Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yogic Muse Yog(blog)a Stars

I admire the way you shine out with the beauty of your humanity.

There are many blogs that are great for all kinds of reasons, and I enjoy all kinds of great blogs. I particularly admire and connect with blogs that I see as transmitting the beautiful humanity of the writers as they live a most yogic life. So I've created an award to salute the yogic humans I have enjoyed, learned, laughed and cried with over the last two years.

In honor of my second Bloggaversary here are the Yogic Muse 2010 Yog(blog)a Stars (not in any particular order):

Bob Weisenberg




Yoga for Cynics


Bindi Fry

Love you guys!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Only the Best! (from the nurses...)

Hey! It's Official: Yogic Muse is one of the best yoga blogs. Of course this comes as no surprise to regular readers, because I know that you are some of the best, most discerning people around--very much like my students and friends: only the best! The Accidental Yogist blog did a great job of explaining this award and linking to the other winning blogs, too!

Earlier this year I made it onto the list: 100 Incredible Yoga Teachers Who Blog at This was really cool because I remember looking to another version of this list to find other great blogs when I was just getting into yoga blogs.

The latest award is co-sponsored by So at first I wondered if the same people were doing another promotion, but it is a different nursing website than the one that awarded me earlier. Are nurses really into yoga? The nurses I've spoken to when family members have been in the hospital always say that they like the idea of yoga, and they wish they could, but they didn't see that they really had time for it. But I only spoke to a handful of nurses... I hope that nurses are doing yoga because it is really helpful for people when they have a high pressure job like nursing. Thank you to nurses for all you do to help your patients! And thanks for the awards!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This Flower cannot be Photographed.

…and perhaps experience cannot be accurately shared.

I did some more yoga honoring rituals today. None of the pictures I took come close to showing the flowers I used. The actual flowers have petals that are like delicious glowing midnight in the country—edging toward a very sensual purple, not that blue you see in the picture I shared. And as you can see, the flower opens to reveal a yellow center. They remind me of those nestling sun-moon sculptures that I saw so many of in Mexico.

A much-honored teacher in my life came to a class I taught (I had invited him), and it was his birthday—that’s a double-whammy call for somethin’ special. So of course I read some poetry! It doesn’t require a special occasion to do that. But, it also included flowers and special words, similar to what I did last Friday.

I have heard from students that they appreciate it, but also know that I get so much out of doing it, too. I could almost imagine myself becoming some kind of spiritual oddity offering flowers at the feet of everyone I meet. So today, instead of just doing the ritual for the class that had my most influential teacher present, I did it for everybody I taught today. And I told them why.

What I have learned from Gabriel actively influences my teaching, so my students are getting benefit from Gabriel’s teaching as it moves through me. So it made sense to honor ourselves in honor of Gabriel, today.

One of the poems I read today is I Have Such a Teacher, by Rumi (one of Gabriel’s favorite poets), translated by Coleman Barks. Here it is:
Last night my teacher taught me the lesson of poverty,
Having nothing and wanting nothing.

I am a naked man (*Brooks’ Note: sometimes I read aloud “woman” here) standing inside a mine of rubies,
clothed in red silk.
I absorb the shining and now I see the ocean,
billions of simultaneous motions
moving in me.
A circle of lovely, quiet people
becomes the ring on my finger.

Then the wind and thunder of rain on the way.
I have such a teacher.

When the well-rested students came out of savasana, they noticed a flower at the foot of their mats. I explained that the flower is symbolic, and that I liked that these flowers had so many petals. I asked everyone to remember all the helpful teachers in their lives, the people who had blessed them along the way. These people can be imagined as some of the petals on the flower. And then I acknowledged the teachers who taught through difficulty or disappointment. These people also are represented by some of the petals. All of these people come together in our experience to form the beauty of who we are, so these flowers truly are intended to honor all of our teachers.

I did this in honor of one of my highly-regarded teachers, today. Thanks, Gabriel!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Ritual for Jane and "Gita Guy" Bob Weisenberg

Read about a special yogic ritual, and Gita Talk conversation brewmaster Bob Weisenberg at Elephant Journal:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lighter, Happier and Clearer

Published a post at Elephant about a skill that I have not mastered, but the article still offers a good example of observing a reaction, noticing that it doesn't match what is happening in the moment, and then taking a simple action to be in a lighter, happier and clearer mindspace. Read it here:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Magic Mallard

In a dilapidated pool on a summer day Frog, an avid yoga practitioner, whispers to the tiny Magic Mallard suddenly discovered sitting in a flower opening out of her groin.

"I love you, my precious!"

"Despite our weathered bath my heart is ever-young and beautiful!"

"Om mani padme hum."

Welcome comments! What is being said here?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Do you, *individual personality*, take the universe to be your lawfully wedded spouse…

I do.

...And see my recent post at Elephant: Yogi Marriage! And be sure to check out the great comments (and add more) if you'd like!

A robot that blinks and coos when petted...

This article showing up, as it did, front-and-center on the printed New York Times (Online version here) so closely after the death of my pet really tweaked me. How dare “they” try to replace real furry miracles of love with a damn robot pet for the elderly! I kind of feel the same way about attempts to replace flesh-and-blood yoga teachers with iPhone yoga apps. I mean, “Hello?”

Thankfully, the article does include it’s own criticism:
“When something responds to us, we are built for our emotions to trigger, even when we are 110 percent certain that it is not human,” said Clifford Nass, a professor of computer science at Stanford University. “Which brings up the ethical question: Should you meet the needs of people with something that basically suckers them?"

An answer may lie in whether one signs on to be manipulated.

Signing on to be manipulated…

Someone who is no longer my boyfriend requested when we were together, "Just tell me that it'll be alright," when he worried about something. This was years ago—but anyway I said something like, “Yes, I believe that it WILL be alright, however it looks like it would be good to” either do or pay attention to X, Y or Z… And I remember him just really wanting the palliative response from me. And when the situation was reversed, I would sometimes want to hash things out together, and he would offer that, “It’s going to be fine…” Urgg. (Of course this memory was emblazoned during the last season of our relationship)

So anyway sometimes people just seem to want the easy, the comfortable, the false, the activity or behavior that hides the thing that needs attention…

The article’s first caption (partially shown in the above picture) reads, “Styled after a baby seal, a robot that blinks and coos when petted is often therapeutic for patients with dementia.”

Does a person with dementia really have the choice that the excerpt above posits? I don’t think that a person with dementia can “sign on” to be manipulated. But we can, as long as our mental faculties are intact.

The caption evoked for me a horrible image, almost like a nursery with probably at least a hundred-or-so elderly people in crib-like beds and holding little robot toys. Are these "robot companions" better than a TV blaring at all hours? This has been a way to entertain people who have lost the ability to move around freely, so perhaps a robot toy is a step up? (I'm not convinced...)

I guess the real situation lies with us. Are we okay with further dehumanizing care for elders in our culture?

Having spent some time with my Grandmother in a "rehab" care facility after her hip was broken, I can report that I was shocked by what "care" during that time of life can look like. I don't know what the answer is.

Nana had prepared me for what the end of her life would look like. She described going into the building (that she went to) for many years before she actually went. She didn't want her family to be responsible for her care. She wanted to "free" her family from that "burden". And while it happened, I told myself that we were following her wishes, but I think that the reality of that kind of care—while considered "good" as far as this kind of things go—was somewhat impersonal. It comforts me that one of the nurses had especially bonded with my Grandmother, though. I just have to believe that she made the right decision for herself, while she could.

I, however, do not think that I made the right decision, when I didn't make the flight to see her again, one more time, right before she left her body. Fritter taught me that. It's good to be there for those you love when they go. And actually Nana had her "special friend" (we might call him a boyfriend even though he was over 90) with her, holding her hand, when she left. Perhaps that was enough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Beauty of Touch.

The beauty of touch is not manufactured in the brain. We can perceive and enjoy this beauty, but we do not make it. There is a beauty in touch that is as beautiful and awe-inspiring as anything could be, invisible yet tangible and life giving. I’m talking about the energy exchange between two living beings, in their bodies—we just don’t make this stuff up.

But we might take it for granted as a natural part of experience…

When I patted, scratched, and stroked Fritter’s soft fur I enjoyed him, I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed the moment. My hands always felt so good patting Fritter. There was an emotional temperature change, an energy of love that was flowing freely—so beautiful. I had become so accustomed to the experience, that I don’t even know if I appreciated it, but I always enjoyed it. And I’ve come to realize that, for myself, this experience of enjoying someone face to face or hand to back is in itself a form of gratitude—a natural flow of thanks. By enjoying someone’s presence we are saying, “I am so grateful for you!” without saying those words out loud.

I was forced into a learning moment last week when Fritter, the friendly and affectionate bunny died.

I learned that his body was so important to me when he left it just after midnight on June 30, 2010. He came over to where I was for his last moments, and when he was gone I knew I wanted to sleep in the same room with him one more time—not that I slept much. But I did rest next to his body that night.

The next morning I reached out to move him, and my hands recoiled. I almost couldn’t to it. My hands weren’t finding the enjoyment they had known during those years of touching Fritter’s incredible living body. They were finding a dead body. The beautiful feeling was not being returned, because it was no longer coming from this body. I understood, but it was a difficult thing for my body to process. It was as if my hands had been suddenly blinded when I touched him in that state.

Fritter was so beautiful, so loving and so vast as perceived through my curious hands, always interested in tousling his softness.

Here he is with his good friend Fawn, who is still living with me.

Thank you, Fritter, for sharing your mystery with me!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Picture Me as an Empty House designed by Rumi, or Something...

Grabbing the mind-dog's attention with expanded horizons of meditation! A partial memory and a shallow understanding had left me like a doggie chasing its own tail (or tale) of sadness, making endless circles on the living room carpet until this past Monday when something changed...

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
~ Rumi, Read more here.

This was just about as far as my imagination had held of Rumi's The Guest House: it was about all I was able to paraphrase to share with a meditation group I participated in on Monday night (even though there is more to the poem). And as I was saying my poorly remembered version of this poem, what I saw was that I had seen a picture of myself in the words, and what I was able to remember was that picture of myself. So I wasn't really remembering the poem; I was actually remembering a perception of myself as seen through the magic mirror of the language of the poem.

My creative offering towards these words (also known as my understanding) painted my house to be "the guest house" as in an extra house owned by a wealthy person that was a little less grand than the one they lived in. A guest dwelling like the smaller coach house in the back, hidden behind the established splendor of the main house.

In my memory of the poem I saw the crowd or “band of sorrows” running round and round in my little house, sweeping the insides clean. But If I had also remembered the next part my perception might not have been so stuck:

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

And here is an awesome take on “the Guest”:

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think... and think... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.

If you do not break your ropes while you're alive
do you think
that ghosts will do it after?
~ Kabir, Read the rest of the poem here.

So when I put the sensibilities of these two excerpts together, I see that a “Guest house” might be an extraordinary situation, indeed… But in the sensibilities based in my experience of myself in my life’s personal stories the situation looks different.

Am I a guest in my own house? I have definitely felt that way… Like a guest that gets a cheerful greeting upon arrival, but then realizes later that they are an imposition on the host. I think that this is how I also treat my needs: yes, I see you sadness, shame or anger, but my preference is for you to go away. And since I want to be true I attempt to entertain these unwanted guests, but many times I fail to see things clearly, shutting down in the face of my anger when I might be better served to move toward a motivated action.

On Monday night at a neighborhood Soto Zen center, I heard Taigen say a couple of things that came together in my mind as a question: 1)"Thoughts are seen like clouds moving across the sky." and 2)"When we sit we don't want to ignore our thoughts." So my question was "Does the sky ignore the clouds?" because my understanding of this metaphor is that the sky is pure perception, and the clouds are the thought forms. And I also realized that I had been ignoring my thoughts in meditation, because I saw them as having a low priority in the process. I mean, how much attention do we really pay to the clouds moving across the sky, anyway… But my perception in my body is smaller than the sky (or is it?). I tend to see myself as very small in that process.

My mental framework as a “guest house” then came together with the language of clouds and sky, and I saw that I had been ignoring what was in my “house”, which is really my head. I realized that I need to pay attention to what is visiting, and I might find that certain guests like those circulating sorrows, are actually ghosts from the old stories I have told myself about who I am (ghosts having little relevance in my reality today). It is high time to take another fresh look: every time I pay attention.

* with thanks to Taigen Dan Leighton, who gave an engaging Dharma Talk (one of many great talks!) at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate last Monday night *

** and see my latest offering at Elephant Journal:
Spiritual Declaration of Independence **