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Making a Pledge (and sangha)

I get lots of emails asking me to engage in e-activism — write letters to Congress, write letters to corporate executives, write letters to the President, sign petitions — and, of course, requests for donations.  The requests I get are from a wide range of public interest organizations, including environmental, women’s rights, peace, civil rights, worker’s rights, care for animals and other wildlife, organic food, good science, enhancing education, the list goes on.  Sometimes I just hit the delete button.  Sometimes I sign the petition.  Sometimes I hit the send button on the form letter.  Sometimes I edit the letter personally to make it a more powerful statement.  Sometimes I give money.  Sometimes I both write and give money.  Sometimes I learn something that invites me to change how I consume or invest my money, and I try to make a shift.

I received an email today from the Rainforest Action Network asking me if I would make a pledge to help end mountain top removal.  I power my electricity with 100% wind energy, now through Clean Currents, so I am not using coal-powered electricity myself at home.  I sent RAN another donation; I really believe in what they do.  I also agreed to do a blog post on why it is important to end mountaintop coal mining as part of my pledge.  It’s utter and nearly permanent devastation is horrifying and wakens me to the repercussions of consumption without conscious knowledge of the impact.  Seeing the pictures makes me think about everything I consume (and I am already an overthinker).  I welcomed the invitation to pledge to spread the word.

In yoga, the concept of “sangha” or community carries with it the meaning that you become those with whom you keep company (so therefore keep good company).  I subscribe to all these activist list serves and seek out those who are more engaged than am I, so that I will be inspired progressively to live with more consciousness.  I thank RAN for inspiring me to extend the invitation to look more closely at how we can shift our energy consumption still to enjoy reasonable fruits of our technology, but not in a way that destroys the possibility of a good life for others in the present and for eons into the future.

Thinking Things Through v. Overthinking

It is good to act consciously, to move and react from a place of sensitivity, discrimination, and understanding.  It is good to know both the big picture and the details.  When does paying attention and thinking things through, though, become “overthinking?”  I think (ha ha) that it is when thinking things through takes us away from the heart, when it desensitizes, instead of assists us in acting with discrimination.

Gratitude and Self-Acceptance

On Friday night, Betsy Downing was at Willow Street’s Silver Spring studios leading a weekend workshop.  The focus of the weekend was learning how yoga practice can assist us in “interesting times.”  In this regard, Betsy invited us to recommit to two practices that we know support us when we fully practice them.  I did not feel the need for more meditation or asana or pranayama.  I do those steadily.

I have been struggling, though, with where I am lately — I think something was triggered with all the confined time during the great snows.  This morning I decided that for me, this invitation would best serve if I allowed it to help refocus my practice.  In getting a little off-kilter, I forgot to practice fully gratitude and self-acceptance.  Remembering to practice those fully will nourish me well in these challenged times.

Health Care Reform, Brick-Throwing, Death Threats (and Svatrantrya)

One of the six fundamental aspects of being (sat) in the “Shiva-Shakti” tantra that is the foundation of Anusara yoga is svatantrya — freedom.  (The others are cit, ananda, spanda, purnatva, sri). Freedom in this sense is an ultimate freedom — the very cosmos is unconstrained and freely creates what we recognize as the fabric of being out of its own play (lila).  We, as inseparable from being, although in some ways confined by our embodiment, are essentially free — free to choose whether to recognize our essential nature, to find bliss (ananda) in our embodiment, to recognize the fullness (purnatva) of being, and to honor the essential auspiciousness of being (sri) in ourselves and all that is around us.

In having that freedom, we can also turn away.  We can stay cloaked.  We can choose violence and anger rather than nurture and love.  We can choose, out of our own essential freedom to remain cloaked in ignorance, to throw bricks and threaten death because of a perceived socialist tyranny because of the passage of health care “reform” that denies the right to choose, does not provide basic medical services for all (no single payor or even public option), and gives the pharmaceutical industry a pass, but does some modest regulation of insurance companies and employers.  (“Better than nothing, I guess,” as one friend wrote on the internet.)

I see the t-shirt “it’s all good,” and I think, “not!”  I also know that I have the freedom for myself to recognize and remember sri, to try and see it in all, including the play of freedom that includes the freedom to turn away from the light.  It will be a lifetime of practice.

Novelization of the Mahabharata

I found used a novelization of the Mahabharata a couple of weeks ago, which I am now reading.  I’ve read other versions put into English prose, all of which have some stamp of the presenter (author?).  The version I am reading brings to the fore that those who are deserving of the love of people and who are blessed by the divine are physically beautiful, wealthy, and possess great military prowess.  Righteousness includes unquestionably obeying the orders of rulers and parents and accepting your station in life as the determination of God.

The book jacket proclaims the Mahabharata “the greatest spiritual epic of all time.”  I agree that it is a great epic and a rather amazing one.  Some of the precepts, like all presented in great writings that have lasted over the centuries are worthy of contemplation for one’s own life (I am all for recognizing guests as divine visitors and treating them with due regard, for example), as well as for understanding the society in which the work was created.  But any work that mostly reflects the societal mores of the time in which it was written and is designed to perpetuate the powers that be is perhaps best read as fiction.  Saying this does not mean I do not recognize the good of some of the teachings interwoven into the fairy tales, but rather that I think it must also be understood in the confines of its context, lest we perpetuate societal evils that no longer serve.  (This, of course, has Western parallels.)

Taking a Better Look

When I was walking to work yesterday, I was delighting in watching a pair of red-headed finches cavorting at the very top of a newly blooming cherry tree just outside the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s building, which is across the street from the Hart Senate building.  An impeccably suited man in a suit who was walking towards the Hart building said to me, “it is wonderful to see everything starting to bloom, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is indeed,” I replied, and pointed out the finches.

“I hadn’t noticed them; good eye,” the man said, “look, they’re eating the blossoms.”  The finches were tearing blossoms off the tree and singing with great enthusiasm.

“You can see them even better from the other side of the tree, because the sun is lighting them up instead of shadowing them,” I added.

“I’ll have to go back and take a look,” he said and walked back to the other side of the tree to watch the birds as I headed on to work, with my day brightened by this interchange.

I often get caught looking at the birds or the trees or the sky when walking around town.  When there is an opening, I talk to others about what I am seeing to invite them to pause and delight along with me.  It is a rare day, though, to hear from someone who is clearly busy and has important work to say, “I’ll have to take a better look.”  It is so important to me, and for all of us, to pause and wonder, to remember and recognize the beauty as we go about our day.

What a Difference a Month Makes

Here’s an aerial view of the back garden on the equinox after I spent several hours cleaning, deadheading, repotting, mulching, etc.  As you can see, the moss is ecstatic from having had the weight of the snow on it for several weeks.  Coming up in quantities almost enough to pick are lettuce, spinach, cilantro, parsley, chives, onions, lemon balm (always have too much of that — if you’re local let me know if you want some).  The first rosebud emerged sometime between Friday and Sunday.  It is hard to believe that just a month ago, I was blogging about indoor gardening — how to find delight even when snowed under (scroll to the bottom of the linked post to compare pictures of the same view).

As you can see from comparing the two photos, things were still growing under the snow or getting ready to do so.  That is what practice is like for me.  Sometimes I feel completely snowed under by an injury or rush jobs at work or personal circumstances beyond my control.  I keep practicing, but I don’t have the time or energy for long practices or full weekend workshops, when it is easy to get to a place of delight.  Other times, things are less pressured, and I feel brimming over with health.  Then practice feels wildly effulgent.  For my garden to offer its full potential (as is true with my practice), I need to spend lots of time and effort in it for the next several weeks.  I know that if I do so, I will be blessed with fullness.