Greetings Avatars, Jedi's, Celestial Beings & all Followers of the Light!

Join me on this fantastic voyage through Time and Space armed with the Harmony of Yoga Sutras and philosophy as my guide.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Real Yogis Have Curves

Namaste Light Beings and let me begin with Happy Chinese New Year!  Year of the Horse. I thought I would slide into 2014 without posting a blog, after all, my last official post was Jan 2012. So much for for my prolific writing career, *smh*. I  had no intention of observing today's Super Moon aka Black moon with a writing sample, however the universe always has its own  cheeky methods to prod and steer us in the right direction on our individual Shakti Yoga Trip. 

Yoga is Union, full stop. The synchronization of mind, body and spirit in such concentrated capacity as to bring the yogi into a state of full presence. When I am fully present, as you, it becomes effortless to read between the lines, rise above petty matter and see things clearly, especially when the Universe is emitting subtle pulses of data to be downloaded. This morning, I wasn't sure what my focus or purpose would be after sending my youngest son off to school, but it was soon very clear. Two siStars that I have known for many years from different parts of the country, hit me up on Facebook with a must read article. There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes...... Of course I smiled and chuckled as I thought it was satire, however the reactions by my fellow Jedi to the yet unread article was disconcerting. I followed the whispers and instead of starring and storing for later, I read the literary contribution.

Exhale...... it is these instances when a yogi practices yoga and when a Jedi uses The Force.
Those who know me up close and personal can attest that easy offense is not in my nature. Not that I am oblivious to racism, sexism, caste and class wars, etc... I see the "isms" clearly with coherent eyes. 
'I Am Not That'
I am not one for high drama or controversy, yet as a co-founder of the first female African American yoga and wellness center, Shakti Mindbody Studio 8 years ago in Washington, DC, and as a teacher of the fine art of Yoga for over 10yrs, I had to speak on it.  It being the blog submission linked above by Jen Caron to At best, I chalked it up to a juvenile attempt to be provocative, as she did  provoke laughter in me. At worse, it caused me to mourn the fact that this young lady has been misguided on her Shakti Yoga Trip and has missed the fundamental architecture of a truly faithful yoga practice. It is not a competition and comparison has no place.  

My girl states, "Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body."

     Exhale.....eyebrow raised. Hmmmmm.... there seems to be a lot of outward attention during this appointed time of inward reflection. I wondered who is teaching this class? Who does she study with? In my classes I remind my Jedis to "remain focused on the task at hand," meaning the asana, the breath, the sensations rising from within, there is no space to observe or judge anything outside of this present moment. Focus yogini Focus. The author seems to be resolving her 3rd Chakra (EGO management) issues on the oblivious black woman stationed next to her. I believe nothing is by chance. This was a serendipitous part of the self awareness process that is born of yoga. NOT the black woman's process, but the purging of darkness from the author's mind about her perceptions and misconceptions of Black women. 

The ideas expressed in this article goes beyond the fact that yes, Real women have curves. Yogis come in a variety of shapes and sizes and no matter how frequent the asana practice, or how hot the room is heated, not all female yogis are intended to be a size 6 arm balancing Diva! That is not the goal or purpose of a faithful yoga practice. Yoga is a spiritual practice. 

The liberal use of words like resentment, hostility and despair about someone the author has never interacted with are quite simply tangible examples of the obsequious nature of racism and prejudice (pre-Judgement).

The author goes on to offer, "I thought about how that must feel: to be a heavyset black woman entering for the first time a system that by all accounts seems unable to accommodate her body. What could I do to help her? If I were her, I thought, I would want as little attention to be drawn to my despair as possible—I would not want anyone to look at me or notice me. And so I tried to very deliberately avoid looking in her direction each time I was in downward dog, but I could feel her hostility just the same...."

Exhale...eyebrow raised.. shaking my head...forehead in palm. Hmmmmm... there seems to be a lot of loaded innuendo about the character of this anonymous "heavyset black woman." All the while the author purports to be very concerned about the feelings and needs of this yogi, who like herself, is on the mat  finding her way, like us all. 

Master Yoda reminds the Jedis in his training, "judge me by my size, do not." 

There was a lot of "monkey mind" happening on the mat of this self proclaimed, "skinny white girl"  that day. The ancient Gurus liken the fluctuations of the mind to a DRUNKEN MONKEY BITTEN BY A SCORPION. It's crazy if you don't learn to tame it. This is yet another reason the Jedis convene on the mat to strengthen our mind tricks, after all mind tricks the body.  It is on the mat where we learn the tools and techniques to quiet the noise and tune into the Divine signals of the THE FORCE. Our misguided author missed this lesson in YOGA 101 and for this I am sorry for her.  
I teach, "each one, teach one." 
This is a learning opportunity for us all. 

I'm of the belief that the author was too caught up in her apparently distorted body image and fashion issues that she missed the fact that this experience is not about judging. Yes she did a lot of judging of herself and others. The judgements were of a hostile nature presumably stemming from her personal inadequacies. "A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never attack." says Master Yoda. The author forgot that it is not about judging the neophyte "affluent white women" who have taken to the ancient science in mass, nor the fabulously fierce black women who have been practicing the spirit of yoga for centuries.

Africa and Africans have been steeped in the yogic tradition since ancient times, it was part of the curriculum in the mysterious schools of Ancient Egypt and beyond. A mastery of Pranayama (breathwork) and understanding of meditation was required to remain calm in the cramped and deplorable hulls of slave ships that crossed the perilous Atlantic ocean. Understanding of harmony and frequency in the form of mantra, prayer and song which raised our vibrations and transformed mind into matter as we BUILT the AMERICAN economy with every piece of cotton picked under the scorching sun. 
That is the essence of yoga off the mat and in the real world. 

I do concede that in my seven years of owning and operating a yoga studio, a disproportionate percentage of my clients have been of the Caucasian and Asian persuasion. 90% of the time I am the sole African American in the class, yep the only one and I'm leading the charge. Whether I am a size 2 or postpartum size 10, like the cornucopia of curvy and angular yogis I serve, I have enjoyed all of them as we traveled and quested together. It was their support, loyalty and dedication that kept my doors open and filled my heart with love and joyful exchanges in class on and off the mat. They have taught me as much as I have taught them and guess what they are my Jedi Federation that constitutes all nations, not my white or Asian clients with skinny bodies and lululemon uniforms.  

I continue to make it my business to reach out and recruit more of my siStars into this "movement" now epic in the west. Not to shrink their shapely thighs or bountiful bottoms, after all the butt implant industry is doing quite well in America. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, no?  It's a matter of remembering the mind and how to best apply the energy of this complex and powerful tool at our disposal. So I say let the tears flow girlfriend, it is through these tears that the cleansing of the self important and distorted ego occurs and the clearing of the myopic 3rd eye that caused her to believe  that this black woman deserved her judgement or required her pity. 
It's cool, each one teach one and there's more where that came from.

As master Yoda affirms, "luminous beings are we... not this crude matter."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Things I won't leave behind in 2014...My double D's!

Things I won’t leave behind in 2011…My Double D’s!
It’s still a bit early on this final day of the 2014 EST. The well wishes via text, email and phone calls have begun.  The Facebook, Google and Twitter  blessings and remembering is in full swing. Most are lamenting about what will be left behind in this new year, the auspicious 2015 AD.  I’d like to share what I will surely not leave behind, my double D’s....discernment and detachment! These were my lessons to master in 2014.
Being a Yogapreneur, from time to time, I too can be a bit jaded by all the love and light talk and sentiments spouted about freely by my fellow professionals.  Face it, life can be really challenging and a complete mystery, an overwhelming mystery at times. So frightening and bewildering we may find ourselves paralyzed by indecision and uncertainty. These are the times that my fellow Yoginis and I know that yoga as a spiritual practice off the mat and in the world becomes paramount to maintaining homeostasis in our daily lives. These moments when we find ourselves in the dark cave of despair and anxiety often wondering in silence, “what do I do, which way do I go?” Wallowing in the mire, confusion sometimes outweighs discernment. 
The tears may flow in mass for many days or weeks while heaviness settles in at the Anahata (heart chakra) hotel.  Some professionals call this depression, but I liken these fluctuating frequencies to emotional recessions. Those days or weeks when our angelic wings are a bit arthritic and won’t quite unfurl in full glory. When the density of gravity takes hold of our Life Force keeping us earthbound. Our luminosity becomes dull and begins to diminish, the darkness spreads or we muster just enough energy to put on the “mask” and bury messy matters a little deeper falling prey to avoidance, not detachment.
“Having had the security of such a great support system was crucial to my success.” Beyonce. Whether she is your favorite or least, these words ring true.  A consistent practice of Yoga on and off the mat helps us develop our intuitive nature, which aids in our ability to make better choices for our life. Making wiser choices in the company we keep, and the support systems we compile. No man/woman is an island and success in any endeavor is a group effort, but we must first discern who is truly in our corner with words and DEEDs, then choose wisely.  Everyone is not designed to handle the pressure or expectations of being on the starting line up of our life, and we are not equipped to be the All Star on other people’s rosters either.  Wanting to be on the first string and doing what is required to be first string are two different approaches yielding two different outcomes.  It is through conscious breathing, living and discernment which we can draw our conclusions, which people and circumstances best enhance the quality and vitality of our life.  
Conclusions reached, now time for detachment.  When we’ve run fast enough, jumped high enough and maneuvered enough rings of fire to settle on our decisions….. now comes the time to detach from the outcome.  As Yogis we learn to accept all things and attach to nothing. We learn that all things are possible thru the Divine ((FORCE)), but if not “this” than something better. We learn that if this is to be it is up to me and that patience and faith will carry the weight so that we can let it go and let GOD!

Yeah,  surely won’t be leaving my double D’s behind……..

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Look what they did to my boy."

"Look what they did to my boy,” a voice filled with sorrow and tears, Marlon Brandon lamented over the body of James Caan in The Godfather. As I laid my heavy head down in the eastern corner of my Brookland basement, the coolest spot in the house, these words would not leave me. I watched them butcher my friend this morning y’all. It wasn’t just a tree. Another guardian has been taken from me.
This week was a good one. Not without it’s conflicts and perils, there was resistance on several fronts, but my strength is returning and Chakras 5 is spinning rapidly, the ability to speak my truth in a timely fashion with compassion. My abilities to remain calm and steadfast served me well. Clairvoyance and synchronicity are my running mates once again. Thursday and Friday were particularly prosperous and auspicious days. This morning, Sat July 24,2010 was promising to be the hottest day in July, at least 100 degrees w/ the usual high humidity. There were many social options at my fingertips to choose from. Oh how nice, this would be.
5:45am- yes I was awake somewhere near the realm of Theta -Crash, POP, BOOM…the 4 level house shook, my bedroom ceiling fan slowed down, digital clock and cable box went dark, the A/C become silent. Thought it was another earthquake so I lay still, but only for a minute. I could hear my neighbors to the left making their way thru their backyard towards the main street along our common fence. My guardian to the West had succumbed to disease; a large portion of a 100+-year-old tree across the street from my house came down, bowing at the foot of my porch. Not the entire structure, two of the largest branches that have provided shade and protection from the searing soliel, as the front of my home faces west. His beautiful leaves waved to us each morning and hung over the street providing wonderful shaded on-street parking for our guests, as well as beauty and oxygen to our environment. He’s one of the trees that called me here to this neighborhood, one of the guardians that make the fight alright.
Here in Brookland/CUA, there is a spiritual battle being waged. Being the land of the Jesuits, home of Catholic University of America, one might think it’s religious in nature, no, development Mother Nature and Pepco. The two immense branches that peeled away from the hearty trunk on this lovely breezy morning took down two power lines that were tangled up in his loveliness. Those lines fed my home directly and a two mile radius of homes and businesses. The green leaves and branches that filled 13th St in front of my home blocking all passage of automobiles in either direction were diseased from an earlier assault by Pepco. Lower branches had been cut in years gone by, yet not properly tended to in order to keep the archaic ABOVE ground power lines free from interference. Unlike Europe or the western United states, the nations capital can’t seem to justify placing the power lines underground. Unsightly and dangerous, yet cheap and profitable- Go America!
My heart was heavy y’all! My house was hot and my children were without electronic entertainment. We got creative and turned the lemons into lemonaide as the fire, police, utility and arboretum groups went about their work in our front yard and street. The number of man-hours inefficiently allocated year after, and this, I am sure is a regular occurrence after reoccurring winter storms- such lack of vision and defiance of logic.
My babies and I planted a few new plants in the front yard and spread around the mulch that, out of the blue, my sprit led me to purchase on Thursday morning. With, less western protection from my guardian, the sun would sear down on our front yard and our beautiful little plants and flora friends would require extra insulation to keep their roots cool and productive. We watered ( a bit of reclaimed rain water too) our grasses early before the earth revolved around to the full western sun exposure on this hot and humid day. We leisurely enjoyed a front porch lunch of fresh fruits and foods that required no heat, but needed to be eaten before spoil set in.
I tried to keep busy. My energy weaned from household and yard chores so I gave in and sat still in my anarondock rocker on the front porch watching the last bits of the butcher. The nuns, kiddy corner of me, graciously brought the workers Gatorade and snacks to fuel their efforts. My mind drifted to the movie Avatar and the importance of Eywah (sp?) the spiritual leader and magnificent tree that held Pandora society together, then to my recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui and their visionary and necessary uses of wind turbine’s and solar power. Like the cutting away of diseased limbs of a diabetic, it was necessary, but oh so sad. For me to have electricity the majesty of this mighty and peaceful warrior, this ancient guardian and wise one was sacrificed, because it is ESIEAR and CHEAPER this way. The resentment swelled in me. So many C+ efforts looking for A+ applause “look what they did to my boy.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Marauding with the Moors

It was the deep winter of 2008 and once again my soul was stirring and restless. Spiritual and ethical dimensions of Leadership weighed heavily on my mind, my Machine (physical body) was not well tuned and my support systems were out of synch with my Intentions. Deepak Chopra or Deepak Okra, as my friend Bill Kirkland refers to him, made a salient remark, something to the effect that successful people are those who are able to “access their choices at a deeper level of awareness and align themselves with the Infinite intelligence of the Universe.” Yeah, that sounds like a fine way of conducting my business in 2009. This was to be the final year of a seven-year cycle. The spiritual sect know what this means on a cellular and celestially level.
My BFF living in the city of Lost Angels and fellow Bisonette “auntie Monica”, and I had original travel plans for a late winter, early spring to venture to Northern Europe; Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Paris to visit and support a Moroccan friend’s bodybuilding competition efforts. That winter, I learned “Inshallah” was more than an ode to God that his will be done. Sometimes it refers to the speaker’s level of effort surrounding any event and excuses them from applying their “best” effort by inserting this single yet, profound word. Cultural lessons had begun.
Weeks passed and there was no definitive movement on the original invitation to N. Europe. No worries, one of my mottos “one monkey never stops the show” in my theatre of life. Timing, that trip wasn’t meant to be. His sister, and my long time good friend, mentioned she would make the pilgrimage home to Rabat in late March with her then 4 yr old son. In an instant I was invited. “Auntie” Monica and my 4yr old would come along for the ride; well many years ago the doors were open and I never walked thru. This year, at this time, the spirit (The Force) whispered, “go.”

As I think back, it was all very casual as if we were meeting up in Ocean City, MD for a weekend, not traveling across the Atlantic via Paris to Mother Africa- lol. This was to be “auntie” Monica’s 1st overseas trip and Yasin’s 1st trek to Europe and Africa. I felt it time to break him into his mother’s natural state of being- International Ambassador of light and love, sprinkling Fairy dust around the globe; bound by none, allegiance only to the Divine Architect, time for a passport young Jedi.
I needed to relieve the pressure in a serious way. was rounding out year two and there was a lot of strange in the atmosphere. My Machine was playing tricks on me, and only the power of my Will kept all the wheels spinning. Confusion and discontent were the Order of my daily existence. There was no one in my immediate surrounding who could materially relate to my unique set of issues- no mirrors-NO ONE. Thus far, the portrait of my life had been painted with one-off brushes that were no longer being sold. Which means I needed to fan out…. I had painted myself into a lovely, but lonely corner. “Auntie” Monica was a very empathic soul sister and the spirit (The Force) told me to bring her along, for I would require her strength, grace and patience to fully appreciate this adventure. Mama needed a get away or psychiatric evaluation would soon be required.

Smooth sailing from JFK International connecting thru Charles deGaule into Rabat International, my wee Jedi impressed me with this cooperation and endurance. I purposely chose to break up the journey with a Paris layover as the idea of 10hrs direct w/ a 4yr old made my head spin. The sun greeted us as we disembarked from the plane directly onto the tarmac; counter to our jet walks here in the U.S.A. my Yaya loved this little difference. At customs the questions about parentage, “is his father Moroccan, where is his father, are you Muslim?” Hmmmm, odd line of questioning, been around the world, never encountered this type of inquisition, I laughed inside my head. Jedi “mind trick” moment let us pass. We were greeted by our friend from N. Europe, his son and nephew, it was then I learned everyone converged back home for a family wedding- Bingo, Jackpot- yeah baby- an authentic Moroccan wedding, Timing- woohoo!

I must say Rabat was nothing like I had anticipated. Well I did just about no research, but had visions of Egypt in my head- not! What a gorgeous and modern yet historical place. Not infant historical like Wash, DC,- monuments and Georgetown, but ancient historical like, The Medina Fortresses, tales of Hannibal, The Royal Palace. It became quickly obvious that Rabat is like the Wash, DC of Morocco in one respect, that is where the power lives- banking and legislation. I was anticipating heavy pockets of poverty in every neighborhood, but couldn’t keep track of the number of BMWs, Audis and sidewalk cafĂ©’s along the road. Shopping like that in the West, Steve Madden, Zahra’s, and Benetton etc… yeah this place has swagger. Where are the shoeless children for whom we brought toys, clothing items and school supplies?

Day one, we ventured out to the sea with the children, it reminded me of California, the greenery, mountains and ocean all in one local, so not what I had anticipated. A bit tired from a restless night at the Soundress hotel. Oye! We wanted to stay close to the family condo, which was located in a part of town reminisence of S. Beach, Florida without the beach, but again “Inshallah” was taken to a whole new level when it came to the service. It was the antithesis of the Oberio, leaving much to be desired. Interesting how requests directly from “auntie” Monica or myself were largely ignored, but when passed thru our male hosts- they were attended to without haste, hmmmmm. Thanks be to God for our close proximity to my dear friends brothers.
As expected, the wedding was off the hook! The percussions of the band, dancing, chanting… the food, beyond fresh and organic! Pickled veggie’s, Tangine’s of poulet, almonds, saffron and noodles, couscous- Baklava! Like in India, I truly enjoyed hanging back checking all the ornate and colorful Sahri’s, here they were Kaftans, hand beaded and crafted for the individual. The bride glowed brighter with every change of costume, western and traditional.

Each day held a new adventure for the marauding American’s. Language was a particular issue, as we were not staying in the traditional tourist areas. Even though the Soundress hotel was a test of our western patience on every level, we stayed with the locals and that meant just about no English being spoken. Arabic and French or bust- Oye! Unlike France the Moroccans were much more patient and forgiving of our “handicap” and willing to help. Their openness gave me courage to practice my rusty French without harsh critique or judgments. I was on a new round of medications for my thyroid condition and it was heavily affecting my ability to think clearly and quickly, so their patience was appreciated beyond “merci beaucoup.”
My dear friend and hostess was home to visit with family and also reconnect with old friends, which left many instances for “auntie” Monica and I to roam. Many times we were “escorted” by a male family member or friend. Family ties are preserved here. I felt protected, but not smothered. This has a lot to do with the fact that our host family members have struck a well-calibrated balance between eastern and western values. They all live and work in the West and were educated at the Royal schools with the King’s relations, groomed to be International citizens.

It was Good Friday. Not so good for this Shaktimama. My new med’s had me in a tailspin. The jet lag hit me, the text messages about issues and problems to solve at home continued to dog me and I was at the breaking point. My “family” mounted up to give me room to breath by taking “auntie”Monica and Yaya for the day. Alone in my room I cried, called my Oracle in Pasadena, California and rested. I instinctively knew that the new Pharmaceuticals were “evil” and counterproductive, but I was too afraid to discontinue use while traveling overseas. I prayed for Divine intervention, “Help!” I asked for grounding, my spirit was itching to leave this disorganized body. I was too far from home to break. A few sleeping pills later and some home cooked couscous, brought to my hotel room by the family and more rest I faded into the next day.

My spirit was vibrating low and slow, but we still had another week to go and the next day was Easter. My dear hostess, Fatima, suggested I meet up with her at the local Hamam to recalibrate. I had no idea what this ritual entailed, although her eldest brother had fantastic paintings reflecting this ancient ritual throughout his condo. I first ventured over to the family condo that am. Now, mama Aicha and I had been introduced, yet communication was a bust- she no English, me no Arabic and only elementary French. I had arrived at an auspicious time of the day.

Fatima had already gone for her appointment and the family assistant was going to escort me over to the Hamam to meet her. Before leaving, Mama Aicha motioned for me to meet her in her bedroom. She pointed to the prayer rug facing east, gave me a head wrap and with her luminous brown eyes, instructed my restless spirit to bow and pray. Wow, I had been married into a Muslim family for well into 5 years at the time, and none had ever invited me to pray w/ them. This was the grounding that my soul yearned for. I sat in Vkrasana (heroes pose), palms up (receptive) and quieted my mind in meditation. She was a stranger in a foreign land who brought me back to the actual. Balasana (child’s pose) and I was calm once again.

Now, the local Hamam was the icing on the cake. In retrospect, I would have not been able to handle this experience had my spirit not been grounded beforehand. I was taken into a small, ceramic tiled room- everywhere beautiful shimmering Moroccan tile work. In the center rested a large marble table. I was instructed to completely disrobe and lay on the table face up. Ok, freaky, but I’ll go with it. For an hour I was washed, scrubbed, rubbed cleansed and renewed by the hands of another. It was the most sensual experience I ever had without the anticipation or expectation of sexual intimacy. As I meditated, during the more vigorous scrubbing portions, my mind ventured back to the tomb drawing in Egypt, that of Anubis washing and performing Reiki over the dead body in preparation for judgment. I laid my burdens down on that marble slab. She washed me, pushed the bolder out of my way and restored my soul.

The following day was Easter, a beautiful day in all respects, and my first time away from home on this holiday. Yasin and I spent the morning doing yoga asana in the park. I could go on… Casablanca, the oil shortage, an afternoon with the Princess & family at her seaside playground, Henna at the Medina, the search for the perfect Riyad, enough for now. I imagine blogs shouldn’t exceed 2000 words- a book yeah, I’m feeling a book- stay tuned Jedi’s.

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's a Small World: From Mumbai to Dubai

I have a secret. Shall I share it now or tease you till the end? Hmmm, decisions like this are all that plague my mind as I sit poolside at the Fairmount Dubai on a sunny February afternoon overlooking the Arabian Sea and the famed Port of Dubai in the distance. Yeah, you remember the controversial Port of Dubai. The contention over the proposed purchase of a US port by the Emirates last year in early 2006-there it is before me, clutching the coastline. The Al GHUAAIR Printing & Publishing House sits low and unassuming to my right just across the Satwa 4 lane roadway. It’s a bit industrial park meets downtown where I’m located. I can see traffic is light at 3pm, give it another 90minutes and Dubai’s Sheik “someone royal” roadway will rival I-5 in LA or I-76 in Philly. See we have so many things in common already- traffic congestion.

Like the horizon of Miami’s S. Beach, the Arbian Sea is dotted with barges waxing and waning. The coastal business community laid out before me is saved from predictability by the dual mosque minarets directly ahead and another just off to my left peripheral-the elevated surround sound speakers are evident on that one. This reminds me of my goof ball inquiry just yesterday at the gold souq. It was call to prayer at a quarter till 4pm- we were making our way, by car, out of the narrow shop lined back streets to the highway. When I first sat in the car, I registered one Imam’s call to the people “Allah U akbar…” By the third turn of the wheel I registered another town crier, a much sweeter melodious voice- he seemed to be filling in the gaps. I thought I had hit on yet another innovative undertaking here in this odd little kingdom- duets call to prayer! Call to prayer in rounds-that’s what’s up baby! Alas, it was two distinct houses of worship that happen to be very near in proximity. Maybe I should propose this avant guard style, but whom would I approach? UAE isn’t that forward thinking- yet.

The Burj al Arab and The Wave mega hotels rise majestically in the distance to my left betraying all notions of a sandy hot dessert Bedouin pre-technology age. As a matter of disappointment to me, 4 days and not one camel or sand dune to be seen, not even a patch of dirt! Every inch of earth here is occupied or soon will be. No really, as a matter of fact they are importing dirt to build on. They call it The Palm Jumeirah, which the entire time I have been unable to pronounce, as far as I can utter it is called Jeremiah. My brain is still adjusting to the time zones, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Ok, so this is a man made town built on the sea fashioned into a palm tree with sixteen leaf branches, eight to each side, with each limb increasing in length. It is encircled by a halo outer rim and two small islands to either side of the trunk. The leaf branches are where the mega villas and Mac Mansions are housed. The likes of Tiger Woods, David Beckham and Rod Stewart are a few of the notable neighbors awaiting occupancy of their pre-purchased domiciles. The trunk is for the mere mortals, with diminutive Durham’s (UAE currency).

Still not sure whose bright idea this was, but earth was reclaimed and filled in off the coastline of the Jumeirah Marina designed to resemble a palm tree jutting into the ocean. It is clearly visible by satellite from outer space. These people are off the hook! Ambitious is too puny a word to describe the scale of this architectural engineering feat. Having just seen the Discovery channel documentary on the Salklin Island pipeline and oil refinery project, I’m thinking my visit will be somewhere on the scale of that magnificence, with perhaps a few less possible environmental disasters at stake, maybe.

Our driver took us onto the trunk of the new city. It’s a four lane causeway, two north and two southbound lanes, both sides are lined with plot after plot of large scale analogous edifices. The Fairmont will add their contribution in the form of The Kingdom of Sheba, a Yemeni inspired district of town homes, villas and timeshares. Many others have staked their claim as well. There will be another Atlantis, from the makers of Atlantis Bahamas and Sun City in S. Africa. Donald Trump is building his egg shaped glass shrouded ball of confusion in the center of the madness. Now, considering that the land is manufactured, thus prime with a capital P, I’ll allow your imagination to insinuate the asking prices for a piece of this action. Let me offer that the trunk is sold out and properties have already reached, many exceeding, 100% equity position. Wow! I just need to stop for a minute and drift into Monguito Santamaria’s Afro Blue resounding from my iPod for a moment………..

Our friend from Bahrain, the other odd fiefdom down the sea, has brought me back with a little 1970’s “Get on the Floor”. I just love Off the Wall, that was genius manifest! I digress; the point of this narrative is to fill you in on my expedition and revelations in the Far and Middle East. This journey began in Wash, Dc in route to Mumbai, India.

Let’s see, three hours on the Acela from Union to Penn station, followed by the freakiest scene- a quiet Manhattan. I guess 6am on Saturday is the time to move about Gotham city with facility. Twelve and a half hour flight to Dubai on Emirates Air, taken in stride. I was surprised to see the international cast of stewards and stewardesses in attendance, but it was merely a prelude to the international population of Dubai. Service was good, but like most American airlines, Emirates departure times are capricious. The satellite onboard movie/video system was enviable. I swear there were at least 500 hundred channels. I could choose from Hindi, Arabic, French, Japanese, and American movies translated into a variety of dialects- too bad I was exhausted and only caught a couple flicks. Thank you for Smoking and Robin Williams’s most recent Presidential movie were great time passers- the Bollywood cinemas were absorbing as well. It wasn’t until the trek home that I burrowed into those often exaggerated, but far from indolent cinematic constructions.

It was well after 11pm, dark and muggy compared to the recycled conditioned air I had become accustomed to over the past 18hours. Our friends, the engaged couple, received us with smiles. The family arranged for drivers to tote everyone around for the wedding week. Our luggage load was lighter than when we boarded at JFK. Emirates lost my luggage! I was too tired to be enraged at the thought of being across the world with just the clothes and shoes on my person and a few toiletries, iPod, books and purse contents. Just get me to a hotel, I smelled stale and I’d grown hairier in the time it took to get to India. Other than the bus ride from Narita airport into Tokyo, I’d never experienced such a long ride; make that long and frightening ride from the airport to our hotel.

The roads of Mumbai were jam packed with people walking, women balancing baskets of goods on their heads- quite gracefully I might add, cows pulling cargo, other teeny little cars with no sense of lane distinctions. I couldn’t look straight ahead. Our hosts kept me distracted with interesting tidbits of the city’s history, its resurgents, its inhabitants and low and behold Mumbai’s 1st big time luxury mall. Hello, look what America has brought to town. I laughed at the fact that India exports entrepreneurs, Yoga, doctors and computer programming gurus while we import the all American mall- conspicuous consumption- yeah baby! Hey, now Indian’s have some place to go and dull their senses the next time Mumbai is blown up by radical fundamentalist, let President Bush connect the dots. Wow, it just occurred, this is far from home and India has suffered far more homeland attacks, primarily in Mumbai - the New York City of India. Gotta keep my 6th charka clear, aside from time and chance, it is often obedience to instinct that makes the difference between the quick and the dead.

We ended up booking two different hotels, apparently Feb is wedding season. On the never ending journey to the Taj President in S. Mumbai, or “Mumbai proper” as another of our host informed us, I saw a lot of construction to old buildings in progress. Oddly enough the scaffolding was composed of sugar cane or bamboo bound together by twine! Ok, so no- the Indian race isn’t the tallest or heaviest on the planet, but these were 30-40 story buildings! Talkin’ about workin with whatcha got- Go India!

Our 1st full day on the continent, we walked and explored about. I was mesmerized by the colorful and vibrant sahri’s. They are functional and fashionable, many sumptuous fabrics and detailing, no matter what caste or class, all the women wore them. It was rare to find a lady in jeans and a t-shirt, it seemed sort of inelegant and out of place here, but with the mall invasion the mini skirt is on the rise. There’s a new movie launching called Saleem al Isq- the promos and billboards are everywhere. Then there is TATA, the billionaire industrialist, whose companies manufacture everything from cars to the telephones in our hotel rooms- he was everywhere as well on TV flying a newly purchased F-15 for the Indian Military, kinda like Donald Trump. Three days then four days pass by and still no luggage for Ieshia. It was a test. Could I keep my cool and detach from “my stuff,” valuable and beautiful articles of adornment collected over many years, from a variety of retailers around the world-Exhale.

Let’s just say, my sexy girl, Italian made gemstone heels that I splurged on in Athens last year were in my luggage- deep Ujjay breaths and lots of meditation-Ommm. What is lost will be found and if not then something better will come my way. I refused to spend my precious little time in the East shopping for replacement clothes and shoes, so I spent seven days with 2 pair of undies, 1 pair of pants, 2 shirts, 1 pair of shoes and 1 sun dress. I followed my instinct and packet these few random items in my carry-on bags. Hand washing became a daily chore. I could hardly get mad about it, I saw many people washing their wears in puddles in the streets, children frolicking about barefoot thru sewage- far from the likes of my suite at the Oberoi hotel, butler included for the price of the room- I love India!

A few days before the wedding I received an in-depth Oriental rug education at a famous Crawford street carpet dealer. Note: Bill Clinton purchased 3 rugs from these guys; his photo was on the wall with one of the brothers who was probably giving the same spill. Much of the information was not new. We have a few hand woven silk goodies at home from Persia. The Kashmir varieties were particularly stunning. We drank tea and Mohammed showed us almost every carpet in the place- I spotted a few fantasy carpets to work towards:o)- they felt like walking on butter, well I guess that’s what walking on large silk artwork is about. I bought a modest one for a soul sister. Her new marble floors in Miami called out for a special treat.

The next evening was the Mehende festival at the groom’s family home with the women folk. The grooms mother, aunts, cousins and sister were gracious and easy. We sat in sukhasana (known as Indian style in the West- translated into easy crosslegged pose Sukh’ Asana in the east), chatting, munching on vegan edibles, watching Hindi soaps and perpetuating an ancient custom. The hired artisan, talented as all get up she was, painted intricate variations on our hands, arms, and feet. The bride was at her home with her female family members and girlfriends conducting the same ritual. The henna went on quickly, like I said our artist had skills, dried rather quickly- first it was a dark paste then it dried and crumbled away leaving a reddish hue design on the skin. Mine lasted well over 3 weeks- she used the good stuff on us. The bride was having her hands, arms and feet henna’d. As a part of marital custom, the husbands name is skillfully hidden in the henna work and part of the getting to know you ice breaker is for the groom to “discover” his name tattooed on his bride- Freaky time! (Traditionally most brides and grooms only spend alone time for the 1st time on their wedding night).

The state of Maharashtra was aglow in weddings, over here over there everywhere. The weather is perfect this time of the year. All night long the Arabian Sea was outlined by flood lighted and garland decorated wedding fields (many ceremonies were taking place outdoors). Interesting note: my hotel room faced the bay which S. Mumbai wrapped around and at 11pm the once Manhattan looking city goes dark- lights out- Conservation in action. I can't imagine NYC, CHI, SEA skyline's going dark overnight.

The groom’s family outfitted me in a gorgeous silk traditional sahri- maroon and gold loveliness, I looked like a little chocolate Indian. The groom’s sister provided for every detail. Mrs. Joshi, groom’s mother, took me to the tailor for a final fitting of my shirt; it was constructed in one day- the little half top that goes under the sahri. The groom’s sister, Mukta, gifted me the matching jewelry- including tika. With my wedding wardrobe somewhere in the world in my long lost luggage this was a most welcome blessing! This family was grace personified. The day of the actual nuptials the groom’s family dressed me, I felt like the bride. Turns out my husband and I were the “most honored” guest. Sopan, the groom, was given his first job out of graduate school by my husband and they became business partners. His bride is in a similar field and will join her man in the Northeast U.S. this spring.

The actual nuptials were long and the actual event went on for days. At the final event, the presiding priest walked the couple and family members thru a laundry list of rituals called out in a beyond ancient tongue that most Indian’s don't even understand. The fiancĂ© of another business partner and I chatted about Ayurvedic beauty secrets, like turmeric and yogurt face masks and chopped almond body scrubs. Zoink! it was then that I realized the true purpose of the British invasion and occupation. Since first learning of England’s thirst for India’s spices, it seemed odd that England would place such a premium on salt, pepper and tea. The more my new friend and I spoke it became apparent that the Vedics had developed what we now know as the pharmaceutical industry tens of thousands of years ago. There were no long named chemical active ingredients combined in a tube to stave off the weathering of time, or to combat the injustices we heap on our western bodies. This land was graced with a cornucopia of fruits, herbs and spices that were/are thoughtfully blended and methodically applied to keep the inner and outer self harmoniously balanced and beautiful. The Indian grocer is as much the Indian pharmacist. America made its founding wealth on Sugar and Cotton with African slaves. The British colonized India for its resources. The sleeping giants are stirring.

I definitely needed to break up the wedding day with a nap. The family driver obliged, we trekked across town back to our hotel where on the way we passed the Haj Ali mosque in the sea. It is build on a patch of land in the ocean connected to the mainland by a long footpath. On this jaunt we were stopped by the traffic constable. He was on foot mind you, just reached out and tapped the car, while we were in motion on the congested street. Turns out uncle was sitting in the back left passenger seat- British system here-without a seatbelt. I fell out laughing. Up until that point, I fathomed there were no rules of the road. Women sit sideways in their sahri’s’ barely holding tight to the male carting them on their motorized scooter and mopeds. Frequently there were entire families on one little scooter. Baby up front, male driver, small child behind him and female on the end- all with no helmets! Car seats- forget about it. But, we get pulled over, six people riding in a minivan; the front seat passenger was fancy free.

For a city with at least 15million inhabitants, the vibe is astonishingly at ease. The incessant horn blowing of the automobiles isn’t from a place of anguish or hostility, like New York, more just a notice that their auto is very close and has no intention of stopping. It is synchronized chaos on the roads each and everyday. The night before the wedding I did have to break down and purchase an outfit for the wedding dinner. I was given a suggested location by the hotel concierge. A shop called IDA. When I first walked in, my mind collapsed briefly from the vibrant color and strident sequence overload. I was in the market for an elegant tank top, long skirt, and shawl combination (more traditional wear). Suffice it to say, by the looks of the upscale shop, earth tones don’t sell well here in Mumbai. My eyes couldn’t register the copious and brilliant choices before me. Unbelievable.

By this time, I was completely indigested and fighting a nagging persistent low-grade headache. Not only no luggage, but a strange illness to boot. I briefly contemplated the idea that I attracted these conditions by long ago energizing the thoughts- “I better pack a few things in my carry on just in case my luggage is lost and I better get a prescription of cipro (antibiotics) incase I get the bubble guts, like in Cabo San Lucas.” Long ago someone planted the seed that going to India results in guaranteed gastric challenges. Hmmmmm……well whatever the truth is, I have no luggage and am braving apples to help relieve the tension in my digestive system.

Turned out that IDA was a capital suggestion. The Indian’s are serious salesmen. They were not letting me leave that store without a dress. I was cranky and indecisive, but they plugged away until we hit the magic outfit. They even talked me into a few bits of jewelry- I’m such a sucker. The dress required a few alterations and the wedding was the next day. I was a bit concerned about their ability to manage the task- why was I ever. They promised the dress to be delivered to my hotel by 4pm the next day. It was lying on the bed by the time I made it in that night at 11pm- India I like your style!

The remainder of the trip included a tour of the city by yet another co-workers father who has since retired from pharmaceuticals and loves life as a tour guide of wineries- yep, Indian wine- new to me too. We chilled at the Gate of India, built to greet the British royals upon their arrival as well as usher them and the military out upon their departure from India. There are a lot of private clubs around Mumbai- like country clubs, Navel club etc. and they did not allow Indian’s in. Not the case today, but still very exclusive.

We cruised the Kala Ghoda Arts festival. I even bartered my way into a few original paintings for the studio. I contemplated one for a while before adding it to the pile. The artist wouldn’t give me a price and just asked me to pay what I thought it was worth-The Man from Rajasthan- the haunting painting I couldn’t leave without. Of course he wasn’t satisfied with my combo of dollar and rupee payment, but he was humble and graciously packet his labors of love for their long journey to their new adopted home. On the way back from the festival my husband asked our driver, Nayek, what was a good pub in the area he would recommend? “Pub sir?” Nayek was puzzled, and then replied that he could not honestly recommend one over another. I asked was he Muslim- his reply, yes. No pubs for Nayek.

It struck a chord that although all Indian, this land is diverse with many Muslims, Hindu’s and to my surprise Indian Christian’s. Yes, several really cool bartenders we met, Christopher and Paul- I had to ask where their names stemmed from- are Christian. Both gave me presents as well. Paul turned over his awesome iPod mixed CD that played softly in the background at the Wink bar in the Taj Presidente hotel and Christopher had his wife come and bring us “sweets” to take home on our final night with him at Indian Jones restaurant and bar at the Oberoi. He was also the only bartender I ever met who discussed his financial portfolio with us, actually hipping us to a few twists in the game. India is on the rise! Like Cuba, the service industry staff tends to be highly educated, but unlike Cuba, India is receiving massive investment from the capital markets and they all speak English- the international standard for business. The numbers are in their favor, stay alert.

You may have noted that while in Mumbai thus far there has been relatively little yoga on this journey. Aside from early am viewings on the Astha channel, I didn’t make it to any studios or local practices. My hosts and hostess weren’t big on the asana of yoga, but pranayama (breathing exercises) seemed to be a favored practice. Ayurvedic practices were habitual like the sun rising and setting. Eight days post arrival, and it was back to Mumbai international to bid India a fair ado. Still no luggage for me.

On the way back to Dubai I had the pleasure of sitting between two moms and their infant babies. Being a mom I could relate, but I really just wished for a nice peaceful hop over to the Middle East. I noted like the Hindu mom sitting to my left, many of the ladies in my generation and the one proceeding had smaller families, two tykes at best and live further away from their families,. My seat mate was from Ahmdabad, living and working in London, was in her mid thirties with her first born. The woman to my right was from Mumbai, Muslim and in her mid thirties as well, with 4 children and one on the way. Another glaring difference between the east and the west, western birthrates are declining while, most specifically, Islamic populations are increasing.

Back in Dubai for 5 days of lux relaxation. I noticed there were many expatiates from various counties of Western Europe, mainly England- the English seem to be everywhere with their ridiculous pound sterling :ob, and many Italians. Dubai airport is a study unto itself. Busiest airport I've ever been in- ever, even at 2am. I stood for 15 minutes in a line and observed the crowds flowing around me. I have never seen so many nationalities represented in one place. I pride myself on knowing a little bit about a lot of cultures- there were costumes and dress that shocked and amazed me, like where are you from? Before exiting the airport we gave the luggage thing another stab at Emirates baggage claim. No luck, but the the Lebanese blond was very helpful. One driver took us for a tour of the Marina area and noted that several hotels have large guest quarters to accommodate the largess of Arab families. They tend to still have larger families with servants in tow as well. This of course is more the “royals” which there are numerous. But as different as things seems there was always something to bring me back to the actual- the similarities are greater.

Hanging out near the Jemeriah hotel, out of the corner of my eye I notice a white Ferrari Spider pulling up to the valet. A young royal, I suppose, in his dishdash (white dress and head gear) disembarks and hands over the keys- the odd thing is what was blarring out of the speakers- “they’re hatin, tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirta, tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirta….” Yes, hip-hop trumps all the political and cultural divides. Locally produced and internationally acclaimed. We hit the Wild Wadi waterpark and points between. Dubai is a party city in deed. I was still carrying bubble guts from India, so no wild nights for me, but my powers of observation are still keen. What did my eyes see in the city that plays Big? I found it odd that there weren’t many “locals” to encounter in everyday work environments. Imported aka, immigrant, workers run the town. I met some cool Russians, Indians, Phillipinos and Somolians, no Arabs. That said a lot to me. The wealthy government generously subsidizes the indigenous population, and this is the first place I’ve been in the world that I didn’t make a local friend. Good thing they have amazing shopping!

I poke fun of the malls of Mumbai, well Dubai, as with all things real estate has elevated the mall to another dimension. We hit only two and that was plenty, Dubai Mall, the uber blackhole of limitlessness excess and Emirates Mall. The latter has a ski slope built inside. Yep, I had a cocao at the St. Moritz bar and looked on as fully cloaked mothers head to toe in Black Abaya’s and Burqa’s kept up with little one’s on the ski slopes. What is going on here?! This seemed dangerous at best. It was cold and slippery in there. Speechless. The shops were amazing and could get someone into trouble, beyond New York and Paris. Everyone seems to be descending on Dubai like it’s the new Pot of Gold. Christie’s Art House opened this weekend. Tennis, Horse Derby’s and Golf are all the rage here now. I chucked as I passed the ladies fully covered with just a hint of their personal style peeking thru, Christine Louboutin “CFM’s,” dark coal lined, long lashed luminous eyes and wrists lined with 22k gold. Don’t be confused these ladies have another story to tell behind closed doors.

There are too many contradictions to go on about. The energy seems conflicted. The merging of cultures that are diametrically opposed and the world is watching. There is an underground subway system being built under the sand- yes, the sand. The Indian’s are making it happen in Dubai. I see school bus loads of imported laborers working thru the night in shifts. They're only here for a little while, when the work is done and the visa’s expire there is no “immigration” as such. Three years or thirty, it doesn’t matter, when your work term has expired, unless your father is Arab and/or native to the Emirates you must relocate. Unless…. You have the cash to buy into the real estate market. That entitles world players to a 99 year Visa that is transferable *smile*“cash rulz everything around us,” WuTang Clan. I like to think it’s all an illusion. Dubai seems to be one big Disney illusion. In the real world, Hamas and Fatah reached the Mecca agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia and Diane Sawyer interviewed the President of Iran. That was a shocker.

On our final day we toured a few palaces on the “under.” Slowly proceeding up the path of the Prince’s driveway we are careful to observe and not hit the random peacocks preening about the lush grounds. I haven’t seen peacocks since my childhood in California. They are magic to observe. I took a bit of video footage, but was urged repeatedly to keep the camera low and hidden. As we make the slow exit, back down the pathway, my mobile rings, it's Emirates Air- my luggage was secure and at baggage claim, just in from Istanbul- wrong Aicha I guess-lol! Even funnier than that, I marveled at an equally magnificent palace under construction directly across from the Prince’s pad, inquiring minds want to know, “who lives there?” I ask the driver. He replies, “ the Prince’s new wife, she is from Jordan, the daughter of the late King Hussein.” I go further, “why doesn’t she live over there with him?” The driver, “his 1st wife lives there.”

Wahe Guru (it’s all an Illusion)! That’s the secret.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What day is it again?

Where is the time going? It seems to be flying by, there’s never enough of it – I’m sure you know that feeling right? I wonder, has the quality of a minute really changed-NOT. Perhaps it has more to do with a heightened sense of awareness of its value as we matriculate through? January brings on these thoughts for me.....

What is Time? Some say it is of the ESSENCE, while others swear it is the KEY to life. Some say it waits for no one, many consider it the most valuable non-renewable resource. Science views time as the universal frequency of synchronization. The Law of Time speaks to synchronous moments and evolutionary phases that maintain harmony, balance and universal order.

Food for thought, our lives are ruled by time, yes. Time plays a common role in our lives, the appointed hours we rise and fall, business hours, birthdates and anniversaries, holidays and of course tax time! The Georgian calendar governs the affairs of modern man. This system of organized time is based on a 12month (12am hours, 12pm hours 60 min & sec assumption), the 12:60 vibration, unnatural and lacking harmony. No wonder I can’t keep up and on “artificial” time. ;o)

Long ago Julius Caesar felt it important to be included in something as universal as Time. He added the month of July to the 10month Roman calendar and his son Auguste followed suit with 31 days in August (October stemming from Octagon was the original 8th, not 10th month of the year). This became the insane Julian calendar. The Catholic Church wanted to keep Easter at the same time each year, therefore added a few modifications resulting in the Georgian calendar.
Hmmmmm…could it be that this vanity, in which Time should fit into the needs of man, has shifted modern man’s accounting of time away from natural order and deeper into our current state of frenzy, discontent and mayhem? The Mayan civilization, in their ancient wisdom, took a different approach to organizing time. By observing phenomenon and living in harmony with nature, they designed a calendar reflecting Mother Nature’s rhythm. The presumed natural vibratory ratio of Time is 13:20.
A woman’s fertility cycle is 28 days when in harmony, the moon circles the earth 13 times for every single rotation around the sun. There are 13 lunar cycles in a calendar year, and our bodies contain 13 major joints (points of connection, coming together, harmonization). Human machines are designed with 20 aggregate fingers and toes...

"The way we live our lives is really the issue at hand. We live our lives according to our states of consciousness. Our current 12-month calendar generates states of consciousness that are out of harmony with nature. States of consciousness that are out of harmony with nature create actions that are out of harmony with nature. Actions that are out of harmony with nature are destroying Life on Earth." -Timothy Tussing

i encourage you to ponder the meaning of time in your life. Time is measured in motion, perpetual and hopeful forward. In my yoga classes, I try to spread generous opportunities for Balasana (Child’s Pose). I find it important to stop and deactivate periodically. The Internet is fueled by 1’s and O’s, fluctuations between on and off, active and passive- and the data packets arrive just fine. Carving time for authentic pursuits-including rest-is tops on the list for me this year. The Law of Time writen is E(T)=ART elegant. Hope you join the Shakti trip too.