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The Nyaya of Watering the Mango Tree (and tantric yoga multi-tasking)

“Practical Sanskrit” just did a post on its Facebook page that discusses the nyaya (maxim) of watering the mango tree.  When we water a tree with the intention to honor our ancestors and the earth for its gracious offering, we are simultaneously taking care of the tree and honoring our ancestors, the earth, and the tree.  The post continues by inviting us to be more conscious of trees, especially in the city, and to be more engaged in caring for them.

Practical Sanskrit’s post reminded me of a comment on this blog a couple of weeks ago.   A commenter on stated that most of the things that I write about doing to live more lightly on the planet require substantial financial means and education.  That is true in certain cases–obviously, if I wasn’t blogging, I would not have any need to try and go “carbon neutral” with the blog (although it is no more expensive to have a carbon-neutral web host than one that is not).  And as I explained yesterday when chatting with a cabinet-maker who was at the Amicus Green stand at the Green Festival yesterday, with the grant programs, tax credits, and loans available, we can now put solar on our houses with virtually no cash outlay in Maryland and the District (other states may not make it so easy).  In that case, one still needs to be a homeowner, but can still do it without significant money to burn.

But most of the things I do to try and live more lightly, while still being comfortable, I learned in the years when I was truly poor (and I didn’t much like having always to worry about how I was going to pay the bills):  not having a car; not having cable tv; turning off the water while I soap the dishes and brush my teeth; taking short showers and turning the water off while lathering; keeping the thermostat between 59-63 in the winter and dressing warmly; keeping the thermostat between 78-82 in the summer and dressing and eating lightly; shopping for clothes at the consignment shop; furnishing my house from flea markets, auctions, and neighborhood sales; doing my own sprouts on the kitchen counter; having much of my diet be dried grains and pulses bought in bulk; turning off all the lights in the house except for the one I am using at the moment; bringing my own lunch to work as a regular activity and saving eating out for special occasions; avoiding buying and wearing clothes that require regular dry cleaning.

What is nice about being financially comfortable is I now can do all those things with loving intention, rather than feeling constrained by my lack of material well-being.  I am not forced to do them.  Tantric yoga, with its emphasis on being in the world, invites us always to act with intention, to make all of living an offering and a recognition of spirit.  It is easier to do when we are educated, aware, and yearning for spirit, than when we are forced to do something out of material poverty.  It is also easier to do when we do it for love rather than a sense of guilt or obligation.  Being able to live with intention, picking and choosing how we live and what we consume, can truly enhance grace in our lives.  I am sure there are those who grumble about having to go out and water the mango tree to make sure it fruits when they would rather be watching tv.  How much more life-enhancing to water with love for the tree.

If Only It Were So Easy

The problem with trying to run away to make things better is that we still bring ourselves with us. We don’t have the luxury of hitting the “reset” button after we’ve done things that we wish we had not done.

Yoga and meditation practice can help give us a sense, though, of being reset by giving us more and radical acceptance and compassion and the ability to simply marvel at the very intricacies of the dance. From there, we can release what binds from our history and continue on, knowing that it is a choice to respond in the same way as we have in the past when the old patterns confront us again (which they inevitably will).

The Wondrous Light of the Moon and of the Street Lights

The moon was incredibly full and bright in a clear sky tonight. When I was walking home from work, I saw a tourist taking pictures of the Capitol. “You’ll want to photograph the moon,” I said, after having just taken a few pictures myself. “Yes, I did,” he replied with a big grin.

As bright as was the moon, the street lights would not have needed to be on so fully as when the moon is just a sliver of a crescent. As I gazed in awe at the luminous beauty of the moon, I thought also about the wondrousness of electric street lights. How is it that we so often take for granted electricity, but marvel at the moon? Is not light in all its forms a source of wonder when we stop to remember? Why resent the street lights for dimming the beauty of the moon when we can instead see their own beauty?

Responding from the Highest v. Standing Up for Your Rights

As those of you who are regular readers may recall, I have been working to use solar energy to provide most of my electric power.  The solar installation was complete in late August, and the public utility responsible for changing the meter to reflect the input of my solar energy to the grid advised on September 3rd that the meter would be changed within three to five weeks.  Week five came and went.  Week six, I wrote to the utility and asked why nothing had been done.  My tone was appropriate, and I did not let it upset me, but still I felt the need to take action.  I was advised that the metering people would be contacted, and it would be done or I would hear back within the week.  Week six passed with not a word.  Now it was week seven.  I wrote again asking why I hadn’t gotten a response.  The answer was that I deserved to be frustrated and should complain to the public service commission.

I filed a complaint; after all, I was directed to do so by the very entity against which I had the complaint, but was advised by the public service commission that it could take 30 days to respond to my complaint.  Meanwhile, my house was continuing to be powered by mountaintop coal mining and nuclear power.  This wouldn’t do.  I contacted my solar contractor and asked for assistance.  The solar contractor had connections with the commission.  This morning I received a very apologetic call from a supervisor at the electric company.  The meter was installed later in the day (although I still need for the electric company to “authorize” “my use” of the meter–not going to try and understand that one).  The authorization is supposed to be processed tomorrow.

Here’s where the apparent disconnect between responding “from the highest” and not being a doormat came into play in my mind.   The reason I got an immediate response was not the delay, but my documenting the foolishness of having been advised that the next step was to file a complaint instead of having been told the actions that the employee was taking to try and address my concerns.  I work for the government.  I know that is something that is wholly unacceptable, and my having used the inappropriate response to my inquiry to make sure I got a result will likely result in unpleasant repercussions for the employee.

This situation triggered a memory of an airport episode in the days when I was still flying around the country as a litigator.  When nearly everyone else at the airport was traveling for the holidays (it was December 22nd), I was flying out of National Airport to Hartford to take a deposition the next day.  I was waiting in a long line to check-in (this was long before the days of e-ticketing), and the airline announced the flight was canceled and that they would be putting all of us on a bus to Dulles airport on a flight that left two or three hours later (it was already the end of the work day).  I was a bit cranky, I am sure.  I asked in a way that everyone could hear, keeping in mind I had a ticket that could be changed, whether there were flights on any other airlines going to Hartford from National that night.  Gosh, apparently, no one had thought of that or was hoping that no passengers would ask for such a response since it would have a cost for the airline.  Within a half hour, several of us were re-booked on a flight with another airline leaving from National.  No bus.  Hardly any delay.  A college-aged woman who ended up with the benefit of the re-booking looked at me with her eyes shining, “are you are lawyer?” she asked.  I’ve always thought I might have been responsible for changing her life by having not stood for being treated badly, who knows whether it ultimately was for good or ill.

I often hear people saying that speaking up, taking action, refusing to suffer inappropriate, unjust, or unnecessary conduct is “bad.”  What is the difference between being passive and responding from the highest?  Where do we draw the line?

Just as I Was About to Get Ready

to pack up my things and leave work to go to yoga class, a co-worker stopped by my office to talk.  She started by asking me how I was, but I knew that was just an introduction because it was evident she needed some comfort.  It turned out that she had a bad fall off of her bicycle on her way to work late last week and had gotten beaten up something fierce by the way she fell.   One of the things I most respect about my co-worker is that she is someone who always looks for the good in situations and in others.  I found myself giving her permission to be sad and frustrated and angry, which she appreciated.  Just because things could have been worse did not diminish that she was suffering.  I think that is important for all of us to remember.  When we have compassion for ourselves and allow ourselves to react, it is then we can also find the good for ourselves and have compassion for others.

I did not go to class last night.  It was more important to listen to my friend.  But I had a good yoga lesson by allowing my friend in and a good practice when I got home.