Thursday, April 15, 2010


Another one of my favorite television actresses, Dixie Carter, just died, as you probably already know. This one was close to my heart. Julia Sugarbaker, the character Ms. Carter played on television, was a lot like my mother. Julia was intelligent, elegant, and fiercely protective of her family and friends. She had a liberal streak and a fiery personality, along with a lot of wit, and good humor. My mother has all those characteristics, along with a kind heart and a beautiful smile.

Before we go any further, you should know that I'm as liberal as they come, socially. I'm an avid supporter of gay marriage, and almost always vote straight Democrat.

I write this because Dixie Carter was a Republican. She played a liberal on tv, but in real life, she was a conservative. It's what actors do. They play characters very different from who they are in real life. What intrigues me about Dixie Carter, and what made me admire her all the more, is the fact that though she was a very conservative Republican, and often spoke of herself as being very old-fashioned, she was constantly examining and questioning her beliefs, and she was willing to try to change the beliefs she knew were silly.

She spoke in an interview on the subject of gay marriage, saying in essence that though she had been taught that marriage was for the purpose of procreation, she got married to her husband, the actor Hal Holbrook, long after either of them could procreate. So in essence, she realized at that point that a gay marriage could certainly exist, and had as much right to be recognized as her marriage did, on the basis of procreation. She also stated that she didn't believe people who claim to be able to cure homosexuals. She thought that maybe gays could stop their behavior, and not have gay sex anymore, but would they then be living a life that was happy and fulfilling? It looks to me as if Ms. Carter was willing to examine her beliefs, and begin to change them if they were not holding water. I admire this willingness to change. I've seen it in real life. I like the way her mind worked, and appreciate the fact that she was able to see this issue in another light. Many conservative Republicans would never even entertain the notion that gays should be married, much less speak openly about their "soul-searching" over the idea.

I posted a little RIP on Facebook the day she died. One of my friends got upset that I called her a "friend to the gays." He felt that because she campaigned for Bush, we could not include her in our "friends." I feel that a Republican who is willing to be vocal in her thoughts and express her doubts about the veracity of long-ingrained ideas her party may hold about gay people has a lot of courage, and is very valuable to help make inroads for all gay people.
Conservatives who are able to see past labels, and examine what is right and what is wrong in the way that she did are going to really help us all gain acceptance and respect. I admire her all the more.

I think Republicans are lucky to have been able to call her one of their own.

I also think, more than anything, the world lost a great actress.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Great Organization

I know that right now, our minds are on Haiti. I've donated, and I hope that if you can, you have, too.

An organization in the U.S. that is doing good work for people here, and needs your help, is below.

Check it out, and give when you can.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Near Miss, and Tim Burton Inspires Me!

I was walking home from lunch two days ago, and not paying much attention to anything, really, kind of lost in thought, and heard a crash immediately behind me and to my right. My friend and I turned around to see what had happened, and noticed that the Pizzeria Uno we just passed had a big hole with a giant spiderweb crack around it in the window. My first thought was a bullet-it looked exactly like a bullet hole. As the employees from Pizzeria Uno ran out to see what happened, we saw what had hit the window--it was the heavy plastic end of a big screwdriver. We had no idea where it came from; maybe it had been lying in the street and been run over, somehow flying up and into the window, or maybe someone had thrown it, but there it was, and it had missed my head, or my friend's head, by a matter of a few inches! It's pretty easy to forget how we walk around everyday, and nothing but luck separates us from an accident that could change everything about our lives in an instant. It makes you remember to be grateful when something like that happens. I'm a lucky person, in general. I haven't won the lottery yet, but I am healthy, strong, and happy. I have a circle of amazing people in my life, and a job that I really love. I think it's important to remind yourself of the good things and people in your life every day. It's too easy to forget them in the middle of everything else. Take a second to remind yourself of something good in your life.

On a separate note, if you're in Manhattan, go check out the Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA. I've always loved his movies, but to walk through this exhibit is to get a real feeling for the power of imagination. It was overwhelming to be privy to all of the art Burton has created, and to see sketches and films he made as a teenager, and to see how certain characters and themes have repeated themselves in his art through the years. Also, it's just really fun. If you go, make sure to sit down and watch the Hansel and Gretel movie--it's really creepy, and funny, and you can see the evolution of an artist's aesthetic through this and the many other films, sketches, sculptures and installations on display. I was blown away, and fired up to create more.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chocolate, Beer, and YOGA?

Last night, I taught a great yoga class...we all worked really hard, and Bill Mead played some amazing percussive music for us during practice. We were all sweaty, and it was the beginning of the weekend for me. We had some beer left over from a party that was held at The Fierce Club a couple of nights before in the fridge; so I offered it, along with some post-yoga chocolate to my students.

The reaction was interesting.

"That seems so un-yogic. Chocolate and beer..." was the general response from some of the hardcore yogis. While this response was tongue-in-cheek, it spoke to me. I got it. Many people believe yoga means no fun. No life. Just rigorous exercise, sitting quietly in lotus position, and drinking kamboucha and wheat grass juice.

There are so many ideas about what yoga is, and isn't. Many Jivamukti yogis will tell you that if you aren't vegetarian, (they don't even use the word vegan--it's all or nothing with them), you aren't doing yoga; you're simply performing asanas (poses). The whole vegetarian controversy--and it's definitely a controversial subject in the yoga world--deserves, and will receive its own entry one of these days.

Other yoga teachers say that because most of the teachers I work with use English rather than Sanskrit names of the poses, we're not providing a true yogic experience. Sorry, but I'd rather my students know what I'm talking about. I don't speak in Sanskrit during my every day life, and neither do my students. We're not from India. I personally find it offensive when yoga teachers use the Indian origins of yoga to intimidate their students and shroud yoga in a cloak of mystery, so that they can persuade their students that they have the real "scoop" on yoga.

I worked around a lot people at my last job who were only attracted to the "mystical," "higher" aspects of yoga, but most of these people, (many of whom were long-time devotees of this or that swami,) were morally bankrupt--with little respect for their co-workers, students, or anyone outside of themselves. This isn't to say that sincere seekers are morally lacking...just that many of the ones who make a big show of how "spiritual" they are---it's just that--a show.

If your yoga teacher walks around with a big smile of mystical self-satisfaction on their face, and talks about life-changing trips to India, and how people in this country are not as spiritual, or other such nonsense, and don't practice yoga because they're not doing it the way it's done in India, well...I think I'd be on the lookout for a yoga teacher who can teach you how to bloom where you're planted. The last time I checked, most New York City yoga students live in New York City, not India, and it's my strong belief that the practices should be adapted to fit the demands of New York City. There is no one way. There is no one place that has a monopoly on yoga, and there are many teachers who will lead you down some interesting paths. Just make sure your teacher is interested in actually helping you, rather than promoting a personal agenda that ends up only gratifying the teacher.

In yoga, we strive for balance. So if you want to have a little beer once in a while, or enjoy a piece of chocolate, and you don't have a problem with it, I don't have a problem with it. I think we're given physical bodies in order to experience physical sensations, and to get a taste of paradise right where we are. The key is moderation, balance. I'm not training monks. I'm hoping to help you find joy and balance in your life, here and now, right where you are.

There are very few real yoga scholars in the world. The philosophy of yoga is so vast, so huge, that there are very few people who know anything about it. There are very few real "swamis."
One respected yoga scholar recently told a friend of mine that almost every yoga teacher is an "amateur" as far as the knowledge of of yogic philosophy goes. There's so much to absorb that it's practically impossible for most people to read it.

So don't come into yoga with a lot of preconceived notions about what it is. The best yoga teacher you can find is your own practice. You will learn what's right for you. You will go deeply into your self, and learn to shine brightly from the depth of your being. When you're shining like that, from a deep place of self-knowledge, you can make the world better just by being around.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Honor Your Gifts.

Anyone see Whitney Houston the other day on Good Morning America? Wow. So sad to me, where she is now, and how she wound up there.

I was never a Whitney Houston fan, but that VOICE, it was something! I could appreciate it for the thing of sheer beauty that it was. I remember as a kid actually being moved to tears by the perfection of her instrument, and the control she had over it--all that power, all that clarity, those crystalline notes, and it was just there; it seemed to come so easily to her...the creation of beauty. I know so many people who would have killed to have that voice.

It's not there anymore. A lot of people are saying that Whitney lost her voice because she got older. I would refer them to Cyndi Lauper, who is almost ten years older than Whitney--her voice, always regarded by critics as one of the strongest in rock, has gotten even better as she's gotten older. She's stronger, clearer, and more powerful...she's also more elegant in her phrasing, and more expressive in her delivery. She's still hitting those high notes, too, and her latest cd was pretty amazing by any standard.

I think it's a matter of honoring your talent. We're born with talent and gifts that make us unique. While most of us do not have the gift of a voice like Whitney, or Cyndi, or Adam Lambert, we all have things at which we excel. I think we have a responsibility to our gifts.

We have these gifts because we are supposed to use them, and make a gift of them to others.
Whitney Houston was meant to belt out The Star Spangled Banner, and inspire millions with thoughts of patriotism. She was meant to sing those sweet love songs. She was meant to age gracefully, and become a legendary old-school icon in her old age, and to be joyfully sharing her music with the world for many years. Cyndi Lauper was meant to tell a generation of women to get some fun, some life for themselves. She was menat to become an artistic voice for the disenfranchised...the drag queens, the gay kids, and all the people who look to her now as an inspiration. She's using her gift to make positive changes, working on opening a group home for gay and transgendered kids, and singing out against oppression.

Whitney, well, she made her own choices.

Drug abuse is never a good choice. It's physically damaging, not to mention what it does to your self-esteem, your family, and your loved ones. Yep, I know people become addicted to drugs. I was addicted to one of the most addictive drugs, tobacco, for many years. I have a different voice now because I smoked for so long. I made a really dumb choice once when I decided to smoke, and repeated the choice because I became addicted. I stopped smoking, but I know I chose unwisely.

Whitney's gift, because of some poor choices, is gone. She says she's stopped using drugs. I hope she has.

Yep, she has a "comeback" album. I decided to listen to it after her really sad performance on GMA. While better than what she managed to do live, (blaming her poor performance on talking to much while being interviewed by Oprah,) it sounds pretty generic, vocally. The voice could belong to any number of singers. And from many people, it would be a pretty good cd. For Whitney, it sucks. She sounds old, and tired. She's no longer an ingenue. But she's not ready for the old folk's home, either. She should still be singing beautifully at 46. She should be in her "leading lady" phase right now. Listen to other "divas" her age and older. The ones that cared enough to take care. They have honored their gifts, and they have voices to show for that honor.

Whitney lost her clarity, her sparkle.

I'd like to challenge each one of you to honor what makes you special. To treat what you're doing as if it matters. To remember that what you're given is precious, and part of your dharma is to share that gift with the world. You have the power to make the world better. Your responsibility to your gift is awesome-it's basically a responsibility to the world. You're supposed to shine your light out for everyone to make your contribution. If you have a gift, honor it. Commit to nourish yourself. Eat well. Get rest. Have fun, but remember to take care of what you're given. Drink water. Do yoga. Make choices that empower you. Kick the rest to the curb.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Your Joy!

I just saw a video on YouTube that rocked my face off, as my friend Brooke used to say.

Apparently, a lot of people have already seen it, so you might be one of them. If so, I apologize.
I've been thinking about weddings a lot lately, so when my friend Jody just told me to watch this video, I got inspired to write down my thoughts.

I've been to exactly two weddings in my life that were joyous. I've always wondered why, on what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of a person's life, the ceremony accompanying the happy day is usually so solemn, staid, and stuffy. It never feels like a happy day, especially to the guests. It just feels like something you have to do because your friend, brother, ex-girlfriend, sister, cousin, of boyfriend's brother, getting hitched. Weddings tend to feel like a chore.

So after seeing this video, I realized that when and if I ever get married, I want it to be like that.
I want people laughing, dancing, wearing sunglasses, throwing flowers, drinking champagne, and toasting me and mine from the beginning of the ceremony to the end of the reception.

If I get married, it's going to be because I am so in love, and so happy about it, that I want everyone I know to come and share in that happiness. I don't want anyone to stress out, or be put out, or worried about my day. I don't want anyone to be worried about buying new clothes, or getting me the right gift...I want a throwdown style party. No solemn music. No tears, unless they are from happiness and laughter.

Of course, right now, I don't have the option of getting married because some people believe that my love and commitment is less meaningful than theirs. Hopefully that will be changing soon. I'm in the mood for a party!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Something new.

I have a bad knee. (Just saying that makes me feel like an old man. The knee hurts when it rains, and sometimes, I can tell when it's going to rain.) I took a yoga class several years ago at a studio that shall remain nameless--actually, no, whatever, it was at Jivamukti. In the class they kept doing Warrior Ones, and urging me to square my hips forward. I'm often called out in yoga classes for NOT squaring the hips. The instructor in this particular class came over and squared my hips for me. As soon as she did this, I felt incredible, ripping pain in my left knee...which has bothered me on and off for years. I understand the idea of why they did it. Classically, in Warrior One, the hips are squared to the front of the mat.

It's interesting that so many teachers have hung on to this instruction, even though it completely twists the back knee out of healthy alignment. Just because it's been done for years and years, doesn't make something good, and just because something is new, doesn't make something incorrect.

In Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, which is what I've trained in, and what I teach, we allow the hips to be at an angle in this pose. This keeps you from twisting the back knee in an unhealthy manner, and damaging the sensitive knee joints. Try it, it feels much more natural, and if you twist the upper body and square the heart forward while you pull your low belly in, you're also getting a great, healthy upper body twist that allows some deep core work. Try it this way. Your knees will thank you!