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What’s Your Yogic Martini?

I’m surprised no one has blogged about this line before (though the book I am about to cite was published in 1975), so I’ll simply copy a few passages (hope that’s okay for copyright!). What follows is from Unfinished Animal by Theodore Roszak, in a section where he examines how what is sacred and holy has become commercialized and diminished in its expression. He has been writing about Wilhelm Reich and his discovery of Orgone, which Reich claimed was “the greatest discovery in centuries”:

To play any role in life–whether that of logician or poet, operations analyst or saint–requires the use of a whole, functioning brain.

Now I [Roszak] would not myself dispute the existence of the universal life force Reich felt he had discovered. Mana, the wakan-tanka, the anima mundi–called by a thousand names, that vibrant energy is among the most archetypal of human experiences. It flashes through the art and poetry of every culture; it is the fire that sets alight rhapsodic utterance and ecstatic ritual. Reich only became preposterous in his mystic seizures when he claimed he had done a better job of illuminating the nature of the life energy than the innumerable artists, seers, and sages who have celebrated its awesome presence. For what was it, at last, that Reich, as engineer rather than artist, had accomplished with Orgone? He had captured it in a box and taken its temperature! He had “proved” its existence by virtue of the thermometer. One recalls Goethe’s wry criticism of Newton’s experiments with light. Why lock your self away in a dark room to study what fills all the heavens around us? The more so in Reich’s case. Why bother with light boxes and thermometers to experience what rolls through the universe massively and magnificently? Unless, of course, one has not the capacity to experience on that scale.

Anyone who has read Reich’s account of the orgone accumulator (especially the embarrassing attempt in 1941 to enlist Einstein’s support for Orgonomy) cannot help but blush for the sheer silliness of the episode. It is an example of shabby science and worse religiosity. As tactfully as Einstein tried to persuade Reich that his so-called experiments were a folly, Reich could only believe that nefarious conspirators had poisoned the physicist’s mind against him. But what is even more pathetic than Reich’s role in the matter has been the continuing effort by his sympathizers and disciples to vindicate the unfortunate man’s ‘research’ and refurbish the orgone theory’s scientific credentials. Do those who pursue the task not realize the galling disparity between the classic proclamations of the life force–the yin and yang, Blake’s mythical Luvah-Orc, the landscapes of Van Gogh–and Reich’s measly thermometer readings?

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The Necessity of Despair Work

Through working with Joanna Macy and other great teachers, I have come to believe in the power and importance of despair work. Most of the people I speak to about this work are totally understanding of this need, and are excited that this work is spreading through the communities engaged in activism around environmental and social justice, personal and collective transformation, and spirituality. However, I recently became aware that even within the community there are some that find the thought of such work self-indulgent and unnecessary. Though I could write for hours about why I disagree, I will post a link to this article written by Joanna Macy for Yes! Magazine (one of my favorites!) — Joanna is far more capable of summarizing why this work is so essential to these most challenging times.

Would love to hear what y’all think. This is one of my favorite quotes from the article:

Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked, “what do we most need to do to save our world?” His answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.”

To our ever-deepening power to listen — within and without,

Tal

If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll be joining me and several other yoga students and teachers for an exploration of what gifts our yoga might bring us in this time of global crisis — in our relationship to ourselves, each other, all other beings, and the Earth herself. For those of you that have not experienced The Work That Reconnects, and would like a little glimpse into the work and the great being that helped birth these practices, please visit joannamacy.net — there you will find videos of Joanna (including her recent talk at Bioneers), descriptions of some of the practices (though, like a description of a yoga pose, reading about it is nothing like doing the actual practice), and even a picture of yours truly, who was part of the summer intensive this past August.

In addition to sharing some practices from the Work That Reconnects, I’ll also be sharing some teachings from my studies with many other teachers in several different modalities, including (but not limited to): Anna Halprin (one of the pioneers in expressive arts therapy, modern dance, and community ritual — and a main reason I ended up moving to the Bay Area), Continuum Movement (I’ve studied with Beth Riley and founder Emilie Conrad), Bill Plotkin (see his books Nature and The Human Soul and Soulcraft, as well as his organization Animas Valley Institute), Dylan Newcomb and The 16 Ways, and 5Rhythyms.

So we’ll be moving and experiencing our bodies in different ways, though this will _not_ be a traditional asana class (just to be clear!). Please let me know if you have any questions by adding a comment here or sending me an e-mail. Thanks! (More will be forthcoming about next week’s workshops, too!)

Symbolic Artwork

The following is excerpted from Bill Plotkin’s “SoulCraft”, a book that has resonated with me deeply in my recent years.

We are all artists. The artistic potential lives within each of us, sometimes dormant, sometimes aroused. Some say it’s not possible to be fully human and not be an artist. Many nature-based cultures have no word for art or artist because producing what we call art is simply part of being human. True art has nothing to do with impressing or entertaining others with pleasant or stunning creations; it’s about carrying what is hidden in the soul as a gift to others. However we embody our souls in the world, that is our art. Soul expression, like true art, is an intrinsic act — we do it simply for the joy it creates. It does not have ulterior motives such as entertainment, wealth, of fame.

If you want to read a decent backgrounder on Off the Mat, Into the World and What’s Your Tree, this article is a good place to start. Hope some of it resonates for you.

If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate.

And here’s another one…

The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.

Both quotes by Terry Tempest Williams.

2009 Africa SEVA Challenge

Just getting off a conference call with many of the Seva Challenge particpants, all of whom are committed to raising twenty thousand dollars by the end of this year. Yep, you read that right — twenty big ones, $20K. It’s a lot of money for one person to raise, especially in this contractive economic climate — both financially and emotionally. Thankfully, on a psycho-spiritual level, we are all becoming more expansive than ever, seeing the immense possibilities not in spite of the great challenges we face, but because of them. And we’re not really raising this money alone — we’re raising it community, in several layers of community that extend across the planet, from the participants themselves (ourselves) to all the yogis and yoginis getting on their mats each day, to all the friends and family and colleagues and seemingly random encounters we have had and will continue to have that will yield meaningful connections.

One event I am already planning in my head is a screening of War/Dance. This Academy-award-nominated documentary is one of the most affecting I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of documentaries). Will send out details as soon as we find a place and date…and we need a projector, too!