Monday, January 31, 2011

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

Our lives appear to be unbroken blocks of seventy or eighty continuous years, but, actually...when you maintain the straightforward frankness of your own mind as it comes to life each instant, even without effort, even without training, you are beautifully born each instant. You die with each instant, and go on to be born again, instant by instant.

....when you go to the kitchen to prepare dinner, be born in the kitchen. When you finish there, die. Then be born again at the dining table as you eat your dinner and, when you finish eating, die there. Be born in the garden, and sweep with your broom. When you get into bed at night, die there. And when daylight comes, and you awaken in your bed, be born anew. If you have cancer, be born with cancer.

Always now - just now - come into being. Always now - just now - give yourself to death. Practicing this truth is Zen practice.
~ Soko Morinaga Roshi, from One Chance, One Encounter

Read the whole thing over at Tricycle, once again your source for brilliant and humbling observations on being alive in a body on the last day of January, 2011. The samadhi of play. The Buddha nature of being born again in every moment. The "flickering, appearing, and disappearing" of the self, in union, in fusion. Go.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

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

Take an hour this afternoon to get out of your head and into your body. Join us today (and every Thursday) for free yoga - yes, darlings, I said free yoga - in the heart of the Mission. Roll out in your ratty sweats, tell the office you've got a Very Important Appointment, and haul yourselves to that gorgeous muraled building on 18th and Valencia.

I am so lucky to share this weekly date with some of my favorite people, inspiring colleagues who really throw their hearts into this practice. Join us, won't you? I mean, dude. It's free. And we practice in the Audre Lorde Room, no less. Talk about a fitting reminder to always, always find our ground, and to always, always speak our truths, and to find the connection, the flow, the erotic in the most broad sense of the term, in every breath.

3543 18th Street
The Women's Building

"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!"

"Some women wait for themselves around the next corner and call the empty spot peace but the opposite of living is only not living and the stars do not care."

~ Audre Lorde

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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

Controversy brewing in the yoga blogosphere over the recent NYT profile of supposed "rebel yogi" Tara Stiles. Not sure exactly what makes this pretty-lady yoga teacher a rebel: that she doesn't really use Sanskrit? That she wears sweatpants? That she's 29 and vaguely trained? That she uses social media to spread the yogic gospel?

The whole thing seems to me a bit of an overstatement. Stiles, with her emphasis on weight-loss, asana, no-bullshit teaching and supposedly anti-elitist priorities, really just reflects growing trends in the industry right now. I'd argue that the real rebels in the biz are the ones saying: fuck expensive classes. Fuck expensive pants. Fuck photoshoots. Let it be about the practice. Let it be about the mind. Let it be about the song, the breath, the stillness, the service.

It's easy to market yoga as the latest-and-greatest workout trend. A capitalist no-brainer, really. And many of us in the so-called "scene" realize that asana - a purely physical asana practice, with few philosophical intentions - can be an incredible gateway into the more holistic meditative and spiritual aspects of yoga. And that's fine. We all get there somehow. But - but - if you really wanna talk about rebels here, talk about the folks who are eschewing overpriced conferences and rejecting glowingly-lit videos and fancy retreats and celebrity clientele. Talk about the folks who are running donation-based studios and emphasizing bhakti and service and love over all else. Talk about the folks who use the yoga practice as a reminder that we find balance and strength and softness on the mat so that we can in turn take those skills and qualities into our lives off the mat. Talk about the folks who understand "yoga" to mean a union of rich and poor, old and young, healthy and sick, English-speaking and not.

Because there's your rebellion. There's your good intention in practice. The being a model-turned-yoga-teacher, the skipping-the-Sanskrit, it's not really out of the ordinary at all, you see. It's quite mainstream, quite safe, quite easy. Gimme more passion, more fire, more edge, New York Times, before you really try to anoint someone a rebel yogi. Because they're out there. They're chanting. They're serving. They're swimming upstream. You just haven't found them yet.

Tara Stiles's Brand of Rebel Yoga Draws Claims of Heresy (NYT)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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

We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important. Otherwise, if they are not, we can drop a bomb and it doesn't matter. . . Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency. A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp's half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer's task to say, "It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a cafĂ© when you can eat macrobiotic at home." Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.

~ Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor

These are not helping my recent obsession
with fingerless gloves. Amazing.

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

Last night I was at Gracias Madre with my beloved KRW. (Fairly standard story for a Monday evening.) Between lunch at Ananda Fuara and dinner at Madre, I was reminded how very lucky I am to live in a city with so many amazing veg- and vegan-friendly grub spots. Madre is warm and wooden and generally full of song and buzz; in the relative quiet we rediscovered plantains and butternut squash and the distinctly sweet pleasure of agave and almond milk in strong coffee -- and, most importantly, the remarkable creation that is the vegan and gluten-free Mocha Cheesecake.

Jesus. Wow.

Cheesecake tended toward the theme of the day. Aaron and Courtney both celebrate birthdays this week, and so their annual Blueberry Cream bundt made its way over yonder yesterday. Pic above left. I love the cheesecake flavor of this particular recipe. You've seen it often before, but never with mums and heather as pictured here. The best part? Coming home to a tub of leftover cream cheese frosting late last night. This is why we bake, friends. Those two words. Leftover frosting.

Tossing up a pic of another recent creation while I'm at it: this little guy was for Michelle's bhakti brunch last week, a Mocha Kahlua beast wrapped in purples and blues -- and vegan and gluten-free, I might add. I always hold my breath a bit when the restricted ingredients challenge a cake recipe, but this one turned out wonderfully, with some excellent fudge-y kahlua frosting to savor at the end of a long day.

Baking much less these days, but when I do, it counts. Grateful for these beloveds in my life for whom a little organic sugar and lot of vanilla extract can offer a little taste of celebration. It's all good, baby.

Monday, January 24, 2011

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

And the day broke clear and bright and Willie Nelson continues to croon Irving Berlin over and over in my mind, driving the rhythm of my feet. My beloveds on the East Coast are freezing their buns off with near sub-zero temps, and here we are sitting in paradise waking up to sun and sky and the most fresh still morning overlooking the palms in the garden.

Birthday cake to be baked and laundry to be done and much to be accomplished in these few hours before the day gets big, but in the meantime, Willie accompanies it all. Sit back, love it, listen to it, dig the key change, sing along, rejoice that you made the merciful decision to chop off your mullet back in the 80s and move to the Bay Area where January looks like 57 degrees instead of 8.

I am clear blue sky. One of my favorite mantras ever. Thoughts coming and going like clouds, floating past for a brief moment, and then blowing right by. What a perfect analogy for this practice of watching our thoughts. Blue Skies, shining on me. What more do you need? I mean, really.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

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

Love, love, love this ad from Feltrinelli Publishers. Props to City Lights Bookstore (icon of the Beat movement and home to rad writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) for highlighting this stellar piece of political art.

Advertising so often makes me crazy, yes, and thanks to Adbusters we know there's at least one voice out there decrying the commodification of so much of daily life. But here's a killer example of the ways in which advertising itself can be subversive: an artistic reminder, simple, no-bullshit, that reading is resistance; that thinking, really thinking, engaged mindful presence, can be profound; and that sometimes the most political act you can take is to just sit down, be quiet, and read a goddamned book.

Reading means resisting. Yes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

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

In fact, they'll probably make me love you more.

People without scars? Bland, boring, blasé. Vanilla milkshakes. Scars make us who we are. They mean we've got stories, evidence that we've been alive in these bodies that are ours for this brief shining flash of breath and muscle.

Undamaged goods? Meh. I always liked used books better, anyway. The dog-eared pages, the crinkles, the rips, the indecipherable notes scrawled in the margins: they speak of soul. Scarred, beloved, lived-in soul.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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

Hello, blog.

Hello, world.

Hello, no time to post no time to breathe no time to sing no time to do anything but be in this moment, here, now, enough. 2011 chugs along and it seems though there are plenty of thoughts being thunk, there's little writing being written. And here's your old girl Rach to say, hey, whassup, look at all that's on the horizon, a little birthday here and a little Bali there and before you know it, it'll be spring.

So, in the meantime, teaching and writing and singing and trying my damnedest to hoist the old silver horn to get the lip back in shape and the piano keys grooving again and the manuscript-in-limbo not so much in limbo anymore. There was a heartbeat of sorts yesterday, this great moment of stillness bequeathed by the unexpected gift of well, feeling sick as a dog, which planted me firmly in front of this powerful piece from Tricycle [natch] which managed to draw together dukkha and the Harlem Renaissance and intellectual history and black art and Transcendentalism and progressive theologies and one big splash of Krishna blue,

and I sat and read it and felt academic again for the first time in a while and thought of Martin Luther King, Jr., and marveled at the fact that he was what he was, and felt my heart sink at the awareness of really how very little progress we've made in the years since those shots rang out, and felt breath swell my chest on realizing that a voice exists out there saying these things in these intelligent words and that in fact there is after all a cultural space for exquisite connections and keen minds and cross-disciplinary revelation,

and it was enough,

and so here I am telling you to please do read this, do it for yourself, for your children, for your neighbor, for that rumpled man on the street corner, and feel smart, yes, but also feel connected and know how the arts and humanities really do overlap and remind yourself that if you're going to be alive, well honeybaby, you might as well be an artist in the project of it all, and all that requires is really a little rhythm and a lot of blues and a fearless fondness for the empty and a few unapologetically wordless moments

in spite of the cultural and personal temptation [mandate] to fill every silence

and sit there and claim that sunyata space and call it yours and swell it with breath and song and words (your own, no one else's) and know it will all get done and the sky will soften into twilight and yet it will still get done

in spite of the moon rising

and so you breathe and then you check a few things off the list and then you turn around and switch the phone to silent and rustle the dusty pages of that old song and sit yourself down, deliberately, consciously, with every cellular intention, and your inhales slow and your breaths begin to match the rhythm of your heartbeat and you know

it will all be fine

and your fingers begin to instinctively plunk out that old melody and you remember that really every song is just a variation on the same few notes
("And now the old story has begun to write itself over there," said Carl softly. "Isn't it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years." ~ Willa Cather, O Pioneers!)
and so you laugh at yourself for your foolish pretensions (aspirations?) at some sense of novelty and/or individuality and you revel in the undeniably comforting and reasonable fact that it really is all connected and nothing lasts and you are not alone

(and I am you and you are me and we are the universe; thank you, Tantra)

and that anatta, that non-selfness, that soullessness, that reminder of the ultimately liberating relativity of all selfhood, is really rather lovely on a Tuesday in January when the sun's begun to set and you've just spent an afternoon teaching and are due again for more in just a bit but in the meantime you have these precious few silent moments with sheet music and old-school jazz and a foot that taps and a forgiving soft pedal and a dishwasher that runs just loud enough to muffle your singing so the cranky neighbors don't complain and


it is enough

isn't it?

A Sangha By Another Name (Tricycle)

Friday, January 7, 2011

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

What are you up to tomorrow night? How 'bout a hot date with me in Rocklin?

So pleased to be co-teaching a beautiful charity event at ShriKula Yoga, just outside of Sacramento, along with several of my most beloved colleagues. Please join us for a free evening of philosophy, asana and charity to benefit homeless youth in the greater Sacramento and Placer Counties.

I'll be teaching the final section of the evening, focusing on aparigraha (fave yama ever!) and long deep stretches and twists, gliding right into a simmering savasana. Loving the excuse to dive head-first into my yoga philosophy literature once more, and to find a marriage there of soul and body amidst the dynamic flow. It's a treat to share company with folks who also appreciate a little wonky philosophy now and then - not to mention a good long hour spent in juicy Pigeon, a little Supta Baddha Konasana and perhaps even a little Shoulderstand to finish things out.

Join us, won't you? I'd love to share the evening with you.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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

The new year's been a cannon-burst of activity thus far. Yoga studio shenanigans all weekend, a solid day of cranking out mad writing on Monday (aided by some stellar bourbon, and pecan liqueur, and Kahlua...need I go on?), three pulsingly sweaty classes taught yesterday, and now a blessedly sunny and fresh morning for catching up.

(My garden's lush from all the rain. I'm waiting for buds on the apricot tree out the window. Any day now.)

In between times, I can't drag myself away from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Buddhist theory is generally so reasonable, so measured; Tricycle's features always provide the thoughtful-yet-challenging wisdom I need to get through a deadline, or a class, or a dinner party. Wee bit in love.

So really, you should try to swing by on a regular basis, for their daily dharma talks, their blog updates, etc. But for now, just start with this conversation with Buddhist teacher Lewis Richmond. This musician, entrepreneur, and generally rad dude has a few things to say that might just rock your world, including this:
Without the misfortune of my illnesses I would not be able to teach in the way I do today, which includes advising and counseling people about illness and loss. So in a dharmic sense, my illnesses were also gifts. The encephalitis brought me to my knees; but in Buddhist practice, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I got to find out what is really important, whether we’re talking about Buddhist practice or life in general.

When you take everything away, what have you got? That was the situation I had to work with. Having had everything stripped away, I understand that Buddha-mind does not depend on our capacities. The engine of practice is always there going. I unlearned a lot.

Sometimes when I’m asked to describe the Buddhist teachings, I say this: Everything is connected; nothing lasts; you are not alone. This is really just a restatement of the traditional Three Marks of Existence: non-self, impermanence, and suffering. I don’t think I would have expressed the truth of suffering as “you are not alone” before my illnesses, but now I find that talking about it that way gets at something important. The fact that we all suffer means we are all in the same boat, and that’s what allows us to feel compassion.
Boldface is mine, there in the last paragraph, because, well, I find Richmond's paraphrasing of the Three Marks of Existence so damn beautiful, simply so, and useful and reassuring, too.

I find that the busier I am, the more my monkey mind's whirring with the non-stop list of things that need to be done and people who need to be called and emails that need to be responded to, the more important it is to take a few minutes to slow down and center with a piece or two like this. Bookmark Tricycle's site. Whether you identify as Buddhist or not really doesn't have anything to do with it. What matters is the teaching, the ways in which it reminds us to be reasonable, and present, and compassionate, and kind. 'Cause that kinda shit transcends religions. Period. Amen.

(Happy new year, beloveds. I'm glad you're here.)

The Authentic Life: A Conversation with Lewis Richmond (Tricycle)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

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


"Last forever!" Who hasn't prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek