Sunday, July 1, 2018

July schedule

Breath and movement help open up space within the body.
Let that space awaken you.

Yoga for those in the Saratoga Springs area:
Bring your own mat (BYOM)
Suggested donation $10

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Poem of Thanks: "A Signature Visit"


Inspiration comes from lotus hands
like a driving force into the wind, 
beating raindrops against a protective glass

It seeks us out, softly, quietly
Calling with a voice like honey
To our hard-to-digest wax-like body

Love is felt in the surprise pulse of humans as I return
Suddenly a hand flutters into yours because you are here
Love surprises you in the unconscious spoken and the feeling all around

Memories, true like echoes
Shared like pearls on a strand
that wrap around your neck and mine 

Family warm and bright like your sister-in-law's honey hue
Your niece, your nephew, time so grand as their eyes look up
Joy in her assertiveness with the ball and his measuring of minutes

Sentimental thoughts in sunny smiles
Seeing them play all about as if the first time
one nearing six, the other nine, and a precious one just born

The tikes name their team Lightning Dragons
The other, Crystal Fire, and the center is lit from the inside
As life shows you children breathing magic realism

Creative inspiration is the divine imprint 
across the species, genes, and caves
Wide like a slow river wake

When it comes in the winged form of love
So obvious, mystical, and firmly presses on my heart, 
I feel the organ bow within the soul and give thanks

Vision within, quiet contemplation in art
Entwine Montaigne's essay on experience
She speaks of matters so inspiring

I begin to understand my quintessential mentor
as I follow the walking garden 
and come more into the art of living

Yogic Perspectives
Courtesy of artwork for sale at Paris on Ponce, Atlanta, GA


Monday, January 29, 2018

Devoting Oneself

Ganesha, a.k.a Ganapati, Vinâyaka, Ekadanta

How do you know when you're imposing your aversion to suffering onto your decisions? And how do you know when you are actually making the right sacrifice? What if we believe we need to be humble, and do not fight for something that in fact we should fight for? What if, in believing we are making a great sacrifice, we are only running from a bad experience we had in the past? What if we sacrifice the very thing we were given to have, in the name of giving up something for God? In other words, what if our desire for our own pure and perfected kind of spiritual path, in fact, becomes an attachment that obfuscates the beauty and idiosyncratic quality of our life or path of devotion? If we are called to give up attachment to all desires, then at some point are we called to give up our conceptualizing or conception of our spiritual path?


Modern rendition of Ganesh
I learned from recent lectures on the Gita that we do best when we are not attached to our desires. We cause suffering when we become consumed with a specific outcome, especially to ourselves. This is easy to grasp even in just watching a blockbuster movie with a semi-critical eye: We see characters suffer with a desire they have and are unable to obtain, whether business or personal. Usually, the American formula is to deliver the desire at the end of the movie rather than to see the protagonist come to terms with existence, reality, and the difference between material and spiritual gain - that would be truly anti-climactic for audiences and our media culture does not often invite people to reflect. In a decent film, we may see the protagonist's perspective shift as he or she opens the self to new ways of thinking about what was originally desired. Most often, the protagonist achieves his or her goal and any suffering they had at the beginning or middle of the film only helped them to rise above and make that desire real: Thus, the happy ending American audiences have come to expect. But life is not a film or a formula. I am not Sandra and you are not Danny. I am not Thelma and you are not Louise.

Artwork from the film, Animals and the Buddha
So, perhaps it is hard to know if we may be imposing something as our duty or the right thing to do when in fact we could simply be running from an aversion we have or reacting to a deep-seated fear. We are human after all, and can oscillate from being horribly flawed and wondrously inspiring, sometimes at the same time (thus our pull to the tragic hero). In our best bet and effort, we can devote ourselves to a spiritual path, a continual committing of self to. We have more ethical guidelines, insight, and inspiration if we read ancient wisdom texts, but in the personal details of our lives, we can also get quite confused regarding grey areas. Individuals strive to develop a sense of individual duty (dharma) in this life in order to find fulfillment and create meaning. Yet, inevitably, life and the path of devotion will grant us new experiences, new questions, new quandaries/adventures, and there will be times when applying what we already know about moral/ethical issues to problem resolution is not clear or helpful enough, as in fact, no divine set of instructions has been provided for this, your particular situation or mine. Just as the influences of genetics is a vast and indecipherable sea of mutual influences that a program cannot account for as each individual is so uniquely different from another, so we as individuals come with all these samskaras - perspectives, habits, genes, environmental factors, ways of thinking, personal history, family, conceptions of who we are etc. What works for one may not work for another. Surrendering the self in the uniqueness of the self, humbly, respectfully, knowing we do not have it figured out may be the best we can do to steer the boat in the dark or in the fog.

   Chao-Chou: What is the Way?
   Nan-Chüan: It is our everyday mind
   Chao-Chou: Is it necessary to realize it?
   Nan-Chüan: To intend to realize the Way is opposed to the Way
   Chao-Chou: Without intending, how can you know whether it is the Way?
   Nan-Chüan: The Way does not depend on what you know or do not know. If you know it, your knowledge is just speculative ideas. If you don't, your ignorance is like the inanimate. When you have no doubts, the unlimited universe will open in front of you, and no discrimination is possible.

This dialogue from Thick Nhat Hanh's Zen Keys (1973) exemplifies the obstacles that can be created by conceptualizing or forming conceptions of our spiritual path. What I find interesting in this section is the concept of upaya-jñana, what Buddhism calls the Wisdom of the Skillful Ways, and how a good Zen master will create and employ varied methods to help individuals enter the world of awakening for different personalities and different occasions. Buddhism speaks of the 84,000 Dharma gates to enter into reality, and will not describe reality, for it has to be experienced, and in order for any skillful ways or means of the Zen teacher to be effective in helping an individual to enter awakening, "they must fulfill the real needs and particular mentalities of those they seek to guide" (52). I like this, for even though we are not the mind body, we still need the mind body to help us discover who we are (see the Gita or Yoga Sutras for a discussion of the atman) - and thus addressing who we are as a particular makeup of mind body is truly the best way to get us in the direction we are needing to go. Perhaps this is why we resonate with some people or teachers, and not with others.

Perhaps we can say that, owing to our individuality, we ultimately create ourselves in the grey areas: We can open to grey areas as learning, or we can close them off in aversion, and we certainly can deliberate and go back and forth between the two poles. As Viktor Frankl would say, it is up to us to create meaning. Perhaps more important for the bhakta tradition, and this is just my thought, is that we can follow a leading, a voice in the silence, and where there is none, we can concern ourselves with the how rather than the what: we can create ourselves in the grey areas as a humble offering, something that may be sweet because of our intention, even if we are unsure of the footsteps.  Perhaps the wiser decision is to choose the path that makes you have to trust more. New ground is good ground when you are moving in faith.

Bhagavad Gita 
Krishna & Arjuna on the battlefield
We can learn a lot in this regard from the Bhagavad Gita. As we find in the Gita, Arjuna has conflicting duties or dharma. The Gita was sung 5,000 years ago, and is situated within the great Hindu warrior epic, the Mahabharata. The setting for the Gita is the battlefield where two sets of cousins, the Kauravas (not so nice) and the Pandavas (mostly nice), must duke it out. On the one hand, the Pandava prince Arjuna is in the midst of a real crisis: his dharma would tell him to in no way kill his guru and his grandfather (who are aligned with the Kauravas on the field of battle), whereas dharma is also telling Arjuna to pick up the bow and fight. His heart is moved in seeing the men he always respected, and falters to the point that he lets the bow drop, and tells his charioteer, who happens to be Krishna, that he will not fight. Is it courageous of him to surrender his warrior duty and sacrifice justice for his people so as to not kill his grandfather and guru? His heart would tell him so, but Krishna will give him a greater perspective. And so, this is the moment when the Gita starts; with the dilemma of conflicting duties or dharma. The questions Arjuna asks are profuse, riddled as he is with doubt about the right course of action, even though Krishna is very clear and convincing as he appeals to Arjuna through warrior-like thought and then philosophical (and eventually bhakta) thought. In fact, the text can be quite repetitive with Arjuna's languishing, but this is the textual opportunity for Krishna to teach us that we should act without attachment to the fruits of actions. (The text is so rich, and offers so much insight on existence, action, desires, etc.). Another important aspect that emerges from the Gita is that, while for some people going off and meditating and doing yoga in the forest until the end of life is good, not everyone can be a forest-dweller yogi. In the Gita, we learn that yoga can also be done in the everyday world as the yoga of action (karma yoga).

19th century manuscript of the Bhagavad Gita
In conclusion, devoting oneself seems an appropriate title for this post. Devoting oneself may very well involve repeated, progressive, ever-evolving sets of decisions. All this in the hopes of arriving nowhere, for life is constantly unfolding, as is our being and our sense of relation to the Supreme Being. Ancient wisdom texts offer stepping stones for your feet, but how you take the steps with your whole self is up to your unique self and experience. It is reassuring, however, that there is a set of efforts, work, that one can consciously undertake in the yogic tradition. And while this begins with tapas, the fire of discipline, it can become so sweet that you cannot bear to not engage in reading the tales, saying the names, meditating, redirecting, loving, opening yourself to the mystery, the beauty, the fire. We are a being, but we are a being in relation to. And this is a lifelong discovery to manage and give space to.




Bhagavad Gita 
Krishna & Arjuna on the battlefield




Remembering our unique goal in life is a journey, an art, and it is the way you choose to give your life back. In some regards, we have very little control over our lives. We cannot control or even call to mind where we were before we arrived here in this life. We cannot control even our own emotions sometimes. But we can learn from deeper study of the yogic tradition in the Gita or the sutras to observe the mind, emotions, and thoughts (all things of the material world or prakrti) rather than to identify with them. Observe rather than identify, open rather than close, let yourself feel, let yourself let go, see all things as being for the best, wishing love to all, and releasing the past to the past. Releasing what no longer serves you. While many people accumulate and amass things, imagine if we opened ourselves up by letting go and creating space instead. This goes for bitterness, unforgiveness, fear, etc. as well as possessions - we know these can clog our minds and hearts. And so, what do we actually have or possess? This is a question we may face at the end of our life. For me, I hope the answer will be: a sense of gratitude, in love. We can choose to address that question and cultivate that graceful flow of gratitude and love now. 

Our minds need so much feeding and cultivating. One's individual sadhana or shastra can be a sincere way of beginning to approach and surrender further to the love of the divine. If you are a bhakta, then the ultimate goal is communion with your Beloved (Ishvara, whatever you choose to call the God of your heart) in all things, and in all ways.

Life is a landscape with so many deep ravines and high peaks and serendipitous paths that we can't imagine. It has been interesting to stop and marvel along the path, and it is good if we stop to examine and reset the intention of our hearts.


In deep appreciation of the lectures and teachings presented by Professor of Hindu Religions at Rutgers University, Dr. Edwin Bryant, in his lectures on the Bhagavad Gita at the Yoga Mandali studio in Saratoga Springs, NY, January 2018.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Frida Kahlo's diary and the Art of Rebuilding

Do you journal? ....Maybe there is more insight available to us if we trust our mind-heart-hand connection and express ourselves on a page with colors. Consider an example of amazing emotional texture and quality from Frida Kahlo's journal:
Pages from the published diary of Frida Kahlo
I recently started keeping a notebook around. I've started drawing in here too. The lines aren't just for words, I realized. One can draw on top of them. Maybe drawing opens up what words cannot say.

"Untitled"
gel ink on lined paper
2018

Keeping this journal with these drawings has recently become a hopeful, comforting anchor as I go through life's losses and stresses. Have you ever needed something to help you like that? The title of Lucia Capacchione's book caught my eye and made me think: The Picture of Health: Healing Your Life with Art.

So here's to the artistic value of words, images, and keeping a notebook. Picasso did. And of course, see The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, hardcover, color drawings and phrases, thoughts Frida Kahlo colored/wrote down: In Spanish, phenomenal and striking.

The following are notes are from this same journal that I jotted down while doing yoga; I suppose only breath and movement and an actual session would give clarity to them but I thought I'd type them up anyhow in order to show how movement, creativity go hand in hand - and of course, writing is an aid for the memory.

draw w/ mudra in yoga      circles
circles    everyone likes drawing
goddess, roll up, energy up. bend side 1/2 crescent moon 
var.  legs wide
torso circles, mudra over head
warrior 2
lift feet
other side mudra
tai chi circles
skandasana UP use neck
look up last, hands dragged out front
turn head toward away hand

Page of a dispersed manuscript of the Bhagavata Purana,
(Collection at The Met)
But in order to be inspired, we must take in. Yoga practice is enhanced by including a study of texts. I have been loving reading the Bhagavata Purana, translated and brilliantly written about by Edwin Bryant. Also, I spied 5-6 books interesting books about yoga at the library that I have been skipping around in. Here follows a thought-provoking passage from one such book, The Yoga of Breath, by Richard Rosen:

Asana is an unusual position that, like unusual breathing, introduces a novel element into our habitual ways of doing - of sitting, standing, moving - and so clarifies these habits in our awareness. This also reverses the wandering (vgutthana, swerving from right course) and turns it toward the self. All yoga practice is like this: it keeps us immersed in and delighted by the process of transformation, which we recognize is accomplished both through our own efforts and through our acquiescence to a higher power. 

Then, another insightful explanation referring to Patanjali's 3 verses on yoga in the Yoga Sutras, which the author, Rosen, begins by translating from the Sanskrit:

'The posture [should be] steady and comfortable [sthira-sukha]. [It is accompanied] by the relaxation of tension and the coinciding with the infinite [consciousness-space]. Thence [results] unassailability by the pairs-of-opposites.' Each posture is a skillful balancing act between making happen and letting happen. This recalls the two great wings of classical yoga, exertion (abhyasa which has the same root verb as asana) and surrender or dispassion (vairagya). When these two elements are in harmony in asana, the yogi relaxes or loosens (sithila) all physical and psychological tension; consequently the normally perceived boundaries of the body map dissolve, and consciousness begins to coincide (samapatti) with the consciousness that pervades all space, what Patanjali calls the infinite or endless (ananta).

To add on to this quote, a parenthetical comment about Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: As I understand from Edwin Bryant's book on the Bhagavata Purana, it is helpful to know that Patanjali's yoga is concerned more with self-realization, whereas the object and goal of bhakti yoga is of a different, devotional kind (and thus more sweeter).




A dear man has passed.
Dear P.S., much love and joy to you now. Enjoy your great Western book
and see you...

Om shanti

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Week Without Yoga...

Have films ever spoken to you in a deeply personal way?

It has only happened 4, maybe 5 times since my major surgery recoveries and yoga training in '16 that I've gone a week without doing yoga at all. This past week was one, and what a weird, spinning week, full of a big holiday, the flu, and an ER visit for pain management today.

First and foremost, it was Christmas which is lovely with a child. I enjoyed the holiday prelude of December with my son. I loved pointing out Christmas Tree and Santa with enthusiasm and magic to my son who does not speak quite yet, but who knows what each is already. In my family, we have always had a Santa Claus actress in the family arrive to the Christmas Eve party and play the part in great costume and with each of the children. The expression on my son's face was priceless.

I came down with the flu Christmas day. Knocked out in bed for 24 hours without much movement. I've had two months of not sleeping well at all if I wake up (which I always do for my condition) due to medical worries. I've worked though this with Memorial Sloan Kettering, so my worries are much lessened. Today I was thinking as I drove myself to the ER at 4:50am that my veins surely by now have seen their hundredth needle. I said as much to the nurse who stuck me with some quite weird moving around of the vein. Thought I was better at this by now, but I guess it's never jolly. I was also thinking my New Year's wish - so so trivial - would be to get good sticks the rest of my life! I have procedures regularly, and this is why that's a funny but serious wish for me (and impossible). I have been mostly awake (except for dozing off twice to be awoken) since 1:30am today. Hour by hour the pain got worse in the wee hours of the morning, and there I was, sure that here was another ovarian cyst and I was then driving myself to the ER in negative 12 degree weather, the windows cracked for fresh air when I could stand it.

As interesting as my 6th visit to the ER this morning was, the second one this month, I am reflecting more on the image of myself being led around the corridors of the hospital in the stretcher; this is a different layer of reflection than usual. I see this moving image of me as part of me. Maybe because now it's become almost normal and a part of life: 5 cat scans, 4 major surgeries, 8 minor surgeries/scopes in 2 years, barium enema, x-rays, ultrasounds all since March 2016. The wheels of the stretcher bed take you from prep into a procedure via anesthesia. I can see myself this morning as I was being taken for a simple ultrasound (for a lot of pain). I see myself over all this time in a hospital, at peace somehow inside, in the hallway chatting with the escort person - or not, depending on how well I am feeling.

David Bowie, amazing in The Man Who Fell to Earth

So, during my flu, I surfed and was very particular about which films I would watch while couch-ridden. I haven't seen a movie in over 6 months (crazy I know), and I almost never watch television. I first watched The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), with David Bowie. Then, the next day: Never Let Me Go (2010), a deeply thoughtful British film, also based on a book. Then, yesterday: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016), with Meryl Streep. I went to bed last night thinking that I had somehow seen my own life in these three films. Surely, other people see themselves in films from time to time too - and what an interesting thing to experience. I started wondering what the underlying current or themes were that connected each of these three films. I realized: Death and Doctors were represented in each film. Was each film representative of a different struggle or learning curve or attitude or journey within my life? In The Man Who Fell to Earth we see: Getting distracted, failure, oppression by doctors. A man looking for water to bring back to his family.... I don't want to give it away, but it is a David Bowie film, i.e. artistic and thus no cookie cutter happy ending, just something like a razor and a mirror to look at life with.

Scene from Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
, you'd have to see the film one day - I suggest without reading about it first. Trust in it for thoughtful, wonderful rendering of great emotion; this is what you call a good drama. A smooth film to drink down with all the intrigue and existential questions it raises. I don't want to give too much away about the question I identified with, but it is something like, how much can the body give before completion? Without spoiling anything, I hope, I'll say surgery comes into play in the movie, which is refreshing, in a way, to see people having trouble following surgery -- cuz that's reality. I say this as someone who realized there isn't enough representation of medical realities of children, the elderly, middle age, etc in mainstream media. People need more thoughtful representation of realities such as these kind of hardships. People going through things. A bunch of colleagues at UC shared with me that there are great films out there that I didn't know about for representation of disabled when I shared that I thought it would be so cool to have a Disney character who is in a wheelchair. Or what about a Powderpuff in a wheelchair? I realized this lag between disability and mainstream representation as an experience when I was put in recovery for days and days and days with a TV (which remained off). This is not the main question of the film, but it is a question I saw and have been asking myself: how much can be taken from the body? Which is the question I have been forced to ask myself even again - and again recently. I could go on but I've said enough. Point: The movie is brilliant. Thoughtful art is so refreshing and helps us reflect on - and shape - our lives. Find a film that speaks to you about an "alternative" issue you may face. Relish it, share it.

"They can say I can't sing. But they can't say I didn't sing."
-- Florence Foster Jenkins
The film with Meryl Streep was just the way to climax my personal film festival and mini-journey as I moved from feeling a bit better from the flu to a surprise ER pain management trip: this film struck on a high note, quite literally. This film is a delight, and even more so because it's based on a real woman's life (read NPR's take on this woman) and her triumph of spirit over 1. self-limits and expectations of society and 2. medical condition. Towards the end of the film, she utters some words which moved me and connected to my feelings in a way no movie quote ever has. Background story is she contracted Syphilis (a then incurable disease) when she was just 18 on the night of her wedding from her first husband. It's amazing in her day that she lived 50 years beyond that, as the doctor who examines her in the film notes. Indeed, as the movie about this real-life woman shows, it was her love for music that kept her alive. Her story is literally amazing, and radically flies in the face (and ears) of all clichés about failure. Her legacy goes on, which is startling - and honorable and fitting. You will laugh and you will not forget that voice.

The touching lines came at a moment in the film when Florence's doctor has warned her that too much activity could really cause her harm. Her husband warns her of her upcoming performance's possible effects on her life. She responds that she has been living with death for 50 years (meaning since her diagnosis). She goes on musing about this, which I totally appreciated, and in light of this she has lightness despite it all, says that if she did die from doing this dream of hers (don't want to spoil what the event will be), she would die happy.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dalì and Schedule of Classes



Cordially inviting you: 
We have a nice & easy class Saturdays 9:30-10:45am & Wednesdays 9-10am, 
or a more intense, workout yoga class Mondays 9-10am. 
I like tailoring sessions to your interests in yoga. 
See you soon at 402 Rowland Street, Ballston Spa. 
 Email Domenica at domenloren@yahoo.com for more info

Update: It's Snowing! Make some snow angels out there! No class on Dec 29, Christmas day or New Years, or January 20. Otherwise, refer to above for usual schedule!

We are thankful: Life is grand! no matter what it hands us, it always hands us learning opportunities and opportunities to choose love & light. I realize after this happy, reassuring scope: I have been gifted life.

In the space following, I share photos from Monday, my 40th birthday, at the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL. With a 1000 pieces in the family's collection, I always see a new painting or a painting newly. Fantastic exhibit with Elsa Sciaparelli. Decadence to the max for fashion and art.

Cherry nipple

Before Rod Stewart wrote Hot Legs

Wedding dress





Dalì

Lobster dress and phone

Schiaparelli

Tristan et Yseult et le filtre

Sagittario

Acquario

The Zodiac

Greek gods. Yet another mythological couple who chase each other in cursed forms

Kissing couch and her Prince shirt

Kissing couch and kiss

Dali detail 



The 3 stages of life

Family, like red wine
The girls and the Dalì museum

Con mio padre


Monday. December 18, 1917. Tampa Airport
Bling celebration courtesy of April!

My son, Summer 2016