A Coincidence & A Dance

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I live in Park Slope – a Brooklyn neighborhood with numerous highlights, one of which is “stoop recycling”.  It is unanimously agreed upon that anyone can leave a box of books just outside their stoop and everyone else is free to take as many as they like.  These boxes are almost always empty by the end of one day. I LOVE books – so this has always been pretty exciting to me.

I used to live in Hawaii – which perhaps due to daily light rain showers, does not have this practice.  Although they have a delightful one of sharing the abundance from mango and other fruit trees that grow in their backyards.  I LOVE mango – so I was equally pleased.

While living in Hawaii, I took one of those fateful walks home along a different route.  And stumbled upon a Park Slope style box of books. I couldn’t believe it. I think I even looked around as if waiting for someone to tug on a string and pull the box back as I reached down.  Instead, I found a treasure trove of books by Ram Dass and Krishnamurti . I was early on in my yoga path, not yet even calling it a path, and had no idea who those men were. I did, however, recognize the word “yoga” and scooped them up.

only dance there is coverI chose the book with a psychedelic dancer on front (later I would learn this to be Nataraja – the dancing destroyer siva), and opened to the first page:

“Last evening…as one of the journeyers on a path, a very, very old path, the path of consciousness, I, in a sense, met with the Explorers Club to tell about the geography I had been mapping”

And so begins The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass. The book that launched my understanding of yoga as so much more than the physical practice.  In a very real way, I have been journeying on this ancient path following the maps laid out by the greats, and exploring the occasional off shoot of my own, ever since those words entered me.  Ram Dass has been an integral part of that experience, and a continual guide and inspiration.

He has written a number of remarkable books, yet this is one I return to over and over. He has a true gift with words, and shines best, in my opinion, through the recordings of the numerous talks he has given over the years (many of which are now being released on the free podcast “Here and Now”).  This book, a collection of such talks, remains my favorite.

Which is why Yoga Between the Lines – yoga book club – is reading it for May & June.  Learn more about the club, and then pick up your copy and join fellow explorers!

Missed the beginning of the book club? No worries! The format of the book is perfect for jumping in anywhere!

Cross Pollination

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David Montgomery, a geomorphologist (a geologist that specializes in the study of changing topography over time), was recently in conversation with Krista Tippett for her radio show, On Being. Among many insightful thoughts, David shared his interest in promoting cross pollination between science and religion.  His recent book specifically works towards bridging what he has often experienced as a rather contentious relationship between the two.

My teacher, Michael Stone, recently co-led a retreat working on bringing together Judaism and Buddhism study and practices. Not in an attempt to Frankenstein the practices together, but to engage in dialogue.

“Religion is a long conversation going on for thousands of year about what’s important, by people struggling with figuring out what’s important, and how to open up to what’s important with each other.”

The ability to open up that conversation between religions allows us to see our particular perspective’s blind spots. I believe that if we’re very honest we would agree, without loss of faith or love, our own particular religion is not perfect.

We would similarly, without loss of faith or love, duly agree we are not perfect. This idea of cross-pollination is just what we need more of in our practice.  Reading yoga books alone only gets us so far. Meditation and introspection alone only get us so far.  Practicing asana without feedback or guidance only gets us so far.

When I engage in conversation with my fellow explorers, their conversations come back to me over the weeks to come – snippets and threads that inspire me, move me pass blocks, or just point out blind spots I had no inkling to even look for.

1) Thank you to my fellow explorers – you have impacted who I am more than you know.  Be grateful to your own – let them know.Yarn and knitting needles_1

2) Be willing to cross-pollinate.  Engage in conversation with other yogis – but also with Buddhist, Christians, Atheists, Scientists, Artists, Lovers, Poets, Athletes – anyone who has a passion and exploratory spirit is ready with insights to share, even if they don’t know it.  Ram Dass was giving a lecture and noticed an old lady in the front row. He knew there was no way she way there to hear about all the drugs and alternate realities and yoga practices and gurus and such. And yet everytime he went a step deeper, he looked over to see the lady nodding – totally on board and getting it. At the end they spoke, and she said how he was so right on. He asked what her practice was. She told him it was knitting.

3) Join us for Yoga Between the Lines and Satsang: Meditation & Dharma Discussion for some cross pollinating in Brooklyn!

Yoga Between the Lines starts a new book: The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass in May

Satsang meets this Thursday: 7:30pm at Mala Yoga – $15