Thanks to Professor Douglas Brooks for this thought-provoking piece on debate and yoga.
Professor Douglas Brooks on language and the India pilgrimage. I have just finished leading the group house practice and need to meditate before going to bed, so I do not have time to write more, but I wanted to draw your attention to this blog for your own contemplations about language and practice. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to join in part of the conversation and look forward to going ever deeper.
Best wishes to all whatever your holidays are bringing and however you might be celebrating. I write this in the midst of days full with preparing for my much anticipated travel to India with Professor Douglas Brooks, where I will experience among other amazing things, the temple at Chidambaram, where the idea of Shiva as the Cosmic Dancer first arose, seeing friends and family before I leave, and taking care of all manner of things at work and home so that things will be in as much order as possible both while I am gone and when I return.
I typically make the holidays a quiet time. I enjoy going to a few choice parties and visiting with friends and spending a few days in New York visiting family and exploring museum exhibits and delicious meals, but mostly I use it as time for introspection and refreshment. I process what has happened over the year and get myself and my house and papers ready for a new year of working and teaching and creating. I practice and rest. I take exquisitely long and contemplative walks and write and photograph. When I have spent the holiday season in this way, come the first of January, I feel ready for whatever might come. I know that my general health and emotional well-being are definitely enhanced by consistent daily yoga and meditation practice, regular sleep and wellness activities, such as massage, keeping a beautiful and clean home, and eating healthy meals that come in part from my garden, and the holiday season is enhanced for me by honoring my regular practices and health needs.
By choosing to go on an adventure, with the amount of energy I will need to expend to be open to the outragious influx of sensory input and information and to weather the challenges of travel (including a nine-hour time difference) and to get back to work immediately on my arrival in the middle of of a week in which I already have a known deadline, I can be fairly certain that the comforting, well-rested feeling to which I have become accustomed from the holiday break will not be how I start 2012. In this sense, going on this trip is willfully ignoring and disrupting all that I know keeps me on an even keel. Sometimes, though, we just have to intentionally shake ourselves up to see what ways we can expand and how much. Such shake-ups not only open us up to new possibilities and ways of thinking, but they also help us get ready for the invevitable upheavals in life whose exact timing and nature we cannot control. My holiday blessing is that the shake-up is one I have chosen, that comes when I am healthy and secure, and that will no doubt provide much fuel for growth and creativity. I definitely am looking forward to bringing home new insights and energies to share with you in the new year, perhaps even the seeds for the first art exhibit in many years.
I wish you all peace, health, and joy through the holidays and the new year. To those of you who are currently dealing with extra challenges of embodiment, please know that I am holding you in the light and will be sending beams of healing energy from abroad.
For everyone, here are the yoga offerings for the holidays and the beginning of 2012:
No coincidence, my trip is at exactly the same time as Willow Street is closed for Winter Break, and I won’t be missing any of my Saturday noon gentle/therapeutic classes. The class is continuing in the Winter Session (registration is now open) and I hope to see friends both returning and new signed up for the session. For Willow Street free class week, I will be leading a gentle/therapeutics class on Saturday, January 7th to welcome those new to yoga, the class, or to Willow Street to all the healing potential of Anusara yoga. Free class week is a great way to get to class for the first time that curious friend or family member with whom you have been wanting to share the wonders of yoga.
I know lots of you will be wanting the yoga during the holiday period, so I’ve invited two guest teachers for the Tuesday night William Penn House class. Meridian Ganz-Ratzat will be leading the class on Tuesday, December 20th, and Anna Karkovska McGlew will be leading on Tuesday, January 3rd. They are awesome teachers, so come check out the classes, even if you haven’t been to the William Penn House class before.
There will be no rose garden yoga classes between Christmas and New Year, but check out the great array of holiday offerings that week at Willow Street Yoga to celebrate the transition from 2011 to 2012. I’ll be back to neighborhood classes, starting with the house class on Wednesday, January 4th, and hope to see you at William Penn House in the new year.
Thinking ahead for ways to sweeten your 2012 schedule or looking for a great holiday gift to give that enhances health and a celebration of life, but doesn’t result in more stuff being manufactured? Give the gift of the ultimate nurturing yoga to yourself, friends, and family, with a registration for “Finding the Warmth Inside: Relax Into Optimal Alignment with Anusara Restoratives,” Saturday, February 25, 2012, 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM, Willow Street, Takoma Park studio, $35.00, click to Register Online. Suitable for all levels.
I look forward to seeing many of you at my regular neighborhood and Willow Street classes and at workshops in the new year. Much love and many blessings.
Peace and light,
On Friday night, Professor Douglas Brooks offered a satsang that was hosted by District Kula. One of the attendees, who said that she did no yoga, but taught Argentinian tango, wanted to know about what she had heard of yoga talking about the dance of masculine and feminine because that’s what tango is all about.
Douglas gave a quick overview of the idea of the tattvas as a foundation for an answer to the tango dancer’s question. As part of this background, he discussed the numerological aspect of the tattvas, saying that Shiva and Shakti relate like this: one is two becomes three becomes five. The two must separate, and the space between them makes three and teaches us the one. Because of the spaces between, we do not have one to two to four, but two (one because inseparable) to three to five. We know the one only when we know two, and the one is therefore part of three. (“Lovely dance of numbers; that makes perfect sense,” I thought, having a happy geekfest in my own mind. “I’ll enjoy pondering how that might be an explanation for there being five top tattvas and not six or four and wondering whether I had even begun finding an understanding, even though what Douglas was talking about is something I have been contemplating for years in various ways and contexts.)
Douglas then led into a description of the inseparable, inextricably intertwined nature of Shiva and Shakti. “It is like that in tango,” the dancer interjected at multiple points. “The better the leader, the more he is listening to the follower, thus allowing the follower to be the leader.” Each time Douglas refined his response, the dancer offered something else about her experience with tango. “Right, when they are dancing well, the man takes on some of the characteristics of the feminine, and the woman that of the man. The difference between them starts to dissolve into the dance itself.” Her eyes lit up, and she bubbled up with speech, in her excitement at finding in the tantric philosophy what appeared to be an explanation of what she experiences in the tango.
The tango dancer and the yoga texts assign specific roles and attributes to the masculine and the feminine, and we tend to fall into that tradition when we discuss the tantric philosophy. As much as the traditional tantrika or tango dancer might say that the masculine and feminine (when embodied) take on/have characteristics of each other, they have assigned masculine/feminine roles to play, and they are still stuck in a paradigm that keeps real humans in assigned roles. These assigned roles impact how male and female are permitted to act in society, regardless of any recognition that who is actually, rather than technically, in charge may be in flux on different levels.
The paradigm of tango dancing kept Friday night’s discussion within the context of typical and rigid roles for male and female, but I do not think that is a required way for us to think of how to bring the tantric yoga philosophy into our lives. When we think of the tattvas as abstract principles, we do not have to privilege in our lives or own thinking the traditional divide between male and female roles as the basis for understanding the play of opposites (though to be true to the text in its historical context we do).
I believe that the dance of shiva and shakti is as much about the dance between the universal and multiplicitous individuality as it is about the specific play between masculine and feminine in assigned roles. The one is two. The two (one) separates into three; when the two separate we discover the one (two), and after that the three becomes five. I remember a friend saying in our college days, “There are three of us in it: there is me, there is my loved one, and then there is our relationship.” To be in the world and relate fully, the tattvas (and dances with partners of either sex) teach us that two are inseparable by being in relationship. By recognizing the appearance of separation, the dance of Shiva and Shakti tattvas shows us the relationship — the oneness. Thus, all consciousness is one, but two, and then three, and yet still one.
How this informs me, other than enjoyable thoughts in my head, is that when we try to be spaciously and openly aware in all of our relationships of this elemental play of individual identity, separability, and indivisible unity, we see the other in ourselves and ourselves in the other. This helps much to inspire friendliness, understanding, and compassion. It also helps bring understanding of the leader when we are following, which it makes it easier to follow with discrimination, but without judgment. When it is our turn to lead, it helps us know that for those who might choose to or be required to follow us for some particular project, that to lead well we must listen to the followers. As the the Grateful Dead taught me decades ago, “you who choose to lead must follow.”