Today on The Mindful Word


Please enjoy a little shared yoga after glow in today’s The Mindful Word.

In a mind-drifting moment during Yoga practice this morning, I flashed on a childhood fantasy about leaping in zero gravity like the astronauts. How fun it would be to float freely without burden, without weight forcing me down to the earthbound reality that I could never fly…read more.

Preview of Upcoming Publication: Yoga and Gravity Unbound


Happy International Yoga Day. In honor, I have written a soon-to-be-published essay about yoga, meditation, gravity, growth, language, presence and play.

“Growing up” is the metaphor, like a slow-rocket burst through the air in defiance of gravity. So many metaphors about that first half of the arc that rainbows our lives bespeak struggle against warring forces like the pitfalls of acquiring experience called trial and error and raging hormonal bodily take-over that is puberty. Not only the breaking through, busting out and bursting metaphors of rising roots characterize maturing, but also minefield metaphors of making mistakes as we learn, falling in missteps (failing a driver’s license test, picking the wrong partner, losing a job) and picking oneself up from such falls. Struggle.

Learning our bodies and minds requires overcoming. Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen writes about the spiritual growth of achieving zen and states that “the process of becoming fully independent (or of experiencing that we already are that) is to be terror, over and over and over.” Our struggle lies in the fear of breaking free of our own mind chains–of falling.

Bhavana: How we grow as knowledge cultivators

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Bhavana, meaning to cultivate or develop but commonly used in Buddhism as a word for meditation, once again flashes before my mind’s eye. Despite researching the term, the exact sense of the word often escapes me. Does it simply mean to grow understanding? Are meditation and bhavana the same? I have not yet reached that place where my life experience and the word’s essence combine to flesh out the bones of meaning—not in its spiritual sense.

Cultivating takes time: crops grow over…See more

cause and effect

 
 
Though once a huge fan, I have become disenchanted with cause and effect. Formerly hailed as counterpart of or precondition to logic, itself some powerful amulet to ward off irrational emotion since the Age of Reason, cause and effect aka reasons or origins, somehow dissolve into explanations and/or excuses, thereby de-motivating change.

For example, my struggles with anger, judgment and mind-chatter, seem endless. Now, I certainly can and have traced the origins of each of those behaviors as inherent or learned. My father flips into uncontrollable, body shaking, nerve-wracked rage on a hair trigger. His primary feature, besides negative, might be dubbed anger. Whereas my mother never was prone to anger–as much. But she was awfully judgmental, and over the border of cautious into the territory of suspicious. She was quick witted, the product of an agile mind, but also quick to judge. She carried pre-conceived notions and prejudices: “That long-haired boy is dirty,” she once complained to me, though I knew intimately well that he showered–with soap and shampoo–daily. 

The mind chatter may be inherited or environmentally induced or unique to me, though I seriously doubt it. Mind chatter is nearly everyone’s 21st century (and much, much longer) problem. But analysing roots to my own traits and those of my husband, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and parents is a favorite pasttime in the post-Freudian/Jung era. My family loves to do it. However, tracing origins does little to eradicate unwanted behaviors and knee-jerk reactions. In fact, the comfort, even downright smug confidence, in the careful analysis of reasons–for me anyhow–thwarts efforts to eliminate unthinking behavior by believing the job half completed.

  
No doubt changing behavior, especially ingrained thinking patterns and involuntary reactions, is enormously difficult for most. It is for me. Most emotional reactions go unrecorded, unthought of. My litany in the driver’s seat on any given day is one such example. An hour of yoga in the morning concentrating on and then achieving a connectedness with the universe, its inhabitants and all that exists flies out the car window a half hour later in the 15 minute, muttering-filled drive to school: “What are you some kind of a moron?” I might ask aloud to the car swerving into my lane ahead of me, without a mite’s notice. The violence of that question, that mindset, goes completely undetected mostly. Maybe not undetected, but completely unrestrained in the uttering. 

And then I judge myself for lack of control, criticizing myself–Miss Yoga–for the irony and absurdity, for its impeding progress to judge and anger less and focus on chatter-free presence more. Now, I might lapse into congratulating myself for a clever analysis of the causes for such “bad” behavior, like lack of sleep, lack of yoga, lack of control, lack of you name it, when that happens. Knowing and admitting my weaknesses is half the battle, right? That is the psychological lore anyhow.

But that comfort in doing half the work–incorrect math–is illusory, justificatory, rationalization. Enormous effort effects change, enables me–or anyone–to cease automatic behaviors acquired before consciousness. First, the mind chatter must quiet, reduced by half at least, so as to hear, see and smell immediate surroundings of the moment. Quieter still, to “listen” to emotional reactions as they occur or watch them arise. And then neutral observation may have a chance once the way is paved–stillness–to regard the workings of the mind and body. If I can watch the anger gather me up in the car (or anywhere I perceive my efforts thwarted or my path blocked), note it and think of it without judgment, I might short-circuit the cyclic occurrence, the connection between driving and anger severed–one street of one drive at a time. Baby steps. 

The requisite discipline overwhelms me just the thought of it, sometimes. I am too tired to separate myself out like that most days. But at least I know I have this problem and how to fix it, right? Wrong. Cause and effect unconsciously, silently and insidiously strikes just like that.

Bhavana

  
Bhavana, meaning to cultivate or develop but commonly used as a word for meditation in Buddhism, filtered down into my comprehension pool of late, that place where I can see a term’s reflection and pair it with illustrative experience to flesh out the bones of the word.

Cultivating takes time; it slowly sweeps widespread across a large swath of reading, span of years and percolation time. Like when I first tried vegetarianism back in the 90s. I ran tons then and ate little meat to keep light. Thinking the natural evolution of cutting back on animal protein was a vegetarian diet, I took the leap but was unsuccessful. I craved someting, felt a huge hole in my diet and so gave up. 

Fifteen years later, without much thought, I just stopped eating meat. And never missed it. Like yoga and meditation, dozens of attempts over several decades and then one day it all made sense and was effortless to form the habit with full understanding of that seepage, that diffusion through mental pores of  cultivated disposition to bend not only body but behavior, to flex a will to become. Unfold. 

Sometimes conscious understanding needs time to catch up to that deeper knowledge, the stretch between knowing and understanding like the lightbulb lit with the words, “So that was what he was trying to tell me,” or “now I get how to play fifth position on the fingerboard”. Before, it was flat mystery like a hollow idea.

Bhavana is like a road trip uncharted and unknown at the start but so expected at the destination. As if you always knew where you were going after rolling back all the miles that you thought you had no idea where you were–an illusion, like your shadow catching up with you.

 
credit: wikipedia

Outdoors Yoga on OutsideMyWay.com

  
I love this site and am so proud to have my first contribution published today. 

Fortunate to live in a sunny place, I have long ago adapted a love for outdoor activities. Whether I am up for a bicycle ride or jog along the beach, lining the sides of a soccer field to watch my daughter’s game or hiking at local day-long trails, soaking in the sun or even clouds and wind makes me happy, feel healthy and alive.

Since entering my fifth decade, however, my outdoor activities have changed. Before, running was always my thing, and mostly still is. A heart-pumping sweat feeds my healthy and happy. It used to quell my competitive spirit too when marathons and half marathons were my daily diet of training and racing…(Read the entire article here).

A Curious but Obvious Notion

I nearly always practice yoga in the solitude of my room, yoga mat spread flat and cushy on the clearing between my bed and doors, bathroom and bedroom. The spot is spacious enough, though I often disappear from wherever I am anyhow, closing my eyes in movement, shuttering my awareness to the outer material world as much as possible. I do not feel this kind of freedom in a class.

One consistent ritual in my practice is to light incense, some evergreen, pine or reedy scent reminiscent of the earth’s goodies. I am not sure when or how I switched from scented candles to incense, but I burn incense now as I have for years. To complement the scents, I click on my Native American flute ensemble station on Pandora to hear the hollow wooden whistles of the fluted chorus sung through the wind or birds, screeches of eagles, or even drums of thunder and clackle of wampum. Sometimes I listen to the sound of simulated light or water in vibrational tones or wind chimes. Anything to cast away the walls as I salute the sun through and past the house rooftop.

But it recently hit me. The memories of moving through asana practice outdoors, like that yoga on the beach or in the park series, bring me peace, thinking how I glimpsed the indivisibility of the inner and outer worlds integrated then. The juxtaposition of moving inward while outside brought everything yoga I had read, practiced and believed into focus. Moments of fluidity of mind and matter.

It all makes sense. Inside, the impulse to move inward is driven by outdoor signs; outside, the drive to move inward out into the expanse pivots from the outside moving inward and back out again, both inward and outward absorbing all as one. Not so much an epiphany as a slot-filling, the answer finally catching up to the question.

Namaste, as you were.

One Naked Poet, the Gaze.

Pratyahara

  
Cogs turn, whistles blow

feet shuffle, flee apace as

riders jump, arms akimbo;

leaves tremble, windswept 

ciliated born sussuration 

summersaulting walkways

of pavements steam, misty 

chlorophyl wafts green

lungful chunky clumps; 

engines hiss, track clacks

spine smacking clamor,

light beams rip clouds,

shredding skyward eyes,

tossing the bustle by

yard by yard, square on,

as chorus-ful chaos blooms

in the stillness of notice,

as I thread a hurricane’s eye.

Shhhh…

  
Shhh…don’t tell anyone.

I have a long, torrid relationship with her, my mistress and master both. I submit to her daily, as she owns me now. Though it was not always that way. She once hurt me badly, my heart and body, which caused us to part ways for many years, close to twenty, in fact. But I realize now that she had something to teach me, a lesson I needed to learn about myself–and her–before we could be together, merge our lives seamlessly into the desire and need we are about today.

I met her as a teen with big ideas. I was sixteen then and drawn to everything and everyone I measured as cool, earthy, and spiritual. I read about her in a book I purchased second hand from a used bookstore, and I was immediately lured to her mystique. There was something there I did not understand but wanted to know more about. So I read and learned about her, imitated her every move to earn me my cool. Until one day, I met her.

She was all she was cracked up to be at that first meeting: sexy, lithe, strong and flexible. Muscular and compact, she appeared the picture of youth, while she breathed ancient wisdom, emitted it from her pores. I was astounded and flustered in love.

And though our meeting ended then, we met again, and then again…for awhile…until the pain. 

I had to learn the hard way, as I always have. I was arrogant and needy. Not one to be forced and taken, controlled and overpowered, she left me howling, bedridden for months, depressed and injured. The love affair ended in the slow drip of time it takes to heal a body and mind.

When we later met again, I had changed. She had not. But my approach to her differed then from the earlier times. I did not need her, merely wanted her. I penetrated her eye to eye, then bowed. That made all the difference between us.

We co-exist now, as one. Since our reunion five or six years ago, she has never left me. We live with and through one another.

When I am down, face down to the ground but hips high to the sky, she takes me, makes my breath grow steady and strong; she makes me weep sometimes like this, too much to hold, my arms arrested for the weight of my body. She buckles my knees sometimes, how she holds me in her grasp, in her heart and her embrace, me and all who love her, whom she loves. And she loves.

 
credit:  http://ih1.redbubble.net