Tuesday, December 13, 2011

B.I.C Memoir

A white woman stared daggers into my person as we ate cookies and exchanged Obama stickers on the sub couches – an obvious McCain supporter. The atmosphere tensed and the night progressed culminating in a speech given by our nation’s President: Barack Obama. We danced, we sang, we cried, we watched as crowds of people flooded onto 5th street to march in celebration. After picking up our things from inside, we followed suit. November 4th, 2008. That night would serve as one of my many crash courses in Race Relations in America 101.
The scene I met outside the S.U.B on 5th street brought me to tears. I had seen this scene in black and white in my textbooks. Police cars littered the streets. Students were divided racially along the street amid a sea of yells, screams and confusion. I heard the following statements flung around.
“What happened?”
“What’s going on?”
“Why are you crying?!”
“Are you hurt?”
“We should pray.”
“No, we should fight.”
Moments before we caught up with the marchers, a group of white students had unleashed waves of racial slurs, rocks, tennis balls, spit, and shoves – much of which was not publicized – on the unsuspecting marchers. I stood huddled together with a few friends that had gone before me – most of us female. Large pick-up trucks filled with rambunctious white males were spotted driving around and for fear of our safety, the men around us would not allow the black females to return to their respective residences unaccompanied. This brought me to tears. I remember, my roommate at the time, my best-friend from high school, sighed, shook her head and said: “well, I’m gonna go home.” I was stunned. The gravity of what had just occurred had apparently evaded her. I know it was not her skin color, but her life perspective that impeded her from being profoundly moved by the situation. Yet, I found it hard to shake my anger with her.
I was escorted home in a group. I walked in numb. Sat on my bed. Cried. Called my parents and had a conversation that will follow me to the grave. Both of my parents are very emotional and passionate people. The apple didn’t fall to far from the tree on that one. However, when I spoke with my father the tone of his voice was so atypical to what I would have expected. In general, he is the most excitable of all of us. Nonetheless, as I cried my situation out to him, he sat in silenced. His first question was of my safety. He then proceeded to tell me the following: “ welcome to the real world my love. Racism is not dead Kyneshawau. There are still a lot of ignorant people out in the world who hate you, would like to hurt you, or kill you just for the color of your skin; many of whom you can’t change. Just be safe, stay aware of your surroundings. We love you.”
A sobering thought. I was so na├»ve as to believe that racism was a dying art; existing on life support in the backcountry of the boondocks. Not so. Racism was alive and well and on that night had reared it’s ugly head in a more overt way than usual. I began to reconsider staying at Baylor. Perhaps all the things that my family and friends had told me about this place were true. A conservative institution, steeped in racial and social discord and intolerance. Further evidence for these claims were provided when there was news of a noose found on campus, later discredited. However, this sparked a stream of attention of previous hate crimes that had occurred on campus; attacks on Muslim students, harassment of Jewish students, a noose hung years prior. I really began to believe that this place was not me, not somewhere I needed to be. After all, this institution was part of a community that had celebrated and picnicked the burning and lynching of a man.
The next event that altered my view of this institution, the world, and my enrollment here involved issues of sexuality. I am queer, although, I did not come out until spring break of my sophomore year. Prior to coming out, however, I identified as an ally – a staunch ally. Growing up in Austin, rainbows were welcome reminders of tolerance and acceptance from the community. I knew Baylor could be a hostile place towards my LGBT brothers and sisters. Consequently, my roommate and I drew a rainbow on our white board surrounded by words like “equality,” “love” and “peace” as well as the phrase: ”this is a safe place.” We hung it up on our door. Several days later, my CL visited us; requesting on behalf of the residential hall director that we take it down. Baylor has a strict sexuality policy that does not allow for such signs. How this sign was more offensive than the posters of Abercrombie models, and “I like boys” signs, was beyond me. I had become so very disenchanted with Baylor. I had reached one of my lowest places in my Baylor career, and seriously contemplated leaving.
Several weeks later, as I sat at a desk outside my door finishing up some homework I felt a poke at my back. I turn to see a familiar face. She asks me if I was the one who had the rainbow sign on my door. I brace myself for the pending condemnation, stare her forcefully in the eye, and reply: “yes.” She loosens up and a flood words follow. She speaks of her roommate who was gay and alienated. Her roommate saw the sign and had not stopped talking about it! She was so happy to discover individuals where she wouldn’t have to hide aspects of herself. I was stunned. In just a short amount of time, that little sign had impacted one person’s life. Little events like these would ultimately contribute to my decision to not just remain at Baylor but to seek to actualize change.
Additionally, I got by with a little help from my friends and the B.I.C. program. Many of my closest friends I have today I met through B.I.C. We connected over long nights measured in ounces of coffee, slices of pizza, shared raged, and philosophical debates. The friends, intellects I’ve come to love in B.I.C reminded me that I was not alone. That I did not rage against the prejudices I experienced here alone. I took solace in that fact and ultimately re-evaluated my situation at Baylor. Essentially, I’ve come to know adversity as my greatest teacher. Opposition only sharpened my ability to articulate what I believed, giving me the ability to truly understand beliefs. I realized that leaving Baylor does nothing for my personal growth and welfare, nor that of the institution. In all humility I say that Baylor University needs me and my perspective (as well as those like me).
I had been warned of Baylor’s small population of African Americans, sordid racial history, caustic atmosphere to liberals and overall conservative environment. These assertions were made in hopes of deterring me from enrolling at Baylor University. The fact is those are precisely the reason’s why I, and others like me apply and should continue to apply. I discovered that I must be where the fight is. Hiding within places of comfort yields stagnation, impedes growth and thwarts the realization of change. The only way to bring change is for the faces of those who comprise the University to become diverse. I am a colorful addition indeed.
I am a queer black female; a minority three times over. My socio-cultural identity forces me to be cognizant of different set of cultural rules, societal currents and attitudes. By virtue of birth and circumstance, I am equipped with intimate knowledge of the issues regarding underrepresented sectors of society. Nonetheless, my perspective is often times lacking from the literature discussed in academia and indeed the world at large. Even in B.I.C., rarely did we discuss the works and contributions of individuals whose faces resembled mine, or who identified sexually as I did.
This is an important critique I would offer of the B.I.C. I felt as though, although some professors made particular efforts to make the voices of women and minorities heard – it did not occur as often as I would have liked. Often times I did not hear the voices of my ancestors articulated in any meaningful way. For instance, I recall a lecture given on the civil rights movement (an ongoing struggle that actually spans centuries) was reduced down into one 40 min lecture on Rosa Parks, accompanied by a lecture on gospel music. Feminist history, historical contributions of women, and feminist theory were examined, which was greatly appreciated. However, too often this was largely from the perspective of white, middle class women in western society, whose interests at times were not as relevant to the everyday condition of minority women. This is true of the institution as a whole.
Nonetheless, B.I.C. was often times an oasis of thought. I had heard horror stories from my colleagues in General Education about the type of things said, and the way various subjects were approached. The interdisciplinary approach is something without which, I don’t believe I would have been able to remain at Baylor. This program and the approach towards education tethered me to this institution and added fuel to my desire to be active. From the Examined life course to Capstone, B.I.C. calls for a deeper educational experience – one that extends beyond the classroom. A recurring theme for the programs has been: “The unexamined life, is not worth living.” It doesn’t view liberal education as a means to an end but rather a tool that will equip one to be an eternal student of life; asking questions, staying informed, and self-examining constantly. Although the students were not always as open and culturally aware as I would have expected the faculty maintained the integrity of academic studies in a liberal arts tradition. It was refreshing to hear of other cultures, other ethnicities, and religions other than Christianity examined in ways that were not degrading, patronizing condescending or paternalistic.
B.I.C. validated things that I had already held true: be weary of blindly submitting to truths with a capital T, there is worth and value in all cultures, all aspects of the human experience are to be examined together - parceling them out yields an inadequate picture. Most importantly B.I.C. celebrated dialogue! Dialogue, exposure, the sharing of ideas and opinions – the debates held in class (and even outside of class) will always stay with me. This approach challenges you: how can one be said to have an opinion if it can not be articulated. By rubbing up against opposition, the true jewel of thought, the core of our beliefs is exposed. The ability to do that is acquired and is something that will benefit me lifelong. Furthermore, this approach aided me in my social activism on campus.
The incidents from freshman year that I mentioned above involve issues that mean a lot to me - racial and sexual equality. Thus I became involved with organizations on campus that sought to address issues of racial and sexual prejudice on campus. I'm a tenacious person. If there is something I want, I will move to acquire it. Thus, in addition to an education, I wanted change here on campus. This was such an intangible concept. However, in the spirit of B.I.C., I believed changes inception resides in dialogue. It was a frightening thought. However, I knew courage to not be the absence of fear, but rather action amid fear. Harnessed it can yield mobility, not paralysis. So I began to speak; to become involved in organizations that fostered dialogue, discussion between opposing parties, forums, etc. Additionally, I began to let my life be something that invited dialogue. As terrified as I was, I came out. I marched with for multiculturalism. I've participated in the grassroots efforts of two groups on campus that have fought for recognition and dialogue for LGBT students and issues regarding sexual identity. I have participated in coalitions lobbying administration for greater multiculturalism groups, events, services, and spaces on campus. I spoke and conversed with all who would listen and engage and have not turned back since. I've had to defend my beliefs, my activism against colleagues, friends, strangers, in papers, and in forums. I have not turned back since. Again, some of biggest supports, and the greatest source of validation on campus were in the B.I.C. B.I.C. students and faculty alike championed equality, fairness, tolerance and pluralism right along with me.
B.I.C has truly affected my life; not just in the terms of the social support and validation I have received. I believe the B.I.C has greatly affected the religious and vocational spheres of my life for the better.
I am a native Texan; born a San Antonio rose but cultivated in Austin. My father’s family is a mix of Mexican and black cultures – a product of San Antonio living. My mother’s family were sharecroppers in Arkansas. I was raised in a traditional southern black Baptist family/church. This meant church every Sunday, unquestioned faith, Jesus was freedom, heaven is above us, hell down below, fire and brimstone, repent sinners and unbelievers – the whole nine yards. Growing up in Austin, however, there was a certain liberal trend that permeated my religious belief. My personal faith was more inclusive than my upbringing would have suggested. I had always took issue with the exclusionary aspects of Christianity as it was taught to me. During my senior year of high school I really began to examine what it was I believed religiously. The idea of Hell became less a place and more a frame of mind.
Some would say that coming to Baylor made me “lose my faith.” I’d actually beg to differ. Although I do not identify as a Christian I have become a much more spiritually oriented person. I can call my faith my own, not something based on what I’ve been told but something I actually hold to be true. I am not driven by blind doctrinal subscription and deontological commands; instead I fostering a true relationship with the Divine. A great catalyst to this was the B.I.C. At the beginning of freshman year Dr. Hanks opened our discussion of religious plurality with a quote from a conference he attended. In it were representatives from different monotheistic faith traditions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism. After bickering, arguing, and banter back and forth Dr. Hanks said that a Hindu stood and stated that perhaps God delighted in the multiplicity of worship. This is another transformative B.I.C moment I will never forget. Multiplicity of worship – this meant more than one path to God, Allah, Yaweh, Brahman. The idea was revolutionary, finally there was a word to place with the ideas that had been stirring within me. I knew that God.
The first religious belief system we examined was Hinduism. This belief system actually really resonated with me. After reading the Ramayana and listening to lecltures I decided to do reading of my own. I check out books from the library on the Vedas, writings on chanting, meditation, sage wisdoms and more. I came to understand Hinduism as a universal faith. Quite simply Hinduism, from what I’ve read, celebrates the multiplicity of worship, and asserts the existence of different paths to God. Validation. Once again, study and exploration had yielded me words to define what I had already held to be true.
I shared what I was learning with my roommate, who was also experiencing a spiritual awakening at the time. I remember one night, she came home from an Antioch small group – she had joined months earlier in attempts to examine her faith – visibly shaken. I asked her what was wrong and she burst into tears. She told me she did not believe the Gospel as it was written, did not believe that one must believe in Jesus Christ to obtain salvation, yet feared for her soul. The prospect of hell, by virtue of her unbelief petrified her. This is a fear that I witnessed not only in my roommate and many individuals back home, but also within myself. I knew that faith and spirituality should not be mediated by fear. Faith through fear is a hollow faith, in my opinion. Others may say that I lead a hollow life and have a faux faith because I do not take the Gospel at face value. However, I believe in the law of Love so fully. I believe redemption is actualized through love and salvation is not from eternal hell fire but from ourselves, from hell right here on earth perpetuated by the perceived separation from the Divine. Fear and love cannot dwell together, such dissonance does it foster any meaningful relationship with the Divine. I came to understand faith and spirituality as the eternal process to become Love incarnate – become the God within us, the God around us, the God in our neighbors.
Another religious belief system that B.I.C explored was Islam. I found myself glued to my copy of the Qu’ran. I distinctly remember reading it in Concert Choir rehearsal and I looked up to find a young man staring at me. He stooped to look at the book cover, read it, looked up in horror, our eyes met and he went to his seat hurriedly. We all have our misconceptions of Islam and all that it entails. I am so glad B.I.C. took time to explore this beautiful religion. Although I do not identify as a Muslim, many of the practices and beliefs resonate with me. I believe in the oneness of the Divine, of submission, good works, Justice, etc. I’ve even taken to fasting during the month of Ramadan as a means of connection to the Divine. Although, I do not believe everything the Qur’an asserts, fasting during this month serves as a constant reminder of the Divine presence in my life. Hunger pains signal self-reflection and observation, make me cognizant of why I am fasting (as a means of worship), and to behave in a more Divine manner. Ideally, this spirit would transfer to all months of the year. . . this is an ongoing struggle! Nonetheless, I have been impacted for the better by the B.I.C’s examination and intimate approach to differing religions and cultures.
I guess I would say that my religious beliefs are a mixture from different faith traditions: I believe in reincarnation, redemption, and the Law of Love. Essentially, the fundamental aspects of my belief are that: God is Love; our purpose here is to Love Divinely (this being our salvation from separation from the Divine); and that there are numerous ways to foster relationship with the Divine. My faith is dynamic and constantly growing. I do not believe I would be where I am spiritually without B.I.C - the genesis to my religious education and awakening.
I think my experiences with B.I.C and religion also played a role in my decision to enroll in the Yoga capstone. It appeared to encompass all that B.I.C had offered over the years. I figured there would be a lot of self-reflection which comes at a great point in my academic career. Everything has come full circle. The five dimensions of Examined Life we begrudgingly studied freshman year were realms that I actually witness evolve throughout my college career. From what I understood of Yoga in the beginning, the practice of Yoga tapped into all those vital aspects of my life. The asana and philosophical knowledge I’ve acquired in the class are things I will take with me after graduation. I will continue to practice and share yoga in the future. The peace of mind and restorative quality it provides for me will be much needed in the upcoming years. I believe that courses such as these (with more dialogue, introspection, self-reflection, and community) are better suited as capstones than the typical B.I.C course. It punctuated my B.I.C experiences so poignantly. I wasn’t necessarily worried about papers, projects, or grades but wholly entrenched in what the class had to offer from a more personal level.
As I’ve said before, B.I.C is a more personal approach to education. The program extends well beyond the classroom and fosters a more intimate connection with the lives of B.I.Cers. In addition to the religious aspects of my life, B.I.C’s exploration of vocation is something I believe all students should experience in the University setting. Most people view their major decision as a final step in pursuing a career that pays well. However, the B.I.C offers an alternative view; a major is a means of exploration and by no means fetters one to a specific domain. What I took from the B.I.C’s instruction on vocation, was that my career is where I feel led to be, where my greatest passion and skill intersect. Prior to enrolling at Baylor, I was dead set on becoming a pediatrician; partially because it paid well and partially because I loved kids. However, upon arriving I switched to Psychology and music. That decision was something I wrestled with for at the very beginning of my academic career. Yet, once again, B.I.C entered and offered me a sense of validation.
I enjoyed people, their minds, and the way they behave. I then realized that my natural inclination towards social activism and championing underdogs could be achieved within psychology as well. So after much deliberation and getting my feet we t in the discipline I decided to become a Social Psychologist. My desire is that my research be an expression of activism, to provide answers to relevant social phenomenon such as sexual prejudice, homophobia, in the hopes of creating interventions. I have already begun that process. I will be conducting an independent study in a social psychology lab on campus next semester. I am quite frankly geeking out on my research. I have definitely settled into my calling – my vocation affirmed.
I am graduating on Saturday after three and a half years at Baylor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. My Baylor experience would be lacking without it. I look back over all the experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met, nights and conversations I will never forget and leave at peace. I would change not one aspect of my experience here at Baylor, negative or positive. The person I’ve become is a result of all that has happened before me. I stand now at a new height in life looking back down from where I’ve come. No matter how rocky the road may have been at times to get to where I am, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Sic ‘Em Bears!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Memoir: Waking

"Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead"
-The Bhagavad Gita. Ch. 2.11
In reading waking, it seemed as though Sanford has an intimate grasp on this notion haven gone through his traumatic accident and recovery and ultimately finding yoga. The notion of detachment and shedding of worldly desires is something that continues to tug at me. I’m really wrestling with it. In reading the memoir Waking, this is a theme I picked up on that resonates. Waking chronicles this idea of soul/mind and body and how the two interact. A resounding theme described in the latter half of the book is about integrating body and mind; the physical with the metaphysical to maximize and actualize self. It is a powerful account of how yoga and asana practice facilitates that.
I realize that is the focus of the book – his journey through yoga and asana to divorce himself from what has happened to him to find who he is, his “way.” However powerful and moving that is, this is not what moved me the most in the book. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, because I know I’ve commented on this before in class. However, this idea of mortality, love and detachment keeps tugging at me. Essentially, I understand and agree with the notion that what we do and all that we possess is not what we are. I am a soul, a metaphysical/spiritual being in this physical existence attempting to learn all I can. Yet along the way some of the possessions I’ve come to acquire are hard for me to not lament.
This is a little aside. I know the saying goes; when given a blessing do not ask why it was sent. However, I find myself constantly wondering what it is I’m doing right to deserve the people in my life. They are my greatest treasures; a source of so much joy, their love is part of the Divine love felt in my life. Truth is, that love is something I both give and desire. Though I feel my grieving process is a healthy one, like most people I have an issue saying goodbye. I’m not lamenting their assumed ascension to a different and presumably better place. Honestly, I lament the fact that they have left the immediate right here-and-now with me. Does that mean their love is any less present in my life? Perhaps I’m thinking too much about it. I just feel as though they are something I am extremely attached to and their absence speaking specifically of my immediate family would render me in a sort of temporary paralysis. I don’t know if that is a bad attachment to have – to the love of people in my life. That is something I’m trying to understand. I’m not sure if Waking offered any concise clarification on the issue.
Realizing that we never cease to be, my loved ones - even though physically absent or distant- does provide comfort. However, the issue is in adjusting to – for lack of a better phrase – the loss of something treasured.
Something that struck me in the memoir was the way in which Sanford described the death of his father and sister. He states that their death had become their life. Though I hear the sadness in his account of the passing of his father and sister, Sanford seems so very detached from that aspect. He speaks of the dreams and his connection to Laura, his sister, in these dreams. In them he cries and releases the built up emotions within, but it still doesn’t resonate with me on an emotional level. I guess I am hung up on this most of all because although he expresses grief, it does not seem passionate. I understand this to be a memoir and recollection of his journey; but as I try to put myself in his shoes I feel as though I would experience it so much more differently. I believe the paralysis and zeal to survive for my remaining family members would be at the forebrain of my existence. However, I think the sudden loss of my loved ones – the realization that they are gone – would wreck me under those circumstances. That makes me reflect my existence and love as an attachment. I guess Sanford was just focusing on one aspect of his life at a time; a survival mechanism in more respects than one. His phrase “Death as it is absorbed by the living,” comes to mind.
Another recurrent theme that struck me with this memoir is that of dreams and their connection to the transcendent. He recounts his brothers’ apparent dream of the accident years before it occurred, another dream of the accident from a friend, and physically transcendent yet tangible encounters with his deceased sister. Although Sanford does not claim to be clairvoyant, or possessing any medium or psychic power he accepts the dreams and visions as part of his existence – tantric. I find this an interesting response. I have experienced something similar.
Several years ago, I distinctly remember having a dream in which I was in the back of a funeral procession leading into a large stone building with architecture reminiscent of the southwest located in a vast sand plain. Upon entering I went right, separate from the rest of the procession dressed in black. I entered an all-white room with a sofa, window, and black woman dressed in white seated on a couch. I sat at her feet like a kindergartener about to receive instruction. I asked the beautiful smiling woman many questions; only two of which I remember. The question was this: the true nature and role of Jesus. To which she pointed to her right and said: “he sits here.” The second question was: what is heaven like? To that she smiled and presented me with the back of a mirror. Without warning, she tossed the mirror in my face and I was met with the most blinding white light. It is kind of indescribable. A few weeks later, one of my eldest Aunts passed away. Months later my favorite Aunt would also pass away. After months of hospital visits and long drives to and from San Antonio she was committed to hospice. I remember returning home from hospice after saying my last goodbyes. I dreamed that night. I dreamed that I woke up from my bed in North Russell and looked over to the other bed in my room to see my aunt. She had on her hospital robe, her legs were amputated (as they were when she died). She smiled at me. She said through tears: “Hello Sunshine. I’m going to miss you.” To which my reply was the same. I’ll never forget that. People will say that was just a dream or my mind consolidating the happenings of my life. Like Sanford, I accept it as part of my experience, some real, something felt. In the end, I guess that’s all we can do.

Legend of Bagger Vance

I really enjoyed watching the Legend of Bagger Vance. The ties to the Gita were undeniable. Junah similar to Arjuna sees his comrades fall in war, prompts him to give up on "the game," needing to regain his swing. Aside from the obvious allusions to the Krishna and Arjuna through names and trade, allusions to the battlefield and war the relationship between the two parrallels that of Krishna and Arjuna. Teacher and disciple is displayed beautifully in the movie. Bagger Vance appears an all-knowing character that equips Junah with the tools necessary to navigating the field; game playing as an end in it's own right. This individualized "swing" alludes to the "way" chronicled in The Gita.
Bagger Vance exudes Divine patience. In the movie Junah is stumbling through the field, through life making mistakes. Even after moments of clarity and "right swing" his arrogance impeded him. Bagger's attempts to steer him is never intrusive, nor prying. He is there, as he always has been, similar to the nature of Krishna. Each individual "way" can only be discovered by that individual. No one can find it for you. For Junah, Bagger couldn't find the swing for him, or see it for him. However, by his submission to Bagger's direction and teachings, practice and focus he did reclaim his "swing" (actualizing the way)
Overall, the movie was a nice way to connect the Gita on a more proximal plane. I'd be down to watch it again!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Living Large

This week has been particularly stressful. It seems like everything is due, graduation applications, Job applications and interviews, projects, papers, etc. The list goes on. I'm pretty resilient and know that I will get things done. This week however, I found that I just wanted to curl up and let the time pass by. My practice consequently has involved poses that took up space and require much more focus and centered energy. I don't know why but I keep coming back to warrior pose - it just makes me feel like "okay, lets do this!" That pose use to require so much focus and strength (I would literally shake while doing the pose). Although it is still difficult to sustain, I've noticed that my strength in that pose has increased. Triangle pose and tree pose are ones that I returned to this week. I must admit that the backward bend where you grab your ankle and roll. . . yeah. . . that one was in there just because it brings me back down. Oddly it makes me smile and places things in perspective. All those poses to me are the opposite of curling in a ball and letting life go by. Time to roll up my sleeves and dig in!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Without Doubt?

Without doubt. That to me is really interesting. Living in a post-modern world where truth with a capital "T" is not always accepted, the idea of having no doubt is forgein. My faith is comprised of doubt. Chapter 8 says that salvation is attained by focusing on the Divine, remwmbering the Divone. Is that essentially focusing on the self and oneness of creation? This reading facilitated more questions than anything. In any case it sounds similar to still fluctuations. Moreover, in the christian tradition Brahmans claim to salvation is similar to Jesus': devotion, faith, etc. Constant meditative thought.
At first I thought well isn't this life abt experiencing life and the people in it? Previous reading regards this life asLiving as a spiritual being having a human experience. Thinking more it prompts me to say well perhaps in this human experience we forget our nature becoming too attached to this life. What does that nean though? How can one gain by experience but not become attached? What abt things like love?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yoga: From the Inside Out

                Something that really resonated with me about the book “Yoga: From the inside out” was this old sage saying: we are spiritual beings having a human experience. That in all the eternal that is us confined within this limited capacity this is just a moment, and however limited we are – there are still many things that we can, and should experience with this vessel. I found that to be enlightening. It colored not only the way I read the rest of the book but the way I examine my life, the people in it and my relation to them. How differently we would treat others if we really felt as though we were in contact with The Divine itself. I guess that is part of release from the sleeping world.
                                The chronicle of the author’s journey into war to find peace, her awakening from the sleep state was interesting to observe. The war that she waged with herself, her body was one of epic proportions and one that I think is worth having. I would bet money I don’t have that every person I’ve ever come into contact with at some point fell victim to the “body-image game” as the author puts it. It is a rather insidious cultural happenstance.  
Sell touches on this in the book, but the African American community notoriously has been relatively unaffected by issues of “bad body-image” and weight consciousness than other cultural groups. That is heavier weight; curvier and bigger frames are not stigmatized or disapproved of the way they are in other ethnicities. In fact those aspects of women are particularly prized within the community. However, more and more the incidence of African American woman dieting, having “poor body images,” developing eating disorders is slowly rising. Typically African American women are among those to have the highest levels of positive body images. Growing up in that community I was indeed taught to love the skin and shape that I was in. Many of the women in my family (role models) were fuller formed and exuded confidence. For most of my life I have held the same sentiment.
However, l I too have struggled with body image issues in the past. Most people would have never known it. I hid that fact well. Still the comments and attitude of many time peers outside my own cultural group affected me. It took a lot of self-examination and insight to reach a place where I could look in the mirror and feel okay about what I saw looking back at me. I had positive body image. I believed I had made significant enough progress to say that I have a positive body image. Sell mentioned a commentary on the notion of body image from a guru. He states that the very idea of body image be it positive or negative, needs to be obliterated.  It by definition places a dichotomous statement of satisfaction and worth. Even though one may have a positive body image the fact remains that body image denotes either approval or disapproval. That in and of itself is a destructive construct.
 After reading this book, that fact was made irrelevant and ignorant.  However as stated above that is an incredibly misguided way of thinking characterized by vanity and commercial exploitation from the “sleeping world.” Health, vitality, connection to the Divine – these are the type things our bodily awareness should cultivate. It’s not about how positive I feel about the way I look. That idea is not important in the grand scheme. It has no place in the “real world.” It’s merely a superficial expression meant to mask our pain of our current condition in the “Sleeping world.” This was an enlightening aspect of tantric yoga that Sell discussed. Abandoning the notion of body image is to abandon one of the notions that has succeeded in keeping us fettered to the “Sleeping World.” This really resonated  with me.
Still, the awakening to the Sleeping world is a process that occurs over time. All things are a process. Her journey illustrates this beautifully. As I read I was surprised to find that as an instructor she was still struggling with body image issues. I don’t know why. This probably shouldn’t have struck me as odd because instructors , though they teach, are students of yoga as well. A particular passage that struck me was when she discusses when she overhears someone tell her friend not to wear black pants when she is teaching because it hinders the students from seeing what the legs are truly doing in a pose. To which she responds that she wears black pants for that very reason. This awareness, realization and recognition of superficiality prompted her to examine why she does that. The purpose of yoga is not for show but for union with the divine, ascension to new spiritual heights. She eventually removes the pants for something less flattering. Yet this change provides better vantage for students and better range of motion and ease of asana. The mere act of changing clothes (stripping away the influence of the Sleeping World) better facilitated Yoga.
Powerful. Realness. Experiencing the here and now, taking life for what it is – this is what tantric yoga is designed to do. Within the book Sell comments on what that means, how to respond to this world. I am by nature a very passionate person. I’ve always understood that to mean that this life, and the people in it matter to me. I am expressive and emotionally available because it matters to me. Nonchalance and apathy is not something that analogous with caring, loving and living this life. So when I first read the section on becoming un-phased by things I was immediately reserved to that notion. I realize that it does not mean stoicism but tantric acceptance for the way things are and making peace with that. However, I do believe ourselves to be an integral aspect in the equation of change. I guess I need to read more on the subject but I do not think that I would want to dispassionately move through this human experience.
This was a good book filled with passages that quick literally rocked my world and the way I think of it. Great read.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hips Don't Lie

I haven't been able to do inversions this week, but I have been practicing, pranayama. It really does call for a great deal of control. Breathing - such a fundamental, involuntary action - when controlled yields great change in the dynamic of the body. I think more than anything else we've done thus far in (besides shoulder stand) the breathing exercises have served best at quieting my mind and forcing me to focus in on one aspect of life and honestly just stop the constant buzzing of life.

I had one question about hips (hence the title). When we did asana that one week where we rotated our hips and such, during the asana practice it felt great. However, afterwards my left hip bothered me a bit. It had actually been bothering me but I think the moving around agitated it. It was fine for a while and now it is once again a little painful. It's mostly when I go from a sitting to a prone position that it begins to feel painful. My hips naturally pop, but for several weeks my left one hasn't been. I guess my question is what poses should I do to get this left hip to act right?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Finding Strength

With graduation around the corner my fluctuations of mind regarding the future and things I must do are really roaring. I know what I need to do, I have a peace about where I'm going but with me being pulled in so many places I really need to some practice so grounded fortitude. There are the pictures, announcements/invitations, graduate school applications, internship for next semester. So my practices lately have consisted of standing balances poses (tree pose, triangle pose) and those of strength (warrior pose). They force me to center myself, to realize that in all that is going on in life and all that I must do to not loose sight of myself, and why exactly I have to do such things. The process of balance and becoming centered, for me, prompts me to look inward and realize that I am on track, that I am capable, and I am right on time. No need to stress.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sharing is Caring

This past week my practice has actually consisted not only of studying solo but practicing yoga with my friend! After coming back from dinner one night, we went back to my place to grab some books for a long night of studying. We ended up playing jump rope with a Hookah hose and stretching. She is an athlete and sometimes finds herself sore and tense so we did some poses. After our impromptu school girl moment she complained of her calfs and back giving her some trouble. Thus commenced our yoga session for the night. Restorative supine poses, poses that stretch the calf and feet (sitting on our legs and feet). She didn't like those AT ALL! We also did some backward bends. Her favorite was cobra (she WOULD NOT stop hissing). We ended with downward facing dog; a pose I showed her a few days prior. She was still having trouble keeping her legs straight but ml are miles right? After leaving my place to study, we were pretty productive that night if I do say so myself. Yoga alone is nice, very reflective and centering. Yoga with her was not as contemplative, but it was nice to see her improve, and leave feeling a little more loose than she was hours before.

Monday, September 19, 2011


II, 3 avidya asmita raga dvesa abhinivesah klesha

There are five
primal causes of suffering:
of your true Self
and the value of Spirituality;
and its self-centeredness;
to pleasure;
to pain;
and clinging to life
out of fear of death.

All life is suffering, and this sutra seems to proide support for that notion. Though I am incredibly behind on our reading in "How Yoga Works," I can see he application of this sutra in a global context. All of these Kleshas, to me, seem to be innate. In essence, the primal aim is looking out for self; (self-preservation). As Dr. Schultz stated in class, the list tends to be structured in rank order, with the most "important" of items being listed first. Ignorance of true self and value of spirituality is listed first. Yet again, an overall awareness is an occuring theme. The question is if after being made aware of how these Kleshas rear their ugly head in our lives, how do you stop their effect when they are in fact "primal," innate, a natural tendency? Pleasure is by definition appetitive, egoism, and clinging to life promotes survival and self-wellbeing. However, those things are so temporally mediated. Control, practice, discipline; are these the methods with which one circumvents the blinders of immediate gratification to a more prolonged, multifaceted well-being.

Yoga and music

Before I actually get into my pracitce blog. I would just like to say that after class on last Tuesday, I believe, my hips were crazy sore! They rotated in directions they have never seen. I started playing racquetball again as well so the combined effects led to some pain this past week. Thus the restorative poses that we ended with on Thursday were great!
I have two tests this week, so I did quite a bit of studying this weekend. Usually I study with chilled out background music. My basic routine was study for two hours break for one. During those two hours though, I would sometimes get a bit restless. So I would do some standing poses as well as more restorative ones. The argument could be made that the music could stir the fluctuations of mind, however I found that it accentuated my yoga practice. Provided a seamless transition between studying and breaks. I think this will be a routine for the rest of my studies this year.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I know this practice blog is a little late, but I did want to get this out. As we discussed in the class the supine poses in yoga that are always a welcome event to me at the end of each class have been really helpful to me at night. I've started to do some of them while in bed as Im winding down. It starts with the leg up the wall pose, then (I always forget the name of this one) I think it's Viparita Karani. Its the one where we rest our legs on the bolster with our shoulders tucked under us. I've implemented this new nightly "routine"and found that quality of my sleep has improved! I'm a light sleeper and I've always had issues with insomnia. I think my sleep vritti is coming along quite well!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Complexity within Simplicity

Someone told me once a simple message can be just as profound as the most verbose message. The truth doesn't lie in the quantity of words but in the concept conveyed. The sutras that we've covered so far are simple and concise in nature. However, the truth and meeaning behind them is far reaching. For as short as the sutras are it speaks volumes on the breadth of which Yoga permeates through the life of the individual. Yoga as a lifelong process that involves every aspect of life, seems like a trying and rather daunting task to undertake, but a worthwhile one. I think first identifying the vrittis that impede samadhi. Essentially, from these sutras and the class, I have taken that awareness is the first step towards Yoga.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vritti and Practice.

A common idiom comes to mind in reagrds to my involvement in Yoga and our discussion of Vritti in class: The more you know, the more you know you don't know. I believe this to be case. Learning about the types of Vritti's has made me cognizant of the countless Vrittis in my life. Furthermore, although I know that 5 Vritti's exist, I still do not think I understand what each one encompasses due to it's broad nature. I guess I know that I experience each type of Vritter, but to what extent; I'm not exactly sure.

In regards to my practice. My posture is steadily increasing. I believe I have to work especially hard at maintaining my posture because I am top heavy. The amount of strain that standing erect puts on my back is something I think will lessen with practice. Since class I have also been made more aware of my balance. My ankles tend to roll outward. When I am aware of my balance, I adjust. So sometimes in public I can seem a little "spazzy."

I went home this weekend to go out with my sister for her 22nd birthday. Upon waking up this morning I was a little sore and stiff from the dancing last night. I awoke to find my little brother sitting on the couch stretching out his back. He's a football player and often times is in pain, or stiff. So I asked him if he wanted to do some yoga poses with me. We started with Tadasana, which he mastered like a champ. Then I told him we would try downward facing dog. This was a sight to see! For lack of better words, my little brother is a beast. Standing at 5'6'' (much taller than me) he is a solid 180 lbs of muscle. He was born to put on them pads! Yet, for all his strength, he is not the most flexible of guys. So watching him trying to bend, legs straight, arms extended brought about laughter to us this morning. Needless to say he gave up and said he'd try again later. Despite me trying to show him how to push his weight into his legs by using all those muscles of his, he remained on his tiptoes.

Coming home is always eventful. My family is large, very loud and very passionate. So even after just a night and a rather comical morning I need a little time to collect my thoughts. The wall pose is calling me!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Practice

This past week I found myself really becoming more aware of my position of my body in space. My spinal posture is something I was particularly more aware of. Standing in line at the dining hall, sitting in class, or just chilling at the dorm, my posture is absolutely terrible! I slump forward much more than I should. Whenever I was made aware of it I stood in mountain pose, but eventually I would slump back into my regular posture. I will need to work on this continuously throughout the semester.
I can't remember the name of the pose, but last night I practiced the forward bend in which our heads had to touch  the floor. My hamstrings were a little sore, but the stretch felt good. I also practiced the poses we learned on the first day. I think that electing to do the poses at night was helpful in relaxing me enough to get a more restful night's sleep.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Class

I have never blogged before, but I guess now is as good a time as ever. I have done yoga a couple of times before and really liked the way I felt afterwards. I volunteered at a psych ward this summer and yoga was a therapeutic class that was offered to the patients. It really did seem to help them better regulate their emotions and thoughts. I guess I chose to take this class for several reasons. I need this class to graduate this Decemeber, it had greater appeal to me than the other, and I'm interested in learning more about how yoga can improve my life. I hope I will be able to regulate stress better and ultimatley become a more balanced individual