Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The proof is in the poses: When performing Nakrasana (crocodile), the belly should not bounce off the floor.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The sun came out today....

for the first time in about two weeks.

Apparently all of those sun salutations are finally working.

(Of course we must pay; it also means that the temperature is a bone-chillin' six degrees farenheit).

Monday, December 28, 2009



"I love it! I've always wanted one."

"Dis is da situation!"

"I'm. Christopher. Walken."


Giant Flavor Flav clock

Swimming dog with blue goggles and giant head

Decorate-it-yourself cat with giant head

Toddler make-up kit

1980s hot air popcorn popper complete with box (this is available for re-gift, if anyone wants it)


Cheesey lasagna and fruit crisp

Strawberry waffles

Moussaka with tasty rice, green salad, and almond-date tart

Home-made apricot coffeecake

Margherita pizza from Costco


Jersey Shore (this nearly made me womit)


The Last Time I Saw Paris

Gran Torino

Dexter, Season Four

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Look closely, and you'll see two squirrels on the tree (not to mention a scary HR Pufnstuf face).

Baby's first blizzard. Nobody snows baby in a corner.

Seven inches and counting

Dreyfus to the rescue!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Near the Ravenswood tracks, between Andersonville and Lincoln Square.

The old Water Tower and John Hancock building, as seen this week.

Boul Mich.

A memorial wreath near the old Water Tower; a reminder that we. are. still. in. two. wars.

Holy Name Cathedral

Thursday, December 24, 2009


....from an at-home practitioner who lives with a cat.

(and had a rather rough year)

Om shanti shanti shanti

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


While making vegan holiday cookies on Monday, I listened to this riveting interview with Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, a retired Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America and Abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America. It was conducted by Jerome McDonnell on the Chicago Public Radio show Worldview.

The lively conversation touched on Eastern Orthodox Christianity, science, the origin of hate (it's fear), why religion plays such a big role in American politics compared to Canada (because we have Calvinist/individualistic roots and can push our views on the government, while Canada has Red Tory origins that focuses on the good of the group and a Charter that goes way beyond our Bill of Rights) to why people hang Christmas stockings (because the Archbishop Nicolas used to secretly put money into poor people's shoes (which were left outside of houses at that time), to who wrote the Bible.

Later that night, when I was boxing the cookies, the show came on again. And I listened to it again.

Highly, highly recommended.

Hear more from Archbishop Puhalo here.


Sunday's New York Times carried an inspiring story by Deborah Sontag about Cuban-born, Manhattan-based artist Carmen Herrera, who has toiled in obscurity for six decades. She painted because she had to, not because she wanted to. Not because of name or fame.

“I do it because I have to do it; it’s a compulsion that also gives me pleasure,” she said of painting. “I never in my life had any idea of money and I thought fame was a very vulgar thing. So I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I’m getting a lot of recognition, to my amazement and my pleasure, actually.”

In other words, she did it because it had to be done.

Other clues are there:

Her apartment is "sparsely but artfully furnished,"

Her paintings are "radiantly ascetic."

She attributes her success to "the unflinching support" of her husband, an English teacher whom Frank McCourt described as "as an old-world scholar in an 'elegant, three-piece suit, the gold watch chain looping across his waistcoat front.'

There's more:

She doesn't like to talk about herself, or accept accolades: "Ms. Herrera is less expansive about her own art, discussing it with a minimalism redolent of the work. 'Paintings speak for themselves,' she said. Geometry and color have been the head and the heart of her work, she added, describing a lifelong quest to pare down her paintings to their essence, like visual haiku."

And this:

"Asked how she would describe to a student a painting like 'Blanco y Verde' (1966) — a canvas of white interrupted by an inverted green triangle — she said, 'I wouldn’t have a student.'

And, finally:

“'I have more money now than I ever had in my life,' she said.

"Not that she is succumbing to a life of leisure. At a long table where she peers out over East 19th Street 'like a French concierge,' Ms. Herrera, because she must, continues to draw and paint. 'Only my love of the straight line keeps me going,' she said.

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 21, 2009


This odd little e-mail arrived in my inbox this morning. It's from this website.

It cannily combines American frontier mythology and gooey Christmas sentiment with yoga philosophy straight out of the Bhagavad-Gita, including karma yoga (service to others), giving up the fruits of your actions, and one of its definitions of sattva (peace or purity): what is poison in the beginning becomes nectar in the end....


Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve, 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy.

When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on..

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood - the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" "You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked.. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what?

Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt... could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out, one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children - sturdy shoes, the best.... shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up."

I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it, I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it..

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit, and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord, that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest... my two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, may the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your Ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your Ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood alright... and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


On Friday I showed the documentary Ashtanga, NY to a friend. I had not seen it in years, but I wanted to get him interested in yoga. (I think it worked - and not just because I am in the vid for exactly .33 seconds. I think he was more impressed by Willen and Gwynneth and the woman who'd been in two car accidents).

The throat got tight and tears came when Guruji appeared in the video. He was 86 years-old at the time. Even though I was there, I'd forgotten how strong and vibrant he was. How commanding. That was my second workshop with him (read my articles about his 2000 workshop here, and 2001 here. Better yet, read my New York Diary, about Guruji and 9/11, here).

I was also taken by how incredibly sweet Sharath was. I'd forgotten that, too.

I was also struck by how cohesive the ashtanga scene was, even though it had already begun to splinter (and even though some of the NYC people could seem like aloof seniors to us ignorant underclassmen). Guruji was the glue holding it all together... the shining example for us to follow.

It was at that workshop, on 9/11 itself, that Guruji asked me when I was coming to Mysore.

Just a few months later, India and Pakistan were amassing troops on the border, and I was there in the old shala in Mysore, practicing next to Mike D and a couple of other people from the video.

It seems like a hundred years ago.

But instead of nostalgia, I feel an intense gratitude. How lucky I was to be a part of it, no matter how small!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Friday, December 17, 7 - 8:30PM
Beverly Yoga Center
1917 West 103rd in Chicago

This calm, meditative class will incorporate slow movements with soft openings and a focus on mind-body awareness, It is perfect for all levels who wish to slow down. We will practice in candlelight, which is fitting on the eve of the Winter Solstice (and one of the shortest, darkest days of the year).

Asato Ma Sat Gamaya. Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya. Mrityor Maamritam Gamaya

Let us be led from the unreal to the Real. From darkness to the Light. From mortality to Eternity

Om shanti shanti shanti.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Local radio legend Jonathon Brandmeier was canned last month by WLUP-FM, the latest in a long line of highly-paid radio personalities to be let go by The Man.

I was never a big Johnny B fan... until I saw his brilliant, laugh-out-loud video today.

Can you say "caustic?"

(It's also worth watching for those of you who used to live here, and miss Chicago in the winter).

Read the backstory in Robert Feder's excellent Vocalo column here.

* * *

Johnny B's situation seems to parallel some things that are happening in the local yoga community at this very moment.

Can you say "cathartic?"

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Tonight I went to the old neighborhood for dinner and came across this sign in front of St. Timothy's Catholic Church.

And I remembered how much I enjoyed living next to people of every color, creed and religion (or lack thereof), all getting along with each other.

(Actually, the only neighbors I ever had problems with were the ones who looked and talked like I do).

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I've wanted to visit Iran since 2001, when I interviewed local Iranian-American filmmaker Mansooreh Saboori about a documentary she made on the 1999 total solar eclipse in Iran. She told me about the ancient Zoroastrian fire temples there, and I was transfixed.

Some basic Zoroastrian beliefs:

-There is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, the one uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed.

-Ahura Mazda's creation—evident as asha, truth and order—is the antithesis of chaos, evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.

-Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism.

She also told me that the Iranians knew she wasn't a local (because of her gestures, and the way her headscarf kept falling down and she didn't seem to care). You can read the article here.

It's been in the back of my mind ever since: I want to get a headscarf and go to Iran. I've watched the films when they are shown here of course, and I love to read about the Parsis, the Zoroastrians who migrated to India; many now live in Bombay (one of the most famous was of course Farrokh Bulsara - aka Freddy Mercury. Another is my secret crush, monklike Tata Enterprises chair Ratan Tata).

But I wasn't obsessed til the other night, when public TV traveler Rick Steves was on the local pledge drive and mentioned that he'd done a special about Iran that you can watch online. He said that the people of Iran don't hate Americans, and know that it's the two governments that have a problem with each other (they sound a lot more thoughtful than we are).

The video is riveting. The people are welcoming and wonderful. The poetry, mosques, landscape and ruins are astounding. Some of the shots took my breath away - almost moreso than anything I've seen in India - and now I want to go there even more. So much for letting go of desires....

You can watch it above (click twice to get to the Hulu page or click here, so you can see it in full screen mode). It's well, well worth an hour of your time.

One can only hope that the rest of middle America sees it, too.

Maybe if they put it on between NASCAR races....

Friday, December 11, 2009


It's so cold - how cold is it? - that:

-the nostrils freeze when you inhale

-the windshield wiper fluid won't come out

-60 percent of the city's automated, newly-privatized parking meter boxes don't work

The last is the number given by the The Parking Ticket Geek at The Expired Meter (this is a great website to know about if you drive in the Windy City and need to fight a ticket).

Read more about it here and here and here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


"One who has control over the mind is tranquil in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor; and is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self.”

-The Bhagavad Gita


The windchill outside was -20 when I got up this morning at 4:30.

Yet the heat was on.

The apartment temperature was hovering around 70.

The cat ran back and forth in glee.

And when I turned on the tap, hot water came out.

I was grateful, grateful, grateful.

And I prayed for all of the others who are cold.

* * *


In February I awakened at 4:30am to a cold apartment.

I put a long, heavy hoodie over the flannel pajamas, oversize robe and two pairs of socks that I'd slept in. I made the bed, being careful to keep all three comforters nice and straight. I located my ski hat under the covers, and put it on, too. Then I found my slippers.

I touched the radiator; it was ice-cold.

I checked the thermometer; 58 degrees farenheit.

So I turned on the space heater in the yoga/meditation room. Then I went down the long hall to the unheated kitchen, where I turned on the toaster oven to make Ezekiel toast.


The lights went out. Total darkness. A fuse had blown.

So I felt my way back down the hall, found a flashlight, put on jacket and boots, and carefully trudged down three flights of icy back stairs to the basement. I grabbed ahold of the railing, and tried not to slip and fall. The only sounds were my footsteps echoing in the icy air. After getting the key in the hole and opening the door, I located the fuse box, flipped the switch, and carefully headed back upstairs.

While the toast cooked and the kettle heated on the stove, I went to the bathroom to wash my face and use the neti pot. But there was no hot water. My already-chapped face burned when I washed it, and all sleepiness vanished. Then I went down the long hallway to the kitchen and got the tea kettle so I could do the neti pot. I set the kettle on the toilet tank. While I was preparing the salt, the kettle slid off the tank and crashed to the floor, making the cat and me jump in shock.

Fortunately there was enough hot water left in it to do jala neti.

And once the toast was done, I was able to turn on the space heater and do my sitting practice.

Even though the front of the body was warm and the back was cold, I pretended to be a yogi in a Himalayan cave.

And I wondered how they did it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Last holiday season I urged readers to buy items created and sold by local ashtangis (you can read it again here).

This year I wrote an article for Yoga Chicago about sensible green gifts (ie; not the ones that sound good but turn out to be fairly useless, but ones people will actually love and use). The good news is that most of these items are available everywhere - not just in Chicago - although some have their roots here.

Here it is (or read it here, at the YC website):


By C.K.

Green has become the new gold, and every day there are more green products flooding the marketplace. But which are the best? Many seem like a good idea at first, but turn out to be either frivolous or difficult to incorporate into daily life. The following items are both innovative and practical.

Yoga mats

While I like the natural rubber yoga mats made by Jade and Chicago-based Natural Fitness, I find that Ashtanga practitioners who don't “float” on jump-throughs tend to wear them out rather quickly. On the other hand, I've found that Manduka's Blackmat Pro and ProLite Travel Mat are nearly impossible to destroy--even if they're not made of natural materials. To me, it makes sense to buy a single non-rubber mat that lasts for eons, rather than replacing my mat over and over again. And now, the Manduka comes with a lifetime warranty. For an extra $8.50, Manduka will send you a mat recycling kit, so you can mail it to Recycle Your Mat (go to for the mailing instructions). They also make a rubber Manduka eKO mat, but I haven't tried it yet--since my old Mandukas are still going strong! Visit for more.

Yoga mat bags

Malia's recycled yoga mat bags are made from colorful Vietnamese rice bags. But they're not just environmentally friendly; the goods sold by Chicago-based Malia Designs are made by nonprofit organizations that employ disadvantaged people in developing countries, and a percentage of profits go to fight human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Founders Lia Valerio and Maria Forres Opdycke both spent time in Southeast Asia, where they “recognized the need for women to have a secure and safe source of income in order to foster economic development in the region.” The bags are $24 and may be purchased at Majamas in Oak Park, or at .

Water and bottles

At a time when bottled water often comes in single-use containers, it makes sense to bottle your own. In fact, the last time I bought bottled water was when I moved six months ago--and I still have some left. I like the inexpensive, easy-to-install Pur faucet-mounted water filter ( ), which I usually put into an old pink Sigg water bottle that has survived four trips to India and is still a workhorse ( ). It's made of aluminum and has an enamel lining. But I'm also a big fan of the Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle I picked up when Mata Amritanandamayi ( Amma) visited Chicago last year. Its curving corners and rounded threads help eliminate areas where bacteria and dirt can hide, plus the bottles are recyclable and come in many shapes and sizes. Visit

Reusable utensils, etc.

I have “saved” countless plastic knives, forks and spoons ever since my dear friend Erin gave me a set of Snow Peak titanium utensils last year. Durable, lightweight and portable, they have traveled around the world with me… until I lost each piece, one by one. The set is about $30, at I replaced them with To-Go Ware's just as light--and far cheaper--sustainable bamboo utensils, which include chopsticks. Plus, the utensil holders are made from plastic bags made by an NGO (non-governmental organization) project in India (about $11 for the set, at [NOTE: To-Go Ware is having a 25 percent off sale through Sunday 12/13; use the code HOLIDAY25]. They also make tiffin stainless steel food carriers as well as the smaller steel containers that I use instead of resealable plastic bags (you can purchase similar containers at Kamdar Plaza, 2646 W. Devon Ave., Chicago). I also carry a bandanna with me at all times; it's great for mopping the brow, cleaning up spills, using as a napkin, wrapping up leftover food and more.

Bike Bags

A good bike bag or basket makes it easy to go grocery shopping or run errands without getting into the car. After searching fruitlessly a few years ago for the perfect bike bag I could hook on the rack and carry over the shoulder, I gave up and bought a wonderful Wald folding rear bike basket (about $22.95 at Uptown Bikes, 4653 N. Broadway, 773.728.5212). But a student recently turned me on to Detours' Toocan Utility Pannier ($60), a light, durable and stylish bike bag that has a rubber bottom and clips into the bike rack. It has a wide opening, reflective taillight tabs on both ends and a removable raincover--plus it's easy to clip on and off the rack. Even cooler is the Toocan Juicy, which is covered in recycled fruit juice pouches and is made by Money from Garbage, an initiative of the women-owned B. Luz Cooperative in the Philippines. Detours also sells an equally stylish removable handlebar bag. Find them at


City Farm's Green Boxes are ideal for apartment and condo dwellers who don't have access to a yard - plus they're the brainchild of a local ashtangi! The portable 2' x 3' Green Boxes are made of recycled local materials and built by volunteers. Small enough to fit on porches or balconies, they're constructed to grow a maximum amount of vegetables with shallow roots, such as spinach, chard, mustard greens, parsley, cilantro, basil, thyme, bok choy, and bush green beans. Each sustainable box comes with reusable City Farm compost and starter lettuce seed, and costs $75--$50 of which is a tax-deductible contribution to City Farm and its parent organization, The Resource Center, which is a 30-year-old nonprofit environmental education organization ( ). Get them at City Farm, 1204 N. Clybourn, or at Grand Street Gardens, 2200 W. Grand Ave., or by E-mailing .

But wait, there's more!

I asked readers of my blog to chime in with their favorite things, and they came back with a number of suggestions. One recommended Laptop Lunches' Bento Box, which they use to bring lunch to work; the version 2.0 set costs $24.99 and comes with a hard black outer shell with five food containers, a set of utensils, and a user's guide; visit , which also has lots of lunch ideas. The eco-alternative to plastic Baggies is Wrap-n-Mat's sandwich wrap mats ($7.49 and up), which unfold into a handy eating surface. They also make reusable snack pouches; visit .

Another reader loves the recycled plastic tongue scrapers by Preserve, which are made from Stonyfield Farm yogurt containers and allow you to practice Kriya and Karma yoga at the same time. Preserve also makes recycled plastic toothbrushes, mixing bowls, cutting boards, and more (visit

Someone else recommended buying used and local items rather than new green things, and gave high marks to Scout in Andersonville ( ), an upscale “urban antique shop” that repurposes furniture and other items. The same reader found Jadeite glass food storage containers that were the precursors to Tupperware at the Broadway Antique market (6130 N. Broadway St.,, and mismatched Bakelite-handled silverware at the Salvation Army (various locations; see

Monday, December 07, 2009


Last night was the first snow.

This morning the world looked like a pre-winter wonderland.....

....and one local resident thanked her lucky stars that it snowed after The Second Big Move of 2009.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


YogaNow's holiday party took place last night at the new, much-improved Gaylord India restaurant in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.

Food was eaten, friends were made, and awards were given out for everything from "Best Class Soundtrack" to "Most likely to Sub a Class" to "Best Yoga Book" (Autobiography of a Yogi, which I have been re-re-reading*) to "Most Likely to Open an Ashram."

Guess who won the last one.


*The first time I read this book I was, like, "No way, this is impossible," and stopped reading it. The second time I was, like, "Well, yes, this is possible." And now I think, "Of course."

Friday, December 04, 2009


Last night Big E and I went foraging for food in the new neighborhood - which I have dubbed Wes Anderson-ville.

Within a single block there is an Ethiopian restaurant, an authentic Mexican restaurant that serves meat-free beans (and where we got a wonderful drink made of red hibiscus flowers, called Agua de Flor de Jamaica), an Italian grocery story / deli with handmade sandwiches, and a large and very busy Mexican bakery featuring every manner of confection, including churros and many types of conchas, a sugary bread.

(This is not good if you are trying to slouch towards a live, vegan and sugar-free diet).

That said, there are many benefits. The gentleman at the Mexican restaurant even showed us the box of dried hibiscus leaves he uses to make drink.

Also within that block is a resale shop and an antique shop, a Turkish restaurant, a pizza place and an independently-owned coffee shop.

It ain't Little India, but it'll do for now.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


I went to the old stomping grounds to enjoy a coconut and some lunch yesterday.

To my surprise, everything was still there.

We went again today after recycling the boxes used in the move. The food was even better than usual at Uru-Swati.

But it was not easy to get rid of those boxes - especially the special wardrobe containers. (Sadly, there was no room for them in the storage unit).

How hard it is to let go sometimes - even of the most mundane things.

Monday, November 30, 2009


This is the view from the new living room, which is above the boiler. Notice the size and condition of that radiator!

The new bedroom, pre-move (the bed was made by an artist from the U.P. and is rather delicate. A big thank-you to PKB for moving and assembling it and the futon, below).

This is the dining room, which also boasts a massive radiator (on the left, in the corner).

This is how the living room looks at this very moment:

Even Kirby (bottom left) likes it. It took him only a few hours to get over his I-hate-moving disappearing act and start enjoying the place.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


(This photo shows the final sunset in the old apartment. I will miss the view and the wonderful people I met on Devon Avenue).

* * *

The move took only 3.5 hours; a new record. We actually were able to take a break from unpacking and enjoy a late lunch at the nearby Ethiopian restaurant - which is wonderful, by the way. The whole thing was surprisingly calm and civilized.

Things that helped make it it go well:

-Remembering everything I learned the last time around (and pretending to be my sister-in-law while packing)

-Sticking to a schedule (sorting, shedding, packing, pre-moving, moving and unpacking)

-Numbering each box, and keeping a Master List of the contents of each

-Using stickers to designate where to put each box

-Having everything packed ahead of time

-Using Move-Tastic! They. were. amazing. (and so much better than Four Hangovers and a Lorry).

-Having friends on hand for moral support - and unpacking


-Trying to remember that that I am not the doer, and offering everything up to you-know-Who

A big thank-you to all who helped: the students, friends and family who loaned boxes and moral support, Mon'ca for her excellent advice; PKB and Dorian Black, who made the pre-move possible; the landlord for being accomodating; the readers of this blog for giving their two cents on what to shed; everyone who listened to the complaints about the old place and offered counsel; and Dog and Bo for unpacking and celebrating this much-needed change with me.... and everyone else I can't think of right now because the brain stopped functioning some time ago. The heart is filled with gratitude. OM shanti.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Late last night there was a lot of commotion outside.

In spite of the new, nearly soundproof windows, I heard yelling and screaming, on and off, for some time.

I also heard something that sounded like pops.

Half asleep, I thought, "I hope they're OK" and "Om shanti shanti shanti" and "Please don't wreck my car."

Today I spoke to Dorian Black, who lives next door and is also moving out tomorrow.

"Did you hear the gunshots last night?" he asked.

He was awake when it happened.

"There were four gunshots at 1:55am," he said.

Afterwords, he saw two guys running down the alley.

He did not hear the police come.

And we agreed that we are getting out while the gettin' is good.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Paramahansa Yogananda once said of the Thanksgiving holiday, "Be grateful of the Divine plan that will expedite the karmas of all the sacrificed turkeys, and be grateful that you are not one of the turkeys on the table."

and from Sri Dharma Mittra:

“God is right there in the center of your chest. This is our spiritual heart. The stomach residing underneath the heart center is the Lord’s Table. Practice ahimsa [no-harming], and consider what you are about to offer to the Lord, as your own body is his altar. As you sit to the feast, practice aparigraha [non-hoarding] and take only what you need and share equally with others. As we continue to practice yama & niyama [the ethical roots] and rest our mind on God, we will become more compassionate and our bodies will be cleansed physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our heart centers will become clearer and we will be lighter.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


from my dear writing teacher, Mel Livatino:

"I long ago concluded there is absolutely no happiness without gratitude. It's as absolute a law as the law that says all circles have 360 degrees."