Monthly Archives: November 2016

A tribute to my blogger friends

After blogging regularly for three years, one acquires a group of like minded writers who travel with you on your journey. Some get off on stops and get on to other things, but seem to keep in touch in one way or another. Here are some of the precious blogs from my friends who contribute mightily to the internet. Also shout outs to my friends who don’t have a blog, but read and comment regularly on my feeds.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-58-14-pm Anonymous Sadhaka is authored by an Iyengar practitioner/barefoot runner who lives in Pune, India. I have learned so much from So…’s posts about the true meaning of spirituality from the perspective of an Indian woman. She has recommended many good books to me and her posts burst with wisdom. She has been a good friend and often thoughtfully reads and comments on my posts.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-59-34-pm  Sweetreecrone is an Asthangi blogger who follows Richard Freeman of whom I’ve always been a fan. k8macdo is an ardent yoga and tai chi practitioner who is also deeply spiritual. Her comments have helped encourage me to write more and she has been very supportive during my difficult year of loss.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-01-02-pm  Mishedup is a blogging friend who has a Gravitar that simply says “sober, widow, mom, warrior” Coming from a counseling perspective, each of these words hold tremendous power. When I have been at my worst this year, Mishedup has given me tremendous encouragement. For that I thank you!

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-09-41-pm babycrowyoga is a prolific blogger out of the UK who has recently graduated teacher training and is finding her sea legs in the ocean of yoga teaching. I admire her for having the courage to try Iyengar Yoga at the Maide Vale Institute in London, and even more for the courage to say that the Iyengar style didn’t resonate with her at this point in time. She has been a tremendously supportive friend.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-11-34-pm Yogaspy I always have to give props to my long time blogging friend Luci Yamamoto who is from Hilo, but now lives in Canada. She has been busy assisting in the administration for the Iyengar Yoga Assoiciation of Canada. I always say she is the person who inspired me to start my blog.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-02-47-pm  Sthapati Samanvayam has a unique perspective as a devout Hindu from the LBGTQ community. He has taught me tremendous insights about Hinduism in his blog. He has interesting tales of traveling through Midwest America looking for Hindu temples (and finding them).

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-08-02-pm The Awkward Pose Comes from another traveller. Paul Fallon is riding his bike across the US and visiting all the lower 48 states asking one simple question to everyone he meets: “How will we live tomorrow?” and publishes the replies on his blog. He is quite steadfast and even had an accident which hospitalized him. The responses give me hope for this country which appears very divided after the election that we are all basically the same.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-13-47-pmAmber Foxx Mysteries Is a fellow New Mexican who is an accomplished author and also practices yoga. Sometimes I am in awe of people who actually read my stuff. Amber has been given me wonderful feedback and comments.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-06-26-pm  The Dragon Journal of Taijiquan Tim Richard’s blog is the Tai Chi version of what I would like to do with my blog. It is deeply philosophical and reflective. He founded a tai chi center in Durango and respects the lineage of his teachers. Tim is also a talented guitarist.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-15-20-pm Peakmemory is a blog by Dr. Jeremy Genovese who authored the book “Remembering Willie Nelson: The Science of Peak Memory.” He has reblogged a lot of my posts and has been a supportive commenter over the years.

I would also like to mention Felicity Green, Marjorie Erway, Yoga Cat, Aparna, FN Yogi, Yoga Marcia, Laurie Freed and Aziani Ismail for their support. Please forgive me if I forgot to mention you, but I appreciate all of my readers and commenters.

Confronting November blues

I have to admit that November has been a horribly depressing month. The election, my mom moving back to New Mexico from Hawai’i, and the passing of my Grandmother are all events that have checkered me in recent days. I think I am still in the shock/denial stage. As a mental health counselor, I recognize that these events need high level coping skills and interventions if I’m going to stay on the unlocked side of the psychiatric facility where I do assessments weekly.

A few coping skills that have helped me tremendously are my yoga practice, gardening, talking to my wife, and utilizing my colleagues who are also mental health professionals and are generous with their listening skills.

I light of these recent events, I have to admit that my yoga practice has been lackluster of late. For me that means asana practice every other day or so. After subbing last month intensively, I was wiped out. Most of my practice lately has consisted of supported postures. Normally, I like to experiment, but now I am just going back to what feels normalizing.

I have also started a garden as seen in my previous post. I was a bit pessimistic as I have not had success in growing things in the past. My wife and I tried growing upside down tomatoes a few years back and put too much calcium in the soil only to grow a tomato as hard as a rock. But lately as I have been spending time in it, I am noticing tremendous success. Things are spouting everywhere. I can spend an hour in my garden just in awe of the new life.

Today I had my first teacher training in a few months as my teachers have been away. I was extremely nervous about the training because of my aforementioned backsliding in practice. Today we went over the fine details of Pincha Mayurasana, or peacock feather pose. My teachers Ray and Shelley emphasized the importance of the base by rolling the forearms in and lifting the biceps to resist the back going toward the wall for prep. My teachers gave me a good feeling about my teaching abilities and I was able to execute the pose well.

Ironically, all the squatting and forward bending I have been doing in my garden has also given me a “secondary” yoga practice outside my field of awareness. Shelley gave instructions for Malasana which has always been my nemesis pose due to my inability for me to get my heels on the ground. Today the pose was still difficult, but I can feel more ease due to my constant squatting in my garden. It’s funny how yoga works its way into your life even when It’s not in your life. Hopefully, I make it through this month and not lose my sense of humor. Once that goes, forget it!

 

My Fukuoka garden

A while back, my Mother-in-law was watching a Japanese program that highlighted the work of Masanobu Fukuoka, the author of The One Straw Revolution. His method of farming was remarkable. To till, no chemicals, no back breaking weeding are necessary. Only straw mulch and white clover are needed in lieu of soil.  Seed balls are then cast  into the “green manure” of the clover and straw. Very few times have I acted a a result of something I saw on TV, but I just had to try.

My wife and I got a few gardening supplies, a bale of hay from the feed store, and packets and packets of seeds.

With a little recruitment of labor from my 11 year old niece, we spread the straw in a brick enclosing right on top of my dry lawn in the backyard.

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Then we made seed balls with a combinations of clay, soil, coffee grounds, seeds, pepper flakes (pest repellant) and fertilizer. We have 14 different types of seeds in these balls.

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Then we tossed the seed balls hither and tither. Along with broadcasting white clover seeds. One of the most exiting things about this style of gardening is the sheer randomness.

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I’ve had to water the straw a few times, but as rainy season in Hawai’i is now in full swing, I can just sit back and watch. I’m not going to call yet whether this is a successful method of gardening, but here are some of the results thus far:

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Beets are sprouting out of this seed ball.

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The one pitfall of this method is that you have to be well versed in what seedlings look like. I think this is one of my sunflowers, but it looks like it is next to a weed. Irregardless, you can see the bursting life underneath the soil.

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And because no chemicals are used, there is balance to the natural ecosystem around the garden. This gecko is helping me control unwanted pests.

Masanobu Fukuoka reminds me a lot of BKS Iyengar in his views toward his craft, in that he is holistic and looks a the big picture. He said that one must become a philosopher before one decides to become a farmer, so the implications of using harmful chemicals to produce high crop yields could be understood. One must understand the whole system, not just how to grow specific crops. He had a brief career as a plant pathologist, but came to the realization that mankind has caused more harm than good in trying to innovate farming methods. He quit his job, went home and started to experiment on the theory that if one replicate nature on a farm, then all the back breaking work of traditional farming would be unnecessary. His aim was to do less, not more. As it turns out, he was correct. He died in 2008, but left a legacy of the permaculture movement. The book One Straw Revolution is linked above.

I will keep you updated on my garden as it continues to develop…

 

 

Is Samadhi a lofty goal, or something we attain everyday?

Samadhi, the eighth limb of yoga, is defined at length in the first pada (chapter) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s. Most modern practitioners don’t acknowledge this part of yoga and see it as a something one achieves after many years of austere practice whilst sitting in a cave. But Patanjali gives many scenarios for achieving this state in the “or” verses I.33-I.39.

He first outlines achieving this state of mind by intense mediation with the goal of purging all thoughts. For me this is impossible as I suspect it is for most. This is the way of the renunciate.

But then he gives options. You can achieve Samadhi by chanting “OM.” You can achieve Samadhi by being friendly and compassionate. You can achieve Samadhi by doing pranayama. You can achieve Samadhi by looking at pictures of enlightened sages.. The list is vast and I recommend you read it.

Here is an example:

I.35 viṣayavatī vā pravṛttir utpannā manasaḥ sthiti-nibandhanī

Or else, focus on a sense object arises, and this causes steadiness of the mind.

I was teaching a class this week and a student revealed after class that she received bad family news. She said the class made her focus on straightening her leg, exhaling during twists, and externally rotating her arms. She said this was the first time her mind was able to “rest” in the gravity of the bad news. In light of the bad news, she probably did not reach Samadhi, but I have had many classes where my troubles became much less intense during the focus of the session.

Today I was working in my garden. I saw tender new buds. I was in a state of calm ecstasy which I have not experienced in a long time. Was this Samadhi? I cooked dinner for my wife and mother in law. The dinner turned out perfectly. Everyone enjoyed it. Was this Samadhi?

I  have an inkling that Samadhi hits us when we are not trying to achieve Samadhi. If you are in your natural state doing your dharma without any expectation, I think you are ripe for the experience.

The interesting thing about the eight limbs is that most involve “doing” something. But Samadhi is something that is done to you.

So please don’t write it off if you don’t understand it or think it is way out there. Like fertile soil, once the conditions are correct within your mind, the seeds of Samadhi can easily take root.

Home Yoga Practice makes three years

Hard to believe my little blog has crossed the three year mark. After this week, I have low motivation to write as I am still trying to make sense of world events. We do indeed live in interesting times. So therefore, I will convey a message of hope.

One thing I tell my clients who have severe depression is that nothing is permanent. Quoting David Reynolds’ theory: moods are very much like the weather: there are storms, there is snow, and there are also long sunny days. When the weather is bad, do we mope around, or do we carry on? Most carry on and do what needs to be done regardless of what is going on outside. So my message to is to continue carrying on regardless of whats going on inside.

To me that is the essence of yoga. Not allowing your mind to get away from you so you can see the true value of who you are on a continual basis. You may not realize it, but you make a huge impact on the world. If your a parent, look at how your kids need you. If you are younger, look at how your actions impact your future.

If you cannot figure out what to do with yourself during these times, just do yoga for a while on your own. Yoga will provide you with all the answers you need to get through this moment.