Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others even the dull and ignorant, they too have there story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is. Many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all it's sham and drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful
Strive to be happy.

written by
Max Ehrmann

Peace, Love and Vegetables

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A long South African tale

The first time I went to South Africa I knew only the basics of the history. Of course I knew of apartheid and of the huge divide between nit only the races but the classes as well. I had the opportunity to visit Capetown and Johannesburg. Although on that first trip it was winter it was still much warmenr than it gets in NYC. So I was able to spend some time on the beach in Camps Bay and to take a beautiful hike up Lions Head, a small mountain that overlooks much of Cape Town and into the Atlantic Ocean. The clouds that day rolling over Table Mountain honor clung the top making me understand why they called it a table cloth.

In Joburg I went with a fellow Jivamukti teacher Sarah Bentz, downtown to find a place called arts on main. We were in the completely the wrong place and never found it. I did find a place to get my hair braided. Although it took some time. Every place we went to was charging way too much for what I wanted. I suspected it was because the person I was with Sarah, was the only white person we had seen in a while.

I was speaking with the woman who braided my hair about where I was from and where she was from. She spoke 3 or 4 languages and was originally from Cameroon. There was a man who kept hovering about but did not say anything. The barber shop was not unlike the ones in the neighborhood I grew up in. A few seats, about half empty and the ones filled got a haircut and an update on the daily gossip. As my conversation subsided I could understand parts of a song that was playing over the radio. It was a christian song and the only words I could hear clearly were Jesus loves me. So I sang along out loud. The man who had been hovering was not excited and he immediately came over and asked me what I know about Jesus. The woman braiding my hair replied that in the United States there are many churches and of course I knew about Jesus. The man seemed intrigued and asked where in the U.S. I was from. I looked over and said New York. He brightened up giving me a big smile and said "New York? What's up my nigga, what's up. I love New York" I could not help but smiling just as big as I responded in kind. He knew about different hip hop artist and wanted to use his knowledge about it to find some common ground. I on the other hand had no real knowledge of South Africa, the music and recent history let alone the music and history of where he was originally from, Nigeria. I knew nothing of the intense violence that had just happened against non-south african blacks or the current political climate. Wen I left the barber shop that day I had a yearning to learn much more about where I had been. It actually set the trend for me that whenever I go somewhere I try to know as much as possible of the people, the culture and the history; either by reading, planning trips to culture heritage spots or if possible taking long walks to just be around local people.

On my way back to the states from South Africa I read the book A long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela's autobiography which was not only incredible but really put into perspective the ways in which America treats it's political dissidents. It lead me to want to know more about Oliver Tambo another leading figure in the movement to end apartheid.

On this trip I had the immense pleasure to work with Africa Yoga Project as I wrote about in the last blog. I left out one of the most amazing experiences though. The very first day we went to Kenyas largest maximum security prison for woman. Many of the woman were HIV positive and were incarcerated for some form of theft. Many were also there with their children. In Kenya if a single woman is incarcerated they children live with them until the age of 5. I am not sure what happens after that age however.

AYP has a bi-weekly yoga class with them but since the group is so large they split it in half with some doing asana and others writing or drawing. Since they already had a yoga teacher and the person who was in charge of the writing was not able to come in made me the person in charge of it. I had one night to figure out what to do. When I worked in the city with young people at a place called The Door it was in conjunction with an amazing woman Ashley Dorr, no relation to the space. she is an art therapist and I was able to pick up a few tricks from her. I also picked up some amazing work ideas from David Life and the work he has done with some students.

We started with writing about a time in life that we had made a decision that we really felt was the right one even though it caused hardship and might have been a difficult to choose. We ended with writing our own obituaries as if we had died many years in the future, writing them as we would want to be remembered, one who fed the poor or became a politician or president or whatever. Afterwards we thought about the different things that were holding us back from becoming that person and then we pulled the car up as close the space were using as we could and blasted some Bob Marley and the whole thing turned into a dance party. It was a beautiful thing.

When I made my way back to SA after the trip to Kenya I really wanted to visit Robben Island to make a further connection. I was staying with another amazing teacher in Muzienburg, Jill King. Her husband is a scientist working on a new tuberculosis vaccine and neither had been to Robben Island before. I taught one class in Cape Town a Chakra Tunning class that people really seemed to enjoy. With only two days left in CT we tried to make it out to Robben Island but it was not possible we got there just a few minutes after the last boat had left the port. I was sad not to be able to make it but we did so many other things in CT that we almost made up for it. I also got to meet many students in CT and Joburg on this trip that were interested in coming to the Jivamukti TT. In fact it looks like a mini SA invasion of the TT will be happening thanks in large part to Cherryl Duncan in Joburg. She is doing amazing things not only for yoga but for the animals as well in SA.

Thank you Cherryl, Jill and everyone else who made this such an amazing trip. I am looking forward to seeing you in TT and if not there maybe on my next trip back.

Peace, Love and Vegetables

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I am sitting in a small room with large glass windows looking out on about 75 young Kenyans. I am getting ready to teach Hip Hop Asana in a community center that use to be a cinema. The Sarakasi Dome is home not only to weekly yoga classes with the Africa Yoga Project but to a recording studio (they invited me in to do the drops/intros to a couple djs and rappers), many troops of dancers, an art space and more. The trip in Kenya started 10 days ago in Lakipia, Kenya where I was assisting Sharonji and Davidji at a beautiful retreat at the Center of Origin in the Great Rift Valley. It is truly the center of origin as one of the oldest human remains were found close by. Located on 100,000 acres of land you can look in all directions and see no human settlement. I have never been in a place so wild. I left the retreat a day early to come into Nairobi (6 hour drive) to begin teaching with Paige Elenson and her amazing team at AYP. I was accompanied by Jessica Sjoo and Lisa Cordova and we got right into teaching. The first class had about 73 people in it and was an introduction to Jivamukti although some had taken classes with Sharonji and Davidji when they were in Nairobi last year. After class many of us went to a Hare Krishna spot for lunch. AMAZING!!! Some of the most affordable food in the city and completely vegan!!! People from all walks of life filled the cafeteria style room, from suits to mechanics. Later in the day we accompanied Paige and some AYP teachers into the largest slum in Kenya. At first sight and smell it was one of the saddest places I have ever been. The slum stretched on for miles and there was no end in sight. How could a government that collects taxes let such a place continue I have no idea but it was the sights I had only seen on tv. We were on our way to a school in the middle of the slum to teach some yoga classes. I was thinking this is not what these people need, they need running water and food, they need clothing and better food. One of the teachers came up to Paige as we walked in with a baby they had found in the trash that was extremely sick. Paige immediately left with the teacher and baby to a clinic her friend has founded in the slum. I stayed with the group. As we walked around it became apparent there was something else I could provide besides yoga, laughter. The children were all younger the 10 years old. We ran around and had so much fun that I had to hide to stop the games. The yoga classes were amazing as well. It sounds cliche but you cannot take the happiness away from a child and if you are able to in some way increase that happiness it can be the best nourishment available.

That brings me to today and the Hip Hop Asana class. The group has grown since I started writing, time to go...