Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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

Things You Should Be Reading:

This terrific new interview with Benjamin Lorr, author of the Bikram memoir Hell-Bent, over at RecoveringYogi. Joslyn asks such good questions.

Jason Collins' graceful coming-out essay in Sports Illustrated. So well-done.

Michael Pollan on his new book, Cooked.

This NYT review of Stefanie Syman's book on the history of yoga in America, The Subtle Body. Our May book club meeting is coming up soon, and we'll be discussing this book. I love me some nerdy Transcendentalist history. Emerson and Thoreau give me goosebumps. Always have, always will.

40 Inspiring Workplaces of the Famously Creative. 'Nuff said.

That's a start. Sunny-day love to you. Get outside already. And take yer book, too.

Friday, April 26, 2013

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

Our retreat last weekend was held at a clothing-optional hot springs, and I tell you what: it made me appreciate the diverse beauty of bodies in a whole new way. Every body.

On that note, check out this brill article:

What if all you need to get a beach body is to GO TO THE BEACH?


(And the fab photo credit goes to Lori. This one's a keeper!)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

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

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on the social psychology of voice. Is your voice more Marge Simpson, Marilyn Monroe, or Justin Bieber — and how, in turn, does that influence how the world perceives you? More importantly, can you control it?

I have always been so intrigued by the nature of our voices. Are they destined from birth, are they products of our upbringing, are they total social constructions — who's to say? All I know for sure is, a voice has the power to unleash all kinds of judgments on the part of the listener: good versus bad, smart versus ditzy, powerful versus weak. No small potatoes, baby.

Read the piece and be sure to check out the fab graphic included, too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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

Begin, stay, dissolve.

Today I'm wrapping new-baby gifts, buying a wedding dress, and writing a memorial eulogy.

Birth, middle-age, and death.

Gurus Brahma, Vishnu, & Devo Maheshwara, all in the same breath, this sacred cycle of life, whilst sitting on my sofa in sweatpants on an ostensibly mundane Wednesday in spring. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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

Hi lovelies.

I promised you a few tunes and a quote or two from Bhakti In Bloom. You can find all of that below. Enjoy.

Be ground. 
Be crumbled, so wildflowers come up where you are. 
You've been stony for too many years. 
Try something different. Surrender.

Friday evening's playlist: Earth
(You can find the Hafiz poem that I read during savasana here.)

Saturday morning's playlist: Fire
 The wound is the place where the light enters you. 

There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Saturday afternoon's playlist: Water
 All things arise, suffer change, and fade away. This is their nature. 
When you know this, you become still. It is easy.
The Ashtavakra Gita

 May we live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water.

Sunday morning's playlist: Air/Ether 
I am a hole in a flute that the Christ's breath moves through.
Listen to this music. 

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

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
― Alan Watts 

Peel the potatoes, baby! 

Whether you're a dishwasher 
or a designer, your work is sacred.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

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


Just back from the Sierras. Oh-so-happy, a little bit sunburned, and a whole lot full-hearted.

More pics and whatnot to come soon, but for now: this.

Love to all of yous. Feeling so blessed to get to do what I do with people like you.

Thank you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

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

Bound for the Sierras.

Bags loaded down with bongos and bathing suits and only and ever the most comfortable, lived-in, unpretentious sweats.

Holler out for weekend escapes.

You may get a pic or two if I can manage to drag myself out of the sun.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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

Brings Life To A Field


It is not possible to complete yourself without sorrow.

Sorrow is a vital ingredient that shapes the heart and enriches it.

So endure sadness the best you can when its season comes.

That rain that can fall from your eye brings life to a field,

And on other days when you laugh, a sun takes birth in a sky you will someday know.

See how all the elements are inside of you.

See how your soul is a sire of light.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

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

This is not politically correct.

But am I the only person who wasn't moved to tears on viewing that viral Dove beauty ad that's making its way around the interwebs right now?

Because every third person has FB'd or Tweeted or emailed it. And I gotta say: it just made me impatient.

Impatient that we live in a world where self-confidence is so rare.

Impatient that some of the most beautiful people in my life shared it, which meant they, too, related to feeling "less than," and that's fucked up.

Impatient that so very, very many folks waste so much energy worrying about whether or not they are "beautiful" when that life force could be spent in so many other incredibly life-giving ways.

Impatient because the more time we spend thinking about our appearances means the less time we're doing something meaningful or rich.

Impatient because who gives a fuck what anyone else thinks!!

It has to start right there with you.

* * *
"We would not concentrate so much today on looks/beauty, pay so much, die so much, seeing our 'beauty power' coming and going, never owned, never ours, if our look, our sense of self were owned.... 
The sadness on the streets speaks of how much we miss the look of people who looked at peace with themselves, meaning that we could relax with them and not try so hard, there being no competition."
— Nancy Friday,  The Power Of Beauty

* * *

I must've been about 21, a college kid in Delaware and just barely of legal drinking age, when a good friend of mine said, in that best of no-bullshit confident-brash-young-man ways:

Dude. Rach. Just be confident already.

And it was like: Duh! Of course. It's that easy. Just be fucking confident. Stop thinking so much and just be it, dammit.

[Once again that monkey mind steps in and fucks everything up. Thinking, thinking, always thinking. Chattering, analyzing, comparing. Chalk it up to just one more reason to meditate.]

And that was that.

So today, honestly, I'm kind of embarrassed and, well, stunned that I feel so irritated by the whole Dove video. I mean, it's so well-intentioned, right, and it carries a gorgeous sentiment with such a powerful, potentially liberating message: Know your own beauty. See it. Speak it. Own it, and certainly don't apologize for it.

So why does it annoy me so much?

* * *

When I was, yep, still 21ish, I had a strange curiosity for any and all theories about beauty. I wanted to know the aesthetics of beauty, the philosophies behind it, its history, what it had to do with religion, its relationship to power, the socially constructed nature of it all. I wanted to know what it really meant to be beautiful, what the implications were in the world, and who even decided what was beautiful and not.

So I studied it. Intensively.

I finished dual degrees in Sociology and Women's Studies. Read everything by Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem and Naomi Klein and Katha Pollitt and all of those other Second Wave feminists who ranted about the messed-up patriarchal roots of the Beauty Myth. I stopped wearing make-up and covered my mirrors with paper bags and handwritten radical lady quotes and felt generally like an EMPOWERED WOMYN!! I was gonna opt-out of that whole stereotypical feminine "must be beautiful" expectation and just be a walking brain instead.

Power to the plain ones! Janet Reno, patron saint!

And then, in the midst of a research grant the summer of 2000, I stumbled upon Nancy Friday's book on The Power Of Beauty (now published under the title Our Looks, Our Lives: Sex, Beauty, Power, and The Need To Be Seen.). Friday wrote as a self-proclaimed "ugly duckling" who'd grown into a great beauty. She preached about the power of sex and beauty and confidence and owning one's own Gaze. And it shifted things profoundly, that book. Talk about the power of one person's words. Friday turned my world upside down.

I stopped fearing that being attractive meant being perceived as intellectually illegitimate. I learned to recognize my own beauty. I stopped apologizing for being female and smart and attractive — qualities I'd long considered mutually exclusive. Friday's brash, bold, sexy writing changed the way I walked down the street. It opened my eyes to seeing, and to really appreciating, the criminally-unspoken spectre of male beauty, and gave me the words to articulate and celebrate it. My own paperback copy, hopelessly written in, circled, and highlighted, included a quote, one I scribbled down in that loopy college girl cursive, and one that I remember still: "Some of the most beautiful people in my life have no idea how beautiful they are."

How tragic, I thought.

I remember so clearly reading that and pausing, thinking of all the really stunningly vibrant and vital folks in my life who I knew very well struggled with even seeing themselves, let alone speaking their own beauty. And that realization pissed me off, and fired me up, and tangled my insides with deep compassion.

And I vowed, at that moment, after an (all-too-common) adolescence in which I, like every other teenage girl, fought desperately to become as small and quiet and stupid and tiny-voiced and feminine as possible (a culturally ubiquitous experience that Friday names as that "same turbulent, vacillating, and desperate cry for recognition: How do you see me so that I may see myself?"), to never again waste time worrying about whether I was pretty or not.

Because, fuck that.

I'd be my own and trust it and that would be that. Kali-Durga style. Fierce, wild, unbuffered.

And that commitment changed my life. It really did.

It taught me to drop the sweet-nice-white-girl-preacher's-daughter-from-Nebraska masks. It taught me to be real, unapologetically authentic, angry, true. It changed my friendships; I started spending most of my time with the confident, laughing, at-ease-in-their-skins, strong young men of my college community. It changed the way I wrote. It changed the way I traveled. It changed the way I interacted with male theater directors 20 years my senior. It changed the way I spent my evenings, and my mornings, and my noons. It changed the way I loved.

It changed everything.

* * *

"The truth is, the world is starved for people who are at ease in their skins.... 
Beauty has become what our lives are about, not the clothes and the seasonal fashions, but the rage, grief, a terrible sense of isolation that we get when we don't get back any good feeling from the money and time we invest in appearance. Appearance is everything, appearance is empty. 
People are Empty Packages, hollow souls desperate for expensive clothes, labels, jewelry, or fancy cars that draw attention." 
— Nancy Friday

* * *

So today when I see women who are yet 30, 40, 50, and onward, and are still so unable to see their own beauty — the kind of grounded, glimmering women captured in the Dove video — it generally makes me impatiently, impertinently, batshit crazy.

The insecurity, that is. The self-scrutiny. The self-imposed critical gaze.

I wanna grab onto their shoulders and shake them and say: Get over it already. Chuck the fear. You're so beautiful. You are a unique expression of the divine. You are luminous, glowing life force. So stop worrying about it and just get on with your life, ok?

Fuck constructs. Fuck "beauty." It isn't even a real thing. Everything we think of as "beautiful" now wasn't always. It's just a product of the times. Of the culture. Of the capitalism. Of the era. Skinny adolescent-boy-looking women. Collarbones jutting. Big eyes, big boobs, no boobs, curves, no curves, straight hair, kinky hair, all of it in perpetual constructed motion. None of it permanent. All of it societally and historically contingent. All of it an illusion.

So what a shame that that illusion should run roughshod over so many contemporary female psyches.

Be your own beautiful. Own your nose, your shoulders, your butt. Fucking OWN THEM. Stop wasting any more energy on worrying about how you look when you could be out there planting gardens and fixing cars and climbing mountains and playing an instrument and generally being a badass.

I have known very ostensibly "beautiful" people whom upon first meeting I initially thought exceedingly, breath-takingly lovely and who then within even a few quick hours or days, I kind of stopped seeing altogether. And certainly never again really thought of as beautiful. Not by any fault of their own. Even though they had the requisite big eyes or chiseled chin or sloped nose or high cheekbones or what-have-you. They were dry or barren-spirited or dead-eyed or boring or fearful or, gulp, insecure, so much so that none of that raw beauty showed through.

And I have known people whose bone structure or bodies approximated nothing even close to standardized homogeneous contemporary beauty ideals. And yet they were embodied and confident and fearless and vibrant and unashamed of taking up space. And goddamn, were they gorgeous!!

Beautiful. Alive. Vital. Their own.

SO please forgive my impatience, but seriously, ladies (and gents), enough already. Get rid of the fear, the shame, the self-criticism, and breathe good hearty wild life into your body. It's beautiful. It's a particular manifestation of the divine, goddammit. Trust that. Move and live and breathe ease into that knowing.

You're gonna be fine. You don't need a forensic artist to tell you that.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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

"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!

Monday, April 15, 2013

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

Heartbreaking news coming out of 
Boston this afternoon.

I turn to this.


"Because at one point or another we have all suffered, we know what it's like to be in pain, to feel empty, lost, confused, broken, fearful. And that knowing, that empathy, becomes the ground of our own compassion. When we're able to recall that heavy empty dark shadowy feeling within our own bodies, hearts, minds, we're better able to reach out to those around us whose own darknesses might feel too great to bear."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

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

Holy amazing forecast for our Bhakti In Bloom retreat this coming weekend at Sierra Hot Springs.

We have a spot or two open if you want to jump in at the last-minute.

Just give us a shout.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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

Our May book club selection will be Stefanie Syman's The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga In America. We'll be meeting on Monday, May 13th at 7pm.

So flippin' excited to read this book.

Hit it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

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

Promised myself I'd blog for just a minute, as I'm trying to finish up our April selection for tomorrow night's book club meeting.

But I wanted to at least say hey, what's up, how y'all doing?

Sweet simple Monday here. Doing some work in a Nob Hill cafe between classes. Sun setting. Trying to ignore the fact that I can smell my own bare feet as I sit here in Lotus. Probably not appropriate for a cafe and the peeps around me. Oh well. What can you do.

In all seriousness — you should read The Science of Yoga. I'm devouring it. A must-read for any yoga teacher or student. I am so struck by the ways it's in fact much more about sociology than science; the social construction of reality, the ways we think about yoga, the "truths" we take for granted that are rather in fact utter mythologies. Intriguing stuff.

On another note, my good friend Heidi over at The Rustic Modernist wrote a really powerful blog today about infertility. Raw, brave, achingly honest. Read it.

(Excuse me while I peek down the street to make sure my car hasn't gotten a parking ticket yet.)

Also: please read this article from the NYT the other day. Really, take the time. "Diagnosis: Human" speaks to a number of truths that transcend yoga, meditation, Buddhism, suffering, and psychology.

Here's a blurb:
Ours is an age in which the airwaves and media are one large drug emporium that claims to fix everything from sleep to sex. I fear that being human is itself fast becoming a condition. It’s as if we are trying to contain grief, and the absolute pain of a loss like mine. We have become increasingly disassociated and estranged from the patterns of life and death, uncomfortable with the messiness of our own humanity, aging and, ultimately, mortality. 
Challenge and hardship have become pathologized and monetized. Instead of enhancing our coping skills, we undermine them and seek shortcuts where there are none, eroding the resilience upon which each of us, at some point in our lives, must rely.  
Diagnosing grief as a part of depression runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another. The new entry in the D.S.M. cannot tame grief by giving it a name or a subsection, nor render it less frightening or more manageable.  
The D.S.M. would do well to recognize that a broken heart is not a medical condition, and that medication is ill-suited to repair some tears. Time does not heal all wounds, closure is a fiction, and so too is the notion that God never asks of us more than we can bear. Enduring the unbearable is sometimes exactly what life asks of us.

In other, less-depressing news, I've been on the wedding dress hunt.

Which is at once hilarious and trippy and fluffy and awkward and surreal and admittedly really fucking fun. The girls rolled up last Thursday with a bottle of pink bubbly and I tried on about 12 different concoctions. Found 4 that I really quite dug. One of which was boho beady blousy, another of which was pouffy and called "Consuela," another of which was boob-a-licious in a blindingly scintillating kind of way, and another of which just might walk me down the aisle.

We'll see.

Commentary from the Mister as we checked out online contenders last night was a particular joy. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. A few choice bits:
"Too nipply."
"The Martians have landed."
"That's what you wear to the Emmys."
"Hello, Charlie's Angels."
"Looks like a big doily."
Seriously, if you need a bridal consultant, this guy's it. Better fashion sense than I have.

My friend Frank sent this sweet piece along today. Not only does it ache with a poignant echo of Roger Ebert, but it reminds me of a useful guideline when in [fashion] doubt. Ask oneself: What would Audrey Hepburn do?

I dig the article's more dude-friendly suggestion featuring Fred Astaire. Rita Moreno's filled that slot for me from time to time in the past, along with Louise Brooks and Annie Dillard and Isadora Duncan. Badasses, all. Worth echoing.

(I dunno about you, but I make an effort to eat all morning pastries whilst wearing elbow-length gloves and a blingin' choker.)

While we're on the bridal fashion note: there's a lot of ugly shit out there. Whew mama. Who made the rule that every contemporary wedding dress has to be a strapless tulle-bomb? My eyes hurt from all the fake boobs and the dead-eyed corsetted-up fashion models.

Three cheers for originality. Though I will admit I am struggling to find such a thing. (What I would give to find a nice vintage-y piece with an Audrey-esque off-the-shoulder boat neck.) Again with the strapless ubiquity. Leaning more and more toward quiet, simple, elegant.

Are you a theater nerd? Head downtown tomorrow morning to catch a few of these beautiful remaining [FREE] 1925 theater seats. If we had the room, I'd love to lodge a few of these in our living room next to the woodstove.

Speaking of: we woke up powerless this morning. As in, zero power.

We heard it go out last night with a click; the windstorm raging outside took down a number of trees and left the car covered in gunk. 6am wake-up call meant cold leftover coffee, a few twinkling candles, and the romantic ambience of iPhone flashlights whilst showering. Haven't been back home yet today to find out if we're power-full yet or not, but I guess we'll find out later tonight when we may or may not have to hastily consume everything perishable in the fridge.

I listened to a fantastic interview with Noah Levine this morning on my drive in. You know Levine as the creator of Dharma Punx and a generally cool dude (with some very influential Buddhist teachers as parents) who ran a rough road for awhile before finally settling into a meditation practice while in prison. In the interview, he speaks so much authentic truth. Again, if I may: some raw and real schtuff. A fave: "Renunciation is a radical, rebellious, and revolutionary act."

Preach, brother. Preach.

That's the update from here. Spring's around the corner, if not here smack in front of my face. I feel it. I love it. And book club's tomorrow night. Roll up early for class at 5:15 to avoid the Giants game traffic. And feel free to come even if you've not yet cracked the book open.

Keep practicing being awake.

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

We've got just a few spots left in our upcoming Bhakti in Bloom retreat
Join me and Solyoga Trips for a springtime escape April 19th-21st. 

Everything you need to know is here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

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

I sure do appreciate this article.

It speaks what I am so often feeling in regard to the yoga scene these days.

And why I find myself more and more drawn to practicing the Ashtanga Primary Series.

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

Macaroon Monday: 

Chocolate Grand Marnier balls o' joy 
in the hizzle. 

Happy Opening Day, baseball fans.