Yoga + Vonnegut + Tikkun Olam

In yoga class this morning, the boy next to me had an ankle tattoo: So it goes. It's the classic refrain from Kurt Vonnegut's  Slaughterhouse Five. I thought: What a perfect mantra. It says everything and nothing, same as yoga, same as meditation. After class, I had an opportunity to chat with the studio owner, a woman I call the Reluctant Yoga Mogul for her reticent manner and burgeoning yoga business. I know from my dealings with her at Cleveland Yoga, Tami's business plan is: Do the Right Thing. If you have punches left on your pass and your pass has expired, she'll extend your pass. If you forgot to bring your credit card and need to purchase a class, no problem. Pay online when you get home. Today, Tami was hosting a Kenyan yogi named Walter whom she had meet through the African Yoga Project. She was pleased with the class he taught because he had emphasized the connection between a yoga practice and tikkun olam (my words, not Tami's). But tikkun olam is what she meant. It's our duty to repair the world. Yoga means union and when you can feel an undercurrent of connectedness between doing good for the outward world and healing ourselves on the inside, that is when yoga happens.

So it goes. Namaste. And thanks Mr. Vonnegut.

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel

Mirror Images

Synchronicity is the flipped around backwards mirror image of déjà vu. With déjà vu, you have a familiar experience that seems to have happened before. With synchronicity, a person you haven’t seen in ages pops into your thoughts and a moment later this very same person telephones you or you run into her at the park or in the grocery store. I used to call this sort of thing coincidence, but since I began my meditation practice about a year and a half ago, I call it synchronicity. This is a powerful concept that can be delightful and entertaining, as in the time my husband Joe mentioned his old college buddy as we walked by the Russian Tea Room. We were visiting New York City and the memory inspired Joe to call up his old friend only to learn that his friend was also visiting New York City and had lunch that very day at the Russian Tea Room.

But synchronicity can also be disturbing and it can lead to more questions than answers. When there are no coincidences, meaning resonates everywhere and sometimes that echo can be deafening. The most mundane patterns are disturbing.  I have an unfortunate habit of turning in too sharply when I pull into my garage and denting the front bumper of my car.  I wonder: does this mean something more than the fact that I have some peripheral vision issues and I'm in too much of a hurry too much of the time?

Meditation leads to questions. Many have no answers, but some lead to discovery. I celebrate the underlying and inexplicable connections between what goes on inside my head and what goes on in the concrete outside world even when it all looks upside down and backwards.

Capitalist Karma

Corporations have come to meditation with the hope of boosting their bottom line. Decrease stress:  increase productivity and develop leadership skills. Why not? Besides, who am I to judge? I also came to meditation with a secret desire for increased creativity and productivity. If you have a goal, you're not meditating. But everyone I know who has come to meditation came for a reason.

  • Sleeplessness
  • Attention Deficit
  • Focus
  • Productivity
  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Enlightenment

Meditation may or may not fix any of these issues, but it will definitely bring a change and will definitely reveal something obvious about your life that for some reason was not apparent before. Just because the goal is workplace efficiency or a more profitable bottom line, it doesn't rule out the possibility that meditation will bring about unexpected benefits that were never the goal of the program. For me, that is the point of meditation. It's now what you are seeking, but what you find.

So for my money, more meditation for the suits! Let every corporation instill a meditation program. Bring on the capitalist karma.

Transition Bridge

The most difficult part is not that I must sit in stillness. I can relax, breathe, repeat the mantra, and avoid the torture of my thoughts for twenty minutes. But when my eyes pop open, twenty minutes on the dot after I've sat down (my mantra might as well be punctual) I cannot spend that all important two minutes gazing at the ground and taking the time to re-enter.I've already begun the next thing on my to-do list. In my wold, it's all metaphor all the time. I once helped my son Adam with a high school essay. The verdict from his teacher: Where are your transitions? Yeah. I know. I jump from sentence to sentence, idea to idea, stage of life to stage of life and none of it's graceful.

I'd like to build a bridge between my meditative life and my active life. To travel the bridge between who I am and who I'd like to be.

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Meditation is a tool that allows us to see connectivity, to trust what your logical self tells you is not there. The future connected to the past, connected by the tenuous and the tentative. Breaths of transition. The bridge of breaths.

Re/\Active

Unknown I used to think that meditation made me less reactive. I was wrong.

I get hurt, I get angry, I get irrational. I react. But, since I have begun to meditate, there is a pause between the action from without and my response from within. The beat between the hurt and my response is charged. The pause gives me the freedom to set the rhythm of my response. It is not that I wound softer or deflect better. But the ability to beguile time, even a little, to be my ally instead of my adversary, that is the wonder of meditation.

Lori Ellen Wald

Yesterday, when I sat down to meditate, the usual mantra didn't feel right. I usually go with Sat Chit Ananda or Who Am I, but yesterday the  name given to me by parents popped into my head. I miss my old name, so I thought, why not? I'll use my birth name to coax the thoughts from my head to my heart.  This was harder than you might imagine. Every time I repeated my three original names, I met myself with resistance. In my mind, I stumbled over the words, then automatically slipped back to my usual mantras. Lori Ellen Wald and Martin Wald

I tried again today. I repeated my birth name to myself several times in a row, but every time I resisted. A name is a power house of emotion. I miss my old name, but perhaps it doesn't fit me anymore.

Broke Karma

Instant Karma! First my watch band broke. Then, I backed into a car in my driveway. Yesterday it was a light bulb and a string of pearls. Small things. Buttons gone missing. Appointments I've scheduled disappear. Sales people ignore me. An airline reservationist hung up on me.

My karma is off. I tripped on the sidewalk and fell down, scraped my knee, tore my jeans. A woman in the grocery store today bumped into me with her cart. Nothing tragic, but everything out of whack.

Meditation makes me notice. Something's not right and I am aware.

All the Things Left Undone: Days Two Hundred Forty One - Two Hundred Forty Four

For weeks now, I can't get a song out of my head. It's a song from my past and I haven't heard it for thirty years, at least not until the other day when I finally looked it up and listened to it on Spotify.  The song is called Twenty Million Things from the late Lowell George's (lead singer from Little Feat) solo album.  I loved the melancholic haunting quality of his sweet, sad voice. His song, Twenty Million  Things, could have been my anthem and still could be.

From a meditator's perspective: thoughts don't pop into one's head for no reason. There's some message or some connection to what lies beneath the surface. It is a connection to the obviousness of the universe which is never obvious before the point in time when it becomes, well, obvious. The connection between all things, sometimes fragile, often tenuous, lies beneath the surface of the twenty million things on a to-do list. So,why this song now? The song plays over and over in my head, when I'm walking the dog, driving around on errands, trying to get work done.

My to-do list torments and taunts, but not more than usual.Still, when I first began to meditate, I cleaned out several drawers and around all the objects in the drawers, I created a beautiful blank space. I thought the impulse to declutter was a new part of my persona. I thought I owned it. I'm still meditating, but the mess is back. My desk is piled high, my drawers are stuffed, the counters in the kitchen are a halfway house for objects I can't seem to throw away. I don't know if the strains of the melody in  my head are related to my dissatisfaction with the disorganization that is my life, or if there is some other connection. Perhaps a connection to the time of my life when I used to listen to this album. Or is it something more obvious than is apparent to me?

The song is speaking to me and all I can do is try to hear it.

 

If it's fix a fence, fender dents I've got lots of experience Rent gets spent All the letters never written, that don't get sent It comes from confusion, all things I left undone It comes from moment to moment, day to day The time seems to slip away

But I've got twenty million things to do, twenty million things All I can think about is you With twenty million things Twenty million things to do

I've got mysterious wisteria hanging in the air The rocking chair I was supposed to fix Well it came undid And all the things that I let slip, I found out quick It comes from moment to moment, day to day The time seems to slip away

But I've got twenty million things to do, twenty million things All I can do, is think about you With twenty million Twenty million things to do

Who I Am vs. Who I Was: Days Two Hundred Thirty Six - Two Hundred Forty

It's hard, no, it's impossible to quantify and qualify what meditation has done for me. I am different than I was two hundred forty days ago, I'm quite sure, but I'm not at all sure how I am different. Part of this is because I don't remember who Lori was eight months ago. Was I more irritable? Less open to new possibilities? Not as satisfied with the little victories I accomplished? When I think about personality traits, qualities, faults, in a general way, I can't recall. But when I get down to specifics, things do seem a little different. Today I visited with an old college friend whom I haven't seen for at least five years. We figured out we could meet at the art museum in a town halfway between the both of us. This might not seem like much, but it took some time and some effort to figure out a workable plan. Possibilities need nurturing or poof! they pop and disappear not with a bang but a whimper.

The distance between the person I am and the person I want to be has not lessened. There is a vast gulf between us, but I have dipped a toe in the water and am contemplating the distance from a new vantage point.

Find Light: Days One Hundred Ninety-Five - One Hundred Ninety Six

Some days when I go in to find my third eye, that spot of light between my eyes I can see when I close my eyes, I find a jewel blue spot, brilliant and beautiful, and I coax that circle of blue down towards my heart.  But some days, like today, the light is scratchy and filmy and barely there at all.  "That's okay," I tell myself as I meditate, "Bring what you have to your heart.  Keep trying."