Community and Family

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

Serenity Saturday, Oxfam Fundraiser, and Thanksgiving Week Classes (web version of newsletter)

Dear Friends,

I hope you weathered Ida and are enjoying the glorious days that are following her cleansing rains as we move into the first of the holidays.  Although I may have some thought-provoking questions about the historical basis for our Thanksgiving Day, I love taking the time as a society to get together to remember, to heal, and to share the abundance and give thanks for all that we have.  For me, one of my greatest sources of gratitude is the practice of yoga and our wonderful community.  Please join me for a gratitude-filled week of inner abundance:

Serenity Saturday:  November 21st, 3pm-5pm at Capitol Hill Yoga

Oxfam Yoga Fundraiser:  Thanksgiving morning, 10am-11:30am, at Willow Street Yoga, Takoma Park

Class Schedule:  All open classes will be held as usual Tuesday, November 24th at Wm. Penn House (6:30pm) and Saturday, November 28th (Level 2 at 8:30am, Gentle/Therapeutic at noon) at Willow Street, Takoma Park.

Regrets:  No house group practice, Wednesday, November 25th.

More details on the website at www.rosegardenyoga.com.  To register in advance for Serenity Saturday, please visit www.capitolhillyoga.com.

I look forward to seeing you soon and sharing the joy of the holiday season.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

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Web Version of November Newsletter

Dear ,

I think this is one of the most spectacular years for fall foliage that I can remember.  The world seems to be pulsating with an ecstasy of color.  I am beside myself with joy just walking around (especially when I have my camera with me).  I hope you are getting the opportunity to be outside; the work commute is definitely a great time to be able to look around (especially if some of it is walking).

Expand the inherent joy in witnessing and experiencing the transformation between summer and fall, partaking in the abundant harvest, and accepting the sweetness of a more introspective climate by practicing forward bends with twists, restoratives, and inversions.

To deepen the revelry and to find respite when needed, come join me and pretty wonderful group of people on Tuesdays at William Penn House or Saturdays at Willow Street Yoga (level 2 at 8:30 and Gentle/Therapeutics at 12 noon) on a drop-in basis.

This month’s Serenity Saturday at Capitol Hill Yoga, which is on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, will be a special treat.  Whether you are preparing to travel or to host guests or to have a quiet weekend to yourself, a long, sweet, easeful restorative practice is just right.  Feel free to bring early, out of town guests and family. To register, please go to the workshops page at www.capitolhillyoga.com.

If you’ll be in town for Thanksgiving, I hope to see you, along with friends, family, and guests of all age and yoga ability, at my 7th Annual Thanksgiving Day Fundraiser to benefit Oxfam.  It’s from 10-11:30 on Thanksgiving Day in the beautiful and spacious Willow Street, Takoma Park Studio.  As has been my practice, I will be matching all donations over the suggested donation of $20.

For more information about the classes and workshops and to catch up on the blog, please visit the website at www.rosegardenyoga.com.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

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Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (and Jack-O-Lanterns)

Jack-O-Lanternspumpkin-skullAs I walk around the neighborhood seeing all the pumpkins on stoops, like Proust with his madeleines, I remember the scent of roasting pumpkin seeds and the salty taste on my tongue, and I return to the place of my childhood.  My mother wasn’t much for holidays, but she very much enjoyed arts and crafts projects.   The jack-o-lantern, was something then that showed up when we were little kids.  I don’t think there was ever a jack-o-lantern carved when we did not eat the seeds.  Part of the project was cleaning the seeds, oiling a cookie sheet, spreading the seeds out on the sheet, salting them, and roasting them until golden, and then enjoying the seeds as a special salty treat.  I think it unlikely she has decorated a pumpkin at home since I was in early elementary school, but if she were to do it now, in addition to roasting the pumpkin seeds, I am sure she would decorate the outside instead of cutting it into a jack-o-lantern, so that the pumpkin could also be used for soup or pie.

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Nail Soup (and reminders)

One of my favorite fairy tales is the one about the traveler who teaches the old woman how to make “nail soup.”  It is a cold, wintry night in the forest, and a traveler comes upon a hut.  He knocks on the door and asks for shelter.  The old woman who lives in the hut says he can sleep in the shed, but she cannot give him any food.  The traveler thanks her for providing shelter.  He says he does not need food, but if she lets him in by the fire, he will show her how to make soup from a nail.  The woman, who is rather miserly, is excited by the idea of being able to make soup from a nail, so she lets him in and puts a big soup pot filled with snow to melt over the fire.  The traveler puts the nail in the soup and says, “what a wonderful broth we will have from this nail.  If we only had a potato or two, it would be even better.”  The woman roots around in her hoard and puts a potato in the pot.  “Now it will be even more wonderful,” said the traveler.  “If we only had an onion to add, it would be the most savory soup you have ever tasted.”  The woman goes to her winter stores and finds an onion.  The traveler sniffs the soup, “mmm, how wonderful it smells, if we had a carrot or a parsnip, it would be gracious enough for any guest.”  The woman, trembling with the excitement of creating soup from a nail, adds both a carrot and a parsnip.  At this point, the broth is starting to take on thickness and color, and the hut is redolent of bubbling hot vegetable soup.  “Oh for some salt and a little meat,” cried the man, “and this soup would truly be fit for a king.”  “From only a nail, soup fit for a king!” exclaimed the old woman, “that I must have.”  She added a precious pinch of salt and some meat dried to last through the winter.  The soup, of course, was delicious, the traveler well-fed, and the woman happy to share (even if she was tricked).

Sometimes we need a reminder of our abundance, both inner and outer, to be invited to bring out all we have so that we can better serve.  Just as the traveler with the nail reminded the isolated old woman of how to share her abundance, sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what we have rather than what we are missing.  I find that when I am feeling more empty than full, coming to my mat and my meditation cushion and practicing gratitude quickly helps me remember.

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A Day to Myself

green lightLast week, when I said to a colleague, “see you Tuesday,” she replied, “where are you going?”  It was as if simply to enjoy where I live or rest or quietly take care of house and garden was not within the range of possibility.  Is it that I am somehow not worthy if I have not planned to do something I could talk about when I returned to the office?  Or is it that pervasive societal sense that happiness lies only in finding new and more experience?

I think that it is important to have episodic time away from doing.  I used to get sick when I’d been running around non-stop with work and errands and exploration, etc.  Now I try to take some quiet time at decent intervals.  It does not need to be a full day.  Just a couple of solid hours without engaging in a planned activity every couple of weeks makes all the difference in my mood, my health, and the quality of my work.

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On the Bus

on the bus 2Shortly after I took this picture, a young couple came and sat down in the two seats in the photo, which are at the back of the bus — they were the only seats together.  The couple just sat down quietly and held hands; they weren’t even talking.  The woman in the corner immediately sat upright and began cursing at them.  She threatened them with calling the police because they were harassing her by following her.  The bus driver, who was having a hard enough time dealing with cars cutting in and out of lanes in the stop and go traffic jam created by the Marine Corps Marathon street closings, advised her to calm down.  She got louder and louder.  The woman in front of me kept turning around to stare.  I sat quietly, trying to send soothing energy.  The bus driver suggested to the woman that the police were located just around the corner.  He said he’d stop so that she could go get the police.  “No, no,” she cried, “we are almost at my stop.  I’ll be quiet,” and she became completely still and quiet.  At the next stop, she stayed on and a few other people got off, so that the couple was able to find a seat elsewhere on the bus.  For the rest of the trip, even with people standing, these three seats stayed open.  Later, I went up front to ask the driver what exactly was the route for the marathon detour.  It turned out to be a good detour for where I was going.  I commended the driver on how quickly he calmed down the woman, acknowledging what a challenge it is to be a metrobus driver.  He obviously appreciated my simple gesture (mostly people just criticize bus drivers) and shared a few recent stories.  When I got off, I thanked him and wished him a good day.

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What is “really” yoga?

Gopi Krishna, in this book The Awakening of Kundalini, writes:  “Yoga exercises can also be directed toward worldly objectives.  There are exercises that are conducive to the health and efficiency of the mind, others that lead to psychic gifts, and still others that strengthen the will and improve the ability to deal with problems.  However, no single achievement of this kind — or even several of them taken together — is Yoga.”  He continues to state that “Yoga is a transhuman state of mind attained by means of the cumulative effect of all practices combined, carried on for years, and supplemented by grace.”  Other texts say enlightenment comes to some just by “grace” with no need for the yoga practices.  Others need various amounts and types of practices.

Me, I have no idea what is a “transhuman state of mind” but I want for myself and those around me being healthier and stronger, with an improved ability to deal with problems.  (Imagine, for example, those gifts applied in the context of providing universal health care, while simultaneously educated and shifting our society to a healthier way of living).  I don’t think anyone can judge or determine whether one’s self or someone else is truly enlightened or can lead others to enlightenment (whatever that means).  But I am certain from my own experience that yoga helps me to be more grounded, more centered, more intentional, stronger, and healthier.  Thus served by steady practice, I am more content and find it easier to be kind.  I’ll take that for now.

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