Finding peace in the practice in a troubled time

Last night, Steve and I were watching the evening news, and experiencing all the sadness that it brought, when he turned to me and said, “I don’t feel like posting.”

He hesitated for a moment, and then quoted German philosopher Theodor Adorno: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Adorno argued that the extravagant cruelty of humanity against itself makes creative acts inherently selfish, self-centered, and indulgent in the extreme. “Self-satisfied contemplation,” he called it. So I understood what Steve was saying.

It can be difficult to believe, in the face of horror, that creativity can go on—that anything can go on. The images from Connecticut shock the soul. And seeing them over and over, with no chance for catharsis, can be emotionally exhausting.

Comfort came from Robert Moses, in a message to the readers of Namarupa. I thought I’d pass it along to you. He wrote:

Hearing troubling news on a daily or almost hourly basis these days is indeed unsettling. Yet there is always hope. There is always the glimpse of love no matter how clouded things may appear to be.

Robert suggests—prompted by a message from Ammachi—chanting what we recognize as the closing prayer of the practice. It’s ancient prayer from the Rg Veda, known much more widely as the “Mangala Mantra.” It’s a reminder that there is, of course, solace in the practice itself.

svasti prajabhyam paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah
gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu
om santih santih santih

As we prepare to embark on our Sadhana Yatra, it was good to be reminded that the reason for the practice is to improve the world—that our leaders take the right path, that we be faithful, that the world will be happy, and that there will be peace. It was good to be reminded that there is still poetry, and that there is also love.

Posted by Bobbie


Practice. Watch. Repeat.

Tim at the shala, teaching, as always.

We just packed up Steve’s car and he’s headed back to Los Angeles. It was a great last day of his vacation, but I’m sad to see him go. Such is the life of a householder. It was a great week with him.

Today is our “day off”: which means no training. Only practice.

I began the day in Tim’s Led Second Series class, which is always fun because Tim practices right along with us, calling the names of the poses and the fifth breath, cracking a sympathetic joke every now and then. (My favorite? During bhekasana,“frog pose”: “Don’t croak!”) I was practicing between my friends Heidi Quinn and Michelle Haymoz. They radiate peace, even while I’m sweating like a roofer in mid-July.

Just as a side note, I’ve heard good news from Michelle. She will be joining me and Steve on the Namarupa sadhana yatra in December-January! That’s right: We’ll be bringing along a professional designer and photographer. I’m thinking we’re going to have the World’s Best Vacation Pictures. I’m so glad Robert Moses will be bringing her along to document our journey for Namarupa.

I stayed after class to observe Tim’s Led First Series, which is always a joy–made especially fun because I get to watch Tim adjust Steve. I never get tired of watching Tim teach. This class was intense; jammed, in fact–about as full as I’ve ever seen the shala, with two assistants working overtime as well. Tim’s boundless energy, even after practicing/teaching second series, is amazing. But what’s even more amazing is the level of effort his students give, the energy in the room. Much tapas.

Steve and I had a much deserved last day together on the beautiful beach in Encinitas, taking part in Nature’s own anti-inflammatory: the Pacific Ocean. Tomorrow, Mysore class. Then, we go deeper into our breakdown of second. But I’m most looking forward to watching Tim teach again. He does his Intro to Ashtanga at 5:30–the same class I teach. I’ll be there in the corner, taking notes.

Posted by Bobbie

“The Cave of the Heart”: Eddie Stern on Guruji, the Practice, and the Past

In case you didn’t know it, Eddie Stern is co-editor (with Robert Moses) of a wonderful journal, Namarupa: Categories of Indian Thought. Eddie has an article in the most recent issue called, “Hoysala Brahmin Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.” It’s a must-read.

The April-June cover.

Not only does Eddie delve into the origins of Guruji’s life, but he connects those origins with Guruji’s faith, education and teaching (along with some regional history surrounding Guruji’s home in Karnataka). He also connects all that with the practice.

I’m mentioning it in part because on the way back from practice this morning, I heard NPR reporter (and Wiccan priestess) Margot Adler describe American yogis as disconnected from Hindu tradition. “Ha!” I said aloud.

Take this, NPR:

Eddie explores the philosophical underpinnings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s teaching, explaining exactly why practice is so important:

Guruji adhered to Shankaracharya’s philosophical perspective on the self, the world and God, and to his methodology of worship. The Smarta tradition held that Siva, Vishnu, and Shakti were all equal representations of the Absolute [ . . .]  Guruji used to sum this up succinctly, saying, ‘God is one, not two.’

How does this relate to practice? Because the mind can’t grasp the Absolute, and needs a form to focus its attention:

Samadhi means a type of sameness—the mind takes on the form of that which is being contemplated and we become that upon which we are meditating.

I was reminded, once again, of lines from the poet William Blake (frequently cited in this blog): “Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.” Also, of a frequently repeated refrain in Jerusalem: “And they became what they beheld.”

That last line from Blake carries a warning to the perceiver. Eddie warns us as well, that meditation can become a form of “delusion”:

Though meditation on the Absolute can help bring perspective to our relationships, we should take care that it does not become a form of escapism.

Eddie Stern has the amazing ability to throw out a number of threads of thought and to pull them together, either explicitly or implicitly. As I said, a must-read. Namarupa is available for the reasonable price of $3.00 for the download, but I’ve ordered a print copy—it’s beautifully illustrated and produced, and I like contemplating the object.

Posted by Bobbie