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I’ve been all over the map lately: disbelief, rage, hope, despair, calm, frustration. I’ve also been watching myself go there. Paying attention, being mindful of the ways in which ego drags me around by the scruff of the neck, pokes me for reactions, cackles with glee when they’re big ones. Working this way with my own thoughts helps me remember that while I can't control external events, I can still use my faculties to notice my internal experience. And sometimes that brings me a measure of equanimity.

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this is a pile of laundry

remember the value of

work, mistakes, growth, mud, sweat, wrinkles, stains, carelessness,

accidents, time, getting dirty because you participated in life.

separate the darks, the brights, and the whites

remember the benefits of critical thinking, sorting, analyzing, categorizing, reading labels.

turn the dial to the right setting for this load

turn the dial to the right setting for every load,

listen quietly for what is called for in each moment,

avoid self-recrimination and pointless blaming,

invoke realizations, gentle awakenings,

realignments without judgment.

pull the dial to start the flow of water

remember: it's not going to fall into your lap.

you have to pull that dial, or press that button or whatever.

y...

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Within us all, there is a capacity to live our lives for the benefit of all. Call it the divine spark or the awakened mind, Buddha nature, whatever--we all have it. Everyone in prison has it, everyone in rehab units, housing projects, yes. But also everyone in Congress, in the Senate, everyone on Wall Street, everyone in Trump tower (yes, everyone). And everyone in between. Did you feel yourself close down somewhere in that list? That's where the juice is.

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Yes, we all that this divine spark, but we have to value it. If you had never seen a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all you had was the image above--how many assumptions would you have made about that man?

This is my point. We have to imagine this divine spark in everyone, watch for it, cultivate it as though our life depended on it. Because it does. Instead of gorging ourselves with evidence to the contrary, we could take the road less travelled...hunt for sightings of this divinity in each other, the way Martin Luther King, Jr. did--calling out the best in us, and doing so using the greatest force of all: love.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." So where are we now? If we are somewhere between shock and shame, disbelief and depression, it's time to snap out of it. This is a moment of national "challenge and controversy" like no other. Let us increase our tolerance for discomfort so we can actually accomplish stuff that matters. Let us find ways to follow Dr. King's example to serve the greater good. He walked one the hardest road to walk: the road of love. On August 27, 1963, millions marched on that same road. Let's keep our feet on that road every single day.

Leave the old behind, and start fresh with the new!

Wait, you know what? Don't. In fact, yeah...don't do that anymore. Stop escaping from the old year with its missteps, and lurching toward the new one full of clean, shiny potential. Every year, that 'newness' drives a massive cultural gerbil-wheel of emotion and economy. We're not really starting over. We're only ever just where we are.

"Really? (long pause) Well that sucks," the little voice in my head says.

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But the little voice in my heart whispers, "Does it?"

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Today I’m turning inward. It’s a wintertime thing.
The newsfeed is fading, and I’m answering the pull from the depths.

We are so terrified of this place. Holiday shopping! Decorating the house! Parties, trees, gifts! It’s all good, don’t get me wrong—it’s great, if it really makes you happy. But the people I’ve been talking to lately are just exhausted and frazzled. So, what’s that about? I think we get crazy around this time of year because we resist the gravitational pull into silence, stillness and the dark. But we all need it. Seeds that we plant--we put them in the ground, away from the sun, into a rich darkness that gives them life. We need this kind of nutrition, too. Spiritual people throughout time have walked away from their ordinary lives to sit in caves for years, seeking (and finding) that very nutrition. Granted, we can't just leave our families for the caves of Tibet right now, but we can carve out some 'cave' time every morning. Doing this brings a kind of nourishment that only committed stillness in our own meditation can bring.

Can you sit in silence, and let the circus of your mind play itself out while you watch? How many thoughts can you identify without falling into the movie of them? Can you sit inside the cave of your own busy mind, let it be spacious enough to hold the roiling, broken-boned, screaming chaos that it shows you? Can you stay present, even in the face of boredom? Sarcasm? Doubt? It can be everything from an idle fantasy to unending lists to a horror show.

When I'm in the cave of my mind, watching the circus, here's one example of what I do. I take a difficult situation—say, with someone close to me—and, instead of trying to solve it, just sit and consciously experience it. How long can I stand it before I move into fix mode? Turns out doing this can be incredibly illuminating. Somehow, the permission, the courage to just experience the discomfort actually dissolves a lot of its ‘problem’ aspect. And if there’s a right action to take, that action becomes much clearer.

But what if the right action isn't clear, and I’m stuck in the discomfort?

That's where the juice is. Stay. When I lose my footing, that’s when I most need to just stay with the feeling of "lost my footing". Resist the the addiction to finding it, to certainty. Stay with the groundlessness. Develop these muscles.

These are the muscles that will do the heavy lifting when the time for action comes. But if I’m always running away from discomfort, how will those muscles ever get strong? And if I can’t tolerate discomfort, how can I ever truly be of service where it counts? The world around us is changing fast, and we may (more than ever) truly need strong emotional muscles, and great spiritual stamina.

So let’s use these darker weeks, the ones leading up to the winter solstice, for turning inward and sitting in mess of our own mind. Every morning from December 1 to December 21, let’s make a commitment to be faithful to this turning inward. Let’s watch the circus of the million thoughts we believe, and just for a moment, stop, identify the thoughts, one at a time, and look at them. Take the thought in our hands, turn it around, sniff it, feel its weight, inspect it with the open curiosity of a baby holding an object in her hands for the first time.

We can create a ritual for this dark listening. We can light a candle (or not, if you want to more physically embody the darkness). Just sit still and be with…receiving, every day. On December 21, at 8:15pm (immediately after my 7:15pm yoga class), we will be celebrating--not only for the coming of the light, but for the nourishing fruits of the darkness that came before. So please join me--

THE PRACTICE: Every morning, sit still, in silence, in the dark. Listen.

THE SOLTICE CELEBRATION: A ritual celebration for both the darkness and the light

Wednesday December 21, 2016

8:15-9:00pm
Yoga & Polarity Center
32 Church Street, Malverne, NY 11565
Cost: by donation.

(There may be music.)

Let's do this.

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Till I was in my twenties, my experience of cemeteries had always been tightlipped and somber. All the unwound knots remained tangled in my belly, and if we spoke, we spoke in whispers.

So imagine my happy disorientation when friends brought me to my first Italian cemetery on November 1st, 1975, All Saints Day. When I walked through the gates of their Camaiore cemetery, my jaw literally dropped. It was a celebration! A wild, exuberant, joyful riot of flowers and family full of love and respect for their dead.

Since then, I have always celebrated this day by setting up a temporary altar with pictures of all my deceased family members (both two-legged and four-legged). I make it as beautiful as I can; and I let my love and gratitude flow ...

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I had to hear it for myself. So I youtubed “Donald Trump hot mic” and pressed play. My reaction was both shocking and sobering. I thought, “He’s bragging, probably exaggerating. It’s not that big a deal. Everybody take a breath. This is just…normal.” I rolled my eyes at the media.

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Years ago, doing yoga every day sounded like an unhealthy obsession to me. It was for crazy people. I hadn't yet experienced the emotional balance, spiritual grounding and the simple joy of getting on my mat every day. But when I tried it--when I got on my mat once a day, every day, and started feeling the effects--I never looked back. This made me want to share it with everyone, and eventually I became a teacher.

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So it's tonight. I'm going to be watching, like a hundred million others;
only I'm going to be watching in two directions.

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One outward, one inward. Eyes on the TV, and the internal witness on the circus of reaction going on within. In this climate of outrageous divisiveness, it's important to cultivate consciousness. The debate tonight could serve as a trigger for a very special mindfulness practice.

Here's my intention:

1. Be still. (Spouting my opinions into the room adds nothing to the actual wellbeing of the world. Self expression is important, yes...but not the noise of judgment, self-righteousness, and contempt that makes up so much of my speech on this matter.) Stillness creates the environment for the next step.

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2. Watch the circus. (All my reactions: fear, sarcasm, glee at the opponent's misfortune, outrage, disappointment, pride, confusion, whatever comes up.) Just name the thoughts as they come up. None of these thoughts are my essential nature. They're just thoughts that I believe. Trump has them. Clinton has them. We all have them. We all think we're right, and that people who disagree are just wrong. Few of us make time to really listen. Few of us make much space for "I don't know." Tonight I will name all the things I think are true, and hold these things as merely thoughts that I believe. Not the actual Truth.

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3. Practice compassion. Everyone, including the candidates, everyone who follows them, our family, our friends, our enemies--everyone is doing their best, given what they believe. (Ha. I just noticed the contempt that showed up when I thought of certain people, in the context of "they're doing their best." I absolutely didn't buy it. But you know what? That distrust, the very force of my contempt, is a mindfulness bell, leading me back home to my own awareness.) As a human being, I want what I want, and I think I "know" what's right. Nothing wrong with that, it's just what I believe. People on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me? They're doing the exact same thing. We are the same. Can I find compassion for everyone, using this train of thought?

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4. Take action. If I feel called to taking some kind of action as a result of this debate, then I'll do it. Consciousness, mindfulness, is not the same as indifference. It's the opposite. We can actually be more effective, when we are aware of our own reactivity and compassionate about everyone else's. Make sure you're registered and everything is in order. If your friends need help getting ready, help them out. Everybody vote.

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