Year of The Fire Rooster: Little Awakenings Become Big With Practice

From my friend Sarah

Providence Institute: Sarah's Blog

Year of The Fire Rooster

Losar Tashi Delek!

Happy Tibetan New Year!

In this video message, The Venerable Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoceh tells us that The Year of The Fire Rooster is an opportunity for awakening. Roosters crow to wake everyone up, and the fire rooster does it rather urgently. These are dark times, no doubt about it, but we can awaken to a more harmonious reality by practicing meditation, by practicing the paramitas, by focusing on our own thoughts, words, and actions. In fact, that is, according to the Dharma, the only way we can truly find peace and happiness.

He reminds us that progress is our friend. We don’t have to go for perfection right away. That will only lead to disappointment. If we practice, we can enjoy little moments of awakening that grow like the moon at Losar, the Tibetan new year. It starts as a new moon with no light. Gradually, step…

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And no one knows where the night is going…

Since November 8th, 2016 I feel as if I am in that whirlpool, but I am completely surrendered to the totality of the experience. To try to struggle against the immensity of this force would be useless. I’m just experiencing it moment to moment.

The election of a sexual predator as the President of the  United States, for me as a woman who has lived with a life time of verbal harassment, lewd gestures, exhibitionism, groping,  and rape is abhorrent. I was first raped when I was 3 years old. The last time I was sexually harassed I was 59 when two men stood at either end of the exit from a super market as I left the store. The first one said to me as I walked by him, just loud enough for only me to hear, “Tits” and the second one completed the sentence as I walked past him, “and ass.” There is no age at which a woman is safe in this country.

I have a few other problems with his character – his racism, his bigotry, his Islama-phobia. I am not reacting to his political program which seem about as clear as swamp water. It is his overt disregard for common human decency and respect that’s got me a whirl and the fact that his modeling of character has emboldened a tide of unacceptable behavior by others who hate.

I along with a lot of other people I know are in a state of experiencing that the center has not held.  Since the moment it was clear he would win, I have fallen into a vortex of energy, where there is no up or down, no left or right, just intense movement, intense energy. Darkness and light are in there. Anger, compassion, fear, resolve, despair, and activation of the sacred activist in me are in there.

It’s an intense immersion into an understanding of the groundlessness of reality. I tell you, it’s totally perfect non-dualist chaos and form co-arising.

Are you feeling it too?

I am, to paraphrase Swami Kripalu, “observing myself (and others) without judgement.” This is a big part my spiritual practice as a yogini, especially lately. It is about all I can do to work with my mind. That said, I am doing things. I’m engaging in the work of sacred activism, but that call for a separate post.

Then, Leonard Cohen passed away.

I must confess that last autumn, listening to his music and singing along as I mourned my sister’s death, that his music helped me make sense of it all and connect to the incredible joy of loving the world as it is with all it’s multitude of contradictions, it’s ugliness and beauty arising simultaneously.

And today his song, “The Guests” did that for me again today.

“The Guests”
— Leonard Cohen

One by one, the guests arrive
The guests are coming through 
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few
And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh love I need you
I need you
I need you
I need you
Oh . . . I need you now 

And those who dance, begin to dance
Those who weep begin
And “Welcome, welcome” cries a voice
“Let all my guests come in.”

And no one knows where the night is going …

And all go stumbling through that house
in lonely secrecy
Saying “Do reveal yourself”
or “Why has thou forsaken me?”

And no one knows where the night is going …

All at once the torches flare
The inner door flies open
One by one they enter there
In every style of passion

And no one knows where the night is going …

And here they take their sweet repast
While house and grounds dissolve
And one by one the guests are cast
Beyond the garden wall

And no one knows where the night is going …

Those who dance, begin to dance
Those who weep begin
Those who earnestly are lost
Are lost and lost again

And no one knows where the night is going …

One by the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The broken-hearted many
The open-hearted few

And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh love I need you
I need you
I need you
I need you
Oh . . . I need you now

Head Into the Wind; Reef the Sails

Reefing Sails Around Diamond Shoals, Cape Hatteras by Winslow Homer

Reefing Sails Around Diamond Shoals, Cape Hatteras by Winslow Homer

I grew up sailing, thanks to my father, a man raised in landlocked Arkansas, who as a young boy dreamed of sailing. I learned many things from my father, but I think today, November 9, 2016 is a day I appreciate the lesson of how stay alive at sea in a storm.

When the wind gets too heavy from a storm and threatens to capsize your boat, you can do two things.

Put out a storm anchor. The anchor drags behind the boat and stabilizes it. Sometimes you need two anchors. Whatever it takes to keep you heading INTO THE WIND. You cannot try to run away from the wind, if you turn sideways, you’ll roll over. If you run from it, you’ll be driven by the winds, perhaps grounded onto rocks and crushed. Or a giant wave will roll over you and flip you over backwards.

When you “head into the wind.” The sails make a chaotic flapping sound and the boat starts lurching every which way. It feels so counter-intuitive to do this. But, when you do, as chaotic and jumble as it all feels, you can reef the sails (bring them down to 1/2 or 1/3 of their usual height) thus using less sail to access the immense power of the wind, and you can continue sailing, despite the storm, which basically means you harness the power that can destroy you to stabilize and ride it out.

I actually had to do this once when we were sailing and I had to tie myself to the boat in order to do this without being washed overboard. It takes teamwork to do these life-saving maneuvers. Life jackets mandatory.

Remember, put out your storm anchors and head into the wind. Harness the power of the storm.


Work, work, work, or live. What kind of choice is that?

Isn’t the problems that parents face about our work culture? Parents who take time out of work to raise children, when they return to work end up with 75% of the salaries of their peers. In the meantime, if they work, the may miss their children’s first words, steps, and all the first that follow until they themselves begins to work and/or have children.

Feminism points at the problem, but it’s bigger than sexism.

The general set of expectations of salaried workers is that they will work ceaselessly: sixty or more hours per week, answering email at midnight, never, never disconnecting from work. Going on vacation means working “remotely.”

The realities of the wage workers is that they will need to have two jobs and two to make ends meet. If they have children both parents will have to do so. 

Nobody gets to live life! Buried in work people are not only missing their children growing up, we are missing being part of a community (other than the work place.) We are missing falling in love with our planet, our home, and as a result, letting the planet we depend upon self-destruct as a viable habitat for ourselves an all other living beings.

I suspect that for many people, acquiescence to the work culture is a means of covering over the panic deep inside regarding the current Earth crisis (Climate change, mass extinction, the beginning of the Anthropecene Age.) The mandate for workaholism as the norm, is work-addiction that keeps us from being awake to the real work that needs to happen now if our children are to grow up on a habitable planet.

We are missing everything. Standard work in America is like dry toast, with a side serving of more dry toast. All that dry toast sucks the life out of a person. It’s insanity.

I’d like to see Earthism, Humanism, Loveism.

Read the article that prompted me to write this:

Hillary Clinton’s generation aimed to free women from domestic prisons. But work is a prison, too.
Urban Eco Yoga

Urban Eco Yoga

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First, let me say that for the past three weeks I’ve been stuck on trying to write blog posts that seem only to beget further blog posts in a long story about the past 4 months that I’m afraid, dear reader, will never get told chronologically. But it’s OK because time isn’t really chronological either. But wait, I digress. So today I decided the only way to tell you about my path is to write about the yogini’s practice day by day. So on to today…


Urban Eco Yoga

OK, OK, I know the title
is reaching
so hard to be hip,
I realize I must apologize,
but I just couldn’t help myself.
It’s not a brand, I swear, it’s just what I did today.

I’m apologizing because
you know
these days…

~~~ y o g a ~~~
has got to be marketed
as a cool, sexy,
athletic, hot, sweaty,
bikini cladden,
six pack, spiritual,
erotic & exotic,
core strength enlightened,
everlasting fountain of youth
and above all eco friendly way to

~~~ be ~~~
in harmony with yourself
and the world while
c h i l l
o u t 
r e l a x x x
and get mellow while tending to
and detoxifying your
precious temple of a body,
or maybe just keep it moving one more day
so you can keep sucking up this precious breath called life
and breathing back joy to the world!

But wait, there’s more…
You can purify your mind
of all that shit inside you
that gets in your way
when you try to
naturally resting in your own true nature.

And you really really can.
It’s right here.

Because today I really did
I invited the snow to love my body
and the earth to soak up the pain
and the sun to radiate my mind
as the planes left disappearing trails
in the perfect blue sky
while solo seagulls mysteriously soared high above
heading north following the storm
while I moved my body with my breath
and came into wholeness in prasarita padasana
while my neighbors car came on automatically
to warm up, no more than 15 feet from where I am
breathing, moving, receiving and loving the earth.

And I thought to myself how the central Americans don’t understand that the car will be OK when its 29 degrees out. You don’t need to warm it up for 20 minutes. You are the one who is understandably cold having come from a place where there is no snow, but your car is not really that cold. I once lived in northern New Hampshire, and most cars don’t really have that much trouble until it hits about 20 below zero and then you’d better have a engine block heater, or half an hour to warm up your car (if you can get it started) just to make it so the transmission fluid thaws enough to allow the gears to move, and the oil can actually circulate to keep all the parts moving. 

And then realizing that I was thinking…
about my neighbor so uncharitably because I was uncomfortable with the possibility that he had been watching me do yoga in the snow, and I wouldn’t really blame anyone who didn’t know me and saw me doing that thinking I was really crazy, loco, or whatever you call it in your lingo when you see a nearly 60 year old woman with a big belly and breasts rolling around in the snow in her back yard smiling ecstatically.

And then realizing that thinking had gotten me out of the flow.
This mind is like that.
It gets poked by the world and tries to push it away with anger.
And then when the yogini sees the anger story and drops it the mind comes back to the underlying fear story.

It hears a car turn on and immediately jumps to feeling labeled as crazy, and then invents a story to defend against the more painful story of having had that really said about me to me publicly, before a listening crowd of 100+ people, in an AA meeting, in New Hampshire when I was living in the place where I learned about what real cold can do to cars and when I was barely hanging on to not committing suicide because the ptsd had gotten so bad that I hadn’t slept in 3 months because nightmares would wake me up screaming and consequently all my mental defenses broke down and I fell into a pit of remembering and re-seeing and re-hearing horrors and terrors of childhood. In that state I was told “You don’t belong here.” by a man who stood up to say it. After attending thousands of AA meetings, 7 years of abiding with everyone’s story because that’s how that program works. After the meeting there were 99 people who had nothing to say to me. It was life threatening. I almost died. 

The mind is like that.
It picks up the thread again and again even after the yogini dropped it in her practice again and again and is now simply writing about having a story intrude on today’s practice.

After the yogini drops the fear story, it goes on to an annihilation story.

So now you know the practice can become noticing thoughts and stories and ways of reacting to the world as if stories about the world were true. And seeing that they are all just thoughts. I see myself letting that old shit get in the way of now and so I turn back, away from these thoughts to…

my practice of simply

~~ being ~~
~~ breathing ~~
~~ moving ~~
~~ seeing ~~
~~ sensing ~~
~~ feeling ~~
~~ breathing ~~
~~ being ~~

in the web of life
in my urban home
and radiating gratitude back
to the snow and the earth and the sun and the sky and the airplane trail and the mysterious seagulls and the air and the trees and the dog who is barking two backyards over and even my neighbor who didn’t say a word when he finally saw me, though he had to try hard not to stare.

So when the asana practice comes to an end
and the interrupting thoughts come to an end,
I decide to build a wall.

Yes, a wall between me and my Latino neighbor.
No, I am not.
Not supporting Donald Trump.
I’m just trying to get some privacy for my urban eco yoga
so as to not let being self-conscious
get my mind off on a trip again of stories that
have no useful meaning to me or my neighbor now.
Thoughts that I do not want to belong to.
Gotta take it in stages, you know, letting go of those stories.

And then again, how long has it been since I built a snow wall to hide behind?
At least 15 years.
What better way to continue todays urban eco yoga practice than to
crawl around on all fours
in the snow
in my back yard
under my dormant wild plum trees that have terrible thorns but make really fantastic plum conserve, so I decided to call them my nemesis trees that I can’t get rid of but can’t stop loving anyway despite it’s thorns even as I dodge them while rolling up my snow boulders hoping I won’t get pricked in the head.

Rolling balls of snow up and packing them together
to made a modestly sized privacy screen
and not doing the ghetto thing
you know, hanging up some wires to some poles
and hanging an old bed sheet.
in the
in the city
roll around
in the snow
make love
to the earth
the sun bathes us
in radiance

I’m taking my yoga back yoga to the yoga
of the cave yogis in Himalayas walking naked clothed in charnel ground ashes and bathing in the ice cold Ganges as she flows forth from the womb of the mountains to purify the sins the yogis have taken on for others as an act of devotion — taking on another’s karma and living a life that burns karma up in the heat of practice and turns it into bliss and then even the bliss is purified and there is emptiness in the blueness we call sky. Or maybe they are just bums begging for alms and the ashes, dreadlocks and holding your arm up in the air pointing towards God and never putting it down, never. It just atrophies there after a few years while the uncut fingernails curl inward toward the withered hand. All that is just their act. Or not. And they really are burning up karmic baggage to free people from the wheel of living life after life trying to learn how to be free.

I know that a Providence back yard snow practice can’t compare
to how high you get in the thin mountain air of Mount Kailash
with nothing but azure blue sky above you and Lake Mansarovar reflecting the cloudless clear eye of limitless space. But I live here, in Providence. And limitless space is here too.

And my devotion is not to the god above but to the earth below around above and within me. Earth, this loving organism I happen to exist within at the beginning of the 21st century. I am consciously loving it back because the earth web of life is rippling and ripping apart in crisis that I cannot stop. And yet I must do something. I can love, I can listen, see, feel, breathe unfettering my mind, throwing away my framework and just  experience the web and the ecstatic beauty of it all, even the people on the bus who smell so bad you can’t get within 3 yards of them without gagging. Especially then I’m taking in the karma of isolation and powerlessness and othering and especially the crazy collective dream that destroys our home, the earth. I’m breathing it in when I can and breathing out love which is the only antidote I have to this particular karmic time bomb I call earth crisis.

And I am a woman. Yogini are as common as pennies these days, but in the arc of time and the history of yoga I am rare because I am not a man.

Because I am a woman and I am not reaching heavenward, but earthward, I can sit upon a pile of snow and feel the snow compact and conform to the contours of my vulva, welcoming the snow and the earth into me
as my sacred divine sexual pure love nature inhabits me during this sacred act of connection and devotion that joins my axis with the spiraling mirrored trees of life that are churning the divine ocean of existence into being at this very moment.

Providence founded upon the principle of freedom in religious conscious, so certainly Providence can have a snow yogini.

Why not?

And who the hell cares if an old hippie
has to do her practice with her body
touching the ground?

And then I went inside and got my phone and snapped some pictures for you so you could see today’s practice in case you didn’t feel like reading all that much.