How to Strap Back Your Shoulders with a Yoga Strap
Start with short increments of time (5 minutes a day) and increase wearing time GRADUALLY!
How Can We All Win?
Regardless of how you felt about Saturday’s election results, can you remember how the other half of America feels? In a stunning performance, the fearless and sometimes off-the-rails comedian Dave Chappelle posed this question in his brilliant and edgy monologue on Saturday Night Live.
Chappelle leads by remembering his great-grandfather who was born into slavery in South Carolina. He was freed at age 10 and dedicated his life to three essentials: education, the freedom of Black people, and Jesus Christ. He ended up being the president of Allen University, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as the 37th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (Another HBCU grad, Kamala Harris, is our Vice President-Elect!)
In his routine, Chappelle doesn’t entertain, he challenges. You can feel the discomfort in the studio audience, which probably leans left and wanted a big feel-good monologue about the Democratic win. Instead, they got provoked and called to their edge.
Chappelle likened President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19 and receiving state-of-the-art treatment to taking a bag of hamburgers into a homeless shelter and eating them in front of the homeless while saying that hunger shouldn’t dictate their life. Chappelle highlighted the pain and anguish for White Americans whose life expectancy for the first time has been on the downturn in recent years fueled by “deaths of despair” from drug overdoses, alcoholism, liver disease, and suicides. Chappelle asked us to consider the pain and anguish in the White community over these deaths and the feeling that nobody cares. He also asks us to feel what police officers feel putting on their uniforms: “that they have a target on their backs.”
The key moment is when Chappelle says he knows this anguish of being a target and of feeling no one cares, and he hates the FEELING, but that he doesn’t hate ANYONE. This is a radical and critical distinction. In our world, we currently face fearsome challenges: the unraveling of our ecosystem as it tries to support an expanding population; rapid-fire changes in technology and the expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI); growing economic disparities with our unequal playing field and more. But if we insist on focusing our trauma onto others instead of working within ourselves to create Ahisma (nonviolence towards ourselves and all beings), we increase our own suffering as well as the suffering of others.
Chappelle can be repugnant, but like all prophets, he is edgy. We talk a lot about “The Edge” in yoga, and mostly it’s been applied to the physical sensations in a pose like a hip opener. But the physical practice is exactly that: practice for sitting with our edge mentally and emotionally. Can we stay on that edge of not knowing – what we call in meditation taking on “Beginner’s Mind” – and be curious and ready to listen to those with opposing views? One tool I’ve been teaching in workshops and that I use in my own life is called Active Love (see more under “Recommended Reading” at end of this email), where you send active love energy from your physical heart space to another person, disengaging from the particulars (you can imagine NOT seeing their face if that helps). It is our love and compassion for all human beings that is critical. We NEED each other. Yoga invites us to awaken from the illusion of separation and be yoked to each other and to all that is throughout time and space.
This heart opening is not about arching our spines; we know we have too much of that in yoga anyway! It’s about offering compassion to ourselves and then to see if we can sit with the difficult emotions that arise when we encounter those who challenge us, but still send them love – or at least a little kindness.
Dave Chappell’s Monologue – You’re Forewarned!
Wishing you peace and, as John Lewis would say, a Little Good Trouble!
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Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations by Matthew Fox
This book has genuinely helped me survive this year. It focuses on 32 mystics, including Howard Thurman, whose book Jesus and the Disinherited was in Martin Luther King’s hands each of the 39 times he went to prison.
Animal Teachings: Enhancing Our Lives Through The Wisdom of Animals by Dawn Brunke & Illustrations by Ola Liola
Focusing on the wisdom of our animal teachers, this book groups 60 animals into 12 categories, including Attention & Awareness, Balance, Communication, Creation & Creativity, Dreaming, Healing, Integration, Intuition, Joy, Personal Power, Transformation, & Wisdom. It includes colorful and creative drawings and can be used as the starting point for many meditations.
The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity by Cynthia Bourgeault
This is Cynthia’s discussion of the truths of Mary Magdalene that were suppressed through the ages. It’s a little dense, but I found it to be worth the effort!
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” ~ John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
Almost 60 years ago, President John F. Kennedy shifted the country’s mindset with this now-famous speech. His words echo in the cavern of our current predicament in which a worldwide pandemic has killed 152,000 Americans – and yet some citizens of our country are rejecting a simple, low-cost deterrent to this abhorrent disease.
“A small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective, low-tech solution that can turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19” is how Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes the use of facemasks to fight the spread of COVID-19.
So what’s behind our resistance? Why are Americans outraged by this supposed “submission muzzle” that some feel is being forced upon them when we’ve seen the clear efficacy of this tool in fighting a worldwide pandemic? (Texas A&M study on mask efficacy)
Where is our sense of civic duty that President Kennedy promoted, which he followed with the creation of the Peace Corps? The Peace Corps sent young Americans around the world on a mission to promote social and economic development, offer technical assistance, and nurture mutual understanding. We could certainly use some mutual understanding within our own country about now!
As always, yoga has a brilliant prism through which we can view these current events. Consider the Kleshas, sometimes called “The Poisons.” These human inclinations common to all keep us from being our best selves and living our fullest lives.
Klesha #1: Avidya or Ignorance
What we don’t know, we don’t know about ourselves, about others, or about the way things actually occur. Our lack of information can engender misunderstandings and lead us to create stories that lack any basis in truth.
I’ve got my story, and I’m sticking with it!
Klesha #2: Asmita or Egoism
When “I” become the most important thing in my life, suffering arises. When we become egocentric, instead of expanding and blossoming our souls, our awareness shrinks, and we get selfish.
No mask for me – you’re not the boss of me now!
Kleshas #3 and #4: Raga or Attachment and Dvesha or Aversion / Hatred
We all have deep-seated emotions that we aren’t even aware of that direct our actions. This catalogue of pleasure and pain in our hypothalamus is deeply ingrained in us. As a result, we become attached to and avoid different ideas, thoughts, activities, and people.
I won’t talk to you because your ideas are wrong, and mine are right. So there!
Klesha #5: Abhinivesha or Fear of Death
We all have it – the fear of our passing. Despite the surety of this event, our capacity to deny its inevitability is legendary. This is why we practice Savasana or Corpse pose EVERY practice! We humbly acknowledge both the great gift of a human life and the truth that it is time-limited.
COVID is just a hoax, and I don’t know anyone who’s died of it!
So if our story is that COVID-19 is fake news made up by the media / the Deep State / your favorite YouTube spokesman or Bill Gates, we become attached to that story, and it gives us a sense of security. If we are convinced we are the most important player in this play of life, then wearing a mask for the benefit of others is unnecessary because our needs and wants always trump everyone and anyone else’s needs and wants.
The practice of yoga involves the difficult, internal, and honest work of examining ourselves, our attitudes, our commitment to our highest selves, and to our community. Yoga unequivocally calls us to assist those in need through Seva or selfless service. The victims of COVID-19 have been 23% Black, a much higher rate than the U.S. Black population of 13.4%. In Louisiana, Blacks account for 70% of those COVID-19 deaths. We all bear part of this suffering due to systemic racism and unequal freedoms and opportunities in our country.
Yoga calls us to look at ourselves and to our society and to do the right thing. As my now 100-year-old Mother taught me, we help others; fight against racism, oppression, and ignorance of the truth; and use our yogic practices of meditation, breathing, self-study, and mindful movement to move towards our highest selves.
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This video was recorded with restorative yoga in mind, but these are useful folds to know for any class. Enjoy!
A brand new guided meditation for the new year!
Sun Salutation with a Chair
A Balance Sequence with a Chair
This mp3 of a guided meditation is from Anne's first website. Enjoy at your leisure!
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Do not miss this breathtaking book written by a neurosurgeon who receives a terminal diagnosis in his last year of residency. It is a poignant memoir and reflection on finding meaning in despair.
Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon
A funny and frank memoir written by Rachel Simon, who is the sister of an mentally challenged woman. Simon follows her sister, Beth, through her six-day per week routine of riding city buses from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm on what becomes a journey of personal discovery.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
A riveting and honest look at Western Medicine’s inclination to look away from issues at the end of life and a call for honoring our intentions as we come to the end of our lives. Selected as book of the year by too many sources to list.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (why doesn’t he just run for President already!)
A systematic look at the effectiveness of checklists in the building and aeronautic industries and a demonstration of how using checklists in operating rooms around the worlds could save lives and improve outcomes.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.