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God, War and Warrior II

  In his opening lecture on the Yoga Sutras, Edwin Bryant PhD, Professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University, discredited the idea of a devotional aspect to the text postulated by an attending teacher. He declared that the totality of the Sutras is a call to meditation and an invitation to renunciation rather than advice to dedicate oneself to anything outside oneself. He had begun by stating that one cannot study yoga philosophy too often as the significance of the content changes with perceptions based in life experience. This teacher took comfort she said, in the idea of channeling disturbances of the mind into devotion or bhakti. Bryant shut the notion down going so far as to say that the text including the eight limbs was simply dedicated to eliminating distraction from self involvement which seems an erudite view.   When the teacher cited a verse of the Bhagavad Gita to press her point Bryant made it clear that the Gita was not to be confused with the message of the Sutras. The Gita advocates duty and devotion to something outside oneself which is a direct departure from the attitude of isolation described in the Sutras.   Gita’s shadow danced when I set the class for Warrior II the next day.   God and War is a curious pairing without context. In the framework of modern and not so modern conflicts it’s business as usual and the business places God in awkward positions depending on whose God it is or on which side God stands. God and war in the Gita? I leave it to others to interpret as they...

Pull Your Socks Up

  Sharon’s mother is British. If life is making her daughter gloomy she says;” pull your socks up!” I have an image of England as a country which doesn’t approve of depression. Citizens should keep their sunny sides up by doing something pro-active rather than despairing; an attitude one cannot argue with even if it is only my imagining.   This morning I needed to pull my socks up though I didn’t notice until I was standing on my head in front of a mirror in my folk’s house.  It’s not usual to watch ourselves as we practice but the sight of yourself with your own eyes is a good idea now and again. I like to look, adjust, close my eyes to feel and then look back again. That’s how I noticed what it felt like to pull my socks up. That’s how I noticed how good it felt to keep my sunny side up.   I’ve been standing on my head for a few decades but it doesn’t mean I always know where I am because I have the common combination of flexibility and injuries that can pull the veil of illusion over any yoga pose   Headstand is one of the kindest postures on hip joints as they are unloaded. And it is liberation for the belly. When doable, one should learn to stand on legs no matter where they are in space to notice the support born from rising which is different than the support of leaning or collapsing. It is the support of oneself. It is independence.   I’m surprised to note that I’m...

Tread Lightly Teachers: Put Down Your Big Stick

  I was raised as a response to Hitler; or Pharaoh, maybe. Never give up and never forget and do not make yourself someone else’s bitch. If you can get a B there is no reason you can’t get an A. There is no excuse for doing less than your best. We cannot afford that. Be the best or be nothing. Add to that my father’s undertone of don’t fuck with me and my mother’s banner of nobody tells me what to do and someone reading this says that explains a lot but appearances can be deceiving. For those of us of a generation still imbued with the work ethic handed down from a country begun by Puritans as well as the lessons of  immigrant parents and grandparents who escaped oppression, the pressure has always been on to be better, do better as human beings, to fix wrongs where we see them. Now there is pressure from below to learn a system of living based on the paradigm of a global connection. There is the pressure to fix others when we ourselves are broken and thanks to the internet we know that more of us need fixing than don’t. The old, more physically present, order is largely gone but for its lingering poltergeist of try harder, do better, just do it. Now we are a mechanized nation, disconnected to ourselves while more connected to others, where the majority cannot give up, cannot do less, cannot relax because it will cease to survive. Does that message that you can try harder and do better belong in a yoga class? Is...

Tradition Grows From Fallen Seeds

We Are Our Stories   “Oh the hands of my mother watch and keep over me And the hands of my grandmother are the hands you see on me From the house of great grandfather rivers run down to the sea And my sister’s mother’s husband’s father’s grandchild is me Don’t you see?” Sung by Mark Bailey to my children long ago in California   It’s snowing. It hardly ever snows here. And I’m sick. I’m rarely sick. I’m peaceful in that snowing and not feeling well kind of way and staring out the kitchen window. Leaning on the sill I stare into the frozen garden. Twin two foot tall bare twiggy trees are nestled between shrubs. I’m harvesting seedlings from the front yard of my husband’s next door neighbor from his childhood home.   We had gone back to hold a memorial service for my mother-in-law in the place she and my husband, Rob ,had lived most of her life. Tom’s house and Kitty’s house sat closely together on a dead end street in a seaside village of Long Island. Tom was as close in age to Rob as he was to Kitty and was as close as family got. That’s why I took the seedlings from Tom’s tree that he offered me as I marveled over it’s unusual beauty. Here take some, he said as he plucked handfuls from the ground. He filled a small plastic sandwich bag with seedlings and dirt and I hopefully carried them back to Nashville in my suitcase.   Three years later Tom is dead. And Rob tells me that not a...