Today BKS Iyengar would have been 102. I wanted to acknowledge his birthday with thanks for the gift he has given the world and for all who practice yoga.
I know it is just December, but what a crazy year it’s been! I thought I would be the first to usher in the first of the “out with old, in with the new” of 2020 blog posts. As we have a month left in this somewhat universally dreadful year, I would like to reflect on a meditation that has helped me in the past few years to cope with the last few years. It comes from Robert Adams, who was said to have studied with Ramana Maharshi:
Look at the second you are in. Is there something annoying you in that second? There is no time to be affected by this because you are living in the second. There is absolutely nothing happening in that second. Take that second and expand it. Now expand it to infinity.
It’s easy for me to share, but I wish I had followed this advice as I have admitted that I let the stress of this year get the better of me at times. I am grateful for my wife, family and friends who have helped me get through it. I am also grateful that I still have my health and practice, however much they have changed.
At the beginning of this pandemic in mid-March, our lives as we knew them got thrown into the spin cycle. Suddenly we couldn’t go to the store normally, we couldn’t eat in restaurants, we couldn’t attend family functions without risk. We as a world have somewhat adapted to my newly-hated catch-phrase “the new normal.” An ambiguous term that means one week you can go to the park, the next week it is closed and what ever other amalgamation our local governments cook up to mix public safety with businesses allowed to eke out rent.
My office director gave us all a friendly email and linked an article from the Harvard Business Review called “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” It gave me a useful term to add to my vocabulary: “anticipatory grief.” In short, you know some really bad shit is going to happen, just where when and to what extreme. And as a kicker, how much it will affect you and your family.
Six months into this pandemic, the bad shit continues to roll in. We are stuck in our homes with very few options aside from supply runs and a run to the park if it is deemed legal. My wife and I took our dogs out and there is a “one person” per activity limit. Just as we pulled in to the parking lot with our two dogs, a policeman rolled right up to us and just parked. He was watching what we were going to do. Dutifully, my wife got out of the car got one dog and walked about 50 feet, before I got out of the car and walked “individually,” like we were two strangers that got out of the same car. After a while he left and we were confused like scofflaws with guilt being caught after lifting a candy bar from 7-11.
I understand why we have to do this. Watching super-spreader events like college parties and MAGA rallies boil my blood even more than the oppression of having dog walking supervision from the local PD. It is the super spreaders who make so we have to do this. People tossing science aside because of their “rights” with little regard of who they may spread the virus to and who will later die as a result. Just with the same disregard of setting off a wildfire because of a gender reveal.
As I am writing this, I realize it is more just venting on my part. The reality is that this situation is causing communities and families to crumble apart before our very eyes. It will take enormous strength for us to pull through and make our “new normal” feel normal again.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.
Hi all! I know it’s been a while. Just wanted to share a few of my thoughts our our upcoming US election.
America is in trouble. When Trump was elected on a November evening in 2016, I went for a walk around the block when it was evident that he would win. My neighbor was screaming at her TV about the horrors of what Trump can potentially do to this country.
Four years on, her screams were valid. As I am writing we have 180,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, a jobless rate mirroring that of the Great Depression, and widespread racial tensions and hatred.
On a personal level, I have not been able to teach a live yoga class since March, and because of the widespread virus in Hawai’i, cannot engage in normal activities like hiking, going to dinner at a restaurant, or taking my dogs to the park.
Usually, a US president does not affect its citizens on a daily personal level. In the past, we would get annoyed at a proposed policy or position on an issue and an email to your congressperson would be the most politically active you would get.
Now you don’t have to only worry about catching a virus, you have to worry about being shot by either police or vigilantes with guns, especially if you are a person of color. Unless you are in the top tier economically, your taxes have increased substantially. Forget public yoga classes until there is a vaccine, and Facebook is ensuring that groups who oppose vaccinations are spreading disinformation with more efficacy than the experts. I have seen family members say they will refuse to get vaccinated because Bill Gates will insert a satanic microchip in you. This is seen as fact in many facebook circles.
We still have hope. Here is a list of things you can do:
- Register to vote. The GOP has made it harder to vote by kneecaping the US Postal Service and destroying sorting equipment. If you have the option to vote in an official election drop box, do so. In Hawai’i we are able to track if your ballot has been counted. Here is a website to see if you are registered.
- Mail your completed ballot within 24 hours of receiving it. Nothing is worse than seeing your unfilled ballot the day after the election and seeing the candidate you opposed give a victory speech.
- Get your family and friends to vote, especially if they just came of age in this election cycle. Vote as a family at the dinner table. Discuss the candidates and the issues. Voting as a 3-5 person block is much more powerful.
- Follow candidates on social media. They will give updates of challenges they are having. Even retweeting or liking will expand visibility of your candidate.
- Recognize bias and propaganda. Russia was successful in manipulating millions of Americans and sowing discord in 2016, and will be using the same tactics in this election. Just recently, Fox news hosts praised a 17 year old for murdering protestors.
- Learn to take a break when needed. If you need log off for a few days because the election is causing anxiety, it is healthy.
Those are just a few off the top of my head, please add more in the comments. I don’t expect that all of my followers will agree, and normally I have stayed away from politics. However, as a student of history I’ve always wondered how someone like Hilter could come into power and sow such destruction in such a short period of time. It was because people were silently complicit. VOTE!
How are you all doing? During these rough times there are always silver linings. One for me is how I am connecting with neighbors and friends (done from a safe distance of course). I would like to coin the term “barter-sharing” or sharing what you have with someone unconditionally. This usually prompts them to return the favor.
My brother-in-law gave us a four pound Wahoo filet from the fish market at the pier. Because of the epidemic, fishermen have been suffering because all of the restaurants are closed. This was a wonderful windfall, but our family of three could not possibly consume all this fish before it goes bad. Fresh “Ono” as it is called in Hawai’i is such a wonderful treat. My wife suggested we give half away to someone. We found the contact number of a friend/neighbor who we usually see at the dog park. Since the quarantine we have lost touch. She has a sizable family since her daughter had to return back home from college due to the outbreak. We texted her and drove by and handed a bag of the fish thought the window–keeping our distance.
The next day she texted that she and her daughters made a batch of homemade bagels and challah bread (see above picture). Likewise she dropped it off curbside. It was delicious!
As restaurants are struggling in Hawai’i they are still permitted to do takeout orders. My wife and I went to our nearby favorite restaurant to give them business. The business owner was lamenting that she is almost out of paper towels because the department of health forbids restaurants from reusing the same cloth towel. My wife and I had a small surplus of paper towels because of our caregiving needs. We didn’t give it a second thought and brought a few rolls to the business owner. Her face had so much relief and gratefulness that it was a gift to us outright.
Lastly, we had to move all of our office computer hardware from work to our home office this past week. A coworker who is more tech-savvy than I helped me figure out how to set up software for the home office. She went out of her way to assist me in doing this, so I gave her a jar of homemade okra pickles (from my garden).
I’m sure there are many more stories like this out there. Please share them in the comments below. In our panic buying frenzy, I’m sure all of us have a surplus of something that would probably help someone else. This is a time to showcase your cooking/baking talents, or specialized knowledge and give selflessly to people if you have the means. For those who are in need, don’t be afraid to ask and you’ll find many people who are more than happy to give and share with you. Many blessings and be safe during this time.
Hope all of you are well. As these are trying times, it is best to use what we learned in yoga class to get though this hullabaloo. Remember those times in class, after a strenuous asana, you felt a sense of relief. Try to recapture that moment as much as you can during this time if at least in your mind.
Do your part to “flatten the curve.” If you are not familiar with that term, it refers to the statistical curve of people who are infected and need medical help due to COVID-19. If we can delay or prolong its onset, we will not overwhelm our medical facilities to the extent we have seen in Italy. Here is a very well illustrated explanation my wife found for me. Good advice is to act as if you already have the virus (even though you don’t) and are trying to minimize transmission. Also rely on legitimate sources for news about this virus. Some good sources are:
Centers for Desease Control https://www.cdc.gov
World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Canada Public Health Service https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html
That being said, it is probably not a good idea to go to group yoga classes until the curve flattens. These are extremely trying times for Iyengar studios throughout the world, as student attendance is a major source of income. Try to see if your studio is offering online classes and support them. My mentoring teachers are putting together some videos if you want to practice along with them. There are also plenty of resources on my blog for home practice.
Looking at the larger picture, one of the aims of yoga is for us to stop our mind stuff from overtaking us. As we see widespread panic and people hoarding at the grocery store, we have to ask ourselves if this is really necessary. Get what you need for you and your family and minimize your risks of spreading this virus. Stay safe and blessings to you all.
What’s better than having one dog? Having two dogs! My wife and I happily added a new member to our family. Meet Navi, who is now an 11 week old Golden Retriever. Our neighbors told us their friends had a pregnant Golden. I saw how exited my wife got. She said “don’t tell them we are interested, but we’re interested.”
It is extremely hard to get a Golden Retriever. People are put on wait lists and have to travel to breeders in other cities and in Hawai’i’s case other islands, the mainland US and even New Zealand and Australia. As it turns out, the female who was giving birth lived about 10 minutes away.
Our neighbors gave us updates of the pregnant Golden. They were on the fence about adopting one of the new pups. They have a Husky/Golden mix who keeps them busy along with their three children. They decided that one dog is enough. At that point we sheepishly said that if the breeder had trouble finding owners, we have a nice home. Plus our dog is lonely during the day when we are working.
Gopi is the pregnant dog’s name. She gave birth to 10 pups. They were all spoken for even before birth. The breeder wanted to donate the pups to Fi-Do, an organization that trains and provides service dogs for the disabled. Our neighbor told us to contact the breeder just to introduce ourselves anyway. We felt awkward giving them a call, seeing that there was no chance to get a pup.
We called and they asked us to come see the litter. Nothing is cuter than 10 Golden Retriever pups. When we arrived, the Gopi the litter’s mom greeted us with a wagging tail. One little pup came up to us and peered her head over the barrier. Our hearts just melted.
As it turned out Fi-Do only selected one dog of the ten after a home assessment. The owner said all the dogs had back up owners interested, but would consider us if someone backed out.
A few weeks went by and I got a text. “Would you still be interested in one of the puppies, a couple who wanted one back out because the house they were going to buy fell through and their landlord does not allow pets.” This was a week before Valentine’s Day. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t call him back fast enough. He said that one of his other friends was interested, but because Gopi didn’t like him, he passed and considered us.
Sparing a lot of details, Kinako now has a little sister to play with and my wife had a wonderful surprise. My mother-in-law is also on board with the new pup. Aside from being on constant pee and poop patrol, my life feels even more enhanced. Having two Golden Retrievers licking your face when you get home is worth more than gold itself.
When I first got into yoga about twenty years ago, I collected a whole library of spiritual-related books. Through the years and moves, my library thinned. One book that has stuck with me and I have refused to give away is called The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Not much of a book really, but more a thin 30 page pamphlet not much longer than Ramana Maharshi’s “I am That.” It was evidently handed out on the streets of San Francisco in 1971 until it was published. It is a backhanded guide to Bhakti Yoga if you will.
The basis is simple: the universe is made out of one type of “stuff” and that “stuff” expands or contracts based on how much we love or withdraw from love. Feeling bad? Just put your love into something. Feeling spaced out and “pourous”? Maybe you are putting too much love into something that is already saturated with love. As I am getting older and more cynical, these types of easy peasey ideas actually break me out of my funk.
The book steers clear of some type of diety or God, but just the act of expanding or contracting your love. If you are of a certain faith, you can apply this to that which you worship. This also works well with relationships, pets and plants. Experiment on your pet. Give your pet as much love as you can in the next five minutes and you will see that this theory holds water. Then try it on humans.
When you practice yoga, you are giving yourself an intense dose of love. Just don’t overdo it or are pushed into getting into some type of Instagram challenge pose.
It seems the world is in a big funk now: political corruption, coronaviruses, homelessness, global warming etc etc. Maybe it is time to start thinking differently. Love is a great tool to change the world and certainly yourself.
Happy 2020 everyone! Not a whole lot of pleasant news around the world of late, so I thought I would buck the trend and show you how my garden is doing. My dog Kinako likes to “assist” me by digging random holes in the yard. During a recent play date with our neighbor’s dog, the two managed to dig a hole deep enough to plant a Hawaiian Ti leaf plant! The two dug a hole on the very most Eastern spot in the yard. As the East is auspicious, I took it as a sign to plant something that has deep significance to the Hawaiian culture. Ti leaf plants have tremendous powerful import. During the volcano eruptions last year, people would put Ti leaves in the path of the lava flow in efforts to appease Madame Pele. Having a Ti plant in the East part of the yard will bring protection and prosperity in the new year.
The man who cut our lawn retired this year and we hired a new person based on his recommendation. The new lawn service man did a terrific job, but also mowed over my whole garden! I couldn’t be mad because I did not direct him otherwise. When I saw all of my plants leveled, I “rage planted” the rest of my seeds. As a result, I have had a tremendous okra harvest this year. I grow both the green and burgundy varieties which makes for a whimsical harvest.
Our next door neighbor had to go to a care home as she was in her 90s and could not live independently anymore. Her late husband was an avid gardener and their whole property was lush with vegetation. Her son is renovating the property and took out all the plants. As a result, somehow a lot of the seeds from their property have migrated over to our yard. One day I saw a random bitter melon plant, tomato, and chili pepper growing. These are plants that I have grown myself, so I let them go. About two months later a large portion of my wall is covered with bitter melon leaves that trellis up wild tomato plants mixed in with peppers. This whole wall is edible! I didn’t lift a finger for this to happen and am letting mother nature do all the work.
Between letting dogs do the digging, my neighbor’s plants doing the sowing, and mother nature to the tending, I suppose my job is just to enjoy the process and harvest when ready! Have a happy new year!