just a single night in the year), the parent plant with Robert in Denver also bloomed.

Bonus love from this particular dendrobium; it is scented!

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