Friday, November 13, 2015

Years later: An Update on what I've been learning about Mothering, Elbows, and Surrender

Written months ago- perhaps in March. Held hijack by self-doubt and other odd projections of conditioned mind. Publishing now!

  Aaah, the human experience: so oblivious we can be, and how vulnerable, to the great force of time. I have been lost in the web of being with small beings; Lucas is 2.69 approximately, and Zavi 4.32.
Today on a lark it occurs to me to post to my blog, and I find my blog no longer exists. I have to buy a website from Google in order to get them to re-post my old ramblings. I feel strangely possessive of those old ramblings; they were like a journal that got me through some of the labyrinthine places of my mind. And, like a journal, they were rarely if ever read, and so, delightfully private and anonymous. I have a yearning for anonymity, which keeps pace with my longing for recognition, the two neutralizing themselves to create a relatively normal existence. Ah, the glory of sub-personalities canceling each other out.
  Anyhow, an update; a lot and nothing has happened. Finally got my MFT; not sure yet how I'll use it. I keep teaching yoga privately, and get so close to my students that it feels as if we are both enwrapped in the therapy that is any true brushing together of human souls. One of my students is very, very sick. I get to lean back against my own impotency all the time; realizing that my love is so big that it engulfs me; and so powerless. I would do anything to keep her alive and well, and yet I get distracted by grime in grout, and the banal maintenance tasks of living. (The nitya-karmas: more on that later.)
  Meanwhile, the boys have more teeth, and we have more dental bills. They are big enough to really confuse me. I struggle with being overwhelmingly in love with them and capable of getting infuriated with them. I can be very conflicted around the balance of love and control.  Zavi is quite astute; he seems to smell my ambivalence. When I try to control him, with volume or intimidating glances or a certain sort of grip, he digs in his heels. It's like being on a steep hike with a resistant basset hound.  I sit down on the side of the trail over and over, not sure how to get us to move forward. Positive Discipline classes were ever so helpful, and yet I flail almost daily. There is nothing like surrendering it all to the unknown. There are umpteen books I ought to read. But the poetry of the breath is still the best read out there.
  I am resurrecting this blog because I still have a deep appreciation for the teachings of dharma, and feel I don't get to have enough conversations about it.  So somehow on these pages I at least privately massage my own love of dharma and yoga philosophy into being. It helps that I am helping with the Yoga Immersion and Teacher training at the Shakti Yoga Shala. It keeps me honest as a teacher; keeps me learning, and realizing again and again how much I don't know. Re-reading Anatomy of Movement, and just now figuring out that the spiral structures of the radius and ulna are crucial to their smooth functioning in supination and pronation, which I am learning to keep straight after so many years.  Marveling at how they resemble DNA chains.  Took a remarkable training with Tias Little at Breathe Los Gatos. Learning again about neuropeptides, and still wondering if we can heal ourselves, and how mind-states contributes to immunity. This is strong right now, as I get over a bad cold, and text with my student and good friend who is in relationship with a terribly strong cancer. 
   I want to send this poem out, partially to Lisa, partially to myself, to remind us both to keep remembering to surrender. 

Secrets Places
Lovers find secret places
inside this violent world
where they make transactions
with beauty.
Reason says, Nonsense.
I have walked and measured the walls here.
There are no places like that.
Love says, There are.
Reason sets up a market
and begins doing business.
Love has more hidden work.
Hallaj steps away from the pulpit
and climbs the stairs of the gallows.
Lovers feel a truth inside themselves
that rational people keep denying.
It is reasonable to say, Surrender
is just an idea that keeps people from leading their lives.
Love responds, No. This thinking
is what is dangerous.
Using language obscures
what Shams came to give.
Every day the sun rises
out of low word-clouds
into burning silence.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

We aren't looking for the Goddamn Particle. We're looking for the field.

As many of you know, the fambly and I are awaiting a new recruit, who is presently taking up way too much space in my humongous belly. Within a matter of weeks, the shit is really gonna hit the fan.  

I'm scared, to be quite honest; Zavier is almost 19 months old and all full of piss and vinegar, and to have a little vulnerable and noisy and sleepless babe about in the midst of Zavi-land seems insane. 

How long will it take for a body part to get bit off? Right now we can pretty much contain him, flanking him with our larger bodies. He just ricochets off the walls that we are, and we amuse him and snuggle him and feed him enough that doesn't so much notice that we are keeping him from mischief. But the symmetry of the system is about to be broken, once again. 

However, and this is a huge however, I am also well aware that I know nothing. I had no earthly idea what would happen to me when I had Zavi. I was scared then, too; life as a non-mother had a certain ease and symmetry to it that I knew was about to rupture. I actually thought that I wouldn't really like him as a baby that much, and that I could outsource a bit of his care until he got a little personality and mobility. I had no idea that some kind of magical glen inside myself would open up and change everything into kaleidoscopes. Something about falling madly in love with a little redheaded monster gave everything technicolor, and brings me daily to my knees. 

It's like the whole world gained mass, substance. I finally grok 'family'; my own and the the phenomena of it, and I surrender more to the happy/sad sandwich of life. Everything has deepened, because I really, really, really like Zavi. Even when he's obstinate and self-absorbed, which is regularly. 

The 'discovery' of the Higgs boson last week reminded me of all of this. 

Physicists spend many a sleepless night analyzing data in order to provide evidence of this teensy little particle principally because it gives us proof of and understanding of an energetic field. That field is responsible for imbuing particles with mass.

In somewhat this same way, the magical little field inside of myself opened up when the particle named Zavi was found, and now everything that moves through the field has mass; gravitas... specifically because of relationship. So I can only hope that, in the bringing in of baby 2,  some sort of magical field will again open up, and give my anxiety a place to rest.

 I see a parallel to the process of yoga practice here. We seek, in asana practice, to create poses; we simply structure our physical forms in specific ways. This re-arranging of our molecules to create strange and pretty shapes is really not all that compelling on its own, however.  I suspect we'd never drag ourselves out of our caves for it, if it were not for the fact that somehow when we create these poses, it gives us access to an energetic field within that is crucial for giving our lives weightiness; the guru principle. 

We forget, of course, that what the pose looks like, or how advanced our practice appears, is really inconsequential. 

We're not looking for the particle. We're looking for the field. 

But the particle and the field are each other's complement, and our attention to detail in the practice can yield the awareness state that is a balm on the parts of ourselves that still wallow in confusion. 

Like the Zen folks say, 'form is not different from emptiness. emptiness is not different from form.' We find access to our spaciousness, by simply holding our bodies in a particular way, and breathing consciously there. And in so doing the relationships that make up our lives, that give life it's gravitas, find their way to balance, even though we're all alone on the mat, in our own little energetic fields.

Life; all oddity and paradox: Thank you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy Maha Shivaratri: Circumambulate Yourself.

Shiva's favorite moment of the year is upon us; today is the day that the Shaivites fast all day and stay awake all night, praying and chanting and anointing the various murtis of Shiva (particularly the Shiva Lingam) with milk and honey, bael leaves and wood apple, and vermillion paste. So, if you wish to celebrate in traditional fashion, get to work gathering your puja items. However, if all of that fanfare feels a bit foreign to you, consider this: what the yogi engaged in ritual is really doing is sending a message to their own consciousness that their fondest wish is to awaken, such that they may reside in the clarity and peace of that awakened state.
If that indeed is also your fondest wish (and whose is it not?) then you could also dispense of the ritual... Or, better said, absorb the ritual's intention into yourself, and, metaphorically, circumambulate yourself, as the holiest mountain you know. This, it seems to me, is what we most crave, what we most desire; simply to recognize the sacred nature of our own self, and to have the sustained inclination to remain inside that recognition.
It is said that the nature of consciousness is 'niralambaya tejase', which means that our consciousness is luminous, shimmering, and awake, and that this quality of luminosity is not resting upon any external support. In other words, regardless of whether or not you have a job, or whether or not your parents or your spouse or your children or your teachers or your students believe in you or approve of you, you are still just as illuminated: this is the essence of consciousness. It doesn't matter if you have a checkered past or string of failures behind you, or if you've never lived up to what was expected of you; your consciousness is ever-luminous, ever-brilliant.
Unfortunately we are fairly entrenched in the thought constructs dictated by conditioning, and all the patterns we've been building through our years on the planet. So it can be hard to remember our luminosity. In the trap of the painful web of conditioning, people easily abdicate control, and lean on the hope that some God or some Guru or some Lover out there will take the edge off, or perhaps bring ultimate salvation. But in 'our' system, and by that I mean the philosophy upon which Anusara rests, this revelation is right here and right now. The nature of Shiva, of consciousness, is "nisprapanchaya shantaya": Peace that is not beyond the fiveness that is this Earth, this worldly realm, this realm of experience. The peace that we are so desirous of is actually already here, on this green earth, and precisely on the little piece of it that you already occupy. Everything that we need, we already have, and everything that we have is exactly what we need. So, while a bit of ghee and milk smeared on your Shiva Murti is certainly not going to hurt, it is also not at all necessary, because all you really need is to circumambulate your own luminous self.

Another deep teaching of this system is that the essence of consciousness is 'Svatantrya'; total, utter, complete, absolute freedom. Therefore, no obligation to circumambulate anything. It's perfectly fine if we'd prefer to stay cozily asleep for a few more kalpas. And when we choose that we are ready to be free, we realize only that we are free already.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blessings of the never not broken-ness

I just saw this stupid little clip from the Food Network. The chef and team spent weeks, literally weeks, constructing this totally cheesy christmas castle cake thing. It was as big as my dining room table, and dripping in bling, outrageously ornate. Not really my style, but my sweet aunt, the queen of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, would die to have it. She knows what makes a house a home. She has a room dedicated to teddy bears. To be fair, these Food Network people are professionals; they toiled and toiled on what was undeniably a work of 'art'. Anyway, one of the chef's assistants hadn't been trained right on the flambe bit, and she fumbled; somehow the whole thing caught on fire. The studio audience was horrified as the melty castle went up in flames, and then was unceremoniously doused with the nasty white chemicals of the fire extinguisher. This is what tugs on heartstrings. This is what makes a story. Gain and loss, loss and gain, the stuff of life.
I can't watch TV because I endlessly seek metaphor. This stupid little story, to me, became poignantly meaningful. For this is what we humans do; build edifices around us, of beauty and glory and sweetness, and then we stand by as some fluke ignites it all, burns it all to the ground. Our illusions are busted into a gazillion pieces, over and over again. But so cleverly we convince ourselves that we are something cohesive and stable and secure, and colluding with this fantasy, build anew. This is the way of conditioned mind, and, one could argue, the legacy of hope.
There is a somewhat obscure goddess in the ancient lore of the tantras who presides over, blesses, and is quite amused by the broken-ness that we are. She is Akhilandeshvari, the never-not-broken goddess. Ishvara is one term for God, or the Supreme, and the 'eshvari' of her name is simply the female designation. Akhilanda means, in classic Sanskrit 'krunti' style, in twisted playful-ness, the Never Not Broken. She is fierce and playful, and defies definition. She is utterly adaptive, a chameleon who steps over and over again into flux. She is comfortable there, in the constancy of change. She wants nothing other than to be never not broken. Her vehicle (all the deities have one) is a crocodile, who, in crocodile fashion, takes her to the river (the ultimate symbol of flow) and spins her silly with delirium. She has chosen to mount this particular creature, who takes his prey in his jaws and spins and spins and spins until his plaything is utterly disoriented, because she WANTS to live in that disoriented state where there is no shred of constancy or solidity. She refuses to be confined to one self; she is a changeling, a shapeshifter.
The gods and goddesses are not apart from us; once we let them into our consciousness, they are archetypes that swirl about within. In the thunderstorm, when the sky is cracking open with bolts of light, when somehow our foundation has been torn down by the inevitable forces of change, Akhilandeshvari reigns supreme; she blesses our breakdowns and breakthroughs, and is utterly amused by the collage-like chaos of life. When we are lost in the veld, or being chased by an avalanche, when we've been left by our lovers, fired without cause, foreclosed upon, betrayed somehow, anyhow, by a world that disregards our expectations, she is with us. Anytime that our reality gets so broken that we don't know which end is up, where to turn, or who we are, she is in the center of the breaking. She sits atop the rubble that life can become, as a monk sits on the charnel grounds, content and fulfilled, meditating on the inevitability of decay. But she doesn't just bless us when we're curled up in a ball in despair! She is just as consistently present when we get an offer we can't refuse, some lottery of life that turns reality into pure magic but requires that we leave all we know; the treasure map falls into our hands, or an unsolicited suitor comes along to shift our lives into something richer and deeper than we could have dreamt up. In those moments, when we are too cowardly to step into the new-ness, she eggs us on. She blesses the 'bad' breakdowns just as she blesses the 'good'; she is undiscriminating. She blesses the break from routine. She delivers us from our complacency, and ushers us into our own fierce capacity to remake ourselves.
As we all know, most of us aren't on great terms with Akhilandeshvari. The norm is to dread change, to cling to things as they are, or to look always to the outside for the cause of our dissatisfaction. We cuddle around our little hearths of safety, not really fulfilled, but comfortable. We curl up in relationships that feel stable even as they refuse to grow, or in addictions that take the edge off, fantasy games that give us avatars to hide in, hours of facebook or political commentaries or tv shows that interminably serve up the same hollow, canned laughter, and lull us into numbness. But life is fierce; it insists upon change, and our castle walls will ignite and burn to the ground eventually. Akhilandeshvari is pleased, and she wants us to want her. She would like a more steady relationship with us. It can be an open relationship, she is not possessive. But she glows when we attend to her; when we decide to leap into the unknown, to look within for the source of fulfillment. She invites us to invite change, to energize ourselves to create, and to reject the sticky web of false security.
I just discovered this Goddess last week, as the rain began and finally the ground darkened and softened. Synchronistically, the Chinese year of the Water Dragon is beginning, and we fall into the flames that pour out of the mouth of the mystical. The water dragon invites us into the unexpected, the spontaneous, the unknown. The dragon breathes fire onto our castle walls, until it all melts down, and we have nothing we wish to cling to, and no fear of the fear anymore. With any luck, the NeverNotBroken-ness that we inevitably are will be more palatable in the year of the dragon, as we recognize that we, too, are breathers of fire.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We've crossed the portal. 2012 is upon us!

Good Morning, 2012. It's nice to meet you. I've had some rough days lately, but let me be clear, since we're just meeting, that I am in love with this beautiful world. My 1 year old baby awoke the other day at some wretched hour before dawn. I faked sleep, but I was conquered; Zavier has discovered the silky strands of something that grow out of my scalp, and in his innocent curiosity, he tries to extract them from my person. And then he tries to open my mouth for me, and when I roll over, he smacks me in the head, which I'm sure is also pure and innocent. I told him nicely that I would like him to go the fuck to sleep but he looked at me quizzically and carried on. I begged. To no avail. I arose. We walked out to
see the Christmas tree, which he looked at as if he'd never seen it. It glowed and twinkled, all lit up in the darkness. He stared at the shimmering tree, and then up at me in awe, and then back again. The look of absolute amazement and wonder on his little face was priceless, and lifted me from my grumpy, sleepy grog. That is what they call in yoga Abhuta: Wonder. That is what it's all about.
So, I remembered that I am in love with this beautiful world. And I pray that I stay centered in that remembrance throughout this shiny new year of 2012. I say that in the midst of being poignantly sleep-deprived, and a bit overwhelmed in my own little life, and painfully aware of the world's global broken-ness; all of the chaos resulting from humans not really yet having learned how to manage our overwhelming feelings, our needs, and more than anything, our habit of hitching our sense of self and well being to things that have nothing to do with us. I pray that we nestle back into our own centers, that we spoon with ourselves, and reconnect with the simplicity in the core that is already free, and already full, and let the love that we find there guide our movement in the world. May we, from that sense of deep and enduring settled-ness in ourselves, be capable of great cooperation with others, and may that cooperation beget tremendous creativity. May we collaborate to find solutions to our deepest struggles. May we cooperate with the earth, and live in respect of her abundance and her limitations. May all of our relations be saturated with love for this beautiful world.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

They don't have jobs yet, but they're alive.

So many moons since I've written anything at all, let alone made time to blog. I've abandoned many things, so I could play with a tiny baby that came into the world through the particulars of my body. This little life has been more compelling than anything, but now the world has intruded into me enough that I feel I have something to say. Anyhow, I'm dead sure that my blog is a dead space right now, so I can say anything I want here, and it's kind of liberating.
I feel like the world has been showing me its harsh side lately; the agency where I've been therapizing for a long 5 years has been cutting clients right and left. Budget cuts galore, and a new Director who excels at the clerical and needs a little softening around the edges. She keeps her cards close to her chest, so I don't know her well, and want to be tolerant, but it's hard, as the loss is so great... My bones ache as I prepare discharge paperwork for the clients I have seen almost weekly for 4-5 years. She is getting constant pressure from fiscal, so I feel for her, but she's edgy, so it's challenging. This is how it's going down. She came into my office to explain why we have to discharge people (valid-ish reasons) but then asked if really I think we've helped any of them (my clients), anyway, because they so often miss sessions. And, really, have any of them gone back to work? Isn't that our intention, to make sure they get back to work? And if we cannot claim success in that arena, what are we really doing? WELL, I said, they are alive. They are not in jail, or whoring, or on the streets, or on drugs, or in abusive relationships, or dead. They are not working, but they are also not dead.
Of all the clients I've seen there, almost all have been suicidal at some point; some rabidly so, in a very direct sort of way, and some in all kinds of other more oblique ways. One was a prostitute, a satan-worshipper, and a meth-head, who would go out on the weekend and beat guys bloody... Invariably, she picked the biggest bullies to take down, because somewhere inside her the kindness was influencing, if not running things, and she had a soft-spot for the maligned... she rooted for the underdogs. Now, she sits with more more wide-eyed than a child, with rapt attention, as we talk about deciding to make being at peace the biggest priority in you, and what that does to one's life. We've had conversations that have etched themselves on my soul; about letting anger be a fire that purifies, about letting others be who they are, and finding a way to be so settled in our own skin that we cannot be offended by anything; not anything. We have talked about finding forgiveness for everyone; even the men that abused her when she was wearing Hello Kitty shirts and thought that everyone's daddy hit their mommy. Her PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is extreme, and it's oh so easy for her to get triggered-- one wrong tone of voice used to trigger her kneejerk defenses, and any criticism would make her question the validity of her whole being, and take her to the edge of safety, where suicide was an option again... But she is so much stronger now, and living so much more often in the center of herself. We talked about radical, unshakeable self-love, knowing what one is made of, and how to hold that stronger than anything, even when every affront feels like it caves in the ground beneath her feet.
Another one of my clients didn't leave the house at all for a while -- much less go job-hunting... because of such intense anxiety that she would literally crap her pants almost every time --- though in her charting we call this 'bowel incontinence'. She was from LA but years back got run out of town by gang members who were trying to kill her because they'd killed her boyfriend and she'd witnessed it. A tight spot to be in, and she was extremely suicidal. By some fluke she seems to be off their radar now, but she still doesn't sleep well at night, and keeps the curtains drawn and lights off when she is home during the day. She later fell in love to someone else and was married to the guy who, it turned out, wasn't just cheating on her but had another whole family in Mexico. So she has, shall we say, some trust issues. Besides me, she doesn't talk to ANYONE about anything; so having a place to come where she can actually vent, and trust, is invaluable. So, that's correct; she hasn't managed to get a job, she's still on CalWorks (welfare) after many years- and on meds, etc... But she has managed, finally, to go to the doctor, and is actually in love, and her kids are happy and healthy, and things are good, overall. And she's alive.
Another one of my clients was 270 pounds or something- since she was raped she spiraled into a pattern of blocking every emotion with quart upon quart of ice cream, and huge doses of self-hatred. She also had 170,000 dollars worth of debt, and multiple suicide attempts. She's not working yet either, but she's got a beautiful child, and another on the way, and she makes lovely, dainty jewelry by hand, and tells innocently sarcastic jokes and makes me laugh, and I love her. I love them all. I will miss them. I hope they get jobs, because it's seeming that the safety net that's held them for this sweet slice of time is riddled with holes. I'm sad I won't be part of the net for them any longer, but hope that the self- recognition that they found in our conversations will continue to grow inside them. I hope that grace holds them, and keeps them safe, and getting stronger... and alive.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Happy/Sad Sandwich

A good, good friend of mine died a little bit ago. This last month + has been a surreal time, filled with lots of contrast. I'm really really feeling pregnant (well, cuz I really really am) and super elated to feel the baby kicking and squirming inside, obviously very excited to come out into this crazy, confused, beautiful world. Meanwhile, I'm in midst of such a deep loss and heartache around losing Steve. Today is my 40th birthday, and it stings that he is not here. An especially poignant experience of loss because he was soooo good at getting people to have parties, and he threw all my birthday parties for me for many years in a row. All that jubilance, love and light that he shared was offset by a lot of pain that he had inside, and all of it was held in the cradle of his efforts to become conscious, as he'd become aware that he'd spent his 20's and part of his 30's mostly just numbing out, shutting off from his own grief over some very difficult things that had happened when he was a boy. He became a yogi, and a meditator with fierce determination, often taking himself on 3 month long meditation retreats, multiple times in one year, in his intense efforts to integrate his loss and face it; efforts to heal. So he would dive into his pain, and then fly upwards, going maybe way too deep but then coming up to the surface and being the same goofy, jubilant, wack-o, loving Steve. His plummeting was scary for him, but his love for life and for his friends kept floating him up, as if buoyed by a strong updraft. It was if he was forgetting and then remembering his grief, or the inverse, forgetting and then remembering his lust for life.
In the same way, I forget about him, and then I remember. I break and then mend. Heart aches and then lifts again. It's like I'm in a sandwich of the ache and the blessings; squished like gooey jam between the boundaries of the good and the bad.
I'll have a little child soon, in just over a month; Dec 3 is the due date, they say (some docs said Dec 11, so who really knows?) I imagine that it will be hard to remember anything once the little baby is dominating my life, giving me one mustardy diaper after another and breaking my heart with love, which he is already managing to do from inside my belly. So this contrast of big opening happy heart and a lot of sadness is particularly intense; and perfect, I have to trust. Integration, I think, is what it's all about. Here's my favorite Rumi poem about love and grief, and opening and closing.


Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always open you would be

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and
coordinated as birdwings.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

maggie and milly and molly and may and the karma which has not yet shown its face

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

- ee cummings

"it's always ourselves we find in the sea" says edward, my beloved renegade punctuater and lowercase genius. This to me seems a quite nice way of saying that somehow, all that we encounter is a mirror of sorts, for we are not capable of looking out upon the world without looking through our own eyes, which are inevitably covered over with filters, whether they be lovely and kaleidoscopic or gray and despondent. We are, in each moment, casting the hue of our own karmas upon whatever or whomever we perceive. All of our held karmic accumulations are stored as seeds (bijas), generally unconsciously. Though the seeds have not yet fructified (phalonmukha - literally, having not yet shown its face) they are scripting the future, because in our unconsciousness, we inevitably water them, with desire.
The great benefit of practice, is that it gives us early warning signs, insights into what these seeds are; glimpses into the brilliance of conscious freedom. We quiet ourselves enough to hear the still small voice of guidance - which arises not from any external otherwordly source but from within... and then we choose to heed it or not. Buddhism expresses this process as one of great inevitability and some level of severity; life is, afterall, dukkha, most fundamentally-- suffering, or 'dis-ease'. In the Tantra, which is part of Buddhism development, the nature of consciousness is svatantrya: Ultimate, Total Freedom. But this freedom too rests on the foundations of karma's impeccability, along with a healthy dose of lila. (More on that later)
I read a rather startling statement the other night, from a very heavy and fascinating academic paper on Buddhism, Nietzsche, James, Bergson, and other philosophers' perspectives on Karma. Read it! And then you can explain it to me.
Bhikkhu Nanajivako writes:
"Compare the simple(r) statement of the Buddha, with strict reference to the karmic, i.e. the morally relevant, act:
'If anyone were to say 'this person commits an act and he will suffer accordingly' - if that were the case, there would be no (use of leading a) life of holiness, and there would be no opportunity of putting an end to suffering. If anyone were to say 'this person commits an act for which he deserves to suffer accordingly'- if that were the case, there would be (a use of leading) a life of holiness, and there would be an opportunity of putting an end to suffering.' [15]
Woah. This struck me, as I think of Buddhism as being a precise and empirical science of observation of cause and effect... But this statement seems so Draconian somehow; the addition of 'deserves' to suffer adds a certain harshness to the worldview. But I'm starting to see it differently, as I mull it over... If suffering is really more like the great capacity to have clear understanding of that which is harmonious and that which is not, then we can reframe this statement. Perhaps the Buddha is actually implying that, for instance, if we are capable of facing ourselves, facing our lives, perceiving our role in things, having an awareness of the impact of our actions, whether it is unpleasant or pleasant, then we are actually quite blessed; and we deserve to have this consciousness, for in this reckoning we ultimately make better choices. This is very different from a Christian stance, which seeks to erradicate sin. Buddhism has no specific beef with sin, only with suffering. And even suffering, if we decide that it is somehow a great boon to be able to be conscious enough to suffer, and to do so with self-love intact, can be a gift. On the contrary, if we constantly hide from reality, cast out suffering, and instead blame others and shirk responsibilities, then we do ourselves a terrible disservice, for then there is no chance ever of becoming a conscious, free being. We are simply tossed around like limp and lifeless prey; but the predator is us. We are prey to forces that actually are arising from within -- because we haplessly perceive them as arising from without.
In the Tantric philosophy from which Anusara yoga derives its foundation, there is a huge focus on goodness, which I, having spent years fairly indoctrinated along Buddhist lines, initially found to be almost too saccharin sweet. "Somebody get me a treacle cutter", I screamed to myself, for about the first year of Anusara practice. Luckily, the principles of alignment are brilliant and kept me coming back, even while I resisted the . Some of John Friend's favorite terms from Tantric philosophers are Svatantrya - Ultimate Freedom, Chitta - Consciousness, Sri-- Auspiciousness, and Ananda -- Bliss. I've realized after almost 5 years of studying with John and other Anusara teachers that everybody knows that goodness rests upon personal responsibility; to oneself and to the Kula, the community one chooses, and that happiness rests on dropping resistance to the full spectrum of human experience, including the dark. This is why Purna, or fullness, is one of John's other fave terms. I think that John's greatest teaching is that we will inevitably choose more wisely if we are focused on generating joy in our lives and in the lives of others. So, this philosophy is not so different than Classical Yoga, or Buddhism, he is simply approaching it from another angle. Rather than living in avoidance of future suffering, which classical yoga certainly purports is crucial (Yoga Sutra II.16 Heyam Dukham Anagatam: Pain which has not yet come is avoidable) John teaches to move towards joy. In your own infinite freedom, experience everything; don't block anything that arises. But orient around light, around grace, and around auspiciousness. Good luck with that. If it's hard, know that it's hard for everybody, and get more support. Lean on the Kula. Practice, and all will come.

"Enmities are never appeased by enmity, but they are appeased by non-enmity. This is the eternal law." - The Dhammapadam

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010: Sweetness and Light

mindthegap So, for the last couple of years, right around the Solstice, I have been giving each incoming year a little theme, inspired by yogic concepts that I feel most in love with at the time. 2008 was 'unmesha', which is the word for gap; the space between breaths, or concepts, or stances, or the space between anything -- the infinite space in which anything can shift, even to its opposite. Unmesha is the freedom that anything has to be what it is not, and the freedom that we each have to lose our rigidity and enter the realm of possibility.
2009's theme was 'anugraha', which is a word for Grace: the grace that comes from knowing what to hold tight to, and what to let go of.
Anugraha is about loving and choicereleasing, and the freedom to choose. Anugraha is also about one of Krishna's deepest teachings to Arjuna; anytime we make a choice based on fear or ignorance, the choice brings a chain of karmas behind it... And one cannot avoid the responsibility of choice, for even not choosing is a choice, with all of its own inherent repercussions.
I got a lot of emails back from people who appreciated my little theme-game, so I'm inclined to do it again, but I'm also a little embarrassed... It's embarrassing because it's really very cheerleader-y of me, as if a year would need a theme to really rise up and make something of itself. In truth, each year has its own momentum, and doesn't need anyone waving pom-poms around, or telling it what to do. Each year, just like each singular moment, has its own essential nature, its own path, and, as much as I do enjoy setting intention, I don't pretend to actually have any particular influence on how life unfolds. Life seems to me to have inescapable heft; it gives and takes without warning. With no compunction life can crash upon us like one of those colossally huge avalanches that comes plummeting down a hillside, and then in an eye-blink it can as easily turn us awestruck and blind with the magnet-pull of love. Life doesn't have to preface or forewarn, it is as precocious as the snapping shut of the trap of a lion's mouth, closed in on its prey, or the sudden sheets of heavy rain, snatching away complacency.
How, then, to name this year? How, when I am more than anything stunned by the raucous whimsy of life's events; how one knows almost nothing about anything, and how everything is so constantly the same and then suddenly new. I am not sure if this is just the normal lament of someone who realizes that they're getting older, but life seems so uncontrollable to me, and I'm grateful and terrified, in unequal measure. Gratitude wells up more powerfully than fear, somehow, because, above all, life is the incredible sweetness of music, that touches everything without using hands. I walked into my office the other day to find one of my therapy clients -- at the agency where I work in the East Bay- transfixed by a tiny down feather. The speck of a feather was floating up on an invisible updraft, and she was all a-twinkle over it; ga-ga, like a child... and I thought, how precious it is, to see this woman, who has come to me to share her troubles, and whom I know has suffered in a way so disporportionate to justice, as fascinated as a child, by this feather. She'd fallen in love, like a child does, with the simplicity of wind and lightness, and a feather's indignance towards gravity.
So I've given the year the theme of honey-sweetness and light. Sweetness; Sukha, Madhu; Honey, and light; Jyotir. May your life give you the capacity to apprehend sweetness in the midst of everything, regardless of dukha, and even because of dukha, pain. May your eyes stretch up to see the light of the terrestial world, and the luminous nature of your own precious consciousness.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Jeweled Net of Indra



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did you take your blue pill this morning?

Douglas Brooks writes on Rajanaka and his perspective on Shaivism, Advaita Vedanta, Classical Yoga, etc. His penultimate post is a good place to get a little confused - he writes about what others have said about that ineffable concept we call enlightenment. As you may know, there are about as many different perspectives on what "enlightenment" is as there are yogis. He's clearly a bit skeptical about the claims of Shaivism, and even more critical of Classical Yoga, which I can appreciate. He says, of Classical Yoga, that it purports enlightenment is such a wildly unique state that it is completely indescribable, but that when you get "it" you realize that you had it all along. He finds this more than a bit specious; "I’m not mystical enough to want a yoga of the ineffable. For me yoga has to be instruction about the world I’m living in, not a mystical otherness."
Of Shaivism, he wonders how it is that the sages expect us to believe their rather contradictory thesis. They seem to be teaching that enlightenment-- or realization of the sacred oneness -- is a state so fully unique that we cannot even imagine it, and yet, simultaneously, they tell us that when we get there, we'll realize that it is precisely what we've known and been all along. He writes; "We’re still left to wonder how something ---the state of Oneness recognition ---is by definition nothing like what we are having now and yet is nothing but what we are having now. Did you take your blue pill this morning?"
I won't comment too extensively on these writings, since I just barely grok them. But give them a read, and if you do, tell me what you think.

Douglas Brooks is Author of Poised for Grace, Anusara Books, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two sides of the Cosmic Coin; The dance of Karma and Lila

Reflections from Hallow's Eve
Kelly Disco Angel
The sea of masks and painted faces swirled around us in phantasmagoric splendor last weekend. Even as I fought a cold I found myself buoyed up by the spectacle of it; the sheer randomness of human expression. This seems to me a perfect expression of Lila; the urge to play. Lila, according to Yoga, propels the unmanifest into manifest, propels the divine to take form. The idea in Yoga is that there is no reason for 'creation' or the manifesting that happens at every moment; the universe is simply playful, and free, and has some inclination or potential to reflect itself back upon itself. In Yoga there is not one Godhead; we are each the source of all that we perceive. So each moment, which flashes form into our awareness, is derived from our own precious instinct to see ourselves. And the source of the instinct is simply playfulness. This is Lila. Seeing the world through the lens of Lila, there is no order, per se, but no lack of order either. Phenomena arises simply out of its own potential energy, and things happen simply because they have the potential to do so. When a good thing happens to you, you might try to figure out why you are reaping what you've sown, so that you can feel proud of yourself, or pleased, at least, with your good work. This would be a practical application of the law of Karma. But the law of Lila says that your good luck is simply the fact that you arise out of the psychic soup of being-ness. What happens to us happens because we are ultimately interconnected with everything, and because the universe is playful, and inclusive. We all are impacted by everything that has ever occurred. Therefore there is nothing that has ever happened that did not also happen to us, and nothing that happens to us that did not or will not ultimately happen to everyone. This is Lila; and if we believe in it fully, we will either become saints, or criminals; devotees, or nihilists. Lila is just one side of the cosmic coin.
Lila is balanced out by the impeccability of karma: the fierce perfection of cause and effect. According to Karma, this causal realm is bound by and govered karma; the law of action. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, we reap precisely what we sow. How then, do we apply these paradoxical and complementary theories to our lives, relationships, careers, and practices? One way to play is to exchange self for other. This comes from Buddhism, but Tantra and Yoga all affirm it. When the person across from you is suffering, know that you could easily switch positions. Their suffering is your suffering, their joy is your joy. Attend to the suffering knowing that it is your own. This is not quite like the Christian idea - of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's actually a little deeper-- an acknowledgement that we have no capacity to think "he seems like he is suffering, it must feel bad" unless we are actually projecting our own suffering outward. So when we resist another's experience, because it is annoying, or suffocating, or cloying, or obsequious, we are actually simply in resistance to some aspect of self. The other theory that I play with is that Karma is only fairly applied to the broadest definition of self. If we start blaming other people's misfortune on Karma, we short-circuit our empathic process. Similarly, if we blame our own suffering on our karmic debt, we are less than likely to heal. But if we consider that we all carry a karmic debt collectively, and trust that collectively we are transcending and healing and stepping up to the grace plate, then life is much much more pleasant. And if we recall that Lila is constantly playing a hand, we can un-furrow our brows a bit, and trust in the process which is beyond our control or comprehension. All those crazy characters that come out on Hallow's eve, or any other day, for that matter, are all playing the same game. As perfect reflections of our own inner masquerade, all the rest are dancing the karma-lila dance with us; suspended between utter randomness and strict cause and effect.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

The steady and inevitable transformation of Governance- and the tools we need to do it.

"I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin Roosevelt

For years, Britt Blaser (my dad) has been intent on developing internet tools to transform the way we communicate with politicians. Essentially, he wants to transform governance itself. NYC iVote4U and its Facebook app are complete and designed to be simple to use and radically effective, so that We the People can exert true influence over elected officials. The point of these apps is to take the power out of the hands of lobbyists and big corporate interests and give it to constituents. Not just another place on the web to complain, but a way to pledge our votes for and against politicians on Facebook and publicly gain up on them.

Each politician in the running has a 'page' where we can read what their platform is, see who is supporting them amongst our friends, and also register our support or lack thereof. The idea is that we can guide each other, and get guidance from our trusted FB friends, and in so doing, create a record online of what our political interests are. IF this takes off, because enough of us care, and use the app, then conceivably it will also be a place where our elected officials go to learn what we care about, collectively. Thus, we can force them to do the right thing.

iVote4U has received some attention: Huffington Post: New York's digitized Dems can take over city council Sept. 15 - "This website allows voters to use the web to bring about the audacity of hope and change instead of letting party insiders and candidate cronies re-elect an elite of tired incumbents or hand-picked buddies who are mostly out of touch with the real world that savvy New Yorkers occupy."

Doc Searls: Primary needs for political tools - "The idea, sez Britt, is to give voters a way to manage their politicians as easily as they manage their iTunes."

Right now it's being tested in the NYC primaries - now in run-off. Dad maintains that primaries can be the secret weapon of progressives and that the essential political algorithm is voter management of primary elections, as significant as Google's link-weighting algorithm. He calls primaries narrowly traded election markets, and political parties don't want much attention brought to them.

I hope we can bring it to CA after the New York test.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Five Acts of Shiva

So, last week I talked in class a bit about The 5 Acts of Shiva, for those of you that graced me with your lovely presence. Admittedly, even when I talk about the divine acts in complete and grammatically acceptable sentences, I am virtually unable to really 'grok' what this is all about. I do know that this is way way groovy. Here's what I think is going on:
The five acts of Shiva are creation (or emanation), maintenance, withdrawal (or destruction), concealing grace, and revealing grace. The universe is emanated from within the absolute freedom of consciousness, the universe in maintained, because consciousness believes in it, and the world is destroyed, because consciousness recognizes again its own autonomy, its own authorship, and draws the universe back into itself, in a moment of repose. In the moments that the universe is maintained, concealing grace is the instrument via which the subject is convinced of the universes' veritable being-ness. In the motion towards withdraw, or dissolution of the universe back into consciousness, revealing grace provides this revelatory magic of grace which allows the subject to see itself again, as the absolute.
The tricky part is that the mind is so dang linear, we inevitably think of this as an historical event, as if these five acts were actually performed by some ethereal being, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Then, on those assumptions, we either accept or reject the whole concept. The deal is, the five acts are happening right now. And NOW! and now, and again and again and again, over and over again. The five acts are occurring inside my own consciousness, and your own consciousness, and inside everyone's consciousness, for this is the only 'place' anything ever 'happens', just as NOW is the only time anything ever happens. At the level of the absolute, at the level of Paramashiva, there is of course no time separate from any other time, and no place, for there is no limitation on space; all is one, you know the deal.
But the beauty of the 5 acts is to differentiate, to the degree that one has the capacity to do so, the Self (big S) who is somehow engaging in the 'world' (also within consciousness), and then, of course, to DIG it! All of 'this' (idam) is simply agreed upon phenomenon, agreed upon by us; you and me (aham). And many aspects of this supposed 'reality' are less than palatable, it's true. I can think of a lot of things that I am averse to (DVESHA!!), and a lot of things I really love love love (RAGA). This is what Douglas Brooks calls the Yum-Yuk. mmmmm.... yummy... eeeewwww, yucky. We do it all the time, and get so identified with these 'afflicted' states of being (kleshas) that the world can seem either way inconvenient, practically intolerable, or, in another moment, full of goodness that is unattainable, like some precious elixir just out of our reach.
But it's all just grooving on itself!! So dig it. Hey, there's this amazing song... From 1971. It's called 'if you're diggin' what you're doin', keep on doin' what you're diggin'. I can't find it, but if anybody can, let me know. It could be a whole life-orientation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dinner at Fairy-Tale Farm

Check this out:

From my friend Tod, in Santa Cruz:
Dinner at Fairy-Tale Farm 17 April 2009

Please join us for our first "guerilla in the field", an underground restaurant located in the middle of our vegetable patch in downtown Santa Cruz. We will be featuring a Persian inspired menu, cooked by masterful chef Tod Nysether and sous-chef Karsten Wade.

Suggested donation: $20-$40, wine and dessert included.

Friday 17 April 6:00 PM

There are 20 seats available. We reserve one free meal for anyone who is willing to wash the dishes. (Yes, you can work for your supper!) Registration is via email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Where, When ...

Friday 17 April 6:00 pm
Contact us for location


Crudites w/ yogurt-garlic-dill dip, Spanish romesco sauce, bagna cauda
Fresh compagnon bread w/ butter
Kale and beet salad w/ citrus vinaigrette
Moroccan carrot salad w/ garden greens
Wilted escarole salad
Polo sabzi (Persian rice)
Persian chicken (yogurt marinated with Persian spices)
Coptic chickpea (chickpea and artichoke stew)
Persian delicacies

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Memorize your credit card #. Donate quickly when the urge hits you.

The best thing about memorizing your credit card #, exp date, and security code is that you can make spontaneous donations before any voices of fear or realism intervene.

I just got this email from AVAAZ:

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, a blackout is descending across Tibet. Foreign media are being detained and expelled, armed troops are patrolling the streets, monks are being arrested, and phone networks are being cut, closing off crucial information channels to the outside world -- click on this link to donate to send crucial technical support and equipment to Tibetan civil society groups, such as Voice of Tibet, and help protect Tibetans from further human rights violations.

P.S. Consider donating to support organizations like Voice of Tibet at this crucial time. They need our support now more than ever. Even a modest donation will go a long way

i would really like to believe