Thursday, July 19, 2012

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.

I am about to head out for the morning to pick up some groceries, do laundry, and run to the bank before teaching this afternoon.

Very sexy-sounding, I know.

When we sing to Guru Vishnu — the Preserver, the day-to-day, the space in between beginnings and dissolutions — this everyday "stuff of life" is what we're talking about. It's the teacher, the guru, in the errands, in the dirty clothes, in the mundanities, the brushing the teeth, the taking out the trash, the unsexy stuff that doesn't usually get mentioned when we're talking about deep spiritual awakenings and whatnot.

I have been making a more conscious effort the last few months to buy my groceries from the new little Chinese mom-and-pop veggie market that opened in the basement of a weird 1970s shop building down the corner from my place. It's a sweet little store in a cursed space that has turned over several times in the 9 years that I've lived in this neighborhood; it's seen a number of varied tenants, none of which has done particularly good business.

Whole Foods is up the street just one block past Golden Veggie Market. I used to make near-daily trips there. The cashiers knew me and my Kombucha-and-Lara-Bar habits well. Between fresh flowers and Honey Crisp apples and that devilish deli of theirs, I used to spend a fair chunk of change there. They don't call it "Whole Paycheck" for nothing.

And then, walking up the hill with my shopping bag one day, I realized that if I simply shifted every dollar I drop at this national corporation (which is doing just fine making ends meet, with or without my few pennies) to the scrappy little Chinese grocery on the corner (which offers much the same organic produce at much lower rates), I could make a world of difference in a few folks' lives, easily, on the regular.

This feels like yoga to me.

This feels like Guru Vishnu.

This feels like the teacher present in everything mundane.

I love that.

In theological circles, we call this "walking the walk" praxis. (It's not a coincidence that that word sounds a heckuva lot like practice.) Praxis means taking our spiritual beliefs, whatever they might be, out of the realm of the ethereal and into the realm of the real. Making them tangible, lived-in, present.

So, for me, praxis today will mean spending thirty bucks at a locally-run business, with the hopes that it might be able to survive. It feels subversive, this, looking out for the little guy. Putting money into this struggling new shop (bustling with hopeful energy, for sure, but still fighting against tough odds, particularly with the corporate behemoth up the street staring down its little indie neck) means that I understand what it's like to effort, to have a dream, to try to make that dream a reality, and one that maybe even pays the bills. Because I have been there, in different but parallel ways. And the yoga teaches us that we are one — that your struggle is mine, and mine is yours, and there is no separation. This means, of course, that your success is also mine, and my ease is also yours.

And so, suddenly, as all things do, it just becomes about compassion.

So we lift one another up. In small ways.

Even if that just means becoming a little more conscious about from whom we buy our cherries.

This is what Sri Aurobindo meant when he said: All life is yoga.

Holler out to Guru Vishnu, baby.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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

NEW class!! The secret Ashtangi in me is thrilled to be stepping in to teach Monday and Wednesday noons at AstaYoga (14th and Valencia). We'll rock an hour of Ashtanga-inspired freestyle vinyasa. You can count on your Surya A's and B's, the usual finishing poses, and a little wildness in between. See you at noon!

Learn a little more about Asta here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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

"The yogi reduces his physical needs to a minimum, believing that if he gathers things he does not really need, he is a thief. While other men crave for wealth, power, fame, or enjoyment, the yogi has one craving and that is to adore the Lord."
           — Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar

You see?  It's not about the stuff. Or the stretchy pants. Iyengar says so.

Monday, July 16, 2012

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

from your girl Rach — including, 
well, some pretty big news.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

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

Oh my gosh. This is so exciting.

Will you have dinner with me and Solyoga Trips next Sunday evening the 22nd? Say, after spending the afternoon touring a sweet Bolinas organic family farm, practicing yoga together in a barn-turned-art-studio, and rounding out the day with a stellar massage?

Details here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

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

Later her life would be full of things, full of houses and children and trips to the sea and husbands and hats with brims and dogs catching sticks and tables to set and lists to cross off and she would have left singing behind and the stars would never look this way again, they would be further away but at odd unexpected moments something of the stars might strike her and it would be as if someone had branded her forehead with a hot iron. She could not name it, the thing hitting her for an instant, and would not recall what had once been in her head at another time with other stars, but she would have the sense that she'd lost something and not know what it was and not want to find out. She sensed it might be too great to bear.

— Susan Minot, Evening

Revisiting a beloved book. Funny how the same piece of art can strike you differently — and so very much the same — in one moment as it did five years before. Such the power of speaking truth.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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

This is a must-read.

In her realistic, no-bullshit way, Susan Piver counters the idea that yogis and meditators must be happy-perky-cheesy Pollyannas all the time, and makes loving space for anger, fear, and sadness. LOVE it!

Here's a blurb, with a link to the full post to follow:
One of the very big misconceptions about meditation practice is that it will help you not to feel things too strongly—except for maybe peace, goodwill, and bliss (whatever that means). Eventually perhaps this will become true, but for most us, when strong feelings—especially strong negative feelings—are encountered, we view this as a failure of our practice. Like, if I was better at meditation, I could avoid becoming enraged when called an asshole by another driver (who was the asshole in this case, let’s face it) or the fact that my neighbor’s dog poops on my lawn every single day. I could avoid sorrow when my love is unrequited or I find that a dear friend is ill. I could avoid anxiety when I have to find a new job or have a scary appointment with the doctor.
In the sort of spiritually materialistic world we live in, we could find many suggestions for how to achieve such a state of implacability. Some of them are about avoiding dangerous situations (physical, emotional, spiritual) altogether by just staying home. Some direct you to assert yourself in the face of difficulty by taking strong action, fighting back. Some revolve around restructuring the way your mind works so that you only think the thoughts that make you happy and are thus able to “attract” good things—or, when bad things happen, you replace your sad and weary thoughts with perkier, brighter ones.

There is nothing wrong with making efforts along these lines. It is vitally important that we take precautions against danger by safeguarding ourselves on all levels. We should react boldly when it is called for. And of course we should examine our thoughts for self-sabotage and try to craft an inner environment of joy and positivity.

However. If we do so with the intention of creating a life where anger, sorrow, and fear have no place, then I’m afraid we will be quite disappointed.
Read the whole thing...

Strong Emotions & Meditation Practice

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

Another free 21-day Chopra Center Meditation Challenge kicks off next Monday, July 16th. It's a perfect beginner's intro to meditation. More on that here.

(What was it that Martin Luther used to say? That the busier he got, the longer he needed to pray every day? I think that's indeed how it works — substitute "practice" or "meditate" for "pray" and you've got the very same idea.)

It's a lot easier to stick with something when you've got someone to be accountable to. Let's do it together! I just signed up.

Monday, July 9, 2012

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

“Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it is really worth the trouble? Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person's face as you pass them on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street, and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. It's okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.”
                         ― Miranda July

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

Hey, y'all!

It's a week meant for catching up, and the summer fog has officially blown in, so you can expect lots of action around these parts. Let's start here.

Stoked to have one of my favorite little pieces of writing — "Summer in the City: The Yoga of Live Music" — published in the July/August issue of Common Ground. Check it out here or pick up your own copy in Bay Area yoga studios or newsstands.

Then haul yer ass outside, park yourself under a redwood, pop open a bottle of something delicious, and just listen.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

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

Morning, glories. What are you up to this long-ish holiday weekend?

I'm writing from Point Reyes, where the sun is strong and the sky is clear and the tunes are solid. (Yes, those are my feet, and yes, they are up. Life is good.) We've got so much to talk about, yes, lots of developments: dudes and new nieces and trees and plans, and a helluva lot going on in the yoga-sphere, too.

But let's start here.

Did you catch last Sunday's NYT article, "The Busy Trap"?  Everyone's talking about it, and, I think, often seeing a bit of themselves in it, too.  Read it here.

A few highlights:
If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”....

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it....It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do....

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day....[but] I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

....[This busyness] got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.
Yeah. Hell yeah. I related to this. Didn't you?

(Ok, not everyone did. Check out Joslyn's strong argument against it.)

But I grew up in a household that was informed by this sense that one's value is proportional to her level of busyness. The busier, the better. Doing, not being. There is most certainly an intangible underlying fear that drives this sense of scurrying, a vaguely Calvinist lack of trust in unconditional, inherent worth, a terror of sitting with the empty space, that rings true to me.

My mother, like many mothers, I imagine, was a "busy" one. People'd ask her how she was, and she'd sigh and say, "Ohhhh, SO busy!!" And I remember thinking as a kid that that was the way to be — well, because I was a kid and didn't realize there were other choices. But then across the dinner table was my Pops, who loved his job and spent his free hours putzing around in the garage or out in the yard, and he never seemed to need to qualify his worth by establishing how busy he was or serving on bullshit committees that he didn't want to serve on. He actually seemed, rather, to revel in the unscheduled hours spent in the woodshop or the garden or under the cars.

I look to that now as a model. Because, oh sure, I teach yoga and talk about being present and still and grounded and balanced out the wazoo, but living in the City, it's terribly difficult not to get caught up in the swirl of "hurry sickness" (to borrow my wise friend Briksha's term for this plague). Without enough conscious self-policing, I rush and overbook and plan and schedule like the worst of neurotics. There's certainly a potentially life-giving function to all that busyness; it makes us feel important and alive and connected, and, permits us to avoid those sometimes-terrifying moments of stillness and emptiness that force us to be alone with ourselves and our shit.

And, in defense of busyness, a lot of it, for me at least, comes from the awareness that life is short and we don't know how long we have. You know, the fact that we're dying and all. Losing a few dear friends early in their lives over the last few years has taught me soberingly well about how little future we can confidently plan on seeing, and how we really don't want to take any down-the-road moments for granted, because we might kick the bucket at 28 or 38 or 48. So part of my desire to maximize my hours with coffee dates and cocktails and working and playing and loving and living comes from the existential understanding that, honestly, I could die at any moment, and if I do, then hell, wouldn't I like to have lived well in the few breaths I had while I had them? You know, to have been really alive, really present, in a life that is impermanent and always in flux, a life that's for sure going to end one day?

(Anne Lamott describes it this way in Bird By Bird:
"I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I am dying, because the truth is we are all terminal on this bus. To live as if we are dying gives us a chance to experience some real presence. Time is so full for people who are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children. They spend big round hours. So instead of staring miserably at the computer screen trying to will my way into having a breakthrough, I say to myself, 'Okay, hmmm, let's see. Dying tomorrow. What should I do today?'")
Sobering, all this death talk, I know. But true. 

Spending time here in Point Reyes has offered me some of Anne Lamott's "big round hours," that forgotten childlike opportunity to just be in the same way that the author of the NYT piece found ease, grace, in his ease to Undisclosed Rural Location. This little Western town has 350 people and you know everyone walking down the street, you leave your doors open without fear, you know nothing's open past 9pm, so you just settle in and look up at the stars and call it a day. You stop rushing and just sit in the sun in the backyard. You chill out. You slow down. You go to the wee Inverness library and talk to the old lady behind the counter and realize how long it's been since you've a) been in an old-school library, or b) had a sweet conversation with an elder who knows a helluva lot about life.

So there's life in the stillness, in the quiet, in the peace. And somehow, in it, the days seem to stretch a little longer.

In these long languid summer hours up here on the coast, I keep thinking of writers like Annie Dillard and Willa Cather and Thoreau. They didn't (or still don't, in Annie's case) waste their time with cocktail hours and Facebook updates and YouTube bullshit. They spent their waking creative hours knee-deep in nature, seated by creeks with notebooks in hand, lost in haystacks in the prairie. They rooted themselves in earth and sky instead of Google and iCal. And their connection with spirit was evident, and rich, and present.

[Is the opposite of busyness spaciousness? Is that space what's required to create art, to write, to compose music, to paint? I have to say yes. I have to. Yes.]

That's what I want. That's who I want to be. The busy crap can pass. The sun, the sky, the stillness, the writing, the creeks, the crickets? Yes, please.


Friday, July 6, 2012

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

Save The Date: July 22nd

We are going here. Together. 
With yoga mats. (!!!)

Details to come.

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

"July came on with that breathless, brilliant heat which makes the plains of Kansas and Nebraska the best corn country in the world. It seemed as if we could hear the corn growing in the night; under the stars one caught a faint crackling in the dewy, heavy-odoured corn fields where the feathered stalks stood so juicy and green.”
           — Willa Cather, My √Āntonia