Thursday, September 27, 2007


Sattwa - Samkhya: accounts for thought and intelligibility, experienced psychologically as pleasure, thinking, clarity, understanding and detachment. Classical Yoga: - when sattwa (purity, illumination through comprehension) predominates, consciousness manifests itself as prakhya - vivacity, illumination, mental clarity and serenity.

Rajas - accounts for motion, energy and activity. Experienced psychologically as suffering, craving and attachment. Classical Yoga: - when rajas (energy) predominates, consciousness is pravritti - active and energetic, tense and willful.

Tamas - accounts for restraint and inertia. Experienced psychologically as delusion, depression and dullness. Classical Yoga: - when tamas (obscurity, heaviness) predominates, consciousness is sthiti - inert, punged into a state of repose and torpor

On Monday night, I turned on the TV and watched my actor friend Tahmus do a brief turn on CSI Miami.

He was perfect as a ne'er-do-well foster parent who crawled out of a boat. His comb-over was what made it believable.

But watching the show made me feel dirty, and I wanted to take a bath.

Instead I stayed in front of the TV.

Tahmus wasn't keeping me there. Nope, it was tamas

On Tuesday I'd planned to go a morning Mysore class.

I ended up practicing at home.

I had afternoon plans to meet a friend and discuss our Big Literary Projects.

She cancelled, and I was grateful. But instead of using that time to write I took a nap. Tamas again.

In the evening I'd planned to go to bhangra dance class.

But I felt so overwhelmed by everything I need to do this week.

Not to mention introverted.

"That dance class so rajastic," I rationalized. "And I want to be sattvic."

So I stayed home and paid the bills and did the recycling and cleared off all the junk on the dining room table.

When I tried to file away the receipts, I could not. The file cabinet was full.

"That's so tamastic," I thought. Then I realized that most of my drawers, closets, etc. are full-up due to intertia. "I'm effing tamastic," I realized with growing horror. "I'm like Arjuna when he doesn't want to fight, before Krishna explains Life and tells him to stop being a coward"

Everything suddenly started making sense: how I don't like to move or change jobs or get rid of anything (including old hurts).

So I decided to get sattvic, and started getting rid of stuff: towels, old files, shirts, gift soap, sweaters, magazines.

I got rid of Tupperware, bowls, books, DVD's, candles, jewelry, more files (including a 1996 tax return).

I got rid of tanning goggles and dead cell phones and yoga tops and bike lights that no longer work.

I got rid of so much stuff my throat hurt.

On Wednesday I slept in (it's not tamas if it's a moon day). After sitting and breakfast, I started laundry, went to the post office, chased down a bunch of boxes, and had the Kaveri picture framed.

Then I brought all of that stuff to The Ark.

It took two trips.

But so much more remains to be done.

Yet here I sit eating corn chips and reading blogs.

Back to tamas again.


*Speaking of tamas... after nine. long. years I finally gave up the losing battle that was my Friday morning yoga class at the Chicago Yoga Center. I'm now teaching the same challenging-but-playful class -- Dharma Mittra Level II+ -- Fridays from 10-11:30 at Silverspace, a loft with natural light and vintage hardwood floors at 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave. The class is a lot of fun and suitable for anyone with an ongoing practice - including ashtangis open to a different kind of challenge.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Seventeen students are scattered haphazardly around the studio. Each sits on a pastel-colored yoga mat. Most are in a forward bend, one leg straight, one foot on the thigh. Over half are looking at themselves in the massive mirror that spans one wall. The teacher sits in front of the room, demonstrating as she leads them through a sequence of seated poses. One man is not following along. He sits on his mat, legs akimbo, looking around. A few poses later the teacher walks over.

TEACHER: Are you OK?

MAN: Yes.

TEACHER: There's no problem?

MAN: Will this be over soon?

TEACHER: Will *what* be over soon?

MAN: (gesturing) These forward bends. My hamstrings are tight.

TEACHER: Most of the poses we're doing today are forward bends. You could do them with your knees bent if they bother you.

MAN: Oh.

TEACHER: Don't you like forward bends?

MAN: (rolling up his mat) I just don't think I get a lot of benefit from them.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


When you're a vomity invalid, you should:

-Drink ginger ale. In bed.

-Eat crackers. In bed.

-Sleep a lot. In bed.

-Curl up with a hot water bottle to reduce stomach cramps. In bed.

-Beg your friend Gridlife to bring you more ginger ale. (Not in bed).

-Watch Oxygen, Lifetime and We like a good little girl. In bed.

You should not:

-Clean the litterbox

-Sniff your chemical-laden new pillow

-Fret about how some get authorized while others do not.

-Eat Indian food, even if it is just rasmalai

-Watch a long movie about a Japanese family that's sent to an interment camp during World War II

-Follow it with a long French film about a Jewish boy trying to pass for Protestant at a Catholic boarding school during World War II.

-Chase it all down with an E! special about supermodel Janice Dickenson.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I taught 20 classes in one week.

I met five deadlines.

On Sunday, I had my first day off in over a month (since coming back from India) and drove out to McHenry for a christening (which I missed) and luncheon (at which I overate).

On Tuesday I ate something bad, and on Tuesday night I womited (but only air would come out).

On Wednesday I spent the day in bed, cancelling appointments, lining up subs and indulging in the darkest of thoughts (the ones where you question every decision you've ever made).

And on Thursday I began to pick up the pieces....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


1. Get out of bed

2. Drink chai

3. Defecate

4. Use neti pot (for nasal irrigation).

5. Apply Amir's Kalonji (black seed) Oil to neck and shoulders.

6. Do three rounds of Kapalabhati (skull shining breath).

7. Do five minutes of 3-12-6 Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing).


1. Practice intermediate series (without omitting any backbends or headstands)

2. Do 15+ minutes of japa mala and sitting practice.

3. Live your life.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Heavy Manners was a Chicago ska band that I loved in the 1980's - but I never got a chance to see them play live.

I still have their 1982 Iain Burgess-produced EP Politics & Pleasure. On the cover is a black-and-white photo of them (and their friends) waiting in line at the downtown Department of Public Aid, a CTA bus in the background. On the back they're wearing vintage clothes and madly dancing.

The songs on the record still hold up.

Apparently they're still around, too; Marikay told me they did a couple of reunion concerts when I was in India.

And they're doing another one today (Saturday) at 4 at Roscoe and Damen.

The problem is what to wear.

The checkerboards skirt and top are long gone.

So are the pointy mouse boots with the crazy buckles.

As are the big plastic earrings.

But I know I still have a miniskirt and pink-and-black Chuck Taylors around here somewhere.....

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Between Lisa trying to teach me how to drop back with parallel feet this morning and losing half my body weight in sweat and the teaching, the deadlines, the nap, the laundry, the two giant late afternoon balls of gulab jamum and the massive pile of wonderful north Indian food I consumed following my first dance class since the age of seven, I'm hecho polvo.

The killer was the bhangra (traditional Punjabi folk) dance class at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Armitage. Most of it invovled standing in a wide-foot squat and trying to move your arms and legs to the music while the head remains stationary (which does not seem at all possible). All the while you're supposed to stare at yourself in the mirror and avoid focusing on the fact that you look even more pink and haggard than usual.

Of course I got busted for having my shoulders up near my ears.

I can't even feel my legs right now.

And tomorow I teach Mysore downtown from 6:30-9:30am - and was planning to ride my bike there.

I don't think so.


The Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago's annual Bhangra and Gidha (women's traditional dance) competition takes place October 28 in - where else? - Elmhurst, IL. Details here.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I saw an extraordinary film last night - Roberto Rossellini's little-seen India, Matri Bhumi ("India, Motherland").

Film critic Girish Shambu calls it, along with Renoir's The River (which I adore), the best film he's seen about India made by a westerner.

After seeing it at Cannes in 1959, Godard said that "[Rossellini] has already gone on from the point which others may perhaps reach in 20 years. INDIA is the creation of a world."

After Cannes, though, the film virtually disappeared - for over 40 years.

There's only one copy of it - a faded print that has yet to be restored (did you hear that, Mr. Coppola?).

A new group called The Chicago Cinema Forum arranged the screening - which consisted of a DVD of that faded print being projected onto a screen.

Still, it was mind-blowing: part documentary and mostly fiction that used non-actors doing their real jobs.

The first segment concerned a mahout (elephant handler) in Karnataka, and was a lyrical examination of their daily life; for three hours each day the elephants push down trees and gracefully haul massive logs between tusks and trunk to a truck, where they gently set them down. This mesmerizing scene went on for some time, and the only sound was of the bells that hung around the elephants' necks. After three hours of work, the elephants were finished for the day. But not the mahouts. They spent the rest of the day washing, massaging, reassuring, feeding and caring for them. There were some really funny elements - including a subplot about elephants mating and the mahout finding his own mate in which it was noted that "after 10 months of pregnancy the female wants nothing to do with the male." And seeing long, lingering shots of an audience of villagers staring staring stonefaced at a raucous puppet show made me realize how stupid we all look while watching movies....

The second segment was about an East Bengali refugee who'd helped build a new dam and was being relocated to a new site. The third concerned an elder gent who lived in a village and spent his time contemplating nature in the vast nearby jungle.

The part fourth seemed to be a documentary about a heat wave -- all of the animals went into the water in order to cool off, and humans did the bare minimum to survive -- but then it focused on an old man who was walking to a fair in a nearby town with a performing monkey on his shoulder.

The man keeled over from the heat, face-up in the middle of the desert.

The monkey, wearing a shirt and pants and attached to a chain, did not know what to do.

The vultures started to gather.

First the monkey tried to revive his master, poking its head under his shirt and squealing. No response.

The vultures came closer.

The monkey, still chained, went over to the man's face and began grooming him. He hugged his head. He burrowed his head in his neck. He hid under his shirt. Nothing.

More vultures arrived.

The monkey had that chain around his neck, and you feared he'd be attacked, too.

I was becoming quite upset, until I remembered that the monkey was an actor and I was watching a movie.

The monkey eventually stood up on top of the man and jumped and screamed at the vultures.

They did not go away.

In fact, they came closer.

Finally, at the very last minute, the monkey fled; apparently the chain wasn't attached after all.

But that wasn't the end of his saga.

He made his way to the fair, and did his performance. Out of habit, he collected money from the audience - even though he had no use for it.

Then he found a place to spend the night.

The wild monkeys wanted nothing to do with him with his chain and clothes and "human smell."

(I saw this as a commentary on the lot of post-Independence Indians who had worked for the British).

The monkey was weak and on his last legs when the narrator said that he finally found a new master - and a new profession.

The next scene showed him waiting his turn as another monkey performed a frenzied, daring trapeze act.

Girish Shambu's review equates the four segements of the film with the four stages of life in the Hindu, Vedic tradition.

Some background:

Apparently, in 1957, Rossellini was invited by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to make a documentary about India in order to boost the Indian Films Division, and this was the result.

From Wikipedia:

Though married to Ingrid Bergman, he had a torrid affair with Sonali Das Gupta, a screenwriter, who was helping develop vignettes for the film.[1]

Given the climate of the 1950s this led to a huge scandal in both Hollywood and India. Nehru had to ask Rossellini to leave. He married Sonali in 1957 and adopted her young son, Gil Rossellini (born October 23, 1956). Rossellini and Sonali had a daughter together - Raffaella Rossellini (born 1958).

No word on whether or not she too became an actress.