28 November 2007

arf-arf! recommended by da' Dawg...

YogaDawg that is!

woo-hoo, gettin' down with the Dawg! I received an email from the Dawg himself telling me that he picked this blog as a "YogaDawg recommended blog"...

I first wrote about YogaDawg back in January and again in October when he posted his video bio. Dawg's video would make Bikram fall off his yoga throne with laughter.

I check in every so often to see what snide and sarcastic bits of yoga humor he has come up with. My favorite parts are still the sections on Yoga Teachers and Yoga Students -- read through the descriptions and you'll see someone you know or maybe yourself. Uh...and no, I'm not any of them. really.

Dawg and I are probably going to end up in a Buddhist Hell Realm for wise-ass yogis.

and yes...I'm still sick of seeing Shiva Rea's hair blowing in the wind.

Long live YogaDawg!

24 November 2007

i knew that! -- part 2

Your Brain is Blue

Of all the brain types, yours is the most mellow.
You tend to be in a meditative state most of the time. You don't try to think away your troubles.
Your thoughts are realistic, fresh, and honest. You truly see things as how they are.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about your friends, your surroundings, and your life.

hey, better than "this is your brain on drugs." you have to be a certain age to remember that TV commercial...

You Would Be a Pet Cat

Independent and aloof, you don't like to be dependent on anyone.
And as for other people, you can take them or leave them. You often don't care.
You live your life by your own rules. And you have deep motivations that no one truly understands.

Why you would make a great pet: You're not needy or greedy... unlike other four legged friends.

Why you would make a bad pet: You're not exactly running down to greet people at the door

What you would love about being a cat: Agility and freedom

What you would hate about being a cat: Being treated like a dog by clueless humans

that is SUCH a no-brainer!

22 November 2007

thanks given


Suddha Weixler. . .for showing me what it means to be a true yogi

Srivatsa Ramaswami. . .for showing me what pure yoga is and inspiring me to go to India

Paul Grilley. . .for showing me that yoga truly is "all in the bones"

Sarah Powers. . .for confirming for me what I have always intuited

My students. . .for their support along this Path

Buddha. . .for the Dharma and for showing me the way out of suffering


21 November 2007


The attitude of gratitude has been resonating with me lately and not just because Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

In three weeks -- exactly two weeks before I leave for India -- I am scheduled for a medical procedure because of certain pains I've been having for the last few months. I am concerned but I'm also not worried about it. I believe that our mindset is a big determiner in the quality of our lives, indeed, in our physical health, so I am thinking positive. Besides...I already made the decision a long time ago that I will not die an unlived life.

I also received an email this morning from a friend that who told me that a woman she knows, a woman with children in college and a child in 8th grade, was killed, sitting in her car in front of her house. A teenager sideswiped her as she sat in front of her house. My friend said she was glad -- grateful if you will -- that the woman's children were all home for the holiday, that they were all together when this happened.

Think about that. Think about how the Universe always drop kicks us into the present moment. It always serves us a big steaming pile of "HELLO! I'M HERE AND YOU'D BETTER PAY ATTENTION!", i.e., pay attention to how we live our lives. But do we really pay attention? Do we really take the Universe's lessons to heart? Or do we have the attention spans of flies?

Do we take time to consider whether we are truly living our lives with authentic presence? Not just being "in the present moment" -- that has almost become a cliche nowadays -- but living with bare, naked, authentic awareness of our reality. Not being ignorant of it, as Buddha taught. Not running from it, not wishing it was something that it is not, not holding on with dear life to things that are by their nature impermanent, but standing squarely and solidly and facing the good and the bad and the tragic with equanimity. And having gratitude for all of it.

I found this link about gratitude and I love what it has to say. There's a little story about the violinist Itzhak Perlman...

"..."You know," he said, "sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much beautiful music you can still make with what you have left."

We have to wonder, was he speaking of his violin strings or his crippled body? And is it true only for artists? We are all lacking something, and so we are all challenged to answer the question: Do we have the attitude of making something of beauty out of what we do have, incomplete as it may be?

The Hebrew term for gratitude is hikarat hatov, which means, literally, "recognizing the good." Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours.

If you've lost your job, but you still have your family and health, you have something to be grateful for.

If you can't move around except in a wheelchair but your mind is as sharp as ever, you have something to be grateful for.

If you've broken a string on your violin, and you still have three more, you have something to be grateful for.

When you open up to the trait of gratitude, you see clearly and accurately how much good there is in your life. Gratitude affirms. Those things you are lacking are still there, and in reaching for gratitude no one is saying you ought to put on rose-colored glasses to obscure those shortcomings. But most of us tend to focus so heavily on the deficiencies in our lives that we barely perceive the good that counterbalances them...."

Why wait until tomorrow to give thanks? A simple way to practice gratitude is making giving thanks part of your everyday life. I got into that habit when I was at my retreat in California, taking a few minutes before each meal to give thanks and to dedicate the merits of the meal to all homeless and hungry people all over the world.

Drink a glass of gratitude with that turkey -- or tofu turkey! -- tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

salaam aleikum
so shall it be

20 November 2007

i knew that!

love the movie, and I know how to drive a motorcycle, but don't want to end up like they did...

hmmmm....must be because I read the Encyclopedia Britannica as a child. really.

19 November 2007

i rock! so there!

No one ever nominated me for the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award that I've seen on many blogs by women, so I'm giving the award to myself. I liberated the badge from another blog, so there! Why? Because I most definitely rock! As it says in the side bar, I bow to Buddha but rock with Kali, jai ma!

My regular readers know what happened at the yoga studio that I left back in September, and that I dealt with lots of rage about the lies and deceptions the studio is built upon. As it turned out, tonight I start teaching at another studio where the vibe is the polar opposite of the old studio. In fact, the owner asked me to take over one of her classes. All things happen for a reason.

One of the styles of yoga that I teach is yin yoga so to introduce this new yoga community to it and to me, we planned two workshops. The first one was this past Saturday. To my amazement, 23 people signed up for the workshop. The studio was jammed. The next workshop is two weeks from now on a Sunday morning and 18 people have already signed up for that one, 11 before the first workshop was even given.

The studio is a beautiful, peaceful space with a number of Buddha statues, and at one end there is an altar with a large Buddha head surrounded by candles. As I was setting up the space before the workshop, listening to and chanting along with Krishna Das as he chanted Om Namah Shivaya Gurave, I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of yoga, gratitude for everything in my life, gratitude for life itself despite my physical afflictions.

No one was in the studio and I knelt down in front of the altar and began to cry. Chanting always does that to me. Sometimes I can't even finish a chant because I am overcome. I asked my chant teacher in India why I cry so much when I hear vedic chants and she said that chanting cracks open the heart, that chanting brings old, painful samskaras to the surface to be released, that chanting opens the throat chakra to unite the mind with the heart.

I placed my hands in anjali mudra and chanted Buddham Saranam Gachhami Dhammam Saranam Gachhami Sangham Saranam Gachhami over and over again -- grateful for Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha. I told myself that if my life ended just then or if something untoward should happen to me, whether in my travels or a disease, I would gladly accept whatever comes because I have had a good life despite everything I have ever been through, in this life and in any past life. I know that no one can cause my suffering. My suffering and my liberation are my own.

I got up and opened the door and the students began to slowly fill the studio. I began to teach, ending the workshop by leading them in the First Foundation of Mindfulness.

I rocked. And I was grateful.

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision of tomorrow." Melody Beattie

16 November 2007

the colors spoke to me

I keep drifting back to stare at this picture I took in September 2005 during my first trip to India.

It was taken on the grounds of the Park Guesthouse in Pondicherry. The guesthouse is right on the Bay of Bengal and I woke up at dawn one day to do yoga outside, facing the rising sun. Surya namaskar on the Bay of Bengal at dawn is a good thing.

This is an amazing display of Bonsai Frangipani, which are trees in India.

Looking at the thickness of the stems the plants must be quite old, and would surely be several feet high if growing normally.

I tweaked the photo a bit to make the colors pop, but what you see is what you get in person.

I will not visit Pondicherry on this trip, I've already been there twice, but that's where I'm sending my yoga student when I hit the road.

My India.


feel good friday

One of my all time favorite bands, The Band, with one of my all time favorite singers, Mr. Blue Eyed Soul himself, Van Morrison, in one of my all time favorite movies, The Last Waltz. And Robbie Robertson ain't too shabby either.....

I have The Last Waltz DVD and I never get tired of watching it. When you see Van The Man's performance, it's incredible to realize that this was a time in his life when he had severe stage fright. I went to one of his concerts in the early '70s at the great Auditorium Theater in Chicago and he did the entire concert with his back turned to the audience. A great performance just the same.

So kick into your weekend like Van The Man kicks it out at the end of Caravan.

and tell someone you love them.


15 November 2007

women helping women

I have recently learned about the organization Women for Women International. Women for Women International "provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies." It is a Four Star Charity as rated by Charity Navigator. From their website:

"From Victim to Active Citizen

Women for Women International mobilizes women to change their lives by bringing a holistic approach to addressing the unique needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments.

We begin by working with women who may have lost everything in conflict and often have nowhere else to turn. Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen. We identify services to support graduates of the program as they continue to strive for greater social, economic and political participation in their communities.

As each woman engages in a multi-phase process of recovery and rehabilitation, she opens a window of opportunity presented by the end of conflict to help improve the rights, freedoms and status of women in her country. As women who go through our program assume leadership positions in their villages, actively participate in the reconstruction of their communities, build civil society, start businesses, train other women and serve as role models, they become active citizens who can help to establish lasting peace and stability.

Women begin in our Sponsorship Program where direct financial aid from a sponsor helps them deal with the immediate effects of war and conflict such as lack of food, water, medicine and other necessities. Exchanging letters with sponsors provides women with an emotional lifeline and a chance to tell their stories —maybe for the first time. As their situations begin to stabilize, women in our program begin building a foundation for their lives as survivors.

While continuing to receive sponsorship support, women embark on the next leg of the journey and participate in the Renewing Women’s Life Skills Program that provides them with rights awareness, leadership education and vocational and technical skills training. Women build upon existing skills and learn new ones in order to regain their strength, stability and stature on the path to becoming active citizens.

Women for Women International believes that establishing a means to earn a sustainable living is critical to being fully active in the life of a family, community and country. To help women transform their new skills into financial independence and sustainability, we offer job skills trainings to strengthen women’s existing skills and to introduce new skills in traditional and non-traditional fields so women can access future employment opportunities.

Building on the skills training program, we offer comprehensive business services designed to help women start and manage their own micro-enterprises. We give them access to capital and operate microcredit programs in Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina with an overall repayment rate of 98 percent. We give women access to markets by facilitating product sales through outside retailers and our online Virtual Bazaar. We provide expertise such as product design, production assistance and business development workshops. We also help women form micro-enterprises such as production facilities and cooperative stores to sell the goods women produce."

Helping the women of a country helps the children. Saving a woman saves everyone.

I learned about Women for Women International through my teacher, Sarah Powers. She and two other yoginis have started Metta Journeys and their inaugural trip to Rwanda will benefit Women for Women International.

I already sponsor a Sri Lankan girl through my Theravadan teacher's organization, but when I return from India in January I will sign up to sponsor an Iraqi woman through Women for Women International. I encourage every woman who reads this blog who is outraged by the war in Iraq, and every woman blogger who has written about their outrage, to sign up to sponsor an Iraqi woman. I would also encourage you to pass along the WFWI link to all interested parties. Sisterhood is powerful, ladies.

Listen to Alice Walker's powerful and moving words in the video and check out WFWI's website. It is another example of thinking globally, believing in the collective human consciousness, and seva.

salaam aleikum
so shall it be

14 November 2007

Seva Cafe: love all, serve all

From YouTube:

Volunteer Anjali Desai explains the vision behind Seva Cafe, a pay-it-forward restaurant in Ahmedabad, India, where each patron makes a donation toward the next person's meal. Devoted to the principle of "think globally, act locally," Anjali describes how this communal experiment in giving reminds us that every individual act of goodwill resounds in the collective human consciousness.

I love this idea. "Think globally, act locally" has been my mantra for years and I think it's a very easy thing to forget as we rush around in our crazy lives. It's all about mindfulness, being in the present moment and knowing that our actions, however inconsequential, affect someone or something else. Interbeing, as Thich Nhat Hanh believes.

Would the world be in the shape that it's in if we truly believed in a collective human consciousness? I don't know about anyone else, but I feel a paradigm shift coming on.

13 November 2007

my teacher with his guru

My Studies with Sri Krishnamacharya by Srivatsa Ramaswami

a fascinating story of a yoga student and his teacher

yoga with a capital Y

I have never studied with Mark Whitwell, but I would like to because from what I have read about him, for me, he embodies pure yoga.

He teaches from the lineage of Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern hatha yoga, and he studied with Krishnamacharya's son, Desikachar. He edited Desikachar's book, The Heart of Yoga. In January, 2008, I will study for the third time at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India. For me, it is the pure heart of yoga.

I spent this past weekend with my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, who was a student of Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, longer than even Desikachar himself. Ramaswami is not as well known although he has written three excellent books. He is a true yogi and always speaks of Krishnamacharya as his guru. I told Ramaswami that I mentioned him on my website, that he was one of my inspirations and influences. On my website I thank him for showing me what pure yoga is and that he was my inspiration to travel to the heart of yoga. He bowed his head and thanked me. A true yogi has humbleness and gratitude, something we all can try to cultivate.

Ramaswami teaches asana as Krishnamacharya taught. For example, downward facing dog is done with feet together. A student asked him why. Ramaswami said "because that is the way my teacher taught." "But why," the student insisted. "I don't know," Ramaswami said, "I never questioned my teacher." But then he went on the explain that if you do jump-throughs, it's easier to have the feet together to start out with, it's a natural movement.

I thought it was funny because in India yoga teachers are respected. I am not saying that yoga teachers are not respected here, but in India it is different. There is respect for every type of teacher. Your teacher is your guru. Desikachar told us that Americans are different, we question everything. In India, if he told someone to stand on their head, no one would question it, they would just do it.

On Friday night, Ramaswami's workshop was on mantra yoga. He is considered a chant master in India and his chanting always makes me cry from joy and bliss. India must have rubbed off on me because I felt a bit uncomfortable seeing how some students were lying down, on their backs, with their feet facing Ramaswami. One woman even started snoring. Lying down in front of your teacher is seen as rude and disrespectful in India. At KYM, the teachers know how westerners are, so no one says anything, but still....

I believe in the middle path. I study with traditionalists in yoga and Buddhism, but I also question the status quo as Buddha taught. For example, I also study with a well-known killer of yoga sacred cows, Paul Grilley. But I would also bow to touch Ramaswami's feet as one would do in India. It's a good balance.

Whitwell's video resonates with me because he talks about the spiritual and physical gymnastics that modern yoga has become. I have heard Paul Grilley speak the same words, so in his own way, he is also a traditionalist. I see so often in classes how students strive and crave to get somewhere when the reality is that we are already here. There is no place to get to. We are Pure Awareness but we do not realize it because we are always running away from something or running to something. Craving and aversion, the only two things that create our suffering, and yet we do not know this in our bones because we think it is always OUT THERE, instead of IN HERE.

The longer I teach and the more I study, the more I realize that it's not about the party tricks. Holding an arm balance for five minutes will not transform my life. Sitting in stillness for five minutes will. Making the commitment to yourself to do that, will.

During my first time at KYM I realized that this is what yoga is all about. I immersed myself in it, the purity of it. It's not about someone putting their last name to it and calling it their own, but we're all about brand names in America, aren't we?

Yoga with a capital Y. Pure, true, essence.

12 November 2007

losing myself

namaste, namaste, namaste!

It has been a while since I've posted -- the closer it gets to blowing this American pop stand at the end of December, the more I have felt the need to take a break from blogging.

I've posted a map of the Indian state where I will be waking up less than two months from now, and believe me, it can't come soon enough.

I'm going to a wedding in Chennai, and although it won't be a Hindu wedding, I'll still wear a sari. It is the wedding of my friend's son and she said I can borrow one of her saris. She has already told my usual rickshaw driver that I am returning and she said he is happy I am coming back. He has three young daughters, and I want to bring them silly presents. They will be a big hit in their neighborhood when they walk around blowing bubbles from those soap-in-bottles I'm going to bring them. Maybe it's time silly string hits Chennai.

My friend calls me "akka" which is "older sister" in Tamil. I call her "thankachi" which is "younger sister". My thankachi told me she can not wait to see me, she has much to tell her sister. She loves birds and listening to them, so I am bringing her a DVD of Midwestern birds.

Then I spend five days at my yoga school in private classes -- asana, pranayama, meditation, and a Sutras class. One of my students is meeting me, he is bringing his girlfriend, and they have never been to India before. I told him a long time ago that I don't mind him meeting me as long as he doesn't cramp my style. We will all take the classes together at the school and I will do things with them everyday until I feel stifled and encumbered by them, then it will be time for me to be alone. I have found a Buddhist temple in Chennai that I want to visit everyday, along with a Kali temple, jai ma!

After 10 days of Chennai (Madras on the map), I will tell my student what bus to take to Pondicherry and I will tell my driver to take him there, then I hop a 10:30 pm train that takes me off the beaten path in Tamil Nadu so I can explore temple towns. Not before I get mehendi on my feet though. My student and his gal will have to make it back to Chennai on their own, because I will be long gone. But he's a big boy, I went to India the first time all by my lonesome and this woman of a certain age was fine. More than fine.

If you click on the map, you can see a route that meanders down to Madurai, where I will hop on another train to take me Kerala, on the other side of South India on the Arabian Sea, where I have never been. I plan on lots of yoga and ayurvedic massage. And being alone. Another new experience for me will be flying domestically in India -- I'm flying back to Chennai from Kerala. A 90 minute flight costs $75.

As my gal pal in India, Sirensongs, says "Why do people go to India to find themselves? India is where you go to LOSE yourself."

45 more days and I step into my freedom. India nourishes me and I need to visit Ma India as much as I need air to breathe. Mike says it all for me: "...if I don't follow my Heart, I will lose a piece of my aliveness. It doesn't take too many compromises to become a walking dead person..."

I do not belong here. Ma India, I'm coming home.

02 November 2007

feel good friday

It's good to feel the rage dissipate...and the healing begin....

so I give you blues great John Lee Hooker and the always fabulous Carlos Santana. give a listen.

my Buddhist teacher told me rage is a good thing because you have to face it, accept it, kick through it, and let it go. it's all good.

true friends
good music
feel it

tell someone you love them, y'all.

jai bhagwan