Friday, January 30, 2009

Poetic Break

Things have been very full over the last 10 days. I'm finishing my yoga teacher training program this Sunday, and I also open a stage production of Dante's Inferno with Synetic Theater in one week. I play the amazing queer poet Virgil, who leads Dante through the bowels of hell. Cheery, right?

Here's a wonderful poem I came across in the New Yorker by Robert Pinksy. Incidentally, his translation of the Inferno has long been my favorite.

I'll write more soon!

Last Robot Song

It was a little newborn god
That made the first instrument:
Sweet vibration of
Mind, mind, mind
Enclosed in its orbit.

He scooped out a turtle's shell
And strung it with a rabbit's guts.
O what a stroke to invent
Music from an empty case
Strung with bloody filaments-

The wiry rabbitflesh
Plucked or strummed,
Pulled taut across the gutted
Resonant hull of the turtle:
Music from strings that
Tremble over a hollow-
Sweet conception, sweet
Instrument of

Mind, mind, mind:
Itself a capable vibration
Thrumming from here to there
In the cloven brainflesh
Contained in its helmet of bone-
Like an electronic boxful
Of channels and filaments
Bundled inside its case,
A little musical robot

Dreamed up by the mind
Embedded in the brain
With its blood-warm channels
And its humming network
Of neurons, engendering

The newborn baby god-
As clever and violent
As his own instrument
Of sweet, all-consuming
Imagination, held
By its own vibration,

Mind, mind, mind pulled
Taut in its bony shell,
Dreaming up Heaven and Hell.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ecstasy for Obama

Last night, I attended Chant 4 Change, a large event where internationally known Kirtan artists came together at D.C.'s Church of the Holy City, and we sang, danced like devotees of love, and added lots of good juju to the power of this incredible day. I'm still flying high from the five-hour experience that capped a day of yoga workshops about change with the wonderful Shiva Rea.

The energy of the city is remarkable. I've never seen the town so full of hope, laughter, tears of joy, and kindness as I have over the last few days. Locals are going out of their way to be helpful to out-of-towners; visitors have added a sweetness and poignancy to our communities; conversations on buses, Metros, and grocery stores are of a celebratory and hopeful nature.

Hope has returned to this country.

We all know Obama is just a human and humans make choices, some right, some wrong, but today, America has made great strides for itself to right the wrongs of division. Most amazing!

Have a wonderful inauguration day everyone!

(The image above is the one used as the Chant4Change logo.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Those Everyday Moments

In reading Stephen Cope's "The Wisdom of Yoga," I came across an incredible quote of Franz Kafka's:

You don't need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Don't even listen, simply wait. Don't even wait. Be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

In a culture where being "connected" all the time to people through Internet, iPhones, texting, blue tooth-technology, etc., sometimes it can be hard to unhook and rediscover the deep joy found in each moment.

Here's a short list of some of my favorite of those moments:

Watching birds eat seed on my balcony as the sun streams in.
A cup of chai.
Kissing trees.
Walking along Seneca Creek, emptying my mind as I go.
Looking out the window while riding the bus.

What are some of yours?

(The photo above was taken by John Fischer and is of sunrise over Haleakala, the dormant volcano on Maui. I was browsing google images and was struck by this picture - then I realized, with a smile, that it's from Hawaii. Good news on the photo front for this blog - I finally got my own digital camera from my parents for my birthday, so very soon, I'll be able to put up my own pictures here. Yay!)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Can I get a side of Santosha with that?

Partly because of a post over at So This Is Wonderland and partly because of an e-mail sent from the main yoga studio where I practice, this morning I'm really thinking about the ideas of wealth and abundance.

I listen to NPR every morning (perhaps foolishly), and as usual, there were the usual reports today:

"President-elect Barack Obama met with Congressional leaders to urge them to pass his economic stimulus plan which could run into the trillion-dollar mark."

"Job losses have reached a record high as people try to cope with a struggling economy."

"Investors on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange have taken to rocking in corners and sucking their thumbs."

"Financial analysts say we're all fucked and should begin foraging for acorns."

Ad nauseum (literally).

So, honestly what the hell are we supposed to do? I can't say I'm not freaked, because I left a corporate job at the end of July to puruse my passion for yoga and sacred movement, hoping to parlay that into something financial sustainable.

Right now, I'm working part-time at a great store called Lululemon; I'm still writing freelance articles for the Washington Blade; and I'll be performing a stage-adaptation of Dante's Divine Comedy with the Synetic Theater Company - all for some cash-ola.

Yet, despite downsizing an apartment, cutting some bills, dropping the cell phone entirely (which I'm notorious for losing, breaking, throwing in fits of pique, etc.), I still get into the, "Oh-my-God, I'm fucking broke. What about the future? What about savings? I don't want to eat cat food!"

Okay, first of all, let's remember the power of ujayi breath - one of the sacred yogic breaths that sounds like the ocean.

Right. Brain waves slowing down - good.

Secondly, as I sit here typing while baking some dried figs stuffed with walnuts in wine and honey, I realize that things are good.

I stare out the window as the sun pours through the blinds and watch the bluejays, tufted tit mice, and finches fly onto the porch and eat the birdseed I put out for them yesterday.

And all of this reminds me of Santosha - the yogic principle of contentment. Appearing in the yogic sage Patanjali's famed Yoga Sutra as one of the "niyamas" (which are suggestions as to how we treat ourselves - the "yamas" being how we interact with the world around us), santosha is about being content with where we are right now, this instant.

This means even in the face of difficulty and challenge (traffic, financial hardship, relationship woes, disease, etc.), we learn to pause, breathe, and sink in, recognizing that we are here.

And while "wealth" is great and all, like anything else it ebbs and flows. So, too, does santosha (at least for me). But unlike monetary accumulation, I don't have to put in eight hours, sell my soul, become a corporate automaton to get some santosha in my life.

Inhale. Exhale.

Voila. Santosha.

May all of you find a little santosha today and every day.

(The first image is of the lovely and wonderful Potomac River. These are the waterfalls of the Potomac, one of the fastest moving rivers in the country, and these falls are very close to the Washington area. The second image is of a bluejay, who love unshelled peanuts. It's a stock image from Flickr. The final image can be found here.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mille grazie, La Befana!

Tonight is the night when the Italian Old Lady makes her way through the skies on her broom. Shrouded in a black shawl and covered with soot from chimneys, she enters people's houses and leaves gifts of honey, dates, figs, and other fruits for all the good little children - coal for the naughty ones (or "carbone" today, a type of black, Italian sugar candy).

Where does La Befana come from? Some legends have it that the three Magi, on their way to find the baby Jesus, stop in her village and stay at her home. They ask her to join them, but she stays home because of all the housework she has to do. After the Magi leave, she feels regrets and sets out in search of the child, rewarding children along her journey.

Another version has it that she was a woman who lost her own son, and she went mad with grief. Upon hearing of this other boy being born, she goes to find him, convinced that it is her own child. She presents him with gifts, and in his love, Jesus blesses her as being the mother of all the children in Italy. From that time onward, on the eve of the Christian feast of Epiphany, she gives gifts to all children.

In some regions, people burn puppets of the old woman as a way of letting go of the old year and welcoming the new, and some research suggests that she is a holdover from an older pre-Christian feast for the goddess Strenia, a Mysterious One of strength and endurance.

My hubby doesn't know it yet, but I do have a gift for him, and although I'm not able to tonight, tomorrow, in honor of La Befana, I plan on stuffing figs with walnuts and baking them in some wine and honey. Luckily, I still have some figgy pudding leftover from New Year's that I can leave out on the porch for the wonderful Old Lady.

Some people have commented on La Befana as being a way to connect the power of our ancestors with the younger generations, creating a throughline from the gifts of the Old Ones to the boundless energy and possibility of the Young Ones. As I look up at the photos of my grandparents and great-grandparents that hang in my kitchen, I realize for the hundredth time how important this connection is.

Tante grazie, La Befana!

(The copyright for the first image is on the actual photo. Sometimes, La Befana is pictured or seen riding a donkey, suggesting she is mistress of the animals, as well as being a mistress of magick. Every year in various towns in Italy, La Befana rides into the square, handing out sweets to the children. The second image is an illustration found at