Friday, November 30, 2012

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

This "most popular baby names" list is always so fascinating to me. 

Tell me you haven't met a kid lately named Sophia or Ava or Emma or Olivia or Zoe or Jack or Aiden or Henry?  How does that happen?  Especially when, ten years ago, there were so few Avas or Aidens to be found?  The sociology of why and how we name children, and how those trends shift over time, just intrigues the hell outta me.

My name had a good run in the late 1970s, but since then, there haven't been a ton of Rachels.  Fine with me.  The moniker has a strangely ahistoric feel to it; I mean, it's not exactly your 1980s "Tiffany" or "Tracy," what with the whole Old-Testament-origin thing going on.  But I dig classic.  And all of my sibs have managed to escape the whole unfortunate "mass popularity" or "clear cultural moment" branding-association thing. 

Good job, Mom and Dad.

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

Nerd alert!!

Stoked about these new Yummi Yogi asana cookie cutters that arrived yesterday.  Perf for the little bakers in your life — and just in time for holiday season.

I'm gonna roll up my sleeves and hit these puppies hard tomorrow in preparation for Sunday's workshop at OMpower.  Great excuse to stay cozy and avoid the rain.

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

I'm teaching again Saturday morning at Yoga Toes in Point Reyes.  8:30am, gentle flow.

Throw on your galoshes, grab a latte at Toby's Feed Barn, and stick around for MC YOGI's class to follow.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

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

Windy Thursday morning.

We're hunkered down for what promises to be the second of three major winter storm systems due to hit the Bay Area in the course of the weekend.  "Three major winter storm systems" out here means something a helluva lot softer than what it would've meant growing up on the prairie, but still.  Water, wet, wind.  We're braced for a formidable slap across the face from the Universe.

Don't mind it.  I'm digging the quiet, the turning in, the yin everything of this winter season.

Also digging the kindling in the woodburning stove currently getting its burn on to my left.

Speaking of the prairie — we've been trying (and failing) to watch the new Ken Burns documentary on The Dust Bowl which is streaming on PBS through the 4th of December.  We've started it a few times and then given up when a few minutes into it the damn thing is buffering so often we can't watch it. (First-world problems.  Also known as: holler out to not having a TV, whoop!).  But I'm committed to seeing the whole thing; I can't believe how tight in the chest I feel on seeing the vistas and the sweeping grasses and remembering that scrappy populist farmer spirit that my grandparents modeled when they lived through the devastation of the 1930s on the farm.  Am convinced that shit is powerful, and life-changing.  And I trust that as a kid I learned a lot from just knowing what they'd been through.

(Funny how regionality informs your understanding of the world.  The mister, who grew up on the East Coast, was stunned to see images of the Dust Bowl.  He hadn't heard much about it growing up.  Well, of course not.  And of course I had, growing up as I did smack in the middle of all that action.)

We have a Christmas tree.  Sweet Chris G. gifted us with one fresh-smelling little guy (speaking of scrappy) from the seasonal stash over at Toby's.  And it's perfect.  Snuggled in right there next to Hanuman and the Buddha.  And lovingly wrapped with silver ribbon and white lights.  Documentation herein.

I've been driving a lot this week back and forth to San Francisco, which means I've been up to my ears in new (enriching, thought-provoking, humbling, world-rocking, energizing, motivating) podcasts.  Highly recommend anything from Sounds True (check out Tami Simon's interviews with Richard Freeman and Jim Finley, with big props to my old girl Sarah for turning me on to these), as well as the rich resource that is (head directly to this fabulous podcast from Prahaladan Mandelkorn on the Bhagavad Gita).

I listened to Prahaladan not once, but twice as I drove to and fro, and couldn't believe the lightness, the laughter, the ease, the wisdom, the sense of play in his teaching.  At alternate times in his talk, dude whips out his guitar and sings, dude references the Oscars, dude lapses into a kind of grounded, wise knowing in which the listener can simply rest.  Maybe it's his warm Santa Claus voice, but there's something about this teacher that really moved me.

I am convinced that, as Taoism and so many other traditions remind us, one of the most telling symptoms of enlightenment is this very childlike sense of play.  We often subscribe to some silly idea that Really Wise People are very sober and serious and earnest and devoted.  And sure, I suppose some are.  But I believe, and I see around me, that the folks around who appear to be most wholly living their practice are the ones who are really damn light.  The ones for whom laughter comes easily.  And for whom a sense of this divine play ("leela") is evident in everything they say and do.

[Blog time out to rearrange the tree.  After slapping some ribbons on a few nights ago and calling it good, babe walked in this morning with new white lights to adorn it.  And, being the perfectionist that he is, after putting them on an hour or so ago, he stood back, took a hard look, and proclaimed it mishigas.  So, I hauled my ass off the couch, stood (aspiringly-)patiently trying to unravel the tinsel, and then we proceeded to take everything off the tree and put it back on again so that the white lights look perfeck.  Points to the mister for being adorably detail-oriented.  I thought I was clean and tidy until I met this one.  And now I'm getting schooled.]

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Two more calendar-type things this morning:

1.  Saturday morning I'm teaching a gentle flow at Yoga Toes Studio here in Point Reyes.  Do join me.  I can't believe how much I'm loving the mellow flows these days.  After grounding my practice in ass-kicking amazingly aggro-asana for years, it's kind of sweet to take things down a notch and really dig deep.  8:30am, Dec. 1st, kids.

2..  Please do join us, too, ladies, for our second chicks' gathering at OMpower this Sunday.  We're talking shiatsu massages, restorative yoga with hot stones courtesy of Peter Wong, chai and cookies (baked by Yours Truly), a Yoga Ninja trunk show, and a few tools for keeping it real (and staying sane) this holiday season.  Sign up here, or just roll up Sunday at 1.

We're seeing Sean Hayes this weekend at the Independent.  Do you know his stuff?  Fab local musician.  Really worth listening to.  Can't wait to hear his openers, too — Birds of Chicago.  Seriously crushing on these two songbirds.  Give 'em a listen.

And while you're on the music trail, check out Ben Leinbach and Prajna Vieira's newest, Amrita.  Favorite new album.  You know these two from many of my class playlists.  Gorgeous melodies, more Bay Area indie musicians, and seriously bhakti-full intentions.

On a less-musical note: do you live without irony?

And did you see this little piece on the daily routines of famous writers?  It makes me want to be Joan Didion and Simone de Beauvoir all over again.  (How can you look at that photo of Joan and not want to be her?).  Annie Dillard, too.  Virginia Woolf, too.

(Sigh.  There is so much I want to do and be and not enough time in the world.  Do you feel this, too?  Last March in Costa Rica I resolved to be singing in a jazz trio and playing my trumpet again by the end of the year while wearing a sparkly red vintage gown — that red gown part is key, along with the red lipstick, although the trumpet might challenge that a bit — and here we are staring down December with no jazz trio in sight and a lip that's horribly not yet in shape.  Anybody know of a combo that needs a brunette in a red dress with dusty trumpet skillz?)

I think the lesson is just to be here, in this moment, over and over.  It's so easy to get lost in analysis of the past (damn, why didn't I buy a Powerball ticket?) and fantasies about the future (tomorrow I will finish the last chapter of that manuscript and send it to agents and promptly make a gazillion dollars so all I have to do every day is practice yoga and blow my horn and listen to charming old men with Santa Claus voices lecturing about the Gita), and thoroughly fail to be in this present moment, which right now looks like

a fire in the stove next to me heating up the room for my soon-to-unfold morning asana practice
a dreamy babe wearing a newsboy cap working at his desk in the next room
a windy winter morning reminiscent of the prairie
new books to read
a fascinating article on former lululemon CEO Chip Wilson that makes me want to wear stretched-out Target sweatpants and ratty old sports bras to practice in from now on, just to be contrary
Blue Bottle coffee and soy creamer in the mug at right
a dear old friend's birthday today
cookie cutters due to arrive in the mail from New Jersey where the fabulous Yummi Yogi lives
a reminder that the world is small
fresh honeycomb and quickly drying-up gluten-free cornbread on the countertop that are begging to be eaten
the onset of horizontal monsoon-level rain
coffee with my girl E this afternoon
a reminder that all things pass
so you sure as hell better be in it
while you've got it.

Yessirree, I'll take it.

That.  That very fire below right.  Waiting for me to bust into a few sun salutations to the accompaniment of the rain.

I've cooked dinner a few times this week.  This is strange, for three clear reasons.
  1. I don't particularly like cooking.
  2. I don't particularly like dinner.
  3. I don't particularly like doing things that make me feel like a bourgeois suburban wifey, or a middle-aged lady, or my mother.
Obvious enough.  I'm a [recovering, now-more queer, postmodern eco-] feminist, I'm someone with a long and historic lack of interest in food, I ideally prefer raw foods for political and health and anti-consumeristic reasons, and I generally avoid doing anything that makes me feel like the suburban housewifey I've spent my life heretofore trying not to become.  I could easily live on raw broccoli and hummus and a Power Bar (erm, I mean, some nuts) now and then and be fine.  You know, dude?

("But you love to bake, Rachel," the masses counter.  "What's the deal?")

Dude.  Cooking is a wholly different beast from baking.  When I bake, it feels more like an art project than a process-of-creating-something-to-consume.  When I bake, it's more about making something that can be an offering to someone else.  It's a moving meditation that usually doesn't involve juggling six different pots and 12 different ingredients, all of which need to be delivered hot and steaming to the plate for consumption exactly at the same time.  Cooking, not so much.

The mister isn't a huge cook, either.  Most evenings, I'm teaching, so we navigate simple bites on our own.  And when I'm not, we dig a nice dinner out.  With wine and quiet and breath and hot food and no clean-up.

But I'm trying.  As my most-fab friend and colleague Andrea Maltzer says, we're changing our story.  So last night we rocked some delicious roasted potatoes and quinoa and steamed vegetables and brussels sprouts and the aforementioned quickly-drying-out cornbread.  And it was fine.  Delightful, perhaps.

But I'm not quite ready to dive into that territory.  I read that link above about the daily routines of famous writers and I think to myself, Joan Didion definitely did not spend her early thirties stirring broccoli and simmering quinoa and trying not to burn the potatoes.  She was sipping a martini at her typewriter and hammering out something brilliant.

So we'll see.  This domesticity thing is for some.  And not for others.  And manuscripts aren't gonna see any progress if I'm spending rare evenings at home in the kitchen.

But I know there's a teacher somewhere in this, too.  We're reminded, of course, that Guru Vishnu is in the day-to-day, the boring, unsexy, daily-grind type routines of our lives.  So what am I supposed to learn from taking on this new, oft-dreaded, unfamiliar beacon of bourgeois domesticity?  Do I cook in the nude wearing nothing but punk boots and a glittery apron while swilling vodka to prevent the whole act from becoming one more lapse into heteronormativity?  Or do you say: hey, I'm gonna queer this whole thing so it's rad and smart and life-giving and not some throwback to something I don't wanna become?  And at what point do you decide you're just not a dinner person and let go and order take-out?

Props to all of y'all who love it.  We'll be over at 7 tonight.  Set two extra place settings.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

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

Once again, Pico Iyer nails it.

This is so much yoga.  Great read for anyone who's ever worried about anything.

The more I study, the more I listen, the more I learn, the more I realize that yoga's all about training the mind, watching the thoughts, simply transferring the tactics of seated meditation to the yoga mat.  Simple.  Profoundly difficult.  And potentially life-changing.

I know and love so many folks who are wracked with anxiety.  People whose lives are suffocated, driven, constricted, by the worrying that comes of a full monkey mind that just will. not. stop. thinking.

And that's what yoga is.  It's the finding that sacred moment of pause between our stories of the past and fantasies about the future.  That's what Pico's talking about here.  And that's a glimpse of sweet salvation for anyone who's been run around by the kind of thoughts that oppress.

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

Sooooo, this is happening a week from today.

Sunday, December 2nd, 1-4pm.

Gonna be rad.

Join us.

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

We have a few schedule changes this week at Urban Flow to accommodate the Bhakti Flow teacher training.

Check 'em out — and see you mañana at 9am for our usual Monday morning jam.

Friday, November 23, 2012

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

Black Friday.

My favorite day of the year to not shop.

Happy Buy Nothing Day, dudes.

Dunno about you, but I'll be busy hiking and breathing and sweating and reading and drinking coffee and being with my lovies and sitting in the sun on the porch and practicing yoga and writing and generally avoiding any and all semblances of big-box store mayhem.

I love not shopping.

(See santosha, aparigraha, bliss.).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

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

If you think you're enlightened, 
go spend a week with your family.

— Ram Dass

Friggin' love it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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

Practicing the Rocket II this morning. Amazed by and grateful for the myriad friends and teachers in my life who were once taught by Larry Schultz.

Seriously a lineage.

Testament to the power of one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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

OMG.  I have no words.

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

Whassup, kids?

Wednesday morning in Point Reyes.  Smack in the middle of Diwali, and I'm so full of blog-o-licious stuff I don't really know where to start.

It's a holiday in which we usually celebrate Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, but this morning I'm feeling a lot of Saraswati coming on — she at right, goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts.

Muses everywhere I turn.

Inspired by this video from Barack himself, which offers a sweet intro to Diwali, a nod to Jainism, and a helluva lot of mindfully-spoken words.  God, I dig that man.

My baby bro Mikah wrote this blog, "Slapping Gay Christians in the Face," for the Huff Post the other day.  So proud of him.  Reading his writing left me with so very many mixed emotions.  I thought to myself:
  1. Badass job, little bro. Way to go.
  2. God is love.  Period.  And any religion that says otherwise is off-track.
  3. How lucky were we to be raised by parents who taught us that the divine is loving (and leftist, too).
  4. Gay rights are human rights.
  5. Christianity will only remain relevant if it abandons literalism.
  6. The current state of Christianity in America makes me so. fucking. sad.
  7. This is a big cultural battle that is so little about actual theology and so much about fear.
  8. Fighting is exhausting.
  9. There are a lot of scriptural conversations to be had that could support any position, really, if you're looking to support it.  Ideology + theology = religious fascism.  Must be careful.
  10. I need a drink.
But seriously.  It was such a reminder, in so many ways, of the life I had once chosen and left behind.  I dove into graduate study in radical theologies because I wanted to transform this culture of conservative Christian fear.  Because I believed that God — in whatever form that word means to you — could only be loving, and life-giving, and justice-cultivating.

And I got burned out.  Because I didn't want to spend my life fighting.  Because, the truth is, these days, if you want to be a beacon for progressive theologies (Christianity in particular), it means swimming culturally and politically upstream.

And life is so short to be angry all the time.

So I felt proud and sad and excited and exhausted, all in one, in reading Mikah's article.  I'm so glad he has the passion to speak on behalf of a loving, all-inclusive faith.  And I, for one, was motivated to dig out my old theology books and do a little revisiting.

I'm in that nerdy student mode these days, you see.  Saraswati in the house, baby.  Hungry for learning.

And listening.  A lot.

One of the aspects of my recent move that I was most unsure about was the new commute.  I'd suddenly be spending upwards of 2 hours in the car nearly every day, as opposed to well, zero, for the last 9 years or so.  Big difference.

But I wanted to find a way to not dread this new shift. To see it with new eyes; to view that 2-hour chunk of time not as "lost" or "wasted" or "goddammit, the time I could've spent doing asana instead of sitting on my ass in traffic"; but well, pardon the cheesy yoga-ism, to "look to the light" in the situation, Gayatri Mantra-style, yo.

So I changed the story.

I starting telling myself that this new commute thing was actually a gift.  Because it meant I'd actually pick up the phone (erm, "hands-free headset") and keep in better touch with all of my long-distance loves.  I mean, what else could I do in those moments of just sitting?

And that's proven true.  My siblings have been shocked by the frequency with which this phone-fearing sister has been calling to just say "hey, petunia, what's new."

But even moreso, the gift of that little drive, just two weeks into this new home of ours, has been the time it has offered to study.  Yeah, to study!  Can you believe it?!?

I started with listening to some old audio tapes we'd found in the process of moving.  Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within.  Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart.  And those alone were fabulous.

But then.

I bought a new gadget.  And it has lots of storage space.  And the fastest downloading skillz around.

Podcasts have cracked open a whole new opportunity to literally spend two hours a day listening to dharma teachers.  Soaking it up.  And you have to understand — as the former bookish college student in the front row who always had a fountain pen in hand and one ear cocked, a total whore for a good lecture — it's a dream come true.  Totally, dude.

To the point where I can't wait to have to get in my car again.

I'm listening.  Just listening.  And how wonderful it is to receive.

And I feel pretty evangelical about this action.  As in, I woke up this morning, reached for the iPod, and subscribed to six more teachers before even once rolling out of bed.  Kind of want to scream it from the rooftops.  For as much as I've ever talked smack about technology, this free dharma teaching is really the bee's knees.

What I'm listening to (in other words — get in there, search for these names, and fast!):
Sally Kempton
Buddhist Geeks
Centre of Gravity
Eckhart Tolle
Susan Piver
Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now
The Interdependence Project
Ted Talks (particularly the ones by Brené Brown on vulnerability and shame)
Carlos Pomeda
Where Is My Guru
These alone are so rich, and so inspiring, and they're just a start.

Search for Rosemary Radford Ruether, too, and you'll get a taste of my own badass graduate school mentor.  She's done some powerful work with Catholics For Choice and all kinds of feminine-celebrating religious traditions.  And she's probably about 80 by now, I'd guess.  Kali in action!!

I could go on

The lessons, though, if I may —
1.  It's true.  Your world becomes what you choose to see.  If you choose to see a shitty hour-long commute as your most dreaded and boring part of the day, and resent it every time you turn on the engine, and moan and groan about how miserable and unlucky you are the whole time, that's what you'll experience.  That's what you'll get.

And if you choose to see that same commute as a teacher, an opportunity, a lucky gift, your experience of that sacred hour will be entirely different.  Positive.  Life-giving.  Eckhart Tolle even used this commute example in the podcast that I listened to last night.  He talked about it as one more chance to be alive in a body, to see the trees that pass and the skies up above and the little things that populate and energize our worlds.

He's right.  It's all about where your mind chooses to put your attention.
2.  There are teachers all around, if you tune your eyes to see them.  I'd been feeling so conflicted about the "loss" of those hours I would've usually spent practicing, moving my body, breathing, those sacred few free moments when I get to fill my tank with asana.  And now I can only laugh and marvel at the fact that I've been graced with two whole hours a day to study with the best dharma teachers in the world.  All at my fingertips.

It's like going to college again for free — at the best university in the world — only with no obligatory calculus classes to take, and no exams, and no hangovers, and you get to wear yoga pants to class, and eat trail mix while you listen.
Hot damn.

On other fronts: stay tuned for the official roll-out of a long-in-the-making book club in the next week, a few playlist suggestions, and upcoming workshop action, too.

Much Diwali love.   Much pre-Thanksgiving love.  Much post-election-glow-thank-goddess-Romney-wasn't-elected love.

Now start downloading.

Monday, November 12, 2012

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

Celebrated Thanksgiving last night with several of my amazing colleagues at OMpower Cycling & Yoga. Meet Elliott, Peter, Shirin, and Mariah. 

Whether on the bike, on the mat, 
or on the street: they're fab.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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

Blue is the color of Krishna.
Blue's also the color of....

Just sayin'.

(Guess which color I'm wearing today??)

Friday, November 2, 2012

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

'Nuff said.

Next Tuesday matters.  A lot.

And I have been quite struck by some of the toothless, wishy-washy, "everything's gravy" silence from the national yoga community at a time when speaking truth fearlessly — satya — really matters, for our future (and the planet's future, and our uteruses' future), yo.

So I was thrilled, yes, thrilled, to see this article published on elephantjournal yesterday.  Read it.  The whole thing. For reals.

Here's a preview.

Matthew Remski writes:
"Approaching the eve of this critical election, I’ve been bothered by two political stances within the yoga demographic. One is etheric to the point of dissociation: 'Whatever change we desire will only come through a change in consciousness.' The other is flaccid and polite to the point of meaninglessness: 'Yogis can use the political process to express their values, off the mat.'
Here’s the problem: neither are adequately muscular to the task of preventing a hateful, mendacious plutocrat who evades taxes to tithe to a racist jabberwocky church from seizing the reins of power. My question to the yoga community at large is: why have we not seen a single prominent teacher or yoga organization formally and publicly endorse the Obama-Biden ticket? Do we not want to get our hands too dirty? Are we too busy pretending It’s All Good? Are we even a community at all? ...."

He continues, deftly breaking down these two spiritually-bypassing, evasive stances.

Remski then provides this essential call-to-action:
Here’s my suggested platform, which I think makes sense for the majority of the yoga demographic:
        – Given that Mitt Romney’s discernible platform stands to set socio-economic justice, women’s rights, ecological stewardship, scientific research and foreign relations back by several generations, and
        – Given that much more of his platform is actually indiscernible due to his pathological lying and opportunism, and
        – Given that he is an ordained operative in an exclusionary religious institution rife with the anti-rationalism, anti-environmentalism, and magical thinking that is anathema to the culture of yogic inquiry:
        – Incumbent President Obama remains the better and at least known choice, and should be passionately supported by yoga practitioners.
Simple, no? Anyone disagree? I know: I apologize to third-party advocates. Obama is not a perfect choice, given his mediocre record on human rights, upholding international law, and environmental progress. But the immediate legislative impact of a Romney administration is a far heavier price to pay than the ground we lose in reshaping the electoral landscape. Remember Nader, 2000, Florida. It’s not worth it.
He's right.

The whole conversation points to the power of using one's voice in a key moment in history, and to the fact that yoga and politics are not mutually exclusive; in fact, the yogi applies her yogic ethics in determining which candidate will better enforce policies consistent with ahimsa, satya, aparigraha, and more. Relegating yoga to an escapist, pristine, softly-lit, incense-scented studio ignores the fact that its foundational ethical system can and should influence the way we move through the world: the way we eat, we breathe, we speak, we work, we love, and yes, the way we vote.

Use your voice.  There is no room for toothlessness here.  Speaking up matters.  Get in there.

The Yoga Community Must Shelve Both Idealism and Politeness 
to Loudly and Publicly Endorse Obama. Right Now. Who’s In? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

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

I've admired Dean Alan Jones since the moment I first stepped into Grace Cathedral nearly a decade ago and heard his voice ringing out from the pulpit.  He's smart, he's progressive, he's charming, he's warm, he's a theological and liturgical badass.

(I wonder if those words have ever been used together before?)

So, I was sorry to see him retire a few years ago.

But, guess what?!  He's writing.  Check out this great short piece in defense of teaching yoga in schools that Jones wrote for HuffPo.  Really glad to see his voice still active in this cultural conversation.  We need more progressive, intelligent Christian voices like his.

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

The last two things left 
in that empty space 
of an old apartment: 
me and a bottle of gin.

To new beginnings.