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Newsletter 11.14

A “Hard-Tail” aparrel ad

Title

Torn between knowing that attachment to appearance is an ego-trip, and a deep wish to be accepted as traditionally beautiful, I move through loads of guilt every day. The wish to be beautiful seems a universal moral flaw; Buddha called it Desire, the root of suffering, Patanjali, asmita (mistaken identity), Christ, vanity. I feel stuck, trapped, the suffering that Buddha predicted when Desire is at play. On one hand I want to solve the problem by changing my appearance. On the other, I know the desire to do so is antithesis to Santosha (contentment) practice, prescribed by Patanjali for liberation.

 

#Yoga Selfie #My Real Yoga Body #Yoga Inspiration – yoga’s social media discussion of the moment is “Body Image,” and the role of appearance in marketing yoga, practicing yoga, being a “yogi.”

 

Students express apprehension about their bodies – “I’m too fat to do yoga, there are only skinny women in there,” “I’m too old.” “I’m a guy – I’m not flexible!” Indeed, an aspiring practitioner viewing #Yoga Inspiration photos might feel daunted and turned back by seeing lithe goddesses in complex, demanding postures.  Which is a shame, because by focusing on appearance, on the outer form of ourselves and our postures we are all missing out.  Yoga is NOT about what a body looks like or can do.  It is an EXPLORATION of a body, and more importantly, a study of the Self (purusa) that carried inside it. It is about increasing awareness (not judgement) of physical sensations, and then learning to create the feeling of harmony within.  The “hard” yoga poses, in my opinion, are only meant to ruffle your ego’s feathers and provide an opportunity to watch ego-in-motion.

Kali’s Real Yoga Body

Kali, the dark mother, provides another perspective; she is fully goddess, fully divine. Kali with her lolling tongue, engorged with the pleasure of unrestrained consumption; her wild and bloodied hair; her bloodshot eyes intoxicated with lust – this is Kali’s “Yoga Body.”  Do you think She, fiercest warrioress of the cosmos would give a moment’s thought to her size, appearance, or what yoga poses she can do?

 

Image credit: Sosa Sebastian

It is written of Kali, “Just as all colors disappear into black, so all forms and names disappear into her” (from the Mahanirvana Tantra.)This means that Kali embodies INFINITY; not just the beautiful things, not just the godly things. ALL THE THINGS. That includes YOU and YOUR BODY. Your failures and successes on the path.  All of you, at all times, is worthy of Kali, worthy of yoga.

 

 

This is the wisdom-embrace of the dark mother.  She teaches me to hold at once the desire to be beautiful, the desire to be enlightened, and the knowledge that I am more than my body.

 

Connect to Kali

To begin to connect to this wisdom, use the mantra (repeated phrase): OM KRIM KALIAYE NAMAHA.  (“kreem”)

The syllable KRIM

KRIM has the sound of flint striking, and holds the energy of agni or fire. And not just any fire – the fire of transformation, of work. Now, when I say “transformation” I don’t mean turning a Buddha belly into a six-pack; I mean radically changing perspective. Seeing yourself as a spectrum of light, of identities, all refracted off the pure diamond of your Inner-Self-Light or purusa.   See yourself as all possibilities.

Of course, this transformation is easy to discuss, but hard to accomplish – after all, it is nothing less than un-yoking your ego from some of the only concrete identities we possess. This practice of transformation is exactly what mantra is for.  Mantra is a prayer to make the mind take the form of the prayer itself.  KRIM does not only express the intention to blast old perspectives apart – it sonically embodies it. The vibration produced by voicing the syllable KRIM is the vibration of infinity cast into darkness, the vibration of Kali herself.  This is the science of mantra, the science of matching vibration with intention and imprinting that intention onto consciousness.

Darkness to Light candle-light

We are stepping deeper into the season of darkness, the time when the heart-mind gestates quietly as busy lives rotate around us.

The human eye can function in darkness and in light; the pupil dilates, we see more.  Peer into the dark womb of yourself. Allow Kali to accompany you, to teach you to transform your eyes so that they see the infinite spectrum of beauty.  Like the ocular reflex from dark to light, change the way you see.  See that your “Real Yoga Body” is the Inner-Self-Light within.

When the Winter Solstice comes, rejoice for the tender re-birth of your soul and its body-vehicle, in whatever form-slice of infinity they are clothed in.

Namaste

Jen

 

 

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Sh*tty blog post: 5 Ways to “Find Your Voice” as a Writer

this post is NOT serious…I am trying to imitate the ubiquitous and annoying list-style articles that nauseate me daily. Some attributes of the sh*tty blog post list article are:

  • pointless alliteration
  • short sentences
  • conversational style
  • insufficient explanation of listed elements, for example leaving out major pitfalls or difficulties associated with an item, or omitting an explanation of how an item actually works
  • polly annaish encouragement of the reader
  • unnecessary jokes about popular culture that detract from the main idea
  • Severely unpolished or boxed introduction and conclusion
  • milk-toast feeling
  • exaggeration

Are you ready for my sh*tty blog post?  Here it is:

5 Ways to “Find Your Voice” as a Writer 

Are you ready to find your voice as a writer?  Whether you’ve just started a diary or have been working on the Great American Novel, here are five tips to help you find your voice:

  • Speak your truth! Are you beleaguered by body image issues? Passionate about pumpkin pie? Don’t try to imitate anyone else’s style or message. Find out what’s important to you and write about that.
  • Always write at the same time everyday! It’s important to commit to a schedule. Your brain only needs about eight weeks to establish a schedule, so hang in there!  Once you get through the first eight weeks you will be good to go, and ready to find your voice!  It can also help to use an attractive notebook and pen that you keep in the same place you are writing.
  • Write comments on facebook.  Don’t just cop out by hitting “like!” You will find it is an addictive little button after you try this tip.  Instead of just clicking “like” on your friends’ Pintrest projects, (pumpkin within a pumpkin to symbolize your baby-bump, anyone?) write a comment that captures your feeling about their pics! (Note: this is NOT for the faint of heart, and the “Edit” button is your friend.
  • Keep your eye on your goal!  Do you dream of being the next J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin? Well, you already have initials so, nothing’s stopping you!  Grab your favorite notebook and jot down what you love most about your favorite author/poet/journalist…or even blogger! *wink*
  • Get Feedback.  Just choose a piece of yours and get it out there! Ask friends, family, facebook, to review and critique you.  Remember, you’re ultimately in control of your own voice, so you can always reject any advice.

 

So, now you have five easy steps to finding your voice as a writer. Get to your favorite nationally franchised or painfully indie coffee shop and get writing!


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Newsletter Dec 2013: Permanence and a Prayer

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Lead me from Darkness to Light:

Asato Ma Sat Gamaya
 lead me from Illusion to Truth
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
 lead me from Darkness to Light
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
 lead me from Death to Life

This month, many of you have meditated on this ancient mantra with me.

Listen to the mantra on YouTube here. 

The Winter Solstice (Dec 21) is the shortest day/longest night of the year.  I chose the Asato Ma mantra for meditation during this time because it literally asks that we be led from “darkness to light.”

In this case, “light” is translated as jyotir in sanskrit, which means the Inner Light, Higher Self, Inner Divine, or Witness. The prayer of this mantra is to gradually shed our identification with the outer packages of ourselves – our physical bodies, our cars, our jobs, even relationships – to the Inner Light of our hearts.

This is a very “lofty” aspiration; being liberated from the ego.  But this mantra has a very practical application to our everyday lives: it helps free us from suffering we experience when we identify what is impermanent as permanent.

For example, when we marry we may expect to “mate for life” with a person who has a certain set of beliefs, qualities and habits. Then, this person might have a powerful life experience, or a read a book that changes their beliefs.  If we expect them to think and behave in the same way they always did, we will experience suffering.

Another example: a college freshman who ran cross-country in high school might quit running in college to focus on his studies.  If he continues to eat his regular diet of pizza, pasta and soda, he will discover that his metabolism is not permanent!

When we operate as if everything is permanent we run into problems.  We like to believe that everything is permanent because it’s easier than staying present to the constant shifting of all things.  Change can be so scary that we will even inflict suffering in order to maintain the illusion of permanence.

I would like to believe my yoga teaching job, my husband’s job, my teaching schedule is permanent.  But there is sometimes an ache in my knee, a decrease in students attendance,  a negative-sounding phone call that shakes this idea up.

Possibly, this is why we adore Ganesh so much. His elephant hugeness and weight feel immovable, inevitably permanent!

Big Ganesh
Big Ganesh:

But, Ganesh stands at the threshold, he stands at doorways and we invoke him at the beginning of endevors.  He is a Guide to transformation – the opposite of permanence!  ganesh at doorway labeled

So we know movement and change are the rule of all things. Expansion, Contraction;  Inhalation, Exhalation. Where can we find any foundation? 

In Yoga (I’m taught…) there is ONE permanence.  It is the INNER LIGHT. The Jyotir in the mantra –  the Inner Witness, the Seer, The Higher Self.  It is the Sat in the mantra – the truth.

The enlightened ones are absorbed into it.

I am told it lives in the heart , visible in moments of utter focus – in the space between thoughts.

I don’t know that I’ve seen it – perhaps come close enough to sense it.  Sometimes when I am teaching there is nothing but a laser connection, a mind-words-bodies-hearts transmission in which I forget everything else. There is no time but that time. No thought but  that  thought.

The Asato Mantra is a prayer for us scrambling permanence seekers.  Those of us ruffled or broken, prodded by the aching threat of change.  It is a prayer for us to remember that when impermanence grinds our foundations into shifting, sinking sand – there  is one permanence to look to.  It is a prayer to bolster our faith in the experience and testament of the sages:

That dark Dweller in Braj

That dark Dweller in Braj
Is my only refuge.
O my companion,
Worldly comfort is an illusion,
As soon you get it, it goes.
I have chosen the Indestructible for my refuge,
Him whom the snake of death
Will not devour.
My Beloved dwells in my heart,
I have actually seen that Abode of Joy.
Mira’s Lord is Hari, the Indestructible.
My Lord, I have taken refuge with Thee,
Thy slave.

Mirabai
My prayer for you, and for myself in this brightening season is that in some moment of stillness in between changes, breaths, thoughts, mantras,  the Light from within will touch us and we will know the sat,  the truth, the comfort and joy of our shared Body of Light.
Namaste
Jen


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Losing your virginity in (mainstream?) America: VIRA, SHRINGARA, HASYA

NAVARASAS –  the nine rasas (or flavors) of experience and art (particularly drama) according to 2nd century Indian scholar.

SHRINGARA – the rasa (flavor) of eroticism

HASYA –  the rasa of comedy

VIRA –  the rasa of heroism.

I OFTEN write with Hasya (comic) tone.  I want to make people laugh.  I enjoy being the clown.  This year and last year my Halloween costume, unlike most women anywhere near my age, was funny and playful, not sexy.  On Halloween, the one day where you have nearly carte blanche to embody some flavor other than your everyday ones, I veered far away from the temptress.  I was “Finn the Human” a cartoon boy living in a fantasy world where he is the hero of the land, warding off their strange monsters and problems – curing a giants stomach ache or an accidental zombie outbreak.

I'm the one in the middle...maybe you guessed that

I’m the one in the middle of my beautiful friends…maybe you guessed that

I’M REMINDED of the story I wrote about losing my virginity (which I allowed to be read aloud in my own high school English class – again, comically heroic) was much less erotic and much more comic.

NOT THAT I think losing your virginity in this culture is really ever “erotic.”  As opposed to say, discovering a treasured and priceless jewel, it’s more like running a race with one shriveled, untrained leg.  You reach the finish line and are just relieved it’s over and time to go home. You are tired, confused, scared –  not much celebration to speak of.  Not for me anyway.  Maybe there is some Vira (heroism) in this story for most of us – an accomplishment reached despite the terrifying monsters introduced to us in health class, Sunday school, etc.  As a sexually-active youngster you risk guilt, shame, STDS, hell, or even worse, pregnancy.

IN MY story there was heroism. I ran 3 miles, in the middle of the night, to my boyfriend’s house on my own doughy, untrained legs. All alone. In the dark. Braving the specter of his large and hairy temperamental step-dad lest I be caught.

TRYING TO  use a condom for the first time has to be one of the LEAST erotic experiences. You’re reminded of all those monsters again – pregnancy, STDs, guilt, shame, possible death – maybe we should use two? And the oh so alluring smell and feel of latex.

SO THERE’S me – unsexy, unerotic – just comically heroic, like a hobbit.

SO, WHY?  Where did Shringara go? Where does it even come from? I certainly didn’t inherit it –  there wasn’t anything erotic, or even sensual for me to experience as a kid.  At least not that I knew of, or until I was allowed to watch television after 8 PM.  Our home was utilitarian, hard surfaces, warm but rough afghan blankets knitted by old ladies, nourishing but bland and quickly prepared food.  Even my parents’ bodies seemed utilitarian – their physical smallness lent endurance, and maybe cuteness ; certainly not sensuality or even grace.

ONE HINT at physical sweetness I can remember was during summers at my uncle’s lake-house: my female cousins wore a kaleidoscope of bikinis from dawn to dusk and their brothers grew brown and sinewy from swimming and wake-boarding.    I remember my Grandma hissing her disapproval to an aunt.  I had one, one-piece bathing-suit, white skin and a round belly.

THEN THERE was my next-door neighbor;  her homemade ylang-ylang perfume and candles. They had down -filled pillows and comforters and silk sheets. She and her Mom owned actual pajamas, while my family wore mostly oversize t-shirts or L.L. Bean flannel.  Once we visited her Dad’s mansion and sneaked into his bedroom.  He also had silk sheets, and a copy of the Kama Sutra stowed in his nightstand.  I admit I was always relieved to get home.

MAYBE IT is heroic that I even managed to discover sensuality in this context.  It was certainly messy and ridiculous, but my nature demanded it from me.  I invested heavily in flavored lip gloss and vanilla scented body lotion – I fell crazily in love at age 15 and was consumed by all the torment, jealousy,  fear and anger that came with it.

I SUPPOSE that all the rasas are inherent to all of us and cannot be suppressed.  Consider the “nature versus nuture” debate – perhaps our own particular “cocktail” of rasas is determined by our innate humanity, and by our environment.  In my own life I’d like to nurture Shringara.  Only 12 more months till next Halloween…


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Devotion

hanuman2

IN writing class this week I was asked to make a list on what I am devoted to – it was surprisingly hard.  I asked my husband “what do you think am I devoted to?”  He didn’t quite know what I meant, so I said, “What do I really, really like; what am I always thinking or talking about?”  “The Sun,” he said.    Of course.  I need reminding of what is in my own heart.

THIS morning I am practicing in anger smelted to sadness.  Bad energy like sulfur fills the air, brings tears to my eyes.  Sutras, chanting.  I notice the sun begin to come through the trees behind the park.  There is a whisper – through me – inside me – from me – or someone else –  “Your anger is blessed, your sadness is blessed.”  Transmute anger into positive energy, is what that old wizard’s facebook post said.  Perhaps the sun is my catalyst – my body begins to move. Sparks fly in my hip joints, knee joints, igniting a fireworks strand along the highway of my inner thighs and sacrum.  Backbending.

IF only I could keep the sun.  In my youth, the sun so prized – like a jewel for its rarity

found among the rough of so, so many  grey clouds.   Ithaca, NY was “where the sunwny weather
goes to die.”  Then I, in longing to bathe in the sun, uprooted myself from family. In devotion to Surya moved to the Southwest.  Then perhaps took light for granted.  Washed out my shadow-sister.  Turned brown.

IN the Northwest, I cried for Sun’s lack – the ice, thick, black and cold each morning blocked the earth trapped beneath it.  I am unable to even touch the earth through thick layers.   Stung my backside when I slipped.  Each step has to be calculated to avoid that bite.  No dancing.   I am crying.  This greyness matched the color of my shadow-side.  The color-sound of my shadow-sister’s moans and cries.  I cannot make her content.

TO Colorado.  To the sun, the sun, the sun.  With seasons there is the guilt of begin indoors on a sunny day. The tendency to push outwards,  always into the sun.   I begin to notice shades – a sunny day in autumn has the look of evening all day.  Some yellow leaves glint and I know the sun will leave.  My shadow-sister, angry, cries.

I’M practicing. Listening.  Inhale, exhale.  Then  there is another blessing.  “Winter is the world’s exhalation.”  Inhale, exhale.  From a teacher: what is within is without; what is not within is not without.  The relaxation of exhalation.

PRACHARDHANA vidharanabhyam va pranayasya (Yoga Sutra 1.34 The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice.)

TO never exhale…to never release.  Oh earth-mother how could I deny you this stillness.  Thank you, mother.  Let me rest in your rest – inhale summer, exhale winter.  I invite it, allow it, fear it, in the way one fears the act of stillness or looking in the mirror.  Uniting with the shadow.  Oh mother, exhale me into your rest.

INSOMNIA is my permanent inhalation, the permanent sun, inhalation unaligned.  Oh mother breathe me into your darkness. Take me inside for exhale and rest.

surya namaskara ATHE Surya Namaskara (sun salute)  includes the inhale, the exhale.  The upright and the bowed.  I am devoted to you, Surya and align myself with both your exultation, and your rest.


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The Beer Bottle Cap Color Wheel

10/5 Writing My Practice: The Beer Bottle Cap Color Wheel

This is something I created from a pile of beer bottle caps that my husband Chris had collected.  When we moved in together, the yogurt-container he kept them in kept catching my eye, and eventually became an eye-sore.

Treasures

Treasures

Actually, it wasn’t a yogurt- container; it was a nickle container from a nickle-slots casino – it has a huge, bright red and blue Toucan with palm trees on it, (“Treasure Island!”) made all the more obnoxious by the location: Minnesota.  It was sitting prominently on our fireplace mantle.   He also had a plastic grocery bag full of caps that kind of flowed from one closet nook to the next, occasionally spilling caps into the corners of small places.

We were a new couple, I kept moving these caps around without saying anything. Finally, a gentle question. “These must be special to you if you are collecting them, do you have anything you want to do with them?”  Response – shrug.  They stayed where they were. But my eye was on them.

We moved apartments.  The Toucan moved to a new fireplace mantle.   Eventually I got the nerve to say, “Maybe you could get rid of the duplicates, then they won’t take up so much closet space.”  We got rid of the duplicates, but Treasure Island Toucan still eyed me from the mantle.    “Maybe you’d like to display your treasures?” Response – shrug.  I put them in a glass mason jar for an attempt at kitschy charm.  It looked like a jar full of garbage.

We got married.   Employment. Unemployment. “Why are you keeping these!?  What’s the point of collecting them if you can’t even see them!?” No answer really, I guess he just had them.

I don’t know where the idea came from.  Once, in college, my Dad and I made a belt with different beer bottle caps riveted into it.  That was my “style” at the time.  Also, it was my sneaky way of making my Dad complicit in my underage drinking.  We used an old belt that belonged to my Dad in his Air Force days, I think.  It fit my 18-year-old waist – we’re a small family.  I still have it – it has his name stamped in gold letters on the inside.  Perhaps it was this particular artifact that came into my hands during a restless “cleaning fit,” and inspired the Beer Bottle Cap Color Wheel.

I have always loved “projects.” My mom recalls my whining, “I’m bored, I want to make a project!”  I always had something going, whether it was a barn-sized painting of a scene from Star Wars or a to-scale Egyptian pyramid made of sugar cubes.  It was mid-winter when I came up with this idea.  On a sunnier day I walked to Michael’s and Office Depot and swallowed my worries about spending about $10 on tag board and sticky-tak.  (Unemployment, remember?)

I went home and measured out a circle in the method my math-teacher Dad taught me: use a pencil with one end of string tied to it, and tack the other end of the string to where you want the center of the circle to be.  Then, use the string to guide the circle.  When I saw how big my envisioned project was I immediately regretted tossing the “duplicates.”

DSCN0733

I started my project on the living room wall.  In the midst of job transitions, insomnia, other health problems, this was something I could do when I had ZERO energy.   I could listen to a podcast, stick on cap after cap, and rearrange to my pleasure.  I worked on it when my health allowed nothing more strenuous than stick, squish, stick, squish, when I was lonely, when my mind was racing and I had to work in eight hours.

As it grew, my friends started to notice it.  One friend, her husband also just off unemployment and working at the Coors factory forgot about a 100 times to bring me her caps – finally, beaming she showed up with a huge bag of unused, green caps – a coveted color! Most breweries apparently favor red, black, and copper.

Soon, more friends noticed it.   It happened a few times, visiting with a friend I might not have seen for a while and they’d shout “Oh yeah!” and go digging around in a purse or a pocket or drawer and pull out a handful of caps for me.  “I just remembered your project!”  “This is a rare one.”

DSCN0736

Once, a friend presented me with a small mountain of blue Blue Moon and Bud Light caps, and green Tecate caps.  “These aren’t from me, they’re from my 20-year-old friend,” he said.  I don’t know if he was explaining the quantity of caps or the quality of the beer (craft beer is the trend here in Denver) but I was touched.  He had thought of me and my project in the company of someone I didn’t even know, and tangentially involved a stranger to me in the building of was interesting enough for him to remember as a work-of-art-in-progress.

I keep receiving bottle caps.  My friends present them to me like they are treasures, small colored gems stashed in plastic bags and coat pockets and saved.  I love them for it.

So this is story of how some annoying garbage that wasn’t even mine became a touch-stone for friendship – and an object of solace and a symbol of love for me.  DSCN0735

There is a part of me that punishes what is not ascetic – says I must throw away all that is not necessary, and disdain sentiment and nostalgia.  These bottle caps weren’t mine, so I couldn’t do that.  I had to live with them.   The transformation of the useless clutter into such a sweet touchstone has perhaps softened this part of me.

I sit with the flotsam and jetsam of life.  As often as I try to jettison it, I occasionally glimpse the hidden treasures.

May my project continue to grow.