Quaker

Web Version of E-Newsletter (Yes, I’m Still Teaching)

Dear Friends,

My apologies for being so long in sending a proper newsletter.  2014 was a challenging year for me.  I started the year sick, ended the year sick, and was limited by injuries for several months out of the year.  Work was intensely challenging on just about every level, day after day, week after week, and it continues to be so.  And then there’s concern about the state of society and the planet and trying to figure out what I, honoring my capacity and limits, can do to do more good and less harm (I’ll never get this sent if I get side-tracked in that direction).

I also had some great adventures, including a major home renovation and an extraordinary trip to Cuba, but then was working too hard in between to appreciate and integrate fully my experiences (which is a yoga lesson in itself–addressing whether we need more stimulation when we haven’t had time to address/process previous experiences whether delights or challenges to mind, body, emotions, creativity).

Yes, I’m still teaching, even though working as much as I am these days.  You can find me leading an all levels group practice with a wonderful group of people on Tuesday nights from 6:30pm -7:45pm at William Penn House in Capitol Hill.  100% of the proceeds (pay what you can; suggested donation $12-15) support the work camp program at William Penn House.  There’s also a weekly group practice for more advanced students on Wednesday nights.  Email if you are interested in the Wednesday night practice.  More info on classes on my rose garden yoga website.

Yes, for those of you who don’t subscribe,  I’m still blogging.  With the help of wonderful web designer, friend, neighbor, and fellow yogi, Jess C, I just updated the look of the website.  I hope to find time to blog about the many layers of meaning that went into the new design, which has the colors of Kali (goddess of sequencing); the murtis are  Dakshinamurti (Siva as teacher) and Saraswati (goddess of learning, the arts, etc.); the books are a small, but important to me as yogini, portion of my library.

If you’re in town, join me for practice one of these weeks or perhaps we’ll run into each other another class or workshop.  Please let me know how you are.  Best way to be in regular touch are to subscribe to the blog.  When there isn’t an interval between working and living and loving, and all the rest, to share more detailed written contemplations about living yoga,I’ll share the signs and exhortations I see around town and remind myself and anyone else who wants the reminder that no matter what is going on, there’s always a moment to appreciate a little beauty–perhaps to notice a heart-shaped cloud in the sky.

Feel free also to friend me or like “Rose Garden Yoga” on Facebook.  Instagram possibly coming soon in my copious free time.  Ha.

Peace, love, and light,

Elizabeth

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Chanting the Names/Listening to the Silence

Krishna Das reminding his listeners the reasons he practices and offers kirtan scrolled across my Facebook feed last week with this quote:

“My path is to be in the living Presence; We have to find a way inside us, we have to find a way to open our hearts, to quiet our minds, to let go our fears and our selfishness, our guilt and our anger and jealousy; Everything is already present in our own hearts; By repeating these Names over and over, we are moving ourselves into that place in us; the Heart in us is deeper than any emotion or psychological issues; I don’t know if there is God, I know there is Love – Unconditional Love and I know I like to be in that love, and that maybe God; all you have to do is look, and chanting remembers us to look.”

I am in a space right now where chanting is serving me to help remember the good, despite all that is going on that doesn’t feel particularly good or hopeful.  I don’t believe in “God” as an actual being (though I can no more disprove the actuality than anyone has been able to prove it), and history certainly proves the power of the idea of such a mystical being.

Regardless of whether the very real ideas of God(s) represents an actual being, it has been my beautiful experience–studying with Krishna Das and others over the years–that engaging in practices that turn our hearts towards love and universality helps us be sweet living in relationship to ourselves, to others, and to the ecological fabric of the whole of embodied existence.  I chant because calling out the names in their universal multiplicity is a recognition, not dissimilar to what I have found offered in the silent collective worship of Quakers, that everyone has their own individual access to and ideas of the sublime, of the divine, of what brings them to feel a fullness of love.

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Another Roadside Attraction?

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There are thousands of little temples — some hardly more than altars — scattered throughout both the countryside and cities here.  I marvel at the artistry of some and the garishness of others.

I think, on witnessing this effulgence of creativity, of what  helps me remember the everyday sacred.  Mostly, I am inclined to look inward. 

Needing a brightly decorated space that tells a story  is so different from my Quaker upbringing.

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The Power of Mantra (and “Alice’s Restaurant”)

Yesterday morning, on the listserv for the Friends Meeting of Washington, someone shared a link to the original recording of Arlo Guthrie singing “Alice’s Restaurant” as part of an email about Thanksgiving festivities.  Usually, I scan listserv emails quickly and delete, especially when they relate to events that I am unable to attend. I saved this one for later, though.  I’d woken up from some anguished dreams that were hard to shake, and on being reminded of it, I was sure that when I could make the time, listening all the way through Alice’s Restaurant  (it’s long) would cheer me up.

This morning I did indeed listen, and remembered why we (at least those of us who attended Quaker Youth Camp in the early 1970s) memorized most of Alice’s Restaurant.  It spoke to us and inspired us and invited us to feel that we were not alone in thinking that things could and should be more gracious and peaceful.

And the refrain is catchy and easy to sing.  This morning, at the end, when Arlo invites the audience (the 1967 album version was a “live” recording), I started singing along just for the delight of it, which led me to think about the power of mantra.

Chanting or silently repeating mantra is one of the key yoga practices.  The purpose, roughly, of mantra is to replace one set of thoughts with another.  Repeating even just “om,” the simplest mantra, over and over again is meant to shift you from whatever mind state you might have been in (at least to the extent that you are having repeating troubling thought patterns) and into or  towards a more beneficent state.  In my own years of practice, I have found much power in practicing Sanskrit mantras, but many of the songs we have been singing for years, especially those that we associate with ritual can serve similar purposes.

If you’re so moved and feeling that you’re having thoughts around this Thanksgiving holiday that you’d rather replace with more cheerful ones, invite the power of mantra and perhaps sing, along with Arlo  for the refrain in  Alice’s Restaurant.

Oh yes.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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