Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beginning Meditation

The muladhara chakra, at the base of the spine, is also the base of our being. It corresponds to the body below that point, the legs and the feet as well as the anus, and is represented by a square or cube. It's also where one of the body's three diaphragms, the mula banda, which we know as the perineal floor, is located, and is the foundation upon which our being rests.

If the foundation is shaky or compromised in some way, our lives will undermined by feelings of insecurity and dread, someties called "existential anxiety."

On deep inhale, think of the muladhara chakra as the earth, and imagine it as a solid cube, stable and secure. Suspending the breath after inhalation, mentally invest your first chakra with its innate immutability and its low center of gravity, strong, but flexible. On exhale, mentally chant the syllable "lahm," the sound associated with this chakra. Five repetitions.

Two inches above the first chakra is the focus of the creative instincts, the svadisthana chakra, associated with the genitals, sacrum, bladder and kidneys. Our children emanate from this spot, and our own origins as well, as it is associated with water, in which the earth of the first chakra can be dissolved. All life begins in water.

As you inhale, visualize the svadisthana chakra as a crescent moon with the two points turned upward, and imagine activating the enormous reservoir of untapped creativity which till now may have been bottled up by feelings of insecurity and doubt generated by an unstable foundation in your first chakra. Suspending the breath, survey the huge potential of the latent creativity you possess. On exhale, mentally chant the syllable "vahm," the sound associated with the svadisthana chakra. Five repetitions.

Take a cleansing breath, then inhale deeply. On exhale chant "Om." Three complete breath cycles, three times.

Open your eyes slowly. You've been meditating deeply, so don't move too fast too soon.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Have You Ever?

Have you ever felt such a strong feeling of affection for someone that the feeling just by itself almost breaks your heart?

Have you ever sat and watched your life change from minute to minute and hour to hour, in the same way you'd watch the water in a river flow past?

Have you ever wondered, "Why am I doing this?" and then followed the string of causation back to its most basic and fundamental emotional source?

Does it ever occur to you that all clean food is produced without killing any animal?

I wonder if I should water the yard today. It's Friday, and very quiet here in Port Orchard.

I had a tough time getting home last night, because it's getting harder for me to see in the dark. I got confused, hit a median, and lost a hubcap.

Time to move to the city, old man. Cars go too fast. Walking is the cure for that, and letting somebody else drive.

When I got home, Rachel and Sol were here, just passing through on their way to Vancouver, B.C. today. They're traveling in their new 1975 VW Westphalia van, like a couple of old hippies. We had breakfast this morning, which Rachel cooked in the van while wearing an apron. She's the very picture of happy domesticity -- something I never thought I'd see.

Today they'll take a ferry out of Port Townsend to Whidbey Island, then get back to the mainland via Deception Pass. Thence, up Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham, and on to the border -- all in all a day's work.

Those kids are so beautiful it's painful.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Drug Dependence-E

After everything I've done trying to change my life, one thing is still the same: drug dependency.

If I don't get the right drugs I come apart in a big hurry.

Nicotine is the worst one, but I'm still pretty dependent on marijuana too. That I need to stay with, since it helps control the shakes. I probably need the caffeine in coffee also.

I'm not smoking cigarettes at all, and it looks more and more like I'm truly done with that (thank God). But when I try to take off that nicotine patch for a couple hours too long I get very ugly and truculent. So I need to get off this nicotine, to quit for good and be done with it forever. It's not doing anything for me.

So I'll slow down, and in another month and a half jump off. That will put a very late, last ending on a story that started 51 years ago.

"Tempus Fugit" read the inscription on the sundial set into the schoolhouse wall in 1958.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Talking to Morans

No practice today, and no deep meditation. I thought it would be a good day to do some conventional-type thinking about stuff instead.

And after giving it some thought, I came to the startling conclusion that spending four or five or seven or ten hours a day on the intertubes talking to idiots is a total.waste.of.time.

Really, no more of this. I could be doing something useful instead, such as:

a) Washing a dish;

b) Watering the yard;

c) Vacuuming;

d) Petting the cat;

e) Homework;

f) Yoga;

g) Etc.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dreams

Actually they came this morning, not last night.

With my mind much agitated by daily meditations and like a person carrying a strong light into a pitch dark cavern, I slept in shifts last night; up in the middle of the night, back to bed early this morning, and that's when the dreams came.

The first, even though the cast of characters consisted of unknown foreigners, concerned my generally manipulative relationships with women over the years. I've mostly excused myself for any behavior as long as it got me what I wanted. That was unpleasant, if digestible. However, the images that followed were simply strange and inscrutable, although certainly not unfamiliar. I remember seeing them in one of the story books of my earliest childhood. The picture of the adolescent boy in the sailor suit using an oar as a weapon was there, on my dream's computer screen as I blogged in a roadside cafe, along with the strange, frightened frog forever escaping from him.

These pictures, so familiar and now recovered for no apparent reason from so far away, are apparently frozen like flies in amber in some remote memory vault. Dreams like this are kind of like an anthropological dig, but turning up results whose meaning is obscure and indecipherable as ancient Etruscan inscriptions in the sunken cellar of a buried villa. But maybe I can read these things if I can unblock the channel...

I was almost afraid to start practice today, for fear of what I might turn up. Still, I prayed to be able to continue, to go further.

During asana I had trouble bending to the left. The hip joint on that side refused to pop, as it was blocked by an immobilized connection in the sacral/pelvic junction, but I kept working. At the very end of that part of the practice something gave way in the pelvis -- on the right-hand side, unexpectedly, and the blockage was undone.

I went through the chants and pranayama, and started meditation, meditating on the heart chakra, Anahata, for the first time today. I've had a blockage in this chakra most of my life, and it's poisoned my relationships with others, and led me to this isolated state I now find myself in.

The sun was shining intermittently before I began practice, and I had begun watering my sister's yard, but as I was meditating on the heart chakra the weather broke, and the sky gods sent a thunderstorm, complete with light show and a hard, pelting rain.

Photograph by Alan L. Bauer.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Too Much Yoga

I got up and did a complete hour's routine day before yesterday, and wrote it up for the blog. Then I worked on my written-out sequence for class, and to see whether it really is an hour's practice, I had to do it, so I ran through it Wednesday evening.

Then yesterday I went to Parkinson's class, which was pretty vigorous. We did a lot of sun salutations and a lot of twists. Got home and found an e-mail from Tracy that we were starting Thursday night class with a DEEP twisting practice.

God, it was exhausting. Two hours long, and very demanding. And I'm humping through this stuff with all these 30- and 40-year-olds.

I don't think I need to do any yoga today. It's my one day home this week, between cat-sitting jobs, so I think I'll just kick back and chill. Besides, the small of my back is a bit sore.

Unknown dog with sculpture by Kelsey Brookes.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daily and Not Daily

My daily practice still takes an hour of real time, even though it's now evolved into a complete five-part process. This morning it was :63 (or 1:03 if you'd rather), total elapsed time.

Tonight I've got to run through the 18 poses (so far) of the sequence I designed for tomorrow night's class and get it as close to exactly an hour as I can. Class has all of a sudden become very demanding.

Then tomorrow I can go back to my own daily practice, which is still the most important thing of all.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Waste Not Thy Hour

Except for a brief and mild practice ending our marathon classroom session day before yesterday, by this morning I hadn't had a good, comprehensive workout since I left Ludlow to come over here and cat sit for Ron. There was really no time yesterday for either solo practice or going to my Parkinson's class, as it took half the morning to get Ron out of the house and on the road. And that was with him moving more quickly than usual.

This morning I reduced the (already short) interval of chanting, and added a period purely for meditation after pranayama. We'll see where that leads; I've been told it leads somewhere.

The whole routine still takes about an hour, or maybe slightly longer, from start to finish.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't Count on It

I'm getting ready for my once-a-month five-hour classroom instruction marathon, starting about an hour and a half from now.

Today's class will mostly consist of an anatomy lecture.

The coffee shop where I'm getting caffeinated right now has added a nice touch; they have an "eight ball" oracle sitting by the cash register. It'll be there until someone steals it.

Naturally, I asked the eight ball when I came in and ordered if we'd have a reasonably good class session today.


Friday, June 12, 2009


After Tracy's teacher training class last evening I retired to D's couch in the heart of Seattle's Phinney-wood nabe, then this morning made my way to the hospital which lies just a stone's throw from the seminal and trailblazing Northgate Mall (a dreadful place, best avoided by anyone possessing even pretenses of aesthetic sensibility) for my Yoga for Parkinson's class.

Getting old, as the saying goes, is not for sissies, and isn't my idea of fun, but beats the alternative.

And for all the collective suffering that walks into that room three days a week, this is a remarkably upbeat and positive group. It's a "support group" in the truest sense of that overused term, and fortunate in having a dedicated, serious, and conscientious instructor. I'm finding that I'm free to execute the asanas he calls out as I usually would, but taking care not to show off. Tim helps by coming around and correcting my form, for I have no illusions about being perfect at this stage of the game.

This is a very satisfying experience. It's a bonafide yoga class for real people with a common, real problem which provides the target, and the price is right.

Tarot card, "Il Vecchio," colored pencils on watercolor cardboard, by Dave Brice.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Early Morning Practice

Actually got up and got into practice uncharacteristically early this morning, since I've got a busy schedule through the late morning and afternoon. I did so after typing up a short, quick, angry, aggressive, insulting, rude, and truthful blog post on BNet and Catboxx, which complicated the process of establishing an optimum yoga practice mentality.

At some point the bullshit narrative we've been subjected to for the past 30 years is going to collapse under the weight of its own endlessly-repeated lies, and it'll be 1968 again. Until then, it's hard to gaze upon any aspect of the war-and-money machine whose tentacles have embraced every aspect of American life since the ascendancy of the Emperor Ronald without being overtaken by outrage and disgust. And for a person keeping a busy schedule, starting the day that way throws some difficulties in the way of sitting down 15 minutes later for a tranquil hour of self-reflection, concentration on the details of movement, and meditative breathing. But where there's a will, there's a way.

We're living in a bifurcated universe, seeking personal peace in an unjust and violent world where there is no peace. Was it always this way?

Photo, "San Francisco Stenciled Sidewalk," by Dave Brice, 2008.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Yoga and Parkinson's Disease

Took my first yoga class for people with Parkinson's Disease this morning, and it was a very refreshing experience. There were 10 of us there, three women and seven men, plus our young, earnest and studious instructor, Tim. It's a welcome change for me to be able to sit and relax in a room full of people, without feeling self-conscious about the tremor in my right hand and arm.

This was an older group, of course, probably everybody (except Tim) is over 55. Some are in worse shape than others, but we have the illness in common. As we introduced ourselves, Tim asked each of us to mention a favorite book. I said mine was a toss-up between "Moll Flanders" by Daniel Defoe and "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger. As it turned out, one of the other practitioners, a former professor of literature at Lehigh University, recently finished writing a readers' companion volume to accompany "Catcher in the Rye," published by Seattle's Coffeetown Press.

The first third of the hour-and-a-half class we did seated poses in the folding chairs. After that we stood up behind the chairs and had the choice of either doing the movements while holding on to the chair backs or opting for the more vigorous, hands-free versions of the poses, so even in that setting those who preferred to could move energetically enough to raise some heat in the body and get the "burn" of a real workout. The last third of the session was supine poses and savasana.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and also is the direction I hope to go in my own teaching. I was apologizing for the fact that I can't show up too often, as it costs me $30 now to go to Seattle and return home, but I'm already scheming on a way that I might be able to stay in town on Thursday night after my teacher training class so that I can attend Tim's Friday morning session.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Down Dog

I went back to my old practice today, the one I've been doing since the beginning of April. There's something in it, or maybe several things, that help my shoulder to heal and shake the inflammation, even better than what the therapist gave me to do. I just don't know exactly what it is that's helping -- warrior pose, down dog, the shoulder stand, the lateral twist triangle pose (that one especially) -- maybe all of them are aiding in healing the injury and inflammation. So I'll stick with the old asana routine for now, combining it with the new breathing/meditation exercises.

As it turns out, my current assignment in the Anatomy Coloring Book is a close examination of that particular joint. Concentrating on the appropriate pictures, I tried figuring out exactly what part is injured, and I'm thinking it's the sub-deltoid bursa, that part of the cushion lying immediately under the deltoid muscle.

I keep having my most vivid dreams in the hour or so before I wake up. This morning I was watching myself as I used to be, when I was in my twenties and early thirties. It was a very clear picture, showed all the old habits and even modes of thinking, and wasn't pleasant viewing. Following that, I got a very brief image of a hanging body so frightening I don't like recalling it. I think it was a revelation of my worst fear.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Taking a Break

That shoulder injury I got way back in December when I fell in the snow is still bothering me from time to time. It flared up last night, to where I had to get the ice pack and put cold on it for 20 minutes, then a heating pad for 20 minutes (all while sleeping, of course).

There must be something in the new practice aggravating it. So today I'm taking a break from practicing, and just doing three sets of physical therapy/rehab exercises.

I'll resume practice tomorrow, but with the old routine.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

New Practice

I began a new practice yesterday and today which combines asana with breathing and mental exercises designed to train the mind by concentrating it on the chakras.

The first chakra, Muladhara, at the bottom of the spine, is the foundation upon which the others rest. It's represented by a square and governs the lower part of the body, from the soles of the feet to the bottom side of the perineal floor, that diaphragm known as the mulabandha.

It's a slow, deliberate routine, and today I tried the super twist Bharadvajasana for the first time, demonstrated here by Gary kraftsow. However, I couldn't get the hand going behind the back all the way over to the foot, and had to use a strap. Maybe in time...

I had a strange and very lucid nightmare between four and five this morning, and it seemed to last much longer than an hour. I was leaving Santa Cruz for the southland and somehow missed the turn onto Highway One. So I just went on up the road, unfamiliar at that point, and pulled into a strangely-configured mall where I saw a McDonald's sign (of all things). It was a weirdly-fragmented place, broken up into irregularly-shaped little parking lots and clusters of stores. Once parked I couldn't find McDonald's, so I had a sandwich at some other place, and then couldn't find my car. I wandered around through endless parking lots for what seemed like hours, and even though there were a lot of yellow cars and even quite a few yellow beetles, none of them was mine. I asked a few people to help me, but they either laughed at me or just gave me strange looks. By the time I woke up I was sitting on the pavement, nearly crying, and wondering how I would ever get home.

That's probably the biggest universal fear -- that we'll be lost and friendless in a hostile universe, feeling like a motherless child.


Monday, June 01, 2009


I made a couple of wrong moves yesterday -- smoked a cigarette and ate pizza.

The cigarette I found while going through mom's stuff. It was by itself in one of those little boxes of four the dope merchant corporations used to pay people to hand out free on the street. Try this one, and you too will soon be hooked. God knows how old it was.

And it was horrible. There were scented matches or something carrying a scent in the shoebox where I found it, and it tasted like soap. Still, I smoked it to the end, then eight hours or so later, in the late afternoon felt a particular pain in the lungs that is always caused by cigarette smoke, and never anything else.

Later on, in the evening, I didn't feel like cooking, so I ordered up a small vegetarian pizza and drove the 20-mile round trip required to get it home. It was a beautiful day and I didn't mind. Got it home and it tasted great. But I woke up this morning feeling like a B-1 bomber with a big load of bombs.

These were both good wake-up calls. There's no "up side" left in smoking; it's all a downer. And I've been slipping in my diet, eating a little too much meat, cheese, etc., and not enough rice and vegetables.

The way we feel, day-to-day and minute-to-minute depends on a few fundamentals -- exercise, adequate rest, and what we put into our bodies. I've reached the point now where I can feel the effects of bad decisions immediately, and take corrective steps.

I've been concentrating for the past year on the physical and vital function (i.e., digestion, respiration, etc.) aspects of life -- the annamaya and the pranamaya -- and now I'm ready to incorporate attention to the manomaya -- the intellectual existence -- and will begin to learn to train thought itself. That's the plan, anyway, and I have the right instructor.

I've grown used to the solitary life and come to actually prefer it. It's perfect for the intense self-exploration I'm doing right now.

This may all sound very self-centered, but what I'm learning is going to be applied to service to others in the not-too-distant future.

On a side note, I started taking a nutritional supplement, L-Dopa, as a remedy for Parkinson's disease three days ago. It's an extract of the tropical legume mucusa pruriens, or velvet bean, which has been used in India to treat the disease for over 4,000 years. So far I've noticed some modest improvement in the symptoms, and I'm hoping for more.

Photograph, "The Buddha Watches," by Dave Brice.