Thursday, March 31, 2011

When it rains, it pours....

Rosie O'Donnell's new OWN network TV show will originate in Chicago, starting this fall. As a fan of her satellite radio show, I'm thrilled; this city could use another yogi! Sadly she will not really be moving herself, her partner, and their ten children here - I'd love to see her go after local politicians the way she made a stand about Wisconsin - but will be dividing her time between here and her home in Nyak, New York. But she really is a yogi; whether she does any poses or not, she uses her platform for good (one of my favorite Rosie-isms - for which she does not take credit: In every situation we have a choice - fear or faith). Indeed! (I will, however, miss her radio show, which ends this spring. Maybe that's the time to jettison my subscription as well).

I love this recent article about a Downers Grove couple who sold all of their possessions in order to go on an 18-month mission (whatever that is) in Bolivia and Peru.

According to the husband:

“One of the things we’ve learned is that the more stuff you have, the more it weighs you down," Wasilevich said. "It just ties you, holds you to the spot you’re at. You have to get rid of all that stuff in order to go somewhere.”


And they just tore down the sole remaining Cabrini-Green high-rise. I remember all of the shootings they had there back in the days of driving past the infamous public housing complex to the Rush Street bars (this was after dancing in Wisconsin, and before discovering the punk rock dives). Check out the video above, of Jane Byrne spending Easter break there in 1981(the ending of which is rather priceless).

And here's the time-lapse destruction of another building, in February:

One can't help but speculate about the value of the land where the projects stood, where the residents have been placed - far, far from their old home, I'm afraid - and the sweet deal the Target store will get when it comes there.

Monday, March 28, 2011

To everyone who came to the retreat and made it a success.

The next one is November 5-6 at the same beautiful place (it's the weekend we turn back the clocks - so everyone will get an extra hour of R&R). This time we will be in the upstairs room, with plenty of wall space. Save the date!

Here're some highlights from this weekend:

Some students ordered pizza on Friday night, and then we went for a walk in the woods. We looked at the stars (Orion's Belt and the Little Dipper were visible) and aimed the iPhone at the sky to see what Starwalker said about the constellations. Then we checked out the Stations of the Cross (using the flashlight app). So much for eschewing technology! Finally, we walked the labyrinth. Just after we got to the center and sat down, the pizza arrived. (I did not have any pizza, although the senses craved it).

During the the official welcome on Saturday, we learned that the Sisters had been praying for us before we arrived, would pray for us while we were there, and continue to pray for us after we left. (The eyes began to tear up when I heard that). No wonder everyone felt so welcome and peaceful when they arrived.

In the evening, after Psychic Development, we looked up and saw a common house sparrow perched on the St. Francis statue outside the window.

During free time, students read, had massages, napped, hiked, walked the labyrinth, or lounged in the many, many soft, comfortable recliners and rocking chairs scattered throughout the building and in the rooms.

Some sat down for an impromptu screening of Enlighten Up! - so much for eschewing electronics - which temporarily satisfied everyone's curiosity about elusive ashtangi Norman Allen.

We ended each session with:

Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu
Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu
Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu
Shan'ti Shan'ti Shan'ti

(May the Lord bless the whole world with eternal peace and goodwill X 3
Peace peace peace)

Friday, March 25, 2011

With a Little Help from Hari Om
Would Still Be Dharma Yoga*

The Thursday night Dharma Yoga class has been saved - for at least the next three months!

Thank you to all who came last night.

The class will be called Vinyasa for awhile, in order to draw in more people.

But it will be the exact same class:

It meets Thursdays from 5:45-7:15PM at YogaNow Gold Coast, 742 N. LaSalle.

We have til June 30 to make it work.

Jai Ma!

*Dharma Yoga is a type of hatha-vinyasa flow originated by NYC-based yogi Dharma Mittra. The foundation is its energizing, purifying Shiva Namaskar sequence, in which poses are repeated and variations are given for each level of student. It opens the hips and shoulders. There are vinyasas, but it's rather meditative since poses are held somewhat longer than in most vinyasa flow classes. The latter half of class includes headstand, shoulderstand, backbend, back stretch and other key postures - plus there are many opportunities to learn/do the forearm stand. Each class ends with breathing and a brief meditation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In The Sun Magazine

I recently borrowed Parvati's copy of independent, ad-free Sun magazine to read on my Long Island Railroad ride to Dharma's. The interview with kirtan wallah Krishna Das made the ride seem short. We spoke to KD at length during Dharma's teacher training (and were also treated to a private kirtan), but writer Alexis Adams really went the whole nine yards.

A few excerpts:

In India people understand that God is within. There are Hindu images associated with God — deities like Krishna, Hanuman, and Kali — but when it comes down to it, these deities are symbols of the divine that lives inside each one of us. Indians are more creative about worship, whereas Christians are generally very tense: there’s only one right way to do it and only one God to worship. Of course, there is only one God in the Indian traditions, too, just many forms to symbolize it. It’s ok to worship anything in any way in India, because there it’s understood that nothing is outside of us. There’s only one God, and we’re all it....

[Neem Karoli Baba's] love was a light that didn’t turn off. I’d never experienced that before. When I was with him, the only darkness was in me. So I stayed in the light as much as I could. And now that he had died, what was I going to do? I stayed involved in music and even cofounded a record label, but I wasn’t ready to chant yet. I had a lot of deep hurt and anger to work through. It took me a long time. One day, twenty years after he’d died, I realized that if I didn’t start chanting, I would never be able to shed light on the dark places in my heart....

I engaged in a lot of self-destructive behavior. The overriding emotion was despair. I believed I had blown the only chance I had to be happy, so it didn’t matter. I didn’t try to hurt other people, but I was hurting myself so badly that the pain spread out from there. I became addicted to freebase cocaine for about two years. Then K.C. Tewari, my Indian “father” and the best friend I could have, came to North America to visit Maharaj-ji’s Western devotees. He was in Canada, and I went up to see him. I’d stayed up the night before smoking freebase, and that morning, when I walked into the room — keep in mind, this is the first time we’d seen each other in several years — he said, “Promise me you’ll give up cocaine.” It was either say no and lose any connection I had with him or say yes and get the help I needed. I never smoked cocaine again.

Read the entire article here.

NOTE: It is a big old time of Das for me: chanting all weekend with Bhagavan Das (the first American to sit at the feet of Neem Karoli Baba) and re-reading the Krishna Das article (he was also a devotee) - plus I'm engrossed in Ram Dass's new book, Be Love Now -which is amazing (he's the most famous of the American disciples of Neem Karoli Baba). Perhaps I'm turning from the Jnana to the Bhakti path.....finally.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Registration Ends Tuesday, 3/22

It's going to be an amazing retreat. The space is wonderful, and I'm charged - charged! - after spending so much time with Sri Dharma last week, and chanting this weekend with Bhagavan Das. And it's a wonderful group.

You can join us if you sign up by Tuesday!

Learn more - and register using Paypal - here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Last night's kirtan was amazing. Maybe it had something to do with Saturday's super-duper full moon.

Bhagavan Das goes straight to it, with full force; no BS, ego or "musicianship." I laughed out loud at one point when I realized we were singing "KaliOmKaliOmKaliOmKaliOm." Three-fourths of the way through the three hour kirtan, he gave a poetic riff on the current sad state of the world and the importance of "losing your mind, and finding the mind within your heart" ASAP.

He followed it up with the Hanuman Chalisa, during which we internally chanted "RamaRamaRamaRama" with the breath, which I found quite powerful. That was followed by one of the most joyous, unified chants I've ever experienced. We really were - are - all one.

Jai Ma!


Thank you to the lovely Tina Ward for the photo!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Where I taught eight classes in two days (which reminds me - the Thursday night Dharma class, is slated to be canceled April 1. NO JOKE. Attendance this coming Thursday will be the determining factor. So if you want the class to continue, come on Thursday. No excuses).


Photo snapped today outside the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library. I love that someone put the lost gloves on the sculpture, and that the kids are staring at them in amazement. For me, the contribution improves the piece by at least 100 percent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Highest Teachings

Dharma shared his highest teachings @ his self-realization class last night. Wow!

Today's Master class was relatively small. Before starting, he looked around and said, "Maybe we should build a smaller studio." I haven't laughed like that in a long time. (He laughed too of course).

Today's master class featured more LBH warmups & variations - ever try to kiss the floor in tittibhasana? 10 times? - plus several scorpion variations, as well as some things I've never seen before. AND a new (to me) meditation that built off the things he discussed last night. Amazing. Just when u thought the mind could no longer be blown...

...Dharma does it again.

- Posted using BlogPress from an iPhone

Monday, March 14, 2011


Today's master class was a killer (for me anyway). Dharma led us thru various LBH variations followed by BBs - including my arch-nemesis, Kapotasana.

He also led us thru the maha bandha sequence, which I've been trying to do @ home.

Many brothers and sisters from the 200 & 500-hr trainings & various retreats were there today.

At one point Dharma went back & fiddled w/ the lights.... & suddenly the sun came out.

And did I mention the flying leap he took from the stage on Sat - while in Tittibhasana? Then he looked over & asked me if I wanted to try it! I begged off, citing bad wrists.

Two more classes 2nite.....


Yes, I'm staying @ The Chelsea. Punk not dead!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Dharma's New Shala

Is massive & brand-new yet somehow comfortable & homey.

At the end of Saturday's Maha Sadhana we chanted 3 sets of Om Namo Narayanaya: one for world peace, one for Japan and one for the animals.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 11, 2011

From the Six-Part Spanish Mini-series I Just Finished Watching

"The lord chooses the weak to confuse the powerful."

And, after receiving news that her plans to open her own convent were being thwarted by naysayers:

"The devil is at work. It's a good sign."

I love her attitude; obstacles are good! And can be overcome....

...if you only have faith.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Dharma in Wisconsin

This just in: Sri Dharma will be doing an all-day intensive at the Yoga Journal Midwest Conference. It's Friday, July 8. Plus he'll do the usual classes. More info here.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Here's a video from Swami Radha - one of the west's greatest modern yoginis

Radha was the first western woman to be initiated by Swami Sivananda, and her riveting autobiography, Radha: Story of a Woman's Search, is a must-read for any serious aspirant - regardless of gender.

I love how she says in the video that becoming Radha didn't mean completely leaving behind Sylvia or destroying her, but, rather, incorporating her into her new Self.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Like Dharma Says - Fancy Postures Are Not a Requirement for Enlightenment

The clip above is from the 2007 documentary Enlighten Up! Maybelline recently told me about the Norman Allen outtakes, and loaned me her copy. They're amazing.

Allen was the first American to study ashtanga with Pattabhi Jois - although SKPJ initially didn't want him there. It was his wife, Amma, who convinced him to give Allen a chance. He ended up staying with Pattabhi Jois and his family for years, living in his house, running errands for the family, going to concerts with them and generally being part of the family. He used to do the demonstrations when Pattabhi Jois went on tour, and even taught at his shala.

Now, he lives in relative seclusion in Hawaii and teaches the way he was taught - each student individually. He also teaches for free (actually, if you come to class four times a week it's free; if you come once a week it's $75; twice a week it's $50, etc; students are fined $25 for each of the four weekly classes they miss).

To me, he's the most intriguing of SKPJ's early students - probably because he embodies his teachings the most. (He also learned Sanskrit and Pattabhi Jois's language, Kannada, plus he knows (as in, has internalized) yoga philosophy inside in out).

My favorite moment in the movie is when he tells the young seeker to "Go f--- yourself."

In the outtakes, he's told about other teachers who make piles of money, and seems surprised. Then he asks, laughing, "What are they gonna do what all that money? What do they want to buy?" (beat) "Let me know - if it's something good, I'll go do it, too."

When asked if he's a Hindu or Buddhist or something else, he says, "Farmer."

You can read Guy Donahaye's 2007 amazing interview with him here.

In it, Allen explains that the asanas, when performed in a vacuum, can inflate the ego.

"Without the right intentions, without the right diet, without Yama/Niyama it ain’t happenin.' It's just not happening...You gotta make sure that you dissolve the ego, get rid of the ego. If practice becomes sensational and competitive it is completely anterior, it becomes tamasic. You gotta’ become sattvic in potential, in means and in intent, or you don’t have a chance."

He says that the west took the gems or asanas from the jewelry box of yoga and ignored the rest. What's needed is the whole nine yards - gunas, sutras, understanding of prana, discipline, etc. etc. etc.

And not just the postures, practiced in a void.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Why (and How) We Practice Yoga

Thank you to Taisha for the link!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Ohio* is falling. But Wisco still stands.

Learn more about why unions want to hold on to collective bargaining - which makes working conditions better for all Americans - and why Gov. Walker wants to get rid of it - here.

Listen to a podcast of Tuesday's Fresh Air interview with New York Times Labor and Workforce Correspondent Steven Greenhouse about it here. Or read the transcript here.

Find out how you can help here.

And here's an example of a Fox "News" lie; Bill O'Reilly and Mike Tobin discuss violent out-of-town "professional left wingers" protesting in Madison, while showing footage with palm trees in the background (last we checked, there weren't any in Wisconsin):

In Ohio, Senate President Tom Niehaus replaced two members of key committees to ensure that Senate Bill 5 passed and made it to a floor vote on the Senate - where it passed. Read here here.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Om Nama Shivya!


Apparently 7.5-plus hours of chanting is exactly what the doctor ordered.

What a wonderful, lovely, lively, welcoming group it was, too.

(Even during the super-sleepy points at 1:30am and 4am; there's nothing like chai and a good tambourine to keep one from nodding off).

If only it happened more than once a year.....

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Om Nama Shivay!

Shivaratri is celebrated on the 6th night of the dark Phalgun (Feb or March) every year. On the auspicious day, devotees observe fast and keep vigil all night. Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the 'Tandava' or cosmic dance. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma. On this day Shiva devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowers and bel leaves on Shiva Linga.