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a yoga playlist

IMG_1614I never used to play music in my classes. For the first five years of my teaching, I taught at the ocean. Who needed anything else besides the sound of waves, of palm trees rustling in the wind, or even silence?

Now that I teach in a studio, I’m loving the playlist. It sets the mood for class, and helps me remember what I want to focus on teaching.

Here’s the latest:

Heart Sutra Soulshine 4:54 Wah! Love Holding Love New Age 25 9/13/09 9:02 AM
Indian Motorcycles 5:33 Sonorous Star The Rough Guide To Indian Lounge World 3 9/13/09 9:08 AM
Maha Deva 4:56 Wah! Love Holding Love New Age 35 9/14/09 8:07 AM
Ma Chant (Kali) 4:21 Wah! Love Holding Love New Age 38 9/14/09 8:27 AM
Deus Suite – Ascension 6:56 Electric Skychurch Together Electronica/Dance 7 9/13/09 9:19 AM
Sacred Patterns 4:45 Wah! Love Holding Love New Age 31 9/12/09 6:56 PM
You’re My Flame 3:16 Zero 7 The Garden Electronica/Dance 7 9/12/09 10:39 AM
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 4:46 The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Alternative 26 9/12/09 5:34 PM
Endless Horizon (I Love Bob Mix) 3:13 Electric Skychurch Moog (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) Soundtrack
Are You a Hypnotist?? 4:45 The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Alternative 8 9/12/09 5:53 PM
It’s Summertime 4:20 The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Alternative 20 9/12/09 5:57 PM
Unconditional 4:51 Wah! Love Holding Love New Age 25 9/12/09 7:12 PM
Ma Chant (Savasana) 2:48 Wah! Love Holding Love New Age 32 9/14/09 8:22 AM
Helpless 4:03 Patti Smith Twelve Alternative & Punk 32 9/12/09 9:54 PM
Protection 7:52 Massive Attack Protection Electronica/Dance 5 2/18/09 1:25 PM
Brand New World 5:31 Cowboy Junkies At The End Of Paths Taken Country 17 9/12/09 11:10 AM
Magpie to the Morning 2:44 Neko Case Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version) Alternative 48 9/12/09 9:43 PM

Heart Sutra Soulshine  Wah!

Indian Motorcycles Sonorous Star

Maha Deva Wah!

Ma Chant (Kali)  Wah!

Deus Suite – Ascension Electric Skychurch

Sacred Patterns Wah!

You’re My Flame  Zero 7

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1  The Flaming Lips

Endless Horizon (I Love Bob Mix)  Electric Skychurch

Are You a Hypnotist??  The Flaming Lips

It’s Summertime  The Flaming Lips

Unconditional Wah!

Ma Chant (Savasana) Wah!

Helpless  Patti Smith

Brand New World  Cowboy Junkies

By Thy Grace  Snatam Kaur

*namaste*

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Yesterday I started writing this sappy syrupy sickly sad post called “Requiem for Love Lost.” Perhaps one day I will finish it. I was thinking about Gogo (who I saw last weekend!), T, and D. I am not a stranger to loss. And those are just the losses of the past six months. (Not really lost, in the case of the men… love lives on in friendship, but the loss of romantic love is something to mourn. sigh.)

Lately, I am really into living in the vibration that I want to be my reality. No use dwelling on what’s lost. What’s to come…. now that’s what I’m interested in at this very moment. And I just bought my ticket to Element 11!

What is Element 11? It’s Utah’s regional burn, the official regional Burning Man event ™, out at Seabase, somewhere on the Bonneville salt flats. It starts Thursday. I can’t get there until after my nephew’s wedding on Friday evening. Hmmph.

Looking over the description of the theme camps and events, I feel the rebirth already. There’s Camp Oasis of Transformation, with yoga and bodywork and even a “Transformation Testimony Meeting and Fashion Show.” These are my people!  Then there’s Anti-M’s Home for Wayward Art & the Artery, with an art station for creating stuff. The Black Rock City Canoe Club is setting up a communal kitchen for anyone to use, and is making grilled cheese and bacon every night (reminiscent of Bianca’s). The Giggle Collective is having banana splits and ice cream sundaes on Sunday. I’ll probably skip Viva Las Vegas camp’s banana blow job competition.

I first went to Burning Man in 2000 with some friends from San Francisco. I went again in 2002, which was a bit more challenging, as I was making the trip from New York (where i was living at the time). The 2003 burn was even more of a schlep. My ex and I (who i met at the 2002 burn) traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to Black Rock City, about two hours north of Reno.

So after six years, I’m easing back in, starting with Element 11. Compared to the 40,000 or so who attend Burning Man, there will be maybe 800 people at Element 11. I’m going to be in Pineapple camp, with my friends Mark and Kameron. I’m driving up with my friend Phidias, who I met via Twitter. I’ll teach yoga on Saturday and Sunday for anyone who wants to come. It’ll have to be spontaneous, because I can’t even imagine setting a schedule. I predict there will not be a lot of sleeping going on. Summer solstice is on Sunday — hallelujah!!! the longest night of the year!! — and there’s a solstice burn with offerings to Ra, the Sun god, at 3:45 a.m.

Tonight I pulled out my costume bin and started planning a mixture of old and new. I lost most of my burning man photos when my hard drive crashed five years ago, sadly. I wish I could share some of my creations. I spent two entire months in the summer of 2002 (visiting Utah while waiting for my nephew Logan to be born) going to Deseret Industries every day and making stuff. I found a coconut shell bra, and made a green fabric grass skirt to go with it. I made a lot of hats. My favorite was covered in moss and flowers. Paired with flowing green fabric wrapped into different styles, depending on my mood, I was an earth goddess. The year before, I dressed as the angel Moroni’s wayward sister. Gold body paint, gold spray-painted wig, gold lame fabric wrapped everywhere, and I carried a golden trumpet. That year, I drove out with a bunch of ex-mormons from Utah who created a temple and re-enacted certain ceremonies. But by then, I was connected to Asylum Village, where I stayed my last two years, with 300 or so amazing New Yorkers.

I usually changed costumes four times a day. I guess that was my contribution. At Burning Man, you are not a spectator. You are a participant. You can create whatever you can fathom. Friends from Brooklyn, part of the Madagascar Institute, created an Octopus on the far reaches of the playa. They welded the structure, 80 feet by 30 feet, covered it in fabric or fiberglass — i can’t remember. At the end of each tentacle, fire cannons erupted all night long. It was glorious.

People create beautiful art and burn it. And they make gifts they hand out. Or they just do random sweet things. My first year, at the end of the week, parched and dehydrated, I was walking along the esplanade (the first street in the series of concentric circles that make up the village) when a man offered me a tray of watermelon. Cold, crisp, perfectly cut into big cubes. I picked one cube. It was delicious. I kissed him and told him I loved him. It was such a random, perfect act. That to me is the essence of Burning Man. Unexpected kindness. Love. Vision. Creativity.

Last year, when I went to San Francisco for Heather and Stacy’s wedding, just after the ceremony, as the summer heat was overtaken by clouds, I handed them two fake fur coats. Heather told me later that it was a perfect Burning Man moment. They wore their coats the rest of the evening as protection against the cold.

There’s something about Burning Man. The sense of community — when you arrive at the entrance, greeters say, “Welcome home.” Just purchasing my ticket tonight, I feel like I’ve come home.

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pretty shiny things that I didn't want you to steal

pretty shiny things that I didn't want you to steal

Today was one of those days where my asana practice suffered. I woke up feeling kind of under the weather. I took Pooka out for a walk in deep snow, wondering if that walk could be considered a walking mindfulness meditation. Each step was deliberate and slow, but awkward. Not exactly graceful or mindful.

At home I did a few restorative poses with my block — supported bridge, supported fish, and supported shoulderstand (with the back of the pelvis resting on the block, legs straight up), with some deep intentional breathing and the hope that I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Saturday night I went to a pirate bingo party. I dressed like a pirate wench, covered in plundered jewels. One of the necklaces I chose to wear reminded me of a crazy story from my past involving stealing. Asteya (non-stealing) is one of the yamas —  the five codes of outward observance. They can be thought of guides for how to behave toward others. (The niyamas are the inward observances.)  I was telling my mom the yamas and niyamas are kind of like the ten commandments of yoga. I think she liked that. 

The yamas include ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing) brahmacharya — ooh, a tricky one. celibacy? sexual continence? there are a lot of potential meanings.  Also aparigraha, or non-greed, non-hoarding.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali translates the verse on asteya this way: “To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.”

What does it mean if people steal from you, repeatedly?  

This story involves a thieving yoga teacher. It was late 2004, I think, and I needed to leave Puerto Rico for about a month. My ex was leaving too. We had this big farm house and tons of animals to tend to. We found someone to come and stay there and feed them — a good friend we trusted. I also found someone to teach my sunrise yoga classes at the Ann Wigmore Institute. Everything was set.

Then I met this woman, a famous activist, who was volunteering at the Institute as well, who I felt an immediate kinship toward. She was a much more radical version of me, and I think I was in awe of her. I didn’t stop to think, “do i trust her?” I thought of my dogs, Pooka especially, and wanted to make sure they got lots of love when I was gone. I had a car — a 1967 pontiac tempest, and the idea came to me to offer it to her for the month I was gone, with the condition that she would go visit Pooka every day. Pooka was used to so much love. I wanted to be sure she was okay while I was gone.

I’ll call the activist B. She was happy to get a muscle car to drive for a month, and said yes. As I handed over the keys, I said, “make yourself at home!”

Fast forward to the morning after I got back. I dropped in on the sunrise yoga class to see how it was going, and to get be a student for once in that incredible space looking out over the ocean. My sub was a completely gorgeous local Puerto Rican man. I went up to him after class to thank him and ask how it had gone. My eyes drifted over toward a bench. I suddenly felt totally confused. There was this card sitting there — that I had painted. I asked where he got it.  He was that B had given it to him. I looked at it again. It was this beautiful card that had so much meaning for me. I had dropped paint onto the card, and what had emerged was this beautiful fetus in a womb.  I told him that I had painted it, and wondered how B had found it and given it to him. 

So when I saw B next, I asked her. “I found a book upstairs in the library with a bunch of cards in it,” she said. I still hadn’t thought to question her. I thought maybe it was possible that one of the books I had donated had some cards in it. It was possible! 

Next day, I saw her wearing one of my shirts. I asked her if she had borrowed it from me, and she said no, that someone had given it to her. So that was the second “hmm,” and this time, i doubted her honesty. I remembered where I bought it, and i couldn’t find mine. So I started feeling suspicious. Still, it was just a shirt.

Around this time, someone told me that a lot of stuff from the farm (meaning my house) was in the Institute staff house, where she and B lived, and that maybe I should come by. This friend told me that B had borrowed my yoga journals and had cut out some photos and pasted them on the wall by her bed. 

That kinda pissed me off, because I had written for Yoga Journal and wanted my physical copies of the magazine. I used it as a reference at times. 

At this point, I called her and asked her if she had anything else of mine, to please return it. 

Next morning, I arrived at the yoga spot to teach. The sun was rising, and there was a pile of my stuff. Several yoga books, including a Jivamukti book I absolutely love. CDs. A yoga mat in a mat holder. It was a pretty sizeable pile. She hadn’t returned the yoga journals. And by this time, I had started to look around and had noticed some things that were missing. And my friend who lived with B at the staff house said there was more there. 

Now, looking back, it sounds so juvenile. I should have just gone to her one more time and said, listen lady, I know you took more of my stuff. When I said, “make yourself at home!” I didn’t mean take whatever you wanted. You can eat what you want, but don’t steal all our spices, nuts, cacao, and frozen fruit! I mean, who would think you’d have to make that sort of proclamation?

I went over to the staff house with my friend and found stuff I didn’t even know was missing. Most notably, this necklace that my dear friend and New York roommate Martha had given me. It had belonged to her grandmother. Three strands of beautiful green and bronze-hued vintage crystals. I grabbed it. Now I was really starting to seethe.

I called the institute director and told her about it. I told her that I had given B a chance to return everything and that she hadn’t, and what troubled me was that if she was stealing from me, perhaps she was stealing from others. An institute volunteer stealing is unacceptable. 

Yes, I wish I had gone to B one more time and gone through her house and confronted her on all of it. I feel sort of cowardly for doing that. We had a meeting, and she was confronted and asked to leave the institute.

Then, oddly, she got a scholarship for yoga teacher training at Jivamukti. B had some good karma coming her way. I couldn’t understand it. Had she been raised on a commune and thought that she could take anything she wanted? Did she have some sort of stealing compulsion? (Another friend of mine had stolen a bunch of stuff from me in the past, including my driver’s license! She definitely seemed to have some sort of compulsion.) 

She returned the card she had written to the hot yoga teacher. I still have it. She quotes Marianne Williamson, from A Return to Love: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

It was a nice thought, but I couldn’t see past the fact that she had stolen that card that I had painted. I always thought that card was some sort of symbol of my infertility, that maybe something would be born of me, somehow maybe I’d get a chance to be a parent. Something. It was a message from the universe, delivered in drops of paint that I had smeared into a beautiful image.

I was torn. It was just stuff. How important is stuff in the scheme of things? Yet there are boundaries we should respect. There are laws regarding personal property. You take something that doesn’t belong to you, you can go to jail. I wasn’t interested in seeing her punished. Yet I couldn’t understand it. How can you take something that belongs to ME? 

Eventually B wrote me a letter of apology — on hemp stationery she had stolen from me. And she gave me a card, with this poem from Mary Oliver:

In Blackwater Woods

Look the trees

are turning their own bodies

into pillars

of light,

are giving off the rich fragrance of

cinnamon and fulfillment,

the long tapers of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

of the ponds,

and every pone,

no matter what its

name is, is

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have ever learned in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side is salvation,

whose meaning none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

you must be able to do three things:

to love what is mortal,

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

 

I felt she was scolding me for grasping at my possessions.  Yet, why did she want them?

Once, when I was on a business trip, someone broke into my house and stole all my jewelry, including a charm bracelet that my beloved grandmother had left me, with charms she had collected from all over the world. It’s easier to understand when you see the broken window, the brick on the floor surrounded by shards of glass, the pile of human feces in the garage. That’s an offense. That’s violence. That’s theft. But when a friend takes things, and you wish you could have given them freely, but didn’t…. it’s uncomfortable.

In the past few years, I’ve lost almost everything I’ve ever owned. I’ve lost all the money I saved. I’m closer to that point of not caring about possessions. but I still do. 

Patanjali continues, on asteya, or non-stealing: “If we are completely free from stealing and greed, contented with what we have, and if we keep serene minds, all wealth comes to us. If we do not run after it, before long it runs after us.”

I hope so. Uh oh, if I hope so, does that mean it will not come? Om shanti.

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I took my first class of the new year today, at Flow Yoga SLC. It felt like a vacation to not have to decide what to do myself — and have the luxury of following along. Jami, the instructor, invited us to reconnect with our spiritual paths. She outlined 6 steps. All I remember is: have a desire to progress spiritually. take less offense. be present. now it’s getting fuzzy. part of it was self-study (svadyaya). Ok, so I got four out of six. 

It was a moving class, and it was refreshing to do things I don’t usually do. Lots of hip openers  — standing pigeon, reclining pigeon, and then regular pigeon, followed by downward dog split with the hip stacked — which is opposite the way I usually do it, but it was a great counterpose to pigeon, rather than a precursor to it. 

My big takeaway from the class came in the opening om. I realized that in my personal practice i haven’t been chanting, at least as long as I’ve been blogging about yoga (four days now). That is going to change. All we did was chant om, but it reminded me of the power of the chanting during the Dharma Mittra’s workshop. His chanting made me feel high. Spending an hour chanting along with Krishna Das CDs also has a similar effect. Chanting is the shit. It’s super powerful. It shifts energy and opens you up.

After class I went to Tyler’s and did some headstands with him and his kids. And somehow, I did my first tripod headstand. I’ve had a block against it for years. But I got into tripod crow with my back a couple of inches from a wall and then just miraculously lifted my feet up. I love doing something I didn’t think I could! 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Iyengar’s “The Tree of Yoga”:

“What is the right attitude and approach to the performance of an asana?

“You have to become completely and totally absorbed, with devotion, dedication, and attention, while performing the pose. There should be honesty in approach and honesty in presentation. When performing a pose, you have to findout whether your body has accepted the challenge of the mind, or whether the mind has accepted the challenge of the body. … The asana has to enshrine the entire being of the doer with splendour and beauty. This is spiritual practice in physical form.”

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parivritta parsvakonasana

parivritta parsvakonasana

 

This afternoon, I knelt down, palms pressed together at my heart, thumbs resting on the breastbone, and bowed to my inner perfection, that part of me that doesn’t want to rip someone’s head off at t-mobile, or swear when someone cuts me off driving, or feel uncharitable toward the person who has been using my lost cell phone.

Krishna Das has become an instant mood tranquilizer, so I put on All One, with its versions of Hare Krishna that lead me, like bugs bunny’s violin, to a calmer, less savage place. Hare Krishna starts to rock out, and I find myself feeling fierce in my calmness, pushing to the point of sweat. Sometimes tapas, or burning effort, is the perfect approach.  Tapas is “a burning desire to cleanse every cell of our body and every cell of our senses, so that the senses and the body may be made permanently pure and healthy and leave no room for impurities to enter into our system. It is in this spirit that the asanas should be performed.” That’s from B.K.S. Iyengar’s “The Tree of Yoga,” one of my favorite books on yoga. And today, feeling a bit irritable as I’m detoxing from some bad 2008 habits, it was perfect. I threw in a lot of twists, which help with detoxing. The twists wrung out little beads of sweat, and toxins from those numbing alcoholic beverages that were making me less grumpy (duh! they also make me numb). I’ve even been smoking occasionally (whatever was i thinking?), plus eating meat, taking ADD medication, which is so good to not be on — it’s hard to do inversions without feeling like your head is going to explode when on Ritalin — so there’s a lot to squeeze out. Shocked? Don’t be. Yogis are human beings.

I love the symbolism of twists. Wringing out the old, and making room for the new. Each twist compresses internal organs and glands, like squeezing a dirty sponge, forcing out toxins. And when you release the twist, fresh blood rushes in, cleansing, rinsing and soaking. Why don’t I do more twists? From seated and supine twists to the bound twisted triangle, even the balancing bound twist, bird of paradise, ah. Just ah. After an hour of tapas, followed by alternate nostril breathing and meditation, I no longer want to hurt a t-mobile employee. And the idea of the perfect me that I bowed to at the begininng, in anjali mudra, seems less ridiculous. A bit more attainable.

I decided today that part of making time for yoga every day is to schedule it. I’ve always had the excuse of not doing it first thing in the morning because my dogs always want to get up and go. Jumping up on the bed, licking my face, and then basically whining or staring at me (which is sometimes worse than the whining) until they get their way. So, I only have one dog now (Pooka), and she’s much more mellow than she was when Gogo lived with us (he has a new home and a new name!) My plan is to feed Pooka and then take my 15 minutes of meditation while she is eating, before doing anything else,  including taking her out. I hope it works. It’s another attempt to live life and not let it live me. Who’s the top dog here? 

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make an offering

img_07422

Starting out the new year, I’m setting the intention of nurturing and sharing my yoga practice. It’s a bit different here in Utah, where the ground is covered with snow, compared to the photo above, taken in Puerto Rico, but the feeling is the same. Standing or sitting with the palms pressed together in anjali mudra is a common way start to a practice. Anjali means offering, and a mudra is a sign or seal. Bringing the palms together in anjali mudra invokes a feeling of reverence. It focuses the awareness at the heart. And it’s a great opportunity to check in with yourself and set an intention for your practice. You can make an offering of energy toward a goal or an ideal, something you want to manifest in your life or in the world. You might make an offering to a person who needs some positive or healing energy, to someone you love, or even to a person you are having trouble with. Whenever you return to this position — either as you’re repeating the sun saluations, or in a transition from one pose to another– each time your palms touch, you can remind yourself of that intention and make your offering again. In the beginning of the practice, when you set your intention, it may not seem attainable, but as you continue to remind yourself of it, it may begin to feel more real. Sort of like reprogramming your brain, infusing it with what you’d like to see more of, and eventually patterns of thought that are destructive or no longer serve you can be replaced by your intention.

My intention in sharing these daily doses of yoga is to bring yoga back into myself, to really live it again. To honor my body as a temple, and recognize it as an entryway into the deeper chambers of my being.

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