Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of July, Somewhere in Philly


...I live a couple of miles from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Roots play the Wawa-sponsored biggest free concert in America (about 600 thousand people last time I went) in front of the Art Museum steps every 4th of July....the residents of my building, a narrow row house converted to four apartments, are all Chinese, except for me, while most people on my street are Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East, and Bangladesh, mixed in with African Americans, who make up the majority of the population of West Philly, along with a large community of lesbians and transgendered people, vegetarians, wealthy college students, hipsters, yogis....just walking around the block, one hears a striking variety of languages and accents, sees all kinds of clothing, along with a mosque, an old stone church, and a head shop that closes for prayers......the kind of place that would make some cry out in despair...this is supposed to be AMERICA!!!!...I want my COUNTRY back!!!!!.....probably some of those folks live around here, too...everybody else does.....and that, I think, is the way it oughtta be...a country struggling, failing far more often than not, but still struggling, to live up to an ideal that founding fathers, themselves heavily invested in slavery and ethnic cleansing, put forth all those years ago, just a couple miles away....

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Awakening: Compassion, Contentment, Etc.



...saw a group of young guys...looked like college kids...a block or two down Sansom Street from where I live...standing on a corner taking pictures of themselves and laughing...a second look showed what was so funny....a homeless man lying unconscious on the sidewalk, and they, arrayed in their brightly colored polo shirts, tennis shorts, and unexamined privilege, taking selfies with him...

...from my bike, across the intersection, I wanted to yell you stupid assholes!!!!...just to let them know that somebody passing by didn't think they were nearly so clever as they thought...to just maybe make them think about what might be wrong with finding amusement in the suffering of those less fortunate than themselves...possibly thereby awakening apparently dormant compassion in an admittedly roundabout and perhaps contradictory way...but didn't...

...wondered what someone more enlightened than I might've said....not that it was hard....no doubt, there could be all kinds of gentle ways to start a meaningful dialogue, and I'm sure that if Thich Nhat Hanh or Nelson Mandela had been there, that's just what they would have done...

...but...in order to do that, myself, I realized, I'd have to awaken my own sense of compassion...for them...and as it was, couldn't think of any way of doing that short of knocking their heads together...

...maybe the point here is that sometimes you need to work on yourself first...one's own angry, cynical, yet still strangely idealistic self that can't stand the thought of people finding fun in an unconscious homeless person, even though worse things happen every minute...and one might in the moment like to make worse things happen to them...

Sunday morning, and I'm falling...
Lou Reed, Sunday Morning

What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning
 
...I just dunno...right at this moment, I'm trying to practice contentment...sitting here on a late Sunday morning in the threadbare but ever-comfortable Ikea chair in a filthy apartment in my (clean) underwear, listening to some really really good music, reading and writing stupid shit on Facebook, and alternating between a tall glass of room-temperature water with lemon (the yoga crowd says it's good for me) and some tasty hot coffee (in Sanskrit, they call it prana), having been too lazy from the past couple days' bike rides to get up and ride across town for morning sangha practice...grateful there's nothing much that absolutely has to be done today except to figure out what I'm teaching in my 7 pm Yin Yoga class this evening...and pay some end-of-the-month bills...but eyeing the three books I've started reading in the past couple days (not even mentioning the novel I'm ever-so-slowly writing)...kinda wishing I had a smart, sensitive, beautiful girlfriend with whom to share an endless lazy brunch, but....recognizing that it's all okay...really not bad...not bad at all...pretty good, in fact...practicing that...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Whatever You Wish to Keep...


You must leave now take what you need you think will last,
but whatever you wish to keep you better grab it fast...

Bob Dylan, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

...one last trip to the house where I grew up for any childhood or adolescent relics deemed worthy of occupying a storage locker corner until god-only-knows-when...(that's my dad's old guitar leaning against my official-document-of-bein'-real-smart, and boxed up pictures, paperbacks, comic books, letters, ticket stubs, and a couple Matchbox cars)...

...last week took my beloved mountain/city bike into the shop for a minor repair only to find out the frame was broken...tried to see it as a lesson in impermanence and non-attachment and even came up with a mantra for the experience...

om
shanti
fuck

...since, ultimately, the Philly boy I am values honest expression of feelings as highly as those more proper Buddhist-y yogi virtues....but now feelings are even more complex...leavin' nothin' much to say, for the moment, and nothin' much to fall back on but old rock lyrics...(with gratitude to the fearlessly non-traditional yoga playlists of the inimitable Sarah E.)...(kirtan? wha...?)...

Take me to the station,
and put me on a train,
I got no expectations
to pass through here, again...
Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, No Expectations

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

With Blasphemy So Heartfelt

Sexy Sadie, what have you done?
You made a fool of everyone
You made a fool of everyone
John Lennon

...so...now that the yoga cynic is a totally professional officially responsible certifiably spiritual liability-insured kinda yoga teacher with an actual weekly Yin class...Sunday nights, 7:00-8:15, mere blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, just across the river from the grave of America's preeminent yogi who probably didn't know he was one, Walt Whitman...that even, purportedly, involves getting paid...hopefully enough to cover said insurance...I might have to start talkin' like one....no more o' that snarky irreverence...in the words of the Buddha...if I remember what was quoted on Facebook correctly...say nothing that wouldn't look nice superimposed on a pleasant photo of the sun setting over a tropical beach on a motivational poster...

Everybody's just a little bit homosexual,
 whether they like it or not.
Allen Ginsberg

...on the other hand, just went to see this singer named Jessica Lea Mayfield...whose songs are kinda like country music that's really noisy and dirty and bad for you....she has an album called With Blasphemy So Heartfelt...and it occurred to me that, while I respect that some of my views are offensive to many people's deeply held beliefs, and, therefore, generally (though, admittedly, not always) try not to shove said views in said people's faces, I think it's not said enough that the offended might consider respecting that those views they consider so blasphemous may be every bit as deeply held by me....that the pious have no monopoly on depth of feeling...

Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.
Winston Churchill

...most liberal-minded spiritual types, including most western yogis I know, tend toward some form of universalism...seeking to embrace all beliefs with the notion that, ultimately, all boil down to the same thing...having something vaguely to do with love, oneness, and/or mystery...and, don't get me wrong, I find that a very lovely, compassionate, genuinely peace-seeking way of looking at things...even if, logically, it's kinda seems to me like looking at a God Hates Fags sign and saying well, if you just ignore the "hates fags" part....

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
Shakyamuni, the (mythic/historical, as opposed to Facebook) Buddha

...the question, it seems to me, is whether it's possible to see difference and neither recoil from it nor try to reason it away....what if they really don't think and feel deep in their hearts the way we do?...does deep difference necessarily imply hierarchies of superior and inferior, require walls to be built, judgments made,  rocks to be thrown, offense to be taken?...could it be that these vast gaps in understanding are signs of an uncertainty deeper than anything we might think we know, believe or hold sacred?...couldn't we, in the immortal words of the Au Pairs, truly be equal but different?...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dr. Jay's 2,864th Discourse on Equanimity



...it's not that I don't care about missing the lecture on equanimity, but I'm okay with it...
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(for Frank Jude Boccio....thanks for a great week at Kripalu!)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

There's No Such Thing As An Original Sin

...driving Philly’s infamous corridor of angst, the Schuylkill Expressway, with the radio on, heard an old Elvis Costello song...I’m Not Angry....with one line that goes:  there’s no such thing as an original sin...which I’ve always thought was kind of a clever play on words and traditional Christian doctrine...

...sin isn’t a word I use much...associating it, as I tend to do, with traditions in which any baby worth knowing seems to have drowned in the guilty bathwater a long, long time ago, leaving a tub I have little interest in entering....though I do think an awful lot about faults and mistakes...and all kindsa not particularly commendable behavior...mostly my own...

...and, gotta admit, even while basking in recrimination and self-loathing, I tend to look at these little blemishes on my character as kinda special...unique, even...enough that the world might recoil in horror if the charges against me were read in public...

...like, y’know, I’m one badass evil kinda dude...
 
...but, the truth is, it’s the same old tired crap...stuff millions if not billions of people around the world are probably guilty of at this very moment...that’ve been causing problems for a hundred thousand years...not particularly good, maybe, nothin’ to be proud of, some of it best apologized for, with reparations made, in fact.......but that’s all...
 
...like somebody I was helping with her college application essays a little while ago, who wasn’t sure what to say about a period of her life which was notably blank on her résumé...said she didn’t want to mention that she drank herself into jail and rehab...which was understandable...
 
...and yet, I told her, you’ve had a drinking problem....you’re not an axe murderer....half the people on the admissions committee have probably had drinking problems....that it was best be to simply be open about it...

...and she got in....one of those admissions officers even noted how touched she was by the honesty of her essay...
 
...(it should be noted, that, even if you are an axe murderer, that’s hardly a groundbreaking accomplishment....have you cleaved as many heads from necks as Genghis Khan? I don’t think so....so if that’s how you’re planning on making your mark, might as well forget it...it’s been done)...

...there’s no such thing as an original sin....and not need to go through life as if our faults are anything special...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Yes, This Blog Still Exists...

A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it.
Don DeLillo

...some time ago decided I was gonna focus on practicing yoga and not think about it so much...read about it less...certainly stop arguing about it...and, for the most part, that's been a good thing...

...though, as a result, have also been writing about it a lot less....as readers may've noticed...but, then, I'm writing about other things less, too, as I try to work on a novel about dysfunctional superheroes...which I haven't been doing much in recent weeks, either...okay, let's fact it, I been slacking...

...anyway, more recently been practicing yoga a lot less, too, due to the injured arm...iced as I type...(was telling a friend about it, said it was getting better for a while, but then the recovery seemed to plateau....she asked if I was icing it...I said I was until it started feeling better....took me a couple minutes to make the connection between those two answers)...

...nonetheless, went on a yoga retreat with my friends and teachers John and Diana at a hilltop villa in the Umbria region of Italy...
...yes, that's actually the place...ancient stone buildings with modern infinity pool, hot tub, and yoga studio....before and after which, spent time in the magical city of Florence...

 

...as well as Barcelona (see also the lovely Antonio Gaudi doorway, at the top of the post),


and Madrid...

...after so much quality time with Miro, Picasso, Bosch, Botticelli, and ancient, storied rivers of red wine, wasn't easy to settle back into the autumn at home...been doing a lots of meditation and mindfulness mini-retreats, and, a few weekends ago, a Yin Yoga teacher training with the amazing Corina Benner in an area of South Philly not long ago infamous as the city's mafia battleground, now one of it major hipster neighborhoods...impermanence, y'know...

I heard the old, old men say,
'Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.'
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.
'All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.'
William Butler Yeats, The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water

...but, anyway, told some fellow students about my semi-legendary blog...figured it might be a good time to post something...anything...for whatever it might be worth...

I had a discussion with a great master in Japan... and we were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English, and he said, "That's a waste of time. If you really understand Zen... you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because... the sound of the rain needs no translation.
Alan Watts