Tea Ceremony

This month’s blog topics all begin “I’m speaking at the Frazier Park Health Fair, June 27th at 11:30 am at the Frazier Park Elementary School, in Frazier Park California. Be there or be square!

One reason people get into yoga is to lose weight. No doubt a vigorous yoga practice can boost metabolism. No doubt powerful yoga practices can increase caloric burn. No doubt an hour and half a day will avail much. Besides that, yoga is fun!  I tend to perform exercise I enjoy with consistency and perform exercise I hate, sparingly. Therein lies the elephant in the living room: no exercise program is gonna work if I don’t DO it. There’s some ancient wisdom for you. (smirk.) Ok, ok, tell me something I don’t know Kumari. Tell me how I can a) get myself to like exercising and b) learn to like my body. Since you asked I am going to assume you want to know the answer:

Put the cart before the horse.  

Learn to like your body like you learn to like anyone else; say “hello.” Be honestly interested. Listen first, then speak.  The conversation ought to be organic. Phooey. I kid you not! My body wanted to know how come I fed her so much sugar and so much salt when what she really yearned for was love and acceptance. Have I struck a nerve? Are you dismissive of your body? Perhaps you’ve been taught the body is the ego and something to overcome. Do you feel never good enough? **Note to self, that is not a “feeling” it’s a thought.** That you are “not good enough” is mos def a thought, NOT an emotion, not a sensation. Have you incorporated tremendous amounts of shame for your bio-mechanical vehicle? I feel your pain.

Sprite yourself away from the odious folks, the sooner the better.

Since we can’t escape the fact that Other People are judgmental, we must respond with intelligence Move smartly away from pain. (Even an amoeba will do this if provoked.) The pain that has not yet happened? It is right to avoid it. (Even a worm will turn to avoid pain.) If home is not a safe place you have more pressing issues to address than your weight. Trust me on this one. Get away first and thank me later. Find a place for quiet, uninterrupted meditation. Practice pranayama for 10 minutes (daily.) Allow yourself with sincere curiosity to feel your Self breathing, your heart beating, your digestive system working. Listen to the wisdom of yourself.

External Judgement is not all in your head

It’s no use going to a feminist or a therapist to brainwash yourself into believing looks don’t matter when they do. Eleanor Roosevelt might have said no one can take advantage of you without your permission, but she never said that to Nelson Mandela. Rather than frustrate yourself, open up a new paradigm. Familiarize yourself with your (unmodified) body. Your bio-mechanics. Your cardiovascular, digestive and nervous systems. Admire the beauty of your system. If you can learn to love the you that is you-fo’-real-kine-no-act, you’ll stop treating her needs with contempt. Wake up! You Truly need love, support and someone in your corner. You only imagine that has Love has to come from your disappointed parents, spouse, partner or kids.

Don’t apologize for a esurient heart.

I’ve always admired independent types. They’re rare. They’re rare because humans are social animals, like horses, dogs, lions and all the great apes. I’m the average lioness, not the independent type. I hung around in an abusive situation for so long that I developed learned helplessness. I know I did. During my unhappy marriage I ate without thinking. I didn’t eat without feeling. The sensation of sweetness that lingered on my tongue  supremely satisfied for 5 seconds. Five seconds of pain-free existence, then as the fat hit my hips I flooded with overwhelming emotions of despair. ouch.

I can’t say my family is happy for me, lol. 

This isn’t a do-we-dare/in-your-face statement. Acceptance is the price of admission. I find when I try to teach people the difference between feeling and thinking the subject is clouded by the phrase “I feel like. . .” As in, “I feel like you need to grow up and get a REAL job.” Sounds like an emotion is about to follow, does it not? Curiosity is a feeling, pain is a sensation, annoyance is an emotion. Sentences that begin with the phrase “I feel like. . .” are mos def about to unload an accusation, an opinion, a thought or a judgement lots o’things that are NOT feelings. It’s an idiom dammit. Tease out the difference between thoughts and feelings if ya wanna be a successful yogi. You can’t control unwanted action while on auto-pilot.

Sensational yoga lies in the realm of feeling not thoughts

We think lots of things. We think we want to lose weight. We think we’re trying really hard. I’m not saying it’s bad to think, I certainly want you to have a judgement. What I’m saying is if you want to know what steers you, uncover your feelings. Feelings have a purity that thoughts varnish over. The other day I had a student who felt uncomfortable. She reacted by squirming. Well and good. If you are in pain you must adjust. Then she added grumbling to her shifting, she was obviously less than entranced with her practice. Here’s the fine line between love and hate: learning to sit though mild discomfort can be the door to introspection, whereas learning to sit through intense discomfort that’s some crazy shit. 

If you want to lose weight doing yoga, learn the difference between working smarter and working harder

Sore the next day? You probably tore some muscle. Effective yoga shouldn’t tear muscle. Correct alignment mindfully entered ought to teach gentle openness, increasing contraction, body awareness. Yoga has been said to mean “union.” The million dollar question is: union between what and what? Body and Mind? East and West? Franchise business and spirituality? Inquiring minds would like to know why we can’t call exercise exercise and religion religion. What if all I want to do is lose weight? Do I really have to buy into chakras, nadi, kosha and prana? Yes and no. Or as we like to say in the islands, “yeah, no. . . .” I mean you don’t have to buy into anything that feels fake, poser-y, cheap or silly.

Tea Ceremony is real whether you believe it or not

Many years ago when I was in my mother’s country of origin, Japan, with two American friends we went to a tourist tea ceremony. We weren’t invited to participate as in a traditional tea ceremony. We were there just to watch, to observe. The elegant lady in a full kimono moved with stunning slowness and intrepid grace. My friend, however, just couldn’t grok the subtlety. “WTF?” “Ammy” stage whispered to me. I explained to her the ancient Buddhist implications of the practice, its history and the meaning of tea ceremony. Ammy, however, couldn’t get past what a whole lot o’trouble it was to get one sip o’tea.

“It’s the perfect harmonic convergence of bitter and sweet,” I explained, “swirling in your mouth during a respite between battles. This practice is a meditation in all seven dimensions, including sound, taste, smell, time. . . .” Ammy’s eyes started to crinkle, she was fighting back the urge to burst out laughing. She lost the battle but won the the war, she was laughing, laughing so hard her sides ached. She laughed so hard she cried. Well tea ceremony is that too – pure joy. And yoga too. It’s a weight loss furnace, it’s a spiritual practice, it’s a balance I tell ya. Take yourself seriously but not too seriously.

Now Y’all play nice!

Sat Nam