Art and Culture

Ganesha (Deity of the Marines?)

A senior colleague and I spent several hours today working together on a very challenging aspect of a long-term project.  When we were wrapping up for the day, I showed him a murti of Ganesha that another co-worker had brought me from the Norton Simon Museum when she had gone on a business trip to Pasadena, where our Los Angeles office is located.

I said that I do not believe in the Hindu deities as gods, but find them helpful for contemplation as archetypes (in the Jungian sense).  I said that being on this project has taught me much about yoga and about Ganesha.

“Ganesha,” I explained, “is not so much the remover of obstacles, but the one who places obstacles in your way to teach you the wisdom to grow and find a more enlightened path from having confronted the obstacles.”  “Oh,” said my colleague, “like the Marines:  adapt, improvise, and overcome.” “Well, sort of,” I replied, enjoying that we found a way to share laughter after our difficult afternoon.

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“I’ve Got My Life Back”

I was at a business meeting yesterday that started with people introducing themselves around the table.  The participants were all either members or staff of a prominent lobbying group or government officials.  One of the men said that he was now a consultant.  “I used to be general counsel of [lobbying group], and now that I am consulting,” he said, “I have my life back.”  The introductions continued around the table.  The new general counsel, when he introduced himself, claimed, “it’s my life he has taken to get his back.”

I found this all interesting in light of my blog yesterday.  These men are very successful.  They both are married with families.  They seem to be pleasant and smart.  Their definition of “not having a life” was not having failed to be fully engaged in doing what society expects them to do — they have clearly done very well indeed — but not having time to play golf or hang out in addition to being “successful.”

Is the difference between being male and female?  Or were the two different contexts of the same social, linguistic tic just exemplifying a the view point of a superabundant and privileged class that we are not living fully unless we do and have everything the collective society admires and we simultaneously feel like we have lots of leisure time to enjoy as we see fit?  It’s a hopelessly unrealistic standard.

Every moment we breathe and our heart beats, we are living.  One of the keys to tantric yoga is to come to a place where we are living fully and abundantly whatever we are doing, whether it is working or playing, being challenged or relaxing.  When we can do that, we realize we “have a life” and one worth living, no matter where we are in our journey.

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I Don’t Have a Life (Really? What a Strange Thing)

Last night I was thinking about what that phrase means.  I was talking with a friend who has a similar enthusiasm for studying, practicing, and teaching yoga, who also has a full-time job/career.  At some point in describing the number of hours I have spent studying with John Friend and other Anusara teachers, it came out of my mouth that I have been able to pursue this passionate engagement with yoga because, as others have said to me, “I don’t have a life.”  My friend, being in the same society after all, initially went right along with that statement as if it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say.

Then we started questioning it.  It is not as though we do not both have rich, full, engaged, active lives.  How did the vernacular come up with a phrase  that says we do not “have a life,” if we are not so occupied with the things that society would have us do (for the “modern” woman I think this means high-powered career, husband, children, nice house) that we have enough time and flexibility to deeply pursue and explore beyond what we are supposed to do?

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Gifts of Onions (and Eternal Truth)

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend gave me a box of perfect vidalia onions.  She had been given two boxes.  She said, “These onions were so good; I wanted to give them to someone who would truly appreciate them.  I first thought of you.”  I was delighted, “yes, I’d love some vidalias.”  They are exquisite.  I’ve been making delicate sautes, grilling them, dicing them into salads, and marveling at their sweetness.  I passed a few on to others that both would fully appreciate the onions as a culinary matter and also know my friend, who is a former co-worker.

Last night I went to take class at Willow Street and was talking a little with the work study students at the desk after class before heading home.  “Would you like some onions?” asked one of the work study students, who does great work with the Fresh Farm Markets around town.  “Oh, how lovely, no, no thank you,” I replied, “A friend just gave me a box of vidalia onions and I have shallots, baby leeks, spring onions, and garlic chives in my garden.”  “I think you have enough in the allium family already,” she agreed, “would you like a cucumber?”  “A cucumber?  Yes, that would be great.  I’ve only gotten one ripe one so far; they aren’t liking the cool wet.”  She gave me a cucumber and a zucchini from a farm visit she had done that morning, which made my evening (I am so easily pleased).

This morning I wondered about these offers of onions.  It is not as though it is a regular thing for me twice in a space of a couple of weeks to be given bounteous offers of exquisite onions.  Did it mean something?

Onion comes from the same latin root as “union.”  Unlike garlic, in whose family onions belong, onions grow a single, undivided bulb, which is the likely reason for the development of the word onion.  From sketchy researching on the internet, I find onions are also the symbol of “good” and fullness — hence the onion domes in architecture.  The ancient Egyptions thought the onion a symbol of eternity (layer upon layer of being) and truth.  Yes, I like thinking these onions (those I took home and those that were gifted instead, no doubt, to some other appreciative soul) were meant to bring me to think of good, of union, of the eternal truth in gifts and shared pleasure in sharing delicious, healing, fresh food with friends.

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World Wide Knit in Public Day (and Vikalpa Samskara)

World Wide Knit in Public Day is this weekend — June 13th (and 14, 20, and 21).  What will you be knitting?  I have started a pair of leg-warmers.  The pattern was really for ankle warmers, but I have chosen to make them longer than the pattern suggested.  The nice farmers who raise the sheep, spin and dye the yarn, and sell it at the Dupont Fresh Farm Market, called them “yoga socks.”  The yarn is beautiful.  The sample pair looked like something I would want on my feet in colder weather.  The project was small enough to tuck into my carry bag.  Definitely a go for summer knitting (unlike the three-quarter finished mohair shruggy that has become a lapful of furry stuff).

“Why are they so short?” I asked.  “We had originally designed them to be longer, but our teacher said we might need to grab our ankles?” they explained.  “When would you do that, when it would not matter whether you were touching fabric instead of your skin,” I puzzled out loud, not out of criticism, but really wanting to know, thinking maybe in Pilates.  The farmers could not really think of a reason.  I bought an extra skein along with the kit to make the — oh, let’s call them footless socks — calf height.  The yarn has a bit of a stickiness to it, so they are not slippery.  They will be good to wear for yoga.

I’ve never knitted on double-pointed, size 2 needles, in the round before, though I happened to have four in the house (picked up at a yard sale for a $1 a decade or two ago and put in the sewing box).  I tend not to knit from patterns for whole projects.  So I had a little learning to do.  The pattern did not explain how to use the double-pointed needles; that knowledge was assumed.  I am not used to the contraints of following a pattern.  Doing so, on occasion, though, forces me to learn a new technique.  It took my a couple of hours to get into the rhythm, but now I’ve eased into the project.

I sometimes seek the same type expansion with cooking.  Though easily able to cook something delicious without a recipe with most ingredients, sometimes I pick out a complicated recipe just to expand my skills in the kitchen.

Yoga, most of all, benefits from a combination of free exploration and attentive development to the knowledge imparted by a teacher.  We are most full and expanded when we combine experience and teachings.  We receive the teachings and then we practice again and again to make it not just our own experience, but part of our being.  This process is called vikalpa samskara.

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Why Should You Care? (Computer Censorship and the Dalai Lama)

Why shouldn’t you care?  Enjoy having freedom on the internet to read this blog, among others? To learn about what is happening in the world and to explore and expand your learning?  To connect on Facebook and Twitter?  Think 300 million people shouldn’t be censored?  Consider signing the petition to Dell and HP to tell them they shouldn’t install special blocking software in computers for the China market.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/chinese_internet/?r_by=4431-391488-o3sh29x&rc=paste

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“Enjoy Your Day, Regardless of the Weather”

So said the meteorologist, when I called to check the weather yesterday before getting ready to go out for work.  I thought, “it is easy to enjoy your day, ‘regardless of the weather’ living in a nice house with enough money for heating and cooling, working inside, and getting food flown in from wherever, if the garden isn’t doing well.”

I am awed and fascinated by the weather, although living this almost entirely protected and secure (from the elements, less so from other people) urban life, it is an almost vicarious relationship.

One of the reasons I love gardening is that it links what the weather — a rainy and cool spring like we are having; a drought, like we had for the past four years; violent thunderstorms; a snowy winter — with what food grows well, how my wildlife supporting little garden in the front thrives, helping to tie me back to the earth.

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Living with Illness and “Spiritual” Journeys

This Sunday, William Penn House is hosting a potluck and discussion on life changing illnesses and spirituality.   Whatever your relationship with “spirit” or religion (such loaded terms in our history) and whatever your individual practice, I think (especially knowing the dedicated, loving persons who are speaking) this talk will be illuminating.

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Daylight v. Day Lights

A year or two before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released, I went to a panel discussion and film (alas, I cannot remember the title of the film) about global climate change.  One of the speakers was a Nepalese attorney who was working on a case in the World Court that sought to address the impact of various corporate practices on the Himalayan snow cap.

One of the things this man said continues to resonate with me:  “Why is it,” he asked, “that Americans are always turning on lights in the day time?  Do you ever think about how much energy we could save and dangerous, climate-changing emissions we could stop, if we just relied on day light during the day instead of adding unnecessary electric lights?”

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