Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Wednesday morning here.

I don't really have words. Is that weird?

My life has been all words these last few days, well, written words separated by vast silences, and yet, as I sit to write, I got nothin'.


I'm not interested in sharing some bland, clichéd travelogue, or some idyllic, peachy-keen version of this life that I have been living for these few days on the opposite side of the world. It's 8am and I'm perched on my balcony in black pajamas and there's the water and there's the frangipani and there's the lemongrass and that is the status, really, here at this "wellness sanctuary" on the southeast corner of the island of Koh Samui.

I almost left. Thought I couldn't hack it. Was convinced I was in the wrong place.

It's paradise, you know? Languid, tropical, sunset-over-the-beach-tinted paradise.

But I wanted to run away.

I've got a little Marla Singer in me, you know? I mean, she even came along on the trip. And this dark, serious, urbanite me; well, she felt a little out of place, in the same way that when I cross the bay to uber-progressive, uber-green, uber-politically correct Berkeley, I feel an urgent need to shoot some tequila and wear big sunglasses and a black leather jacket.

So, I arrived Sunday afternoon, well, moving into dusk, and Kamalaya was so beautiful, yes, and easy and lovely and green and perfect and all of those things you'd expect a place like this to be. A sweet young Thai woman in yellow showed me around, took me to my room, and it was light and summery and clean and fresh and earthily pristine. Naturally the first thing my eyeballs googled was the coffee pot. No such thing. A hot water heater, yes, and elegant herbal elixirs and green-friendly glass-bottled water and lemongrass oil and organic insect repellent, you name it: but no coffee.

I about flipped my lid.

Well, internally, that is. Didn't wanna freak the nice Thai lady out.

Ohmigod what have I done, I'm stuck here in hippie yoga teacher heaven on a hill overlooking the ocean but there's NO COFFEE because these people are all weird detox slaves and now it's almost dark and how will I get up in the morning and how will I ever get any writing done and how DARE these people tell me I can't drink COFFEE and and I am so sick of the oppressive yoga/wellness industry telling me what is OK and what is NOT and this is BULLSHIT and fuck this shit and I'm packing up my shit and leaving and moving to Le Meridien down the street which is chi-chi and has a sweet-ass bar and lots of vodka and most definitely, most DEFINITELY has coffee so that I won't be denied like some oppressive FASCIST REGIME.

The mind. The mind is so much the arbiter of our experience.

Lesson #1: attachment.

(What are you attached to, Rachie? What do you NEED? What do you refuse to let go of?)

Ok. Detach, Rach. So I breathed and nodded thank you and goodbye to the lady and put my head below my heart and tried to chill out and told myself, it's not about the coffee, it's ok, it's all good, Rach, you can just go for a nice sunny walk tomorrow and pick up some Nescafe and then I googled "mini-mart" and sure enough, sweet jesus yes, Google Maps picked up a mini-mart 7.92m away, so I knew I could hook it up in the morning and be just fine after all.

The world would not crumble into pieces as I sat trapped in a detox sanctuary on an utopic hillside overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.


Meanwhile, on checking in, the soft-spoken lady at reception had told me I was booked for a 4:35 appointment at the Wellness Sanctuary (yes, that's what it's called) for a wellness consultation of sorts; you know, the kind where they weigh you and ask about your health history and what do you want out of this time here and how do you feel about acupuncture or an Indian head massage, that kind of thing.

I had cringed on the inside at the thought, not wanting to deal. This lush, tranquil, marble-strewn retreat is really quite stunning, and I ended up here because it offers that reclusive stillness merged with natural beauty, the kind of literal "retreat" that would allow me space and time to write, unbothered, alone. But it's also the kind of resort that offers a "detox programme" of the sort that many Brits and Euros are fond of, moreso than I've seen yet in the States, and so sure enough, the place is full of folks detoxing and trying to lose weight and change their lives and create new habits by sloughing off their old.

That's cool; I can be down with that. Shift old samskaras, create new ones, in a space that's oh-so-willing to facilitate that kind of hard life work. Go team.

But the good ol' mind ran rampant again, sitting there in this airy treehouse sanctuary awaiting my appointment. I was furious, I was irritable (maybe it was the lack of coffee?), I didn't want to have to sit and wait for an appointment with the nice Aussie lady, I wanted to hightail it out of there and run down the street and buy me some vodka, already!

(If you'd have seen a thought-bubble over my head in those moments, ostensibly simple and relaxed, placidly sipping an iced mulberry tea overlooking the ocean, you'd have thought I was the Unabomber.)

It was not pretty.

I started writing frantically, scrawling deep heavy lashes into my unsuspecting notebook, about how this detox shit is bullshit and I'm not here to lose weight and I just want to write and drink coffee and do some asana and read by the beach, ok?, and fuck this oppressive detox shit and the wellness industry that has co-opted people's insecurities and turned them into yet one more opportunity to make a buck and prioritize vanity and emphasize the gaze of the Other and endorse the cult of the body that channels so many people's life energies into trying to cling to a former bodily state that is meant to be constantly changing because impermanence is the nature of all things and change is the only constant!! To hell with the body fascists!! I will not sanction their navel-gazing myths of salvation via bodily transformation!! That is a false soteriology and one that is increasingly commodified by pop culture, and I will not be one more cog in the machine of redemptive faux-religious body mythologies!!

Ohhhhhh, watching the mind.

Naturally, the sweet Aussie wellness consultant lady was lovely, and so kind, and I told her I wasn't really interested in any of this "detox programme" stuff, that I just wanted to read and write and eat greens and drink carrot juice and be quiet, and she was beautiful, and hooked me up with some delish menus and advice on colonics (yes, another story) and softly sent me on my way.


Looking back these few days later, of course, I can't help but chuckle and see how that afternoon was such a teacher. Even in the midst of it, I knew, watching-the-thoughts, meditation-style, that it would be a guru, that I was not those chattering thoughts, not this racing angry dark urbanite craving caffeine and feeling oppressed by the lack thereof.

But boy, in that moment, did it feel stuck.

The thing is, they're all teachers. The lack of coffee and the awkward obligatory wellness consultation and the quiet dark nights and the crescent moon in the sky as I looked up during dinner last night; they're all teachers. We chant the Guru Brahma chant at the beginning and end of practice to remind ourselves of this: to find the teacher ("guru," literally "that which brings us from darkness to light") in all we do and are.

Have you felt this stuckness before?

This sense of being so very much in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and just wanting to flee?

I've felt it. In double pigeon. At dinner parties. In certain conversations. In moments that felt so very wrong, and my heart wanted me to flee, and my mind spun, and my breath caught in my throat, and yet, whether it was my choice or another's, I was forced to stay, to sit with it, to be there in it, and to know, even though it felt oh-so-permanent, this discomfort, that it would pass.

That's yoga.

And then, so often, looking back I've realized that even in that heart-racing, breathless moment, I was exactly where I needed to be.

That's yoga, too.

I remember feeling it that first evening, years ago now, that I ever trained with my remarkable, loving, oh-so-wise teacher Rusty. I'd joined a group of strangers there in North Beach for a Bhakti Flow teacher training, and I didn't know anyone, and they all hugged a lot, and I felt quiet and weak and naive, and hung out along the back wall, and I thought to myself, my god, I am so in the wrong place; I am dark and serious and I suck at Vasisthasana and I don't know any of these chants and I am an academic not a lovey yoga teacher and what the hell have I gotten myself into and that's it, I'm leaving now, forget it.

And then a few minutes later we sat in a circle and said one word each about how we were feeling — I remember saying "wondering," and that was a very nice, very edited version of what I was really feeling — and then Rusty looked around the circle at us, all 45 or so of us, in the eyes, and said:
Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
Trust that you are in the right place.
So I tried. And I exhaled there, then, for the first time maybe all day.

And I kept exhaling. And I kept practicing. Even though I still didn't know what the hell I was doing. And this guru of mine, this teacher that was the experience of being thrown into an unknown situation with a bunch of strangers who hugged and talked about love a lot, kept me there, and showed me the power of staying, and in the years since that teacher has wrought so much beauty and transformation in my life, such rich relationship and even richer study, the devotion, the certainty, that comes of finding one's true dharma, one's true place.

All because I stayed. Because Rusty encouraged us to. Even though I didn't want to.

Because I thought it was wrong.
Because I thought I was wrong.

God bless Rusty Wells for saying that, in that moment. It kept me. And it keeps me still.


I am thinking a lot about teachers these days. Gratitude for my own teacher, gratitude for my many teachers throughout the years, gratitude for the teacher that is this life we're born into (Guru Brahma), this life we continue to lead (Guru Vishnu), and the teacher who shows up in the form of change and destruction, chaos and uncertainty (Guru Devo Maheshwara). Some of these teachers are so obvious — and others are so hard to see, mired as they are in shadow and tumult.

And yet, always and ever, we dedicate all efforts up to those very teachers: Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha. Especially the uncomfortable ones.

Hours deep in study with David and Sharon's book have left my mind whirling with thoughts of tapas (discipline) and svadhyaya (self-study) and ishvara pranidhana (offering all efforts to the Divine). And that triad of kriyas (techniques for spiritual development) feels right, and true, and particularly germane to these few days of stillness and writing.

Tapas. Austerities, discipline. Maybe my tapas is learning to live without the coffee. Or maybe it's the walking down the hill in 90-degree heat to buy Nescafe from the mini-mart down the street, and the mad sunburn that resulted.

(All is well in the world. See pic below.)

Svadhyaya. Self-study. The being forced to sit with oneself, in the quiet, racing mind and churning heart, and watch it. To pause, to stop the rushing and stop the working and just be right here, observing, gently.

(Sounds a lot like meditation to me.)

Ishvara Pranidhana. Surrender. Offering all efforts away. Doing what we do not for ego, or for striving, or for clinging, but for the sake of doing it, for the joy of the work, not with any goal in mind, but rather in the service of whatever strikes you as divine.

(Or, in Christian circles: Soli Deo Gloria. All for the glory of God. Same thing.)


Trust. Trust that you are in the right place. As Rusty often says, trust that every step you have ever taken has been bringing you to this very place, this moment, this life. Trust that you are exactly where you're meant to be — coffee or no.

I've been remembering this, over and over, and finding such exhalation, such release, such comfort in that reminder.

Nescafe to the rescue.
Jivamukti to the rescue.
Marla Singer to the rescue.
Eka pada rajakapotasana to the rescue.
Gary Snyder and Alan Watts to the rescue.
Humid tropical mornings blooming into blaring sunny afternoons melting into languid island twilights to the rescue.

Last night I found the Kamalaya steam cavern. It's a wee little space tucked into the hillside overlooking the Gulf. The air inside is wet and thick, hot as Hades, 42 degrees C, sweaty and audibly sizzling with steam. My Bikram-loving joints went bazooka for it. I walked in, grinned (felt like home!), sat down, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and folded forward in a 5-minute Paschimottanasana, right there in that 107-degree heat, and knew I was in the right place after all.

My hamstrings knew, too.

Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshath Parambrahma,
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

All mystical writing really is instructions. It is not an attempt to describe the universe, to describe God, or to describe other realities. Every mystic knows that cannot possibly be done. The word mysticism, from the Greek muo, means silence, mum's the word, shut up. (I should talk...)

That's yoga. Shut up...shut up and listen.

— Alan Watts

Monday, November 28, 2011

Raw, idiom: 14. in the raw, a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

I feel like I'm living in a Frida Kahlo painting.

Koh Samui, Tuesday morning, 8:44am.

Sunburned and quiet and carrying David Life and Sharon Gannon wherever I go. Thinking of gurus and Om and seva and words and the ways in which the yoga really is one more expression of the arts. Loving the Jivamukti perspective on incorporating music, dance, poetry — and yes, politics — into the practice.

Grateful for sun and sky and space.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

We done had a wedding.

Torrential tropical downpour turned into a glimmering sunset ceremony, just in time. Neruda, Frost, the like. Bats en route to cocktails in the cave. Poi spinners into the wee hours at the little dive bar at the end of the beach. Frangipani and lemongrass everywhere you turn.

And now, to the jungle.

I hear word of monkeys.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Up early writing the last of Derek and Jinny's wedding liturgy as the sun rises
over Railay Beach.

What a muse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture: raw cotton.

Five a.m. here in Bangkok, and I woke at four ready to rock.

I suppose you could call that jet lag, but honestly, I've not felt even a twinge. For as much as the media created drama about the conditions here in BKK, it's been only easy. And now this morning I'll wrap up my wee initial urban jaunt and trade it for sun and sand, as I fly to Krabi and then longtail boat on to Railay for the wedding tomorrow.

Not feeling much of a coherent thought structure this morn, which seems fitting for this city, which is so much action, so much life, on so many levels: skytrain, sidewalk, river, skyscraper, life on top of life, over and over. So we'll go for some stream of consciousness and call it good.

Loving the urbanity. The anonymity. The not wearing any makeup, the not having a phone (sweet jesus, yes), the not needing to operate according to any particular timeline. How unusual and strangely unfamiliar and beautifully unhooked. It took awhile to get used to the fact that there was nowhere I needed to be, nothing I needed to do. It's been some time since I've felt that deliciously unhinged sense of freedom. And now it feels still the tiniest bit strange and, even moreso, vastly liberating.

I've hit up a few studios, in pursuit of all things yoga. It's lovely to have an attitude of curiosity with little expectation; particularly after spending 24 hours in-flight (24 relatively painless hours, I might add, in spite of the cramped bod — thanks to Cathay Pacific and their fabulous raw vegan in-flight meals, I felt hydrated, light and full of prana, despite the long haul), it was just such a relief to move and twist and invert and yes, chaturanga. My first evening in the city I hit up Absolute Yoga Bangkok, which is a bright, vibrant, vital, huge space centered smack in the middle of a downtown shopping mall near Chit Lom. Absolute offers a range of classes, mostly Bikram-inspired, and since walking around here in the heat and the humidity is essentially the equivalent of a daylong Bikram class, I decided to pass on the 26 postures and opt for a vinyasa class instead. After sitting for so long, the idea of endless chaturangas at a nice rhythmic pace was pretty attractive.

So I found the studio, arrived early for class and settled in, to find that yes, I stuck out like a sore thumb (Teach looked at me and said: "You new here?" and naturally it turned out he'd done a stint in San Francisco and so knew many of my peers in the yoga world). He then proceeded to teach what was essentially the Ashtanga primary series with a few switch-ups in a melange of Thai, Sanskrit, and a little English thrown in for my benefit. It was so humbling. I felt like such a beginner. And was reminded of the power of the practice itself, and its inherent rhythm, as the 5-breath cycles and the stillness and the jump-backs and the series itself unfolded such that my wondering mind could slow, and in spite of the utter lack of linguistic understanding, get lost in the trans-cultural beauty and power of the practice. Such a testimony for the importance of tradition.

Yesterday morning broke early and after a last-minute Skype date with my fabulous colleague Andrea (modern technology, what!??), I hit the road. It was a big day, and one that started with the simplicity of just watching the city wake up. I've been staying at a ridiculously posh hotel down Sukhumvit Road. Because of the flooding fears, it seems like many of the hotels are not anywhere near capacity, even though it's the start of high season, so I was able to secure a most fabulous last-minute reservation at this 5-star boutique hotel during my quick layover in Hong Kong. It's funky and hip, self-consciously so, and full of stuffed tigers and sexy pop art and blue lights and the below-mentioned rooftop pool, and I kind of love it for its crassness and unapologetic outrageousness alone.

The place is based really within walking distance of much, so as per my usual MO in a new city, I immediately just started wandering. Your feet will show you everything if you just trust, you know?

So yesterday morning's early stroll took me to another vinyasa class, this time at Yoga Elements, another studio high in the sky overlooking Bangkok, situated on the 23rd floor of the Vanissa Building. The space was all spirit in the way that Absolute was all style, and I felt very much at home there in the midst of the Ganeshas and the Natarajs and the like. The practice was hamstring-oriented; I've never done more vertical splits in one class. Shane, the sweet, funny teacher, managed to work in a lot of upper-body work, too, killing it on the handstands and the pincha mayurasanas, and closing with some simple pranayama work that left me settled and silent there in that sanctuary in the sky. This class was taught in English, and I was struck by how powerfully cross-cultural the practice has come to be, no matter the language.

In the same way that, growing up, any church sanctuary or cathedral felt like home, now I find that no matter the city, no matter the language, any yoga studio, any mat, feels like home. And that is a gift.

After class, my stretched-out hamstrings and I headed straight for the river, and with it, the Grand Palace and Wat Arun and Wat Pho and all of the beauty that implies. There's evidence of the floods to be found everywhere, for sure, and many shops are offering discounts to people who have suffered loss from the flooding, but everything otherwise seems to be very much business-as-usual. I spent the better part of the day down there along the river, enjoying the gilt and the history but preferring, actually, the side streets and the tiny vendors and the shops tucked away down narrow alleys where the water was still rushing in past the piers.

I'm learning: I like spare, bleak beauty better than the ostentatious. The old royal buildings were lovely, yes, but I felt strangely unsettled and crowded and breathless in seeing them, out of my element, and only felt myself again when I could escape to the streets and get lost in people and simplicity and dirt and laughter and the rush of the day-to-day. That's so much more what feels real here: the slipping into the local crowds, the watching the commuters on the train and the teenagers headed for the mall, the listening to the mish-mash of languages in this diverse city, the seeing the impoverished children on the street and wondering what their lives will look like in ten or twenty years, the smelling the endless scents wafting up from any street corner.

It is good to be quiet, and just listen. I have missed this.

It is good to get out of my own story. To disappear into a crowd where I am not a yoga teacher or a writer or a sister or a friend but am rather just a body, sans stories, breathing new air and seeing new sights and getting lost in this very moment, unattached, nomadic, of the elements.

Signing off now for this morning. It's time to pack for Krabi, to squeeze in a quick practice before breakfast — I've been living on fruit, you know: papaya and guava and pineapple like there's no tomorrow — to drink my coffee, and then to head for the airport. I'll finish writing the liturgy for tomorrow's wedding ceremony on the beach, and then head to Railay via longtail boat to settle in for the evening. Bangkok's rush and anonymity have been palatable, I think, largely because of knowing that around the corner lies lush greenery and stillness and remote beauty, full of people I love. I am grateful to have a dose of both in these very few days.

It's Thanksgiving here, even though it's not yet for you all in the States for several hours yet. I'm grateful for you. I'm grateful that you're reading. I'm grateful for breathing new air, and for walking under new skies, and for sanctuary. And I'm grateful for the reminder, implicit as it is in so much travel, of how very small we are.

In that smallness, I send love.

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Chivalry, Buddhist-style.

Spotted this today on the Silom train, en route to kick it with the reclining Buddha, Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, and the like. Cracked a huge grin.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

Bangkok. Tuesday afternoon, 3:30.

Rooftop pool. Sunny, 91F. Then vinyasa at 7, up the (busy, bustling, motorcycle-filled) street, to move this sat-on-a-plane-for-24-hours body around.

If you insist.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

You know you're a yoga nerd when your
beach reading looks like this.

Hellooooo, Thailand.

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Loving this morning meditation from Sylvia Boorstein:
Everything that is true about anything is true about breath: it's impermanent; it arises and it passes away. Yet if you didn't breathe, you would become uncomfortable; so then you would take in a big inhalation and feel comfortable again. But if you hold onto the breath, it's no longer comfortable, so you have to breathe out again. All the time shifting, shifting. Uncomfortableness is continually arising. We see that everything keeps changing.
Body as Body (Tricycle)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Current temp in Bangkok: 91 and humid.

Sounds a lot like flyingYoga.

Two final classes before I skip town: today at 430 and tomorrow at 1045. Devotion in motion. Come on down.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

Early morning walk through the Tenderloin
with Pradeep to practice with Rusty
at Urban Flow.

My favorite Friday ritual.

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.

— Isadora Duncan

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

My philosopher friend (and general cool dude) Gary has written a beautiful book illuminating Patanjali's Sutras. My copy arrived the other day, and I'm just crazy about it.

Here's what Gary has to say about it:
The Yoga Sutras are one of the most important works on yoga philosophy and many teachers emphasize the importance of studying the Sutras. However, many books on the Sutras are highly academic and make the study of the Sutras tedious rather than a delight and an inspiration. Our new book provides a new and inviting approach to studying and living the Yoga Sutras. Each Sutra contains the Sanskrit text, a plain-English translation, imagery and commentary. These innovations illuminate the heart of the Sutras and bring them to life.
Zip on over to LilaLabs to order your own. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many talented and thoughtful folks. The sangha that has grown out of my yoga philosophy studies at CIIS several years ago has wrought such beauty in my life.

Yesterday I met with another friend and colleague from the program, Jennifer, who's planning her own empowered, prana-filled yoga creation (still-gestating, but stay tuned for more on that in the weeks to come). We had coffee with Gary's book, and I left abuzz — and not from the caffeine.

There's so much good writing and reading and thinking and teaching to be doing. Sometimes I'm quite overwhelmed with how much of it I want to do.

One word at a time...one step at a time...one breath at a time.

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.

I wrote a wee feature on my friends over at The Kitchen Yogi Cookie Cutter Collection for this month's Yoga Journal.

Theirs is a labor of love.

Please support this sweet melding of art and asana by whipping up a few edible Bakasanas of your own.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Simplicity from Susan Piver in my Inbox this morning; perfect simplicity.
Gentleness toward yourself allows you to see your own basic goodness.

Seeing it, you see it in others.

Seeing it in others, you can be kind.

Kindness can heal our world.

Meditation is the practice of gentleness.

You do the math.
Makes everything seem quite easy, doesn't it?

The key to me seems that second line. The remarkable shift in learning, through meditation and yoga and mindfulness practices and the like, to be non-judgmental, spacious, and kind — when your mind runs to yesterday or last year, or you fall out of Natarajasana for the 17th time, or you once again get lost in fears about what might happen tomorrow — translates to the same ability to be non-judgmental, spacious and kind with the people around you.

And wow, if that doesn't just change a helluva lot about being alive in the world.

Be gentle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Enjoying a particularly nerdy morning, thanks to social media. I've come fairly late to Twitter, but damn, this morning, it's kind of rocking my world.

Post-modernism! Smart cynical writer-yogis! Impermanence! And a deliciously achy body!

And all before lunch. Now that's a good day.

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

What are you up to Sunday evening?

Join us in Point Reyes
at MC Yogi's studio for his incredible wife
Amanda Giacomini's art opening.

She's rad.


Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, "What are you going through?"

— Simone Weil

(Also known as compassion, my loves. Other-direction.
Why we learn to be still and just listen.
Karuna. Bhakti.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Kathryn Budig will be teaching at Urban Flow this weekend. She's so good.

Are you coming?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

This is my last full week of classes until
I return from Thailand in December.

Please join me on the mat
through Sunday morning!

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

Celebrated a beloved dance company and toasted a sweet forthcoming bebe and shared a raw Thanksgiving and savored a visit from an old friend from Brooklyn and oh, taught five classes, all in the course of 36 hours.

It was a big weekend.

Feeling blessed. And glad to be quiet.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

I prefer winter and fall, when you can feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

— Andrew Wyeth, painter

(Yes, yes, yes.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture: raw cotton.

Hamstrings. You love 'em, you hate 'em, you take 'em for granted until they tear — and then they never let you forget.

Join me today at Oakwood for our monthly master class emphasizing all things hamstring, 130pm. Or just meet me afterward at flyingYoga for a second dose. 430, we streeeeeetch it out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

Powerful, passionate letter in support of the Occupy movements over at occupysamsara.org, a Buddhist-inspired website that seeks to “create a powerful network of mind/body teachers who want to bring their wisdom and practices to the benefit of this powerful historical moment."

Thanks to Michael Stone and Ethan Nichtern, two of my favorite contemporary Buddhist thinkers, for standing behind this marriage of compassion and action, and for teaching that mindfulness and yoga practices do not necessarily — and should not — just stay on the mat, disengaged, escapist.

We take care of ourselves on the mat (or the cushion) so we can better take care of one another. We train our minds in meditation so that we can better respond with reason, compassion and balance when the world around us is out of whack. The world is our mat. So we practice here, now, as the 99%, with an eye toward wholeness.

An Open Letter from Buddhist and Yoga Teachers
and Leaders in Support of the Occupy Movement

As teachers and leaders of communities that promote the development of compassion and mindfulness, we are writing to express our solidarity with the Occupy movement now active in over 1,900 cities worldwide.

We are particularly inspired by the nonviolent tactics of this movement, its methods of self-governance, and its emergent communities founded in open communication (general assemblies, the human microphone, the inclusion of diverse voices, etc). These encampments are fertile ground for seeing our inherent wisdom and our capacity for awakening. We encourage all teachers, leaders, sanghas and communities that pursue awakening to join with these inspiring activists, if they have not already done so, in working to end the extreme inequalities of wealth and power that cause so much suffering and devastation for human society and for the ecosystems of Earth.

This movement has given voice to a near-universal frustration with the economic and political disenfranchisement of so many. It offers a needed counterbalance to a system that saps the life energy of the overwhelming majority –– the so-called 99% –– generating vast profits for a tiny handful, without maximizing the true potential for widespread wealth creation in our society. While our practice challenges us to cultivate compassion for 100% of human beings without villifying an “enemy,” our practice also calls on us to confront a system that causes such clear harm and imbalance.

We share in the thoughtful calls to address massive unemployment, climate change, the erosion of social safety nets, decaying infrastructures, social and education programs, and workers’ wages, rights, and benefits.

Moreover, the current legal structure of large corporations compels individuals to act with shortsighted greed, acts for which they are not held personally accountable. If we aren’t encouraged to act with awareness of our connection to the seven billion humans who share our global community, the social fabric of our society is torn apart by legalized acts of selfishness and fear. These acts are performed in human society, by nonhuman entities, oddly granted the legal and political status of people, which have no ability to adequately perceive or react to the negative repercussions of their choices. The whole planet pays the price.

Most importantly, we believe that individual awakening and collective transformation are inseparable. For members of spiritual communities, mindfulness of the situation before us demands that we engage fully in the culture and society we inhabit. We do not view our own path as merely an individualistic pursuit of sanity and health, and we believe it would be irresponsible of us to teach students of mind/body disciplines that they can develop their practice in isolation from the society in which they live. We are inspired by the creative and intellectual work of the Occupy movement as an essential voice in facilitating a more compassionate and ecologically grounded basis for practice.

The Occupy movement has re-ignited our belief that it’s truly possible to build a culture of non-harm, honesty and respect for all creatures. We recognize our human failings and know that we’ll fail ten thousand times in our efforts to awaken. We now vow to bring our practices and methods of teaching more into alignment with our deepest values.

The structural greed, anger and delusion that characterize our current system are incompatible with our obligations to future generations and our most cherished values of interdependence, creativity, and compassion. We call on teachers and practitioners from all traditions of mind/body awakening to join in actively transforming these structures.

Ethan Nichtern, Shastri, New York
Shôken Michael Stone, Toronto
I just signed it. You?

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Who says yoga's for chicks? This inspires me.

Break ton Neck from Alex Yde on Vimeo.

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Chakra talk doesn't have to be all New Age woo-woo, baby.

Check it: my yogi sister Lisa Munger Yoga is writing a great series on the chakras for MindBodyGreen, and her first in the series, highlighting the Root Chakra, is pretty killer. Excellent down-to-earth tips with a really solid home practice. An opportunity to really get grounded.

It's pretty powerful; as I first read the piece this morning and walked through the photos of Lisa's home practice, asana by asana, I could really feel the slowing-down, the grounding, the rooting, in each posture, even there in my body in that very moment. These asanas are some of my favorites, especially for autumn, when the chill in the air and the dryness in the wind can make everything feel light and flimsy and uncertain. The Sukhasanas and the Vira As and the Parsvottanasanas help that so much.

(You know what else helps? Legwarmers. For real.)

Finding Your Base: Working With the Root Chakra (MindBodyGreen)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes — everywhere. Until it's every breath I breathe. I'm going to go out like a fucking meteor!

— Audre Lorde

(And she did.)

Raw, idiom: 14. in the raw, a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

Loving this brief teaching from Tricycle on how to be spacious:
Since people might feel a bit lonely coming out into nature by themselves, they tend to go out in groups. But often they just transplant their own little world out into the big world, and they still feel separation: “I’m with these people, not with those.” We should not be like a snail that carries its house on its back and shrinks back into it when another creature comes along. It is better not to put people into categories based on your social distance from them, whether or not you know them. It is also good to feel intimate with creatures around you — the birds, butterflies, and so on. Just as smoke from a chimney disperses into the air, we should disperse our sense of “group” or “family” and truly participate in the life around us.

If we go out into the natural world and just talk about the same things we talk about all the time, we may as well have stayed at home.
Amen to that! Part of the thrill of knowing I'm going away shortly is that it'll mean so very much space and silence and rejuvenating solitude, and a good deal of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, too. I've never understood how other folks don't end up feeling claustrophobic and exhausted after a long chattery group hike or trip or dinner party or somesuch. That rare ease with another sans [derivative, boring, small] conversation lends a spaciousness to life in the same way that turning off your iPhone can lend a certain relief.

And the power of no longer needing to cling to concepts of "self" or "group" or "family" or even habitual conversation really does offer us this incredible new view of the unfolding, living world around us, throwing into question who we even are in relationship to that world — including nature, yes, but also including the chipped painting and the window boxes and the wrought-iron balconies and the magnolia trees that we often blow unseeingly by, lost in conversation or empty chatter or mental masturbation.

In that moment, chatter having ceased, so present with what is, all notions of self slip away like "smoke from a chimney disperses into the air." And what are we left with? The breath. This (ever-changing) body. The reminder that, at every moment, our lives, this world, and our relationships are in constant flux. Impermanence, baby. Yes.

As Spacious as Nature (Tricycle)

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture: raw cotton.

I'm teaching today at Urban Flow, 430.
You can count on strong beats, serious breathing, and a sunset savasana.

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Life these days feels like one big 3-D movie, everything super-sized, leaping from studio to studio, train to trolley car, planning baby showers and bhakti sequences, eating an apple on the run and grabbing a kombucha here and there along the way.

As I prep to leave for Southeast Asia in just over a week, it's funny how very much yoga I've been doing, and not on my mat — rather, the yoga that is training the mind, the choosing how to react, the being still and keeping cool when circumstances might encourage otherwise. Bangkok's under water, you know, so our carefully-laid plans and lovingly-shaped itineraries and long-ago booked flights will need to be rearranged, and soon.

Rivers swell, a city shuts down, so you adjust your tickets, and choose a new destination, and get on the plane. No drama.

Your leg wobbles and your knee buckles and you fall out of Natarajasana smack onto your face, so you stand up, take a deep breath, grab your ankle, and get back in. No drama.

Same thing.

There's your yoga.

That said, all this Thailand prep has meant not as much time as I'd like for books and yoga mats and beloveds and music and, yes, sleep. I'm getting skilled at applying mascara on the moving cable car in the pre-dawn dark. All good. But I find I get a little itchy (ok, crabby) if I'm not able to sweat and scribble for at least a few minutes a day. So I squeeze in the asana here and there (today, a luxurious 2 hour practice and chant session in our living room), and tote a simple Walgreens notebook along in my bag so that I can steal a few minutes to write when inspiration strikes.

The other day, waiting for the train to Oakland, I scribbled this one down. I think it wants to be the first line of a future book.

Then I noticed his perfect nose, and I knew
I could never love him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Here at Rachel Meyer Yoga, we love the arts. So join us this Saturday night at 111 Minna Gallery for a stylish benefit to support The Anata Project, ok?

Doors at 6. There'll be cocktails, modern dance performances, fabulous people, and a private yoga session (and a Rachel cake) up for silent auction, too.

Wanna know more?
Choreographer/dancer Claudia Anata Hubiak founded The Anata Project in January of 2011. This project is based on the concept of Anata, or “egolessNESS” in Sanskrit. In Tibetan Buddhism, the word Anata is used in reference to the spacious quality of our mind and body, the way we can naturally experience everything that arises in our life without centralizing inwards. This vision serves as the backbone and founding principle of this new dance company.

The goal of The Anata Project is to incorporate mindful action into movement, being fully in the moment, awake and relaxed to enhance the creative process and produce dances and dance films that take a deep look into the genuine and courageous workings of the unguarded mind and heart.
It's a beautiful company, and one dear to my heart for many reasons. Benefit details here, and here. See you Saturday. Wear something sparkly. I know I will.

The Anata Project

Monday, November 7, 2011

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

from your girl Rach.

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

You'd asked about some of the weekend's newer tunes. Here are the playlists from Saturday and Sunday's classes. (In particular, if you'd wondered about that spare, melancholy Savasana tune, it's the Sehr Langsam one at the very bottom). Cheers, music lovers.

Saturday (Hanuman-inspired):
Om Namah Shivaya, Girish
Golden Nectar, J Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Ganesha Sharanam, Jai Uttal
Rock On Hanuman (feat. Krishna Das), MC Yogi
Battle, Beats Antique
Hanuman, Wah!
Dope Crunk, Beats Antique
Om Tare Tuttare (The Red Fulka Remix), Deva Premal
Break Me, Beats Antique
Roustabout (Bassnectar Remix), Beats Antique
Seen the Rain, Rocket Empire feat. The Eloi
Bloodline, Matt Morris
Since I Fell For You, Gladys Knight,
Long Time Sun, Girish
Kreisleriana, Opus 16 n.4 —Sehr Langsam, Schumann

Mirage, Moroccan Blonde
In For The Night (Buddha Edit), The Moontrane Conductors
Tabla Toy, Beats Antique
Ramana, Prem Joshua
Dois Polos (featuring Raquel Pinto & Paul Sng), Asad Risvi
Simmer Down Jammie, Rocket Empire
Beauty Beats, Beats Antique
Move Me (Featuring Soliloquoy), Kissey Asplund
Shrine, Beats Antique
Rasta Baby, Gelka
Sharanay, Prem Joshua
(The Only) Dark in the Light, Rithma
Magpie to the Morning, Neko Case
Odin's Hill, Achillea
I Like the Sunrise, Amel Larrieux
Kreisleriana, Opus 16 n.4 — Sehr Langsam, Schumann

(Oh, and that's Nick and Amanda, aka MC Yogi and his wife, above right. Aren't they pretty?)