Tag Archives: personal power

Missives from the Mat 5 — Start and the Pressure Will Be Off #Yoga #Bhajan #Writing #Numerology

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It has been a long time since I’ve written.

I have actually wondered if I would be able to start up again; on the blog, I mean. I went from writing every day for 31 days about Carl Jung and how I interpreted him to stopping almost completely for almost a month. That’s a hard transition. I went from mindfulness on paper and sharing it to mindfulness in the ether and installing it.

Y’see, the yoga retreat was a profound personal experience. I remember driving away from my home, that Thursday afternoon almost three weeks ago when I began my journey looking in my rearview mirror at the three sons and husband I would be separated from for more than a fortnight. That rearview mirror moment was the last time I was the person I was before I changed.

That sounds weird. Let me rephrase: I am more the person I was meant to be now. I have less pretense, less interest in what other people think. I’ve always been pretty confident seeming, but that was because I wanted everyone to get along. Now, it’s not so much that I’m less interested in people getting along, it’s that I’m less interested in having to make people get along. They will figure out their way. I have my life to figure out and I have three boys to mother and a husband to partner. It’s just clearer now. There’s something to the power of being with complete strangers for 15 overnights (about 350 hours) for a yoga retreat. The moment some people say yoga, others envision pretzels or insane postures.

The yoga we practiced every morning at 6:00 am, one time at 4:30 am, is totally different. We would sit on a massive wraparound deck to watch the sun rise when we managed to peek out from under our shawls during a meditation. That 4:30 am practice is something that created a cosmic shift in my consciousness and it will forever be revered as one of The Most Inspired Moments of My Life. Each morning we were to be in a meditative state 10 minutes before the practice began. That meant for yours truly who loves her blankets and her bed that I had to be awake at least 40 minutes before the start. So on this 4:30 am day, I set the alarm for 3:50 am and I woke with little resistance; even with a sense of childlike glee. I’ll explain in a later post why this timing is so special. But it was as if my spirit knew I was going on a trip. And I did go on a trip even though my body never left the planet.

sun up.

sun up. 6:01am due east.

The sun never rose the same way every day; it never does and it never will. But it was always majestic the way the earth bows to the sun.

still glorious, no?

still glorious, no? this was shot at 5:53am i’m pointing west.

We were treated to some of the most wonderful weather ever for those 16 days. I kept on saying to people who were not from this area of the world that the Heavens must be smiling upon us because it has almost never been 59˚ on any morning in July or August in the Virginia Blue Ridge.

The yoga I talk about now transcends the poses. It goes right to the spirit and it means Guts, Determination, Growth, Strength and Self.

Strength and Self

The poses come later. The work, it’s a pleasure, most of it. There were some kriyas (sets of yoga exercises) that set my shoulders on fire. I miss them. I miss that wonderful, bearded wiseman, Kartar Khalsa, who would state to us, “I can show you how to get there, I can show you, but you have to do the work, you have to get there.” He wasn’t talking about stronger deltoids or trapesius muscles. He was talking about stronger Selves, with a capital S.

Kartar Khalsa Singh. Yogi. Badass. Compassionate.

Kartar Khalsa. Yogi. Badass. Genius.

This Self is part of the genius of kundalini yoga. Rephrase: the pursuit of the Self is the heart of kundalini yoga. One of our yoginis at the retreat, the owner and author of the program, Shakta Khalsa (and Kartar’s wife) has a phrase, “Yoga is the science of the self, and kundalini is the awakening of the self. It is that simple.”

This retreat was more healing than it was learning. Ok, that sounds bad. That’s not what I meant. I did a ton of learning. I can tell you all about how babies have this life stuff all figured out and if we’d just do with our bodies what they do with their bodies from time to time then we’d be totally happy. I can tell you about the eight limbs of yoga (I just can’t find the sheet in my binder) and the 3rd chakra and the lymphatic system and why cold water on the thigh is a bad idea (because it leaches calcium from the femur). I can tell you about acidic foods and the energetic transfers and releases of certain chants and kundalini exercises. I can. And intermingled in all of those discussions and lectures and yoga sessions and kriyas and asanas were life-affirming, life-changing lessons. It’s metaphysically impossible to attend a training retreat of this caliber without changing on the inside. Impossible. The bottom line is that it’s impossible also, for me to explain it all to both of you in one post. So natch, I’m considering a book.

These women, the 13 of us and then 1 extra and 2 of our originals left and then that 1 extra did too and then 4 more came in… (it was a little revolvy-doory there for a bit) are in each others’ DNA. We just are now. I will never forget them and seeing the pictures they are posting as well as the ones I will share in a photoblog post about the retreat (to come soon) bring back all sorts of warm fuzzies.

I wonder about the numerological significance of choosing 16 days for the retreat. Numerologically, the 16 converts into a “7.” A 7 represents the seeker, the thinker, the searcher of Truth (notice the capital “T”). The 7 doesn’t take anything at face value — it is always trying to understand the underlying, hidden truths. The 7 knows that nothing is exactly as it seems and that reality is often hidden behind illusions (I got this from http://www.numerology.com/numerology-numbers/7). I have a seven in my soul position, which is sort of a big deal, and it explains a lot of things which I will go into in a later post on numerology and how learning about it and myself has vexed liberated me in a lot of ways. Go to www.3ho.org to learn about your numbers.

When the 7 is in balance, we are elevated, happy, curious, philosophical, sensitive, a “solitary spiritualist” and we lean a lot (or we should) on our inner voice, our inner knowing. When the 7 is out of balance, we can feel lonely, reclusive, aloof, hypersensitive (I AM NOT!), fear scarcity, confused, find fault and demonstrate a lack of boundaries both emotional and physical. The bottom line is that we need a lot of alone time. This was something I wasn’t sure I was allowed to express as a need for myself because I’m a fairly gregarious and social person, but man, when I saw that I was WAHOOO! All you suckas git lawst! I need some alone time! Holla!!

I’ve just recently taken out my books from training. I went to the beach for five days after I returned from the retreat and so I’m just getting back into “normal” here at the house. Just having this time alone to do some writing has been nice. I really haven’t had much alone time at all, actually.

Yogi Bhajan, who to me looks like a movie star in the photo below had five sutras (statements / aphorisms) for the Aquarian Age. One of them is applying right now: “When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.”

Omar Sharif, anyone? Sheesh this dude was intense. Never met him.

Omar Sharif, anyone? Sheesh this dude was intense. Never met him. He “died” in 2004; I say “died” in quotes because in the tantric yoga and metaphysical tradition, there is no death. I dig that.

So here I am, starting and deciding to write.

Ok, ok, here are the other four:

Recognize that the other person is you. (Reminds me of that phrase, “when you point the finger at someone else, you’ve got three other fingers (yours) pointing back at you.”)

There is a way through every block. (Notice he didn’t say around every block… yuk yuk a*hem.)

Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times. (I got nothing.)

Vibrate the Cosmos, Cosmos shall clear the path.

Woo-woo?

Heck yeah. Ask me about the Soul Retrieval. No, wait, don’t ask. Just ask me where $100 went in less than five minutes. I’ll tell you, it went on a ride on a train through the desert. (I told you not to ask… I’ll explain in a later post. I promise, Marn.)

So no, I haven’t changed in a cellular way; my yoga retreat sisters would likely agree that none of us has changed cellularly; but we have changed in an energetic way and my manner of thinking and old patterns of reactivity and blame and fear are almost things of the past. Now it seems it’s like logistics are the stepping stones.

But embracing the woo-woo isn’t new to me.

Y’see, I was already On That Bus before I left. I was someone who believed in the things that were unseen more than the things that are seen. I learned on the retreat that it’s likely because I’m left-handed that I’ve already got some of that thinking in the bag. We right-brainers tend to be more creative and as long as we’re not suppressing it, we can easily relate to other people on an energetic level. We can let things slide because we know: it’s not real. Whether it’s an intuitive realization or simply because we are geniuses, we left-handed people have a different sense of the world.

As I said earlier, there were 13 original students on the retreat. I’m not taking away from the four awesome peeps who joined us later because they are cool too, but the 13 of us altered each others’ menstrual cycles (someone foolishly suggested that it takes a month to do that, well we yoginis can get that shit done in two weeks, holla!), we shed tears with and for one another, we held hands, we held hugs for more than six seconds, we chanted, we punched the air, we pounded our fists, we asked a ton of questions, we disagreed, we snarled a little, and we grew a lot. We drank and showered in fart water — that has to count for something, right?! — and we really miss each other. I never belonged to a sorority in college. I commuted to college. So this is my first sorority and I can tell you this without a doubt: I’m glad I waited to join this one.

Some of us are having an easier time than others re-entering the Earth you inhabit. I can tell you that going to the beach for a week with my cousin and kids helped a lot. I miss the mountains though. I’ll post again soon, mostly pictures about the days there. I would go back in a heart beat… but only with those soul sisters. It wouldn’t be the same without them.

Thank you.

Parenting: The Dangers and Influence of Elitism

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I read an article, “The Master” by Marc Fisher about 2 weeks ago in The New Yorker magazine about an English teacher at the renowned Horace Mann high school in the Bronx.

The teacher’s name was Robert Berman, and the article was ostensively about sex abuse by Berman toward his male students during the 1970s. Accusations included all manner of abuse from emotional and psychological to physical and rape of these young men. Some of these students were so heavily influenced by Berman that they bought him a townhouse on Manhattan’s west side years after graduating from the school.

Since the allegations were made several years ago, Facebook groups have formed and legal suits against the school have been filed. Berman has maintained his innocence, and true to his reportedly elitist and highly eccentric personality (according to Fisher, Berman encouraged his students “to subvert standardized tests by answering every question with the word ‘five'”), Berman has remained a mystery and largely silent, requesting his privacy, insisting that he is an old man who wants to live out his final fragile years with dignity and solitude. He “speaks” through seeming disciples and communicates via hand-written letters delivered by the postal service or hand courier.

Part of the draw of people like Berman is their charisma and their personality; they create a mystique and an almost cult-like fascination for students who hang their achievement on their every word and preference. Many former students cited his strangeness but also considered him genius and a driving force in their successful careers as writers, artists, and musicians. This is all well and fine, for those who got away.

While the allegations are horrid and disturbing, the article discussed –but as far as I’m concerned largely glanced over–  a very subtle yet more sinister element in all of these troubling stories and that is the power of elitism — the severe and undue influence that any authority figure has over children (or any at-risk person), regardless of environment. The food of elitism is the subject’s desperate need for approval, acceptance, love and attention. What I’m talking about is really subtle: it’s not just that Berman did these things; but what I’m talking about is the how; the tool and the device he used to do it so insidiously.

Like the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal at Penn State, more times than not, many of these children were lured by these people because of their emotional vulnerability or a less-than ideal home-life: often they came from broken families or from families where the parents were angry, overwhelmed by their jobs, health issues or other major distractions.

Even kids from so-called good homes (both parents present, gainfully employed and stable families) were still susceptible to these types of authority figures because they were reduced by Berman. Everything they previously thought that was of value, was devalued. From music, to art; from literature to movies; from girls to sports, Berman found a way to denigrate their opinions and replace them with his. He found a way to tell them that what they loved before was worthless now because he deemed it so. By doing this with the students who were at risk, he groomed them to need his favor and his good opinion. They wanted to fit in … somewhere. This is a tool used everywhere, but it’s so subtle.

By replacing their esteem with his judgment, they gave away their power. They lost their bearings, they discarded their own benchmarks and valuations and began to engage in behaviors and studies and experiences to seek and win his approval. As time wore on, his admonitions were more severe and their appeasement became more desperate and his abuse escalated to untenable levels. Not all students were selected and preyed upon by Berman, and of those who were, not all succumbed to his advances. Some former students who stepped forward discussed their experiences with him and how they got away from him; and that once they did get away from him, that they were deemed “dead” to him. But of the others, the nightmares continue and the trauma is just beneath the surface.

Elitism’s power and the abusive influence of authority figures is not really about sex. Like all matters of abuse, it’s about power, control and the need to build a power base due to the abuser’s own issues with mortality and other screwed up reasons.

Revealed most recently: Rutgers University Basketball coach Mike Rice’s abuses. Why those huge college students put up with his crap is beyond me. But look further: these athletes are exploited plain and simple for the betterment and bank accounts of the colleges, advertising agencies and television networks. They pin their hopes on an NBA career and curry favor of the whims of insatiable coaches because of those hopes.

As parents, we need to do a better job: we need to talk to our kids about these subtleties. As a parent of three boys, all of whom are engaged in sports (two at the neighborhood club level, my oldest in a high school rowing program), my husband and I do our best to make sure the boys respect the coaches; that they listen to their opinions and practice good sportsmanship as well as work on their skills. My oldest son is just beginning this journey. Regardless of the benefits and challenges of a rigorous rowing training program, he needs to know of most of all the concept of self-respect and what that looks like not only for himself, which is paramount, but what it looks like in his teachers and coaches. A good coach will show you how it’s done and train you do to it; a bad coach will strip you of your dignity, beat the crap out of you and denigrate you and reduce you to make himself feel better and to wait for you to appease him or her. While we’re at it: there is no place for inquiries about personal preferences, and opinions of behavior.

As high schoolers, we liked teachers and coaches who were like us: who cursed, and maybe smoked or showed some rebellion. We related to that; that was cool to us. Looking back: those teachers were needy losers.

As parents, we need to hold teachers and coaches to a high level: they must behave themselves and not work so hard to earn our kids’ favor. Trust is earned when it’s proven. It’s the same as “stranger danger” — as I say to my kids and any kid or their parent who will listen: “No adult ever needs the help of a young child to do anything.” Same goes for coaches and teachers and other authority figures. They are there to teach and train, plain and simple.

The article in The New Yorker is linked above; it’s long, as many articles can be in that magazine, but it’s captivating and important to read. Elitism from our friends, our parents, our siblings, relatives, teachers, coaches, priests — anyone really — is corrosive and dangerous; its intent is to breed subservience, supplication and submission. It’s the “mean girls” of anything we do. Anyone can have their own opinions, but the moment they become empirical, black & white, or critical of yours or your child’s is the moment they can become dangerous and they create a perfect breeding ground for inadequacy issues and second-guesses.

Thank you.