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Louise Bourgeois at the Hirshhorn

The other day, I went to see the Louise Bourgeois retrospective at the Hirshhorn.  The works are a combination of exquisite technique and in-your-face, challenging emotions.  I had a friend who raged at me once because I had created a piece that was radically, polemically feminist.  “That’s not art; art is only meant to be beautiful and aesthetic, not to be political,” said my friend.  Although he could not have questioned Bourgeois as an artist — her technique is too good — he might still have raged at it.  (The high school group being shown art on a field trip, while I was at the exhibit, was scurried through a room or two, much to my amusement).

Seeing the exhibit led me to think of the purported purpose of left-handed tantric practices, which are meant to challenge us, turn us upside-down and inside out, and question what we recognize as the divine.

Parama Shiva Tattva (playlist from class)

Per Pam’s request, here’s the Shiva-themed (with a little Ganesha {son of Shiva} and Bhuvaneshwari {Adi Parashakti inseparable from Shiva} included)  playlist from Saturday’s class:

  • Om Shiva, Chloe Goodchild, from Sura
  • Hey Shiva Shankara, Dave Stringer, from Japa
  • Shiva Shambo, Bhagavan Das, from Now
  • Son of Shiva, MC Yogi, from Elephant Power
  • Om Mata, Ragani, from Best of Both Worlds
  • Dancing with the Goddess, Atman, from Eternal Dance
  • Namah Shivayah, Krishna Das, from Live on Earth
  • Hara Shiva Shankara, Jai Uttal, from Spirit Room

Enjoy.  Practice.  Dance.  Sing.

Aphids (and limitations)

Even though we had real, hard frosts this winter, there are already aphids on my roses.  I went out this morning and picked the aphids off of the new buds — yes, my roses are budding.  It was too cold to stay out long, but I did a little weeding and planted a couple of pots of pansies.

I was thinking about how I garden in my tiny space — using my fingers to take the aphids off of each rose bud, pulling up individual weeds between new plants in containers, choosing to let some volunteers come up between bricks because it expands my planting area.  How different it would be if I even had a small yard by suburban standards.  It would not be possible to attend to all the detail that I see, unless I were to spend every waking hour in the garden.  If I had an acre, it would take three full-time gardeners to attend without tools and sprays the small things I touch by hand.

It seems we make our world as big or as small as we want it.  My tiny garden is as much a universe for me as a gardener as would be an acre garden — though of course I cannot grow sprawling things like melons and potatoes and fruit trees.

But the fullness of how much I see and experience, how much calls out for love and attention, how much I am enriched by tending and observing what is there,  is not diminished by what I do not have.  Rather, I am called to expand to the greatest what I have within my limits.  This is true, too, in our yoga and meditation practice, and our lives.  We can choose to live expansively no matter what our limits or we can choose to feel bound and diminished by our limits.  The garden, this morning, helped me remind myself of that choice.  It helped me turn towards possibilities for growth instead of towards constriction.

Be Careful

what you wish for.  Or at least enjoy it when you get it.  I’ve been praying for rain.  It was supposed to come yesterday afternoon, then last night.  And it did not, and I worried about another storm passing to the northwest or southeast of us again.  (We are, in fact, getting alot less rain from this storm than originally predicted).

Now, this morning, when it is time for me to walk the ten blocks to the metro to teach class at Willow Street, it is pouring.  It has been so dry I am grateful for the rain.  So I’ll have to dress right and enjoy the wetness for its nourishment and not whine about the cold, damp discomfort.  Darn!  Sometimes it is more fun to whine.

Green

greensThe haze of pink on the flowering trees is turning to green, and the maples and oaks are starting to leaf.  I love the pale green of new leaves before they have gotten dusty from smog and heat.  I hope this time we will get the promised rain (last storm we only got a fourth of what was forecast).

Another green:  in the garden, my spinach is coming up, as is the new chard, kale, cilantro, and salad greens.   I have been eating the romaine that seeded in the fall and the chard plants that weathered winter.  Delicious!

A Session of Coincidences (and Shiva Tattva)

Towards the end of a yoga session I start thinking about what would be a good theme for the next.  I start by observing what is going on in the world — from the change of seasons, to whether it is rainy or drought, to what is going on in the political climate, noticing what is recurring in my own practice and the practices of my students, watching what is arising in my contemplations and meditations, and seeing what is resonating most in what I am learning from my own teachers.  I will go into my library, reading and rereading things to see what resonates with what I am observing and experiencing.  I also take into account the length of the session to be sure that it will fit well within the number of classes.  Once I have set the session theme, I spend the week in which I will teach a particular principle, contemplating it, reading about it, practicing with it, and thinking about its relationship to my life off of the mat.

When I selected the tattvas this session it was for a whole array of reasons (some of which have been set out in previous posts).  The order I picked to teach them, and which I chose to emphasize, were for what I thought would be the best way to share knowledge and experience and not for the outside calendar.  It was then, by sheer  serendipity that the themes fit as they did with the calendar:

  • Vayu — the mahabhuta air, the element associated with the anahata chakra (the heart chakra) on Valentine’s Day
  • Purusha/Prakriti — nature and spirit, was the week I was leading the “Yoga for Gardeners” workshop
  • Shakti — power, expansion, opening, was for the week of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Now this week, the last week of the session, parama shiva — the highest tattva. Shiva tattva is the most subjective principle and the most universal.  It represents the essence of being (sat), consciousness (cit), and bliss (ananda).  It is everywhere and nowhere, in all beings and not.  It is whatever ever we think of as spirit or force or web of being or light or pulsation or divine — whatever we believe is the very essence of being.  It is most interesting that by my series of contemplations and choices over the winter holidays, that I gave myself the homework assignment, as it were, to be specifically contemplating, practicing with, and studying the shiva tattva as I offer peace to Becky as she departs and seek my own peace in my grief over the loss of her physical presence.

Moksha

I have a set of cards that I keep on my altar that are designed to be used for contemplation.  There are about fifty cards, each of which has a sanskrit word and its meaning.  Just as one gets a fortune cookie randomly or picks a tarot card from a deck, but the message often seems right on point, the word that arises from the card picked from the stack often seems uncannily timely.  Early Saturday morning, after not having used the cards in a few months, I picked a card from the middle of the stack to see if it would help guide my contemplation and meditations as I was getting ready to say good-bye to Becky. The word on the card I picked blind from the middle of the stack was “moksha” or liberation.  In classical yoga, moksha does carry with it the implication of being liberated by transcending body and mind.

Later on Saturday, when I was on my way home from teaching for the appointment with the vet, I stopped at the metaphysical supply shop for a piece of rose quartz (to use in a ritual to assist with the transition and loss that a friend taught me).  At the check out were “dolphin saying cards.”  There was a sign next to the cards inviting customers to take one for free.  The sign also said that it was not necessary to take the one at the top.  The cards were face down; I did not look for a particular saying.  I dug a few cards down, and the one I selected read:  “freedom has its roots within yourself.”  In other words, “moksha” for the second time on this day, when I was facing with Becky her transition of the spirit from the body.

Was it a message?  Was it a coincidence?  I do know that I knew when it was time, as I did with Henrietta.  Becky just did not want to be embodied anymore.  When I held her in her arms after she stopped breathing, she was released and relaxed in a way she had not been in months.  That the signs were saying “moksha” resonated with Becky’s power and connectedness.  I hope that when I am ready to go, I will truly understand moksha, that I will be released.  It is so resonant of Becky’s life, for all her quirks, that she was still teaching me even as she was dying.