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Last Night I Slept At My Parents House (and akrama)

I slept last night in the room that I slept in as a child. My mother now uses the room to store some of the vestiges of her old antiquing business. The carpet, wallpaper, and curtains from the 1960’s are gone, but the bed is the same one in which I had slept. The picture on the wall is a kit for making a stuffed animal that my Grandma Rose had bought me (probably when I was about 8) at the Brooklyn Museum of Art that my mother decided would be better as framed art than a sewing project for me.

The neighborhood looks different–it is far more developed as is everywhere near a big city–but the bones are the same.

It is a challenge not to feel the weight of my history and ancestry when I return. Taking the time to meditate when I woke helped me stay fully in my adult self.

When we meditate, we ideally dissolve our individual consciousness into the luminous spaciouness of universal consciousness. In that space, where we are temporarily not experiencing ourselves as an individual, we are also not experiencing our individual self in the sequence (krama) of time. The luminous spaciousness of meditative consciousness is sequenceless (akrama) and, as universal consciousness, is the place in which the sequences of being in time and space arise.

What I experienced this morning when I meditated was that I did not have to be flooded with the emotions of my, to try to graciously describe, emotionally challenging childhood. In the space of meditation I could bring to my day an acceptance of all of my life and be where I am at present, coming to a place of recognition that although I lived all of my history, it neither defines me nor binds me from expanding into a space of growing love and light.

Wilmington Delaware Amtrak Station

I witnessed this family standing on the train platform while I was listening to a teleseminar from Paul Muller-Ortega on the “four stages of the word.” That a family dressed this way was waiting for the train gave rise to much thought for me about how I seek to integrate yoga practice into my daily life in a modern Western culture. How much is compromise or disservice to the “purity” of the teachings and how much of it is a part of a pulsing, growing, changing intersection of peoples and times?

Green Festival DC–October 23 -24

Green Festival is coming to DC again on October 23-24.  If you’ve never been (and are in town), it is always enjoyable, if only for the snacks and the comaraderie (odds are high you will bump into people you know).  What I find is that I either learn something new about how to live in a more ecologically sustainable way or I get the affirmation that I’m already making a decent effort.  Join in the fun if you can.

A Correspondence on Charitable Contribution to Aids Walk DC

I print the correspondence below not so much to ask you to give, nor to let you know that I made a donation, but to initiate a discussion on what motivates you to make a donation of money?  What about of time?  They have different practical calculations, depending on whether time or money is of more relative importance or shortage  (real or apparent) at the time of the giving?  Does it make you more likely to give if you have a personal connection to the cause?  Does getting personal satisfaction from giving make it somehow not a fully spiritual act? [I’ll try and blog on the last in future posts].
Dear Friends,
On Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 I thought I sent 30 targeted e-mails from my AIDSWALK webpage to former and potential donors to this annual fundraising event. Unfortunately, I did something wrong and the messages were never sent. With time very short, I’m sending this “broadcast” message to the listserve in the hope that some of you who have not already sent a donation from my initial appeal will do so now. For those of you who have already donated now is the time to delete this message.
This year’s walk is benefiting about 15 different organizations that assist people with HIV/AIDS, in addition to Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Thanks for all the support you’ve given in the past,
Joe Izzo
Help us fight the epidemic! REGISTER for AIDS Walk TODAY! We look forward to seeing you on October 2nd!


In response to this plea, I clicked on the link to make a donation to the AIDs Walk.  Joe graciously sent me a thank you note, and I responded as follows:
E to Joe

Thank you Joe.  I have been giving to WWC since the late 1980s.  When I was in my 20s and 30s I had close friends die of AIDs or go through the tribulations of the early drug trials for HIV.  I like that I can now give in a more personal way.

Peace and light,

The Search Continues (based on some dreaming)

In 2000 or 2001, shortly before I started practicing Anusara yoga, a teacher who regularly played music in class, played for us a recording of Alice Coltrane singing a tantric chant to Siva and the Goddess Bhuvaneshvari.  I only heard the chant once while we were in savasana — corpse pose/final relaxation.  Although I only heard the chant once, for several months afterwards, I found myself having a recurring dream that I was wondering in a neighborhood that looked like the one where I grew up and went to high school and chanting the full chant.  At the time I merely found it curious that I seemed to have learned the sanskrit just by hearing the chant one time.  I have since learned that the recording may have been done right near my high school; that is where the Coltrane’s had a recording studio.  I also learned that the chant was a tantric chant.  At the time, my teachers were coming from a classical yoga perspective.  Did I actually learn the chant by osmosis?  Was having the very vibration of the chanting near where I lived and studied the catalyst for me, as a receptive being, discovering a path of tantric yoga?

I have found other recordings of the chant.  One is Atman’s “Dancing to the Goddess” on the Eternal Dance CD, which is an electronica version.  The other is Ragani’s “Om Mata” on the Best of Both Worlds, which is a very nice kirtan/pop version.  I have several of Alice Coltrane’s recordings, which are great jazz, if you aren’t familiar with Alice Coltrane as a fabulous musician in her own right.  Recently I searched again on the internet to see if the bootleg had become available.  There was nothing on YouTube (though some good Alice Coltrane things to watch).    I bought Alice Coltrane’s “Radha-Krsna Mana Sankirtana,” which was originally recorded in 1977 (when I was in high school) and reissued in 2005, as I thought that was a promising source.  It has some good things on it, but no luck finding the recording I wanted to hear.

The chant goes like this:

Samba sadasiva, samba sadasiva, samba sadasiva, samba shambo.

Om mata, om mata, om sri mata, jagade mata.

Om bhuvaneshvari, sri bhuvaneshvari, hari parashakti, devi bhuvaneshvari.

It is a chant to the benevolent, auspicious one within, the radiant goddess, the creatrix of the world.  Bhuvaneshvari is one of the ten wisdom goddesses.

Please advise if you have access to the Alice Coltrane or another recording of this beautiful chant.

The Great Game: Afghanistan

I am writing this from the terrace area of the Shakespeare Theater, in between parts two and three of “The Great Game: Afghanistan.”. It is a testament to the quality of the writing, acting, and production that we still feel ready for the third set of plays. What “The Game” emphasizes, whomever authored the segment or what moment in history is being emphasized is that we are all connected and that if we do not learn from our history, we are destined to repeat ourselves and so suffer.

I am certain that there is little that I can do as an individual to prevent history repeating itself in Afghanistan (though I write letters to President Obama on occasion). I can, however, pay attention to the lesson here with regard to my own, individual life. I can strive to unravel and dissolve old patterns from my history and to create new patterns that will better serve me. In asana practice, I seek therapeutically to realign the physical body and the energetic body so that old pains and struggles do not continue to interfere with my living as fully, joyously, and expansively as I can in my body. Through meditation, I seek to know the true joy of being and to have the light of consciousness illuminate how I respond to people and events. When I can do this, I have the choice not to create new hurts and problems that are just like the old ones.

What I know from my own practice and life is that not repeating history is hard, but it is what gives the possibility of living in true freedom. Is it enough to work on just my own self not repeating history? Do we need to try and bring shifts to larger patterns to truly be of service? I do not know the answer to the latter question, but I do know that the duty to try and shift myself is not just for me, but extends beyond me, like the ripples extending out from a pebble thrown into a pond.

Non-Attachment v. Detachment

There is a profound difference between being detached, being separate, and not participating fully or at all and being fully engaged in activities but not being attached to the outcome.  Sometimes, after I have a fantastic time, I remember the suffering that can follow from longing for more, and I wonder whether it was worth it.  I have such thoughts only fleetingly.  The more I practice yoga and the attendant non-attachment to particular future outcomes based on past experience and desire, the more I am able to exult in what the present has to offer.

A Dream I Won the Lottery

I dreamed last night that I won 30 million dollars in the lottery. I had no recollection of having bought a ticket (in waking life the only time I ever bought a ticket was 17 or 18 years ago as part of a 15-person group of co-workers who collectively bought two tickets when the prize was 75 million; we were going to quit en masse if we won).

In the dream, an acquaintance also won the same amount. She immediately quit her job and started engaging in activities about which she had previously only imagined doing.

On learning of my windfall, I stopped and paused and found that I didn’t want too much change right away. I deliberated about whether to take a lump sum or an annuity and to whom I would give the money. I wondered whether I could take a couple of months leave and then go back to my job part-time. I thought about whether I would like to move or set up a charitable foundation or teach yoga full-time. I found that after having been given financial freedom, I was still content to work and to live comfortably, but relatively modestly. I wanted to take time to deliberate where I could make the best offering with this outrageous stroke of luck.

The dream reminded me of the Zen proverb that was popularized in the 1970s: “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” What was beautiful about my dream was a sense of a deep acceptance, a sense that even with my desire to grow and change for the better, that in my middle age, I am essentially comfortable with how I am living. I will keep seeking a deeper and more loving and compassionate way of being, even as I recognize that there is no prize that will transform me from the challenges of being human.