Tag Archive: Inauguration

Perception and Illusion (maya)

I have been thinking about perception and how as soon as we have more than one person looking at the same thing, each person has a different story, a different truth, a different explanation.  Add to that the mysterious systems humans have created:  information technology, cyberspace, monetary system.  All of these are energy fields.  We can only perceive small pieces of them, and we have varying degrees of skepticism about the reality of what we get from them.  It is not a hard leap from that to understand what the yogis are saying when they say what we receive through the senses is illusory (maya).

We read news articles about the fact that Yo-Yo Ma was not playing at the Inauguration, but just moving his hands over the instrument to a recorded tape.  Why would I believe the news stories more than I would believe what was on the “jumbo-trons” — or if I had been one of the few close in, what I’d thought I’d seen and heard?  Why would I be more likely to believe the Inauguration of President Obama if I saw it on TV than I would the story line of a movie?  How is it that we distinguish between news and fiction, our side of the story v. the other person’s side?

When we emphasize the “reality” of our own perception, we bring ourselves to schisms, disputes, and hurt feelings.  When we let ourselves be skeptical about our own perceptions and know that they are only one aspect of a unity (like the blind men and the elephant), then we can be softer, more open, and less divisive.  I am working on this; it is a challenging aspect of my yoga practice.  What do you think?

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Buy a Coffee Mug (and never forget)

buy-a-coffee-mug-and-never-forgetI didn’t buy a coffee mug, but I did take the picture.  If only remembering was as easy as buying a souvenir.  Memory, though, it much more ephemeral.  I’ll remember this day.  Sometimes I will deliberately recall it.  Sometimes, images will come unbidden as something triggers a memory, just as the solicitation by a friend last week to support an orphanage in Peru brought back the thought of 9/11.  I had been in Peru at the retreat center that supports the orphanage when the planes hit the World Trade Center.  I hope for news tomorrow of the imminent closing of Guantanamo to start reshaping our relationship to 9/11.

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Privilege and Periphery

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At about 10:30 am, I left my house and walked over to the Capitol.  I knew that by leaving the house at that hour, instead of at 7am, I would be outside the fence, but I instead practiced in the morning and opened myself to the sense of amazement and hope filling my city.

My friends who were inside the fence either are press or have other jobs that got them an invitation or they arrived at 5am to volunteer. I look forward to hearing their stories and seeing their pictures.

It felt urgent to be present for this occasion.  One of the things that made it especially poignant is that where I went was on my walk to work.  I forget, sometimes, the import of the capitol and the Mall because they are so much a part of my daily geography.

The audio visual we had in my spot just north of the Capitol (turned out to be next to the cannons for the salute) was a couple of ipods with speakers and boom boxes, rather than the big, fancy rock concert screens, but we were in fact physically closer than most on the Mall.  Some of us were just happy to be there together celebrating and being less densely packed into the crowd.  Some, so used to being marginalized by society — being able to see privilege and insider status, but have it be completely out of reach — grumbled that they might as well have stayed home as they witnessed even those with tickets not getting through the security lines towards the end.

But every one was hushed, even in the crowd, even without a view, for the oath of office and for the President’s speech.  It was a privilege to stand with these neighbors and fellow citizens.  It was an honor to see grown men unashamed to let their eyes fill with tears as they witnessed what they never saw they would see in the Nation’s Capitol, in their town, an African-American President.

I am filled with hope, not because I think there will be almost instantaneous and miraculous “change,” but because we have just witnessed an enormous step in a better direction.

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Aerial View

If I had been born a different person and chosen an entirely different career path (say a secret service agent), I might have had a view like this today.  Would it have been worth it?  So interesting to watch the dance of intention and fate.  This, by the way, is the view from the cafeteria at the Department of Labor, so I can have it any other day.  If you look closely, you can see where the podium was set up in front of the capitol.  The pictures in the next post are mostly from the park just north of the capitol — so they would be just outside of this shot on the left.a-secret-service-view

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“Yes We Can”

Yesterday’s inaugural concert spurred all sorts of memories from me.  When I was a child, we went a number of times to the Clearwater Revival Festival and other folk festivals where Pete Seeger was a headline.  He is just ten years older than my Dad, and though my parents were not among those who became famous, they were hanging around the Village and my Dad was doing activist things at the same time.  James Taylor’s “Shower the People” was a favorite when I was in junior high school.  There was a boy from camp who played the guitar who I remember saying that “a little James Taylor goes a long way [towards getting a girl’s attention].”  Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellenkamp, U2, Bob Marley, Aaron Copeland, and the great oldies (played at the concert and listed as Obama’s top ten ipod songs), are part of the music of my high school, college, and law school years.

Not needing music or advertising to help me decide to vote, I didn’t pay much attention to how music was being used in the campaign.  But here was the music, and it was mostly my music, too.  The concert was very clever, designed to appeal to black and white, young and old, and populist — they were careful to have the performers whose oevre might not appeal to an older or younger crowd stick to songs with mass appeal.

Interestingly, it gave me an insight to those conservative guys from the middle of the country who said they liked W because he was the kind of guy they could hang with and have a beer.  The concert was a concert I might have attended when I was in high school or college or law school.  I had an insight about what it feels like to feel comfortable with the education and background of the President, but only up to a point.  I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, but it did not impact my politics or how I would view the Presidency.  There is a fine line between relating and agreeing, appreciating and accepting without question.

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Advance thoughts on the inauguration festivities

The picture on top shows police blockades put up on the west side of the Capitol for inaugural preparations.  The bottom picture shows a bandstand erected at the extreme west end of the Capitol lawn looking over the reflecting pool and the Mall.  I’ve refrained from posting pictures of the hundreds of port-a-potties on the Capitol side of the Mall.  Event planners brought in 5,000 — more than has ever been put in the Mall area for an event.  The ones next to the Capitol are “United” port-a-potties; do you think they planned that?

Hard to imagine 2,000,000 plus or minus a million in this space.  I’ve been here with 700,000 or maybe even 800,000 at the fireworks and a couple of really big demonstrations.  But what seems a nice open space seems awfully small to hold that many people.  Just think:  right now there are only 450,000 residents of the District of Columbia and the greater metropolitan area has only about 3,000,000 (last time I checked, maybe it’s a couple hundred more).  But having them all 10-20 blocks from my house on one side with 10,000 of their charter buses only 8-15 blocks seems a shocking sandwich of huddled humanity.

Where will you be?  I know a few of you are volunteering and will have seats on the bleachers.  Many more of you have said you don’t plan to go any where near the festivities, but will appreciate this rush of energy from your warm homes or a friends’ house in your own neighborhood.  Several hundred thousand people on a nice day would be one thing, but a million plus on a bitter cold day with large chunks of the city not only cut off for cars, but also cyclists and pedestrians, seems quite another.

I do not think it means that I am not celebrating (nor a real tantrika) if I end up choosing not to squeeze myself into the crowd because I find it hard to revel in a crowd.  I’ll just be celebrating in my own way with groups of a size where I feel more comfortable.  I’ll be up in Takoma Park on Saturday teaching my regular Willow Street yoga classes.  On Sunday, I’ve planned dinner with a friend, but I am not sure about trying to plunge into the sea of humanity at the Lincoln Memorial earlier in the day.  On Monday, I plan to join 400 other yogins at a giant kirtan as my “inaugural event.”  As for Tuesday — I’ll wait to see what the energy feels like.  Whatever I’m doing, I will be sending energetic support for the trees.  They are stressed enough in the city that it is hard to have their roots trampled by so many people.  If you come down to be part of the crowd, please send loving energy to the trees.  Let’s also hope the new administration honors its promises and starts taking care of trees all over the country and the planet (and let’s support advocacy groups that work to care for the environment — now’s a great time to move forward in a positive way).

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Akasha (space)

When we can connect to the essence of the element of akasha, space, within ourselves, we feel less crowded by things pressing in on the outside, whether it be actual confinement or overcrowdedness or the sense of crowding from having too many pressing things to do.  For those of us who live in the District of Columbia, this weekend, with the extra million or two or three people in our neighborhoods and using our transportation systems is a great opportunity to discover the spaciousness within.

Practice dwelling in a supremely spacious place in your heart when you meditate this week.  Start by visualizing a vast space just beyond your third eye (the point between the eye brows).  Once you can visualize that space, the chidakasha, draw the space into your heart and rest there.  Then, when you go out onto to the Mall or onto the metro or onto crowded streets, bring enough of your consciousness into the vast inner space that you can feel comfortable with the crowding outside.  When dwelling in the inner and outer at the same time, it will be easier to marvel at the outside crowds.

For those of you who are extroverts who get exhilarated by crowds, of course, this practice would seem less critical.  I invite you to give it a try anyway.

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