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Global Mala Day Today

I was not able to go to the Washington, DC event for Global Mala Day because I am scheduled to do my regular volunteer work.  I did, however, include the focus of this call for a unified, intentional offering in my morning meditation and asana practice.

Do join in, remembering to celebrate yourself as part of the community however and whatever your offering.  Be mindful of your body and energy as you choose a practice to be sure that the repetition of 108 will serve rather than deplete.

Acting, Letting Go (and a possible reference for rose garden)

A co-worker of mine said today that he hated that everything we do gets criticized by someone.  During part of the conversation, he also mentioned that once something written was made public and then questioned, an alternative meaning to the one meant (the alternative then necessitating clarification) often happens.

Writing, art, and other expressions do seem to have a life of their own.  We need to do our best to be clear and then just go with the flow as what we say gets interpreted and passed on.  An example, for me, was that until the change in administration, no one thought to ask me whether the name “rose garden” yoga had anything to do with Washington, DC.  After the shift in January, a few people noticed how DC it could be and asked if my intent was to refer to the White House Rose Garden.

It was not my original intent to have that be one of the many things that came to mind when I chose the name, but I it works well enough if people think of the Rose Garden as one of the many possible referrents.

Minding the Gap (and vinyasa krama)

One meaning of the phrase vinyasa krama is “the yoga of sequencing.”  This is the art of knowing how to practice in an order that will be most optimal for where you are in space, time, and health in any given practice.  Part of a true practice of vinyasa krama, like beautifully played music or an exquisitely presented music, is the silences and the pauses.

I’m sure you have all seen the “mind the gap” warning, the admonishment to notice the space between the train and the platform, the place where one thing ends and another begins.  In that case, it is presented as a warning of danger, but it also can be seen just as an exhortation to be mindful.

When we are truly mindful of the space between things — both spatially and temporally — then we are better able to honor what has just come and to be open and conscious for what is to come.

In our yoga practice, noticing the space between coming in and coming out of the pose helps keep us aligned in the transition and enables us to better reap and experience the benefits of the pose.  The reason we are advised always to practice savasana at the end of any practice is so that we will have a good pause between a practice and going back to our other activities.

Off the mat, taking time to pause in between thoughts and activities, helps us appreciate little moments of joy during a busy day.  It also helps us sequence our day more optimally and can prevent mistakes and misalignments by giving us time to be more aware of what will work best next.

Negation, Affirmation (and a new yard sign)

I went to a delightful brunch yesterday hosted by friend and neighbor K, who lives on the other side of the Hill.  A number of the guests turned out to live within a couple of blocks of me on the Northeast side.  In describing my house to those who lived farther from the Capitol than I (knowing my block was part of their usual walking path), I said, “mine is the one with the ‘War is not the answer‘” yard sign.  “Oh yes, I know which one it is,” was the uniform response.

K said she did not have the yard sign because she did not want a negative message in her front yard.  It served its purpose for a time, she claimed, but she wanted a more positive message.  I replied that if the sign said “peace is the answer” it would not have the same p0litical meaning.  People would just think, “yes, peace is nice, but whatever,” and keep walking.  We all agreed that was likely, but I left still thinking about the conversation.

One of the reasons K gave for wishing to turn the sign on its head, was she did not want something renunciatory, and she referenced the principle of “negation” in Buddhism.  I knew what she meant.  Advaita vedanta has a phrase, “neti, neti” or “not this, not this” which means extinguishment of the individual self and a life of the senses and mind to unite with the ultimate Spirit.  The Buddhist “nirvana”  literally means “void.”  I did not engage the conversation in such a way as to bring it to tantra lest I go too far in the direction of yoga geekiness, but the conversation certainly led me to think in that direction.  Tantra seeks to do exactly what K was seeking:  to turn the phrase, “not this, not this” into an embrace that will reveal truth and light by means of affirmation rather than negation.

Interestingly, though, I think a possible inspiration for K’s yard sign dilemma could come from from Buddhism:  metta meditation (note:  I have been offered this meditation in various settings and have practiced it many times, but it is not my regular meditation practice, so I hope I am not misinterpreting or mischaracterizing it here).  The theory behind metta meditation is to distance one from anger to cultivate calm.  In this creation of calm comes a general demeanor of loving kindness and compassion.  I personally become calmer by embracing and aligning with all my emotions, including grief and anger, but still find the languaging of the metta practice beautifully inspiring.

In that spirit, I suggest as a possible rewording of the yard sign that still serves the political message, the call to serve:   “may all beings be free from war.”

Or maybe FCNL should make a sign with the query:  “what do I do in my life to remove the causes of war?” Is that still a negative, if we are calling for positive actions to remove causes?

Free Class Week is NEXT Week (and a reminder to slow down)

I woke up early this morning, all ready to go up to Takoma Park and teach free classes.  I am fully prepared — I’ve been enjoying contemplating one of my favorite first class themes,  practicing great ways to enjoy our bodies (when we’ve been on vacation), thinking of what I would get at the Co-op during the break, looking forward to chatting with the work studies, who I love.

Good thing I checked my email this morning before leaving the house and subscribe to a lot of list serves.  Mid-Atlantic Yoga had an announcement from Willow Street that free class week is September 14-21.  Feeling a little anxious about my mix-up I checked the Willow Street web site.  Under today’s classes it says there are no regular classes today.

I could get all grumpy with myself.  I made a mistake.  I missed an opportunity to go out of town for the weekend (though I have a big speech on Monday, and it would behoove me to be well-rested).  But I am happy to be here; I already have planned a massage, a Sunday brunch, and a potluck dinner.  Now I also can spend a luxurious morning in the garden and have time to get seriously fun into baking for the potluck.

I also have a no harm done reminder that maybe I need to slow down a little.  These kinds of slip ups, which are very rare for me, are definitely a sign of being over-scheduled.

9-11 (and personal choice)

Secretary Hilda Solis sent workers at the Department of Labor an email invitation yesterday to do some volunteer activity today to honor those who lost their lives in the tragedy of 9-11.  She did not remind us of terror or enmity or need for war.

It resonated with what my teacher John Friend, who often discusses the need to serve as part of our practice, counsels in times of distress.  He admits that it is not, as the t-shirt would have it, “all good.”  We can choose, though, how to respond to violence, to suffering, to meanness, to evil.  We can, he urges, seek to respond from “the highest.”  We personally have the choice to try to bring light when we encounter darkness.

I do not always succeed, particularly with the small things, but I continue to try, and I deeply appreciate all the teachings and reminders I get.

Bummer. Tomato Blight.

I just went to my little plot at the community garden, and the base of the brandywine tomatoes were blackened.  No doubt what it was:  the dreaded blight.  So I removed the plant, carefully putting it in the trash instead of the garden compost.  Not clear yet whether Mr. Stripey is infected.  The grape tomatoes are fine.

I could think that this is a sign that I should start cutting down my nightshade vegetable intake to see if doing so will ease my arthritis, but it isn’t a sign.  Even if it is not a sign, I can see whether being without the temptation of a luscious tomato crop makes it easier to shift my diet.

I am grateful that I got such a wonderful harvest at the beginning of the summer, and I am doubly grateful that I am not dependent on just my own garden (or even on just local produce) to eat well.

But for a few moments, I think I will just allow myself to be disappointed.

September News (web copy of newsletter)

News from Rose Garden Yoga With Anusara (R) Yoga Instructor Elizabeth Goodman

Dear Friends,

A cool breeze is blowing through my window as I write, giving a foretaste of glorious fall weather to come.

Although already fully immersed in the throes of work after last week’s study trip to Oregon with John Friend, I am brimming from the teachings and comraderie.  Such a trip reminds me of how crucial it is to study and connect to help bring the benefits of yoga off the mat and into my daily life.

This week is free class week at Willow Street Yoga.  It is a great way to try out new classes or teachers or to bring  friend who is been shy about starting or returning to yoga.  I’ll be teaching both my 8:30am Level II and my noon Gentle and Therapeutics classes this Saturday, September 12th.  Bring a friend and come check it out.

Looking for an extra class or one great to bring a drop in friend?  Come join us for the Tuesday night class at William Penn House.  All levels of practitioners welcome.  Special prices for public interest workers, students, and seniors.

Wednesday night advanced/intermediate group practice proceeds are still 100% for charity.  This month’s cause is “Yoga Salutes Non-violence” a yoga sun-salute practice that raises money for local domestic violence shelters.  For more information, check out my friend Cheryl’s website at: http://www.heartofgraceyoga.com/YSNV.php

Upcoming Workshops:  Next Saturday, September 19th is the next Serenity Saturday at Capitol Hill Yoga.  Get ready for the shift into Fall with a sweet afternoon of deep relaxation and nurture.  Can’t make it this month?  Put October 17th and November 21st into your calendar for a great way to ease through Fall.  To register, please go to:  www.capitolhillyoga.com

Looking Ahead:  Already trying to make your Thanksgiving plans?  If you will be in town, plan to share your gratitude at the 7th Annual Thanksgiving Day fundraiser for Oxfam, which I will be leading at the Willow Street Yoga Center’s Takoma Park studio.

For more information on classes and workshops or to enjoy the blog, visit:  www.rosegardenyoga.com or join me on facebook.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

Softness (as part of the first Anusara principle)

In this society, we tend to think of softness as a negative.  If being soft is collapse, laziness, inattentiveness, etc, then it would indeed be a hindrance to growth inner and outer.

We need to soften, though, in order to open or change.  When baking a cake, we allow the shortening to soften so that we can cream it with the sweetener.  When a seed germinates or a fledgling emerges, the shell softens so that the new life can burst forth.

When I soften as part of the first alignment principle, it is not a collapse, though it does have an aspect of easefulness.  It is necessary to soften to invite the support of the subtle energies, to fully experience all the pose has to offer, to expand with light from the inside out.  Softening when we start a pose is like the softness of early spring that allows the vigor of full growth to expand.

Being soft in this way — on or off the mat — makes possible the growth of inner brightness and strength that actually makes us less vulnerable then would creating or keeping a hard and brittle shell that can bind or break.

Bruised Peach Cake (and transforming disappointment into delight)

Yesterday at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market I carefully selected four peaches that were not quite ripe.  I anticipated them ripening on Tuesday and Wednesday, so that I could have them when I returned to the office (always good to have a special treat when returning to the office from vacation).

By the time I got the peaches into the kitchen two hours later, three had ripened and gotten sufficiently bruised during the journey that they could not be carried to work.  I used this as an opportunity to make a decision about what to bring to a potluck tonight:  bruised peach cake.

3 very ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and very finely chopped, with juice

2 eggs well-beaten with a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt (optional) and a splash of vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegan shortening, softened (or same quantity oil or butter)

1 cup succanat (evaporated cane sugar)

splash of orange juice (how much depends on whether using yogurt)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

a couple of shakes of salt

pinch or two of dried, powdered ginger

Nuts optional (I now try not to cook with nuts when bringing food to a gathering where I do not know all the guests)

Cream shortening with sugar.  Add in beaten eggs, yogurt, and juice.  Mix well.

Blend or sift all dry ingredients together.

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, taking care not to overmix.  Blend in peaches and their juice.

Turn batter into greased (butter or flavorless oil) 9×9 (or 8×8) baking pan.  Put in 325F oven (no need to preheat) for 20-30 minutes.  Check after 15-20 minutes to make sure not cooking unevenly or browning too quickly.

Energy saving tips: (1) many non-yeast leavened baked goods do not need the oven preheated; (2) by baking bread-like cakes that are traditionally baked in a loaf shape  in a square baking pan, oven time is reduced by more than half; (3) use the toaster oven so that you are not using more oven space than needed.