Seeing the Finger of God: New Directions in Jazz

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In 2003, I attended a life-changing concert—Herbie Hancock teamed up with other jazz greats such as Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove in a quintet to celebrate the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, both of whom would have turned a heavenly 77 that year. The two horn players chosen to honor those dead gods of Jazz have themselves now passed on, Brecker in 2007 and Hargrove in 2018, and can count themselves in the numbers of saints who come marching in.

https://www.montreuxjazz.com/herbie-hancock

https://www.montreuxjazz.com/herbie-hancock

Whether yoga asana or jazz, both modes point to that Oneness of being we all share. Both point to and celebrate spirit. The following is a story about this pointing.


Holy


It was Spiritual. There was a moment in the concert when the horns were off stage allowing the rhythm section to solo. The concert hall was dark except for three dim spotlights, each illuminating a musician on stage. Herbie Hancock was hunched over his keys popping dissonant chords like ice on a red-hot stove. John Patitucci's fingers blurred and tangled as they whirred around the fretboard of his double bass. The drummer was nimbly tap-dancing around his set. Popping, clinking, banging, like someone rummaging through a junk drawer. Then, each musician began to play as if oblivious to the other musicians. All three seemed to abandon the song's underlying structure, the musical map that makes playing together possible. They were alone, lost and consumed in the rite of making their own art. Time began to slip away and it became more of an abstract idea than a perceptible pulse. Impossible to find a down-beat.

The music floated like this for eternally long minutes. I could see the music personified on the furrowed brows and grimaces of the musicians. Their notes were together turbulent, raging, furious, and at times lackadaisical. I drifted with the music. Despite the musical trip, however, something was gnawing at me. It was my rational mind wondering how the music could possibly come back together from this entropy, this chaos. I could see no signs that the musicians were following any sort of map in the song's structure. How would the horns know when to come in and start the melody again, the head? How would the rhythm section come back together? And with these questions, my eyes fixed upon the musicians, hypnotized to the scene before me. Afraid to miss a single note, I stared wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next. Minutes and seconds had ceased.

And after an age, suddenly the horns were back on stage. Without a word, and without a cue, without a gesture, not even a glance, the rhythm section simultaneously aligned to a slow, swung 4/4 meter at the precise fraction of a second that both sax and trumpet blew a soft, low, singular, note. The timbre of this note could not be discerned by the nature of the instruments; it was both sax and trumpet. A third horn. A new name. Invisible but right in front of me. And with this new horn they began the head.

All five were playing as individuals, carving out their own signature and personalities with their instrument. Yet despite the apparent autonomy, chaos, and dissonance, every sound by each musician originated from the same steady beat of one shared heart. It is this heart that makes the maps and this heart that sews the musicians together with an invisible thread. My soul was witnessing a miracle. As I watched and heard them play, I was sensing this shared, invisible heart. I was seeing the finger of God.

So What


Like the music, the concert itself had underlying form and context. It was like a séance, summoning Miles Davis and John Coltrane from the grave back to the terrestrial stage, luring them with their own music. In the spirit of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Herbie's quintet played the music like Miles and Trane would have played it—decidedly different than Miles and Trane would have played it. Different was the context.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane have always been mysteries to me. Mysteries because the beautiful yet complex music they created during their spin on this globe were only facsimiles of what was written on their souls and in their minds. Each time I listen to a Miles or Coltrane record, I search for clues about what was in their souls. Where was their genius. Their records are only blueprints, but by studying these blueprints, someday I hope to hear what their souls were calling out to the world—to me. For now, though, I am a young student to the world of jazz and only have ideas of what these geniuses were singing. Most of it remains a mystery to me.

I WILL BE YOUR LIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS

Directions_in_Music.jpg

To miss the Herbie Hancock Quintet, billed as Utah's hottest jazz event of the year, was almost reason enough to pass up the invitation to go and teach English in Korea for a year. I went to Korea. I arrived as winter was setting in and after a few long, cold months in this new and foreign world of Korea, I finally got a weekend off. While on a bumpy train headed south to sunnier Busan, I happened to notice an ad hidden in the corner of an English newspaper. It announced that in two weeks, the Herbie Hancock quintet would be in Seoul performing the same concert I had missed in Utah. I almost jumped out of my seat with surprise and joy. The Universe likes to spoil me from time to time.

Providence may have brought Herbie Hancock to Korea but I still had my work cut out for me if I wanted to go to the concert. First I had to get a ticket. This was before buying your ticket on the internet was really a thing. My Korean pair-teacher, Eun-hee, my tag-team partner in the MMA ring of teaching children, made several necessary phone calls to Seoul and spent a lot of time helping me secure a ticket. She even paid for my ticket using her own bank account to wire the money. I paid her back in cash. Without a Korean speaker, getting a ticket would have been nearly impossible.

Even after the arduous task of procuring a ticket, it took several days and much drama, to cover my classes. The decision to allow me to go and ask other teachers to take my classes went all the way to the director of our school. Despite the fact that I already had my ticket, ultimately going to see Herbie Hancock was in his hands. He was concerned about the school's constant shortage of native English-speaking teachers. After several days of deliberation he finally he acquiesced and allowed me to go.



PILGRAMAGE


With a ticket waiting for me in Seoul, I taxied to Yousong, a part of town in Daejeon where I was living, and bought my bus ticket to Seoul. While waiting for the bus to leave, I found a bakery. There was nothing good, so instead I went outside and sat on the edge of a shadow in the hopes of catching the last rays of a tepid sun. I faced the sun, closed my eyes and let it penetrate my closed eyelids. I drank it.

During my two and a half hour ride to Seoul I read Dostoevsky's words of devils and angels, saints and sinners, of children. I read of Devils becoming angles. It reminded me that the Universe is mostly good with some interesting variations of good that some call “bad” thrown into the mix.

With only a small day pack stuffed with Karamazov, a subway guide, and my toothbrush, I arrived in Seoul and then hopped onto the subway to make my way to the stop nearest Kung Hee University, the concert venue. As I stepped from the subway station, the winter afternoon met me with a bitter chill. It was cold and sunny, bright and sharp. The oblique rays of the afternoon sun did little to chase away the goose bumps on my skin.

I walked around busy Seoul streets for a while following signs to Kung-hee University. After asking several times for directions I finally arrived at the university. After several more requests for directions to the concert hall, I finally found my the long awaited destination of my pilgrimage. As I walked up a hill I saw the concert hall standing before me like a giant. It was designed after a renaissance cathedral. It looked like Westminster Abbey to me.

Kyunghee University Grand Peace Hall

It had stained glass windows and large, ornate doors, arched ceilings, etc. Its two towers reached high into the deep blue sky like arms to heaven.
Considering all my trouble of getting the ticket, I couldn't shake the pessimistic feeling that somehow, something would prevent me from going to the concert. I had to get my ticket in my hand before I'd believe I was going to see Herbie Hancock in concert. Entering the giant front doors, my lone footsteps echoed off the marble floors as I walked in search of someone who could give me my ticket. A nice woman told me in broken English that they would not being to issue tickets until six. It was only four thirty. Okay, maybe I was a little paranoid. But before leaving to look for a motel room for the night, I decided to look inside the enormous hall to see what it looked like.

Inside I saw a man on the stage warming up on a stand-up bass. Someone in a sound booth above my head shouted to the bassist to plink and on the piano a bit to get a reading. To my complete amazement, Herbie Hancock, having been summoned by his own instrument, walks onto the stage carrying a folder with his music. He was impossible to mistake; impeccably dressed: hip, thick rimmed glasses, a dark suit over a deep purple shirt, and a monotone tie —stylish, modern, but not loud. Herbie replaced the bassist on the piano. I was sitting in the front row of the hall, only fifteen feet from Herbie Hancock! Then it dawned on me that I was about to get a personal, pre-concert concert.

The bass player/part-time piano plinker turned out to be John Patitucci, a highly acclaimed bass player and bandleader billed for this tour. I was surprised at the obsequious deference he gave Herbie. After all, he's no rookie. Moreover, he'd been touring with Herbie for more than a year, and after a year of playing with someone, I assumed that they'd be chummy. Perhaps the marking of a true student is one who recognizes the master.

https://www.celebrity-direct.com/hire-jazz-musicians-classic-broadway-singers/hire-herbie-hancock/

https://www.celebrity-direct.com/hire-jazz-musicians-classic-broadway-singers/hire-herbie-hancock/

Then the sound check began. Herbie and John pulled out the sheet music that Herbie toted onto the stage and together they penciled in some changes, analyzing the music meticulously, note by note, measure by measure. Later in the performance, when they came to that reworked spot, I'd never have guessed that they hadn't been born playing it perfectly.

Soon, Michael Brecker—rigid, tall, quiet— walked onto the stage, saxophone in hand. He stood listening to the rhythm section and would often play a head or a solo to give context to the rhythm sections chords. A few minutes later on swaggered the trumpet player Roy Hargrove. He was as laid back and cool as they come. He sat, so lazily that he almost lay, on a stool a couple paces away from the band. This acted as sort of his ring corner when the rhythm section or Brecker was going at it. He sat listening, lost in his own thoughts, and raised his trumpet to play when the music called for it.

Once during the sound check, the rhythm section was plowing through some chords and Roy Hargrove pulled up his horn and played a line. To me it sounded like any regular jazz line but Michael Brecker broke his frozen stance and burst out with a guffaw, looked over to Roy Hargrove, and shouted, "Good one!" Roy was telling jokes on his trumpet. I wished I understood the punch line—musically esoteric. A few minutes later, still in a joking mood, Roy Hargrove began a solo, this time using the melody to Kenny Rogers's country hit, The Gambler.

During the sound check, I had the rare chance to witness not only these musicians' music, but more importantly I got to see their personalities, raw and exposed in a way that is impossible in front of a crowded concert hall. Herbie was funky, funky, funky, like an old southern woman cooking fried chicken on the porch. Herbie had wonderful blues face: a painfully blissful grimace evoked by the music.

Michael Brecker was stiff, reserved, tall, foreboding, and looming. I could sense that he has secrets going on behind his quiet eyes. By this time, he was experiencing the deleterious effects of Leukemia.

Roy Hargrove was there to play. He's got secrets, too but he's so hip, he knows that even he doesn't even understand them.

John Patitucci has a happy, kind face. He's defining characteristic is his virtuosity on his bass. Still, he isn't trying to prove anything. He just does it and does it damn well.

https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/802783/Willy-Wonka-Gene-Wilder-Charlie-Golden-Ticket-Chocolate-Factory

https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/802783/Willy-Wonka-Gene-Wilder-Charlie-Golden-Ticket-Chocolate-Factory

The drummer (I forget his name) was a great drummer—a furry but never over bearing. He knew his place. He was actually a replacement for Brian Blade, the regular drummer who couldn't finish the tour.

I also had the chance to see them carve into and analyze the music, measure-by-measure, analyzing chords, rhythms and harmonics. They talked about the music as if they were seeing it for the first time. Everyone offered suggestions and they penciled them in.


After two hours of this pre-concert concert, the ushers shoed me out. By now it was late enough that I was able to get my ticket from the ticket office, which I stashed safely away in my wallet. I felt like I was Charlie Bucket finding a golden ticket.

The concert still didn't start for an hour and I hadn't found a motel room for the night. It was dark outside as I left the concert hall. The cold blew through my canvas coat unmercifully. Walking down the busy streets near the university, it didn't take long to see that the neighborhood of Seoul I was in was more suited to a nightclub a nice, clean motel. As I began to walk, I realized that I hadn't eaten since breakfast and instead of worrying about a motel, I concentrated on getting something to eat. I decided on pizza. Unfortunately, it was only a take out restaurant, so I took my pizza next door to Baskin Robins and ate it sitting at a one-person table. I wasn't in the mood for ice cream but I needed to rent a table so I bought a jr. cup of Chocolate Brownie and watched it melt as I ate my small pizza.

I finished dinner and headed back through the crowded streets to the concert hall. I walked back into the lobby of the concert hall, which was teaming by now with hundreds of people. I saw Herbie Hancock CDs for sale (recorded at an earlier concert) and without hearing a note, I had to have one. I couldn't help myself.

The concert was only minutes away. I entered the hall and easily found my seat in the back of the hall on the ground level. As I sat there, an island in the sea of this great hall, I relaxed and mused on fact that everything had fallen into place. Eventually, the lights dimmed and the band came out onto the stage. The crowd roared with applause. As soon as the lights began to dim, I followed about 50 other cheap ticket buyers, and bolted for an empty seat closer to the stage.


HYMN

The concert was flawless. The musicians' communication must have been very subtle because throughout the entire concert, no one spoke a word, no one nodded or gave any sort of cues, but all five were in sync the entire time, playing exactly at the right time when someone's solo finished, or when there was a segue into another song, or when the timing suddenly changed to something very abstract.


Herbie played elegantly and assertively dissonant. He was Herbie Hancock: funkiness embellishing polished musical prose. Over the almost 6 decades that he's been playing music, Herbie, like Miles and Coltrane, has invented many of the contemporary rules of jazz. Much of the joy of this evening was the rare pleasure of seeing a master of masters at work and watching him have so much fun doing it.

The entire concert had a Herbie flavor. Herbie was the roux in the gumbo, holding it all together.

https://www.rockol.it/testi-di/roy-hargrove

https://www.rockol.it/testi-di/roy-hargrove

I loved Roy Hargrove's playing. It was heartfelt, cool, and at times manic. He wasn't trying to be a diva. He wasn't trying to be another Miles Davis. Roy was an interpreter, expressing in his own language what he read from blueprints to the soul THE master of jazz. He was Roy Hargrove putting a spin on Miles tunes. The spin was the point. Miles spun.

One my favorite songs of the night was a song that Roy Hargrove wrote, called The Poet. It honors Miles and tells an emotional musical story about Miles' character. When Roy took his solo, I was particularly honed to what Roy was saying with his trumpet. As he played, he told me: if you look in your heart, look deep inside, look way down, keep going deeper, and listen really carefully, amid the discord of life you will find the answer to what you are looking for. You'll find the peaceful and beautiful melody of your deepest inner soul. But be patient and diligent because it will be fleeting; nonetheless, be privy to it. It's there and it's the peace and joy that always resides in you.

https://fanpix.famousfix.com/gallery/michael-brecker

https://fanpix.famousfix.com/gallery/michael-brecker

Michael Brecker was the greatest surprise. I had never seen him play and from what I judged of his personality during the sound check, he seemed more like an emotionally repressed corporate lawyer or stockbroker than an expressive sax player. But when he sprang for a solo during the concert, he really sang from his soul; he didn't just play notes. Somehow both his contemplative stage presence and his wildly expressive solos portends his death 4 years later. Michael Brecker died January 13, 2007. The fact that I was able to see this modern sax genius is now invaluable to me.

He really showed his soul and mastery of his instrument during his solo piece, Naima, the infamous and signature Coltrane ballad. At one point during Naima, it sounded like Michael Brecker wasn't even blowing into his horn but rather screaming into it, his eyes squinted shut, his fingers ripping up and down the keys. I was amazed that someone so apparently closed could express so earnestly and honestly.

https://news.jazzline.com/news/airport-tsa-instrument-damage-john-patitucci-bass/

https://news.jazzline.com/news/airport-tsa-instrument-damage-john-patitucci-bass/

John Patitucci was a storyteller with his music. At the beginning of So What/Impressions, the rest of the band left the stage and gave John 10 minutes alone to tell his story. He sounded and looked like he was praying—pouring his heart out to God as he plucked deep, warm, notes from his strings.

John showed me that music is like a novel or a play—full of wit, rhetoric, surprises, and plot twists. As he was hunched over his bass, his fingers were plucking out his story, and it felt like he was leading us through a gothic castle by the light of a candle, showing the tapestries, the candelabras, the great halls. During his tour, suddenly and without any notice, he jumped hard on a low and inharmonic note. It startled me, like he was throwing open closet door with a skeleton inside. Surprises.

CODA


The band played for two and a half hours and finished with two encores. As the house lights came on people began to shuffle to the doors. I was in awe of what I'd just seen. I was glad I was alone because I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was speechless. I eventually left my seat and entered the already packed lobby. But before going out the door and leaving to find a motel, something inside me said, "Stop. Just be in this moment. Something is going to happen . . . " And there I stood, looking at ornate architecture of the concert hall, my mind poring over the concert and I wondered how I could put it all into words.

I hadn't paused for more than two minutes when my attention focused on a nearby crowd of about 10 people. They were gathering around the stage manager who had just came from back stage. I remembered him from the sound check. I heard the stage manager say to them in English, "I'll ask Herbie if he has time to see you," after which there was brief silence, a quick Korean translation by one better English speakers followed by an outburst of undefiled giddiness. I didn’t know who these giggling girls were but I decided that under no circumstances was I going to not somehow accompany them to see Herbie Hancock. A few minutes later, the stage manager came back and announced to them that they could come back inside the concert hall and after Herbie finished talking to a reporter, they could go backstage and meet them. I simply melted into their numbers as they slipped back through the auditorium doors to wait for the chance to go backstage. They were quite an intimate crowd and it wasn't long before they noticed the stray white guy hanging around. Instead of pushing me away, though, they warmly befriended me.

Apparently, they were part of an organization that is based loosely around Buddhism and celebrates world peace through music. They said that Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (sax player and musical brother of Herbie for many decades) are among the organization's principle and most prestigious members. My new friends admitted that none of them knew Herbie Hancock's music very well. In fact, they admitted that they were only recently trying to learn to appreciate jazz so as to support Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. It was the first jazz concert that any of them had ever been to.

During the 15 minutes that we were waiting for the stage manager to come back, I swapped email addresses with at least five people as others flashed photos of me. I was the exotic stray white guy.

Eventually, the stage manager came back and said that we could go back stage. We rushed down back hallways to a posh and dimly-lighted waiting room. Herbie was standing, talking to a reporter as a photographer busily flashed photos. Roy Hargrove, in his usual stance, half sat, half lay on a low plush chair near the wall. He looked like he'd just hopped out of a hot tub after a hard day's work—spent. His long dreads were covered by an enormous bini and he was wrapped in a gray, wool, New-York-style coat that came to his knees.

My rule against pestering celebrities for autographs was overridden by the magnitude of this moment. Having unwrapped my CD and removed the insert, I timidly approached Roy Hargrove. I couldn't help but sound like an obsequious snail as I peeped out, "Mr. Hargrove, your music was very spiritual to me." He looked at me for a moment and paused, a little surprised by my words. "Thank you," another pause. "Thank you." I could sense that this was the end of our meaningful conversation and so I asked, "Would you please?" as I handed him a pen and the cd insert. He said nothing, only flashed his autograph across my insert. I thanked him and he nodded back in a tired response, only the way a jazz cat can.

I saw the drummer (damn, I wish I remembered his name) lingering about and he politely signed my cd sleeve.


Now Herbie was done talking to the reporter and my newly adopted family, the family of the jazz challenged, was showering him with flowers and gifts and snapping photos. He smiled and happily spoke to us as a group. Even after his long performance, Herbie was amicable and appreciative of our praise. He gladly signed autographs and smiled as he smelled each bouquet that was thrust into his arms. All I could do was stand there as part of the crowd. I wanted to blurt out, like a puberty stricken high school kid, "Herbie! even if these people don't know Hancock from Handel, I know you to be a musical legend and I understand this concert in context of the last 50 years of jazz and modern music. Thank you for this concert. It is a dream come true!" My thoughts must have been printed on my forehead because just as he said he couldn't sign any more autographs, he took my cd sleeve, signed it, and graciously bowed out.

HA! Triumph! I couldn't believe this was happening to me.

Michael Brecker was standing talking to some other stage managers, and understandably loathing us for keeping Herbie, and therefore him, from heading back to the hotel and getting some sleep. His was the only autograph I was missing. I had to do it. So I approached him and told him that I loved his music and that I was a saxophonist as well. I told him he was an inspiration. Without a word, he signed my cd sleeve. Cold. The way he looks. I don't blame him. I'd be annoyed too.

THE LONE AND DREARY WORLD


We watched the band leave and then we followed out the same doors. It had begun to snow. The wind had picked up and it was colder than before. My new friends began to ask me what my plan was for spending the night. I told them about where I planned to search for a motel. They informed me that I probably wouldn't find anything there and that they would take me to a stop on the subway where I could find good, inexpensive lodging.

jimjillbang.jpg

We hopped on the subway and chatted for the 25 minutes it took us to get to our stop. They walked me to a bright, clean jim jill bong (a 24-hr spa. . . kind of) where for six bucks you can bathe, exercise, watch TV, use the internet, eat, sing karaoke, get electronic chair massages (that was fun) or just lounge and talk to your friends and family. The jim jill bong also had communal sleeping rooms, separated for men and women.

I changed into the issued t-shirt and shorts and then sat on a mat in the corner with my journal and tried to write down as many of my feelings as possible. By now it was about 1 am and the desire for sleep soon clouded my thoughts. I grabbed a foam pillow and took a corner of the sleeping room. Other men's snoring made real sleep impossible, but I was able to take a series of short naps, which helped.

The next day, I caught a train back to Daejeon. During the two-hour train ride home, I stared out the window and thought about my entire miracle of hearing the music, meeting the band, and meeting these new friends.


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I Don't Know The Name of This Bird

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wolf creek snow.jpg

White Eyes

White-Eyes
by Mary Oliver
 
In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
              where the wind-bird
 
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
              Like any of us
 
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he's restless-
         he has an idea,
              and slowly it unfolds
 
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.
 
So, it's over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
              he's done all he can.
 
I don't know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
              while the clouds-
 
which he has summoned
    from the north-
         which he has taught
              to be mild, and silent-
 
thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
              of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent-
         that has turned itself
              into snow.
 
I read this poem and imagine this Spirit-Bird wrestling with its ideas in the tops of the trees manifesting as the brilliant winter storms we sometimes experience in winter.

I think of this Spirit-Bird as something large and definitive, a creator or director, or maybe simply a grand observer, who puffs and blows the turbulence we all sense in the storms of the sky, and the storms of our lives. I imagine this Spirit-Bird as blustery at times, yes, but also as a being who ultimately touches me with Divine love, a real touch, by sending gentle, delicate, and cold kisses floating through the air in the form of snowflakes, landing silently on my face and shoulders and eyes.

Like Mary Oliver says, I don't know the name of this bird. But I can feel it whatever it is. Sometimes, it stops me in my tracks along this tempestuous journey of life, ankle-deep in dark and cold, my brow furrowed and mind brimming with business, and lifts my gaze for a moment to watch its dazzling spectacle of fat, silent flakes filter through the streetlight or moonlight.

The beauty of it all!

I don't know the name of this bird, but I can feel its breath move through me in yoga. It makes my body move and sway, undulate and reach. It arrests my busy mind and opens my eyes.

Come out of the cold, both physically and spiritually, and warm up with a yoga practice. Watch as The Spirit-Bird, or whatever name you give it, slowly unfolds its ideas and gives you divine kisses through breath and movement. Then you'll feel it too outside in the form of snow or rain or cold, anything, but nevertheless touches everything around you. 


To The Brim My Heart Was Full

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Lake District.jpg

Do you remember learning about William Wordsworth in your high school English class? He was a big deal among the British Romantic poets, lived late 18th/early 19th century, was Britain’s poet laureate for a spell, and was the kind of poet that other poets write poems about. (By the way, in case you were wondering, this is what an English major ends up doing for a living—teaching yoga, writing about it ad nauseam, and making endless references to poetry and poets and how they are all basically pointing to the same thing—presence.)

So, as a child, Wordsworth and his siblings were basically orphaned. Though relatives became reluctant guardians, from an early age William had enormous pressure on him to choose a respectable career which would enable him to move out and support himself and his sister, Dorothy. William was incredibly close to Dorothy, who was of a social class that simply wouldn’t allow her to work.
 

His guardians expected William to become a vicar for the Church of England, a respectable career, but one for which Wordsworth had no love. William’s love was poetry, but to his guardians, poetry was the career-equivalent of homelessness.

As a young man, one early-summer’s morning, Wordsworth was walking across the meadows and heathlands toward his home at Hawkshead, no doubt burdened by the tension between following his passion of poetry and taking a job doing what others expected him to do.

As he walked, the sun began to rise and light up his senses with a splendor of the majestic landscape, also brightening and dissolving his dark and heavy worries. Soon, he was brimming with joy, drunk with the dawning light on the meadows, the dew and vapors on the heath, and a vision of the “sea laughing at a distance.” He speaks to this magical moment in perhaps his finest and most enduring poem, Prelude, in which he says,

     Ah! need I say, dear Friend! that to the brim
     My heart was full . . .

And then, with his heart brimming, with his senses thrumming, the dawning light of the morning began to work a miracle on his heart by illuminating it to the sure and deep knowing of its gift for the world as a poet. It’s as if God, the Cosmos, or Creation—whatever—spoke and made promises to him that he must follow poetry, must offer it as a gift to the world, and that it would all work out.

Check it out. In the same poem he says,

     . . . I made no vows, but vows
     Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
     Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
     A dedicated Spirit. On I walked
     In thankful blessedness, which yet survives.

 

Boom! Drop the mic. Walk off stage.

 

drop the mic.gif

And from that moment forward, with such clarity, joy, and peace in his heart, Wiliam never doubted his purpose again.

And speaking of the Church, with this sure knowledge of his heart’s gift to the world as a poet, Wordsworth felt he would be sinning greatly against an even higher power than the Church if he didn’t honor the vow which was so clearly made to his heart.

Spoiler: being a poet worked out great for Wordsworth. Actually, more than great because Wordsworth devoted himself to poetry and set up a house for himself and his sister where they could immerse themselves in the craft of poetry. Dorothy was also a poet and this setup gave her the freedom to write. William and Dorothy were a poetry tour de force as they lived a life of all things poetry. They would discuss, analyze, and workshop poems and upon completion, Dorothy would pen them in her immaculate handwriting.

Perhaps most importantly to William, his sister Dorothy was his purest love, his North Star, and his muse. If he would have relented to a career in the Church, he would have been exiled from his two loves, Dorothy and poetry.

 

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Ultimately, my point here is that with presence you too can hear (or have heard) the vows that the world is making to your heart about your gift to the world. It may not be as public or as grandiose as William Wordsworth’s but regardless, is nonetheless just as important, the world needs it just as much, and it is your own private marriage to the world.

I always say that poets are yogis with a pen, or yogis are poets with poses. In both disciplines, one comes to know themselves, their True Nature, by practicing regular and abiding presence. Whether poet or plumber, it takes a fierce presence in conversation with that thing that is larger than all of us, but to which all play an integral part, in order to do any good work in this world.
 

This week, I invite you to practice listening. Go to a yoga class. Sit and meditate. Go on a walk and leave your phone at home. Open up to creation by drinking in your senses, a profound and delicious way of practicing presence. Listen and hear the world speak to your heart. Allow your heart to speak to your mind.

I also invite you to join me for my next Yoga Nidra course: Sourcing Your Heart’s Gift, a supportive practice that regularly takes you deep inside to hear and develop your heart’s gift for the world.

This is the last week to register!

Namaste,

Scott


Sourcing Your Heart's Gift: an online meditation and yoga course designed to help you to dive deep into your heart to discover and develop your purpose and courageously share it with the world.

February 12–March 25 2018

Guided Meditations for Sleep: It's Finally Here!

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Guided Meditations for Sleep



I’ve been teaching yoga and meditation for more than 15 years and one of the needs I hear most from my students is the need for better sleep. I hear that need literally by the many snores in savasana. So many of you have asked me to put something like this together and I'm so happy to tell you that finally, it's here!

As a culture that values productivity above almost everything else, the one things we seem to sacrifice most is our need for good sleep.

I don't have to tell you that good sleep promotes wellness in body, mind, and spirit, and helps you to be alert, productive, and fulfill your purpose for being on the planet. So much is riding on your ability for good sleep, so let’s learn how to do it well.

This week, I've shared with you the ways that meditation helps us to quiet our minds to get that good sleep we really need. Now, the theory is over and it's time to put this into action.

I've incorporated my 15+ years of experience teaching meditation and yoga, and I've put a lot of time and energy, into creating Guided Meditations for Sleep™. My intention with this product is to help people be at their best because they have learned the yoga of how to get really, really, solid sleep. 

Guided Meditations for Sleep™ is a complete system designed to promote deep, nourishing, and peaceful sleep. It incorporates body, mind, and spirit to relax the nervous system, still the body, and quiet the mind, to train yourself to get excellent sleep. It also gives you productive ways to help you get back to sleep in case you're someone who wakes up a lot during the night. 

Check out everything contained in Guided Meditations for Sleep:

  • Welcome Letter & How To Use This PDF
  • 5 Guided Meditations for Sleep audio recordings
  • Body Scan with Deep Relaxation (31:15)
  • Body Scan with Deep Relaxation with background music (31:15)
  • Dream imagery Relaxation (28:25)
  • Dream Imagery Relaxation with background music (28:25)
  • Sanctuary Practice (10:21) Awesome!
  • Pre-sleep Breathing Techniques audio recording (10:02)
  • Pre-sleep Gentle Yoga Stretches PDF
  • Pre-sleep General Guidelines for Good Sleep PDF
  • Pre-sleep Checklist PDF
  • Why Mindfulness Helps You Sleep PDF
  • Tech Tips PDF

Check out what people are saying about Guided Meditations for Sleep™

Check out what people are saying about Guided Meditations for Sleep™:

"Best sleep I've had in weeks!"~ Nan

"Scott's calming voice helped me to first focus, then relax and meditate. The next thing I knew I woke up, having drifted off." ~Chris

"Your voice was perfect. It was calm, relaxing and inviting me to relax and get myself ready for sleep.  When I finished the tape I immediately fell asleep.  When I woke up I felt like I had experienced a deep sleep." ~Carol

"These relaxation visualizations really work! I can sleep much better now." ~Steve

"Scott has the ability to nurture and empower at once, connecting you with your own heart to find that which you need the most. Scott is a humble loving guide." ~Marit

And for everyone who buys Guided Meditations for Sleep™ this weekend, I'm including a bonus recording of original music, the profoundly relaxing Clarinet Lullaby with Ocean Soundscape (30 minutes.) You're going to love this! 

You might find other recordings out there that use meditation to help you sleep but nothing is as effective, extensive, and enjoyable as Guided Meditations for Sleep™. In fact, you’ll most likely never know what is in the last several minutes of each recording because you won’t be able to stay awake.

Plus, Guided Meditations for Sleep™ is a digital download so you will get it even faster than Amazon Prime! You'll be able to download it immediately and use it tonight for an incredible night's sleep! 

I want to make this affordable so I'm only charging,


$29.


Guided Meditations for Sleep™ is second only to hiring me to personally come and tuck you in...now there's an idea. 

I absolutely loved putting this together and I hope you love it too. I really wanted to spend the time and effort to make this great because I understand how important it is and wanted to give it my best.

So, you can buy a different guided meditation CD online for $15, or go to iTunes and download something for cheap. Hell, you can even go to YouTube and watch a video for free. But what I've created, I feel, is something special which is hugely valuable and I designed it with YOU in mind. You'll have this in your digital library for years to come. 

There's so much content here that I think you'll agree that is well worth the price.

Plus, I stand behind my work so if you're not completely satisfied with it, I'll refund your money, no questions.

You're going to want to check out these samples (click below) and buy Guided Meditations for Sleep™ today.

Remember that if you buy it this weekend, you'll get the mellifluous sounds of Clarinet Lullaby with Ocean Soundscape (30 minutes).

Namaste and nighty-night,



Scott
Ommmzzzzzz

You'll love the visualizations, the detailed and easy-to-follow pre-sleep breathing practices and yoga poses, as well as essential sleep information to cultivate your stellar sleep habits. This is so much more than just a recording.

This system even guides you through the process of creating your optimal sleeping environment, then you slip into bed and listen to me lull you to sleep. It's so nice!

One thing I've learned in my many years of teaching is that everyone has a beautiful life to live and that everyone's pathway to wholeness is different. Nobody knows what you need better than you. So I've built Guided Meditations for Sleep™ to work with all kinds of brains: the analytical, visual, musical, instructional, etc. Surely there's something in here for you. 
 


Guided Meditations for Sleep

 
 

Take Me To The River: Yoga Nidra Meets + River Writing Makes Dream and Write

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Yoga Nidra

I have a notebook full of words I will only read once.

It's dedicated to my River Writing practice. River Writing is a beautifully generative writing group that my good friend, Nan Seymour, hosts. She does so in intimate groups around a warm, wooden table, at her writing studio, in Salt Lake City.

I teach Yoga Nidra, a very relaxing form of guided meditation. Nan has been as profoundly affected by my Yoga Nidra as I have been by her River Writing. So we decided to combine the two practices and call it Dream and Write. 

The purpose is to create a writing practice of inviting words to flow, unobstructed from a river of inner-narrative. Paired together, this practice creates a unique mindfulness writing experience that taps profound Awareness for clarity and flow of writing. 

Over the past two years, Nan and Scott have offered several Dream and Write workshop, classes, and retreats. The intention of Dream and Write is to use mindfulness, poetry, and gentle encouragement to source the words that are within you in. We insist on a judgement-free, non-editing, and mutually supportive environment.

River Writing

Nan's true gift is creating a safe and inviting space to write. She nurtures a judgement-free environment, both from other writers but most especially from that harshest of critics, you.

She opens a session, sets the guidelines, and then reads a prompt to inspire or begin your writing ideas. Then, she starts a timer as asks you to write without stopping for 12 minutes. 

Yoga Nidra

Your job is to keep your pen moving across your paper the entire time without edits, whether you're gushing words or simply repeating, "I don't know what to write. I don't know what to write. I don't know what to write," just to keep the pen moving. And if ever you feel really stuck, there's a life-saving phrase you  can write, "What I really want to say is . . .," and magically the words start to flow again. More often than not, it's astounding what River Writing coaxes onto the page.

After the timer has rung, you're encouraged, but not forced, to read to the group what's on your page, without qualifiers, without apology. No one is allowed to offer any critique or praise to your work other than a simple, "Thank you." We are simple witnesses to ourselves and each other, something which is much more abiding than praise.

Through River Writing, I've written some incredibly profound words, words that I didn't know were inside of me. This process has also helped me to generate brilliant ideas for my work that have literally changed my career. I owe it to the genius of River Writing and Nan's  warmth and skill of facilitation.

 

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra

I'm passionate about Yoga Nidra because simply put, it's a revelation. It's also incredibly relaxing. I love it because through Yoga Nidra, I've learned more about myself and the Universe than any other practice.

Yoga Nidra is simple: You lie down, close your eyes, relax, and listen to me guide you toward acute Awareness,  of yourself and everything around you. That's it. It's actually quite a bit more sophisticated than it sounds but the results can't be quantified. I'm telling you, after the clarity you gain through Yoga Nidra, your whole life feels like it makes sense. After, you feel energized and alert, like you took a satisfying nap while learning the meaning of the Universe. I'm not over selling this.

But I'm rambling, what I really want to say is . . . Since the birth of Dream and Write, we have hosted a suite of workshops and two multi-day Dream and Write retreats and the results have been nothing less than beautiful and inspiring.

Sadly, I moved 2,600 miles away from Nan and that warm, wood writing table to NYC. But thanks to the internet, we are closer than we appear.

What I really want to say is it would be our honor to invite you to experience our first ever Virtual Dream and Write Workshop, happening in YOUR living room, on YOUR computer, smartphone, or tablet, on December 2nd 2017.

This will be a unique opportunity to gather with people all over the country and world to meditate, write, and share in real time. Every Dream and Write have been touching, inspiring, and affirming. I have every confidence that this will be likewise. And, because on this internet meeting space we'll only see your upper half, you don't even have to wear pants!

Also, get this: Nan discovered a truly brilliant and accomplished poet named Anders Carlson-Wee who agreed to join us as our poet-in-residence for our Dream and Write Retreat. Anders is a very gifted but down-to-earth poet who read several of his poems as prompts for our writing and taught us about poetry and its embodiment.

Well, Anders has also agreed to attend our Virtual Dream and Write Workshop to share with us some of his sublime poetry as fodder for our own creative juices to flow. Anders Carlson-Wee's poetry, from his own mouth, in real time. Damn, you can't get better than this! Run don't walk, friends. (Read his poem Dynamite)

Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, there are words or a stories inside of you that need to get out. This workshop is the opportunity to do free those words in a supportive and nurturing environment with kind and experienced facilitators.

Oh, did I mention it's fun?

Please join us for this truly unique workshop.

We only have 20 spots available.

When: Saturday, December 2nd 2017 from 12-3 pm ET, 11 am-2 pm CT, 10 am-1 pm MT, 9am-12pm PT. (There will be pee breaks)

Where: Your house, via the internet

Price: $57

Yoga Nidra
 
Yoga Nidra
 

Dynamite

Anders Carlson-Wee

Anders Carlson-Wee

by Anders Carlson-Wee

 

My brother hits me hard with a stick
so I whip a choke-chain

across his face. We’re playing
a game called Dynamite

where everything you throw
is a stick of dynamite,

unless it’s pine. Pine sticks
are rifles and pinecones are grenades,

but everything else is dynamite.
I run down the driveway

and back behind the garage
where we keep the leopard frogs

in buckets of water
with logs and rock islands.

When he comes around the corner
the blood is pouring

out of his nose and down his neck
and he has a hammer in his hand.

I pick up his favorite frog
and say If you come any closer

I’ll squeeze. He tells me I won’t.
He starts coming closer.

I say a hammer isn’t dynamite.
He reminds me that everything is dynamite.

 

“Dynamite” originally appeared in Ninth Letter

The Gayatri Mantra: A Love Supreme

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The Gayatri Mantra

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

Watch a short video about understanding the Gayatri Mantra by looking at John Coltrane’s masterpiece, ALove Supreme.

Translation:

Everything on the Earth and in the sky and in between is arising from one effulgent source. If my thoughts, words, and deeds reflected a complete understanding of this, I would be the peace I am seeking in this moment.


The Gayatri Mantra: A Love Supreme

I've been working on understanding the The Gayatri Mantra for several years. It's one of the oldest mantras in existence, more than 12 thousand years old, and comes from the Rigveda, an ancient Sanskrit text containing hymns and mantras that are mythological and poetic accounts of the origin of the world.

I struggle to understand it because it suggests that when I’m feeling freaked out by something, I already have peace or am the peace that I feel I lack. Likewise, this mantra suggests that somehow through one Source, we are everything else. And to any mind that is caught up in limited a conception of Self, this is hard to understand at best and ridiculous at worst.

Join me for an unforgettable yoga retreat along the Amalfi Coast Italy May 26-June 2 2018

One experience I had that helped me to understand this mantra a little better happened several years ago while I was on an early-morning run in Hawaii. Because my body was used to a different time zone, I was up and running early while most of everybody else was sleeping. On that beautiful morning, I ran along a paved trail that contours the ocean and stretched for miles.


All the elements were harmonized to make a perfect storm of physical, mental, and spiritual bliss. My mind was clear, the weather, temperature, altitude and humidity were all perfect. As I ran, my mind opened up to incredible clarity. In this clarity, I began processing some of the jazz improve theory that my sax teacher had been teaching me, specifically regarding works by John Coltrane. My feet tapped along the trail and my lungs bellowed the humid ocean-air while my mind thought about scales, intervals, harmonics, chords, and all of the underlying structure of jazz.

My sax teacher tells me that if I want to find those notes coming out of my horn, I have to not only feel them in my soul, but I also gotta know what is possible to feel and that takes a little head work. With all this mental clarity some fairly complex music theory simply started to make sense to me. Deeper musical ideas began to percolate to my mental surface causing new lights to go on. I was figuring it out and it was happening without any teacher or even the reference of my sax or even music paper.

I was amazed to realize that somehow, a lot of this understanding was already in there. Astounded by these musical revelations, an immense thought dawned upon me: even if it’s waaaay down there, there is a John Coltrane in me somewhere.

The perfect run with all the harmony of elements connected me in some way to Source which led me somehow to understand Coltrane a little better. If I truly understood the connection of all things, if I were truly tapped into Source like the Gayatri Mantra suggests, I’d be able to access that same power, soul, and knowledge that John Coltrane did. Me! John Coltrane! Ultimately, I'd see that I'm no different than John Coltrane.

Coltrane was connected to Source. He demonstrates this plainly in his most spiritual work, some say the most spiritual of all of jazz, his album called A Love Supreme. In it he makes circles both in the arc of the sound in music as well as in its form; this chord and this phrase makes a logical, mathematical, and aurally pleasing transition to the next, and the next until the formula causes it to arrive back to where it started.

Just as you might hear Brahman priests chanting the Gayatri Mantra from the Rigveda, in this recording you hear these priests of jazz chant, “A Love Supreme” repeatedly in the background evoking Source.

In certain disciplines initiates get a new name. In yoga your name might become Yogananda, or Ram Das. Jazz is no different. It might be Trane or Bird or Fathead. I believe that another name for God, like God's own moniker, could be, A Love Supreme. I think God uses it as a social handle, or something.

In part, Coltrane’s message was that everything is inscribed within A Love Supreme. A Love Supreme is The Effulgent Source mentioned in the Gayatri Mantra and to fully comprehend this Source means to understand everything, including peace, including jazz, including yourself. This is enlightenment and whether your path there incorporated practicing either poses or jazz theory or anything else, you still end up at the same place.

Alice Coltrane, J.C.’s wife at the time, said that one day Trane locked himself in the attic and didn’t come down for three days. He spent the entire time meditating (understand that Coltrane meditated with his horn in his mouth) and when he came down, I imagine that it was like Moses coming down from the mountain after talking to God, he looked at his wife and said, “I’ve got it!” A few days later he was in the studio with a few hand-picked musicians to record A Love Supreme, which quickly became one of the greatest pieces of music ever conceived.

We are still chanting the Gayatri Mantra 12 thousand years later. I hope people are chanting A Love Supreme, or at lease spinning the record, 12 thousand years from now.

Understanding, even theoretically, that knowing Source means to know everything, doesn’t discount the hours, weeks, years, and lifetimes of work and practice necessary to get there, but still the idea is provocative that our work isn’t to build or gain anything new, rather to dismantle that which prevents us from seeing what’s already there.

What we practice in yoga is paying attention and we use breath, poses, and mediation to open our eyes and to take off the bandages to reveal what’s underneath.

Another reference to understanding this universal Source comes from the story about the day Zen came to be. It is said that long ago an assembly gathered to hear the Buddha’s Dharma talk. Instead of a discourse, The Buddha simply held up a flower saying nothing. He stayed like that for a long time much to the confusion of most everyone.

Only the sage Mahakashyapa understood, and noted it with a wry smile. With his flower, the Buddha was saying that which could not be spoken by words. He was showing the assembly that Being or Reality had no boundaries and was found in everything, including a flower, and to even try to define Being or Reality by words would create a boundary for something that had none. Anything defined would have been a contradiction yet at the same time he was revealing that which was everywhere, if your understanding would allow you to see.

“If my thoughts words and deeds reflected a complete understanding of this unity,” . . . I would realize that I’m no different than this flower, or my sax, my music, or you, and I would understand that peace is already within me. And yet to understand this, like myriad myths throughout history also suggest, it might take me traveling the entire world to realize that what I was searching for was at home all along, locked within the vault of my heart.

I invite you to practice understanding the Gayatri Mantra better and practice unraveling anything within yourself that would prevent the world from seeing your own manifestation of the Effulgent Source, your True Nature, your Love Supreme.

And since it is said that Visvamitra was the one who gave us the Gayatri Mantra, we’ll work on exploring Reality through Visvamitrasana. Speaking of “getting Real,” once I start working on my inflexible hamstrings, something necessary for that pose, things get real, really fast.

Might I suggest listening to A Love Supreme this week.

 

Dancing with Maya

Virtual Yoga Nidra

Humankind has evolved looking at itself and wondering, "who am I?" What does it mean to Be?

We explore every avenue to help answer and express this question of being, including art, science, politics, religion, etc. Surely something can help me solve this mystery, right?

Consider: what you are is more of an idea than a thing. Stay with me . . .

If you were to look out your window and see a mountain, it looks pretty solid and real, right? But try to define it. Find the place where the mountain definitively starts and stops. Try to find how the matter of the mountain is different than the matter of the valley. Isn’t it all just dirt, rocks, weeds, trees, and rivers?  Go on a hike and find a pinecone. Is that part of the mountain? If yes, then if you were to take it home with you back into the valley, would it still be the mountain? What about the rains that fall on the mountain? Moments before the rain fell, it was cloud. But from afar the rain looks like part of the mountain. My point is that there's nothing that could be definitively and categorically called "mountain." Mountain is more of an idea.  

And so are you. We all are. That's because anything we tend to identify as "us" is in constant flux. Just like the pinecone that is part of the mountain one moment and decorating our mantle at home the next, these volatile elements can't identify us and can’t answer the question “who am I?”

We tend to identify ourselves with things that feel relatively concrete like our bodies, our thoughts, our beliefs, etc. But these things, just like the rain or pinecone, are invariably changeable. In yoga, these false identifiers are called Maya or illusions because while they hint at defining us, truly they can't point to the real us, our Being. 

Speaking to the ever-changing illusion of our bodies, there's a really cool Radiolab podcast that explore carbon dating in the cells in our bodies. On the show, experts say that the oldest cells in us are about 23 years old. Since our cells are constantly dying and new ones are being born, we are in a process of constant metamorphosis. Essentially if you're 23 years or older, every cell in your body has been born after you were born. You are literally not the same person you were when you were born. What a trip! Take your fingernails. They feel like us, right? But as soon as we cut them, suddenly they aren’t part of us anymore?
So how can we possibly "be" something that is one moment and isn't the next?

A better question is what is that thing that is "us" which never changes? Is there anything?

Yes, there is. I’ve experienced it and so have you. There are several ways to experience this part of us that never changes but I’ve experienced it most often and profoundly by practicing Yoga Nidra, this relaxing, medative practice of self-inquiry that I’m so passionate about and can’t stop talking about. Yoga Nidra has completely blown my mind because of how it as enabled me to experience my True Self. And the best way to describe this True Self is Awareness.

Yep, I'm Awareness. And so are you. That might seem pretty abstract, but when you boil it all down, the one thing that doesn’t change is your Awareness. When I experience myself as Awareness, and I proffer that we all have at some time or other, it feels like the most natural thing in the Universe. I feel as if I’m bigger and smaller than my body. I can see my thoughts and emotions as an interesting part of me but not anything that can define me. As Awareness, I feel both large and small. I feel limitless and compact at the same time. I feel like I can do anything.

As I experience myself as Awareness regularly through practicing Yoga Nidra, I gain a perspective of my life that ordinary living can't give me. As Awareness, there's nothing I can't do, nothing I need, and no such thing as time. It's an experience of happiness beyond bliss. 

This shit is real! And all I have to do is lie down, close my eyes, and listen to the teacher guide me into Awareness. Really, it’s just about learning to pay keen attention, though a teacher is nice.

It’s not hard. The channel that propels me into this Awareness comes through that liminal state of mind between waking and dreaming consciousness, similar to a daydream. That state is called the Nidra state. In fact, even if I fall asleep, the Awareness part of me is still paying attention. I might therefore wake up from a 30-minute Yoga Nidra-induced nap feeling lucid and relaxed. I  may not even remember the session.

After practicing Yoga Nidra and experiencing myself as Awareness, I go back into my world, full of its illusions, and see clearly how everything but this Awareness is simply part of the illusion. With this immense perspective, my problems make sense, I’m not freaked out by stress, I feel closer to my family, and I feel an enormous sense of purpose in the world and energy to go out and share my gifts. And when problems come around, I’m grounded knowing what I truly am is Awareness and that anything I’m experiencing in this moment is just another opportunity to practice Awareness. I then have the wherewithal to then respond to the situation rather than react.

So, there’s the True Self which is Awareness, and there’s Maya, the illusion. And here’s the interesting thing about the relationship between Maya and Awareness, Maya isn’t something to transcend on our way to the True Self, this happiness beyond bliss. Maya is a vital tool which is inextricably married to experiencing myself as Awareness. I am Awareness manifesting itself by way of body, emotions, breath, sensation, beliefs, etc. Without these changeable parts of me, without the Maya, I would never come to know myself as Awareness. Thus the marriage between Being and Illusion.

If you’d like to hear me recount an ancient myth that illustrates this marriage between the illusion of form and the Beingness which underlies all things, please click the button.

Then, please read this marvelous poem written by Meister Eckhart (translated by Daniel Ladinski) in the 1200s. It sounds like it could have been written by Shakti from the myth.

Consider joining me for my Virtual Yoga Nidra series starting THIS Sunday, October 8th, 2017. 12 pm Eastern. For six weeks, and in the comfort of your own home, we will be exploring this theme The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion. Each session will have a brief discussion, a gentle asana and breathing practice, followed by me leading your through a 30-minute Yoga Nidra practice so you too can feel yourself as Awareness, experience yourself as larger than body, emotions, and thoughts. Experience a happiness beyond bliss. Allow your entire Universe to be opened up. It will be relaxing and profound.

Join me as we explore the Magic of Maya and how to use the illusions of what you might think of as you to uncover your True Self.

 

When I Was the Forest

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing, when I
was the sky
itself,

no one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
for there was nothing
I could not
love.

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came,
and I wept, I wept. And tears
I had never known
before.

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains. I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged—I begged to wed every object
and creature,

and when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms.
And He did not say,
“Where have you
been?”

For then I knew my soul—every soul—
has always held
Him.
— –Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328)

Find Your Inner Wisdom

New York Meditation

There is a part of you that just knows. Call it intuition. Call it your gut feeling. Call it your inner-guru. Call it what you want but I’d wager that sometime or other we’ve all had an experience that feels like we’ve tapped into some deeper wisdom within ourselves. Sometimes information or something a friend says hits you between the eyes. Other times as you might be considering which option to choose, you’ll land on one and your whole body completely relaxes. For some, this inner-wisdom is the feeling you get when you are connected to a divine source. And when we have these experiences, it feels like this wisdom is coming from somewhere different than our conscious mind of rational thoughts. It’s not an analysis. It’s deeper.

In yoga we call this the Wisdom Body or in Sanskrit the Vijnanamaya Kosha (pronounced vig-nyana-my-ah). The source of this inner-wisdom is the place between dreaming and waking consciousness. Many cultures and spiritual traditions have different names and explanations for this place of inner-wisdom. For example, in Native American spirituality it’s said that this wisdom realm is very mystical, a source of visions, and ruled by the spiritual powers of the fox.

Like all things in yoga, through practice we can develop an ability to better hear or recognize this inner-wisdom. Personally, I’ve also found a profound practice in learning to trust and act upon this inner-wisdom when I do hear it. Yoga, meditation, and Yoga Nidra, are all ways to practice accessing our Wisdom Body. In the yoga system of subtle body, you can access this inner-wisdom by meditating or performing breathing exercises while focusing on the Ajna Chakra, sometimes called your Third Eye (looks inward), the energetic and symbolic spot in the center of your forehead. Another way to access the Wisdom Body is through the symbols and feelings of your dreams. Keeping a dream journal is a fun way to practice hearing your inner-wisdom. Often you tap this Wisdom Body when you clear your head and do something simple like folding the laundry, going on a walk in the park, or walking your dog.

Here’s a simple practice, to experiment tuning in to this inner- wisdom.  Just have fun with this and don’t be too serious about it.  Read through this first and then give yourself 10-15 minutes or so to try it.

Practice:

Lie down and close your eyes. Practice first focusing as you methodically bring your attention to all the different parts of your body: start from the top and go part-by-part to the bottom. Spend about at least 5 minutes doing this, you’ve got to let your body relax and tune in. When you’re relaxed, picture yourself sitting with someone very wise and loving. This person could be imaginary, living, passed on, young, old, whatever; it’s your inner reference so you can choose whoever you want. Sometimes, I choose Gandalf from Lord of the Rings as my wise person(can we keep that just between us?).  Picture in detail where the two of you would be, what you would be doing, and most importantly the feelings between the two of you. Imagine that this wise person knows you inside and out, they know your personality, your likes and dislikes, your past and even your future and they love every part of you. They are your biggest cheerleader. Now, imagine that this person is excited to tell you something profound about you. They turn to you and with a smile say, “You know . . .” Now, let your mind fill in the blank with the first thing that comes to mind, what they would say about you. Don’t try to think about it, let it be instinct, that’s the point. Pause and take it in. Notice the way your body feels after this bit of advice or wisdom from your inner-friend. Notice any emotions, sensations, symbols, images, or anything that spontaneously arises for you, if any. Remember, this person is just the symbol of your deep inner-wisdom. They are a part of YOU. Repeat it to yourself. This is part of your subconscious speaking to your conscious mind through the symbol of your friend. And if what this person says doesn’t resonate with you, don’t take it personally, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Or perhaps notice where the resistance is to what they said, sometimes there is a message in that, too. Or, just tell your wise inner-friend, “Thanks for the advice” (you’re choosing a different wise friend next time, but you don’t have to tell them that). Continue on with this meditation until you feel ready to get up. You might want to connect briefly with your body to get grounded before you leave your meditation. Sometimes this mediation can be profound and sometimes nothing happens but it is a great way to practice hearing this inner-wisdom. At very least, it will be relaxing.

Or listen to me guide you through this practice. It's hosted on the meditation website, Insight.

 

It's Been a Year

Scott & Charity

It's been a year . . .

Hey everyone. Today is the one-year anniversary of my sister Charity's death. She died one year ago today,  unexpectedly, in a motorcycle accident. Above is a picture of us in Central Park, on our way to my yoga retreat in Spain last year. It was taken about two months before she died. Who knew that a year later I'd be living in NYC and visiting Central Park regularly?

My heart is heavy and my throat is thick today thinking of her. But mostly I'm grateful for the awareness that the experience of her death has given me, the awareness of life's beauty and fragility.

It's easy to get rubbed wrong by the dense throngs of people in NYC, out in mass, surging to get to work. Often during the morning commute, people's coffee hasn't kicked in and many people left their goodwill towards others at home.

But I've been doing an experiment, one which has everything to do with remembering Charity. Whenever I find myself getting a little frustrated about all the people in the subway or miffed at some people's rudeness, I start to go out of my way to look at people in the face, the big tough agro dude, Rude Guy, the strung out homeless person, and the struggling single mom, and imagine each person as a brand new baby, held in the arms of their mother, and I remember that the strung out homeless person was once the most important thing in the Universe to that mama. I remember that every single person has needs, fears, loves, and hopes. I remember that every single person, sometime or other, will face death. And I remember that every single person has the capacity to reach their highest self. This changes my attitude from bugged to love.

Charity's death reminds me that love matters most. The legacy that Charity left behind was her unparalleled generosity, unyielding loyalty, and unabashed love for those around her.

May we see everyone we encounter, both the grouchy and the grateful, through the lens of love and light. And because we never know when our number will come up, go out and live the life you've always wanted to live. Let everything you do be driven by love and no matter what happens, you will have no regrets.

Hey, I love you. You're an incredible person.

Scott


"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return."

~Nature Boy written by eden ahbez and sung by Nat King Cole

False Gatekeepers

False Gate Keepers

Fearsome statues often stand as sentinels at the gates of Buddhist temples. They are placed there keep out the timid and those unsure of whether or not they up to the task of fulfilling their dharma, their purpose, and dreams. But ultimately, these menacing statues are false gatekeepers, for those who are brave enough to step up to them realize that, while terrific, these statues are merely stone and one must simply walk past them into the sacred space.

What are the false gatekeepers that keep you back from achieving your purpose and dreams? Is it learning to build your website to launch your business idea? Is it getting comfortable enough with your craft to put yourself out there and drum up opportunities for yourself? Is it the fear that people won’t like what you’re offering?

When I mentor other yoga teachers about how to make a living doing what they love to do, together we look at their false gatekeepers that prevent them from fulfilling their purpose and dreams. We face their stony gaze and walk on by. Yes, there’s work involved but it’s often much easier than you might think. My job is to walk right next to you, encouraging you the entire way, and empowering you with specific, actionable steps that yield quick and profound results.

What are the false gatekeepers keeping you from fulfilling your dreams of becoming an extraordinary yoga teacher and making a living doing what you love? I’d love to help you start taking those brave steps past those today.

The world needs what you have to offer. As you learn to share your talents and passions with the world, you’ll find that the world will in turn feed you.

What’s holding you back? Give me a call or email me today and let’s talk about we can start to move past some of those false gatekeepers and what a yoga mentor program would look like for you 801-891-8365. scott@scottmooreyoga.com

Three Chords And The Truth

I was at the Newseum in D. C. not long ago. It’s the museum dedicated to journalism and the history of the first amendment. Whether or not journalism always achieves it, its objective is to report the unbiased truth. The principle of Satya means truth, which is one of the core pathways to arriving at yoga’s goal of oneness with all things. I felt as if walking around the Newseum was in some ways an homage to Satya and a practice in truth.

The Newseum displays brave and honest journalism. I saw through a poignant gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs how telling the truth can be both beautiful and bellicose.

I was interested to see actual copies of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and to learn about America’s early struggle for freedom of speech. But the special exhibit called Louder Than Words: Rock Power Politics, not surprisingly, the display with all the electric guitars, was the one that caught my ear.

Louder Than Words featured a few short documentaries including one about the nation’s political gasp after Jimi Hendrix, a symbol of hippie anti-establishmentism, spontaneously rocked out with The Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock. Also celebrated in this exhibit was the hallowed and hand-written lyric sheet for Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They Are A Changin' ,” a commentary on the assassination of JFK. But my heart skipped a beat when I came around a corner and perched in front of me was a glass case holding the sacred relic of a beat-to-hell guitar belonging to none other than Joe Strummer from The Clash.

If you aren’t familiar with The Clash, then on behalf of all humans: Welcome to the planet Earth. We're happy you’ve come. The Clash was an important band from England in the late 70s. They were midwives for the birth of Punk, a “stick-it-to-the-man” movement born of the frustrations of a generation. Punk gave voice to a host of people who were angry at what they felt was a conservative, bleak, and expressionless era leading them hopelessly forward toward a vacuous future. Punk protested social norms, the economy, art and style, and of course, politics. They were not afraid to sing, and often scream, their truth.

Check out these environmentally proleptic lyrics from “London Calling,” the title track of The Clash’s 1979 album:

"The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growin' thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
'Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river."

Yoga has broad definitions and “a yoga” can be defined as an action or response to pure observation. Therefore, Punk was “a yoga” of Satya in response to the politics of the day.

Yes, there must be a distinction drawn between spewing opinions into a microphone, and striving for an objective truth. But isn’t that the distilled practice of yoga, to ultimately discern between observation and assessment about any information, be that the tight hamstrings or a tight-ass politician?

The Clash are not the only ones to have spout off into a microphone. Today, there are many television and talk radio rockstars like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and others, who, just like The Clash, have their spotlight and their audience and wield their right to say whatever they want. While I may not agree with much of what some of these people say, because I believe Satya is a pathway to Oneness, a foundational pillar to yoga, I’ll defend their right to say it, even if they manage to offend the entire world in a mere 140 characters.

Wandering through the Newseum, I couldn’t help but become agitated as I thought about the emerging “war against the media,” waged by Trump, Poland, China, and others. It worries me because I believe such an attack on the media threatens the institution of journalism and so directly threatens what I feel is the sacred notion of freedom of speech. By controlling the media, ultimately Satya gets hijacked.

We stood in front of Joe Strummer’s guitar, me reading the plaque and two-year-old Elio shouting, “Guitar! Play it!” I leaned close to Elio and said, “Remember that guitar, Elio, it changed the world.”

Little did I know what an impression this display of “stick it to the man,” noise, and freedom of speech had made on little Elio. The next day at the hushed halls of the National Gallery of Art, Elio decided to practice some of his own freedom of speech.

While we were strolling this cavernous edifice of art, Elio became drunk with glee over the sound of his own tiny screams echoing off of the gallery’s walls. Each time I asked him to please use his “inside voice,” he happily screamed louder (at The Man, read: me, I had become The Man).

Once, as we were taking in the art, walking in a large crowd of tourists, we passed a next-to life size nude statue and Elio squealed with delight and screamed, “BUM BUM!” Feeling quite self-conscious about the raucous he was making, I told Elio gently but firmly that he needed to lower his voice or we were going to have to leave the museum, a textbook The Man mandate, or The Man-date. Elio responded to my reproach by hushing just long enough for me to begin pushing the stroller again. Then, with perfect timing, his piercing, tiny voice burst out even louder with, “Papa tooted!” This was followed by his menacing peal of laughter.

My face blushed more crimson than Childe Hassam’s poppies and in an attempt to recover some dignity, I retorted to Elio, but decidedly loud enough for others nearby to hear, “Ha ha. No I didn’t,” but my worlds fell flat upon the stony faces of both the tourists and statues alike. So childish, so Punk. I considered attempting to teach my two-year-old about the concept of libel but then thought better of it and simply pushed the stroller to another wing of the museum, Elio chuckling the entire way. This was Elio’s foray into the freedom of speech and stick it to the man and Punk in the face of “established culture.” And while I might appreciate it if he could say it more subtly, I must respect his right to say it.

So, whether it’s a little voice piped from a stroller or an ear-splitting voice screaming above an electric guitar, whether it’s cynical opinions about politics or capturing a split second through the lens of a camera, I believe in your right to speak your truth. I believe this moves us toward Satya and ultimately toward Oneness. 

I invite us all to practice pure observation in the world and strive practicing the yoga of discerning the truth in what we see and hear. As you practice discerning truth, let’s cheer for the freedom of speech. And because of this freedom, choose whichever source you like for your information, but for me, I choose to listen to both a particular tiny voice and The Clash.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

~ Bob Dylan

Guitar Jimi Hendrix Played at Woodstock

Guitar Jimi Hendrix Played at Woodstock

Lyrics for The Times They Are A Changin'

Lyrics for The Times They Are A Changin'

Joe Strummer's Guitar

Joe Strummer's Guitar

The Clash

The Clash

Elio Sticks it To The Man

Elio Sticks it To The Man


San Francisco Yoga Tour Sept. 21-24 2017

Yoga and Writing Retreat Aug. 27-20 2017. 1 Spot Left