The torrent

Richard Hudak:

From the archives!

What prompted this for me is a Facebook friend who posted her Facebook word cloud. “Love” and “god” were displayed most prominently. What a bhakta!

Originally posted on The Considered Kula:

Bhakti Bhakti (Photo credit: Clifford Horn)

I have a great deal to catch you up on, dear readers, including my first experience of teaching a yoga class on Mahāśivarātri, March 10, at Sangha Yoga Collective in Lowell, where I teach sociology at the University.

As I was going over my notes to complete some homework for my teacher training yesterday, in my journal I came across some notes I had made while reading William K. Mahony’s Exquisite Lovea reflection on the Nāradā Bhakti Sūtras. In particular, Sūtra 50 asserts this about the devotee or “bhakta.”

sa tarati sa tarati lokāṁs–tārāyati

[The bhakta] crosses [the torrent], [the bhakta] crosses [the torrent]. [The bhakta] helps all in the world to cross.

I think of all my dear colleagues in this enterprise of teaching yoga, or just generally people trying to follow a spiritual path. Life presents all of us with…

View original 164 more words

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment

Help, I’m Alive

Yesterday, I was sitting around in a café aprés yoga with some friends, discussing our midlife spiritual crises, among other things. Not the garden variety of midlife crisis, but the deeper one which impels the others. It is the one in which one realizes that one is not living one’s own life, but one provided by all of those others, from one’s parents to Madison Avenue (a quaint term for advertising for all of you millennials.

It reminds me of this truly wonderful book I’ve assigned to some of my first year seminar students, This Book is Not Requiredwhich relies partly on a “Buddhist sociology” I’ve not read anywhere but by the book’s chief author, Inge Bell. It is well–accepted in sociology, especially within the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism, that individuals undergo a process of socialization (not “socializing”, that’s  a form of “interaction”). As I intone repeatedly for my students, this is the social process by which individuals learn their culture, including norms, and their place in the social world. As the chapter subtitle in the text I use suggests, it is how we become “human and humane.” While this happens most profoundly when we are young, it does continue in small ways over the course of the life cycle, when we take on a new social role, such as parenthood, or a new job in a new place. Without this critical process we end up “feral”, comically like Mowgli or George of the Jungle.

But Bell, from her Buddhist sociological perspective suggests we need to take the added critical step of desocialization, for her a process of individuation, of deciding amongst all of the options society and others present us. What characterizes us?

For my students, I’ve long tried to preserve this critical aspect of socialization, that it is not a spectator sport, that what society would have us know to be a part of the human community is not simply decanted into us as children, empty vessels and recipients of the wisdom of the ages. No, we must and do select amongst various ways of being. Indeed, if the structure of society constrains our choices, we also do exercise some degree of agency. As Willy Wonka tells spoiled Veruca Salt, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

For instance, I ask students if they play any sport for the University, and what sports they played in high school, and middle school. Typically, I receive different responses. Why don’t they play the sports they played earlier in their education? It’s clear they’ve made choices, about what they do and don’t like, or are good and not good at, from among the vast array their significant and generalized others would have them know, and do. So our choices interact with society, and this is the dance of agency and structure. (I owe my appreciation of the significance of idea to my colleague of many years.)

But choice at any age, and perhaps distinctively in middle age, is frightening. I love this song by Emily Haines of Metric, and especially the acoustic version, “Help, I’m Alive.” Not “help, I’m dying,” but “help, I’m faced with the delicious uncertainty of choice.”

I especially love this part:

If I’m still alive, my regrets are few.
If my life is mine, what shouldn’t I do?
I get wherever I’m going.
I get whatever I need.
While the blood’s still flowing,
And my heart still beats (beating like a hammer)…

How wonderful to be confronted with the terror of this beautiful life.

Posted in Experiences | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Post-op Vasisthasana

Vasisthasana (side plank pose)

Vasisthasana is typically (in the Iyengar system) the first in a series of three “one-arm” balancing positions.

Vasisthasana is typically (in the Iyengar system) the first in a series of three “one-arm” balancing positions.

via Side Plank Pose | Vasisthasana | Yoga Pose.

Today was one of the first times I’ve attempted this variation of Vasiṣṭhāsana in a public class since the injury to my right shoulder in February 2014. It felt more stable than just about any time before the injury as well. I used to wobble. In truth, unbeknownst to me, I had torn the Subscapularis long ago, probably while pulling snow off my roof with a roof rake, after many Sun Salutations in a vigorous Winter Solstice celebration.

I don’t wobble now. Conclusion? One needs a fully attached Subscapularis for this pose. I tried this on the left side, which I injured in December 2014, and had surgery on in May 2015. It’s not wobbly, but it isn’t strong yet. It feels like it wants to give out, and I don’t want that to happen while I’m bearing weigh on it. I’m doing it modified, to build up strength.

This summer I was happy once again to sit in satsang with my teacher Sara Davidson Flanders, who brought Bill Mahony back to Rhode Island to speak about the Upaniṣads. “The Light of the Heart is Vaster than All the Worlds” was the title of the workshop. I mention this because we discussed that this pose was named after Vasiṣṭha, one of the ṛṣi (rishis), or seers, sages, to whom the Vedas were ascribed. Indeed, in Light on Yoga (1966), B.K.S. Iyengar describes him as follows.

Vasiṣṭha was a celebrated sage or seer, the family priest of the solar race of kings, and author of several Vedic hymns, particularly of the seventh Maṇḍala of the Ṛg Veda. He was a typical representative of brahmanic dignity and power and is one of seven sages who are identified with the stars of the Great Bear.… (309-310)

Also, in The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination, Mahony writes this of the ṛṣi

Vedic poets hoped that the gods not only would find delight in their verses, but would also keep those songs with them. “May this hymn of praise rest in our heart,” Vasiṣṭha sang to Varuṇa, for example, in Ṛgveda 7.86.8.

I think of this pose as heart–expressive. It’s weight–bearing on one arm, and the free arm is extended to the sky. To pull this off, the shoulder blades need to be together on the back, supporting the heart from the back body, thought of as representing “the Universal.”

How wonderful it is to think that in this āsana, we celebrate this connection between our embodied particularity, and whatever name we give to that which undergirds this existence. How wonderful it is for me once again to be participating in this enactment, at least on the right side, and to see it as soon possible on the left.

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Prayer for Children Reclaiming Structures Meant for Climbing

We need to have a thoroughgoing conversation about other hazards of childhood: helicopter parents, who can be called in for air support, producing extrinsically motivated young adults who can’t do their own laundry, climb mountains, or meet new people in a new city.

Of course it is a public good that a municipality should limit its liability. But that should be balanced with dialogue and inquiry into the likelihood of threats.

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment


Richard Hudak:

In addition to what I would say on my yoga teaching blog, in longer form I would talk about how the affordance of injury has been to feel more deeply into my anatomy and alignment, not only in the shoulder girdle, but also in the core, pelvis, and everywhere. To know what muscles ache or need to be stretched, or what they can tolerate in a practice is a profound and powerful thing. So rather than viewing the injuries as setbacks, which they were superficially, on a deeper level they have given me a deeper, more aware practice. My work now is to convey this in my teaching.

Originally posted on Wholehearted Yoga:

Image from Image from

While I had been on hiatus from regular yoga teaching since the second of two shoulder injuries, I have been back in the studio subbing for a bit. Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook have been alerted to these opportunities. I expect more of these opportunities as the summer wears on, what with vacations and such. Be sure to sign up for my mailing list below.

Recovery from my most recent shoulder surgery is going well. I have full range of motion, and I am working on strengthening three of the four rotator cuff muscles. It’s important to me to maintain a regular yoga practice if I am to teach yoga at all, so this recovery has been related to my teaching. I’m not attempting inversions or arm balances, but I am bearing weight in poses as my strength and…

View original 62 more words

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment

Cultivating Ambiversion

Richard Hudak:

From the archives, for this unseasonably warm late spring afternoon.

Originally posted on The Considered Kula:

Today I was tooling around on for reasons related to my teaching job. Its LinkedIn Today news service featured this typically vacation–inspired reflection from FastCompany on the value of being quiet.

Sometimes we forget that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. In fact, it’s often the quiet ones who out-produce everyone else.

Here are some reasons I think this is so.

Being quiet strengthens focus. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when you yourself are making so much noise. The other team, who participated in the clamming wars, never took their eye off the prize. Our team, on the other hand, did a happy dance in the sand every time we hit pay dirt. In retrospect, this was probably valuable time wasted.

Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For…

View original 604 more words

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment

21-Day Spring Cleanse and Sugar Detox | Wild Open Heart Charlotte Clews

Richard Hudak:

For any of you stalwart readers of my longer musings here who don’t also follow my yoga teaching blog, here is the announcement for Charlotte Clews’s Spring Cleanse. This is the bomb diggity. Get on it. I’ll see you there.

Originally posted on Wholehearted Yoga:

21–Day Spring Cleanse and Sugar Detox with Charlotte Clews

Oh yes, this is the e-mail I’ve been waiting for. Sign me up!

This cleanse is dedicated to helping you head into the Winter feeling nourished and resilient. The goal is to eat whole-food meals with little or no snacks in between so as to balance your blood sugar, rest your digestion and reset your taste buds. Resting and cleansing your digestive system will help you clear allergies, constipation and skin issues and will help strengthen your immune system so you are less prone to summer allergies and rashes.

This is not a depletion cleanse, we will not be juice fasting or focusing on weight loss.However you can expect to loose some weight simply by clearing out winter’s digestive and cellular waste.

A Spring cleanse is like a good chimney sweep. It makes for a good clear draft and lessens your chance of a chimney fire.

Pre-Register by March 16 and save $25!

via 21-Day Spring Cleanse and…

View original 9 more words

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment

Gratitude for health


Today I filled out some paperwork for my left rotator cuff repair surgery upcoming next week. Answering “no” to a long list of medical conditions and medications, I feel really grateful for clean living. This is the result of thirty years of eating well, nine years of yoga, and about five years of a renewed understanding of healthy eating and other daily practices. A mindful life that is truly thoroughgoing has its rewards.

I am not feeling superior, gloating, or patting myself on the back. It’s truly a “there but for Grace go I” moment. I feel lucky. What’s more, I often consider my efforts imperfect. Yet here is a clear difference. Even the smallest shifts, with which we may well struggle, have tremendous benefit. This is not a unique experience. Other yogis to whom I have spoken also report similar things.

How much more true could this be for the intangible benefits of practice, all of those subtle ways in which our behavior changes and we become different people? Are we more resilient as a result? I think the answer is yes, and that we need to look more deeply into this as well.

Posted in Discoveries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, Thomas Merton!

I can’t let yesterday, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton, pass unremarked. He was, after all, probably the first mystic whose words I had encountered, an many of his words still resonate.

This morning, the sunrise inspired me to reblog a post featuring the song “Praise Song for a New Day,” which appears on the album Zero Church by Maggy and Suzzy Roche. Read more about that project here.

But it also inspired me to turn to Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours (2007), compiled by Kathleen Deignan, whom I had met at Iona College while I was a student at Manhattan College. In his journals, Merton often mentions his breviary, a compilation of the Catholic liturgies, including the Liturgy of the Hours. Monks would pray this liturgy at appointed times of the day. What I find relevant, and revelatory today is the “Closing Prayer” for “Sunday–Dawn,” (it being Sunday morning, after all) which Deignan draws from Merton’s book Turning Toward the World. I love this notion, because in his own biography, Merton descended the mountain of transcendent spiritual experience toward the very gritty problems of the world, which up until his death had been very salient in his writings: racism, war, and other forms of injustice. For that is where we live, “in the world,” yet contemplation can infuse our approach to the world. That is what is so appealing to me about Tantra, a householder practice.

With my hair almost on end and the eyes of the soul wide open I am present
without knowing it all, in this unspeakable Paradise,
and I behold this secret,
this wide open secret which is there for everyone, free,
and no one pays any attention.

O paradise of simplicity, self–awareness—
and self–forgetfulness—liberty, peace.

“Closing Prayer, Sunday—Dawn,” Kathleen Deignan (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2007) Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours

Other posts on Thomas Merton.

Posted in Experiences, Quotations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wholehearted Devotion

Richard Hudak:

From the archives: this song entered my head this morning, and I thought I had written about it somewhere online. Here it is.

Originally posted on The Considered Kula:

If man [sic] cannot pray he is gagged; if he cannot kneel he is in irons.
G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man via GK Chesterton Society of Ireland: On Kneeling.

Among the many gifts of this practice has been Dina Charya, alignment with the Ayurvedic ideas about the “daily rhythm,” including rising early, and as indicated for my constitution, physical activity, which for me has been the morning walk. I’m reminded of this gift upon rising. As I consider this crisis in Anusara yoga, I am reminded of the fifth niyama of Patanaji’s Yoga Sutras, Isvara Pranidhana, translated tantrically as “wholehearted devotion to the divine” (many thanks to my teacher, Sara Davidson Flanders

View original 323 more words

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment