Help, I’m Alive

From the archives: “How wonderful to be confronted with the terror of this beautiful life.”

The Considered Kula

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…

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Equanimous Engagement: Our Students Teach Us

I didn't receive this until after the fact, at the rally. But I find students' respect endearing. #lovetrumpshate

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I’m not going to sugarcoat this because this is somehow a blog about yoga and sociology. I’m not going to pursue some path of dispassion because I think either mindfulness or social science demand it. I think that the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land is an unmitigated disaster. It’s a bleak and dark period that severely threatens the experiment that is this republic on these shores. No amount of civility of mere “niceness” will blunt the impact of this.

I’d been loathe to face students about this disaster. Previous generations, mine included, but moreso the ones ahead of mine, have saddled them with problems enough: an “armed madhouse” of foreign policy, anthropogenic climate disruption, Gilded Age levels of inequality, and deep racism. Upon this powder keg we have placed a leader with a short fuse, and as technology marches forward, a leadership which seeks to turn the clocks backward. Welcome to the Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favor. My choices, which have led me to teach in a public university as adjunct faculty, hobble my efforts to offer a political education. It’s unethical, by sins of omission or commission, to adopt a stance of advocacy in the classroom. How does this professionally precarious professor offer hope and constructive alternatives while avoiding charges of partisanship? Playing safe and nice is precisely that, safe.

It’s a student of mine who’s inadvertently indicated a familiar path through this. It’s a student who’s returned me to something I know, the “influence in repose” that comes with knowledge. I’m reminded here of my post on “The Useless Tree.”

Last week I checked in with students about their feelings about the election. I mention three salient responses as instructive:

  1. One student is a dual national by virtue of his mother’s marriage to an American. “We just had a coup there,” he quipped of his country of origin, “so I’d rather this result than that.” It’s all relative, I suppose.
  2. Another student said he was grateful for the success of initiative petitions in this state. Indeed, I heard on DemocracyNow! that states had voted on over 160 initiative petitions, and that historically, such things are more common with greater inequality. We are at the highest levels of social inequality since the Gilded Age.
  3. Lastly, in response to many students expressing an attitude of “wait and see,” one student remarked, “People of color can’t wait and see. Immigrants can’t, Muslims can’t, LGBTQ people can’t.”

Woke students protesting Trump. #lovetrumpshate "I will continue to live my life." Using #ows #miccheck

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Today, reflecting on the student walkout where I teach, I wrote the following on Facebook:

What is salient to me in the reaction of aware students to the outbreak of hate in the wake of Trump’s ascendance is their humility. Many who spoke out at a campus protest Wednesday disclaimed their knowledge and ability to covey it. “I’m not a public speaker…” many began. “I’m just a [fill in the blank with the name of a marginal community]…” They know what they don’t know, yet they are beautifully articulate in their authenticity. I feel we have bequeathed to this generation who did not vote for him the worst mess of any of our lives. They do not disappoint in rising to this, and I consider it a privilege to journey with them. Please refuse the narrative of navel–gazing privileged young people. Please support their self–direction as surely as Ella Baker supported SNCC, and my professors supported me. They do not accept easy answers, nor should they. Please listen to them.

On “the morning after,” I wrote the following on Facebook:

The important question now is what hope to offer all whom this outcome “others,” in a nation which has chosen easy lies over hard truths. I don’t think it’s Democrats who need to do soul–searching as much as all of America. It’s not mere “division” that characterizes this outcome, but deliberate, dangerous polarization. It’s deliberate, dangerous polarization at a time we and the world can ill afford it. Perhaps it’s the same sort of hope, against hope, engaged by our sisters and brothers of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, holding by their fingernails to shreds of dignity in a world gone selfish, profligate, and mad.

I’ve waited a decade of teaching for students to become this aware. I’ve waited over thirty years since I was a student myself to see this level of activism among students. I’d rather such leadership appeared under different circumstances, but we do not choose our times. What is important is how we spend our time in what we’re given.

Do we, like my students, cultivate an awareness of the wider world, including the wide world within our borders? Do we look for opportunities for the successes available to us? Do we accurately perceive the forces arrayed against us and respond appropriately?

When politics and economics fail, civil society may avail. We who have tools to share, experiences to offer, perspectives to articulate, must do so. But we must check our privilege, and age is but another vector of privilege. Elise Boulding was prescient to suggest this in her millennially optimistic Cultures of Peace (2000) Young adults will one day run this world, inheriting a past very different from our own. Our experiences may inform, but never fully prepare for a world we could scarcely anticipate. Let’s commit to listen to them and their concerns, thus clinging to shreds of hope to redeem ourselves somewhat from this mess we’ve created for them.

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From the archives: reflecting on an all day rain.

The Considered Kula

It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. We got a good rain on Wednesday, a long soaking rain, good for field and garden and lawn. It was so dry, no rain for a month. The ballpark grass looked dead last Sunday, the lake level fell and rocks showed in the river. It began to rain in the night Tuesday. People woke up and lay listening to it.

— Garrison Keillor, “Rain Means Life Continues in a Town that Time Forgot.” via Times Union – Albany NY. Date: Saturday, November 7, 1987 Section: MAIN,  Page: 1A Excerpted from Leaving Home, published by Viking Penguin Inc.

It is one of those sorts of summer mornings here in my town, which in some ways time has forgot. It’s shaping up to be an “all day rain.”!/drwh0/status/103068979349823488

Sometimes it’s wet
Sometimes it’s dry
You laugh–you forget
what made you cry

via Greg…

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Euthymia – Of Peace of Mind

Somehow I got on the mailing list for someone who runs one of those series of self–help courses, the first step of which is to help the presenter by buying into his philosophy, i.e., his book or online course(s). But in this case, his mailing caught my eye for his spin on the concept of “euthymia,” from Ancient Greek stoic philosophy. Seneca, in a dialog “Of Peace of Mind,” gives us an appreciation of this concept.

What you need, therefore, is, not any of those harsher remedies to which allusion has been made, not that you should in some cases check yourself, in others be angry with yourself, in others sternly reproach yourself, but that you should adopt that which comes last in the list, have confidence in yourself, and believe that you are proceeding on the right path, without being led aside by the numerous divergent tracks of wanderers which cross it in every direction, some of them circling about the right path itself. What you desire, to be undisturbed, is a great thing, nay, the greatest thing of all, and one which raises a man almost to the level of a god. The Greeks call this calm steadiness of mind euthymia, and Democritus’s treatise upon it is excellently written: I call it peace of mind: for there is no necessity for translating so exactly as to copy the words of the Greek idiom: the essential point is to mark the matter under discussion by a name which ought to have the same meaning as its Greek name, though perhaps not the same form. What we are seeking, then, is how the mind may always pursue a steady, unruffled course, may be pleased with itself, and look with pleasure upon its surroundings, and experience no interruption of this joy, but abide in a peaceful condition without being ever either elated or depressed: this will be “peace of mind.”

From: L. Annaeus Seneca, Minor Dialogs Together with the Dialog “On Clemency”; Translated by Aubrey Stewart, M.A., Late Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, pp. 250-287



Immediately I am struck with its similarity to the yogic “virtue”of equanimity, upekśa (borrowed by Patanjali from the Buddhists). But additionally, I am struck with this advice, which is called out in the mail I received from the self help fellow.

have confidence in yourself, and believe that you are proceeding on the right path, without being led aside by the numerous divergent tracks of wanderers which cross it in every direction, some of them circling about the right path itself

So for me, euthymia will have this additional sense of belief or confidence in one’s own path. This reminds me of the advice, deduced from The Bhagavad Gita, that it is a form of violence to follow a dharma other than your own. To me this means to take the advice of others to heart, but ultimately to follow one’s own counsel. We live the truth or falsehood, and consequences of our own actions.

I don’t think this necessarily means an enjoinder to stoicism as much as peace of mind, tranquility. What couldn’t we accomplish with that confidence? How might we also engage others, with that sense of responsibility for our choices?

I’m excited by the discovery of this concept in the most unlikely of places, and I intend to meditate more upon this.

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A little peaceful warrior love

This is fun!

Wholehearted Yoga

When I reposted MC Yogi’s instagram this morning, I got props in a tweet.

I am definitely burning up my 15 minutes of fame.

It looks like he also got props from Trevor Hall, another peaceful warrior who is a favorite of mine.

But this is great because I first heard of MC Yogi from a yoga…

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A Love that Transcends Trump | On Being

If you read one thing today, please consider Omid Safi’s blog post at On Being.

[T]he spiritual must not be confined to the inward, but wash over, cleanse, and redeem the individual, the communal, and the institutional.

via A Love that Transcends Trump | On Being

Boom! He said well one of the things I have been saying all along. It reminds me of U2’s song “Get on Your Boots,” “Here’s where we gotta be / Love and community.”


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#Repost @annalouisewargo with @repostapp ・・・

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Parker Palmer, that consummate teacher and humanitarian, in his blog at On Being, offers this treasure by Mary Oliver. I savor the word “reverence,” also, one of the nine rasas of Tantric psychology, adbhuta (अद्भुत), “wonder” or “astonishment,” I might choose “awe.”

“Mysteries, Yes”
by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

via Choosing to Marvel at Mystery | On Being

For my heart, too is with those who have reverence for mystery, whose regard of what exceeds and astonishes them to bow or kneel or take great delight. As Bruce Cockburn has sung, “Can’t tell me there is no mystery / It overflows my cup.”

You can’t tell me there is no mystery
You can’t tell me there is no mystery
It’s everywhere I turn

Moon over junk yard where the snow lies bright
Snow lies bright
Snow lies bright
Moon over junk yard where the snow lies bright
Can set my heart to burn

Stood before the shaman, I saw star-strewn space
Star-strewn space
Star-strewn space
Stood before the shaman, I saw star strewn space
Behind the eye holes in his face

Infinity always gives me vertigo
Infinity always gives me vertigo
And fills me up with grace

I was built on a Friday and you can’t fix me
You can’t fix me
You can’t fix me
I was built on a Friday and you can’t fix me
Even so I’ve done okay

So grab that last bottle full of gasoline
Grab that last bottle full of gasoline
Light a toast to yesterday

And don’t tell me there is no mystery
And don’t tell me there is no mystery
It overflows my cup

This feast of beauty can intoxicate
This feast of beauty can intoxicate
Just like the finest wine

So all you stumblers who believe love rules
Believe love rules
Believe love rules
Come all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine
Stand up and let it shine

Cultivating an attitude of reverence, perhaps everything in our lives, our everyday lives, can be “Holy Now,” as in this song by Peter Mayer, which parallels my own journey of spiritual experience.

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don t happen still
But now I can t keep track
Cause everything s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything s a miracle

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn t one

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child s face
And say it s not a testament
That d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can t be done

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now

Cultivating an attitude that “everything is holy now,” “come all you stumblers who believe love rules, stand up and let it shine.”

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Friday’s Full Moon – Guru Purnima

From the archives.

As we look forward to another Guru Purnima on Tuesday, July 19, may we look also toward what in the wake of the Anusara crisis yoga teacher Sianna Sherman called “accelerated interior learning.” I do not counsel navel–gazing, but the sort of contemplation that leads to right action.

The Considered Kula

As I begin to write, a large salmon-colored moon is rising in the southeastern sky. It is Guru Purnima.

Guru Purnima is referred to in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata and other texts as the day to worship our Guru, especially “Sat Gurus”, those who teach us about the deeper, spiritual lessons in life. It is said to the most auspicious day to be with your Guru. It was originally called Vyasa Purnima, after the sage and author Veda Vyasa, but with th passage of time has been changed to Guru Purnima.

It occurs on the Full Moon day in the Indian month of Ashada (July – August in the Gregorian calendar system). This is the day when our mind (Moon) can most easily “feel” the Guru, and greater imbibe their wisdom.

via Friday’s Full Moon – Guru Purnima and Vedic Astrology | elephant journal.

Today I played Krishna…

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“The Useless Tree” – Chuang Tzu – Inspiration Pointe

From the archives! But first, a case in point:

The Considered Kula

Last week I was making small talk with a student about another class in which I had seen her taking a test. “Social psychology. It’s very practical.” she quipped. I tried not to take this as a comment upon the subject matter I dearly love, namely, that sociology is impractical. Later, however, as the discussion revolved around exchange theory, and the possible advantage of doing someone a favor, she suggested that social psych had ready the concept of equity. They really aren’t the same because in equity theory, relationships seek balance, but in exchange theory, doing someone a favor creates an imbalance of power, which establishes reciprocity.

I don’t fault the student here, but rather, the whole context in which we operate, one in which the views and findings of sociology are undervalued, especially as impractical, particularly by psychology. It reminds me of Thomas Merton’s interpretation of Chuang Tzu’s parable…

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Yoga philosophy, race, and ‘colorblindness’ — Tantrik Studies

Chris Wallis (Hareesh) provides an insightful and challenging reflection on yoga philosophy and the Black Lives Matter movement that is worth a full read. But here for me is an especially powerful core to his reflection.

[B]efore I try to give anyone a teaching about their innermost Spirit—that within them which is unborn and undying—I had better be ready to see and accept and love the pain of their embodiment.

via Yoga philosophy, race, and ‘colorblindness’ — Tantrik Studies

I especially love its consonance with what I teach about race in Introduction to Sociology, namely that while race is a social construct, it is one with consequences.

[T]hough the reasons we might give for systemic racism are of course mental constructs that we can argue about, the pain suffered by people of color in connection with systemic racism is real, not a story, and it needs to be compassionately witnessed before it can be transcended. [emphasis in original]

I also like how the piece opens with brutal honesty about how his earlier attempts to reconcile yoga philosophy and the challenge of a personal experience of racism had caused another pain and cost him a friendship.

Lastly, he laments that the path of embodiment and awakening has in our culture been reserved for the privileged, and how this was not the original intent of these teachings, which are supposed to be open to all.

In general, Wallis’s work on illuminating Tantra, locating modern postural yoga within Tantric philosophy, and bringing esoteric traditions to modern audiences is of great service to the yoga community. This effort to grapple with a compelling issue of contemporary concern simply enhances his offerings.


When Pema Chödrön and others have begun to break silence on contemporary political issues, we see a sort of “mindfulness rising,” a movement away from what Quakers encountered within their own tradition as “quietism.” When Eastern spiritual traditions as they have taken root in the US take stands on political issues, I think we see their maturity. This hearkens also to Roshi Glassman’s Instructions to the Cook, and various writings by Thich Nhat Hahn, like Love in Action, on “engaged Buddhism”in Vietnam and elsewhere. But is this really new? As Stefanie Syman indicates in The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, Ralph Waldo Emerson was first to introduce the Bhagavad Gita in the US, and Henry David Thoreau, whose essay on the duty of civil disobedience inspired Gandhi, King and others, may have been trying to practice yoga at Walden Pond.

In taking a nondual approach to embodiment and enlightenment, we see the fundamental unity of liberation of personality and community. This is one of the things this blog was supposed to be about. I keep promising a more systematic treatment of this, and current events keep telling me it’s high time.

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