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.
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Mixmaster? Just look at ‘Yoga’

What, me as a Mixmaster?

Just look at the topics percolating in Yoga Bootcamp.

A beater like this was once a common utensil in household kitchens, used for mixing ingredients in cooking and baking.

Here are ten:

  1. The origins of yoga as a popular American practice.
  2. Yoga as a way of life. It’s much more than a means of physical fitness.
  3. Back-to-the-earth lifestyles. There’s a lot of basics to learn from a hands-on perspective when it comes to gardening, firewood, well water, construction, and the like.
  4. Sharing a household. It’s another way the resident yogis come to know each other deeply. That includes faults and failures despite individuals’ idealized professions. Their goal, of course, is to help each one become a better person. You can’t do this part alone.
  5. Authentic identities. There’s no room for holier-than-thou facades in this maverick laboratory. Swami’s faults are front and center.
  6. Meditation and selfless service. These are emphasized more than the physical exercises, for good reason.
  7. Celibacy and sex. It’s a struggle to stay focused on the spiritual path. Just look at all the males in their bramacharies.
  8. Vegetarian as more than a diet. They also garden and make their own bread. And then there’s the coffee, which other ashrams would ban. Oh, yes, and they fast every Monday. Care to know why?
  9. No recreational drugs, no radio, no TV. The ashram is a place for detoxing from addictions of all kinds.
  10. Counterculture identity. The story is set in the high hippie era, and despite their prohibitions on sex and drugs and the like, the residents are more counterculture than ever in their lives. They’re seen on its cutting edge, in fact. It’s a curious paradox, in its own way, but it is colorful and exciting.

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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.

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WHEN YOU MEET THE BUDDHA ON THE ROAD TO THE RESTAURANT

A central suggestion arising at the end of my first novel, which then shapes my new one, What’s Left, is that her father will be crucial in guiding the family in its embrace of Buddhist practice. Even if I cast that as spirituality rather than religion, it’s a big challenge.

In the course of multiple revisions, this was greatly toned down and redirected.

While Cassia’s concerned with more fully defining who her father was, the novel’s primary focus is on her. Here’s some background that’s much fainter in the final version:

Where had he come from, what prompted his interests, what were his pet peeves, what made him truly angry or truly delighted?

To make this little more concrete:

Some people contend my Baba was a lama. Not the camel-like pack animal from the Andes but a Tibetan Buddhist born in a humble city along the Mississippi, of all places. After college in Indiana and a broken heart, he looped into Dharma by way of, well, a hippie farm where Thea Nita also lived. And then he found refuge in something like a monastery. And then he magically returned here. You thought a monk couldn’t get married? Technically, no, though we’re dealing with an American twist in the mechanics of reincarnation. Or so they’ve told me.

In the end, much less of the responsibility falls on him. Rather, he helps establish an institute having a resident teacher, Rinpoche, who becomes his colleague.

~*~

For Cassia’s father, religion is a way of engaging life more fully. He might even say it is liberation from the tangles of daily life.

Let’s open our range of focus a bit wider.

Where do you go or what do you do to be free? Can you describe the feeling?

~*~

A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pink, like hers.

AND HAVE A GOOD DAY?

In the early days of Friends, they’d often greet each other with the question, “How does Truth prosper among you?” Not “How are you doing?” or even “Good morning.”

Strikes modern ears as puzzling, even problematic, beginning with that verb prosper, which we tend to consider along financial terms rather than thrive or even proliferate. Equally unfamiliar is the idea of Truth being active – alive – rather than static and unchanging.

To further thicken the plot, consider their linkage of Truth and Christ, so the question also asks, “How is Christ alive among you?”

How would you answer that!

~*~

For more along these lines, take a look at Religion Turned Upside Down.

 

NOT ALONE BY A LONG SHOT

When the name Jnana was bestowed on me back in 1972, it was soon expanded to Jnana-Devanandashram – or Jnana-Dev, in a diminutive.

Apart from recognizing my unique character and giving it focus, the name also linked me to a major saint and at least one mythical spirit in India’s past.

Prominent among them was Jnanadev, born in 1275 and described – I love this – as a mystic poet and slave of love. His Jnaneshwari is considered the second most-important commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Alas, he died at age 21.

Now I see there’s another of our own time who’s a musician who performs with Tibetan monks.

That’s before we get to Facebook, with its host of entries, or the Jnana Yoga displays. As for Jnana alone in a Google search? There are millions, thanks to those software engineers from India.

Still, let me guess, I’m the only one you know. Am I wrong?

UNCOVERING THE PLACE OF STRUGGLE

In his Pendle Hill pamphlet last year, Marking the Quaker Path: Seven Key Words Plus One, Robert Griswold opens with the term “condition,” which initially seems familiar enough. Quakers often remark to a comment, “This speaks to my condition,” or even “the Friend speaks my mind,” conveying a sense of unity and affirmation.

Griswold, though, gives the concept a darker twist, noting that a meaningful spiritual journey requires seeing ourselves in our places of failure and weakness rather than a state of “being in charge,” as we so often do. Think of Anne Lamott’s “three essential prayers” — Help, Thanks, and Wow — and admit a long personal list invoking the first.

I would extend that awareness of condition not just to ourselves individually but to our families and circles of faith and then the wider society. I’d say there’s great need everywhere.

This, then, leads to the subsequent steps where we turn to the Holy One and our kindred spirits for direction and growth.

Curiously, condition is not a word I find used widely in either Scripture or early Quaker literature – not directly, that is – but it does fit the situation of many people as they set out in faith as recorded in both.

Could it be that in many of our religious circles, we’ve been running away from this very difficult but essential challenge? We go to worship looking for rest and renewal, not more turmoil and suffering.

O, Lord, give us strength!

~*~

More of my own reflections on alternative Christianity are found at Religion Turned Upside Down.