Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 6

December 316 geese a-laying  

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
six geese a-laying

The six days of creation before God rested on the Sabbath.

eggsEggs are of course a well-worn flag of new beginnings, featuring prominently in Easter and other pagan-inspired spring rites of renewal. Cherished and adorned by Tsarist Russia, dismissed for possessing more than a reasonable share of cholesterol, the humble egg is still my favorite lunch-on-the-go (hardboiled and eaten out of the shell at room temp, in the style of those wire trees perched on the counters old French cafes).

Raising chickens is newly hip, and I've had the pleasure of watching my brother's flock drop their daily quota. The beauty lies in the diversity: some are pale green and oblong, others peach and round. Each day a new gift. Each perfect in its own way.

cracked eggThe yoga tradition pictures the universe as a cracked egg, its
perfect beauty marred by a fissure that in turn allows the universe to grow and to evolve. Awakening ones trace their way along the seam, for it is through the cracks that the light of the Divine also shines.

Baby chicks must tap tap tap their way out of the hard shell protecting them. We too must continually push out against the boundaries we set for ourselves, caterpillars breaking through the chrysalis. To do so means leaving our old selves behind. Step Six announces that we are willing to have God remove all the defects of character that emerged in our moral inventory (see Day Four). Yoga is the power of transformation, and God knows we could all do with change.

The Hindu pantheon features sets of three gods and three goddesses (total: six) who encompass the cycle of creation-sustenance-dissolution:






(Though later Tantra switches the order of the goddesses, seeing Kali as the innate potential that spurs creation.)

The ghostly trio of the Three Fates provide a vastly underrated backdrop to the Greek myths: no matter what antics the gods and goddesses may enact, the final outcome always lies in the hands of the three ladies:

one who spins the thread of life
one who doles it out
one who cuts it short.

Who's pulling on your string? How are you making use of what's being doled out?

new years eveA fond farewell to 2011! 

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 5

December 30 

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
five golden rings

The Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy)-Moses again, foundations of Judaism. Heavy stuff, dense reading, honestly never even tried to read 'em.

To this modern mind five rings conjures the Olympic logo, which a little bird tells me have nothing to do with Abraham's visionary gifts (they stand for the five continents).

Still, at least melodically, this is the highpoint in the song. Think of how we sing it:

Fiiiiiiivvvvee gooolllllddddeennn rrrrrrinnnnggggs!

Before slipping back into the rapid-fire recitation of the first four gifts. The musicians wanted to catch our attention-or at least our breath-here, as though they were announcing something of great value.

Lois...AnjaneyaYoga, and especially Tantric yoga, loves fives: there are five elements, five koshas (layers of our being from surface to depth), five kleshas (afflictions rooted in egotism), five kounchikas (limitations arising from embodiment). In fact, the whole universe can be mapped in sets of five tattvas (categories)-in other words, it all comes down to fives. Anusara yoga offers five principles to help us align with the highest (our Goal from Day One of this countdown), since most of the time we are hopelessly askew. Need a refresher? Join me for class New Year's morning( and I'll channel you down the spirito-energetico-physical roadmap to Enlightenment.

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 4

December 29
On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
four calling birds

I know, more birds! But trust me, as the days go by we will move higher up the food chain. For now, we've got the four Gospels-calling birds, voices in the wilderness, wakeup calls. Words from on high from those who know better.

The yoga tradition divides scriptures into those that are written as logical arguments and those that are "remembered" or channeled from Above through God's chosen mediums. The Gospels, like the Upanishads and in fact all of the Vedas, the Shiva Sutras, and other masterworks of visionary insight, remembered texts count more than written ones. Less human distortion and mistranslation, muddle and misrepresentation--more pure wisdom. 

Think of the Buddha's visionary awakening that night he sat stubbornly under the bodhi tree waiting for God to reveal Himself-out came the Four Noble Truths (ah, another four!), clear as a bell. Think of Moses reading the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, or the Shiva Sutra's author turning over a rock and finding the teachings etched there (only to witness them evaporate).

Step Four asks us to peer inside and take a moral inventory of
our fears and resentments, the static between our ears and the crooked way we see. Not the most joyful way to pass anafternoon, nonetheless a tried-and-true way to get to the root of what ails you. Not a bad project as we enter a New Year. Do you really want to end up one year older still carrying the same baggage? Jumpstart your yoga practice and change your life with one of my Anusara Yoga Immersion mini-retreat weekends, which start in late January ( for details).

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 3

December 28
On the third day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
three French Hens 

The three French hens are Faith, Hope, and Love (or Faith, Hope, and Charity). Seems to me
the more obvious choice would be the Trinity-Father, Son, Holy Ghost-but then I didn't write the song. In any case, more birds. Why hens? Why French? Not the world's most popular culture but a safe haven for Catholics back when, before the whole Francophone Muslim Diaspora migrated from the former colonies to fair Gaul.

Threes have a bad rap, as in:
Three's a crowd
The third wheel
Love triangles
The Oedipal triangle
The Bermuda triangle
Triangulating in general

But at least part of our shared culture touts the value ofthreesomes. Hegel's entire dialectic--thesis, antithesis, synthesis-posits nothing less than the advancement of cultural and intellectual history on pairs of seeming opposites (see December 27 posting) resolving into something greater. Yoga loves threes as well: Indian medicine (Ayurveda) restores balance to the three doshas (personality types), which in turn stem from the three gunas (qualities that shape all that is). Tantra loves threes as well, and Anusara's tenet of "balanced action" would make Hegel smile (if German philosophers are in fact capable of turning up the corners of their mouths).

Recovery's Third Step asks us to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as We Understand God.   No longer us versus God, we now have "us 'n God," a winning team if there ever was one.

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 2

December 27
On the second day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
two turtledoves

The turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments, twinset of the Christian Bible. Feel free to substitute any pair that works for you: our binary minds are always eager to divvy things up, to map poles and polarities onto everything. Computer codes, Morse codes, good 'n evil, yes and no, passive and aggressive, gay and straight, top and bottom, innie and outie, Communist and Capitalist, optimist and pessimist, atheist and believer, left and right, right and wrong, terrorist and pacifist, particle and wave, human and not. Start your own list-it's as easy as it is endless.

Question is: how do we live in a world of opposites? Do we have to be Red or Blue or is Purple an option? Is your ex really an avatar of the devil or a mixed bag like the rest of us? Is anything ever all unredeemably bad or uncategorically good? Seen any white knights lately?

Anusara yoga's second principle has to do with hugging into our selves-all parts of ourselves--consolidating, coming home, getting to the core. Have a look: both humbling andpranamar viewenlightening. Remember: you are every character in the story, Wicked Witch and Tinkerbell, King Lear and Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh and Spiderman. Need a little more time on the inward quest? Join me for a week on the Costa Rica beaches in early February, just as the post-holiday glow and all that goes with it has faded and the cold and dark have set deeply in (February 8-15, visit for details).

Step Two says that only a Power Greater Than Ourselves can restore us to sanity-another dyad: you and God. I'll be the first to line up for sanit-izing, being gifted from birth with a whole cacophony of crazy voices orchestrating my every move

The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Day 1

12 Days of Christmas
An Offering 

Everyone knows about the partridge and the pear tree. Not everyone knows that the song celebrates the 12 days between Christmas (the birth of Jesus Christ) and the Epiphany (the day the three kings /wise men arrived at the manger). In olden times Christians made merry throughout this entire stretch, believing that the arrival of Our Savior merited more than one night of festivities.

While no Christian, this year I'll be marking the 12 Days of Christmas with daily postings that weave together the song's Christian and pagan symbolism, Hindu Tantric philosophy, yoga practice and theory, and the principles of 12-step recovery. I hope this multi-culti overlay of traditional inspiration and hard-won personal wisdom sheds some light of its own. Worst case, you'll receive a New Age mishmash of this 'n that whose total adds up to less than the sum of its 12 parts. Either way, I hope to inspire you to set your eyes on the highest as we move through this powerful time. Your other option? Post-holiday bargain hunting among the hoardes who didn't get enough on Black Friday.

December 26

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
a Partridge in a pear tree

So, the partridge is Jesus. I know, not the most elegant bird. But remember, the whole song is encrypted with Christian symbols, and the whole point of a code is it shouldn't be that obvious. Legend has it that the lyrics were a catechism drilled into kids in some sketchy period of the past when Christians/Catholics were persecuted for their beliefs. The True Love is God Himself, and the singer the true believer.

Why a partridge? Some say the mother partridge feigns injury to decoy predators from helpless nestlings (Christ Our Savior has our collective back). Why a pear tree? Haven't dug up anything specific on that, so let's go with the Tree of Life. 

Speaking of trees, Hindu Tantra offers a rich image of a tree whose branches circle down to reroot in the ground while its roots rise up toward the sky. Now there's a metaphor for the hopeless human condition of being eternally betwixt and between-part body/part mind, part matter/part Spirit, mortal yet Divine. Grounded (some would say trapped) in our finite bodies yet driven by infinite desires. Compromised from the getgo. Hybrids with no Elmer's to hold the pieces together.

On this first day of Christmas, let's aim for the highest. Remember Anusara yoga's first principle: Open to Grace. Step into the flow. Let go and let God. How would your day feel if you lived from that place? How would you feel?

The twelve steps to recovery start by telling us we are powerless and that our lives are unmanageable. Hate that, but the evidence is in. How much time do you devote to lost causes, real and imagined? Tilted any windmills lately? Chased any shadows? As for the "unmanageable" part: How's your household budget? Your shoe allowance? Your Am Ex bill? Your interest rate? Your diet? Your relationships at home and abroad? I'm already on my knees. Come on down! It's not so bad here, as long as you remember to look up!

By the way, in England today is Boxing Day-not as in the ring, once again!-but as in boxing up things to give to the poor. If your closet or kitchen is on your unmanageable list, today's the day to purge and do some good for another.