Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Yoga Mat (a really deep and touching holiday story for the whole family)


The photo below is of the yoga mat I’ve been using for the past year or so...or, more specifically, the family Christmas tree, as seen through one of the larger holes in the mat I’ve been using for the past year or so...
 ...whereas this one is my fancy-schmancy so-heavy-it’s-gonna-add-a-whole-new-level-of-athletic-challenge-to-biking-to-yoga-class, ready-to-be-used-by-cockroaches-and-Keith-Richards-after-a-nuclear-war, 85-inch (since, to me, nothing says yoga more than being able to tell the guy next to me "mine’s bigger than yours"), brand new Christmas miracle Manduka mat...under the same tree...
 ...so, needless to say, since this is, of course, one of those ever-so-deep-and-spiritual yoga blogs, there’s a far deeper and more spiritual message here...when you really think about it...with your heart, as well as your mind...about renewal and hope and...um...peace on earth...or something...

...okay, it’s basically a very crass and materialistic kinda modern Christmas story about getting cool new stuff...(kinda like I wrote about here)...

...I’ll try to be more deep and spiritual, next time....for now, oh man, am I psyched about my new yoga mat...

Happy Holidays, y’all...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Notes on the Winter Solstice and Our Most Recent Apocalypse



...I swear apocalypses are happening every couple months these days...whether based on the Book of Revelations, Mayan Prophecies, or somebody just having a bad day and spreading the news on Facebook....but, like I always say, who doesn’t need a good Apocalypse now and then?

Apocalypse, we’ve all been there,
The same old tricks, what should we care?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

...been watching this movie called Decasia: The State of Decay...made up completely of old film stock that’s breaking down...in some cases almost completely melted...leaving only ghostly, rapidly disappearing traces of whatever hopes and dreams went in to it, whatever was meant to preserved...images lost and devolving into chaos, soon to be nothing....and, by the way, it makes a really cool-looking movie to space out to...
 
Oh well. If the world doesn't end tonight, it's not the end of the world.
Salman Rushdie

...in addition to being the Apocalypse, the day that just ended here on the east coast of the United States was also, of course, the winter solstice...when darkness reaches its peak for the year, only to gradually give way to light, day by day, until the process reverses itself six months from now....works for me...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Somewhere Between the Hotel Chelsea and Nirvana...

...who knew that Dharma Mittra has his home base a mere block or two from the legendary Hotel Chelsea...home to great authors and musicians, alcoholics, junkies, great alcoholic and junkie authors and musicians, and, no doubt, lots of not-so-great authors and musicians, alcoholics, junkies, and otherwise...where Dylan Thomas may or may not have raged raged before succumbing to the dying of the light, Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sid Vicious murdered Nancy Spungen, and Bob Dylan pined for the woman he’d marry, bear children with, and, through a process detailed over three or four truly classic rock n’ roll albums, divorce...

...stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel, writin’ Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for you...
Bob Dylan

...in Dharma’s class even the pranayama kicks my ass....a truly yogic exercise, perhaps, is learning to be cool about the fact that everybody else in the room is doing handstands in full lotus and I’m just kinda squatting there ‘cause it’s the best I can do....after the two-hour class, Dharma recommends lunch at the vegan place across the street....got a thai “chicken” wrap and an ultra-natural but still tasty cupcake....but somehow not enough to get me all the way back to lower Manhattan, an hour walk along Broadway where I can’t help but grab a couple slices of cheap pizza...

...whiskey bottle over Jesus, not forever, just for now...
Uncle Tupelo

...couple glasses o’ wine and a beer, with mom in the fancy assisted living apartment watching Netflix, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf...based on the Edward Albee play...now those people are fucked up....been writing with a fever this past week or two, like I haven’t in way too long...makes me wanna move into the Chelsea Hotel with a beaten up old manual Smith Corona and a crate full o' whiskey bottles..and how convenient it’d be to be right down the street from Dharma’s yoga studio...

...He never supposed divine
Things might not look divine, nor that if nothing
Was divine then all things were, the world itself,
And that if nothing was the the truth, then all
Things were the truth, the world itself was the truth.
Wallace Stevens

Monday, December 3, 2012

Life is Messy


often, the state of the kitchen is the state of the mind, confused and unsure men, pliable men, are the thinkers. their kitchens are like their minds, cluttered with garbage, dirty ware, impurity, but they are aware of their mind-state and find some humor in it. at times, with a violent burst of fire they defy the eternal deities and come up with a lot of shining that we sometimes call creation.... the man with the ever-orderly kitchen is the freak.... his kitchen is his mind-state: all in order, settled, he has let life condition him quickly to a basened and hardened complex of defensive and soothing thought-order....
Charles Bukowski

...badly underemployed and working on a novel about dysfunctional superheroes...biking downtown daily for the most intense and demanding vinyasa yoga classes I can find...discovering new ways and means for exploring and exploiting edges...leaving a pile of sweaty t-shirts, along with other laundry, by last week grown to the point that now I don’t want to deal with it simply because there’s too much to carry...sunlight can, now, be seen through four significant areas of my yoga mat...in line with hands and feet...which might seem cool in a sunny, happy, yoga hippie kinda way...put it in the right words along with a picture of a sunset and it’ll get a thousand “likes” on Facebook...but maybe, really, I just need a new mat, badly...writing about other people’s books*...piled around the deteriorating Ikea chair friends find so comforting...mp3 player blasting X, Cat Power, Mary Halvorson, Arvo Part, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, and the Stones’ Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out...coffee ready if I can get up the gumption to go and pour a cup this early in the morning...glasses held together with tape on both sides under disheveled hair badly in need of basic grooming....for a while, I was getting haircuts from this old guy who’d be asleep in the chair when I got there, and I’d have to yell to tell him how I wanted it cut...the last time, he seemed so out of it, didn’t even ask...

....one thing you have to get used to living in the big city is that it never really gets dark...wildlife is the birds always coming and going from the power lines outside my windows, their flight sometimes causing shadows inside the apartment, making me think, for a moment, that they’re in here with me...

...Democracy is messy, by definition...the trouble with the concept of heaven is that none of us, in the long run, could really be comfortable there...an eternity of having our every failing magnified in comparison to the perfection all around...messiness is our condition, underneath all the careful ordering and cleaning products...but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to do something with that pile of dirty laundry, and soon...






Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Kinda Haiku



still sunlight in waves,
bare toes in cold November
sand, thinking, always

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Self-Promotion

...Sandy, the semi-mythical Jersey girl Bruce Springsteen sang about and, apparently, spurned, so that she came back decades later to wreck the Jersey shore, has moved on...or maybe that conscious universe the yoga crowd’s always talking about caught an episode of Jersey Shore and decided to get all Old Testament on it...taking lower Manhattan and Red Hook Brooklyn...(which I know about from that Dylan tune...yes, I do comprehend the world through a lens of 70's rock ballads)...and much of the eastern seaboard with it....here in Philly, I’m finishing up a can of Mad Max brand dog food...Mad Max: The Dog Food Mad Max Eats!...and hoping to head out later for Tina Turner’s post-apocalyptic vinyasa class at Thunderdome...

...alright, enough snarky pop-cultural references...in the post-apocalyptic wasteland,* it’s self-preservation that counts...along with its dear acquaintance self-promotion...and so, I come bearing a cornucopia of  links: to my latest breathlessly self-indulgent book reviews, Yoga in America: Containing Multitudes and The Yoga of Biking: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe, as well as a first-ever interview with the Yoga Cynic (who manages to be sarcastic only about 73.2% of the time), all at Elephant Journal...read 'em, "like" 'em, share 'em, tweet 'em, make 'em central to your way of life and essential belief system...


* Totally Serious Postscript: actually went biking around Philly with a camera on Tuesday, hoping to get some good  pics of the local devastation for this post....it kinda looked like we’d had a bit of rain....thankfully, not only did Philly get through with little damage, but friends and family in harder-hit areas in NYC, NJ, and rural PA also got through unscathed, though some are still waiting to get power back....others, of course, weren’t so lucky, so here’s a link for anyone looking to help out the many still in need...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bruce Springsteen's Shrink and the Overused Metaphor of the Lotus Flower


...was readin’ this New Yorker article about Bruce Springsteen...as usual with magazines, I read somebody else's copy, months after the fact....Ezra Pound said that literature is news that stays news...and, though old Ezra probably wouldn’t have thought so, the same might be said for the occasional magazine article about a rock star...(though probably not even the occasional blog post about a magazine article about a rock star)....anyway...

...apparently, back in the early 80’s, Bruce was suffering from serious depression...leading to some odd behavior...

For years, he would drive at night past his parents’ old house in Freehold, sometimes three or four times a week. In 1982, he started seeing a psychotherapist. At a concert years later, Springsteen introduced his song “My Father’s House” by recalling what the therapist had told him about those nighttime trips to Freehold: “He said, ‘what you’re doing is that something bad happened, and you’re going back, thinking that you can make it right again. Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it or somehow make it right.’ And I sat there and I said, ‘That is what I’m doing.’ And he said, ‘Well, you can’t.’”

...thinking about this, some of my own odd behavior makes a lot more sense....as if Bruce Springsteen’s shrink did more for me than some mental health professionals who’ve taken outrageous amounts of my time and money...

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
James Joyce

Lost but not forgotten from the dark heart of a dream...
Bruce Springsteen, Adam Raised a Cain
 
...one of the most overused metaphors in the yoga world...where overusing metaphors is practically its own asana...is the lotus flower blooming from the muck...but, when muck is what ya got, there are really only two choices...stay down and wallow, or rise up...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bullies and Warriors


 ...had just one student for yoga at the shelter last night...a teenage boy who’s become one of our regulars...nice kid...maybe a little too nice, my cynical, wounded self couldn’t help thinking last week when he said he’d just started eighth grade...and, last night, when asked how he was feeling, at the beginning of class, he said he was stressed...specifically, from dealing with bullies at school....which made me feel sad...and angry...
 
...decided to focus our little class on de-stressing...going slowly, lots of attention to breathing, loosening up the neck and upper back, where tension headaches are born....but also thought about something that was talked about a lot in teacher training, the importance of creating safe space...realizing that this means a lot more than not pushing students into difficult poses where they might hurt themselves...

...that this is what warrior poses are all about....that it’s all too easy for adults to talk about not taking it personally, or even fighting back, without actually having to face that daily ordeal of trying to get from first period to last, from bus ride to bus ride, with both body and sense of self-worth intact...that this is where the inner safe space and the inner warrior need to be cultivated and nurtured...yoga pants and yoga butts be damned, that this is what really counts...


image: Virabhadra Daksha

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Leaves in October


 ...went out n’ got me a house plant...

...which is a big deal...really...

...in the secret world of houseplants...(communicating through faint stirrings of leaves, one windowpane to another, down the street, across the world)...I imagine I’m whispered of, furtively, as he who must  not be named...or, perhaps, derisively, as The Black Thumb...or, maybe, I am simply called...........................DEATH...

...okay, that might be a bit melodramatic...but I don’t have the best track record...Raheem the rubber tree plant gone but not forgotten...along with others, gifts from former girlfriends, now not even Facebook friends...(but maybe that’s a story for another time)...

...now, though...moving in to the new place...trying to turn over a new leaf...(no pun intended)...(really)...seems fitting to try to cultivate life again, past failures left to the past, where they belong...and so...(see photo, above...actually had this post ready a couple days ago, but the camera was still packed away somewhere and I couldn’t find it)...welcome, Phil the philodendron...

...paradoxical as it might seem to talk about new leaves in October...

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Than Two Months Since The Last Yoga For Cynics Post


...more than two months since the last Yoga for Cynics post...can there be any more dire evidence of the decline and fall of blogging?...maybe...more likely, it’s just a reflection of my mental state...and what is a blog, at its best, but a mirror?...

...a brief listing of blog posts you may have missed since they never got written would have to include: I’m Miserable, Still Miserable, Totally Miserable, Oh God Am I Miserable, and I’m Gonna Try to Get All Sophisticated and Spiritual and Discuss My Misery in Terms of Samsara and the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths....in other words, ya haven’t missed much...(though there have been a few really, really insightful, interesting, and amusing Elephant Journal articles...with complete sentences, and everything)...

...things are improving, now, as the feverish ozone of the hottest summer ever gives way to the light chilly breezes of fall, and I’m packing boxes, getting ready to move the cynically yogic base of operations from the somewhat isolated sylvan hills of Mt. Airy, State of Perpetual Mellowness, U.S.A. to the more urban and connected, yet still somewhat sylvan, streets of West Philly, State of Semi-Intellectual, Semi-Grungy Samadhi, U.S.A....packing a few boxes but, mostly, throwing stuff out...

...if there’s one lesson I’ve learned lately, it’s that there’s an awful lot that needs to be thrown out...and I’m working on it...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Restless Teenagers of the Mind

...Tuesday night yoga class at the homeless shelter was a frustrating one...restless young teenagers incessantly chatting and goofing off as I endeavored to talk about the value of quiet and stillness....such, I’ve learned, in the past, can be a good time to amp things up...some lunges, side-plank, and core work...the time-honored kick their restless asanas method...which doesn’t work so well when people have more of an attitude of we’ll just sit here and have a conversation until you come up with something easier that we can do while having a conversation....as such, the experience was kind of ruined for the older folks in the room...including myself......and yet, no matter how disruptive they can be, I really don’t want to kick the kids out, since I think they’re the ones who can benefit most from the practice...such behavior only evidence of that...

...(then, it’s been that kinda week or two...so hot and muggy, relaxation is exhausting...and not relaxing even more so....thinking, of course, is always difficult...but not nearly as hard as not thinking....right now, I’m escaping the worst of the heat in someone else’s house, practicing yoga to Sonic Youth and John Coltrane in an air-conditioned room, with a boisterous young dog named Raffi who wants to wrestle....wrestling with a dog while in full padmasana might count as yoga, I think...calming him down with a scratch behind the ears while in supta baddha konasana definitely does)...

...Wednesday night meditation class wasn’t easy, either....sat there for the whole forty five minutes, though that restless, fidgety, and utterly unfocused thing I was doing would fit with only the most liberal definitions of meditation...the most I could say for myself was that I stayed, even if paying a whole hell of a lot more attention to so-slowly moving hands of the clock on the wall than to my breath...wondering what on earth I was doing in this room with all these good, tranquil-minded meditators sitting so calm and serene...

...and yet, it occurred to me, my mind is a lot like the teenagers in my yoga class...belonging on the cushion all the more for its failure at anything resembling stillness...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

 ...takin’ it easy, with iced coffee, waiting for things to cool down a bit to bike downtown to hear the Roots and watch fireworks on the Ben Franklin Parkway....hot July 4th Wednesday, West Mt. Airy, State of Mellow Mildly Caffeinated Satori, U.S.A. almost a ghost town, people staying in with the air conditioning, or maybe downtown with the parade...me, still recovering from dehydration and heat exhaustion, spending the weekend walking around D.C., a city built on a swamp, in 104 degree heat, sustained by coffee and margaritas with friends, making my way through the National Gallery for Van Gogh, Picasso, Gerhard Richter and the MirĂ² exhibit, catching a sunburn walking out to see the new Martin Luther King Memorial...
....(some ago heard a usually-pretty-hip public radio kids’ show identifying King on his birthday as a man who had a dream...nothing more specific to ruffle ideological feathers....all the world loves a dreamer and speaker of positive intentions, right?....and asking kids to call in and say what their dreams were...turned it off after one hearing one too many young voices voices their dreams of having millions of dollars)...
...(then, it was another great American who said very well, then, I contradict myself....this, too, is America)...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Meditation is Duct Tape for the Soul


Meditation is duct tape for the soul.
Ancient and Revered Yoga Cynic Sutra 333.981*

If duct tape doesn’t work, try using more duct tape.
Conventional Wisdom**





* The Ancient and Revered Cynical Sages didn’t necessarily think through all the implications of the meditation=duct tape thing. Most likely, they just thought it was funny...***
Ancient and Revered Commentary on Ancient and Revered Yoga Cynic Sutra 333.981
 
** ...while, personally, I’ve always been a bit dubious about the notion that there’s anything conventional about wisdom...

*** ...and that’s not even mentioning the ever-present possibility that they were drunk...
Ancient and Revered Commentary on the Ancient and Revered Commentary on Ancient and Revered Yoga Cynic Sutra 333.981

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bees of the Invisible

You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.
Eric Hoffer

...there’s an old joke about a guy who quit smoking, drinking, and sex, and, as a result, was in perfect health up until the day he killed himself...

...(of course, to be relevant to the twenty-first century yoga crowd, it might be better to rephrase that as quit wheat, gluten, and genetically modified foods)...

...it’s always easy, I think, to talk about other people’s bad habits...if she knows how bad that is for her, why doesn’t she quit?....next time you find yourself saying something like that, it might be a good idea to pick something you love, something small, that, nonetheless, provides countless little moments of pleasure to your life, maybe keeps you going day by day, regardless of whether it’s good for you or not...reality T.V. shows...or junk food...or surfing the internet...or masturbating...and quit cold turkey, starting now....then, after a week or so, ask the same question about that alcoholic/cigarette smoker/crack addict you were talking about before, and see if the answer might be a little bit clearer...

We are the bees of the invisible. We frantically plunder the visible of its honey, to accumulate it in the great golden hive of the invisible.
Rainer Maria Rilke

...reading Rilke, some more...sitting in full lotus...or listening to Beethoven...how very German...wonder where I can get me some good vienerschnitzel in this town...though guess it might be good to find out just exactly what vienerschnitzel is, first...

...been called lazy...by myself, mostly....some people seem to admire my drive in certain pursuits...though those generally don’t involve producing marketable goods and services of easily quantifiable value, and do little to keep the wheels of the great machine of capital churning...

...then, a related problem might be that I’ve never been so good at relaxing, either...despite so much practice...lying propped against cushions with book in hand, wandering in the woods or along a deserted beach, or sitting in a coffee shop....and yet it all seems like an ongoing struggle to achieve the relaxation so badly needed without ever...or, at least, rarely...actually achieving it...

...that was what Dharma Mittra got on me about...couldn’t care less that I couldn’t do full lotus while in head-stand for ten minutes like most of the people in the room, but was the first yoga teacher every to criticize my savasana, specifically the fact that my fingers and hands don’t really relax, most of the time...

...work may be hard, but relaxing may be harder...


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Midsummer Blues & Greys...


Summertime, child, and livin’s easy...
The Gershwin Bros. (via Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, John Coltrane....)

...wracked with traffic tickets, impending dental bills, internet problems...etc....etc....etc....escaping the coming heat wave, at least, to walk on a beach at one a.m....early enough even on the summer solstice to be suitably dark....some select stars shining through the eastern haze of humidity...listening to Richard Thompson through ipod headphones....

...everything you do leaves you empty inside,
time to ring some changes...

...maybe not quite so bad as all that, but he’s got a point....even later, inside reading Duino Elegies, salvaged, earlier, from my dad’s bookshelves...(soon to be emptied by people who get paid to dispose of stuff other people can’t bear to get rid of, themselves).....thinking I gotta get up early to take screens in to be fixed before the renters come next week....then coffee, air-conditioned yoga, and waiting for the cable company...a beach house ill-kept of late...where, if nothing else, I’ve done an awful lot of writing...among other things...in the past....now with a For Sale sign out front....finally, a long walk down to the point as the sun sets on this longest day of the year, its heat diminished with the light...another cosmic cycle moving along on its way...

Denn Bleiben ist nirgends.*
Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies





* For there is no remaining,
no place to stay (David Young, trans.).
For staying is nowhere (J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender, trans.).




Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Only Living Yoga Cynic in New York...or, the Yoga Cynic Meets Dharma Mittra

Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where,
We don’t know where...
Paul Simon, The Only Living Boy in New York

...always found Manhattan kind of intimidating...so big, so uptight, arrogant, and loud, so much flagrant wealth and power, so many people so driven, so ambitious and competitive...ain’tchoohungry for success success success success...

...I like to get out on the rich-but-still-incessantly-hungry streets and just walk...


...walked the High Line...lovely, artistic, and green in a post-apocalyptic sorta way...from 14th to 23rd, then headed in past 6th to get to the Master Sadhana yoga class at noon...finding a room full of hardcore New York yogis relaxing with feet behind their heads...if you can reach enlightenment theeeere, you can reach it anywheeeere....and just sat their doing my usual neck rolls, feeling even more intimidated, thinking the famous yoga master we were waiting for was gonna make organic vegan mincemeat outta me...

 ...(gotta admit, when I’ve encountered yoga bigwigs, they’ve been awesome, but, in the area of actually overcoming the ego, have seemed, if anything, generally a step or two behind the rest of us)...

 ...until this unassuming, gentle, and totally unpretentious older dude I barely noticed ‘til he was up at the front of the room started the class...making jokes in a heavy accent, smiling at the little kids running around the room (the kinda thing that drives me nuts, trying to teach yoga at the homeless shelter, but which seemed to be perfectly welcome, here)...as well as giving time to my generally neglected inability to fully relax, the hands that won't fully unclench in savasana...reminding me that, despite all that fast-forward-moving energy down in the streets, the path leads to where I already am, wherever that might be...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coffee Yoga, Coffee Zen


...not, generally, a morning person, woke and decided to head for the yoga mat...though, as usual, the option of sitting in the Ikea chair, crankin’ up the interwebs, and drinking coffee beckoned, as well...especially the coffee part...

...ever the non-traditional yogi...(though continuing to insist that, if they’d had it in India, at the time, the first yoga sutra would have been preceded by first, some coffee)...wondered if the two might somehow be incorporated...

...lately, been working on sustaining sitting poses, particularly full lotus...padmasana, for you Sanskrit nerds...and hero pose...virasana...leaving open the question of just what to do while in those poses for long periods....yeah, I know, meditate...do some pranayama...stretch the neck and shoulders...but, then, sometimes I also like to read a little Walt Whitman or Zen Flesh, Zen Bones...an activity that goes just beautifully with drinking coffee...

...and there, tops of feet on my thighs, almost immediately upon opening Zen Flesh..., in the final, Centering, section, read...

When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled.

...so that’s what I did with my coffee....touching on that sacred matrix between aum and yum....(or somethin’ like that)...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Strange, Dusty Roads


...old letters, lots of ‘em...amazing how much got put on paper back in the days before e-mail...and Facebook...and twitter...and texting...and blogs...lots of warmth and color in them, from unexpected people...reminders of years that might not have been quite as lonely as I tend to remember...pictures, scraps, strange mementos...ticket stubs, from a frightening number of Dead shows, but also the Van Gogh Face to Face exhibit, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2/15/01, 76ers vs. Orlando Magic, 1/14/00, Miles Davis at the Academy of Music (strangely double-billed with Japanese pop-fusion group Hiroshima), 6/20/90, Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Verona Arena (built by the Roman Empire), 1987, David Bowie, Serious Moonlight Tour, 7/20/84, the Who at JFK Stadium (opening acts: Santana and the Clash), 9/25/82...senior pictures of pretty girls from high school, now mothers to other pretty girls, now in high school, whose senior pictures they’ve been putting up on Facebook...a snapshot of that long haired counselor at the pre-school day camp, wearing the hat I gave him...one I took of my dad, looking younger than I ever remember him, with windblown hair, in a parking lot....what looks like a massive amount of stuff when spread out, but, despite its emotional weight, could probably be fit quite easily in a shoebox...

 ...a surprising number of comic books left over from when, broke and stuck at my parents’ house after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I sold the bulk of my collection....turns out I mostly held on to the really weird ones...titles like Legion of Charlies, Slow Death, Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth, Killraven: Warrior of the Worlds, Zap, Mr. Natural, and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers...piles of magazines, and some crumbling newspapers, including one from December 9, 1980...I read the news today, oh boy...

 ...enough dust and mildew to cause an allergic reaction I'm feeling a day later...a cardboard sign with an impressively creepy decal of an eye, magic-markered letters reading Jay Winston private eye. If you need him nock....some lovely ceramic paraphernalia...a program for the 1984 Great Valley High School Production of West Side Story, signed by my fellow cast members...a college paper on the theme of death in seven plays by Eugene O’Neill, strange handwritten science fiction stories, wretched attempts at political songwriting, report cards with enough D's and F's to make anyone wonder how I made it from grade to grade, much less to college and grad. school....piles of notebooks...

 ...including the trail journals from the A.T. I'd thought were lost...all four...marking the time from March 31 to September 1st, 1992....inside the cover of the first, before starting the trail, I taped a panel from a Calvin and Hobbes strip, with Calvin in his spaceship, exclaiming FREE TO ROME THE HEAVENS IN MAN’S NOBLE QUEST TO INVESTIGATE THE WEIRDNESS OF THE UNIVERSE!...and then, in the opening pages, wrote out a bunch of poems, creating a kind of digest to accompany from Georgia to Maine...Shakespeare, Blake, Basho, Snyder, cummings, Frost, Yeats, Kerouac, Thoreau, and, of course, filling the first page, none other than Walt Whitman...Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road...

 ...all of this surprisingly cool stuff making me think...having dreaded so much the very thought of actually going through or even looking at it...that there may be more positive continuity than I thought....last year, to mark my 45th birthday, at Kripalu, during the yoga teacher training, I was asked to make an affirmation that everybody’d repeat back to me...never much one for that affirmations thing, I struggled a bit, then said stay on the path....our teacher, Devarshi, thought that a bit negative, suggested I am on the path, which I went with....and right now, looking back over so many strange twists and turns, it seems I’ve been on it quite a while...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yoga, Biking, and Booze


Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the changing scene of autumn.
I have said enough about moonlight,
Ask no more.
Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars when no wind stirs.
Ryonen

Any system was a straitjacket if you insisted on adhering to it so totally and humorlessly. I didn’t believe in systems. Anything human was imperfect and ultimately absurd. What did I believe in then? In humor. In laughing at systems, at people, at one’s self. In laughing even at one’s own need to laugh all the time. In seeing life as contradictory, many-sided, various, funny, tragic, and with moments of outrageous beauty.
Erica Jong

...managed to make it to the 7:05 A.M. sit this morning...my first morning group meditation in many months...thanks, ultimately, to a long weekend of excess...insanely sweaty vinyasa yoga, biking, and booze in unseasonable heat and humidity, enough to knock me out hours earlier than usual last night, so that getting up shortly after the sun was no problem....this might be how the old Zen monks did it, but I sort of doubt it...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dickens Didn't Know the Half of It...


...for creative types, this is truly the best and worst of times....never in the history of the world has finding a receptive and appreciative audience been so easy...

 ...now is the era where
everybody creates...
Patti Smith

 ...that is, even if what you’re doing is so esoteric that only three or four people in the world could possibly appreciate it...solo upright bass instrumental interpretations of  obscure gangsta rap b-sides, expressionistic black chalk drawings of dolphins in bondage masks, cynical musings on yoga practice...in the past, the chances of those weirdos stumbling upon what you do, even if you could find a gallery, coffee shop, or magazine that’d let you put it on display, would be about nil...but, chances are, one or two of those people is on-line right now...

 No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.
Samuel Johnson

 ...and, yet, the likelihood of getting paid for creative work grows ever slighter....(if Van Gogh were painting now, he'd likely feel less isolated, with people all over the world "liking" his art...but he'd still, probably, be broke)....I got fans all over the world, and, until recently, a person with fans all over the world could expect to have royalty checks rolling in....then, similarly, thanks to the virtual world, I’ve got friends all over the world...and, until recently, a person with that many friends had no problem finding a date for brunch...

i don’t understand: my ideas are universal
but my audience is five guys at the shell
station people just don’t get it
Andre Codrescu

...quit looking at the analytics for this blog a couple years ago...and glad I did...was getting too caught up in numbers of readers...or viewers...or visitors...or clicks....ended up using artificial means to get more people here, even if most stayed just long enough to take a glance and click away: gratuitous link-dropping, pornographic tags, posting every other day, whether or not I had anything worth saying...anything for these all-important digital marks of approval...

One of these days and it won’t be long, goin’ down to the valley and sing my song, sing it loud sing it strong let the echo decide if I was right or wrong...
Bob Dylan      

...finally decided to get all Bhagavad Gita-ish and forsake the numbers...simply do my best at putting something good out there, and try not to worry so much about the fruits of my actions..........which is not to say a little money wouldn’t be nice...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Yep, That's About It, Right Now...


...after years of trying, got my mom to go to a yoga class, in her assisted living community, only to face the realization that, though showing up might be half the battle, it’s still not the same as actually participating...

...couple days earlier, back in Philly, a friend I sometimes see in yoga class was acting stranger than usual, commenting dreamily on the colors of everybody’s t-shirts as they walked in and rolled out their mats....I thought about making a joke, asking if he’d taken psychedelic drugs before class again....then, later, talking to him, realized it was probably a good thing I didn’t...

 Yeah, art may imitate life, but life imitates T.V....
Ani DiFranco

...the more beneficial meditation is likely to be, the less likely it is you're actually gonna wanna do it....the complete opposite is true of getting wasted....it’s in those times when it’ll be least beneficial, most thoroughly counterproductive, that it’s most enticing...
Ancient and Revered Yoga Cynic Sutra 108.19
 
...meanwhile, outside the studio, a movie was filming...Walnut Street going east to west instead of west to east, I noticed...and, somebody told me, the street signs had been changed, so Walnut Street’s not even Walnut Street...Philadelphia, perhaps, not even Philadelphia, anymore...fake gunshots and grenades going off all through our vinyasas...
 
...lately seems like there's nothing whatsoever to do and everything in the world to be done....this is where it all ends and begins....killing time before the apocalypse which is always right now...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

No Direction Home...


History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
Stephen Dedalus (James Joyce, Ulysses)

How does it feel
to be without a home,
with no direction home...?
Bob Dylan

...sadness didn’t really kick in ‘til the necessary stop back at the old house...the overwhelming sense of need to say goodbye...(unwilling nostalgia jostling with an equally painful desire to have it all done with and move on)...though the house is still there, certainly, though nobody lives there anymore, and, in fact, I’ll be need to be back, probably a lot, in the months to come, to go through stuff, clean up, scrub the place clean of memories and home...

...and though it’s been a long time since it’s been my own address...(though junk mail with my name on it still comes, thanks to the boundless memories of schools, political parties, and non-profits...though now there's nobody to put it in a neat pile on my childhood bed)...it's the home that's always been back there, where mom and dad and then just mom still lived, until a few days ago, when we moved her in to the swanky retirement community with the river view most Manhattanites would kill for....a good and necessary change, definitely...but...

...dogs buried in the yard, traces of pot smoke doubtless lingering in the attic, growth marked in pencil on a wall, since painted over...the world of someone's long-gone childhood and adolescence...not that those exactly constitute a paradise lost...more like a nightmare from which I’ve been trying to awake for three decades...the comfortable old house a burden in more ways than one...and yet, the birthplace, nesting place, launching pad of dreams and hopes...that shit about as ephemeral as ephemeral gets and yet still anchored, there...

Fundamentally, not one thing exists,
So where is the dust to cling?
Hui-neng

...same as it ever was...
David Byrne

...though of course as any Zen monk or Talking Heads singer can tell ya, those anchors, any anchors, really, are ephemeral as it gets, too...that we all, really, have no direction home...perhaps even more so when we don’t realize it...and that realization is, if anything, a good one...even if it doesn’t always feel that way...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fear: It's Not Just For Breakfast, Anymore...


...a friend showed me a yoga prop with colorful lettering along its side....it read: do one thing a day that scares you....I said getting out of bed scares me....mission accomplished...

It is because a fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he’s already got. He’ll cling to trouble he’s used to before he’ll risk a change.
Byron Bunch (William Faulkner, Light in August)

...there’s a popular new and old agey belief about fear...that it’s a bad thing...that, with the right attitude, everything will be okay, so fear is something purely negative, to be overcome....obviously, anyone who thinks that way doesn’t get around a city by bicycle...

...to be an urban cyclist is to have a healthy relationship with fear...to see it as your friend...not your boss, your friend...to listen to, argue with, sometimes respectfully ignore...knowing that it’s there to keep you safe, but you never wanna be too safe...


...and when do you think it will all become clear?
‘cause I’m bein’ taken over by the fear...

Lily Allen

...one thing most people fear is being seen naked...figuratively speaking...(as well as literally)...I see this with yoga teachers, sometimes...acting so blissed out, so overwhelmingly positive, so damned spiritual you wonder how they deal with mundane earthly matters like paying bills or getting the toilet fixed....nice, I think, listening to another fake Rumi quote...(made up, most likely, by some anonymous greeting card company employee)...while transitioning from chaturanga to upward-facing dog, but not someone I’d likely wanna hang out with away from class...but then I run into the teacher in a coffee shop or bar and find a perfectly down to earth person with a snarky sense of humor, who's actually a lot of fun to talk to, once that bogus yoga teacher mask is off...

One day you’ll wake up in the present day,
a million generations removed from expectations
of being who you really want to be...

Ian Anderson

...met a woman who grew up in Poland in the 20’s and 30’s, and, years later, came to the United States...though Jewish, she spent the years of World War II working in a factory in Germany, having, somehow, obtained "fake papers" that identified her as a gentile...and so lived, year after hard year, hiding behind a false identity, knowing she’d be sent to her death if anyone found out who she really was....(when the war was over, she went back home, thinking to find at least someone from her previous life, but every last one had been killed)....

...thankfully, most of us don’t have to live under circumstances like that....though we might act like it, sometimes...


* note: the bike and car in the picture are both mine...no sentient beings were harmed in the production of this blog post...*

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Profound Thoughts on Yoga Blogging? (for April Fools...)


Those who know do not speak,
those who speak do not know.

Tao Te Ching 56

...and those who really really don't know
write blog posts about it...

Ancient and Revered Yoga Cynic Sutra 4.1

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rite of Spring, 2012 (kind of a haiku)


biking, wearing shorts
in March; it stung me on the
thigh—first bee of spring
.,

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm Not a Buddhist. Am I Still a Buddhist?*


...I find Use Extreme Caution signs strange....I mean, if you’re not huddled ‘neath the covers all day in a fetal position, can your level of caution really be called extreme?...

They always throw around this term ‘the liberal elite.’ And I kept thinking to myself about the Christian right. What’s more elite than believing that only you will go to heaven?
Jon Stewart

...every now and then, I’ll run into former clients from the rehab....usually, they’ll smile, call out my name, maybe give me a hug....except for a couple times, on the sidewalk near a yoga studio I frequent, which just happens to be just around the corner from a methadone clinic....there, eyes avoid me, feet walk rapidly away...ironically enough, telling exactly what they don’t want me to know...revealing through the very act of attempting to hide...

To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.
Stephen Covey

...1987, leaning against my backpack on a traffic island outside Rome, my friend and I taking turns sticking our thumbs out, heading down to Pompeii to touch ancient history, admire ancient mosaics, and wander around the place Pink Floyd played....he asked if I wanted to read a book he had...An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, by D. T. Suzuki....thoroughly uninterested in Eastern philosophy, meditation, spirituality, or any of that kinda crap, I was, nonetheless, just bored enough to say yeah, sure....a lot’s happened since then....I meditate every day and recently dug out my old Alan Watts (purchased some time after returning from Europe in ’87 or ’88)...but still have no interest in being a Buddhist...

Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding...

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

...letting go of preconceptions makes things a lot more mysterious...beyond labels, stereotypes, and convenient boxes, each person you meet as wondrously and terrifyingly, inscrutably complex as the paradoxes of infinity....and this, of course, is precisely why we come up with all those labels, stereotypes, and boxes....it’s just a lot easier to check off white black liberal conservative Democrat Republican hipster Buddhist Christian yogi cynic or even yoga cynic than to try and fathom a cosmos...


* ...title originally incarnated, humbly enough, as a comment on a Facebook post about an Elephant Journal article titled
I Don’t Believe in Reincarnation. Am I Still a Buddhist?...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thoughts Like Raindrops


{index of lines from unwritten blog posts}

...dug out my first yoga mat...purple, bought at a Wegmans in Rochester in 2001...more craters than the surface of the moon though none, quite, going all the way through...wasn’t till I got to class that I realized I hadn’t used...or washed...it since the trip to Costa Rica...pungent waves of nostalgia rising with each sharp and mellow scent of suntan lotion, insect repellent, and year-old sweat from hours of vinyasa practice morning and night in tropical weather...

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual.
Henry Beston

...a guy I hung out with almost twenty years ago died recently....found out about it on Facebook...where he’s still got a page....according to status updates, he’s still making new friends...

No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned...
Pete Townshend

...slow day in the coffee shop...or slow me...the place itself is booming, Steve Reich, Sonic Youth, Ornette Coleman, and early Frank Zappa blasting through earphones a person with a history of serious ear problems shouldn’t be using...both drums surgically reconstructed, and chronic ringing in the left....my older brother a long time ago had a Black Sabbath album called We Sold Our Souls for Rock n’ Roll...can you help me? help me find my brain?...if they can sell their souls, I can at least sacrifice an eardrum or two...

...the desire for community was only strengthened in a month of such yogi-proximity, making the line between solitude and loneliness more hazy than ever...

...any god who is threatened by new truth from any source is clearly dead already.
John Shelby Spong

...it can be fun to have a friend full of juicy gossip and clever cutting remarks about absent people....only trouble is, you know damn well whose dirt’s gonna be dished the minute your back’s turned...

...been told, quite dismissively, that my attitude is very American...and it is...(to be more precise...or pretentious...it’s very Emersonian...very Whitmanian)...in the same sense, that is, that yoga, traditionally, is very Indian and something else is very Chinese, very Italian, or very Brazilian....since anything, ultimately, can be reduced to context...which is exactly what makes taking things out of context so valuable, sometimes...

Whatever we do with our hybridized yoga, the old man in the forest cautions against writing it down. Yoga has always been an oral tradition, fostering intimacy between its speakers and listeners, and resisting the dogma and myopia that fester in words written on anything more substantial than breath.
yoga 2.0

...people who meditate or practice yoga have been known, sometimes, to fall into the trap of feeling superior...ironic as that might be when it comes with claims of overcoming the ego...more grounded, higher-minded, more spiritual than thou....while I often suspect that what leads us to these practices is, in fact, simply being more fucked up than other people, who don’t actually need to sit in quiet rooms for hours on end or learn to feel comfortable with their feet behind their heads...

...I might feel perfectly fulfilled, I thought, glancing surreptitiously across the room, if I could only kiss the inside of that black-stockinged thigh...

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.
Anatole France

...and even if I am getting better as I get older...(the cells don’t lie...whatever the attitude or aptitude...if you prick me I still bleed, but it takes a hell of a lot longer for the cut to heal)...I’m also getting older as I get better...

...strangely, sometimes, a refreshing tinge of possibility can be tasted right there in the midst of that deep, crushing sensation...if I can stop and tune in to it...swish the bitter wine around my palate it for a moment instead of gulping or trying to spit the bitterness out...

...the key is, I think, not to strip off the junk only to find different junk...

A genius is the one most like himself.
Thelonious Monk

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Playing With Blocks

...all we can really experience, or be truly aware of, is the present moment...the right here and right now...like all those yogis & Buddhists’ll tell ya...(when they’re not going on about past lives or India)....but, at the same time, like any neuroscientist can tell ya, it’s actually impossible to be aware of or experience the present moment...the brain doesn’t work like that...by the time you’re aware of or experience anything, it’s already past...


...spent last Saturday on a weekend bed-and-breakfast yoga retreat way up-state...(I’m now proud owner of a pine-scented eye-pillow...seeing how much I was enjoying it, someone commented that I’m becoming a metrosexual...I said I’d probably have to stop buying my clothes at EMS to make that happen)...woke up for the first of three awesome, healthy meals with good friends, morning yoga class, a couple long walks along the creek and a climb to the top of a mountain (overlooking the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania...which, admittedly, could fit, along with the Grand Canyon of New York at Letchworth, and the various grand canyons of other eastern states, into a small side canyon of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in Arizona...but is lovely nonetheless)...(see pics)...restorative yoga class, and a post-dinner-and-red-wine Thai massage....and it occurred to me that this really wasn’t a day I could complain much about...


...with the women at the rehab, I focus mostly on GED preparation and literacy, but now and then, with someone more advanced in her education, get to work with creative writing and journaling...encouraging letting-loose on the page, freeing-up the creative voice...almost invariably resulting an empowering and enjoyable experience, for everyone involved, when we see what blossoms on the page....but it’s also a difficult, and often daunting, frightening process...giving what can seem a terrifying concreteness on the page to thoughts one would like to push away, no matter how consistent and inevitable the failure to do so...requiring encouragement, gentle prodding, and understanding from the supposedly more-together teacher-person....and, ultimately, it's all about honesty...

...I haven’t written anything this week, she said, head hanging low....that’s okay, said the teacher, neither have I...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cold February Drizzle, and a few of my favorite things


...driving through cold February drizzle...went to the bank to make a deposit...which, in itself, represents a certain modicum of good news...and the teller asked what plans I have for retirement...I smiled, said probably living on the streets...she smiled back, choosing not to pursue the subject...

...then was at one of those box stores...not gonna identify it, so you won’t have an opportunity to tell me about its evil labor practices, destruction of the environment, and/or support for frighteningly right-wing politicians/horrible record on GLBTG issues, etc....I know what a horribly un-conscientious consumer I am...and knowledge is the first step toward wisdom...or something...or not....anyway, was buying socks...got lots of ‘em, barely any match...and those that do have holes in ‘em...call my socks what ya will, they ain’t unholy....these are the jokes, folks....and a voice came over the loudspeaker announcing that another register was opening, so would the next customer in line proceed to......but, turns out, that led to some disagreement between two customers ahead of me, each at least thirty or forty years old....it went something like this: what the f&*&, b*&@?!...it said next person in line, a&*&)%#!!...f*+% you, b)%$#!!!...you’re a *^%$#!!!!...your mother’s a &*^(%^$#!!!!...my mother’s good!!!!!...I KNOW she's good!!!!!......

...headed back to lovely, organically-grown West Mt. Airy, state of Fiscally Sensible Lovingkindness, U.S.A., and my local coffee shop...where Yoga for Cynics posts are born...noting a pickup truck parked right out front with a blue plastic ballsack hanging from the rear bumper...

...last week, recovering from flu-like symptoms, struggling to focus, drinking too much coffee, and doing my best to ignore the endless scandals of the yoga blogosphere, was watching some old Woody Allen movies on DVD...the sublime Annie Hall and the not-quite-as-good-and-kinda-disturbing-particularly-in-light-of-later-events-yet-still-gorgeously-filmed-and-generally-brilliant Manhattan, in which the protagonist, near the end, raises the question, typical of a Woody Allen character, of why life is worth living, before concluding: Well, there are certain things, I guess, that make it worthwhile, followed by a list...

...and so, on this dreary day, thought I’d give a brief list of my own, just off the top of my head:

...John Coltrane playing My Favorite Things...
...biking along Wissahickon Creek...
...floppy-eared dogs...
...the way the young woman at the homeless shelter who told me she loves Walt Whitman smiled when I quoted him...all truths wait in all things...at the beginning of Tuesday night's yoga class...
...Haruki Murakami...
...Bob Dylan singing she said your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you want...
...Virginia Woolf...
...an intense practice leaving me feeling like I’ve been to Jupiter and back...
...Bill Murray...
...Jorma Kaukonen...
...Joan Miro...
...successful headstands...
...red rock canyons...
...Vincent Van Gogh...
...Hamlet’s description of deep depression, beginning I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth....
...the frozen mango margaritas at that place down on Passyunk, especially when it’s nice enough out that I can bike home...
...Sufi grinding...
...a deep pigeon pose...
...that first cup of coffee in the morning...
...Light in August...
...the way Carrie Brownstein pulled off all those classic cheesy rock-hero guitar moves without irony when I saw Wild Flag play this past fall...
...long phone conversations in which nothing of import is said but much is communicated...
...Miles Davis’ solo a couple minutes into Shhh/Peaceful...
...Joni Mitchell singing Free Man in Paris...
...Beethoven’s 9th...
...Gabriel Garcia Marquez...
...The Brothers Karamazov...
...Joe Strummer singing it's up to you not to heed the call-up, you must not act the way you were brought up...
...mindfulness...
...solitude...
...friendship...
...compassion...
...kindness...
...orgasms...
...you...
...the coffee I'm drinking right now...
...Jon Stewart...
...Flannery O'Connor...
...Apocalypse, Now...
...The Big Lebowski...
....Casablanca...
...Keith Richards...
...Billie Holiday...
...people calling out my name and enthusiastically waving across the room though I can’t see who they are because I just took my glasses off just before yoga class...
...sudden surprising revelations I get while peddling...
...and laughing about all the rest...