Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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

I find myself angry a lot when I read the news lately. Struggling to be open-hearted toward the politicians and voters who are working to limit civil and reproductive rights. 

It's one thing to talk about practicing ahimsa and living in love, but boy, does sh*t get REAL when you actually try to do it. Republican National Convention, you are my teacher...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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

Oooh. I'm in love with Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose, pictured here), but don't often find it taught in classes. Here's a great sequence from the magazine Yoga International that leads up to Firefly as your peak pose. 

Check it out. We'll be doing this one more often, guaranteed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

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

Okay, cake-lovers: it is ON. We're rocking a Yoga and Baking retreat!! 

Join me and Solyoga Trips for a holiday weekend escape rich with yoga, pastry flour, and hot tubs. You and me, Harbin Hot Springs, November 9-11th. 

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

We start most classes singing the Guru Brahma chant to thank all teachers. Today I'm singing it in a quiet, melancholy tone. 

Deep bow to the passing yesterday of Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D. — yoga philosopher, religious scholar, and writer extraordinaire. My life's work is inspired by his. So grateful for this trailblazer and his labor of love.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

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

Really looking forward to this new anthology, 21st Century Yoga, which will be published next month. Keep your eyes open for some strong, down-to-earth writing on the whole yoga biz.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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

We practice for a lot of reasons, right?

To wring out the yia-yias, to escape our chattering monkey minds, to learn how to be more patient, and even, yes, to get a little more flexible — literally and figuratively.

And another reason we do all this yoga stuff is to practice choosing how we react.

(God, that sounds so boring, doesn't it.)

But, seriously. Think about it.

You fall out of Utthita Hasta Padangusthana A after a few shaky breaths. Suddenly your mind floods with talk of failure and how pathetic you are and how everyone's watching you and judging you and you are the worst yogi that ever was so why don't you just throw your shit in a pile and roll up your mat and go get some ice cream because this sucks and life's unfair and what about that one time when Stevie Johnson broke your heart in 4th grade and didn't your brother get a bigger slice of the family financial pie than you did and it's so unfair and the weather sucks and you will definitely not get that apartment you're in the hunt for and the toast at breakfast was totally burned and that is just unacceptable and what's up with this weird zit on your nose anyway?

You get my drift.


One little "mis-step" and we freak out and get lost in stories of what was and what is and what will be, all because we just fell out of a pose or stubbed a toe or spilled the coffee.

I read the story below several years ago in Sharon Gannon and David Life's excellent book, Jivamukti Yoga: Practices For Liberating Body and Soul, and it changed my life. Gannon and Life write that

"The yogi accepts a pleasant turn of events with equanimity, knowing that pleasure and pain never last forever....It is wise to give thanks for everything that happens, knowing that the present situation can change in an instant.

Here is a story that illustrates the yogic mind, which has the capacity to be thankful for whatever happens:
There once lived a farmer. He lived on a farm with his wife, his son, and one horse that the family had raised from a colt. The family planned to enter the horse in the annual county fair and hoped it would win prizes that could lead to breeding opportunities. This would ensure a nice future income for the farmer and his family. 
The night before the fair, a violent storm swept over the countryside. When the farmer and his family awoke early the next morning, they found that the fences had been blown down. Their prize stallion was nowhere to be found. The farmer's wife was beside herself with despair. The neighbors came and joined in the wife's grief. "What terrible misfortune has befallen us!" cried the wife. "Yes, yes, this is most unfortunate," the neighbors agreed. But the farmer said, "Fortunate or unfortunate, I don't know, let's wait and see." 
A week passed and the farmer and his family were sitting at the breakfast table. Looking out the kitchen window they saw a herd of horses galloping toward the farm. It was their faithful stallion, leading five horses and a little filly behind him. He had found a herd of wild mares, and now he was bringing them home. The farmer's family ran out to open the corral gate for the horses. The farmer's wife was overjoyed and exclaimed, "What a fortunate turn of events, this is unbelievable!" The neighbors rushed over, exclaiming, "How fortunate you are!" The farmer just said, "Fortunate or unfortunate, I don't know, let's wait and see." 
Over the next weeks the farmer and his son were busy training the new horses. One day the son was thrown by one of the wild horses. He suffered a bad fall and broke many bones. The farmer's wife was very upset. Between her sobs she said, "We never should have let those wild horses in; this is a most unfortunate accident. My poor son." The neighbors came to commiserate with the wife about her misfortune. And the farmer said, "Fortunate or unfortunate, I don't know, let's wait and see." 
Two days later the king's soldiers came by the little farm. The king had declared war on an adjacent country and the soldiers had orders to draft all able-bodied young men into the army. On seeing the farmer's son with both legs and both arms broken, not to mention several ribs fractured and numerous lacerations on his face and head, they left him home and continued on to the next family. "The farmer's wife wept with relief, crying, "How lucky we are! This is most fortunate." The neighbors, most of whom had had sons taken off to war, said "You are indeed most fortunate." The farmer said, "Fortunate or unfortunate, I don't know, let's wait and see." 
Some months passed. The farmer's son was recovering nicely; he was able to walk, albeit with a cane. A messenger from the king's palace dropped by the farm to inquire about the health of the son. Seeing the son's improved condition he stated that by order of the king, the son must come at once to the palace to work in the gardens and stables. There was a shortage of workers at the palace due to the war. What could the family do but let their son go? The wife was bitterly angry and cursed the king for his unfairness. "How unfortunate we surely are! We have lost our only son and there will be no one to help us with the farm now." The neighbors came by to console the wife, murmuring, "What an unfortunate turn of events." The farmer just said, "Fortunate or unfortunate, I don't know, let's wait and see." 
The king had a beautiful daughter. One day she looked out of her window and saw the handsome new gardener. She fell in love with him and went to her father and said, "Father, I have found the man I wish to marry. Please make it happen!" The king, unable to resist a request from his lovely daughter replied, "Of course, it shall be done." 
The next day a messenger was sent from the palace to the farm, bearing a wedding invitation for the farmer and his wife, as well as an invitation for them to come live permanently at the palace. Can you imagine the reaction of the farmer's wife? She was ecstatic and could hardly contain her joy. Jumping up and down she laughed, "This is incredible, how fortunate!" The neighbors exclaimed, "Indeed, this is a very fortunate turn of events!" And the farmer, as usual, said . . . !" (p. 45-47)
And there you go.

Do you recognize yourself anywhere in there? In that dramatic, emotionally-tumultuous farmer's wife, whose notion of her life as charmed or cursed changed from event to event, according to her sense of what was fortunate and what was not? Or how about in the neighbors, who in every situation jumped in to escalate the drama of either the pleasure or the pain?

We are all, of course, the farmer's wife and the neighbors — at least until the teachings of yoga come along and help us to step back, take a deep breath, and take the long view. None of these characters would've thought that, back in the day when the original horse broke free and ran off, the chain of events that that very "unfortunate" event had set in motion would lead to, one day, the son marrying the king's daughter and the whole family moving to live at the palace.

Our lives are this way. We break bones and we lose things of great value to us and we find ourselves mired in situations that ostensibly reek of unfairness. We find temporary wild success or fall in love or get rich and we think we're set for life. The farmer's wife and her constant state of mood-swinging drama is pretty typical of the way most of us react to the events in our lives.

I see it on people's faces in class when they fall out of Natarajasana or land splat on their faces after Pincha Mayurasana. I see it in their frustration when they can't get their chests to the mat in Upavistha Konasana or get the "full split" of Hanumanasana. And in those moments, I always think of this story, and of the way in which the farmer chooses to react: not with drama, not with great joy, not with great sorrow, but always and ever drawing back to the midline, returning to that place of equilibrium, being present with the current situation with the wise perspective of one who's seen great change, and knows that more will inevitably come.

This acceptance of impermanence is the root of the story, of course: the fact that change is the one thing we can always count on, and that even our moments of most joyful pleasure and most difficult pain will all pass. So if we can just manage to stay with those moments in some measure of balance, of groundedness, of reasonable equilibrium, we can trust that, a few breaths along, both the sweetness AND the sorrow will pass.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

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

You should read this.

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

The beautiful thing about the dharma is that whatever arises is fine. The Buddha never said that some thoughts or feelings are bad and we should reject them. And there is no need to make a big deal about them or make them special either.

I think the point is to be natural with our experience…and to appreciate the unfolding of our life. Finding this place beyond grasping and rejection is the genuine resting place for a practitioner.

— Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

Thursday, August 16, 2012

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

It is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating them like machines. You would then let fresh air into your mind. Wouldn't you?
— Krishnamurti

(That would be a big YES to prana. Fresh air, whether it's literal or figurative, is crazy-necessary for sanity, no?)

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

Oh gosh, you guys. Super-exciting 
announcement coming up soon. 

Here's a hint. 

(And in the meantime, save the date: 
Nov 9-11th!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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

Just hauled 8 bags of faded clothes, vintage coats, and ancient luggage to the AIDS charity shop around the corner. Man, does it feel good to get rid of stuff. Even if it means saying goodbye to old selves in the process. 

Lighten the load. Start fresh. Let go. 

This is yoga.

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

There is nothing you can do except try to write it the way that it was. So you must write each day better than you possibly can and use the sorrow that you have now to make you know how the early sorrow came. And you must always remember the things you believed because if you know them they will be there in the writing and you won’t betray them. The writing is the only progress you make.
                    ― Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

(This has been a favorite of mine for over a decade now. It wields truth. And it reminds me of this gem from Ram Dass: “Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.” Yes.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

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

This is the chant we've been singing lately in class. (Sometimes I find it helps to see the words visually. At least, it's always helped me.) 

The words are from Patanjali's first Sutra, meaning "Now is the time for yoga to begin."

(The kicker, of course, is that we are truly singing this chant in every breath, in every new moment, whether on or off the mat. Now, here, atha, is always the time for yoga to begin.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

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

Yesterday at Downtown Yoga Shala we talked a helluva lot about Bhakti.  It was awesome nerdy fun. And I was touched to revisit these stellar words at left from Ram Dass, inspired, of course, by those below from Hafiz.

Nearly two years and a lot of Monday mornings have passed since I wrote the below words in October 2010, but they've hit me again anew, fresh, reborn. Those two sweet goddaughters have bloomed into four, and I am reminded, again and again, through their lightness, their fearlessness, and their divine sense of play, that the most achieved models of enlightenment we can look to are indeed the small children in our lives.

Read on.  For you, too, of course, are God in drag, and we affirm that reality every time we bow our heads to one another in Namaste, saying, speaking, literally, of course, that the divine spark in me bows to the divine spark in you.


Two of my three sweety-pie goddaughters at right: Clara Mae and Rachel Lynn, here, charming the pants off everyone they meet, of course.

This morning in the still, the quiet, that blessed Monday morning catching-up time that is my favorite part of not working 9-to-5, I've been reading Ram Dass, and marveling at the overlap of his irreverent teachings with that of the great Sufi poet Hafiz, who wrote

Sweetheart, O sweetheart, 
you are God in drag!!

Can you imagine how children would crack open and bloom if we taught them from early on that they are the divine wrapped up in a breathing-sweating-moving-growing package of human uniqueness? Doing what I can now and always to remind these little girls over the years that sweetheart, O sweetheart, in spite of what the magazines say or the playground bullies say or the too-cool-for-school kids say: you are God in drag!

What a beautiful and powerful lesson to teach the small ones in our lives. We who have come this far owe it to them to plant these seeds and water their unfolding petals with such life-giving, life-affirming, radical, righteous theology, countering the body-negating legacies that have taken hold in so many religious traditions over the years. Best of all, it's the kind of thinking that crosses boundaries, straddling Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and more. Now that is what I call good, hearty, rich, queer thinking about the sacred.

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

Hey gang. 

This is AstaYoga. Have you been by to check it out yet? The place rawks. 

I'll be there today for a sweaty power hour — lots of vinyasas, baby. 

Noon. Come.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

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

They're a lot more bearable when you start them right. 

9am, Monday, Urban FlowYou and me. 


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

Getting nerdy about philosophy as I prep to teach about bhakti this afternoon at Downtown Yoga Shala. This short article from Yoga Journal is a really great intro for anyone who's flummoxed by what that means, and why we call this song-infused practice of music and breath "Bhakti Flow." 

Check it out.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

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

Nine years ago today, I moved to San Francisco planning to be a theology professor.

Life had better things in store.

Now I live in leggings instead of tweed.

Bless the unexpected.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

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

Hey y'all.

A few of you have asked about today's playlist. Here you go!

(You'll notice a few tracks from Dirtwire; I'd recommend the whole damn album if you're a fan of those tunes. It's stellar and I've been using it for my home practices for a few weeks now. Same goes for the Ingram Marshall piece used for savasana; the album is called Evensongs.)
Origin, Quixotic
Lokaha, Wah!
Peaceful Steps, J Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Lotus, DJ Free & Brent Lewis
Le Sangre, J Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Om Tare Tuttare (The Red Fulka Remix), Deva Premal
Sailing the Solar Flares, Dirtwire
Om Triambakam (Sean Dinsmore's OMwise), Deva Premal
Rusted Railway, Dirtwire
Prana Groove, Stevin McNamara
Live High, Jason Mraz
Om Hari Om/Sharanam Ganesha (Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band)
Open, Rhye
Entrada: At The River, Ingram Marshall
Happy listening.

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

Today, August 9th, we celebrate Krishna's birthday. 

Happy birfday to the flute-playing blue god who told 
Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: "See me in all things 
and see all things in me." 

The sacred is indeed all around us.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

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

Fall in love with someone who practices. There are few silences sweeter than those broken by the breath on the mat next to yours.

(Oh, and that one, there?  
That's why I know.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

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

Summer 2012 Teaching Schedule

Urban Flow
1543 Mission St. (at S. Van Ness)
Mon 9-1030am
Tues 12-1pm
Weds 9-1030am
Thurs 12-1pm

Flying Yoga
4308 Telegraph Ave, Temescal, Oakland
Sun 1045a-1215pm
Tues 745-915pm
Thurs 8-920pm

OMpower Cycling & Yoga
66 Townsend Street (at 1st), South Beach
Tues 515-615pm
Thurs 515-615pm

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

Tuesday means we get three chances to kick it on the mat.

See you at noon, 5:15, or 7:45. Figure it out, kids. Make the time. (Just an hour will do!). Life's better, clearer, more bearable, more sweet, when you wring the stagnant, stuck, heavy stuff out and have that daily opportunity for a fresh start.

(I practiced twice yesterday — a hot sweaty afternoon class followed by a hot sweaty evening class — and damn, was it a treat. And damn, if those few hours didn't remind me of the power of just hitting the mat and doing what we so love, that getting out of the head and into the breath. It's an art and a meditation and a sanctuary, this.)

I read this the other day and was touched by how real it felt. For this writer, "solitude in a cottage-of-one's-own came to her with its own unexpected challenges."

It's easy to romanticize the most ideal setting for us for be creative, whether that means designing or writing or painting or composing or whatever — particularly for those of us who fancy ourselves maybe a little bit of an artist (which would, ahem, mean EVERYONE, or at least it should). I've long had this fantasy vision of escaping to a little cottage in the woods, a la Henry David Thoreau or Annie Dillard, wherein I'd promptly scribe the most incredible book of philosophy-cum-urban-narrative ever. That perfect space for creating is always just.....over.....there.

(Which is how a lot of us view our lives in general, I think. That perfect space for loving, for living, for working, for relaxing, for finding that elusive capital-H "Happiness" and "Contentment," is always just.....over.....there.....just beyond that overdue bill and this stubborn to-do list and that obligatory commitment and this bad lighting.)

It's easy to find an excuse for avoiding the vulnerability/labor/struggle/delight of actual creative work when we have all kinds of good reasons that it could be imaginarily so much better done somewhere else.

Like, if I just had a cabin in the Pacific Northwest all by myself with a wood-burning stove and no cell service and comfortable pants and a big bottle of vodka and a little bottle of Kombucha, I'd get that shit done in a heartbeat!

Funny. That's not how it works.

And that's why I loved this article so much. Courtney Martin writes, of "Life in Lady Writer Heaven," of the ways in which her little funded woodsy writing retreat forced her to realize that when she was actually finally smack in the middle of the Ideal Working Conditions For An Artist, all her shit came up.

Ha. Isn't that the truth?
"It can be the most romantic time of year to be a writer. A few of the luckiest among us head off to cabins in the back country corners of America to finish our novels, memoirs, and manifestos at much-coveted writing residencies. Book dreams that we incubated all of that busy winter are finally going to hatch in the light of a hazy summer day with a picnic on our doorsteps and all the time in the world to be indulgent about our words. 
I’m lucky enough to be at Hedgebrook Farm on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Seattle. I can walk through the northern part of the estate, covered in thick woods, and count little plumes of smoke wafting above the trees. The plumes come from the cottages—places with names like Waterfall and Willow, Owl and Oak, Cedar and Fir. Inside the cottages are writers. Ostensibly writing, but quite often not.  
While in residence here, each woman gets a “cottage-of-one’s-own” that would make even Virginia Woolf giddy. Each little wooden house has a wood burning stove, a big generous desk, a cozy loft bed, a French press for coffee—everything necessary for a dedicated writer. A resident’s days are her own, too. The only requirement is that she show up for a communal dinner at 5:30 pm, prepared by a round robin of local chefs who know just how to make a pie crust that does the just-plucked raspberries justice. Then you are ordered to leave without clearing your plate. They call is “radical hospitality.” At home, most residents call it “lazy teenagers.” Either way it feels outrageously luxurious.  
The funny thing about this freedom — all day, every day, for weeks to oneself — is that it is both blissful and sobering, about writing and not about writing at all. You face the blank page and all the outlandish expectations you had for what you would get done in your time here, but you also face something even more vast and unconquerable: your internal life. 
All those pesky heartbreaks and jealousies, regrets and disappointments, long drowned out by the fever pitch pace of modern life, are suddenly audible. The man you once loved, the friend you once trusted, the woman you once were—all return to take residence at your residency, where you were supposed to be all alone and writing the next Joy Luck Club or Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions
Suddenly it’s like you’re entertaining a crowd of ghosts in your little cottage — each one with its own unresolved issue to discuss. You study the hand-drawn map of the grounds as if there will be a test later. You start playing Fiona Apple and dancing like a banshee. You almost wish you had a sink of dirty dishes or a strategic planning meeting. 
It turns out that the outside world and all its demands aren’t just distractions from writing, as most writers tend to think, they are also buffers for our bruised psyches. They pull us away from our muse, to be sure, but they also protect us from our own demons. When there are phone companies to fight with, deadlines to meet, aging mothers to be nursed, eyebrows to wax—who has time to schedule in soul searching? ....
One morning, I woke up pickled in melancholy. Why am I so sad? I kept wondering as I wandered around the cottage. I’m supposed to be in lady writer heaven. I’m supposed to be productive as all hell. I’m supposed to be ecstatic, my fingers dancing across the keyboard. 
I ate the most delicious, locally farmed egg of my life—the proud orange yolk put pale Brooklyn yolks to shame—and I still felt sad. I flipped through the crackly, thin pages of The American Heritage Dictionary (who knew they still had those?!). I crawled into bed, frustrated with myself, and fell back asleep. 
I dreamt of past lovers, old mentors, college friends. I realized that it wasn’t such a mysterious thing at all: I missed people that I loved that were now lost. I still had some grief hiding in the less-traveled corners of my heart. I felt sad. I didn’t solve it; I just noticed it. And then I realized I wanted to write again. Suddenly my fingers were dancing across the keyboard, tapping out a deeper story than I would have been able to write before." 
Read the whole thing, ending with Virginia Woolf's (speaking of muses!) brilliant and poignant understanding of
"...a woman’s experience of finally being alone: 'All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others…it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.'”

I have long struggled with the push-pull of the desire for solitude versus the joys of company, which is a reason, of course, that Stephen Sondheim's music has always spoken so intimately to me. I love his ability, throughout the body of his work, to describe the tension between wanting that human experience of connection versus wishing only to escape into the solitude that allows for mindfulness and artistic creation.

Carson McCullers was a mid-century Southern Gothic-style writer. I discovered her first book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, as a 21-year-old recent college grad who'd fled the fullness of 5 years' spent on the East Coast for the blank slate (and the excuse to be quiet and bookish and alone) that living in Europe promised me. I spent days on end in silence, lost in used bookstores in Paris and Edinburgh and Berlin, devouring books (this was a time pre-ubiquitous-internet, kids, and definitely sans cell phone), and the upshot of that time spent reading and writing and sitting quietly on benches was that I discovered soulmates in pen, muses whose similar cravings for music and silence and space countered their (very human, very fundamental) desire for connection.  And though I'd crossed oceans and left my own relationships, my own world behind, those people, those lovers, those friends, those memories lived, perhaps even more vividly than they had in "real life," in my mind, which had so very much time to wander and wonder and muse.

We can cross oceans but still bring our lives along in our minds. And this, my friends, is why the power of yoga, of meditation — to detach from our thoughts, to know that, in fact, we are not our thoughts, and that our minds have the potential to create our own placid heavens or our own torpid hells — is so transformative.

"They change their sky, not their soul, who run across the sea." — Horace

I was up reading late last night and ran across this old piece of McCullers' (below).  The power of good, honest, raw writing, of course, is that even when it expresses sentiments like loneliness and fear and isolation, that kind of authenticity, expressed decades, generations, miles, lifetimes ago, rings true — and it makes us feel less alone. I have often thought to myself, in moments of doubt, in moments of wondering why the hell I keep this little blog, why I bother to think about writing, why I struggle, yes, sometimes to revisit these 900+ pages of manuscripts that yeah dude, swear to God, I am actually gonna get organized and revised and sent to agents one of these days, as soon as the plants are watered and the big moving decisions made and the car is bought and the windowsills are dusted and the bills are paid and fridge is cleaned out — well, that's why I keep at it, even in those moments. Because if these little words, little like Carson McCullers' felt little to her, make one person out there, even just one, feel a little less alone, then they're worth something. Then I have done my work.

Because I do believe, yes, that art and writing and song and spirit are all about just one thing: making us feel connected, supported, seen, a little less alone. Which is, really, when you think about it, yoga, right?

See you on the mat.

But maybe the last part of the symphony was the music she loved the best — glad and like the greatest people in the world running and springing up in a hard, free way. Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be. The whole world was this symphony and there was not enough of her to listen. 
                          – Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter . 

Monday, August 6, 2012

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

I'm so happy to be joining my friend and colleague Gary Kissiah, author of The Yoga Sutras, to teach an afternoon of Bhakti philosophy and vinyasa at Downtown Yoga Shala in San Jose. Please join us this Sunday, August 12th, 2:30-5pm. 

Half philosophy, half asana! Good times.

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

MC Yogi's album release party is 
this Thursday evening the 9th at the 
Asian Art Museum. Gonna be rad. 

See you there!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

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

Tomorrow night will be my last class at GLOW Yoga & Wellness. A huge thanks to everyone in the Glow community for such a wonderful run in North Beach! I'm ever grateful for each of you. Please join me Sunday at 6pm for one final vinyasa. Love!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

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

Hi, blog.

What is UP, dude?

I know. You thought I'd forgotten you.

Don't worry, I haven't.

It's just, well, life. It keeps getting in the way. We used to spend so much good time together, here on the couch, at my desk, sprawled on the floor. What can you do? Things happen.

I'm back.

And I have a whole approximately 15 minutes of not needing to be anywhere or do anything, in which I will happily give you the quickest stream-of-consciousness lowdown ever on what's new and exciting and not-exciting here in Pacific Standard Time on the downslope of Nob Hill before the summertime fog rolls in.

In no particular order:
  • I'm in love. Even engaged. Yep, it's true. (Weird, right? I haven't believed in marriage since approximately 1996, an ethical stance which has only been deepened over the years thanks to degrees in sociology and gender studies and graduate work in queer theory and anecdotal observation watching the ways in which marriage often turns once-electric relationships into sexless suburban bourgeois hellholes. But that's another blog. While I'm meaning to write, I promise, I will.) Anyhoo — that has a little something to do with being fairly absent of late. Still trying to figure out the whole continue-to-be-productive-and-creative-whilst-in-a-great-relationship thing. You know? The cool thing about past flings being, er, less than perfect, was that I never wanted to be with them all the time. It was easy to say "piss off" and hunker down in front of my computer with my ratty books. This time around, not so much. Point Reyes calls. The ocean calls. My bed calls. Such is life.
  • Crushing on Ashtanga, hardcore. Loving the rhythm and the pace, the cadence, the intensity, the athleticism. One of the many graces that my mister has wrought in my life has been an introduction to AstaYoga, a sweet gem of a studio down on 14th Street between Valencia and Guerrero. With it, I've had the chance to befriend and now work with many former students of Larry Schultz's. Learning so much, loving it all, digging the rhythms of this populist practice more and more every day. And if you pay attention in my classes of late, you'll see (and feel) that Ashtanga influence in what we do, too.
  • Simplicity. I didn't go to Wanderlust this year, after attending (and yes, pretty much liking it) for the last two summers. Not going felt a little bittersweet and a lot relaxing. We stayed home and read on the front porch and ate greens and french fries and got enough sleep for once. I'm noticing the photo albums spawned from the sunny yoga festival in Tahoe last weekend and realizing even more how "over" the "yoga scene" I am feeling. And feeling the tug, more and more, of the desire to dig my heels into the solid ground and not let myself get lost in the self-promotional celebrity scene that the "yoga industry" is increasingly becoming. I don't want you to buy my shit — my podcast or my DVD or my branded mat. I just want to help you practice. I just want you to be able to breathe a bit. I just want to give you a few tools to get out of your head. Cool? I see all these wannabe celeb-ri-yogis hauling their asses all over the country in pursuit of fame and wealth, and it makes me sad. I'd rather be here serving a small local community, present long enough to see people's practices and bodies and minds evolve. That's the real yoga to me. Not the getting my face plastered on somebody's poster. That's another business completely.
  • I'm tired. Yep, gonna say it out loud. Tomorrow is the final day of a 10-day advanced practitioner training at Urban Flow. I've been loving the time with my beloved Urban Flow family, the early morning chanting, the deep pranayama work, and the languid humid sweat dripping down the studio windows, how looooooong the days seem when I get up at 5am; I've not been loving driving in from Point Reyes at 4:30am to get here in time for the 6:30-8:30am practices. It's such a struggle to stay present in meditation when you're just trying not to embarrass yourself by snoring. And I've realized that while I adore practicing that early in the morning, it's been a great struggle to let go of that sacred few hours at the beginning of the day that are all mine. I've always been a morning person, having long loved the quiet early morning hours before most of the world wakes up, digging the silence and that sense of calm-before-the-storm. Those are my most productive hours for writing, for thinking, for practicing, for being really present in a kind of introverted way that allows me to get through the rest of the day. So it has been a challenge to see those few sacred hours disappear. And I'll admit that I'm ready to have them back. I figure, if you look to every experience like this as a teacher, you'll just learn more and more about what's best for your art, your heart, your life, your spirit. It's all practice. Though I think the mister will be more happy than anyone to have me not shuffling around the house making coffee at 5:30am.
  • (What is an "advanced practitioner," anyway? Aren't we all beginners? So what does that mean? I think, somehow, that is the point of this training. Today Rusty talked about the 1st Sutra: Atha Yogah Anusasanam. "Now is the time for yoga to begin." Always and ever, brand new, becoming, beginning, open to stretching and learning and growing and letting go.)
  • On a side note, I am loving rocking a lot of inversions and arm balances these days. If you're interested in learning how to fly in a very cardio-heavy practice, get thee to the Mission.
  • Reading and loving Susan Cain's book on introversion. Feel as though it validates, well, my existence to this point, and the ways in which I find myself craving silence and solitude, and wishing for parties to end. So lovely to find a sense of community and affirmation in her profiles of folks who can be at once outgoing and quite private. There are few things that make me as happy as alone time with a book or in front of my computer or my keyboard. These spacious quiet moments are really what allow us room to grow and create.
  • There's more, I know, but I'm tired and looking at the clock realizing I need to head out the door in just a few minutes. Teaching at OMpower tonight at 5:15 (come!) and Flying Yoga following that at 8 (come to both!). Could not be more grateful these days for the folks I meet in the studio on a regular basis.
  • We had a great time at Gospel Flat farm for our first-ever Farm-To-Table yoga dinner with SolYoga Trips. Mickey was charming and oh-so-knowledgeable, we learned a ton about growing and weeding and crafting and fixing, and we practiced some sweet asana in the barn-turned-yoga-studio. All good.
  • Wine tasting tomorrow with my dear friends Edd and Vicki and crew. For as long as I've lived in San Francisco (9 years next week — what?!?), I've not taken advantage of Napa's proximity as much as I really could've. I'm a lightweight these days (too much time on the mat and too little time bellying up to the bar — and did I mention those early mornings?), so a few wineries in, I should be suitably, erm, "loose." Mostly, I'm excited for sun and sky and nature and good company.
  • Hey, buddies. Go to this. Next Thursday, August 9th. I'll be there. 
Much more happening around these parts, but I'll leave you that for now. Wanted to check in and assure you that, no, I've not died, and yes, I'll be back, for sure as soon as I have my early mornings to myself and my books and my coffee once more. Love to you on this sunny Thursday afternoon in San Francisco.

Thank you for all that you are. Thank you for reading. I am always still a little surprised that anyone does.

We are always brand new. In every breath.

Happy August.