Monday, September 20, 2010

My during and after Bhakti Fest newsletter notes.....

As I write this, it’s 1 A.M. and I can hear Bhagavan Das chanting off in the distance, the echo of mantra is carried along the just-past-the-new-moon night air. After delivering Joni Allen, one of Dave Stringer’s bandmates just in time for sound check, dancing through their set and then marveling at the divine storytelling of MC Yogi’s raps, I’m sitting next to Kasey Luber as she completes the editing of the Give Love Tour video for the opening day of Bhakti Fest.

It can be a challenge to bring together all the things that need to happen in order to leave the routine, confines, spontaneity, freedom, restrictions and familiarity of our everyday life in order to engage in an experience beyond the everyday. When we do, whether it is for the timespan of a Yoga class, the commitment of a retreat or the exploration of deeper study, it offers us the potential for transformation that we can then integrate back into the sacred dance of our everyday life. In the friendly festival atmosphere of Bhakti Fest, we have the opportunity to remember the joy that comes from participating in community, in fellowship. It’s a joy that reverberated amidst the Joshua tree sentinels throughout the desert as MC Yogi exhorted everyone to refrain, “Ganesh is Fresh.”

What is fresh and never goes stale is the mantra of friendship, the repetition of what it really means to support each other, to have each others’ backs, to smile and laugh and giggle and know that even amidst the angst, the mistakes, the stress, the misanthropy, the glitches, the missed turns, we have the opportunity to relax into shared space. In moments of extraordinary gathering, we recognize the transcendent in the ordinary.

Jai Joy,

And Written after Bhakti Fest.....

“I love you more than I can Tweet.”

I said these words backstage at Bhakti Fest to MoMo Loudiyi in moments of laughter and embraces, while thousands of people’s voices were raised in chant and musicians harmonized chords and progressions. In all of the ways that we express the multitude of flavors of love to each other throughout our days—through words and actions, through speaking and listening and eye contact and holding hands and sharing food—we have the opportunity to embody the gratitude that is inherent in this life, this breath, this community. The gratitude that is also part and parcel of this joy and this sorrow, the sun rising over and through the convoluted branches of the Joshua Trees in the high desert and the moon’s luminosity dancing among the stars in the midnight sky.

My quip has sparked an ongoing exchange, reminiscent of childhood challenges and whispered confessions of love more than we can speak, can say, love for which there are no words, love for which gestures even fall short. A Tweet, a Facebook posting, a text message, phone call, a letter, answering a plea for help from a friend whose back has given out, these only scratch the surface of how we express our love if we dare.
Whether we are living in the temporary magic of a festival like Bhakti Fest, or the far-from-ordinary alchemy of our everyday lives, each day and each breath is an opportunity to find more ways to share our love, to express it in every possible posture, even when it challenges us.

And for this, I am grateful.

Friday, September 03, 2010

This week's note from the LA YOGA email newsletter:

Yoga doesn’t necessarily take your problems away, nor does it even make things easier. Shiva Rea said something similar in one of her interviews in the new film Titans of Yoga. Yoga does provide us with an anchor, a mat, roots that help us connect into the earth and to our own inner silence, our own well that replenishes us and our ability to touch the infinite.

Because sometimes diving into the practice of Yoga can make life more intense as we uncover and recover, unwind and open up. And there are times when Yoga practice may make everyone around us more intense. So just think, my intensity meeting yours, well, then the excitement of it all can make us wonder why we practice in the first place.

In spite of (or sometimes because of) the practice, we can end up in the dark, weeping, confused, looking for the trailing rope of the life-raft that will secure us. In those moments we remember that life, our feelings, our tears, our joys, our accomplishments, our sorrows, are all ephemeral, temporary. Even our breath is more subtle than the wind and it is our life-long companion.

Life is a bit like walking a tightrope over quicksand filled with crocodiles (at least that’s how it feels to me sometimes). If anything, Yoga practice both added the crocodiles and the ability to negotiate the rope with a greater sense of ease, even amidst the impermanence and the shifting ground. Through the practice and philosophy of Yoga, I’ve learned to better accept it all. To look in the mirror and meet the gaze of my own eyes. And breathe, again and again.

It’s Yoga Month this month. At the close of the Q and A held after this week’s sold-out screening of the film Titans of Yoga (sold to raise money for the Yoga Recess project), we were challenged to find ten friends to introduce to Yoga. With free classes (scroll down for more information), free music downloads (also found here), there may be a few more enticements.

Just don’t tell them about the crocodiles.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

This is my editor's note from the September issue of LA YOGA, that just hit the newsstands. I thought about it again tonight, after seeing the premiere of the film, Titans of Yoga, on the first day of Yoga Month, which featured some moments that made me smile, laugh and brought me to tears. And made me think, what's next? Although, it just occurred to me that more important than what's next is, really, what's now?

“What’s next?” one of my students asked after class recently. “I want more. I go to class regularly, but I can’t really spend more hours each day doing an asana practice.”
What’s next? It’s a good question and one that begs for an answer more thoughtful than “do more downward-facing dogs.”

Sometimes I ask myself another version of this same query, although mine is sometimes worded, “Have I done enough Yoga yet?” Have I sat through enough grueling hours of meditation, chasing thoughts and remembering mantras and fencing with distraction? Have I rolled out the mat enough times? Is there some cumulative effect from all those sun salutations, mornings churning my way through nauli, months of deciding that yes, I am going to be able to practice arm balances, no matter my particular body type. Have I read through enough texts, chanted the Mahamritunjaya Mantra with enough repetitions to matter? Is there some quality of “Just enough” that mirrors “What’s next?”

The answer is found in this moment, right here in this breath, in our wrestling match with despair, in our waltz with joy, in our playful duet with bliss in our exploration of the everyday that we repeat literally every day.

We can study philosophy, try to fit into just the right size jeans, we can query the nature of the universe. And all of these discourses, these mental and physical gymnastics merely lead us back to this moment and to considering the relationship we have with our body, mind, spirit, heart and our place in creation. The outer questions lead us to the inner question: Do we feel at home—in this life?

Yoga practice isn’t something that we can mark with notches carved into our headboard. There is never a next, neither is there enough. What is really next is to get over this idea of striving for more. After hours of practice, daily commitments, wondering what now, the answer is to stop, as Peter Russell suggests in the interview “Sitting Down With.” When we stop, the reasons for our practice are revealed. This very life is a relationship and each day we cultivate a more intimate connection with the divine and with our selves in all available forms.

So what’s next is not necessarily more practice, particularly since practice itself can sometimes be a trap, become a seduction. The reason we continue to practice, from our first breath until our last, is to cultivate the experience of being in relationship. We stop time when in the midst of our practice, when we are sweating our way through an intense vinyasa, turning our world upside down in an inversion or demonstrating our passion and compassion through a standing warrior pose.

To stop time, dive into the infinite space that is the cavernous expanse of your own heart. This is the treasure that is revealed to us. There is no map that takes us there; no X marks the spot, no matter how many teachers we may follow or books we may read.

While we can hope that we reach some milestone, threshold or place in our practice when we get to breathe a sigh of relief or call out with a loud shout celebrating that somehow we’ve made it somewhere, I doubt that’s how it happens. Even in the many stages of Samadhi before we enter the final absorption, there is an impermanence, a need to enter to doorway again and again.
This is practice, this is what’s next and this is why we’re never done.

So, I guess this means I’ll see you on the mat.