Practice, contemplation, and insights

A Good Place to Sit

I came out briefly to sit and contemplate and write in my journal before a staff meeting at lunch time (no lunch provided).

The Scott Burton chairs in the National Sculpture Garden are one of the more delightful places to sit outside near my office.

First, I was joined by several birds. Then some tourists came along. The one with all the jewels sat down at the direction of her friend in orange for a photo. “We’re not allowed to sit here,” the sitter said with a little glee in her voice.

I directed her to the sign near the seats giving permission. This led the photographer both to sit down with her friend, but also to lose any real interest in taking the photograph.

What was it about the loss of transgressiveness that made the photo less desirable? The chairs are the same whether permitted or not. In fact, with sitting permitted, there is more time to explore fully their function as chair as well as their form as art.

This set me wondering about how much our desires are driven by social ideas, rather than needs and comforts.

A father and his son approach the chairs fro the other direction. After reading the sign giving permission to sit, they promptly sat down. The bare statement “granite chairs,” was all that was said before they got back up and went on they’re way.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


April Greetings–Delving into the Essential (Web Version of E-Newsletter)

Dear Friends,

It has been a mind-boggling several weeks.  The magnitude of the upheavals and the impact on all of the world, including human beings, is beyond my ability to grasp.  Closer up than the unfolding devastation in Japan and the escalating war in Libya, which daily adds to the bankrupting of this country and planet by our wars, I found myself supporting committed organizations, signing petitions, and writing emails saying that I preferred to be locked out of my work place with no pay than to have taken away any existing protection of the environment or provision health care for low income women.  As my mind tries to expand enough to stay present and active, I am more grateful every day to have and share the practice of yoga.

Practicing helps us minimize suffering by changing how we relate to pain and the full range of human emotion.  The goal, I think, is to fully and joyously engage in life with an intention to live as harmoniously as possible with all beings, including our individual selves, and simultaneously appreciate and be wonderstruck at the extraordinary and wild vastness of being that makes the time and space of the known universe seem finite relative to life (lives) on earth.  When we can find both perspectives simultaneously, then we can be engaged, but not attached (vairagya).

How do we focus this intention to live fully and harmoniously in this way?    In the past six weeks, I have had the unbelievably fortuitous combination of circumstances to be able to study with John Friend for three days; to attend the Mahasivaratri celebration with Douglas Brooks, Krishna Das, John Friend, Amy Ippoliti, and Sianna Sherman; Ross Rayburn for a weekend workshop at Willow Street;; Desiree Rumbaugh at a special three-hour practice the following week at Willow Street; and Paul Muller-Ortega via telephone conference.

Wow, that was a whole lot of input for my practice and contemplation, while living itself was getting more intense.  But, it turned out not to be too much because of the singularity of the teachings.  The message I heard from all of these teachers in their own unique and inspiring voices was that is is a good time to get down to get back to basics, or to put it another way, to explore more deeply the essential principles of practice (and of life).  By getting back to the basics in the practice, we can start knowing at a deeper level what is essential for us to relate as deeply and joyously and non-harmingly (yes, I know it isn’t a word, but I’d like it if it were) on and off the mat to ourselves and all in our web of relationship.

In both my practice and my public class offerings, this Spring, I am especially focused on exploring what is essential to experience life at its most joyous while still be conscious and committed to the need for effort to change.  In addition to continuing my regular class offerings, I am pleased to be offering a short course in restorative yoga at Willow Street, “Cultivating Relaxation with Restorative Yoga.”

Restorative yoga is perfect whether you are looking for a gentler way to get started with yoga, an opportunity to relax, or alternative practices for when you are feeling stiff or in pain, or a way for advanced practitioners to explore the alignment principles at the subtlest levels. We will explore a variety of types of supported postures and prop-assisted stretches to enable you to relax into optimal alignment, discover your own space of deep rest and peacefulness, and open your body. The course will also offer simple techniques to ease into sleep, find mini-relaxation moments when things are hectic, and sweeten your home practice–what could be of better service these days?  Everybody welcome. 6 Thursdays, 4/21-5/26.

To get news in between the occasional email offerings or to see my latest short thoughts, please “like” my new “Rose Garden Yoga” page on Facebook.

I look forward to seeing you in person soon.  As always, please feel comfortable being in touch by comment on the blog or by email.
Peace and light,




Like the financial markets, I historically do not respond well to uncertainty, even when nothing bad has yet happened. To have the government shutdown looming (and all the preparations to be forced off the work place next week) in the midst of the escalation of war, chaos following natural disasters, and looming threats to the environment and most of what I hold dear socio-politically is pushing my buttons.

This morning, as I rose from my morning meditation, refreshed and ready for the day, I reminded myself of the absolute certainty that as long as I am conscious, I can meditate. And as long as I can meditate, I have a space of peace, beauty, vibrancy available to me. That is a wonderful certainty indeed in these uncertain times.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


“Just a little green…”

A neighbor who lives in the top floor of the building across the street, and thus has a spectacular view of the maples in front of my house writes:

“The buds on your tree are more numerous than yesterday, and more visibly that color that Joni Mitchell sang about: “just a little green, like the color when the spring is born...”   And we’re getting a good, soaking rain.  Happy Spring!”

I have heard the song so many times, I do not need to look it up, except to share both with those for whom it is not part of an intimate map of a long ago period and with those for whom it is and who will have, by just seeing the words (and even more so by listening), some upsurge of memories and a revelation of the miraculous play of consciousness.


“I Don’t Care If It Rains or Freezes…” (and freedom from the pairs of opposites)

When I was walking into work in the cold rain this morning, the song “Plastic Jesus” arose in my head.  I thought that I didn’t know many of the lyrics, but when I got back and checked for recordings to see just how much I was missing, I realized it was because there aren’t many lyrics.  Here is Paul Newman singing it in Cool Hand LukeThe Levellers have a great cover (with some variations on the lyrics–listen carefully), as do the Flaming Lips.  The original is harder to find.

With it’s gentle tongue in cheek message, the song invites us to contemplate the real purpose of any spiritual practice (including the yoga — see, for example, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, at 2.46-2.48):  to be sufficiently full of love and devotion and recognition of spirit, that we are not ungrounded or driven to suffering when faced with discomfort or inconvenience.  And if we get really good, freedom from suffering in the face of true pain, loss, and outrage.  That is, of course, a key reason for practicing.


Making Beauty

My top word for the week is “dank,” which evokes so much in so little space.

I was attending a conference for much of the early part of the week and simultaneously needed to meet a combination of expected and unexpected deadlines.

I had the delight and nourishment, though, of my daily practice and teaching.

Through making art — however we do it — we find the beauty that is there. Even in the circa 1974, tied for the second ugliest building on the National Mall, Frances Perkins Department of Labor Building before 8am on another dank morning.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


Found Exhortation?

Could you find your innards gorgeous–the blood, sinovial fluid, organs of digestion and elimination? What about your inner thoughts and memories, the ones you do not want to share?

That, of course, is not the point, here. What does it mean to be gorgeous inside? As a found exhortation it is to invite us to find (and seek) the wondrous and exquisite place where external (including your internal critic) judgment and values become irrelevant (even while recognizing that we are still working on things).

To find that gorgeous and glorious inner space and rest in it is one of the reasons to meditate–especially those of us who have a tendency to hear at times all too loudly the inner and outer voices of criticism.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


Snow and Blossoms (Morning Walk via the Capitol to Dupont Circle)

I got out of the house by 7:30 this morning because I knew the dusting of snow would not last long, and I wanted to enjoy the combination of blossoms and snow making every thing vibrate with beauty.  I was not disappointed.  The sun started to come out just after I had fully circumnavigated the Capitol.  By the time I got to Lafayette Square, the snow was all melted, but the blossoms sparkled even more.  It was such a glorious walk through the neighborhood, I was quite ecstatic, and at one point, I thought perhaps I was hallucinating when I first crested the Capitol grounds around 8am; from loudspeakers on the Mall (presumably there for Cherry Blossom Festival events), someone was blaring the Clash, singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Could I really have been hearing the Clash being broadcast on the National Mall at 8am on a Sunday morning?  I remembered thinking we were making a statement when we blared the Sex Pistols as we drove across the 14th Street bridge towards the Capitol on July 4rh in the mid-80s.  I remembered how disappointed my friends and I were when Joey Strummer disappeared the year I was living in London, and we didn’t get to see the Clash in Brixton. I allowed the flood of memories to rush in and then fade with the music.  I thought of all the years I have been walking around this city, and how many times it has snowed while the blossoms are in bloom–more frequent than one might think.

I watched the melting snow start to glitter in the sun and the blossoms vibrating with their ephemeral beauty.  And then I walked on through downtown, past the White House, and up to Dupont Circle, stopping to buy apples and mushrooms at the Dupont Fresh Farm Market before attending meeting for worship at Friends Meeting of Washington.


I have had a more stressful than usual couple of weeks at the office. While I was walking into the office, I was thinking about how the more deadlines I needed to meet and the more difficult interchanges I had to bring to the most optimal resolution, the harder it was also to have energy to give to those who are in far greater need, though I seek ways to be of service.

When I saw the oversized half moon dwarfed by the cherry blossoms, it helped put things in perspective. Nothing I do immediately impacts life or death. A hard week does not mean much in my life as a whole, my tribulations are only so much play in the midst of the outrageous ground of all human being, human being is only one small part of life on this planet in this galaxy in this universe, and who knows how vast is the realm of consciousness. I smiled at the moon and the blossoms and thought of their beauty throughout the day.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.