It’s only 9:30, and I’m already in desire overdrive…
I do not desire change in others with different political views.
I’ve decided to start a 40-day program of being aware of and sidestepping desires. Desires motivate, but also bring attachment to outcomes — a major cause of not being in the moment with what is. Steve Ross once said the reason we get such pleasure from satisfying a desire for some new thing is that for a moment we are in a state of desirelessness.
With that sentiment in mind and Kali to chop off the head of every desirous thought, here we go.
I have made it an annual ritual to watch King’s 17-minute speech to honor his holiday and ponder the racial injustice that he so powerfully fought. I hope you will join me in this ritual and keep the holiday in its true spirit, which is so easily forgotten.
This year as I watched, I substituted the words 99% and 1% each time he said “Negro” and “white,” and it pretty much made sense as a prognostication of the history that is trending the majority of us into the 2nd rate citizen ranks that blacks in America have endured for 200+ years. — Yes, first only economically, but then who knows?
This speech is Art and Literature and Yoga all rolled into one. It is a call to greatness.
And to consider parallel the underlying issue with corporate influence on the nation leads me to share this second video in the same spirit. I have been stunned by the lack of a social conscience –or perhaps more accurately, an inability or unwillingness to do anything about the portrayal of women, and especially girls, in media. Rosario Dawson’s prediction here that our future leaders look like women and like people of color is a restatement of King’s great “dream.” The video below says it all with eloquence and purpose.
It happened to Wendy during a Broadway performance. Thank God Alan Rickman didn’t come stare her down from the edge of the stage. The extenuating circumstance (isn’t there always one) was that she thought she’d forgotten the phone at home.
I make light of it in yoga class, though some eyes roll still. No such luck for a patron of the New York Phil. Yikes! Via superconductor:
An underlying premise of the ISHTA Yoga lineage of yoga in which I teach is that yoga must be tailored to the individual to bring about the desired result. One of the biggest teaching challenges we face is telling students to back off of the drive to accomplish postures and to instead find balance between effort and ease.
A recent New York times article provides a rather sensational warning of the consequences of practices that are unsuitable for particular yogis. In it, the author, William J. Broad, quotes Glenn Black as saying both that he recommends to some students that they stop practicing yoga and that yoga shouldn’t be used in general classes.
I think the Times article goes too far, and will scare people away from yoga who would benefit from it tremendously. It is possible for anyone to practice yoga. From an ISHTA perspective, it would be more appropriate to tell students to expand their idea of what yoga is.
Tantra practices, such as those taught at ISHTA, use whatever is in front of the student as a yoga practice. The asana practices arose from this concept — one’s body is always available as a tool to practice with. But, to paraphrase guidance from my teacher, Alan Finger, while a hammer is a valuable tool to work with, you can destroy what you’re nailing if you keep pounding after the nail is driven. The important thing is to learn the proper use of a tool — and just as importantly, use the tool properly once you have learned how.
In group classes, I often provide numerous options and modifications and invite students to skip sequences; I mention that teachers who take classes are the ones you see who modify and skip. This guidance is a plea to avoid being ego driven. It also invites students to take part of the responsibility for their safety in class.
The challenge for students in taking that responsibility — beyond the ego-drive — is that they don’t necessarily know enough about yoga to make informed choices about their practices. That is why it’s so valuable to study yoga beyond just attending class. Studying privately is valuable for figuring out what is going on in your body and mind; and taking a training, such as ISHTA’s 200-hour teacher training gives students a depth of knowledge that they find transformative, even if they have no intention of teaching.
Alan Finger calls the series of postures at the beginning of meditation class, “pre-meditative,” emphasizing their purpose of bringing inner focus, comfort enhancement, and energetic balancing. I consider all the postures in classes both pre-meditative (as I always end class with meditation) and in some ways meditative in and of themselves. Done with proper concentration, the asana practice is a self study that should be as safe as anything we can do in this mysterious body we inhabit.
So, take a private lesson, take a teacher training, ask questions when the teacher invites them and transform your yoga practice into a self-study that brings you a lifetime of safe movement, balance, and bliss.
Click here for Peter’s class and workshop schedules.
To be a good teacher is to meet students where they are and help them reach their potential. To be an artist, and perhaps that would be best pronounced in it’s French translation, artiste, may be to engage in the too painful act of casting pearls before swine.
That is the opinion of what turns out to be the one-in-two protagonists of Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar, now at the Golden Theatre, directed by Sam Gold and starring Alan Rickman. The play begins by setting a foursome of ambitious young writers against a tyrannical “genius” novelist, editor, and journalist in a 10-week highly select writing seminar. Each of the foursome is a stereotype: the rich, white, feminist; the vixen who seems to relish doing what it takes; the well-connected mover and shaker; the holier-than-it-all artiste who won’t sully his writing with mere mortals’ eyes. The great cast brings the types to humanity, though, and brings an insider’s understanding of the hearts and souls of those who, as Kate, played by Lily Rabe, says, keep civilization from anarchy.
Ms. Rebeck’s writing manages to touch on the core of the professional writer’s challenges while keeping the characters utterly believable, blending idealism and human fragility — and it gives the delightful Alan Rickman a deep vein of passion to fuel his trademark world-weariness.
The beauty of Seminar is that while the topic is potentially of interest of to only a couple hundred budding writers, the play brought laughter and delight to a varied Broadway audience who recognize the contribution of writers to culture: the screenwriter, the sensationalist, the memoirist, and yes, even the artiste, the Jane Austen of our era, who evokes a greater possibility to the tune of post-modernism, magical realism, or whatever-ism, from the precise use of language. We are interested in what makes artists tick — how do they spill their guts when there are numerous threats to their sense of self-worth from doing so?
Jerry O’Connell shined as Douglas, finding a perfect reaction to being called a “whore,” when also told that his talent was undeniable. Hettienne Park and Lily Rabe also found wonderful expressions of their types, whose characters ultimately find their own truths. But Hamish Linklater, as Martin, had nowhere to hide, all saw his dread of exposure. It was only when pushed to the wall that he dared bare/share his soul. Through that act, his parallel to Professor Leonard emerges, and ultimately leads to the play’s delightful conclusion.
This production reminded me of the classic style of play commented on in industry gems, such as “All About Eve.” The play provided hope for the future of literature.
I wrote a sad song on that topic once, although it was in fact about not being able to see the light. Since Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas all coincide this year, I’ve been leading meditations about the light (btw, next one today at 9:45).
As it’s nearly the end of Hanukkah’s Festival of Lights, I thought I’d peek at The Essential Kabbalah that graces our bookshelf. Here’s what Daniel C. Matt translates:
All around you — in every corner and on every side — is light. Turn to your right, and you will find shining light; to your left, splendor, a radiant light. Between them, up above, the light of the Presence. Surrounding that, the light of life. Above it all, a crown of light — crowning the aspirations of thought, illumining the paths of imagination, spreading the radiance of vision. This light is unfathomable and endless.
I’ve gone back and forth about using music in class — I did some for a few years, then none for a handful, now I’m back to using it more often than not. It has a big influence on the vibe of the class and I contend it should be used judiciously. I tend to choose music that is not particularly “yoga music” except for some mantra versions that are awfully nice. Rebecca liked my 1st day of Hanukkah playlist so much that she asked me to post it. Here you go (and stop by class through the New Year and you can hear it yourself):
I hear a lot of people of all political persuasions expressing frustration or even disdain for those in the occupy movement and it’s “lack of message.” I believe that lack of message allows for a breath in the endless political posturing that keeps us in such a rigid stalemate. Some patience with what the occupiers are bringing us could yield some fascinating new ways of thinking. One such example is from filmmakers Velcrow Ripper and Ian MacKenzie, which may seem naive at first but has a very substantive core message: a purchasing society does not need community and community is what is missing in America; love is a value as much as currency. Take a breath and allow in some alternative viewpoints.