Diving in and letting go.

 I hope you are entering the Holiday season with joy in your heart. It’s a perfect time to be grateful for life and the love that fills it.

 This month I won an award, finished a commission, and sent a painting to it’s forever home! As a symbol of gratitude I am raffling one of my favorite paintings. I hope you join the fun. Details are at the bottom of this post.

 Herstory, 2018 Oil and metal leaf on board 8” x 18”.  Join our raffle

Herstory, 2018 Oil and metal leaf on board 8” x 18”. Join our raffle

 I notice many worthwhile endeavors require a deep dive and then a liberating letting go. This is how we embody change.

 A friend asked if I could paint her children? I was surprised, flattered, and then a bit overwhelmed. Of course, in typical Kim style, I said yes! First, I love a challenge. Second, having never had children of my own, I cherished the opportunity to connect with these kids on such an intimate project. Finally, because I have been using art history and photographs as source material for my own work, I felt somewhat confident in my ability.

 Sophie and Hudson

Sophie and Hudson

Painting a portrait is a loving endeavor.

 I asked Esther (the mom) to send photos, I wasn’t going to paint directly from a studio shot but I wanted to use a variety of images to familiarize myself with the kids. She sent images and descriptions; she let me execute the paintings in my own way

 I have a set of signifiers in my work that include rainbows, polka dots, black and white stripes.  I also use flowers to symbolize infinite beauty: stars, galaxies and the universe.

 My painting process is simple; I use metal leaf as ground.

 I draw on that surface and then I paint.

 I tend to paint from dark to light in order to keep the blacks rich and the whites clean. I also make big changes when I notice the original composition is getting stilted.

 In this case, with Sophie and Hudson, I wanted them to live in a contemporary world. I wanted them to live as individuals on two separate canvases but be connected through color and light.

 Sophie

Sophie

 

I really love how the paintings turned out. I am proud of Esther for conceiving this project. It is important to empower our children to be who they are, full of life and full of color.

When someone acquires a painting it help to affirm my artistic endeavor. It says, I like what you are doing and I support you. Thank you Esther, and thank you all for supporting my work. 

 Hudson

Hudson

Sometimes it is hard to let a painting go. I have Sophie and Hudson, No Shame and Polka Dot Jersey, leaving the studio this month. This is an artists dream and it also requires letting go. I wake, work, and go to sleep with these pieces of art. They are my life. Then, as yoga teaches us, life changes.

 For the holiday season, I would love to make a painting available for raffle.

herstory.jpg

Herstory, 2018 is an 8” x 10” oil painting on board. Join our raffle.

 To enter the raffle simply donate $5.00 to It’s A Beautiful Practice. Each $5 donation goes to support the website and gives you a chance to win. $5= 1 chance. $25 = 5 chances to win. The amount is up to you. I will be drawing a winner on December 20th and announcing the new owner of Herstory in a newsletter that day. Shipping anywhere in the USA is included. I hope you will join the fun.

 Thanks for reading.

 

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Thank you

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Big Thank You to the Palm Springs Artist Council for including me in the Artist Council Exhibition, 2018. The Jurors, Anne M. Rowe, Chip Tom, and Cybele Rowe, selected the work of 40 regional artists to create a show that is exciting in content and range. The exhibition is up until December 9 in the lower level of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

 

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Cybele Rowe wrote a beautiful piece in the catalogue about her selection process; “All the artists that entered this competition have two outstanding noble traits. These are courage and conviction. These traits are an artist’s most valuable tools as they are responsible for releasing your work into the public forum.
The most joyful part I found in this juried show is the broad range of media, influence and passion. The agenda seemed to be: “If you make art and believe in your art, then you may express yourself here in this art competition.”
Some of the artist I could tell have reached a level of abstraction or realism that is evidence of years dedicated to practicing their craft. Their visual voice is strong and that is why I chose their work as my top picks. Other artists, I could tell, were newer to their art practice. These artists were successful in my selection process because they had original thought. The one underlying factor in my choice of each artwork was that each artist let me know they were engaged in an authentic journey and in sharing that growth with their community.”

 You can purchase the catalogue here.

 

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Furthermore, I was one of 5 artists that were selected for recognition. What an honor to receive the Jack Farley Community Award for my painting, Polka Dot Jersey. Also sharing the stage with me, winning their own awards, were Don Porter, Terry Hastings, George James and Eduardo Carriazo. They are terrific artists worth checking out!

Congratulations everyone and thanks again for your support.

 

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By the way it took me all day Sunday to recover from the bout of extreme happiness that accompanied the evening.


If you would like to see more paintings, click here.

 

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The yoga of life.

 No Shame 2018

No Shame 2018

October marks what we in the desert call “the beginning of the season”. The weather cools down and the snow-birds (winter-only residents) begin to return. Basically this means more people and lots to do.

This month I will be: exhibiting a painting in the Palm Springs Artist Council’s Juried exhibition, finishing an exciting commission (witing about it in the next newsletter), riding my bike and exploring new avenues in paint.

Furthermore, Kelly Laughlin, artist, traveler, and yogini, came for a visit last month. She made a studio visit and wrote an inspiring blog post.

 I share all this with you.r

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Help us celebrate!

Artists Council Exhibition Awards Night

October 27, 2018, 5:45 p.m. in the
Annenberg Theater

MC: Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

Reception: 6:15 - 8:00 p.m.
Show dates: October 20 - December 9, 2018 @Jorgensen Gallery and Marks Graphics Center

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

below is the Kelly Laughlin post, please read and check out additional offerings on her website.

Community and The Yoga of Life:

after six weeks of driving, i arrived in california. crossing the border, i noticed the sand, the hills, the open sky. the vast expanses of winding highway, the beautiful desert.

 the first stop i made in california was to palm desert, to have lunch and a swim with kim manfredi. originally from baltimore, kim is an artist, a teacher, and an avid cyclist; her teachings were instrumental in the early development of my yoga practice. her vision to create, grow, and expand the charm city yoga network of studios (now operated by yogaworks) provided me, along with our vast community, with the space to find a home within our bodies, within our communities, within ourselves. now, within her new space as a california resident, i see much of the same determination and care that kim applied to her work in baltimore present in her new existence in california.

 kim is an incredible soul. devoutly dedicated to movement and making, she approaches each practice with great care and attention. in the hot august sun, we swam in her pool, noticed the growing dates on the nearby palm trees, and talked about the necessity of dedication, the need to practice.

 kl: how has your yoga practice changed since coming to california? 

 km: when I arrived in california and began to practice yoga I had a couple of “aha” moments. I always taught my students that yoga practice offers teachings that apply to life. for me, my move to california meant it was time to put these teachings into a new real-life context.

 second, once I no longer had to teach students how to put a foot behind their head, I wondered why in the world would I ever do that to my body again?

 my resulting yoga practice consists of three classes per week, mostly at a bikram studio where the classes are silent. I choose this form because the poses are effective and fairly simple. I can attend the classes with my husband and cycle in the cool desert mornings. I use the 90 minutes to invite ease into my body and peace in my mind.

 My studio

My studio

 

kl: how do cycling, painting, and yoga influence each other in your life?

 

km: a real-life context for the application of yoga principles can be anything for anyone. for me, it is cycling and painting. I utilize the yoga practice as a reminder; like a guitarist practicing scales, I come back to the beginning. when I ride my bike or paint, I am faced with the joy of the art and the obstacles that go along with the endeavor.

the primary yoga teaching, according to patanjali, promises freedom when the practitioner can stand in silence with clear insight; when I cycle, I feel victory, defeat and everything in between. I apply the teachings of yoga recognizing the evaluations in my mind as subjective, relative, and simply opinion. the same is true while painting. this understanding liberates me from my own smallness and drops me in the sea of immortality.

furthermore, the community of friends that go along with painting and cycling fulfill my need for connection while providing the opportunity to continue to feel more and more comfortable with who I am.

having been the leader of a community for so long, it is marvelous to simply be a part of a group. to be a beginner in a group, to ask for help and feel vulnerable is liberating.




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kl: picture a day where you’re in the flow in the studio - what disciplines or routines help you attain that connection to creativity? 

 

km: I am lucky enough to be in the flow of art-making each day. it is important that I begin most days with cycling because. it gets me outside, into the weather with the visual stimuli of nature. after breakfast I head to the studio; depending on where I am with a particular painting, I take time to do something routine like mixing colors, priming boards, or simply cleaning up. these tasksThis immerses me in the studio environment and I feel at home. when the painting begins I also stay aware of my thinking: I notice if I feel sure; if not, I offer a reminder to do my best. if I am critical, I offer a reminder to be kind. if I am anxious, I let myself paint more freely.

 

these waves of sensation are the same obstacles that arise on the mat in a yoga practice and on the bicycle during a long ride. the awakening to what is arising and the ability to embrace the arising makes me feel whole and very much alive.

 kl: what are the materials, resources, books, or connections that help you thrive in the creative world?

 km: I read a lot. I am always reading a novel and an art based writing. right now I am reading everything by- john berger. he’s an art critic that hates being called an art critic. I can understand why; this guy is an artist who paints with words. currently, I am reading portraits. as berger profiles each artist he restricts the reader’s visual access to the work. he offers a small black and white image of a work of art while relying on the verbal illustration to move us into the painters’ universe. his literary approach to each artist or genre gives me insight and perspective that is stimulating on many levels. I love it. click on the image below to order the book.

 

I am also very involved with the palm springs artists council. we have a book club, life drawing, critiques, and a monthly social evening. the group keeps me connected to art and helps me with ideas and considerations present in the studio practice.

 my go-to resources are our world, agnes martin, google and instagram.  

 kl: what do you think is most important to keep in mind when maintaining (creative) practices? 

km: love yourself and stop trying to be good.

 kl: what excites you most about your new work?

 I am so excited about my new work. I am excited about finally living the life of an artist without the pressures of running a business. I love the beings and the worlds that are emerging in the new paintings. I love the freedom to mine art history and play in color. I love being a part of the conversation that is the art-world and I love the act of making.

 thank you, kim!

 me and Kelly

me and Kelly






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The yoga of painting.

  • It’s been about a year since my last post. Thanks for your patience. I have been immersed in the process of painting and it has been marvelous.

For a time in Baltimore I had to give up my oil painting practice for the yoga studios. I was happy to do it, working in watercolor and collage between teaching and running a community; it was plenty. Now without the pressure of business, I have built an art studio and taken time in relative quiet to mix colors, practice drawing, and sit in the stillness of a daily painting practice.

I paint about 6 hours a day. My mornings begin early, just like my yoga days, with a bicycle ride. During the group ride with awesome friends, I connect and get all my socializing in. Home by nine, I paint all day. I find these long periods of solitude allow me to remember my imagined world and its inhabitants. My artworks are basically pictures of this world.

 As a result of my yoga practice, I recognize that long periods of sustained concentration are possible. The years of daily practice on the mat and the months spent on retreat in India have given me tools to ride the discoveries found in painting.

Like the saboteur in yoga, I notice inner commentary on the works I make. Judgment and fear could paralyze my painting but after years of bearing strong sensations from trying to put my leg behind my head or sitting in meditation, I can paint even when I feel insecure.

I also paint when I feel triumphant. I often recall the yoga aphorism:

before enlightenment chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment chop wood, carry water.

Success in a yoga pose is temporary and I find success in painting is temporary too. There is always another problem to solve or a new path to follow in the next work of art.  This is what keeps me going. 

I will be exhibiting Polka Dot Jersey at the Palm Springs Art Museum in October. I hope you enjoy looking at the work and I hope it inspires you to do your practice everyday, no matter what the form. All forms of love take us home.

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A walk in the desert.

 Self Portrait (detail) water color and Crayola 5" x 7"

Self Portrait (detail) water color and Crayola 5" x 7"

I walked into the desert where I met a new life. To my delight and terror, I disappeared. 

 Weather Moving, watercolor and Crayola 8" x 8"

Weather Moving, watercolor and Crayola 8" x 8"

Not really, but the prosaic walk into the desert is no joke. The Kena Upanishad asks us to wonder, Who am I? When my circumstance is new and different, that question seems extremely relevant. It has taken peace and solitude to ponder.

A friend wrote recently asking about the blog. Are you going to write soon, she said?  I smiled and replied, I have not published It’s A Beautiful Practice because I can see that my world is different. I am changed and I am keeping a bit quiet for now, as a means of honoring and observing. Sometimes quiet is a kind of worship. Like mantra practice…if you keep the thought in your heart it just keeps growing.

My life is full of beautiful things these days, art, yoga, friends, reading, biking, and yes even golf. I spend most early mornings drawing. I  cook, swim, nap and enjoy life. These last few weeks I have been reading Flannery O'Connor, perhaps I will blog about her brilliance soon. Chris and I are not alone, kind people arrive when we need them: an old friend from school, yoga community, bike club, a golf teacher. 

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Here are some drawings I have made since my arrival. They are simple, just watercolor and crayon. Part of who I am these days is an artist. We are converting our garage into a beautiful painting studio and I have agreed not to pull out my paint until then. The studio is well on its way and I have purchased supplies. Painting time is near; I can't wait!

 After Avery, water color and Crayola 6" x 6"

After Avery, water color and Crayola 6" x 6"

 Robert and Perry, water color and Crayola, 6" x 6"

Robert and Perry, water color and Crayola, 6" x 6"

 Summer Storm, water color and crayola, 6" x 6"

Summer Storm, water color and crayola, 6" x 6"

 Mesa, water color and crayola, 8" x 8"

Mesa, water color and crayola, 8" x 8"

 A  Cloud, Watercolor and Crayola, 4" x 4"

A  Cloud, Watercolor and Crayola, 4" x 4"

 

 I'm off to practice my 90 minutes of yoga before it gets too hot. I hope you enjoy the drawings and I'll be in touch soon.

PS Class registration for my July  7th classes are now open, 11 – 12 AM at Fells Point and 6:30- 7:45 at Midtown. Also if you are a YogaWorks teacher you can join our teacher workshop 1- 2:30 at Midtown. Finally, you can also sign-up for my December 1, 2, 3, workshop on the Shiva Samhita and Pop-up classes at Midtown that same weekend. Why wait? 

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Be inspired.


My great-nephew came for a visit. His name is Noah, and he is six years old. As soon as he arrived, he handed me a drawing of a sea monster. It is a complicated amoeba-shape full of tentacles and words identifying each arm.

"Would you like to do some drawing with me?" I asked. "Yes," he said.

My favorite painter Agnes Martin shares her unique insights into "work" and what drives us, which she calls inspiration. As I explore drawing with Noah, I also recognized that the subject "drawing" is fairly arbitrary and individual like a preference in yoga styles. After all, is Iyengar Yoga that much different from Bikram Yoga? It is our interest and dedication that brings an artistic characteristic to our "work," whatever it may be.
 

"I will now speak directly to the art students present as an illustration of The Work with particular references to art-work.

My interest and yours is artwork, works of art, every smallish work of art and every kind of art-work. We are very interested, dedicated in fact. There is no half way with art. We wake up thinking about it, and we go to sleep thinking about it.

We go everywhere looking for it, both artists and non-artists.

It is very mysterious, the fast hold that it has upon us, considering how little we know about it. We do not even understand our response to our work.

Why do we go everywhere searching out works of art and why do we make works of art. The answer is that we are inspired to do so." Agnes Martin

As I gathered paper and drawing tools for Noah, I realized my materials are way too grown up: dainty, expensive and fussy. "What would you like to draw with?" I asked.

"Crayons," he replied.

We got Uncle Chris to take us to the Target, where we purchased a beautiful box of 64 colors. I cannot express the joy of opening a new box of Crayola-Crayons. Looking at all the colors and choosing the very first one. Oh the excitement of deciding what to draw, how big, how small? Should I use one color, two or three?

I have been thinking about the yoga practice and how similar it is to making art.

When we are new to the asana practice, it consumes all of our attention. We look everywhere for yoga and are inspired to practice every minute.



Great teachers like Dharma Mitra remind us "every spare minute to turn your face toward God."

Luminous gurus show us technique in class, and we feel new and free.

The same is characteristic of making art, and I guess anything else; riding bikes, writing, gardening or even reading can bring us to the place of inspiration. I think the form does not matter; it is the state of mind that is essential. I remember being a young yogi and practicing poses in the schoolyard where I taught children. Practice, practice every spare minute, I couldn't get enough.

In the Shiva Samhita, Shiva the God of transformation teaches yoga to his wife, Parvathi. The first thing he explains is The Vital Principle.

"There is one eternal true knowledge, without beginning or end. No other real entity exists. The diversity which is found in this world appears through the imposition of the senses on knowledge and for no other reason."

Going back to Agnes Martin, if you took her art paragraph and inserted the word yoga, it would read like this.

"My interest and yours are yoga, works of yoga, every smallish work of yoga and every kind of yoga. We are very interested, dedicated in fact. There is no half way with yoga. We wake up thinking about it, and we go to sleep thinking about it.

We go everywhere looking for it, both yogis and non-yogis.

It is very mysterious the fast hold that it has upon us considering how little we know about it. We do not even understand our response to our yoga.
Why do we go everywhere searching out yoga and why do we practice yoga. The answer is that we are inspired to do so." Agnes Martin

Over the next few days, I learned 7 rules for being an artist from Noah.

1. Every spare minute sit down and draw.
2. Find an art buddy and share your work every day.
3. Even when you are going to a restaurant, take a bag of crayons and some paper.
4. Sometimes you have to say no to exciting opportunities if you want to make time to concentrate on your art, even a trip to miniature golf.
5. Now and then look at an artist online, but not too much.
6. Before bed set art goals for yourself like: I will do 30 drawings tomorrow.
7. Get up bright and early to reach your goals.

For me, the ability to put any subject into Martins paragraph points to Shiva's teaching about one eternal true knowledge. The ideas that passion, interest, dedication and an allowing for mystery are characteristics of any worthwhile endeavor is fascinating. We as practitioners must nurture these qualities, embrace their vastness, and then do the work. Practice is the secret to a fulfilling and happy life.
 

Siva goes on to say, "Some praise truth and others asceticism and purity. Some praise patience and others equanimity and honesty. Some praise charity and others ancestor worship. Some praise action and others absolute indifference."
With this sentence Shiva acknowledges the many forms of practice; he concludes by saying that to avoid delusion we must realize that in our commitment to discovering what is real, we need to recognize that the self is
"many, eternal, and omnipresent."


I sit at my table today, while Noah and his parents travel to San Diego. He took his book, and I have mine. I make a drawing using some of the crayons he did not pack and recognize the value of having a sanctuary in my practices. I began drawing again in India after a long hiatus. I have asana for stretching my body, the texts for corralling my mind, and art making for my soul. I desire to learn to make a picture that is me... probably outside the lines, kinda goofy in color, and inclusive of materials that are not so fussy. This is my inspiration.

And so as Noah has inspired me, I offer Agnes Martin to you….

"When we wake up in the morning, we are inspired to do some certain thing, and we do it. The difficulty lies in the fact that it may turn out well, or it may not turn out well. If it turns out well, we have a tendency to think that we have successfully followed our inspiration and if it does not turn out well, we have a tendency to think that we have lost our inspiration. But that is not true. There is successful work and work that fails but all of it is inspired."

 

Do your practice, every spare minute sit down at the table and draw.



 

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How to feel at home, wherever you are.

“Our world is a product of how we understand it, how we feel in it and ultimately a reflection of the actions we take. We often see only what we think is true. By practicing authenticity and belonging, we begin the journey of Wholehearted Living.” Brene Brown, author of The Beauty of Imperfection

I have been asking myself, where is home? Is it in Baltimore, California, the yoga studio, or on my mat?

I've been living at my parent's house for the first time in 30 years. I feel so grateful for their hospitality and find myself calling it home. I drive my dad's car, and we go to yoga together. My mom cooks for me, and I wear her clothes. Also while I am in Charm City teaching, many students meet me with love. They wish me well and share the latest excitement in their practice and their lives. I find myself calling the studio home. Today, back in Palm Desert, I see my husband at the airport and say to Chris, it’s good to be home.

Recently life has been a wild ride: twenty–two days in India, two weeks in California, teaching a lot of teacher training, packing and unpacking everything we own.  Somehow, though, I manage to feel grounded. I maintain a sense of myself, a feeling that I belong. When I step on my mat, no matter where I am, I feel at home.

Brene Brown says love and belonging happen when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.

And everything is not perfect: I have been traveling a lot, and that takes a toll on my body. I neglected to take care of some important details and forgot an appointment. I was hurt, and I hurt in return. But still, I practice, teach, and feel as if there is a place for me. The real me.

One of my favorite Buddhist stories helps illustrate the idea of authenticity and belonging as a prerequisite for feeling at home.

 A monk mentions to his guru that he is leaving the rural ashram to live and practice in the city. The teacher reminds the monk how dangerous urban life can be.

 "They will verbally assault you for wearing your robe and carrying a begging bowl," the master says.

 The monk replies. “In that case, I will love the people who shout but do not hit me.”

“But what if they do hit you," the teacher replied? "These are dangerous people."

“If they hit me I will feel grateful that they did not stab me,” the monk said.

“Ah, but what if they do stab you?”  The teacher asked.

 Then the monk, looking right into his guru’s eyes said, “I will think these people are kind because they did not kill me!”

"My dear monk friend, what if they do kill you,” remarked the teacher?

The monk closed his eyes and entered his heart. He took a breath and said, "Some monks get so discouraged on the path, so disappointed with their efforts and the seeming fruitlessness of the practice that they take their life. I will be happy that death finds me without my having to seek it.”

 In this story, the monk is rooted in home. He maintains a connection to his sense of self and community even as he plans to move to a dangerous place. This connectedness allows him to continue to love in the face of pain. He is authentic in his assertion. He finds a way to look on the bright side.

Brown gives us a three-step plan to develop a persistent sense of home.

1. Cultivate the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

2. Exercising compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle.

3. Nurture connection and a sense of belonging. Home can only happen when we believe we are enough.

Brown also reminds us that cruelty always hurts, even if the criticisms are untrue. She reminds us of the pitfalls of perfectionism as an obstacle to authenticity. Her definition of perfectionism includes the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, act perfectly; we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.

Perfection is not a successful strategy for living without pain. A natural sense of belonging arises when I am grateful. You and I can be imperfect together. We can ask for help.

 “Get deliberate, get inspired, and get going. “ Brene Brown

 Like yoga postures, finding authenticity and a feeling of belonging is a practice. Its fruit is happiness. We experience, like the monk, happiness for what is going right.  We find joy in the bright side of things. This practice can make us more pleasant to be around. It can also release hormones that make us feel better. Physically and emotionally we now have the endurance to complete our endeavors with more skill and more vigor. We feel at home wherever we are.

“Even when it is hard, even when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we are afraid to let ourselves feel it; mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”  Brene Brown

Be who you are, it is enough, and you belong.

  

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You are on an adventure.

In practice this week I have been reflecting on a Zen Koan. It feels immeasurably helpful. 

The nun, Chiyono was unable to attain the fruits of her meditation. She practiced diligently but was not able to find enlightenment.

At last, on a moonlit night, she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke, the bottom fell out of the bucket, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!

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Chris and I are experiencing many changes. We have moved house out west and are beginning a new life. This a major transition for us; we are excited and scared. I think it is fair to say we certainly feel alive! There is no bottom in our bucket anymore. Everything we know seems to exist in the past. Every moment is brand new. This recognition, according to yogic teaching, is a presence. Presence is what the koan refers to when it speaks of Chiyono's freedom. 
 

Here in the California desert, a mockingbird sits on the palm singing its complicated song. We watch, like children, eyes wide open. We remember the osprey and the goose at Fort McHenry. There is a bit of tugging on our hearts, and we take delight in recognizing that the hummingbird, dove and white heron are here for us now. This bittersweet love is what it means to find enlightenment. Momentary joys arrive one after another, and we recognize them.

In commemoration of her awakening, Chiyono wrote a poem:
In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break.
Until at last the bottom fell out.
Nor more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!

Yoga teachings often use the metaphor of moon reflected in water to symbolize the "real" unchanging reality. It also illustrates the "unreal" ever-changing illusions that cause us suffering.  In Chiyono’s poem, the moon represents the permanent and water represents movement or change. The reflection of the moon in the water symbolizes the temporary nature of enlightenment. It is troublesome to try and carry an experience around in a pail, no matter how precious the moment may seem. 

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For most of us, awakening is temporary. The yoga sutras tell us this. The Upanishads, The Bhagavad-Gita, and Buddhist philosophy also remind us of our changing nature, yet we still yearn to hold on. 

In the story, Chiyono carefully carries her enlightenment in an “old bamboo pail”.  This attachment quickly becomes a burden. The bucket is heavy and requires tending, resources, and repair.

One can imagine the burden we carry trying to preserve a brief moment of realization or a particular circumstance. 

Here in our new home, it feels like our pail is empty. It feels like our hearts, minds, and hands are free. Chris and I need all of our dexterity to weed the garden, paint the walls, and unpack the boxes. Our emptiness forces us to look at the moon directly. Seeing the moon provides us a new experience in every instant.

Even though I am taught in practice to let go of whatever appears, I often hold onto to moments of insight.  I tend to make theories and philosophies around such experiences rather than seeing that they are impermanent. Sometimes when I am teaching yoga, I joke about this desire. It goes like this: yesterday I had a great experience in class. Today I am going to wear the same outfit, put my mat in the same spot and hope the teacher plays that same music so I can have the same great experience. Burdened with expectation, I head into the studio with no chance of experiencing the aha moment called presence. 

Letting go of everything in my life has been a reminder of the importance of release.

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I often forget that my experience is ever changing, even if my circumstance stays the same.  Each moment is a result of the causes and conditions of my life. My perception is subjective and based on the past if conditioned. My experience is alive and awake, if free. 

In our new home, I feel a freedom to begin again. I am unsure and therefore alert. I can see old conditioned ways of thinking and embrace the opportunity for change. I notice when I am carrying my understanding around in an old bucket that simply needs to empty.  Emptiness is the heart of my adventure, and it is magnificent.  The truth is beginning-less and endless.

Here is another example poetry that uses the moon as a metaphor. Here the image of the moon represents being.

Being-in-the-world:
To what might it be compared?
Dwelling in the dewdrop
Fallen from a waterfowl’s beak,
The image of the moon.


If I can see the absolute expressed in each “drop” of my life, I have found enlightenment; this is the goal of yoga.

I feel tiny in my new house, and I feel at home. I feel vulnerable and delicate like a dewdrop, but I feel powerful too. Perhaps I am the moon?  I am seeing the world, as if for the first time; everything is new. I am meeting new people and walking an unknown path with my husband, my friend. It is an adventure, and it is exciting.

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And I must remember that enlightenment is momentary. That it only lasts for the instant or two it takes for a drop to fall from the bird's beak and splatter onto the grass; so my practice is essential.

 I have practiced each day remembering nothing lasts forever.  Every moment lasts for no more than an instant; this is what I have learned from Chiyono. 

My moment as a student is fleeting. My moment as a teacher, artist, wife, friend, and adventurer is also brief. As I walk around the new neighborhood, I realize this blossom only lasts for a second, the same for the bird, cloud, and me. My practice brings me back to the present; it reminds me to keep looking, breathing, and letting go.

I have a tendency not to remember this impermanence. Even as I write it down, I tend to reject the fleetingness of things.  Instead, like Chiyono, I fashion a bamboo pail so I can hold on. This bucket becomes a burden, and it takes a lot of my energy to mend and carry. 

 If I practice correctly, I remember how to let go. Letting go is what Chris and I are doing out here. We can watch the water disappear into the wild grass of our lives. With nothing to depend on, nothing to hold onto, we follow the path, even when the moon hides behind a cloud.

This practice is very simple though it is not at all easy.
 

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A day in the life at Shreyas.

Today a poem by Kahil Gilbran was left on my bed. It was called “Tell us of Pain.”

"And he said:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break,

that it’s heart may stand in the sun,

so must you know pain."

Each day I wake at 5:00 AM. Just like at home, I get up and begin my writing. I find this time of the day to be soundless in circumstance and mind. At 5:30 promptly there is a knock on the door, Santosh, the chef is there with a tray carrying chai, a milk-tea mulled with spices served with sugar on the side. I like it extra sweet.

I sleep in a tent, but it is quite plush. Last night a small something was twirling my hair, a chipmunk, squirrel, or gecko I do not know, but it came back three times. At first, I thought the touch was a dream, then a visitation, then realized this is a small animal, now there is no sleep, so I get up to write. Sitting beneath the light of my lamp,  I see it flash-past, a gray puff, scratch, click, and then gone. So I sleep in a tent, but it has a desk, a wardrobe, and an unusually comfortable bed.

The bathroom is heaven. It is open to the outside. The back wall is simply wicker shade, up during the day, down at night. Connected to a courtyard housing palm, frangipani tree, fern and a stone bowl of rose petals; the shower and toilet look out. When I am brushing my teeth, I am standing under a canvas peaked roof in beautiful temperate nature, a sky fringed with palm and air filled with India-sound: peacock, chanting, train.

My first practice begins at 6:30 AM. There are two yoga programs here, Hatha and Ashtanga. This year I am the only student in the Ashtanga program, so my group class is just me. There are two teachers, Ramakant and Manikant. They are both practitioners with skillful assists. They studied at the Mandala school in Mysore with Sheshadri. They teach a traditional approach to Ashtanga yoga. This visit marks my third year of study with these teachers.

Today we moved through the Primary Series, and there are lots of details that my teachers point out. I tend to skip the down dog exhalation in Suya Namaskar B, and sometimes I rush my chaturanga refusing to exhale completely during the posture. I fail to straighten my arms in up-dog and my right leg; I don’t think I have bothered to straighten it since last year. As I work on these details, I notice aches and pains going away. Others arrive. A bright awareness returns to my effort, and my practice improves.

And if you could keep your heart in wonder

at the daily miracles of your life, your pain

would not seem less wonderous than your joy:

And you would accept the seasons of your

heart, even as you have accepted the

seasons that pass over your fields.”

 

Last week I wrote about having a teacher two valleys away. I notice how valuable it is to work on the practice at home in between these trips abroad. When I come here, it becomes clear where I have forgotten, gotten lazy, and gone to sleep in my practice.

After asana, we do what is called Kriya. We use the neti pot to clean our nasal passages. We gather in a group outside in the shade. It is funny to see the whole gaggle of students putting water up their nose and blowing it out on the ground with plenty of tissue available to keep the effort relatively civilized.

Then comes breakfast. The table laid with fruit, condiments, sprouts, water, and fresh juice like watermelon or orange-lime is wonderous. I tend to fill my big bowl with papaya, sliced banana, watermelon, and grapes. Sometimes there is guava other days chikoo (a sweet-sticky pear like fruit). I toss some bean sprouts on top and think heaven. It is warm enough in India to eat a big bowl of fruit in February!

The servers arrive. The same chef who brought me tea offers ladles full of oatmeal, a pancake stuffed with sweet lentil, idli or dosa. Everything paired with chutney and sauce.

I finish my meal with Assam tea, my favorite. It is robust and hot, served with milk and sugar.

We sit family style, so I meet the other guests at meals. Many are business folk who come to Shreyas to escape the hustle or bustle of Bangalore, but there are also seekers of peace, yoga teachers and homemakers wanting to get away from it all.

I excuse myself and head down the path to meditation. Bala, the meditation teacher, is a marvelous guide with a baritone voice that takes us on a tour of our surroundings, bodies, and minds. We chant So-Ham Ham-So which translates to I am that, that I am. This time and mantra offer me a daily opportunity to recognize that I create my reality and if I perceive it, it is me.

“and you would watch with serenity

through the wonders of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

It is the bitter potion by which the physician

Within you heals the sick self.

Therefore trust the physician, and drink

his remedy in silence and tranquility.”

 

After meditation, I’ll go for a rest. In India, there is plenty of space to integrate insight. I am careful about social media and the web. I use the discipline of my practice to be still, to watch and to learn from myself and my quiet time.

At 11, I put on fresh yoga clothes and head to the outdoor hall. The hall is a big open-air structure with columns and a tiled floor. There is a shrine to Patanjali adorned with fire and plenty of fresh cut flowers. I lay down my mat and wait. The teacher comes and we work on hips, shoulders, backbends, whatever he thinks might help my practice. These sessions are just one hour, but they are very intense, filled with long holds and challenging positions which aim to target old tension patterns.

Each of the yoga sessions begins with the guru mantra. It acknowledges that the teacher is creation, sustenance, and change. In Diety terms: Bramha, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Guru is the truly supreme absolute, which, to me means the truth.

I stagger up to lunch which is rich and rivals breakfast in its variety, flavors, and color. There is always a soup that is creamy hot and spiced just right. Then there is a thali-style lunch served, one spoonful at a time by the chef and his helpers. It is a dance of careful dishing out: lentils, yogurt, curries, masalas, papadum, roti, and rice. There is always a dessert, today was lemon cheesecake, and we finish with fresh herbal tea. I choose ginger to help everything digest…after all afternoon class begins at 4.

After lunch, I find a lounge chair in the shade and read. Not too much time passes before I fall asleep to the sound of birds and the scent of flowers falling left and right. My dreams are light and contain content found in listening, dishes, chatter, and trains. When I wake, there is always a cup of fresh coconut water by the table which I drink down and head back to the tent. I throw on another set of yoga clothes and head to class.

Afternoons are for practice. I am warm, and my body knows where to go. The first inhale and I’m off. The teacher's cues are less frequent, and I am a bit sleepy, but the attention to detail is fierce. Straighten leg, press heel, relax shoulders, sit down, sit down, sit down. Often, Disha, my teacher's daughter joins us. She is about 7. She rolls out her mat, right next to mine and we practice together. What I think about is the way practice is in her body at such a young age. We practiced together two years ago when she was 5. Two years of consistent practice before one is 7, can you imagine? She can do most of the primary series and never stops the flow. She has focus and interest and skill. Her father is gentle and precise in his instruction. He adjusts her to improve her alignment and deepen her pose. I can see the practice is not easy for her. I am relieved because it is not easy for me either.

In the evenings I’ll have a massage, Yoga Nidra or pranayama. I skip dinner, which is served outside under the stars. It is just too much food and I have to be up in 8 hours and ready to practice. My body needs time to rest, and digest, so tea and fruit are what I eat.  I write or paint until 9.

“for his hand, though heavy and hard, is

guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,

and the cup he brings, though it burns

your lips has been fashioned out of the clay

which the Potter has moistened with His

own sacred tears."

 

 

 The new poem is delivered, and soon I am in bed. Life here is so restful I rarely sleep through the night, but it doesn’t matter I can wake and read and write and then go back to sleep.

“There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”--Borrowed by Bala.

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