Friday, November 30, 2007


From the Huffington Post:

"Wednesday's '700 Club' featured a question about the Christian view of yoga. A concerned viewer asked, 'Does it really have its origins in evil?' Pat Robertson gave the verdict: Yes! According to Pat, stretching is fine, but by repeating common yoga mantras, you are actually praying to Hindu gods Vishnu and Krishna and you're not even aware of it!" The clip is here.

Actually many Hindus believe that it's all one g-d, and that Jesus is an avatar of Krishna who was sent down to set things right. Many even have depictions of this in their shops.

Apparently I'm not the first to notice the similarity between "Aum" and "Amen."

In his new postmorten compilation The Yoga of Jesus: Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels, Paramahansa Yogananda says Jeebus was actually a yogi and mystic.

Yogananda also claims that JC spent his missing years in India - and has the footnotes to back it up.

When I first heard this notion, from TJ, I dismissed it.

But now it makes perfect sense.

Where else would He have gotten the long hair and Beatles-during-their-Maharishi-period beard?

*Thanks to Bob K for the Pat Robertson tip

Monday, November 26, 2007


For shavers only:

To make your razor blade last forever (ie, to keep it sharp), simply pat it dry after each use and store it away from water. I was advised to put mine on the windowsill.

Apparently it's not the ladies who dull the blades.

It's the water.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


After today's long overdue massage with The Amazing Bridgett, I headed over to The Devil's Triangle (Clark/Broadway/Diversey) to pick up some free panties and stock up on Epsom salt.

I also purchased some overpriced-but-effective Shea Body Butter at The Cruelty-Free Fair Trade Scam Shop, where the clerk made a point of giving me a free sample of day cream.

When I got home I put on my reading glasses and looked at the label.

It wasn't just day cream that she gave me.


It was Wise Woman regenerating day cream for mature skin.

This is almost more sobering than the first time a gentleman who was not a cowboy called me "ma'am."


Friday, November 23, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007


That's how my (formerly) negative punk-rock self used to think of this holiday: "Thank you for letting us take everything and leave you with the crumbs."

Now I think of it as a way for people to thank g-d or grace or the greenback or whom/whatever it is they believe in for their relatively easy life.

It's more effective if it's backed up with something concrete; letting someone cut in in traffic, feeding the birds, making a puja, giving an energy bar (or pint!) to the homeless vet holding the cardboard sign, calling or visiting someone who may be lonely, making a donation to some worthy cause, not calling your cat an a--hole when it attacks and draws blood, etc.

As for the donation part.... I've been thinking quite a bit about Darfur (thanks, Frontline) and two "natural" disasters - the floods-we-never-hear-about in Tabasco, Mexico and the cyclone in Bangladesh - both of which are not unrelated to oil drilling, deforestation, global warming, etc. And there are also, of course, the unnatural disasters our tax dollars have caused in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world.

In other words, our easy life has a price.

One way the average person can help alleviate suffering caused by the latter three is to donate to the Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross. You can do it without leaving your easy chair by clicking here. They'll even let you choose where you want the money to go. Just be aware that you may wind up on some FBI list.

There's also Oxfam, which is one of the groups that goes on the scene as soon as something bad happens in the world. They also let you choose your favorite disaster. Click here for more.

But wait -- there's more!

If you're poor, and/or you despise the commerical nature of Christmas (where much of what you purchase will end up in a landfill anyway), there's Buy Nothing Day. It takes place this Friday, Nov. 23 - on the biggest shopping day of the year.

All you have to do is refrain from spending money. Period.

Click here to find out how it's celebrated around the world.

And do at least one thing to show your gratitude....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Now that I finally have a moment to write a post, Blogger won't let me upload photos.

So for time being you'll have to imagine the Warhol's Factory fundraiser for Facets that I attended at the MCA Warehouse on Friday. I wore a vintage mod dress that belonged to my mother, a white Chanel-esque cape with black piping, and black Ringo cap a la Edie Sedgwick. The highlight of the night was Gridlife's speech and the band, which played Velvet Underground covers and featured a Nico lookalike (but not a female drummer), and the screen printer who made souvenir t-shirts while you watched. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Saturday was my Dharma Mittra workshop. No one walked out in the middle except the person who warned me beforehand - so I think it went OK.

Sunday was Annkut, an end-of-Diwali puja, - to which I wore a black Punjabi dress with many, many sparkles and matching bindi, shoes, purse, bangles (48 of 'em), earrings, necklace, nose-pin, nails, everything. At this event the women danced in a circle -- all of the Gujarati ladies and, yes, even me -- and there was kirtan and the singing of bhajans to Krishna / an avatar of Krishna and, afterwards, mountains of excellent homemade food including countless sweets. It was so nice of them to have welcomed me so warmly....

Then I traveled to the other end of Devon Avenue for a wake for my girlfriends' father, who was kind and gentle and had many, many friends - and from whom I picked up the unshakable phrase "What the hell - ....!" Which I seem to pull out at the most inopportune moments. Like in the middle of class, when a student does something curious.

The exquisite funeral (the priest grew up across the street from him) was on Monday morning; it was fairly traditional until the very end. That's when, to everyone's surprise, Outkast's "Hey Ya" started blasting through St. Margaret Mary's speakers as the casket, pallbearers, family, friends and wellwishers made their final exit - as per Marty's request. It was not easy to refrain from dancing.

Right after the luncheon I was given a big (and very welcome) writing assigment - and have been busy with that ever since.

Photos are coming.


Friday, November 16, 2007


My teacher Suddha is on the cover of Chicago Athlete magazine. He appears in an article about choosing The Right Yoga for Your Workout

It's good that they have discovered this thing called yoga.....

and that they knew enough feature one of the city's old-school teachers (who is generally credited with bringing Ashtanga to Chicago but is now heavily influenced by Yin Yoga).

When one of Suddha's long-time students saw the magazine in the shala, she snorted and said, "He looks exactly the same as he did in 1984."

Ah, yoga.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Chicago Public Radio finally aired my reunion essay today on "Eight Forty-Eight." It'll air again tonight at about 8:15PM.

It mentions, among other things, how I can put my leg behind my head.

You can also hear it online by clicking here.

And my capsule review of Om Shanti Om just came out, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Student - What does "State of the Asana" mean?

Teacher - It's where all the ashtanga criminals are sent when the ashtanga police catch up with them.

Student - It must be a very big place.

Teacher - Very big indeed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'm almost afraid to write this, but I've had the most fun couple of days since............ well --

since I was in India.

In fact my mouth hurts from smiling too much.

Now that's a first....

After teaching my 10AM class on Friday I drove towards Little India on Devon Avenue. I wanted to see what was going on for Diwali and pick up some sweets.

I thought I'd eat at Uru-Swati. But somehow I ended up the vegetarian place up the street, where I know the owner quite well.

She was wearing a stunning, sparkly salwaar kameez that put my everyday blue cotton salwaar kameez and matching bindi to shame. And she had the jewerly to go with it.

(It's good to buy new clothes for Diwali, and then to wear them. Apparently this weekend was the time to take them out for a spin. So earlier in the day I wore a new yoga top and jacket, purchased on Wednesday for that very reason).

She sat me down and said we'd go jewerly shopping as soon as she was free (we'd talked about this earlier in the week; during Diwali - and especially last Friday - it is auspicious to purchase jewelry and/or coins. Gold is best, but a silver Lakshmi coin will also do. It is meant to bring wealth in the new year).

We had chai. Then customers came. She waited on them. I read the paper and waited on her.

Then her friend came in.

Her salwaar kameez was even more fabulous. Lots of sparkles. She looked like a model.

We chatted a bit. She too wanted to get a Lakshmi coin.

The owner brought us some thalis (meals) and soon they were gone.

And, finally, so were the customers.

We headed down the street to one of the bigger jewerly stores.

On the way, people looked at us and we looked at them. Most were dressed up.

The women who worked at the jewelry store were wearing their best dresses and saris; it was like an amazing fashion show.

The atmosphere was festive; everyone was complimenting each other on their outfits and matching jewelry and shoes; they were even nice to me (especially when I pulled out the few Hindi words I know).

This store's one-ounce silver Lakshmi coins were $25, but they said they'd give them to us for $23. (Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Over half of the NRI's or non-resident Indians in Chicago come from the western state of Gujarat, where they worship Lakshmi on Diwali). Gold was just under $800 per ounce.

Before we left, they offered us sweets.

Then we went to the store across the street, where the women were also wearing sparkly new dresses and saris.

We started complimenting each other again, and talking about different styles (such as the butterfly sari, and how styles in India come and go, but here in the US it doesn't matter if you wear something a few years out of date).

There were no men around - or if there were any we didn't notice them - and we marveled over the dresses and jewerly and ate sweets and talked girl-talk and it was heavenly, and something this tomboy has rarely experienced, if ever.

Shakti. Female energy.

Plus, they had the same Lakshmi coins for $20, and said they'd give us each a dollar off.

Of course we said yes.

When the woman in the beautiful sari handed us our change, she said,

"Already Lakshmi is bringing you wealth."

Later I went to Uru-Swati to pick up sweets, and the owner would not let me pay for them.

I gave most of them away on Saturday.


Also on Saturday, after teaching a workshop where Lakshmi smiled on me, I met Bindi and the Colonel at Piper's Alley, to see Om Shanti Om.

I found a parking space right in front of the theater - unheard of in this congested area.

I sat around watching people coming in. One man wore a long top, but I was the only woman in a salwaar-kameez (I wore a bright red-and-purple number with mirrors, and matching over-the-top earrings).

Upstairs, Bindi and The Colonel got snacks while I got in line.

The line was loooooooooooooooooooong, and looped around the corner.

I was dumbfounded; usually, when Bindi and I see a Hindi movie in the city there are exactly four people in the audience; Bindi, two Indian guys and me.

Despite the long queue, we found decent seats and waited for the fun to begin.

The film began with the song and brilliant video from "Om Shanti Om" from Karz (see previous post), only this time Shah Rukh Khan's character - Om - was in the audience. He dreamed he was singing the song. Somehow, they made it look like he was singing and dancing on the spinning record, wearing a silver jacket that siad "Monty" on the back.
It was amazing.

As was the rest of the film. I've never seen a Bollywood movie make fun of Bollywood before, and it was hilarious.

They took good-natured swipes at many famous Hindi movies, and few Hollywood ones as well.

They got NRI's, too.

But the humor was never mean-spirited.

I laughed. I cried. I tapped my foot. I nodded my head.

I laughed more, though.

And I was smiling nearly the entire time.

The songs were great, and the plot moved quickly.

As if that weren't enough, a who's who of Bollywood icons past and present (and, in at least one case, incarcerated), made appearances.

From the film: Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan(yes, many Bollywood stars share the last name Khan. And Dutt. And Kapoor. Some are related (and ride on their parents' coattails) and others are not).

Following is the full list of stars who appeared in the film; the two that really poked fun of themselves were fortunate son Abishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar- the latter of whom reminds me of Cary Grant and who, according to TJ, shaves his chest (because the hair there is turning gray).

The list:

Sanjay Dutt (who is currently in prision)
Salman Khan
Saif Ali Khan
Suniel Shetty
Abhishek Bachchan
Hrithik Roshan
Bobby Deol
Rani Mukerji
Preity Zinta
Zayed Khan
Arbaaz Khan
Dino Morea
Ritesh Deshmukh
Aftab Shivdasani
Shabana Azmi
Juhi Chawla
Karisma Kapoor
Urmila Matondkar
Priyanka Chopra
Shilpa Shetty
Lara Dutta
Vidya Balan
Amrita Arora
Tusshar Kapoor
Vishal Dadlani
Rishi Kapoor
Subhash Ghai
Karan Johar
Mithun Chakraborty
Amitabh Bachchan

(In other words, everyone but Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan).

And if you stick around til the very end, you also get to see everyone who worked on the film.

If you see one Bollywood movie this year, this is the one.

Five stars.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Today is Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light.

Many cultures in India celebrate this five-day festival - Hindus (many legends are there), Sikhs (their Sixth Guru was released from prison that day, and it's the day their holy book, the Guru Sahib, arrived at the Golden Temple), and Jains (it's the day of nirvana of Lord Mahavira).

But this explanation, from Wikipedia, is the most relevant to yogis:

While Deepavali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant esoteric meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".

Central to Hindu philosophy, is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this Inner Light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, imminent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman, comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).

....While the story behind Deepavali varies from region to region, the essence is the same - to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).

On a more worldy level, you get to buy new clothes and jewelry and exchange sweets and flowers and visit the temple and light lamps and go to parties (if you're actually invited to any) and concerts (Dandiya queen Falguni Pathak performed here last week) and bhangra and gidda dance competitions.

In your new clothes, of course.

Plus all the big-budget Bollywood blockbuster movies featuring various Kapoors and Khans open today - at mainstream downtown cinemas no less. The utterly amazing Om Shanti Om (below) is playing at Piper's Alley, and Saawariya is at 600 N. Michigan.

So it's also the festival of flickering light - at 24 frames per second.

It works for me....


Farah Khan, the female director of Om Shanti Om says it's not a remake of the 1980 blockbuster Karz (which in turn was based on 1975's The Reincarnation of Peter Proud). Whatever. It's definitely an inspiration. Om Shanti Om kicks off with a rollicking update of this classic video, from Karz. It's awesome x10.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


When I was in Berkeley, we unwound at night by watching the Discovery Channel's excellent Planet Earth series. (They're doing an encore presentation on Sunday nights at 7PM Central Time. Or you can rent it).

First we watched the one on caves.

Then the desert.

And, finally, ice.

The ice one followed a polar bear family; the female and cubs stay behind while the male hunts for food.

He has to go a long, long way - on an empty stomach no less - and usually trudges across the ice to get to the seals or other prey.

But the ice is gone, and the polar bear has to swim.

And swim.

And swim.

He swims forever.

Days, weeks.

He is exhausted.

Still he swims.

Finally, he gets to land and locates a bunch of walruses.

The adults form a circle, their backs to him, in order to protect their young.

The polar bear chooses a target, and tries to try to pry the walrus off of the cub.

He tries hard.

But he's too weak to finish the job.

He slinks off and regroups.

Finally, he tries again.

But he is too weak from all of that swimming.

He does not pull the walrus off and get to eat his first meal in months.


This time, the walrus attacks him.

The polar bear slinks off again.

This time, he walks in a tight circle, like a dog before it lies down.

The narrator points out the patches of blood on his fur; apparently the walrus gored him a few times.

The polar bear finally lies down.

And then he dies.


After each show, there's a short making-of segment.

During this one, they showed a polar bear approaching the arctic shack where the film crew lived while shooting their footage. The narrator explained how unusual it is for a polar bear to do this.

The humans threw some flares and whatnot at him, and he didn't come any closer.

But apparently he returned later.

They showed him pressing his wet nose against one of their windows; the humans had food, and he was literally starving.

And Little Miss Ahimsa wanted him to break in and eat the film crew and all of their victuals.

It seemed like poetic justice, considering that it's humans who are causing all of the problems in his habitat.

So now, when I'm about to make a bad decision - like drive the car instead of ride the bike, or leave the water running while I brush my teeth, or not turn off the computer, or dream about buying that yellow Humvee, etc. - I think about that polar bear.

And, more often or not, I do the right thing.


I know some of you are saying, "Global warming is natural! It's not our fault!"

But even you oil company dupes have to admit there's a something very wrong when yogis start screaming for blood, and the hunters start acting like pussies.

The photo at the top of this page shows a hunter comforting a polar bear (which he has NOT shot). It's from this article, which says:

Jeremiah Johnson, a local hunter who tracks and kills polar bears "because they are there" has seen three of the behemoths collapse before him in just the last month. "It just isn't sporting to shoot one of these creatures when they are suffering like this", Johnson said as he recounted his attempts to revive a bear he was ready to shoot.

Think about that the next time you buy some unnecessary crap that will wind up in a landfill, or decide to hop on a plane to India.

I know I certainly will.

Monday, November 05, 2007


According to a piece that aired on NPR's "Morning Edition" last week, yoga students are making Mysore a center of tourism. Apparently yoga attracts some 1,000 foreign yoga student-tourists each year.

They discussed the economic boom that these students have brought to the local folks, who cater to their every whim.

They also said that the tide turned in 2001, when Pattabhi Jois started doing international tours... (Um, he did his first big recent tour in 1999. And things really began to change when he moved to the posh suburb of Gokulam and opened the new shala - which fits 80 people rather than 12 - in 2002-3).

They quoted a British student, who claimed that there are entire suburbs in Mysore devoted to western yoga students.


And here I thought Gokulam existed so that the local bourgeoise and wild boar population could put some distance between them and the noise, dirt and teeming hordes of the city center.

Hear for yourself by clicking here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


The following may or may not end up as part of the project I'm currently procrastinating on. It's a diary entry from 2001.

Some background: I was in NYC on 9/11 and was stuck in Lower Manhattan until 9/15. Back home in Chicago (after people put out their flags) it seemed to be business as usual, which was very strange. But on TV there was one scare after another...


-An airplane with a beak grabs the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier and crashes into the building behind me. I must go through water to get to safety; there are many people, and much panic. The pay phones don’t work, and I cannot get ahold of my brother.

-A man releases radioactivity in subway platform. I get a dose and cannot escape.

-I’m riding my bike down Clark Street towards downtown. To my right, the Sears Tower is on fire. The John Hancock Building, in the foreground, gets hit and falls towards me, straight up Clark Street. I lose my bicycle and cannot go north fast enough. The bike shop gives me an “adult tricycle” and says I can pay later, and I take off. But I cannot find my friend.

-I’m in a London high rise, looking out over other skyscrapers in the distance. One by one they explode, starting with the furthest one and coming closer each time. We watch and wait.

-I must attend the high school across the street from Ground Zero, which is a giant devastated area covered in wet black ash. It is oozing water, which drains and forms a stream near my feet. My classmates take this in stride.

Sportmarty had a lousy week; his car was totalled and he spent the past few days getting a new car, dealing with insurance, license plates and all the rest.

I'm just tired.

We went to see a movie tonight anyway. Our expectations were decidedly low.

Ira and Abby made us laugh out loud.

It was written by a woman -- Jennifer Westfeldt -- who also played the lead (and did the same in Killing Jessica Stein).

It was another one of those movies where the schlub gets the pretty girl.

Nonetheless it was hilarious and smart, with clever writing and spot-on acting. More than once, I poked SM in the ribs and said, "This is awesome."

Especially good was the scene where the newlyweds are walking down an NYC street and Ira starts to sabotage the relationship by badgering Abby about her lack of "goals."


Not only that, but its overall message essentially anti-marriage.

It made one feel, well, validated.

Four stars.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Yesterday, I clipped Mr. Needleclaws' nails.

This morning, at 4:30AM, I awakened to the sound of cat paws trying to turn the ancient brass knob attached to my bedroom door.

A short while later, I nearly stepped on cat womit in the middle of the kitchen floor.

But when I came home from teaching three-in-a-row, Mr. Needleclaws seemed glad to see me.

He rubbed against my legs, but didn't get tangled in them.

He even pretended to play with the gift I'd bought him in Cali.

Later, I let him take a nap with me in the sun.

No tail-in-the-face, no scratching the chin and making the whole bed shake, no jumping across my body over and over again. No biting of the hand.

I wonder what happened when I was out teaching....