Art and Culture

Thinking Things Through v. Overthinking

It is good to act consciously, to move and react from a place of sensitivity, discrimination, and understanding.  It is good to know both the big picture and the details.  When does paying attention and thinking things through, though, become “overthinking?”  I think (ha ha) that it is when thinking things through takes us away from the heart, when it desensitizes, instead of assists us in acting with discrimination.

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Gratitude and Self-Acceptance

On Friday night, Betsy Downing was at Willow Street’s Silver Spring studios leading a weekend workshop.  The focus of the weekend was learning how yoga practice can assist us in “interesting times.”  In this regard, Betsy invited us to recommit to two practices that we know support us when we fully practice them.  I did not feel the need for more meditation or asana or pranayama.  I do those steadily.

I have been struggling, though, with where I am lately — I think something was triggered with all the confined time during the great snows.  This morning I decided that for me, this invitation would best serve if I allowed it to help refocus my practice.  In getting a little off-kilter, I forgot to practice fully gratitude and self-acceptance.  Remembering to practice those fully will nourish me well in these challenged times.

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Health Care Reform, Brick-Throwing, Death Threats (and Svatrantrya)

One of the six fundamental aspects of being (sat) in the “Shiva-Shakti” tantra that is the foundation of Anusara yoga is svatantrya — freedom.  (The others are cit, ananda, spanda, purnatva, sri). Freedom in this sense is an ultimate freedom — the very cosmos is unconstrained and freely creates what we recognize as the fabric of being out of its own play (lila).  We, as inseparable from being, although in some ways confined by our embodiment, are essentially free — free to choose whether to recognize our essential nature, to find bliss (ananda) in our embodiment, to recognize the fullness (purnatva) of being, and to honor the essential auspiciousness of being (sri) in ourselves and all that is around us.

In having that freedom, we can also turn away.  We can stay cloaked.  We can choose violence and anger rather than nurture and love.  We can choose, out of our own essential freedom to remain cloaked in ignorance, to throw bricks and threaten death because of a perceived socialist tyranny because of the passage of health care “reform” that denies the right to choose, does not provide basic medical services for all (no single payor or even public option), and gives the pharmaceutical industry a pass, but does some modest regulation of insurance companies and employers.  (“Better than nothing, I guess,” as one friend wrote on the internet.)

I see the t-shirt “it’s all good,” and I think, “not!”  I also know that I have the freedom for myself to recognize and remember sri, to try and see it in all, including the play of freedom that includes the freedom to turn away from the light.  It will be a lifetime of practice.

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Novelization of the Mahabharata

I found used a novelization of the Mahabharata a couple of weeks ago, which I am now reading.  I’ve read other versions put into English prose, all of which have some stamp of the presenter (author?).  The version I am reading brings to the fore that those who are deserving of the love of people and who are blessed by the divine are physically beautiful, wealthy, and possess great military prowess.  Righteousness includes unquestionably obeying the orders of rulers and parents and accepting your station in life as the determination of God.

The book jacket proclaims the Mahabharata “the greatest spiritual epic of all time.”  I agree that it is a great epic and a rather amazing one.  Some of the precepts, like all presented in great writings that have lasted over the centuries are worthy of contemplation for one’s own life (I am all for recognizing guests as divine visitors and treating them with due regard, for example), as well as for understanding the society in which the work was created.  But any work that mostly reflects the societal mores of the time in which it was written and is designed to perpetuate the powers that be is perhaps best read as fiction.  Saying this does not mean I do not recognize the good of some of the teachings interwoven into the fairy tales, but rather that I think it must also be understood in the confines of its context, lest we perpetuate societal evils that no longer serve.  (This, of course, has Western parallels.)

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Taking a Better Look

When I was walking to work yesterday, I was delighting in watching a pair of red-headed finches cavorting at the very top of a newly blooming cherry tree just outside the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s building, which is across the street from the Hart Senate building.  An impeccably suited man in a suit who was walking towards the Hart building said to me, “it is wonderful to see everything starting to bloom, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is indeed,” I replied, and pointed out the finches.

“I hadn’t noticed them; good eye,” the man said, “look, they’re eating the blossoms.”  The finches were tearing blossoms off the tree and singing with great enthusiasm.

“You can see them even better from the other side of the tree, because the sun is lighting them up instead of shadowing them,” I added.

“I’ll have to go back and take a look,” he said and walked back to the other side of the tree to watch the birds as I headed on to work, with my day brightened by this interchange.

I often get caught looking at the birds or the trees or the sky when walking around town.  When there is an opening, I talk to others about what I am seeing to invite them to pause and delight along with me.  It is a rare day, though, to hear from someone who is clearly busy and has important work to say, “I’ll have to take a better look.”  It is so important to me, and for all of us, to pause and wonder, to remember and recognize the beauty as we go about our day.

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Great Inspiration

Saw this as an email signature from an email on a list serve I follow and had to share:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Yoga for Gardeners (a little more detail and a request for questions)

At the Yoga for Gardeners Workshop, I will be ordering the workshop into (1) yoga to prepare for a session in the garden; (2) yoga pauses to do intermittently while gardening; and (3) yoga post-gardening.  I’m off to enjoy the bright sunny day, to volunteer at The Lantern, and to take care of a neighbor’s cat, but I’m really enjoying getting ready for the workshop.

Feel free to send me question, as a comment to this post, and I will do my best to incorporate what you want to know into the workshop and/or the blog.

Please remember that I will be giving a portion of my profits to support the Youth Garden at the National Arboretum.  Even if you cannot come next Saturday, do please consider supporting one of your local, teaching gardens.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Grown-up? (and Householder Yoga)

My friend Dan posted a blog entry earlier this week talking about getting distracted by a rainbow.  He wrote that he was sure that other “grownups” did not get distracted by the rainbow. As I was observing the way people were commuting this afternoon, grimly looking down, hurrying along, texting and phoning, and apparently completely disconnected to the beauty around them, I thought of Dan’s blog.  I thought not seeing the sky or turning away from its beauty is not being fully “grown up.”

Part of my friendship with you, Dan, is sharing the wonder of looking at rainbows.  It is the “distraction” perhaps that is the invitation, at least in my own practice, for more skill.  In seeking to live the life of a “householder yogin,” I am trying to be the grownup who always sees the rainbow and takes time to see it, but has the skill to illuminate even the most mundane of daily activities with the wonder of seeing the rainbow.

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