Ten basic yoga terms

As yoga spread as a form of physical fitness across America, some of its terms have become widely used by the general population. These arise in Sanskrit, one of three recorded languages that are believed to be close to a proto-Indo-European root of many of today’s languages that stretch across much of Asia and Europe.

Here are ten you may hear.

  1. Namaste. Often translated as “that of God in me greets that of God in you.”
  2. Karma. Action or doing, leading each individual to reap the consequences of his own actions, good and bad.
  3. Mantra. A word or phrase that is sounded repeatedly to aid concentration in meditation.
  4. Om. Also spelled Aum. The greatest of the mantras. Repeated properly, it produces great harmony in the body and the mind.
  5. Ahimsa. Non-injury.
  6. Chakra. One of seven points of subtle energy threaded along the spine, each one opening like a lotus and unleashing related awareness.
  7. Asana. Sitting or posture. Each of the physical exercises is known as an asana.
  8. Shanti. Peace.
  9. Ashram. A hermitage or dwelling place of a teacher and students.
  10. Jnana. Discernment or spiritual knowing.

You need to visit this ‘Bootcamp’

My newest novel takes place in a Yoga Bootcamp. It’s run by an unorthodox American swami who’s also known as Elvis or Big Pumpkin, for good reasons. His followers think he’s divine, and they’re out to spread the word as yoga itself is first becoming popular across the nation.

Each of them has moved to his farm to intensify their practice. What they find has as much to do with cleaning toilets or weeding the garden as does standing on their heads in exercise class. Even a single day can embrace eternity as well as a cosmic sense of humor.

Mysticism? It’s largely quite down-to-earth, as you’ll see.

The novel is being published and released today at Smashwords.com. And that certainly has me levitating.

Be among the first to read it!

Ten Buddhist basics

Thanks to Cassia’s father in my novel What’s Left, she’s familiar with Buddhist teaching and practice.

Here are ten basics.

  1. Siddhartha Gautama: Historical figure who established the teachings in northern India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Often referred to as the Buddha.
  2. Buddhas: Transcendent figures found throughout the universe. Gautama embodies one of them.
  3. Dharma: The law or the way taught by Gautama to overcome suffering or dukka (perhaps better rendered as stress or dissatisfaction). One translation has Dharma as the process itself.
  4. Reincarnation: The state of one’s next rebirth is determined by the fruits of an individual’s karma (actions) in the present life.
  5. Nirvana: An eternal state of perfect peace, bliss, and enlightenment, usually achieved through meditation and breaking the chain of further rebirth.
  6. Boddhisattvas: Figures who have attained nirvana but instead of going their immediately, compassionately reincarnate to assist others.
  7. Sutras: The scriptures (literally “stitchings”).
  8. Three major branches of Buddhism: Theravada, prominent in Indochina; Mahayana, the largest and most liberal branch; and Vajrayana, which emphasizes the magical and the occult.
  9. Tantra: Sacred texts in the Vajrayana branch describing secret methodologies and practices.
  10. Mandalas and tankas: Vajrayana visual images to aid meditation.

Gee, I didn’t even get to koans, those mind-boggling puzzles presented to Zen aspirants.

Who says you have to be a kid to be delighted by this?

I know where I’m getting the candy rocks and gummy fish to decorate my gingerbread lighthouse this Christmas. And it’s also a great place for guys to find great little gifts for the significant other in their life, something that usually confounds us. It’s even a fun place to take her on a stroll around town. (Think cheap date.) You can sit in air-conditioned comfort while savoring the yummy ice cream. Or even keep a bunch of kids happy.

We’re hoping Lickees & Chewies Candies & Creamery catches on. It seems to have its act together, blending several types of economically marginal stores into one.

Key to everything is its location, across from the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and above Noggin’s toys on the ground floor of the historic Cocheco Millworks downtown. The one drawback is that the entry is on the other side of the building, away from those two kid magnets.

But once you’re inside, you’ve entered a whole different world. It smells richly mysterious, largely from the chocolate bakery. There are maps with pushpins where customers indicate where they’ve visited from, and there are metal rings on strings you can swing toward hooks in the wall if you’re feeling playful.

There are more classic games in the sitting area, which includes a large round table suitable for a birthday party, actually. Or just resting or looking at the views out the window.

So one part of the operation is the ice cream counter, with an emphasis on creamery. But remember, this place is loaded with candy, as in toppings.

Then there’s the old-fashioned candy store itself, with about every brand you can imagine. The entrepreneurs don’t proclaim their organization or knowledge of the field, but it’s there – Southern candies in this part, German in that – even before you get to the saltwater taffies. Many of the smaller wrapped bits haven’t been a penny apiece for sometime, but that’s its groove anyway. After all, the idea is to fill your own bag.

Yet another part is the fine chocolatier. This is where to find a gift to impress, maybe even a new client. And there’s plenty of room to grow to the side.

They make the most of the historic textile mill space. The ceilings are tall, with bare wood posts. The lighting is warm, tasteful, with some German Black Forest kinds of surprises befitting a fairy-tale atmosphere in the evening.

It’s been here a year already, but I’ve just discovered it. I’m definitely anticipating getting back before Christmas.

The main entrance does make for an impressive approach. It’s almost like crossing a moat.
Inside is a rich mixture awaiting leisurely exploration.
Lingering is no problem.
Anyone else love fresh turtles? Lickees & Chewies come in almond, cashew, or pecan, for starters.
I want to call this Penny Lane.

Soft voices in the air

While working in the driveway, I hear a faint “Hello.” I look around and it’s repeated until I see that it’s coming from a second-floor neighboring window. It’s repeated again.

I look up and see two round faces pressed to the window screen. They resemble two little owls.

Not too long ago the two girls had been too shy to respond to my waves. But now?

Just listen. “Hello, hello.”

We’re making progress.

The breakthrough came the other morning when I waved and the older child waved back. I switched hands and waved. So did she. I used both hands. Ditto. We exchanged some other arm motions and finally a thumbs up.

Well, it brightened my day.

Ten things we still like in Portsmouth

Nearly all traffic to Maine passes through Portsmouth, a smaller but more affluent city to our south – and much of the traffic stops off for a meal or shopping break. It’s a picturesque place bordering the ocean, which makes it both a vacation destination on its own or chic place to retire. For years, it was the heart of New Hampshire’s seacoast region, although that’s shifting more and more to Dover as Portsmouth loses its blue-collar base and state university students at nearby Durham are priced out of its rental market.

Still, we heart it. Here are some reasons:

  1. The Music Hall. Within its unpretentious exterior, this restored 1878 auditorium is jewel of 895 seats and a horseshoe shaped balcony that’s become the principal venue for live music, classic and art films, lectures, and more in the seacoast region of New Hampshire. Simply stepped into the hall feels like stepping back in history.
  2. A vibrant theater scene. Despite its modest population, the Port City is home to an unexpected number of live stage companies. Our favorite is the Pontine Theater, founded by a duo in 1977. They do just about everything from writing the scripts to designing and building the sets and costumes to performing most of the shows each season.
  3. The harbor. Situated at the mouth of the Piscataqua River (with its treacherous currents), Portsmouth and Newington just upstream form the principal port of New Hampshire. The historic downtown wraps around Portsmouth Harbor, and overlooks its clutch of tugboats, commercial fishermen, ocean-going freighters, sailboats, motorboats, even yachts, plus cruises down the river and out to the Isles of Shoals or upstream to Dover (the latter limited to September and October). It’s a gorgeous view from many angles.
  4. Historic houses and neighborhoods. Like many other New England ports, Portsmouth was home to wealthy merchants and traders, and they built homes to match. A living history museum, Strawbery Banke, offers tours and programs featuring a selection of homes and small businesses from the mid-1600s to the beginning of the 1900s. The site, once scheduled for urban renewal demolition, is itself a miracle. It’s not alone, though. Spread throughout town are other historic houses open for public inspection, including the 1664 Jackson House, governor’s mansions, signers of the Declaration of Independence, the John Paul Jones House, and others. Strolling some of the side streets can feel just as impressive.
  5. Prescott Park. Set along the river adjacent to Strawbery Banke, this park is scene to a summer music and theater series, an All-America selection floral display, a lush public garden, sculpture, and dramatic views of vessels as well as the U.S. Navy shipyard and its nuclear submarines on the opposite shore. Next to the park is a small Colonial-era burial ground well worth examining.
  6. Tons of restaurants and nightlife. Downtown probably has as many eateries per capita as Manhattan, many of them veering toward upscale. It’s a constantly changing list.
  7. The new Memorial Bridge and new Sarah Long Bridge. The two drawbridges between New Hampshire and Maine have been recently rebuilt to handle more vehicular traffic and to better accommodate the oceanic freighters and barges. The new structures are pretty impressive.
  8. Third of July fireworks. With its annual pyrotechnics show the night before Independence Day, this city offers a great example of an artistic, well-planned visual production. Maybe it helps to have a central site like the park along the South Mill Pond, but this crew knows how to use the entire sky as a canvas.
  9. The Water Monkey. About the last surviving funky retail outlet downtown, which was once filled with hippie action. Lots of fun in a small space.
  10. The Brattle Organ. Said to be the oldest playable set of pipes in the country, this circa 1665 instrument was imported before 1708 for King’s Chapel in Boston. It now sits in a corner of the balcony at St. John Episcopal on a knoll downtown and is played on rare occasions. It’s a small instrument, fewer than 200 pipes. It must have been thought quite exotic at one time.


Think of a place near your home that you like to visit. Tell us one of things you find appealing.


Just to be contrarian, here’s a view of the Cocheco River just above the dam and falls in downtown Dover. The river flows right through the arch in the mill, where the tide rises and falls about eight feet every six hours. Portsmouth has nothing like this. (Photo taken from Thompson’s deck.)