The Perfect Act

This may teeter somewhere on the yogic realm, but blogging about David Bowie fulfills a need to thank the man who widened my teenage eyes. Growing up in a we-are-all-the-same bubble of white, Catholic suburbia, Bowie had loads to teach me about being a happy teenager.

Not to underestimate his brilliance, which filled the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the gratitude I have for this man has to do with his influence on social norms, or lack thereof. He was my Guru of Self Expression. Split Persona. Ziggy Stardust. Alternate Ego. Aladdin Sane. Individualism. Thin White Duke. Call him what you will. He made me realize that doing what I want is a really big deal; embracing the “AM” in the “I AM”. I understood and accepted ‘teen-me’, knowing that imperfections were not character flaws.  And he charismatically taught me that differences in others are ok; including the clothes they chose to wear, the color of their hair, if they are “too thin” or “too fat” and their sexual preference. Bowie got me thinking; Can I be who I want? Can I make a difference? Can I look at the weirdness in another and appreciate that perhaps that is the best part of them?

Listening to his dazzling lyrics, I imagined that we are all seeds that come from the same package, like those packages of mixed wild flowers where you never know what you will get.  We land in different soil and grow in a variety of environments and conditions. Together, we make a beautiful garden. To see it any other way was missing the point. The awe of this world is found in our individuality. To be able to embrace that in ourselves leads to acceptance of others.

I was at a yoga class yesterday morning when a few women in their 50’s who were unfamiliar with Bowie’s legacy spoke about his passing.  One of them commented that her big brother took her to see him in 1979 when she was 18, not knowing anything about him or his music. When her friends asked about the show, she said her only other standout concert was Lady Gaga; but that Bowie had more elaborate costume changes, better theatrics and a more powerful presence on stage. Then she said what mattered, “he was one of a kind.”  Aren’t we all?

Bowie arguably did exactly what he wanted, even in leaving his body on a Sunday, (2 days after the release of his 26th album “Blackstar” on his 69th birthday). In Girl Loves Me, he asks, “Where the fuck did Monday go?” It went to a pouring out of tributes to you, Mr. David Jones. Your final transition aroused a social media storm. The Facebook homepage filled with fascinating stories, dark lyrics, brilliant musical memories and absurd photos. Search your name today and see that you are the freak flag flyer that gave so many permission to do the same.

With three teens of my own, I look at current role models in the music industry and appreciate that Bowie was an innovator with a filter. However outlandish he may have been, he worked through his own conflicts without being offensive. Ahimsa in a pop icon. And to me, David Bowie was the Perfect Act.

“Whatever you do, let it be a perfect act.  What is a perfect act? It harms nobody, it brings at least some benefit to somebody.  If you have control, you can use anything and everything to achieve some good purpose. Keep that in mind as your goal.  Whatever you think, whatever you say or do, ask yourself: ‘Will it harm anybody?’  the answer should be, ‘Absolutely no,’ The next point is, ‘Will it at least benefit somebody?’ The answer should be ‘Yes.’ if it is not benefiting anybody, it is a wastage. So, no harm to anybody, at least some benefit to somebody.” – Swami Satchidananda

Namaste Guru of Self Expression,

Megan

This is Your Heart on Yoga

I have a twisted ability to view the timely collision of unrelated events as a signal from the Universe. Recently, a secret message was delivered in the form of:

  • a conversation regarding the leading cause of death
  • February’s status as heart month
  • a gift my daughter made me of a heart protected in a box

This was most certainly the Universe’s reminder to care for the heart. Thanks to yoga, nurturing the heart is natural. The heart is an organ that functions on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level; places united in yoga through the breath as life force energy (prana). Places that diet and exercise often overlook and pills cannot heal.

February comes with an all-access media pass to cardiac facts; Statistics such as one in every three deaths of both men and women in the US is from heart disease and stroke. Diagnostically there is no disagreement. But my Pitta/Aries fire fueled by yogic philosophy argues that stress is the leading cause of death. Five thousand year old yoga teachings do not dispute medical research, but view “dis-ease” from a whole body perspective, with stress being the common denominator. Genetics are important, but according to yoga and Ayurveda, “dis-ease” begins in the mind and spreads to the body. Despite a genetic disposition for heart disease, a yogic path allows me to go to bed at night knowing I do what I can to release stress. There is no immunity from stress, but an outcome of the practice is the ability to recognize the associated sensations; when rage tightens the face, sadness fills the stomach to the point of no appetite and anxiety takes the mind for a ride into worry land. This not a quest for perfection or denial of emotion. It’s observation. Awareness is where the ride in the sympathetic system stops and the breath leads to Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response super highway.

In addition to stress, factors in heart disease that cannot be ignored are diet and weight. Yoga is not a weight loss program. But a yogic lifestyle is attentive to what the body is filled with on both the physical and emotional level. Mindful moderation is a byproduct of self-reflective practices. In terms of treating the physical body as the temple, yoga teaches Ahimsa, the first ethical standard that translates to “non-harming”. The do-no-harm principle starts with self-respect; the idea that you have to love and care for yourself first. Additionally, Ahimsa extends to all living creatures. It is certainly not required, but yoga suggests a vegetarian diet. Eating vegetarian makes some hearts happy in a fuzzy-respect-animals way. But less subjective is the fact that plaque build up in the walls of the blood vessels leads to heart problems. Eating less or no meat, which contains high amounts of fat and cholesterol, has been proven to prevent and even reverse plaque buildup (Dr. Dean Ornish Heart Reversal Study). If you don’t want to pass up a juicy cheeseburger, in the very least Ahimsa leads to healthier food choices.

Emotionally, yoga protects the heart by teaching that the heart trumps the mind. In certain paths of yoga, such as Bhakti, emotion is channeled through the heart as love. The ego mind can’t give without first asking why and what’s in it for me. The heart is compassion. The mind craves attention and wants to be liked. The heart is unconditional love and doesn’t care what others think as long as you don’t lie to it – which you can’t. The heart also knows when someone or something leads you away from your true Self and gives you permission to protect it – to put it in a box enclosed with forgiveness.

As Xavier Rudd sings “Emphasis placed on the body and mind. The heart is often somewhere behind. Strange.”

Maybe not so strange this February.

Namaste, Megan