Do we watch the Presidential debates or not? We have a choice, over and over again. Do we pick things that are toxic to eat, breath, see, or do we pick those things moment by moment which enables us to thrive and be proactive? Self-Care also means watching what we give our attention to and how those things affect us… That doesn’t mean that we are inactive or ill-informed but that we are conscious of how we bring in things to our psyche and how we respond or overreact.
I grew up in a Chevy Biscayne on the Pasadena freeway. I lived in cars; jeeps, trucks, a BMW and the first SUVs, one per decade. But none of them was black, I’d always wanted black. Today that black car, my new shiny toy is parked outside my window, sprinkled with ash. The air is unbreathable, visibility dismal. California is on fire, ash falls from the sky. The sight of something new covered by the dust of the dead is more than ironic. How absurd it would be for me to get annoyed. The ash is all that remains from pines and ferns, grasses, bears and people, coyotes, crows and mice. This snow of ash is someone’s home, memories, neighborhood, their life’s story. Should I have my car washed, rinse these vestiges down a drain, or scoop them into my palms as something sacred? Say a prayer, ring a bell, light a candle, burn sage or avoid flame all together? Fire has eaten so much its belly must be full. In my palms, I hold your life. I see you, hear, smell, honor you, celebrate you, mourn. With you in my hands, I call out to the rain, to the clear, cool waters of heaven to cry upon us. I remember you, your colors and shape.
Some blame it on the year. Some say it will change when the year changes when the election is over when the vaccine comes like there is a start and stop button to this fire–this transformation, these end days, this collapsing dawn of a new age. But I say the fire will burn until it doesn’t. We are riding the story that we have all created, we knew this time was coming and now it’s here, we are all in it, ashes in hands, all looking for a way out, somewhere to move, some way to put it off–just a little longer, just long enough to assure our safety, to preserve our lifestyles, save our fortunes. But that’s what we’ve done for decades and now there is no there there. So, we burn like Catholic Saints, eyes cast upwards. We are on fire from an inconvenient truth which we all contributed to bit by bit. Ashes in our grasp, thirsty, scared, confident, anxious, our spirits cry out, the forests and creatures cry out—water. Ashes in palms, the dead float then sprinkle themselves among the fearful living, settling on our shoulders and hair, blinding our eyes and windshields, cascading downward like dust on the flowers and sidewalks. Honor them, give them a resting place, celebrate their lives, remember their names. We are in this together. We knew that we would be, remember? Consumed by a fog of smoke a black car drives away, a dust of ash blows away. “Spend no time fretting,” go the departing words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg “find a way to do what is important to get done.”
David e Moreno
Notes from the “30 Day Mindfulness Challenge”
“The only spiritual life you need is not to react. To be calm [or present, in the moment, mindful…] is the greatest asset in the world. It’s the greatest siddhi, the greatest power you can have. If you can only learn to be calm you will solve every problem. This is something you must remember. When you are perfectly calm, time stops. There is no time, karma stops, samskaras stop. Everything becomes null and void. For when you are calm you are one with the entire energy of the universe and everything will go well with you. To be calm means you are in control. You’re not worried about the situation, the outcome. What is going to happen tomorrow? To be calm means everything is alright. There is nothing to worry about, nothing to fret over. This is also the meaning of the biblical saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” [Exodus 14:14] To be calm is to be still.” Ramana Maharshi
When I began attending week-long and month-long Vipassana meditation retreats back in the ’90s, physical movement like yoga or Qi Gong was discouraged. Instead, practitioners were urged to keep within the prescribed structure of sitting and walking meditation to enable mindfulness and minimize distraction. During this period yoga was rapidly spreading throughout the country and many serious yogin were infiltrating these meditation intensives. The yogin were coming to these retreats already familiar with discipline and enduring challenging situations, through movement and physical exercise. So, it wasn’t uncommon for some of us to be stretching or standing on our heads near our tents or in the restrooms, anywhere out of sight while breaking the rules. To just sit, restricting the body for days on end, presented a different type of obstacle for the yogin–the ego’s innate attachment to the body and the pride from identifying with a highly flexible, finely tuned one.
It took decades before meditation centers like Spirit Rock in California began offering combination meditation and yoga retreats, co-taught with yoga teachers who had gone through their Buddhist studies program. The inclusion of yoga was a welcome addition, yet the integration of yoga into a silent retreat was often not as seamless as one might think. The movement from cushions to yoga mats, the reorganizing of the room, the often-excessive verbal instruction of the yoga teacher compared to the mostly silent instruction of the meditation teacher made these two very similar disciplines feel distantly related. Yet, those experiences inspired me to find a way to more efficiently integrate these two paths with one goal.
For me the most important and pleasurable part of teaching yoga has evolved to focusing on postures and practices that bring instantaneous shifts in consciousness, creating a deeper union between the mind/body and the field of awareness that the mind/body appears within–instead of a mindfulness practice, more of a mindlessness experience. The result naturally allows an integrated meditative state to arise spontaneously, whether standing, moving, holding, or sitting. This experience is created by using specific elements and sequences from Qi Gong, somatic therapeutic modalities, various yoga pranayamas, kriyas, and particular asanas, all of which can elicit an immediate impact on the nervous system and the body’s connective tissue—myofascia. I also weave the open meditation practices of Dzogchen Buddhism and the Shakti Bandha–energetic cultivation and release modalities–found in the tantras of Kashmir Shaivism. In doing so, this causes the active thinking part of the mind to instantly settle and at the same time expand into Shiva consciousness, or as the Buddhist refer to it, the Big Sky Mind.
My role then, as an instructor, is to design the grouping of postures, movements, and practices, to evoke and then point out when this collective state of awareness is happening. Students then may become more familiar with its nature and to recognize, not only their internal experience but also the external collective experience as being one and the same. When this is experienced by each student at the same time, whether in a classroom setting or over Zoom, the energetic nature of the room perceptibly expands—consciousness is experienced as something palpable. We truly are one, we are eternal, in that moment presence is all that is happening. The student is no longer an individual sitting in a classroom having their individual experience but a communal experience of authentic nature as one united field of consciousness that can be felt beyond the senses–but includes the senses. Within this non-dualistic approach, its silent nature is heard, its infinite nature touched…“Namaste” suddenly transcends cliché and is realized as something genuine and boundless.
“Few skills are more essential than the ability to settle your body. If you can settle your body, you are more likely to be calm, alert, and fully present, no matter what is going on around you. A settled body enables you to harmonize and connect with other bodies around you while encouraging those bodies to settle as well. Gather together a large group of unsettled bodies or assemble a group of bodies and then unsettle them–and you get a mob or a riot. But bring a large group of settled bodies together and you have a potential movement–and a potential force for tremendous good in the world. A calm, settled body is the foundation for health, for healing, for helping others, and for changing the world.” “My Grandmother’s Hands” — Resmaa Menakema
Excerpt from Civil Rights Leader and Congressman John Lewis days before his passing.
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and warSo I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”
“From time immemorial we have been addicted to the self. It is how we identify ourselves. It is what we love most dearly. It is also what we hate most fiercely. Its existence is also the thing that we work hardest to try to validate. Almost everything that we do or think or have, including our spiritual path, is a means to confirm its existence. It is the self that fears failure and longs for success, fears hell and longs for heaven. The self loathes suffering and loves the causes of suffering. It stupidly wages war in the name of peace. It wishes for enlightenment but detests the path to enlightenment. It wishes to work as a socialist but lives like a capitalist. When the self feels lonely, it desires friendship. Its possessiveness of those it loves manifests in passion that can lead to aggression. Its supposed enemies – such as spiritual paths designed to conquer the ego – are often corrupted and recruited as the self’s ally. Its skills in playing the game of deception are nearly perfect. It weaves a cocoon around itself like a silkworm; but unlike a silkworm, it doesn’t know how to find the way out.” Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagine to be true. Adyashanti
I came “out” in my early twenties but only because I didn’t know what to call it as a kid. My father didn’t speak to me for a year and my mother suggested that I do therapy. I explained to her that doing therapy is what enabled me to come “out”… When I began seriously studying yoga none of my teachers or fellow students was gay and this was the community that made up my day today. This was also during the period when most of the Eastern spiritual teachers and yogis frowned upon homosexuality and before most of them had been busted for inappropriate sexual behavior with their students.
Early in my teaching career, I was asked to teach yoga for a gay men’s group that led retreats and international travel. This was an amazing experience, to practice and teach yoga with a group of like-minded guys was the best of all possible worlds—a true healing. At the same time, I also didn’t want to be stigmatized as “the gay instructor” but as a reputable teacher worthy of all students–domestically and internationally. So, it was only decades later when I felt MOR established as a senior teacher that I felt comfortable with the inherent gayness in my style of teaching and being fully relaxed with my predominately heterosexual women students and the sprinkling of cisgender men.
For me, Gay Pride has always been less about parades and rainbows than a recognition of all the great LGBTQ people whose contributions to civilization have given shape, artistry, invention to culture since the beginning of time. Gay history is our history, as we both look to and, thank people like Alan Turing (computer scientist/ mathematician), James Baldwin (playwright/activist), David Hockney (artist), Leonardo Da Vinci (polymath/genius), Angela Davis (scholar/activist) Megan Rapinoe (Olympian soccer player), Sally Ride (astronaut), Stephen Sondheim (composer-lyricist), Rachel Maddow (political commentator)… And, today I am particularly proud and grateful for Black New York candidates, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones–both “out” gays and progressives—who have just won
“As human beings, we have the power to uproot hatred and fear from our hearts, to dispel the ignorance in our minds, and to come to each other’s aid in times of need.
White supremacy and racism are older than any of us. We didn’t create the illness, but it’s our responsibility to be part of the cure. There is no simple answer, no “one thing” for all of us to do. But there is something for each of us to do. Each of us has a role to play in the healing of our world. Loving well means caring for one another and standing up for justice.
Stay resourced. Bear witness. Open your heart and make space to feel what’s there.”
-Oren Jay Sofer,
Mindfulness Meditation Teacher & Non-Violent Communication Facilitator
Q. How are we supposed to treat others?
A. There are no others.
– Ramana Maharshi
We practice yoga to feel MOR, open to MOR, become MOR of who we are beyond our preconceived notions, conditioning, preferences and aversions. It can be easy, it can be really hard, not always effortless, but always possible. If we can become more aware of our whole body when practicing asana, we become MOR present to what is taking place in the moment, the mind settles into single-pointedness and we glimpse the Self that is beyond the mind’s chatter and into the fullness and spaciousness of life.
We are being asked—and will continue to be asked, certainly for the remainder of this year—to keep opening up to great changes and to make great changes within our own hearts, communities and environments. That requires a lot of conscious breathing and steadfastness. If we are responsible and compassionate with ourselves when fear arises then the transparency of fear is experienced. That doesn’t mean it isn’t scary or that we always know how to digest and assimilate fear, but it does mean we can experience this emotion before it becomes something else outside of ourselves like the boogeyman, like racism… Stay steady, stay connected—to yourself and to others—turn to the practices that you know and love to help you navigate these unrestful times.
We are all in this together. Take action.
🙏 Hare Om, David
To assist in re-building businesses owned by my black neighbors in the Bay Area:
For my white friends and students, a few resources to fill in the historical gaps left out of our “American” education
“No one here to guide you, Now you’re on your own Only me beside you Still you’re not alone No one is alone, truly No one is alone Sometimes people leave you Halfway through the wood Others may deceive you, You decide what’s good, You decide alone, But no one is alone, People make mistakes, Fathers, Mothers, People make mistakes, Holding to their own, Thinking they’re alone Honor their mistakes Ev’rybody makes One another’s terrible mistakes Witches can be right,Giants can be good, You decide what’s right, You decide what’s good, Just remember, Someone is on your side Someone else is not, While you’re seeing your side, Maybe you forgot; They are not alone, No one is alone, Hard to see the light now, Just don’t let it go, Things will come out right now, We can make it so, Someone is on your side, Someone is on your side, no, no,No one is alone.”
“Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Or tigers eating only vegetables?
Does peace require an absence from
your boss, your spouse, yourself? …
Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than Now?
In some other heart than yours?
Peace is this moment without judgment.
That is all. This moment in the Heart-space
where everything that is is welcome.
Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.
Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the heart-space where
everything that is is welcome. ”
San Francisco Center for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and serves as Spiritual Director and President of Moon Mountain Sangha