Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Dharma's Noon Level IV classes were so full and sweaty that I finally had to borrow The Hex's Mysore rug.
I started having breakthroughs in my asana practice the first day I used it.
The Hex, who is incredibly generous, said I could keep it. And even though I'd given it to him some years ago I took him up on it.
The rug seemed like it had the studio's energy (prana) in it, so when I got it home I decided not to wash it.
Early last week I threw it on the couch and began to do my first home practice since returning from NYC.
Kirby immediately ran over, laid on top of it, and commenced to taking a two-hour nap.
I don't think so.
For some really good cat pix click here.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Even though it's primary day someone was crim and did intermediate series.
All of it.
Very sloppily, too.
Bad, bad, bad.
Yet it felt so good, good good to cleanse the nadis (energy channels) and continue the work begun in NYC.
On the way home from the shala one passed by this:
One is pleased that the former Paul Revere Masonic Temple is now a Buddhist temple rather than, say, more condominiums....
Yet rather annoyed by the massive signs promoting 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter.
Later, in an effort to consoldiate two unpleasant errands, I went on foot to the post office and then over to the high school to vote.
On the way I passed by this:
Yes, that big hole is where Jim's Grill used to be.
Apparently they tore down it down while someone was in NYC.
The high school was still there, though.
And the gauntlet of tall intimidating ward cretins handing out "sample ballots" for Mayor Daley were right in their places.
I declined theirs and took one from an African American guy promoting another agenda.
Hopefully they didn't notice.
Inside, I wrote in my own name for City Treasurer.
Then I realized this could allow them to track me down, and scribbled it out.
Monday, February 26, 2007
"I TOLD YOU TO STOP CALLING ME HERE!"
My phone has been fairly quiet since I've gotten back from New York.
(Actually, it's usually pretty quiet, unless I'm working on a story).
But it's been ringing like crazy lately.
I keep coming home to an answering machine full of messages.
But they're not from editors.
Not from sources.
Not from family.
Not from friends.
Not even from would-be paramours.
They're recorded messages from local elected officials who want me to vote for them at Tuesday's primary election.
They must need the votes.
Even Mayor Daley has called.
And there's no way he can lose.
His father was Mayor-for-Life.
And now he's Mayor-for-Life.
This article by the Reader's Ben Joravsky agrees that there's no way he'll lose to Dorothy Brown tomorrow.
He compares da mare to a wife-beater, and the spineless electorate to the bloody spouse who refuses to leave, saying, "Well, it's not so bad."
He says we should vote against Daley anyway.
For a list of IVI-IPO endorsed candidates, click here. Or just remember Dorothy Brown for Mayor, Miguel de Valle for clerk, and Yes and Yes on the referenda.
The picture above depicts the shredded beats I added to my midday salad today. The color recalls the mayor's florid complexion.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
CUE THE BLACK SABBATH
The other day I arrived early for a class I was subbing.
One of the students had just returned from a trip to Flordia.
She said she took an awesome yoga class there. She was glowing.
She said this awesome class was called "iron yoga."
"Iron yoga?" I said.
"Is that the one where you hold dumbells while you do the poses?"
"Or is it the one that takes three days and you run a marathon at the end?"
Lucky for her it was the former.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Bindi, Colonel Sanders and I went today to see Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Bollywood epic Eklavya - The Royal Guard. (It's Chopra's first film in seven years; he also directed Mission Kashmir, which was cowritten by Caca's favorite Park Slope-based writer, Suketu Mehta. Chopra also wrote and produced Parineeta and the Munna Bhai movies; he is currently in preproduction on his Hollywood debut, 64 Squares).
Eklavya was short, sweet and lovely, and featured Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt *and* Saif Ali Khan. The acting was.... understated. The visuals were stunning. The scenes were short and to the point. And there was only one song.
Amitabh Bachchan, by the way, had his own beard stylist for the film.
The recurring theme was dharma, which ties into the ideas of karma and reincarnation. It questioned the idea of dharma as blind duty, as in the story of Eklavya in the Mahabharata. (In Hinduism, in order to achieve good karma (and burn away bad karma) it is important to live life according to dharma, or what is right. This involves doing what is right / one's duty for the individual, the family, the class or caste and also for the universe itself. If one goes against the norm it can result in bad karma....Anything that helps a human being to reach god is dharma and anything that hinders a human being from reaching God is adharma. For instance, in the epic poem Mahabharata, the Pandavas (righteous ones) represent dharma in life and the Kauravas (land grabbers) represent adharma).
The film suggested dharma is no longer about following the path of righteousness as defined by tradition if it results in awful acts. The concusion was that dharma should be rooted in reason - Dharma Mitabhya Utghrita.
Imagine if they started raising questions like that in American films....
People might actually wake up and start to think.
For Bindfry's take on the film, click here.
Friday, February 23, 2007
I recently learned that Namaste should not be said at the end of a yoga class -- that it is actually an informal greeting and has no place there.
Apparently it's the informal version of "Namaskar."
I was told that true yogis* do not say it after class.
So I've stopped saying it in my classes.
Nonetheless the students have been saying it anyway.
I told my editor this over iddly and dosas today at Mysore Woodland restaurant.
She had also been under the impression that Namaste meant something like "the divinity within me recognizes the divinity within you."
She has been saying it since she started teaching yoga in the 1970's.
She called over the waiter.
"What does 'namaste' mean?" she asked.
"Hello," he said.
"Does it have any other meaning?" she pressed.
"Welcome," he said. As in, welcome to my home.
"Would you ever say it instead of 'goodbye,'" she continued.
"No," he said firmly. "For that we say 'blablabla.'"
My head is still reeling from this.
*"Yogi" and "yoga teacher" are not synonymous, although one can be both. A yogi is actively seeking union with God and follows the yamas and niyamas, which outline how yogis should conduct themselves. Dharma Mittra, who is both a yogi and a great teacher, says "Without yama there is no yoga." The yamas are the first of the eight limbs of yoga, and the first yama is ahimsa, or non-harming / non-violence. This applies to animals as well as to people (ie; a yogi does not eat meat, fish or fowl).
Thursday, February 22, 2007
6-7:30AM Taught Ashtanga Basics at health club
7:30-9AM Taught Dharma Mittra Hatha Raja Yoga Level I at health club
9:30-11:30AM Self-practice with Jammu and Henry the Punk
12:30-2PM Taught Ashtanga at health club
3-5PM Participated in focus group for yoga clothing company (at yet another health club)
5:30-6:30 Taught Ashtanga Basics at health club
I'm not complaining. In fact it'd be nice if there were more days like this.....Although preferably the classes would be in a proper yoga studio. On the other hand, sometimes it's the health club patrons who need it the most.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
My friend Amy gave me my first yoga mat.
I bought my first one at Gaiam, as part of a kit that included a strap and two blocks.
In fact I've trashed a lot of mats, and don't know what to do with them.
At Dharma's they cut them into strips, tie them, and use them as elastic rings to help people bind in poses such as full pigeon.
But now there are 50 ways to re-use your old mat listed on the Gaiam website.
My favorites include:
-Donate to homeless shelter
-Use in place of packing peanuts
-Pet carrier liner
-Soundproofing for garage bands
But there's so much more than what they've listed.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Some pix from the 10-day intensive.
Where I spent most of my time outside of the yoga center.
What I saw each morning on my walk from the 6 train to sweep the stairs at 23rd and 3rd.
The Hotel 17 room where I took refuge during The Nor'easter of 2007
And our lovely group.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Dharma was out of town for part of the teacher training. It was no big deal; his students guided us through other parts of the training, and he was there in spirit anyway.
He returned on Friday and spent the entire day with us.
This included his Noon Level IV class.
The studio was packed to the gills with teacher trainees and regular students who'd been eagerly awaiting his return.
The main part of the studio is carpeted (which makes it less scary to try new poses). But even the hardwood floor was covered in mats.
Devotional music played on the stereo (a reminder of why we were there).
About 15 minutes into class Dharma looked a bald guy in the eye and said in his sweet way,
"Should we have some live music?"
Next thing you know, the guy rolls up his mat and disappears into the dressing room.
He reappeared few minutes later in street clothes, holding a violin.
He found a tiny patch on the floor to stand on, and began to play.
I of course immediately began to cry.
A few minutes into it, Dharma asked him to play a Ganesh mantra.
The bald guy played throughout the class.
Think of it: he gave up his asana practice to play for us.
Well, not just for us -- but for Dharma.
And for God, or whomever it is you believe in.
Karma yogis like that don't appear at just any studio.
How lucky I was to be there for an entire ten days.
I got back into Chicago late last night and unearthed my car from beneath a pile of snow so that I can teach at 6:30AM today.
The cat did only minor damage in my absence.
I can't begin to describe the teacher training. Suffice to say it's exactly what I'd hoped it would be, and more.
It ended on Saturday but I went back on Sunday -- braving the F-train's bizarre weekend schedule -- and took a class with Dharma's head teacher. We did poses I've never even heard of. But that's the least of it.
I disappeared last week because I quit Brooklyn and moved into the Hotel 17 -- just around the corner from the yoga center -- with Paula-from-Argentina.
The extra hours of sleep came in handy. But there was no internet access.
Nor did we ever watch TV or see a newspaper.
No mirrors, except in the bowels of the dressing room.
All of the classes were face-to-face, with us taking notes with pen-on-paper.
The test was like that too.
And we in a safe place, around people who wanted us to succeed.
When I had to teach a Level II in front of Dharma, everyone helped me. It was a collective effort.
After the final goodbye, Erin-from-Long Island and I walked outside. It was Saturday night in NYC, and the streets were full of people.
We were dazzled and a little frightened to be let out into the big wide world.
Now the real yoga begins.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Dharma is out of town. His 12PM Level IV classes have been taught by one of his students. Yesterday he gave me two gentle suggestions, and next thing I knew I was standing up from and dropping into backbend like it was nothing -- for the first time since July.
I think that the pink carpet (not a euphemism) has something to do with it.
I also think it's the safe environment....
The fact that it didn't matter whether I did it or not....
That the other students' energy was very encouraging.....
Plus all of the other work we've been doing.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
INSANE ON THE F-TRAIN
The F-train from P-Slope to Manhattan has been a nightmare.
It has a special, messed-up weekend schedule because there is ALWAYS repair work being done on it.
Saturday night I had to take four trains to get home. The 6 downtwon to the AC downtwon to the F uptown (?) one stop across the tracks to a downtown F. Don't ask why.
I have blisters from walking all the way to the AC on Sunday night in order to avoid the previous night's nightmare. After a long time I got to Jay Street in Brooklyn. When we arrived they announced the F was not coming due to some emergency and we had to go back uptwon to West 4th St. in Manhattan. At West 4th the announcements were garbled and made no sense.
I asked some women if they knew what was going on and shared my frustration and said, as if I was in a 40's movie, "Why, I have half a mind to take a taxi." At this point it was 10:30PM. They said "Where are you going?" I said "P-Slope" and they said, "That settles it." We shared a cab. Amazing. The Manhanttan Bridge at night; quite a treat. This morning the F was delayed, like, forever, and I was late for my seva (selfless service. ie; cleaning the stairs).
Last night I took the 6 downtown to the F to Brooklyn. At Carroll Gardens they announced there was an equipment problem and told everyone to get off. I ate my dinner on the platform while train stood there for 20 minutes. Finally, it left and another one came.
I did not lose my temper or stomp my foot once. All of this meditation and breathing actually works.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Some yoga instructors base their teachings on the yoga sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradiprika.
Dharma Mittra bases his on the Bhagavad Ghita.
He says all the answers are in there.
I think he's right.
When asked about the spiritual path or negative thoughts, Pattabhi Jois sometimes says, "Think God. Be God."
But he doesn't really explain how (at least not to me, anyway).
Dharma explains exactly how, via kriya, mantra, meditation, thought control, etc.
He does it without reservation.
But essentially the idea is exactly the same.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I keep saying the same thing; this is amazing.
Having access to the spiritual underpinnings of the practice is such a privilege.
Before, it's like I was practicing with my eyes covered, and feeling around in the dark.
Dharma removes the blindfold and leads you by the hand; he offers this information to anyone who is ready to absorb it. No withholding.
Plus he has a great sense of humor.
The other night we did a ritual in a circle with the candle and the light.
Then prasad (blessed food) was passed out.
As everyone stared at it in their hand, Dharma said, in all seriousness,
I burst out laughing.
The two girls next to me said, "What?"
They are in their 20's.
They'd never heard of Jonestown.
I had to explain it to them.
I'm so lucky to be here.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Yesterday I dropped back for the first time in months. IT was in class no. 3 (Dharma Mittra Yoga Level II) taught by Dharma. This was after a Level I and a Level IV class. This is the stuff.
We also did the neti pot. I've owned one for over a year but have been afraid to use it. Perhaps because there is "stuff" in my nose? When I got Rolfed last summer, my nose went crazy when Ken put his fingers up it in session #7. We had to keep stopping. I sneezed 17 times and re-lived every time I've been punched in the nose.
Doing the neti pot also recalled some of this. But then I felt high. Damn high.
Dharma's dog thinks I'm a cat / mouse when I wear my cat-ear hat and runs in circles and barks at me.
So I got a new hat (it's freezing in the AM).
Dharma is sporting a beard.
And that's the news.
Friday, February 09, 2007
There are only 14 people in the teacher training.
Half are from Japan. One is from Argentina. Another is a Russian transplant. Three men, I think.
Much of the day was spent with Dharma. He is the real thing.
So are his students, who are also teaching.
Just from their few simple words I think I finally understand all of this "open your heart" business I've heard so many times over the past decade, and which has never been able to penetrate.
We did pranayama, Gita study, meditation....
Can I just say how lucky I am?
I took four classes yesterday; two level I, a gentle class and one advanced class with Dharma. No lunch break. The headache began during the gentle class and disappeared in the middle of the second Level I class.
My first lunch-break will be on Monday.
Apparently I'm teaching next Thursday morning's level one.
They let us use their cheat sheet.
And their regular teachers are there to pick up in case we mess up;
Say, if we forget what comes next.
Or if, god forbid, we accidentally begin teaching ashtanga or something.
After class Kai picked me up in his EX* and took me to the Classic Car Club, which had a lot of new cars and not that many olden ones. Still, it made me feel like a naughty schoolgirl -- who'd turn into a pumpkin at 10PM.
Dreyfus called when we were heading home over the Brooklyn Bridge at 9:45. I have a new grand-niece: Gabriela Page. Mother is fine. And Dreyfus is twice a grandfather.
*that would be a Honda Accord EX
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
I had a lovely dinner with Kai at the usual spot in Carroll Gardens last night; our table was practically atop the radiator and it was candlelit and in some ways I felt like I was on leave, or it was my last meal. Or something. I couldn't have been in better company though; at one point he brought up the world "barnacle."
Later I ran into the Hex's neighbor, Therese, who's working on a new film about the American obsession with virginity (in women). It sounds awesome.
This morning the Hex and I enjoyed tea and unsually mellow conversation with the Goodmans in SoHo. We did discuss the day's best astronaut headlines: "Lust in Space" and "Dark Side of the Loon." Paul's show Tiny Dancer opens next month in Philadelphia. The Hex ran some errands he needed to do before leaving for Glasgow this evening, and I went back "home" and crashed. Then the Hex and I enjoyed Thai thali:
And then I crashed again. I am already feeling under the weather and have been mainlining the Airborne. I'm hoping it works and am debating going to tonight's optional meditation / meet-and-greet. Maybe it'd be wiser to stay here and rest up.
They sent us the schedule yesterday and it is daunting indeed. Thirteen-plus hours each day, and some days with no lunch break. This is hard for a pitta personality to imagine, let alone endure. But on other days there's a two hour lunch break. I've located a MetroNaps in the Empire State Building. You can take a 20-minute nap in one of their pods for about $15. And if you call ahead you can even order lunch. Although it's a cross-town schlep, it's just about near enough to make sense -- especially when I look at this:
5AM Awaken, toilettte, breakfast
6AM Get on F train
7AM Arrive at shala
7:15AM - 8:30PM Yoga sutra, asana, pranayama and meditation instruction, practice, discussion, plus co-teaching, etc.
8:30 Search for food
9PM Get on 6 Train
10PM Arrive in P-Slope. Eat. Bathe. Put out clothes and next day's food.
11PM Hit the sack.
Unless I can figure out how to do it while asleep, it appears there will be no time for blogging.....
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
The temperature was well below zero when I left for NYC today.
When I got to the airport it started to snow.
And they had to de-ice the plane.
Now I'm in P-Slope, Brooklyn.
The temperatures are in the teens.
It feels positively balmy.
The yoga intensive (ten-days of 13.5 hour days) is in Manhattan and starts Thursday....
When No Sleep Til Brooklyn will take on new meaning.
My mantra now is:
Last night after the Bears loss, the veneer (cap) on my front tooth fell off.
This morning there was no heat at Yoga Studio Number One.
The windchill was well below zero.
Yet the students still wanted to practice.
Perhaps to get over the big loss.
The city felt like it was in mourning today.
I like to complain about the mob mentality re; football games but the vibe in the city over the past couple of weeks (prior to Sunday night, that is) was amazing. People more or less were on the same page because the Bears were winning. Even non-fans smirked a little. It's mid-winter and freezing cold and the holidays are long over but we had that little beacon of light. And for in some ways, for a little while, people had more in common than usual. They saw the ways they were like each other (our team of perennial losers is winning!) rather than unlike them.
Which is the goal of yoga.
Of course a fire in the neighborhood will do that, too.
As will several days of double-digit windchills.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Everyone in The Windy City has a mantra.
They are all saying it at this very moment.
They know it better than their own name.
It is not "so-hum"
It is not "Om Nama Shivaya."
It goes something like this:
Everyone thinks that if they all say it together, it will work.
And who knows, they could be right.
But we'll have to wait to find out.
Til next year.
PARTY LIKE IT'S 1985, PART II
I was wearing this at the beginning of class today.
But it seemed wrong to wear it while leading the chants and teaching class.
So I took it off (yes, I was wearing something underneath!).
Current Bears coach Lovey Smith is no Ditka, that's for sure.
He seems, well, evolved.
As does Colts' coach Tony Dungy.
May the best man win....
And here are a few pieces of '85 debris -- some of which were used at last night's Performance.
Yes, that is John Madden's signature on my football. And it was used in my piece:
Not long after the Superbowl, Jackie and I were watching the All Madden Picks on TV. John Madden and co-host Pat Summerall stood in front of a background that seemed remarkably familiar – and then we realized it was Halas Hall. We grabbed our cameras and footballs, threw on our jackets, and raced to South Campus.
When the segment was over, Jackie and I pushed in front of the fratboys and got our pictures taken with the pair. We told them we wanted to be broadcasters, too. And then we got them to sign my football.
From "The Secret Life of Bears" (c) 2007 by Satya Cacananda
The piece seemed to go over well.
But when I looked up (which was often), I noticed that a couple of people had that look on their face that said, "We're here to hear Art. What the hell is this?!"
But they sat through it anyway.
Wonder what they're doing during the game tonight....
Saturday, February 03, 2007
For your reading pleasure....
Here's an excerpt from the piece I'm performing tonight (sorry, but you'll have to come to the reading to get the full effect including props, costumes, and the rest of the story):
from THE SECRET LIFE OF BEARS
By Satya Cacananda (c) 2007
...But hanging out with Player X got me interested in football, and soon Jackie and I were watching every Bears game on my 13-inch TV. At halftime we’d go outside and throw around my Duke Junior football.
Player X was eventually put on waivers. I told Jackie about his stupid investments, which included part-ownership in a racehorse. We decided we should go into business teaching life skills to young football players. We’d make sure they got something valuable out of college. So they wouldn’t end up like us – watching football and dating the wrong people instead of doing their homework.
Somehow we scored tickets to the Bears' big Monday night football game. The day before, we picked up some spraypaint from Woolworths and spread a large sheet out on the grass. On it we painted in large letters, “BRING BACK PLAYER X. CBS TV.”
On game day it was raining and our seats sucked, but we unfurled that banner at every opportunity. We were so busy, we almost missed Walter Payton break Jim Brown’s career rushing record and win the game.
Our friends told us later that they saw our banner on TV.
I took my nephews to watch the Bears practice the following summer, in 1985. Afterwards, we begged them to sign their Duke Junior footballs. We got every single Bear’s signature –except for Punky QB Jim McMahon. He took off on his scooter before we could even open our mouths. My nephews were stunned.
That fall, Jackie and I went with my brother to a taping of the Mike Ditka Show. We arrived early, and the producer asked Jackie to sit in Walter Payton’s seat while they set up his lights. We were sure it was her big chance at stardom. Later we realized she had the same skin tone as Payton.
Afterwards, we went to eat at Ed Debevic’s. The waitress was rude until we told her that she was waiting on Jackie Dent – sister of Bears defensive end Richard Dent. We said Richard was putting her through school at LFC so she’d be nearby. Next thing you knew, we had free desserts.
After that we used the Jackie Dent routine every time we went out. We met a lot of guys that way. And got a lot of free drinks, too.
The Bears were everywhere that year.
Offensive lineman Mark Bortz was a fixture at the town’s only bar, where he could always be found in the corner next to the chemistry professor, nursing a beer.
One day at the Swiss Colony, Jackie saw Coach Ditka helping himself at a cooler that clearly said “No Self Service.”
Another time she spotted wide receiver William “The Refrigerator” Perry shopping at Walgreen’s. He knew she wasn’t Jackie Dent but talked to her anyway. She was the only one who knew that he was the Fridge. Soon, though, people were fighting to get to the pay phone, where they called home and said, “Guess what! The Fridge is at Walgreen’s. Yeah, really! I’m looking at him right now.”
...On Wednesday nights the upperclassmen at my college headed to Scornavacco’s, a bar that didn’t check ID. When the Superbowl Shuffle came on, the dance floor would be flooded. But half the students at my college came from the East Coast. When the DJ played the Patriots’ song, they’d get on the floor and dance while we booed their stiff, mechanical movements.
I don’t remember much about the Superbowl except that Jackie started drinking at 10AM. It was so cold she put a six-pack of beer outside her window and 20 minutes later it was frozen.
Oh yeah -- and the Bears won!
(c) 2007 By Satya Cacananda. No part of this document may be reproduced in any form without prior permission in writing from the author.
Photo of JT (aka Jackie Dent) on the set of The Mike Ditka Show by Dreyfus (c) 1985. No copying that, either.
*If nothing else this year's halftime show will be an improvement over 1985. That year we were subjected to Up with People doing "Beat of the Future." Now, we get PRINCE! Maybe he'll even trot out Appolonia. They could call it "Beat of the Past."
Friday, February 02, 2007
Today scientists announced in France that yes, global warming really is caused by humans.
Take that, global warming deniers!
Speaking of denial....
The Sunday night crew watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth this week. (That man could use some yoga, by the way)
Most of us alternated between nodding and cringing during the viewing.
But apparently one of us nodded off. When it was over, this person said,
"Yeah, but only three percent of that is caused by humans."
Since he's an SUV-loathing recycler, we let him off easy and suggested he'd slept through the statistics.
What I don't get is the people who deny it and don't want any action to be taken.
Does that mean they're *for* pollution?
Who could possibly be pro-pollution?
Oh, that's right; the people who stand to lose something -- profits, an easy life, their current business -- that's who.
But most of those people are pretty mainstream.
Most of them have kids.
Maybe they should have thought twice about that.
As Alice Walker writes in her book of essays, We Are the Ones We're Waiting For: Light in a Time of Darkness: Meditations,
"I believe there should be a moratorium on the birth of children. That not one more child should be born on this planet until certain conditions are met."
She goes on to talk about missing plutonium, cancer, etc.
Anyway, after seeing the Al Gore movie everyone (even Mr. Three Percent) wanted to do something -- anything -- to reduce their carbon footprint.
Many others must also feel that way.
So below I've pasted an article I wrote on the subject last January -- before Al's movie came out, thankyouverymuch. It's somewhat Chicago-specific but most of the info is universal.
And now I'll get off my annoying little soapbox. My next post is gonna be about f-cking FOOTBALL, dammit.
Photo by Dreyfus (c) 2007
By Caca Caca Navel Orange
“Take from the Earth only what you need. The Mother Earth will then be able to serve and support living creatures longer.”
--Lord Mahavir Jina, the 24th and last Tirthankara (great preacher, or guide) of the Jain religion
We all heard the horrifying statistics: America is using more than six times its share of the earth’s resources. The U.S. is the home to just 4.6 percent of the world’s population, yet consumes 25 percent of its crude oil. Even the government is finally starting to admit that there’s an oil crisis. In the meantime, the air, earth and water are getting dirtier, landfills are expanding and the polar ice caps are melting.
It can seem overwhelming. But there are plenty of small things you can to do to practice green yoga off the mat. After all, the first of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga is the niyamas, or the practice of self-restraint. The first niyama is ahimsa (non-harming), which doesn’t just mean being nice to other people in yoga class. In addition to denoting the cultivation of compassion and loving kindness, ahimsa has also been defined as “not blocking or obstructing the flow of nature.”
Besides, you can’t have good health (and, by extension, perfect alignment) without clean air, clean food and clean water.
On the mat
Cut down on yoga-related landfill--which is very bad karma indeed--by investing in a natural rubber or high-quality yoga mat that won’t have to be replaced in a year’s time. Purchase blocks made of renewable bamboo or cork and, if you can afford it, wear organic cotton or hemp yoga clothes. If you’re building a yoga studio, use bamboo or reclaimed timber for the floors and try to make it a green business. (Chicago's YogaNow Gold Coast is the city's first green studio). Learn more by going to www.greenyoga.org, www.greenbiz.com or www.sustainablebusiness.com. Get bike racks installed in front of your Chicago studio by calling the city at 312.742.2453.
Notice how much time you spend in the car, and try to reduce it. Consider living close to work--or, better yet, work at home (for example, I try to do most of my teaching on the north side). Exchange the gas-guzzling SUV for a compact or hybrid car, and don’t drive it unless you have to. Carpool, and consolidate your trips. Go to the grocery store once a week instead of every other day. Take public transportation whenever you can.
If you rarely use your car, consider getting rid of it altogether, or look into sharing a car. The local nonprofit car-sharing service I-Go lets members reserve a community car ahead of time and pay per each use. They've recently expanded into more neighborhoods and have added hybrid cars to their fleet (see igocars.org, or call 773.278.4800, ext. 227). You can find others with whom to share rides and gas costs via Freewheelers, an online database for people offering or requesting lifts. eRideshare.com offers a similar service.
Ask yourself if you can walk or bike to where you need to go. With its flat surfaces and myriad bike lanes and bike racks, the city of Chicago is one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities. (For a map of bike lanes, contact the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation at 312.427.3325, or visit chibikefed.org). Buying used items is another way to reduce oil dependence, and you can find a good selection of pre-owned bicycles at Uptown Bikes (4653 N. Broadway, 773.728.5212) and Blackstone Bikeworks (6100 S. Blackstone, but call ahead before stopping by: 773.425.2011). Installing a rack on your two-wheeler will make it convenient to transport your groceries, yoga mat and other items, and adding baskets makes it even easier. It's possible to cycle all year round if you dress properly; to learn how, visit Chicago Bike Winter.
Close to home
In aurveda it’s said that it is more important to eliminate than accumulate--and that includes the external environment. Do you live in a place that’s too big for you? Then you’re using more resources than necessary to heat, cool and run your home. Or, as the Sustainability Institute puts it, “You’re not a bigger person if you own a bigger house; you’re just a bigger polluter.” Consider adding solar panels to your home. Wherever you live, make sure you’re using energy-efficient appliances and lights. The biggest energy suckers are refrigerators, followed by lights, TVs, electric dryers and ovens. Use fluorescent lights--and turn them off when you leave the room. If you use an air conditioner, invest in a newer, more energy efficient model--and turn it off when you’re not home. In winter, turn down the heat at night and make sure your place is properly insulated. Notice how many electrical appliances you have (when was the last time you used that bread maker, anyway?) and consider giving some of them away.
Compost your leftover food items (see www.wormsway.com) and use it to fertilize the garden. Landscape your home with a natural prairie garden (see Minnesota-based Prairie Restorations, Inc. or call 763.389.4342).
Invest in rechargeable batteries or solar-powered appliances such as radios and calculators. Put up a clothesline and use it. Are your closets bursting with clothes you never wear? Take them to a charity or the thrift store where they’ll find a new home, or arrange a clothes swap with friends. Save water by taking shorter showers, and flush less often while remembering the old adage, “If it’s yellow let it mellow--if it’s brown, flush it down.”
Newspapers will naturally biodegrade in the open air. But when placed in a landfill, they’ll barely decompose because the bacteria needed for the process can’t live without air. That’s just one more reason why it’s important to divert as much waste as possible from landfills by reusing, recycling and composting.
The jury is still out on the paper vs. plastic debate. It’s easier to avoid the question altogether by bringing a cotton or mesh shopping bag to the store with you. I keep one in my car and one in my purse. Any bag will do, although I’m a fan of a roomy nylon bag that folds into a tiny pouch, purchased at The Container Store. It also carries biodegradable dog-poop bags. By far the best selection of green bags -- including a recycled messenger bag with solar panels -- can be found at Chicago-based Reusablebags.com. It also sells the infamous bag-snagger and serves as a clearninghouse for green-related issues.
If you forget your bag, keep in mind that stores such as Dominick’s and Whole Foods offer blue plastic bags that can be re-used for recycling via Chicago's Blue Bag recycling program.
If you don’t trust the city’s Blue Bag program--which reportedly allows some 30 percent of residential waste to circumvent its sorting centers and go straight to landfills--you can bring it directly to a recycling center. For a list of drop-off centers click here. In Chicago, the Resource Center runs drop-off sites in Uptown, Lincoln Park, South Shore and North Park Village on the city’s northwest side. For hours and other details, call 773.821.1351.
Or you could start a recycling program for your building or workplace. I did this a few years ago by putting my landlord in touch with the nonprofit Resource Center; over 99 percent of what they collect is used to make new products, and they sell their material to local mills.
Buying recycled products increases the market for them, so when possible purchase recycled paper towels, toilet paper, computer paper, plastic bags and other goods. Consider repairing something versus replacing it. Buy used items whenever possible, or share appliances with friends and neighbors. And always try to purchase environmentally friendly products. Winnetka-based Earth Friendly Products offers an extensive line of cruelty-free, eco-friendly cleaning products, which are available at most health food stores (the company is also a winner of the 2003 Socially Responsible Business Award). Fair trade or union-made items are always a more responsible choice, and if you must decide between something made abroad and something made in the US, buy the domestic product.
Try to reduce your consumption of meat, which has a far higher ecological cost than fruit, grains and vegetables (not to mention the fact that ahimsa also applies to animals). Buy organic when you can--it reduces water pollution and the prevalence of pesticides both on the ground and in your body. Buy local whenever possible, via a farmer’s market or coop. Better yet, grow your own or start a community garden.
Waste fewer paper coffee cups and holders by investing in a good travel mug or thermos. While you’re at it, buy a refillable water bottle and a water filter. Make your own lunch and snacks, and carry them in foil, wax paper or high-quality plastic food containers. Use cloth napkins instead of paper. When you purchase ice cream, get it in a cone, which is edible, rather than wasting a cup and spoon. When the same item comes in plastic, glass or metal containers, choose glass or metal. Reduce packaging by buying in bulk.
Purchasing locally produced products reduces transportation costs (and the use of fossil fuels), helps increase the local tax base and keeps profits and jobs in the area. I know that air travel is not very eco-friendly, but when I fly I choose Elk Grove Village-based United Airlines (and chew Wrigley’s gum once I’m on board). Many of my friends and yoga students work for UAL Corp., and I want to keep them employed. (I once considered buying a Dodge Neon because it was assembled in nearby Belvidere--until I found out how much they cost).
Although you may disagree with some (or all) of their policies, many locally based companies run charitable foundations. A partial list of local companies includes: Earth Friendly Products, Lifeway Foods, U.S. Cellular (whose spokesperson, Joan Cusack, lives in Chicago), Sara Lee, Crate and Barrel / CB2, Blommer’s Chocolates (their outlet store also sells an environmentally-friendly mulch made of cocoa shells; call 312.412.1336), Walgreen’s, Johnson Publishing, Quaker Oats, Hyatt, McDonald’s, Albert-Culver, Hartmarx, Azteca Foods, Paper Source, Kraft Foods, Motorola, Allstate Insurance, CDW Computer Centers, FTD.com, Playboy Enterprises, Standard Parking, Office Max. True Value, Ace Hardware, Solo Cup, Ulta Salon Cosmetics & Fragrance, Levy Restaurants, Lettuce Entertain You, Ferrara Pan, Harlem Furniture, Hammacher Schlemmer, NutraSweet, Butera Foods, Treasure Island Foods, National Van Lines, Mark Shale, Kemper Insurance, Sam’s Wines & Spirits, Mary Miglin LP, Edward Don, Shure, Brunswick, Spiegel, Wickes, Salton, Female Heath (makers of female condoms), Tootsie Roll, Whitehall Jewelers and Midas.
Try to frequent local, independently owned stores. Although it’s easier to buy a book online or at a chain store, making the extra effort to shop at an independent bookstore such as Women & Children First supports both the local economy and quality of life (although when it comes to books you can reduce consumption and save a lot of money by borrowing from the library or a friend). I always try to cover at least half of my health food needs at the few remaining locally-owned health food stores that weren’t wiped out when the chain stores came to town.
The first step
Simply discussing or thinking about how your actions impact the earth is part of the yogic process of going beyond samsara (conditioned existence) and towards mukti (liberation). And if you incorporate just one or two things into your daily routine, you’ve begun to change the world. For more information, contact:
Chicago Recycling Coalition
Green Yoga Association
The Green Home Environmental Store
One obvious way to reduce landfill is to cut down on buying new consumer goods. I try to avoid spending money at least one day a week and have found that the practice really makes me think about the way I spend. Or you could run through the following checklist each time you consider making a non-essential purchase. A Seattle group promoting Buy Nothing Day, a grassroots action that takes place each year on the day after Thanksgiving, gave it to shoppers in 1997.
-Do I need it?
-How many do I already have?
-How much will I use it?
-How long will it last?
-Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
-Can I do without it?
-Am I able to clean, lubricate and/or maintain it myself?
-Am I willing to?
-Will I be able to repair it?
-Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
-How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
-Are the resources that went into it renewable or non-renewable?
-Is it made of recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
-Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?
For more on BND, go to AdBusters
From Syracuse Cultural Workers:
How to End Global Warming
Get excited about an energy revolution
Visualize our Earth from space. Know that it is fragile.
Make your home energy efficient
Don’t drive unless you have to
Walk more, cycle more, skate more
Switch to energy efficient appliances (efficient = a star)
Turn off lights when you leave a room
Install solar panels…they work
Build political will for local change
Demand better mass transit
Use buses, trains and trams
Avoid fast foods; eat less meat
Share what you have; buy less stuff
Reuse before you recycle
Dig up the concrete
Plant trees; save forests
Buy eco-certified or re-used timber
Put your hot water heater on a timer
Eat locally grown organic food
Don’t fly unless you have to
Support climate-friendly politicians
Support neighborhood businesses
Take pride in being resourceful
Put on a sweater
Turn off the air conditioner
Buy tree-free or post-consumer paper
Use a clothesline instead of a dryer
Dream of a solar-hydrogen economy
Close down coal-burning power plants
Buy green energy
Find your voice
Don’t believe what the auto and oil companies say
Support the Kyoto Protocol
Demand strict emission controls and fuel efficiency on all vehicles
Kiss the carbon years goodbye
Our world will be whole and healed tomorrow if we pay attention today.
--Guy Dauncey/SCW community. ©2003. www.syrculturalworkers.com
The classic Bollywood blockbuster Mughal-E-Azam glorifies the life of a beautiful palace courtesan who falls for the young prince.
In the olden days these palace prostitutes came from the Bachara community in Madhya Pradesh. The eldest daughter (or sometimes the prettiest) was the one who was usually drafted into "the profession." There was not much stigma attached to it; it was honorable.
The Bacharas still draft their daughters into prostitution -- and not just the eldest. Only nowadays instead of nawabs they service the truck drivers who pass by in their brightly-decorated lorries.
You know -- the truckers who are spreading AIDS across India.
First-time filmmaker Mystelle Brabbée spent NINE YEARS shooting a group of these young women. The main character, Guddi Chauhan, was told by her father (whom the local social worker calls "a pimp -- the worst sort") she wouldn't have to go into the business -- and then was tricked into doing it. By her parents.
Later, she tries to get out and is ostracized and beaten by her father and her drunken brothers.
The only local business seems to be prostitution, so the women are the breadwinners.
But they don't have that much power.
In a strange dowry reversal, the brothers must pay a bride-price if they want to marry -- to reimburse the family for the lost revenue.
They can't get jobs, so they rely on their sisters.
The girls are stuck.
They have secret boyfriends who won't marry them.
They can't leave the profession.
So they try to have babies with higher-caste men.
Girl babies = Income.
They also know that education is the only way out. Well, at least Guddi does.
(At one point the pimp-father takes his youngest daughter to a boarding school and then brings her back the next day on some pretext; she never goes back).
I saw the film at Facets; it was riveting. It gives a sense of daily life in that village.
I found it curious though that the director says she has not shown the film to the women.
And there's no link to any related organizations on the film's website.
Maybe the nine-year project completely burnt her out.
Even Al Gore has a website with more resources at the end of his depressing movie.