Community and Family

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

On Reading Patanjali (to help get ready for work)

This morning my sit was full of lots of random thought waves.  This was no doubt, in part, due to my having four meetings,  a call, and a lunch scheduled.  When I was finished, I went into the library, picked up the Christopher Isherwood/Swami Prabhavandananda version How to Know God and opened it randomly to see if it could help guide my thinking today.  I opened to  sutra I.40:   “The mind of a yogi can concentrate upon any object of any size, from the atomic to the infinitely great.”  My first thought was, “how nice.”  My second thought was, “I need to look at another translation; that does not sound quite how I’ve read it elsewhere.”

I opened my trusted B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali.  The translation there is “Mastery of contemplation brings the power to extend from the finest particle to the greatest.”

These translations are not so different from each other.  It was also most timely for me to read this classical sutra in connection with what I have been contemplating in the Pratyabijna Hrdyam.

I read the Isherwood translation as saying that as long as one concentrates as a yogi with full and loving attention, then all actions are in union (yoga).  I understand the Iyengar translation to say that mastering yoga allows one to perceive in the most individual, differentiated being or object, the infinite universal.  With that knowing, just as the Kashmir Shaivist teachings say, one is living liberated (jivanmukti).

However I read this thread of teaching, it is most relevant for how I live and what I must do today with the worldly commitments I have made.  With the intention to stay present with yoga concentration and aims, I now head to my day of meetings.

The sanskrit is: “paramanu parammahattvantah asya vasikarah”

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The Triangle Player

Yesterday, while watching the Capitol City Symphony and Capitol Hill Chorale’s joint performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Atlas Theater, I noticed with some amusement the cymbol player reading a novel in the wings through the first three movements.  (The triangle player appeared just in time for the fourth movement).

This reminded me of an anecdote John Friend told at the Anusara Certified Teachers’ Gathering in Denver the other week to illustrate the importance of every person and element to the whole.  He spoke of the triangle player.  What do you say to him after the show, John asked, “great job man;  I love the way you came in right when you were supposed to?”  Even if showing up and playing one beat at the right time is the triangle player’s only job, the triangle player still is an integral part of the composition, though perhaps not as evidently crucial as the first violinist.

We may not know how we are essential or how we will shift things, but we should always revere and recognize each and every being, including ourselves, as part of the web of existence.

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Standing Poses with John Friend

If you are looking for a good way to practice and enhance your standing poses, please check out this video by John Friend.  If the link doesn’t work for you, go to Yoga Journal on-line and go to their videos section.

I never cease to marvel at the wonders of technology.  I never cease to be grateful for my teacher and the teachings.  Don’t take anything for granted.

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No. 9

Friend, yogini, and neighbor Jess will be performing a Beethoven program with the Capitol Hill Chorale this weekend.  A friend asked if I wanted to have dinner on Sunday, and I suggested we instead go to the Atlas Theater to see the concert.  “Great idea,” replied my friend, “I have a friend in the Chorale, too.”  Support the local arts, businesses, and friends, and get entertainment that doesn’t require getting in a car (or at least a very short ride) or a plane.  Come join us!

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Why Study Yoga? (and Pete Seeger’s 90th)

In the session yesterday, in discussing the Siva Sutras, Paul Muller-Ortega said that the whole of the teachings are in the very first sutra, even in the first word (caitanyam — consciousness).  For students who, on hearing the first word from their teacher,  say “got it, I understand fully,” no further teaching is necessary.  For the students who say, “please explain further, what does it mean?” more elaboration is needed.

What does it mean, though, to “get it?”  What do we do with the teachings of yoga?  How do we integrate them into our lives?  I practice and study yoga because it is teaching me how to be stronger, more flexible, more grounded, and better able to serve.  Some people I know already have that.  They are already living the yoga, so they do not need the details and the practices.

As a reminder of one who has been living a rich, full life of service and love, enjoy this video of Pete Seeger in honor of his 90th birthday.  (If you cannot see this link, please just do a search for videos, using your favorite search engine.)

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Why Practice; Why Teach

Last night in class, I asked why people continued to come to class.  “To see how I can expand,” “for the community,” “for the delight,” “for relaxation,” were some of the answers.  Orie asked me what led me to teach.  The first reason I gave (and the one that was the primary reason for entering teacher training) was that I had been so inspired by what yoga had offered me that I wanted to share it.

The second reason I gave was that teaching helps keep me disciplined about my practice.  I cannot abide hypocrisy, and so, I feel compelled to try my best to practice what I teach.  I do not always embody fully the teachings in my own life and practice, but I am always trying.  Knowing how the teachings and practices have shifted me and witnessing how the teachings inspire my students, leads me to continue to study, to practice, to try and align better on and off the mat.

Today, with a day of stressful meetings and phone calls ahead, it will be a good day to try to live the practice.

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Okra Germinated; First Roses Opened

First flower on a cherry tomato appeared overnight.  Peppers are budding.  They all like the heat.  Dill is going yellow around the edges already.  It does not like the heat.  One of the things I love most about gardening is noticing what thrives to excess and what struggles, depending on the weather patterns.  With the right balance of plants, there will always be a bumper crop of something (both edible and ornamental).  Eating locally, with consciousness acknowledgement of the limits of space and time in an affirming way,  requires accepting what are the crops of the year and being creative with them rather than finding a recipe and insisting that the ingredients be available to the detriment of flavor, pocketbook, and environment.

Fostering such a relationship to my garden and my food helps me also accept that although I can grow and shift, I ultimately cannot change certain fundamental things about myself.  It is better radically to affirm what I have been given than to try and contort myself into something that it seems society (Heideggerian “they”) would prefer.

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Ready or Not Here It Comes (Summer Heat)

This morning when I stepped out into the back garden, I heard the sound of clippers on the other side of the fence.  It was my back garden neighbor of over 15 years.  “Is that you?” I asked.  “Yes,” was the reply and we both walked up onto our decks so we could see across the fences.  “It must be summer,” my neighbor said, in acknowledgment of it being the first morning of the season we coincided in the garden.  “I am so ready,” he said, and we caught up with the winter news and discussed what was going on in our gardens.  I told him about Becky, marveling at her wonderful long life of 21 years.  “It was time, then,” he commented.  “I still miss her, though,” I replied.

Yesterday, several people said to me that they were not ready for summer.  Whether people were ready (or not) for the 90 degree weather seemed to depend a lot a preference cold or warm weather.

It hardly matters whether we are ready for a shift in the seasons, the loss of a precious being, or the arrival of gray hairs and degenerative arthritis (I am finding myself  not ready for any of these, really).

Life comes to us, ready or not.  We can use our yoga practice, especially asana, to help us expand and shift and be prepared for whatever comes, by inviting all of our practice and our growth (which includes both expansion and contraction) a rich exploration.  We can experiment with where is our edge, listening to both ourselves and our teachers to discover not only what we are ready for, but also how we react when confronted with that for which we think we are not ready.  By seeking the subtle knowledge of when our mind is ahead of our body and when our mind is holding back our body, we can enhance our ability to respond to what comes in the most open, sensitive, discriminating, flexible, and thus, life-enhancing way, on and off the mat.

In the meantime, I give in to the premature summer heat.  This morning, I picked spinach and herbs to go with mushrooms from the fresh farm market for breakfast and made a posy of pansies for the altar.  Why leave them in the garden if they will just wilt in the heat?  It was a great afternoon for a siesta and a treat to be out in the city in the morning unencumbered by sweater or jacket.  For my evening practice, I will emphasize deep, cooling forward bends and pranayama.  Will I be ready for the cool days to come back at the end of the week?  I do not think I will have a choice.

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