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Snowdrops and Crocuses (and Spanda)

Snowdrops have been showing up for more than a week, but crocuses?  They seem a little incongruous with the bitter winds and as much a reminder of global warming as of spring.  I feel a bit confused seeing them, though delighted.

It has been a good winter.  I have learned to appreciate the cold and dark, which gives us time to enjoy the pleasures of home and introspection.  Now, I am looking forward to spring, the effusive colors, the warmth, the ability to get back out into the garden.

This time of year, with the radical contrasts of cold winds and flowers does highlight the play of opposites, the very pulsation of existence — in yoga terms, the spanda.  This time in society seems to have a similar play of bitterness and sweetness.  Staying steady with our yoga practice and our community, we can delight in what we see and what we have, even as we may be worried and working for change.  That too, is part of the play (lila).  To invite in a steady warmth and support from our practice and our community, even as we see difficulties and challenges, want things to be different, and know that our work may not necessarily bring about the change we seek.

Midnight Yoga

Every once and a while, I find myself restless at bedtime or wakeful in the night.  The following series serves to make it easier for me to go to sleep and for me to feel fully rested as if I had not been short sleep:

1.  Vipariti karani (legs up the wall).  Start with legs up the wall for five minutes or longer, then move legs into baddha konasana (butterfly) for several breaths, then put them back up the wall.  While your legs are up the wall, first just watch the breath.  Then concentrate on the breath, inviting the exhales to be twice the length of the inhales.

2.  Twisted forward bend.  Using a bolster and a folded blanket (or two or three folded blankets) lengthwise on your mat, place the left thigh next to the edge of the blanket pile, allow yourself to sit heavily.  Staying sweetly grounded, hug your hips together to embrace your core and then draw the left waist back as you bow forward onto the support of the blanket. You can allow your forearms and hands to rest on the floor or you can bend your elbows a little more and tuck your hands between the blankets under your forehead.   Keeping the attention on the breath, inhaling lovingly draw in, exhaling more fully accept the support of the blanket.  Hold for a few minutes and then repeat on the other side.

3.  Supported balasana (child’s pose).  With your knees wide apart and the big toes together, draw the blanket pile between your knees up to mid-thigh.  Place another blanket (or a pillow) across your calves.  Bow forward onto the support of the blankets.  Half way through, turn your head to the other side.  If your thoughts are still active, just let them be and turn your attention back to the breath.

4.  When you are ready to come out of balasana, tuck your toes under and lift your hips into adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog).  If you’d like, you can stay here for several breaths with your head supported by the blankets.  When you are ready, walk your hands back to uttanasana (standing forward bend).  Quietly and mindfully get back into bed and lie in savasana.

Sweet dreams!

To do list? (Yoga citta vrtti nirodaha)

Twitter?  What would be

The point without an I-phone?

Buy one? Save the nation?

Last night I wrote this “twaiku” (why is it not a “twittiku?”) after having read yet another series of articles on why or why not to Twitter and still more articles on why it is important for a nation of consumers to keep consuming even if that is what got them into trouble in the first place.  One of the articles was lamenting the loss of true communication that comes with being limited to 140 characters, and it set forth some examples of how peculiar, when taken out of context, some twittering can sound, especially to the uninitiated.  In my attempt to keep an open mind about devaluing language while still communicating in language, I was led to think about haikus v. sonnets and other longer poetic forms.   A haiku easily fits into 140 characters.  This led me to wonder whether anyone had created a haiku trend on Twitter?  A quick Google search revealed that I am way behind the times in terms of the twaiku?

One of the articles suggested that Twittering is about being in the moment.  Contrarians say it fosters attention deficit disorder and a host of other language-loss ills.  This led me to think of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali “yoga citta vrtti nirodaha” (yoga is stilling/aligning with the thoughwaves of the mind).  When evaluating what to consume, when to consume, and how to consume (whether it is language and communication methods or electronic goods or anything else), if we are serious about taking yoga off the mat, it is good to think about whether our consumption eases the trials of being embodied or makes daily living more agitating, and whether our consumption brings us more into alignment with nature/spirit (brahmacharya) or turns us away.

Grandma Rose’s Philodendron

The other day, when I was in NY visiting,  I told my mother about the blog entry on Robert’s dendrobium. (Being physically present and discussing the blog entries is the low-tech way of getting comments).  She pointed to the philodendron and some cuttings she was rooting from it and said, “that philodendron was your grandmother Rose’s; it must be 70 years old.”   It might not be 70 years old, but it is at least 40 or 50, as my grandmother left her body in 1977, and I remember her having houseplants.  It is possible, even, that the plant originally came from a cutting from my other grandmother, as that was how we obtained and grew most of the family houseplants.

My mother offered the plant for me to take home.  I declined, but thought about taking a cutting.  By the next morning, I had forgotten, but I will take a cutting one day.  I did not need the cutting to enjoy thinking about bringing home a bit of life that had been living in my grandmother’s apartment and remembering both my grandmother and a space that I had loved.  That was delightful enough.

(ps — one of the many reasons for the name “rose garden yoga” is in honor of my grandmothers — for my grandmother Rose’s name and for the love of gardening I learned from my grandmother Ann).

Rain (not quite enough)

It was wonderful to get some rain yesterday, but our area really has been way too dry, suffering from storms going to the north and west or to the south and east of us.  Here are a few ways for those of us staying on the grid to reduce water consumption:

1.  Short showers (under three minutes)

2.  Longer showers or baths only an occasional treat.

3.  If you have space (I don’t; though I keep thinking about how to work it) get a rain barrel or two for your garden.

4. Re-use water when you can.  For example, when changing a pet’s water dish, water plants instead of pouring out dish.  Soak pots without soap (needs longer soaking) and use soaking water for house plants.  Same for water from your hot water bottle (to stay warm while keeping the heat down).

5. Practice the old drought adage all the time (“if it’s yellow, let it mellow”).

6.  When it is time to replace a toilet or faucet, use a water efficient model.

7.  Turn off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, or lathering.

8.  For container plants in the garden, use “Soil Moist” or a similar product.

9.  Drink tap water (it takes about 60 ounces of water to bring you a 20 ounce bottle of water).  If you don’t like the taste, filter it.

10. Forget about washing your car (if you have one) except for keeping the windows clean enough so you can see out.

11.  Replace lawns and annual flowers with hardy, native perennials.

Please share your tips.  I’m always looking to learn.

In the “ether”

Yesterday, I took the plunge and joined Facebook.  I’d read one too many articles in the New York Times about it without being able to really understand what I was reading.  What an interesting phenomenon — seeing images and reading words of friends and acquaintances through space (friends around the world) and time (friends from way back).

Tomorrow, I will be speaking on a webcast to more than a 1,000 people.

I’ve gotten thousands of hits on this blog.

This is a lot of shared energy without knowing most of those with whom one I am sharing. It is shifting space and time as I think about it.  In the computer world, we say or write about what we are thinking as we type or speak into the computer, and then our words and energies shift and take on their own power as they extend out instantly to anyone who chooses — intentionally or randomly — to receive them.

I think the more we are in the ethereal world, the more we need simultaneously to make certain we are grounded.

Daffodils

Daffodils and tulips have arrived in the shops.  If you’ve forced bulbs (I didn’t this year), they are blooming (give or take a few weeks).  The arrival of the Dutch flowers and the forced blooms lets us know that spring is soon to arrive.  If you look carefully, you can see that the early bulbs are starting to come up.  If you are lucky enough to have them growing in your garden or a neighbor (who wants to share), it is a great time to bring in forsythia and pussy willow cuttings for forcing.

How wonderful to enjoy these harbingers of spring in the last few weeks of winter.  I get a similar feeling when I am given an assist to be able to do a yoga pose that will be out of reach for me to do by myself for some months or perhaps longer.  When an assist opens me to an understanding of how I can grow, just as the arrival of the dutch bulbs and the forced flowers give an early reminder of spring, my heart opens.  Given this inspiration, this understanding of the possibility of growth and flowering, I am inspired to turn around and share this delight with others.  How could I not want to share?

Ether (the Mahabhuta akasha)

Ether (akasha) is the fifth of the mahabhutas.  In science and perception, it is the space between the other elements, it is that in which the other elements reside.  It is to some degree, the critical element of how we are able to perceive the other elements.  I find focusing on the Anusara alignment principle of “open to grace” is the best way to experience the element of ether in myself.  By softening, opening, and inviting spaciousness, I can better experience the subtle elements and appreciate how it is that I experience them.

The subtle elements or the panca tanmattras are smell (gandha), taste (rasa), form (rupa), touch (sparsa), and sound (sabda).  The subtle elements are not what we sense (which is composed of the mahabhutas) nor are the tanmattras our sense organs.  Rather the tanmattras are, as it were, the space in which perceptions arise, the ability to be perceived.

The next sets of elements are the panca karmendriyas, the organs of locomotion, which correspond to how we physically move, digest, and change in the physical world, and the panca jnanendriyas, the organs of perception or cognition, which correspond to our sense organs themselves.  Our movement in and perception of the world bridges the physical elements, the perceptability of the physical world, and ourselves as physical beings, beings who move in the physical world, and beings who perceive the physical world.  All of this, I think of as needing space or residing in space.  As I consciously think of space giving a place for the world, my movement in it, and my perception of it, I become more conscious of consciousness.  The physical practice of “opening to grace” and experiencing the element akasha makes possible for me in my practice knowing or experiencing a greater consciousness.

To start discovering your own understanding of akasha, try this meditation:  listen to the sounds beyond the room without trying to analyze or change them.  Appreciate how far in space your senses and consciousness can be.  Then bring your attention into the room and hear the sounds in the room.  Then open your ears to the sounds within you — your heart beat, your breath.  Then open to all the sounds (don’t try to change or analyze them), both those physically far away and those within your own body, and be aware of them as all residing within your own consciousness.  Appreciate that your consciousness is as spacious as the world around you and within you.  Rest in the space of consciousness.

See whether spending a few minutes using this meditation technique helps you when your day has gotten too busy with work, errands, family or other demands.  I find it very helpful.

Ardha, Kama, Dharma, Moksha

Friday, when I was traveling through New York City on my way home from a business trip, I detoured to the Metropolitan to see the Walker Evans’ postcards and the Bonnard, Late Interiors.  The curator chose this quote to inform the viewing of the paintings:  “Material concerns and worries about the future are troubling me a lot, and I’m afraid that painting may abandon me because of a lack of mental freedom.”  Pierre Bonnard to Henri Matisse, September 1940.

The quote made me think of the yoga principles of ardha, kama, dharma, moksha. In classical yoga, in order to reach liberation (moksha), we need to have our material life — how we eat, consume, dwell, etc. (ardha), our love and relationships (kama), and our work/life path (dharma), in right order.  From a tantric perspective, when ardha, kama, and dharma are aligned so that mind, body, and spirit are united in our day to day being, then we are living liberated — jivan mukti (moksha).

In 1940, the Nazis were growing in power and World War II was impending.  Bonnard had lost his love, Marthe, was ill and aging, and was in some financial difficulty.  He was afraid of losing his vision, his creativity (dare I interpret “painting may abandon me” as “loss of connection to spirit”) because ardha and kama were out of alignment.  The late paintings carry a sense of yearning of spirit — perhaps because of the consciousness that struggling physically and emotionally challenges our ability to truly see, to feel connected to spirit.  The paintings are lovely with color and light.  The subject matter makes them accessible at a surface level.  Shadowy figures and ambiguities, though, give a sense of longing and seeking.  Although there is a certain basic prettiness because of the color and the subject matter, they are not comfort paintings.  They invite one to think about whether color is enough, whether home is enough, what we need to be in a place where we can rest at one with ourselves.