Healing: To Begin, One Must Begin

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And, to begin, one must start at the beginning.

Writing can be a very powerful tool.  A healing, cathartic tool.  For me, writing certainly is that, and more.  It is an important part of both my life and my practice.  My yoga practice, I mean.  In fact, these days, it has BECOME my practice.

When I write, I stand behind what I write because when I write, I write from a place of truth.  This “truth,” however, doesn’t make any of what I write either right or wrong.  It certainly doesn’t make me anymore right, or anymore wrong, than any of you, if any of you are even reading this.  When I say it is the truth, I mean it is the truth, as I see it, for me at any given time.

So, as I write this blog, I write from a place of truth about where I am, in my practice and otherwise.  And I do this with the intent of not only sharing but of growing.  This intention will be the  common thread in all of my posts.  At times, this intention will be quite obvious and, at other times, not so obvious.  But the intention will be there.  The intention of growing.  To grow.  Growth.  I fully expect that this blog will change.  What I wrote yesterday may not be fully reflective of where I am today.  And what I write next week…  well, who knows?

In terms of practice, in order to move forward, we need to recognize where we are.  If you have read my recent post on what I perceive to be the “problem” with yoga as it is today, you have a pretty good idea of where I am.  I put it out there.  And I stand behind what I wrote, so please don’t take THIS post as an apologia.  I post what I post with the full intention of growing.  My intent is not to blame yoga, or anyone practicing yoga, for anything.  My point was, and still is, that WE are responsible, wholly responsible, for whatever it is that is going on in our practice today and, surely, in our whole lives.  I didn’t write that post to say “This is where I am, this is the way it is, this is where I’ll be. There’s no work to be done here! Have a good day.”  That post, beyond anything else, is my starting point, a place from which to excavate and a place from which to grow.  It was also a huge, uplifting, and wonderful release for me!  In that post, I let go of many thoughts and emotions that had been sitting with me for a long, long time.  Too long.  Thoughts that needed to be articulated for both the practitioner and the writer within me. Releasing them has been a great thing.  No, I didn’t have to do this in such a public forum.  So, why did I?  Well, partly because I wanted to share those feelings with you.  Many of you practice yoga and even more of you teach it, and part of me wanted to open up to you in hopes of starting a conversation.  Because for me this blog is not only about me releasing, it is also about you responding, should you choose to.  And some of you have.  I appreciate both the publicly posted comments and the private messages that I have received.  The other part of putting all of this out there publicly is the purely artistic one.  It is rewarding to create something for the purpose of releasing it out into the world.  It takes the same commitment to write, and write well, if I can be so presumptuous, as it does to paint, skillfully, on a canvas;  to play, masterfully, an instrument; to dance, seamlessly, across a stage.  It involves craft. And bravery.  And, yes, also ego.  I’m well aware of that, too.

Most importantly, for me, though, this blog is about finding a way back to practice. My practice. To do that, I have to start where I am, and I think I have done that, honestly. And if I’m not honest with me about where I am, then I can’t be honest with any of you, either. Nor can I be honest about my practice.  I started where I did in part because I want to see where it takes me. Where will I be a month from now, 6 months, a year, 10 years…

So, my purpose in writing this post has been to clearly explain why I am here, blogging, at all.  Both to you and, probably more so, to me.  As I mentioned in my “Hello World” post, I expect this blog to be a whole bunch of things and to carry with it a myriad of feelings and emotions.  But, most importantly, I want to be honest.   Not “right,” just honest.  Hopefully, I have been.

As always, I leave you with a song…   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbDVA5nJW2Y&feature=related

Julie

What the hell is the problem with yoga today? It’s ME! (and YOU and YOU and YOU!)

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(ed: I’ve updated this post.  I first posted it on February 5th but have updated it several times since then for both my own editing purposes and to update my thoughts as the John Friend/Anasura controversy, which inspired this post to begin with, is further revealed to us.)

“It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans…”  lyric from “Coax Me” by Sloan.

Have I offended anyone yet?  Great, I’m off to quite a start.

I really don’t have much of a right to comment publicly about yoga anymore. Let’s face it, my relationship with yoga these days has been tenuous. At best.  I have found it harder both to practice and to teach yoga over the past few years.  For a variety of reasons.  And, if I am to be really, REALLY honest with myself, I have to admit that it all stems from MY stuff. I’ll preface this, then, by saying this blog has to do with yoga, ego (mine, yours, theirs), disillusionment, and discovery.

My practice of yoga started back in 1998.  I had long been interested in religious studies for both academic reasons and more spiritual ones, leading to a practice of meditation, and was looking for a physical practice that would complement this.  Yoga was the obvious choice.  It would also nourish the scholar in me, which was probably the most appealing aspect, at least initially.  It wasn’t long before I was devouring texts, wanting to know as much as I could about the roots and reasons of and for the practice.  All of this was both very satisfying and challenging.  It also wasn’t long before I decided to take the plunge and go for my teacher training.

Yes, there was a time when I was practicing full steam.  Waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do sadhana at the most auspicious hour.  Unable to move without discomfort on the days after an incredibly intense asana workshop. Crumpled up on the floor in tears of both joy and pain as I struggled valiantly through my practice. I had worked hard and had even been given my “spiritual name” from a highly revered guru.  Finally, I thought, I had made it!  I had become a warrior, on the good path, fighting the good fight  Namaste!  Om Shanti!  Sat Nam!  The commitment was, at the time, quite palpable.

I’ve also been a petty decent teacher through the years as well, all things considered, teaching in several different centres around the world, challenging, and being challenged by, students from all different backgrounds and levels.  When I look back on all that I have done, I realize that I have been very blessed with the opportunities I have had and I am so very grateful for them.  However, it has been physically harder for me to deal with the pain and discomfort scoliosis, which affects me from my thoracic spine to quite literally the soles of my feet, often brings to practice, at times leaving me in significant pain by the end of class as my students, meanwhile, leave the studio thanking me, all shiny and new, beaming with calm, peaceful energies. How happy I am that my students have had such a lovely practice. And, oh, how resentful I can be! I know EXACTLY what all of you yogis are thinking right now so you don’t have to say it.  I already know.  Let’s just be brutally honest here again, okay? ALL MY STUFF!  MY responsibility from the physical pain to the resentment.  I get it, I know, I’m an absolute work in progress.  I know that I am in a place where personal practice should trump teaching right now, IF I could only find my personal practice again.  You see, I’m one of those who got too comfortable with teaching as practice, letting the practice part slip away.  And now, on a hiatus from teaching, I’m not doing yoga, in the physical sense, at all.  Of course, there have been other contributing factors as well.  I have spent the past 5 years balancing my responsibilities as a mother with my responsibilities as a full time university student, first at the undergraduate and then the graduate level. There has also been the fact that, after 10 years of teaching yoga, sometimes more on and sometimes more off,  I still struggle to make a decent living at it.  This last bit, if I am to be completely honest, has left me feeling quite bitter about, and at times angry WITH, yoga. And that’s all ego-based, of course.  Yoga, yoga, yoga.  What am I to do with you?  What are YOU to do with ME?

It has also been harder for me to practice in an environment of “rising star” teachers, which, admittedly, is connected to my own *stuff,* once again. But really, when the hell did yoga become about “rising stars?” Yes, gurus in India have long been revered and the teacher-student relationship long taken very seriously.  It is hard to compare “Yoga in India” with “Yoga in the West,” simply because most practitioners in the West are not exposed to the historical and cultural context of yoga within its Indian context (both religiously and culturally).  And one of the critiques that could be made of some (not all!) of those here in the West who choose to immerse themselves “fully” in Hindu, Buddhist or other practices is that they often (NOT always!) pick and choose the practices they engage in, as though at a buffet table of spiritual practices, without having the cultural and religious context and RESPONSIBILITIES that often come with such practices.  Again, I have to say that I am not talking about everybody here as there certainly are a great many people who are very committed to such paths and who take their involvement very seriously. But there is certainly some truth in what I am saying.  As someone myself who has been exposed to such a tradition through marriage, initiated into it, in fact, I’ll say that I absolutely do not claim membership, and certainly, not nearly, claim to be a part of the particular culture of which I am associated, outside from being married into it.  But that’s neither here nor there and, in fact, I will save this whole conversation for another day.  But what I am talking about with yoga as it is today is something quite different.  We now have teachers like Bikram Choudhury, claiming (rightfully or wrongfully: I’ve never practiced Bikram yoga so I won’t make that call, but I will say the thought of it doesn’t sit well with me at all) ownership over the yoga sets taught in Bikram Yoga and going after those he feels have infringed upon this perceived ownership.  This has left many yoga practitioners asking how anyone could ever attempt to claim ownership over such practices.  Bikram and associates, who have made such claims against others before, have recently been informed that their lawsuit won’t stand in a court of law, but the outcome of this still remains to be seen. And then there’s the yoga product marketing machine: a multi-million dollar industry of products YOU JUST NEED, never mind the fact that yoga is really about non-attachment to such things, and the fact that for many, many, many years yogis did just fine without such distractions. So, we have Kathryn Budig, a revered yoga teacher in her own right, who posed nude in various asanas to promote “Toesox,” the result being some gorgeous black and white photography, and a good dose of controversy over “how far was too far” to go that struck right at the heart of the yoga community. This is just one example, albeit arguably an extreme one, of how yoga and products associated with yoga are marketed today.  Let’s face it, there isn’t much about marketing that isn’t ego based.  For any of us, fully dressed or otherwise.  Combine this with the fact that mainstream yoga has become overwhelmingly associated with physical practice (with many, many, outstanding exceptions, of course!), resulting in an environment where yoga studios are essentially competing with fitness studios, unintentionally or otherwise, when promoting themselves, and unfortunately we now have an overly-saturated market of anything and everything “yoga.”  This has led many to declare “Well, at least the masses are getting yoga!  At least it’s out there!”  While I can say that I agree with this sentiment to a point, I can also say that mostly I just don’t.  Let the backlash commence!

And then, unfortunately, there are allegations of abuse within the greater yoga community, leading to the downfall of several prominent teachers over the years.  John Friend, the latest teacher to face serious allegations, has certainly not been the first teacher to find himself in such a position. He has also not been the fist teacher to seemingly be revered by his followers.  To what extent I could argue he has been “revered” (my word), I cannot say.  Having never met the man, I base my assumption, and it is only an assumption, on discussions I have had in the past with Anusura yoga students and teachers about their practices.  My own experiences with teachers, including some very charismatic ones, have included circumstances that have arguably led to an abuse of power.  I am not suggesting that this abuse of power involved anything quite like what other teachers have been accused of, and, quite frankly, my opinions are only representative of MY opinions and interpretations of my own experiences, no one else’s. But I am saying that it is certainly possible for a yoga teacher, especially one highly revered by his or her students, to forget to keep both feet on the ground and to start believing that THEY are the conduit of powers so deep and mysterious that the rest of us could only dream of ever rising to their level. But if these teachers. those revered so highly that they forget to keep their feet on the ground, were really, REALLY, honest with themselves, they’d have to admit that the 3-ring circus created around them has very little to do with yoga. They’d have to admit that it’s all THEIR stuff, really. And they’d have to be careful to realize, as well, that when one believes and puts so much emphasis on all the great hype surrounding oneself, that when the proverbial shit hits the great hype fan… well the fallout ain’t gonna be pretty.  The way that John Friend has dealt with this situation thus far is, unfortunately, only adding to the fallout, a fallout that includes the justifiable resignation of some highly regarded Anusara teachers, themselves seemingly very much in shock, trying to reconcile their own feelings and practices.  Friend’s indiscretions are shocking, shameful and ethically wrong on many levels.  In truth, that description is a gross understatement.  But my point isn’t to analyze this particular situation.  Rather, it’s to say that this whole environment of teachers who are held in such high regard by their students, an environment constructed by teachers and students alike, is very dangerous. For everyone involved.

In the end, though, I have to realize that most of what I have written here has very little to do with yoga. Yoga is yoga.  For many that means that yoga, in its purest form, is a spiritual practice, a practice initially transmitted from the gods to the chosen, most sacred practitioners who passed down their teachings orally and then, through Patanjali and others, via revered text. It is a practice that helps us get through all our junk and gunk ideally leading us to the very core of WHO we are.  It is also very much a human construct, one that has been deconstructed and reconstructed to suit the needs of those using it over and over and over again.  Let’s face it, had yoga remained in its earliest form, I would likely not be here discussing it as it very well may have never seen the light of day outside of India or, at least, Asia, and it would certainly not be a practice that most women, or anyone else outside of particular lineages for that matter, would ever be exposed to.  It had to be deconstructed and reconstructed to become accessible.  Arguably, it had to be Westernized, Americanized even, to reach the point it has today.  That’s the way it goes with us humans.  It’s what we do.  In the end, I have to realize that it’s not what yoga has DONE to me.  It is, perhaps, what I have or haven’t done with/to/for it.  And all that other stuff, the “current state of yoga,” all of it, none of it impacts yoga one iota.  Yoga won’t be affected by lawsuits or scandal.  It’s not worried about some black and white photos.  It’s not even worried about whether or not one individual has gotten pretty mad at it lately.  Because yoga is whatever we want it to be, because it is fluid and flexible as we mold it in our hands, it is also nothing beyond our own perceptions of what it might be.  It is what it is and it is not what it is not.  And it is simply our own perceptions of it that make *it* what it *is,* and what it’s *not* and that cause us to react to it the way that we do.  The end result is that yoga, like most other things, is nothing more than what we experience it to be and that experience will always be both very personal and, at the same time, illusory.  It is what makes yoga so wonderful.  The problem with yoga today isn’t yoga.  The problem with yoga today is, and likely always has been, us.  For me, this means that I am responsible for reconciling my own practice which, in great part, is why I wrote this post and why I started this whole blog.  What will become of my practice from all of this remains to be seen.  But I will definitely keep you in the loop.

John Friend’s quite frank, but also very lacking, response to some tough questions, posed by Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal:  http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/my-interview-with-john-friend-regarding-ijfexposedi-accusations/

about the allegations themselves: http://www.yogadork.com/news/john-friend-head-of-anusara-wiccan-leader-sexual-deviant-pension-withholding-homewrecker-the-accusations/

I leave you with this song…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mnLF6c8bLA

Julie

Business as Usual

It’s been a while since I’ve given much attention to this blog.  One of the last times I wrote on it (and, actually, one of the first), I spoke of my disillusionment as a yoga student and teacher, and the fact that I needed to take a break from teaching yoga altogether.  Then recently I announced my return to teaching after a long and much needed hiatus.  I find myself now at a point where I have decided that a self-imposed yoga teaching retirement is necessary, or at least a retirement from teaching within the capacity I am used to.  I’ll have to figure all of that out but, for now, I am, again, not teaching at all.

It’s the business end of yoga that concerns me the most, I think.  I have talked about this on this blog before.  Of course, yoga, as we understand it today, is very much a business.  Or it has become one.  And a big business at that.  There are people that make a lot of money in this “business.”  And then there’s everybody else.  There have been times for me when I have made a lot of money teaching yoga, primarily while overseas.  And then there’s the rest of the time.

It takes an investment of money (and quite a significant one), time and commitment to become a yoga teacher, as well as an ability to keep up with one’s own training and practice beyond just the initial teaching certificate.  It also takes a substantial commitment to others, namely students. To a student, we become teachers, mentors, and also, at times, therapists of sorts.  Sometimes these relationships on the mat lead to friendships off of the mat.  I’m certainly blessed for all the students that have come through my classes and for all the friendships that I have made along the way.

So what went “wrong”? I have been at this for the last 13 years, admittedly sometimes more off than on, as motherhood and my own academic pursuits have taken me to other places.  But, when I have taught, I have always been doing it from the heart, fully present, and from the best of my ability.  I started down this path thinking that it would be possible for me to teach full time.  And who’s to say I couldn’t?  I really did try for a long time.  Perhaps not hard enough?  Or long enough?  Perhaps not with the commitment that I truly needed to succeed?  Or perhaps not having the capital from a more “secure” position was the downfall.  That certainly played a part in all of this.  I ask myself these questions often.  Am I giving up too soon?  The reality is that I have not been in the location I am in now very long at all so perhaps this is the case.

But then there’s the other side of all of this.  The side that says I am WORTH more than this.  I want to preface this by saying that there have been studios that have realized and respected my worth as a teacher and to those studios and those people, you are what have kept me strong and on this path and I am so grateful for you.  But, unfortunately, you have also been the exception to the rule for me as more times than not my perception of my own self-worth has been challenged, and challenged greatly, in a seemingly more important attempt to not let the students and studios down.  I feel strongly that I should at least be bringing in an hourly wage that is more than, or even equal to, minimum wage, and feel that is not too much to ask.  My own self-worth as not only a teacher but as a person comes into play here.  I have been doing this for 13 years so should I be expected to settle for a wage that does not even come close to what a professional (which, really, after all the experience I have at this, does make me) in another field would make, just because I have decided to be a yoga teacher?  I am not naive enough to think I should be making bucket loads of money for the services I provide.  But I do feel that I am entitled to make the sort of money that should help me provide for myself and for my family.  And, certainly, the type of money that will cover my own expenses.  And now, when it is not covering even these expenses, and when this is not the first time I have found myself in such a position, I have to make a choice.  It is the nature of this business, unfortunately, especially in today’s economy where non-essential activities, such as yoga, are the first to be cut from someone’s budget.  And I get that.  There’s not much more to say about it, really.  Except to say that I cannot undervalue and undercut my own training and my own experience as a teacher anymore.  It makes teaching a hard thing to do and it affects my own relationship with yoga, which I do value very much.  I’ll admit it’s discouraging because I do love teaching and I think I am pretty good at it, really.  But I do not foresee a future for myself teaching in such a capacity any longer.  As the studios continue to bring in more and more teachers, expanding their own clientele through schedule expansion, individual teachers sometimes get lost.  While we are encouraged to keep at it and told “it takes time to build a class’ (which it does), the reality is that our own worth as teachers can  be undervalued. The other reality is that life, for us as individuals outside of yoga–as professionals in other fields; as spouses and parents; and as yoga students ourselves, a luxury many teachers do not always get to enjoy as much as we’d like as the costs for us can, at times, be too expensive–does not wait.  Things still must go on, bills need to be paid, obligations fulfilled.   Although I do not, and will not, pass the blame on to others as certainly I am largely responsible for my own current situation, I will say that such an environment makes it quite difficult to be a yoga teacher.  And, because I have been down this road more than once before, I kinda feel like it’s time for me to say enough is enough.

If anything, it’s time for me to enjoy yoga again and start owning my practice.  Yoga, beyond the business side, can give us so much. Teaching has really reminded me of this.  I do benefit greatly from helping others go deeper into their practice.  I now look forward to helping myself go even deeper into the practice.  I’ll keep on writing about this when I can, as well.  I’m at peace with making this decision.  It’s not to say I’ll never teach again.  It is to say that I will use this time to step back and ask myself what it is that I need from not only yoga but from teaching.  It’s never all about the teacher, but when things become so out of balance that the needs of the teacher are not only not being met but are no longer being considered, it’s time.

So, as always, I leave you with a song.  Not even sure which one to choose here so I’ll just pick one that I like and leave it at that…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ7osdJ4H_8&feature=related

Unexpected Journeys

Greetings all…

It’s been quite a while since I have posted on here so I thought what better time to start again than now.  That’s a true sentiment in several ways, and I’ll get to that shortly.

When I look back at the blogging I have done on this site, a few things pop out at me.  Most significantly is the amount of writing, and truth be told it was a lot,  that was done in a relatively short period of time.   I had a lot to release and doing so proved far more cathartic than I realized.   I have other half finished posts on here as drafts that may never see the light of day.  But who knows.  What I remember about all of this writing is just how energetic I was when I was doing it, but then just how exhausted I was for days (literally) after I published the last post.  Just utterly gutted with exhaustion.  So much so that the thought of blogging again became intimidating.  It was painful to think about, in fact.  Physically painful because it was the first time I had undertaken such a task since my concussion, and emotionally painful as in it I faced head on some lingering, deep seated emotions that needed to be released and send on their way which was, arguably, pretty darn courageous.  So, I took a break.  That break, it seems, is coming to an end.

Now I find myself *here.* Where is here exactly?  Well, it’s here, writing this blog.  And here, through my facebook pages and greater online presence.  And it is here, in a new home and a new city, something that I dd not clearly foresee when I started this blog over two months ago.  It’s a time of great, and rather joyful, transition in several ways.  The move has allowed me to start fresh into many things and I’m happy to say that one of those things is yoga.  After taking a significant amount of time to recover from my TBI, I began to re-approach my own practice.  With some initial trepidation, I began to feel the joy again, the joy of my own practice.  And now I have begun to feel the joy of teaching again.   I taught my first class yesterday and it was wonderful!   My body s responding to both practice and teaching and  am so happy to be in “recovery!”

Starting at a new and beautiful studio which seems to hold a lot of promise is also a wonderful experience.  It reminds me that the teachings hold real value, especially in an environment where the teachers and the teachings are highly valued, and that I hold real value in sharing what  know.  I feel that I very well may have found a space that will truly nurture me as a teacher, encouraging me to challenge myself and to go as far as I can in both my personal and professional practice.  A place where I can find my true strengths as a teacher again.

So, I’m back, in more ways than one and  hope to be blogging here more often.   After looking back on the blog burn out I experienced, however,  think I’ll ease my way into it, one blog at a time…

I leave with a song, first one that comes to mind.  Go ahead and click on that link.  You know you want to!!!    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH6TJU0qWoY

 

A Music Minute (or two)

Can we talk about music for a minute?  Because, by now, you know I can sure talk, and music is one of those topics I could just go on and and on and on about, if given the chance, as surely you will see.  I want to talk a little about the history of modern music, how we got here, and where I perceive us to be, from an entirely layman’s point of view, because I am no music scholar but I do love to get my two cents in here and there.  I have added links right into the body of the writing for your listening and viewing pleasure (ed. right click on the links to open them in another tab, otherwise you’ll be leaving and then having to find your way back again to your place in this article), particularly for those of you who may need help navigating around just what it is I am talking about. (A note to music aficionados:  this post is representative of MY history of music, as I experienced it and remember it to be.  I have neither the space nor time here to really make a decent attempt at full exploration so what you’re getting is snippets, really, that contribute to the greater goal of writing a cohesive, and arguably witty, post.  You will be frustrated with me at times.  But I ask you, please read through to the end of the post BEFORE your frustration gets the best of you.  I’ll redeem myself, I promise you…)

As a kid growing up in the ’80s (alright, the ’80s AND the ’70s), the one thing I remember about music, aside from the music itself, was a real feeling of nostalgia for the ’60s.  The whole era seemed so shrouded in wonder for me.  As I grew into my teens, I remember having conversations with other kids my age about the generation we somehow missed.  “Man, the 60s would’ve been so cool!  I was definitely born at the wrong time. I would have, like, been a total hippy!” (before facebook, “like” was an ’80s thing). Out of this nostalgia came a sense that much of the great music had already been made, and that many of the great musicians were already gone.  That’s not to say it was all nostalgia.  Far from it, actually. There was definitely some great stuff going on musically when I was young.  Admittedly, I don’t remember too much from the ’70s myself, outside of what I was exposed to through my parents.  They weren’t really music aficionados, as I remember it.  They liked the Beatles, but we never had any of it in the house.  I do clearly remember Roger Whitaker, Crystal Gayle, Tammy Wynette, and, later, “Hooked On Classics” albums.  They had more albums, too, many more, most of which have stood the test of time in storage in my parents basement. There was also disco.  And Donny and Marie, and David Cassidy. (Lots more, as well, and I’m getting to that so just cool your jets!!!) This is vinyl I’m speaking of as we didn’t have an 8-track player (wait… what??? oh, this… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8-track_tape) and cassettes weren’t quite out yet.  We did listen to the radio in the car, however, where we would hear songs like “Video Killed the Radiostar” by the Buggles. (the first video ever played on MTV, kids!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiJ9AnNz47Y&feature=related)

The defining moment for me, though, was when a friend’s mother, seemingly out of the blue, bought me an album.  My friend, whose name was Tiffany, had the coolest mother in the world (wish I could find them again…).  In the universe, even.  She was, this cool mom, a “roller skating queen” who had spiked platinum blonde hair and wore tight, black SATIN pants with crazy platforms and pumps.  This woman’s swagger MUST have been the blueprint for the “Iona” character in Pretty in Pink, she was that cool (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-D1t9z-z591U/TcFRLchlIzI/AAAAAAAAA_w/vrYNcs9tZw8/s1600/vlcsnap-2011-04-23-02h35m35s96.png).  And, yes, she bought me an album.  But not just any album.  She bought me The B-52s “Wild Planet.”  I wasn’t even 10-years old and my world had just been rocked!  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7t7cGwN7_0)  If you have clicked on the link (or if you are already one of those “in the know”), you know exactly how cool Tiffany’s mom was.  Yeah, she was pretty fantastic.

So, the ’70s ended quite well for me, in terms of music.  But it was in the ’80s where music really came to life for me.  The thing about the ’80s was that it was a bright, florescent time, seemingly fueled by consumerism.  This can be evidenced in ’80s era pop.  But there was also somewhat of a musical counterculture, a backlash, in a way, to all the pop and consumerism.  So while Micheal Jackson, Tiffany, and others dominated the airwaves, other things were definitely going on.  Bands like The Cure, The Smiths (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYLmptz_r_o), New Order (a band that had grown out of the tragic demise of ’70s band Joy Division).  A lot of this music seemed to go hand-in-hand with what was happening in film at the time.  And if we are going to talk about film in the ’80s, we can’t do it without talking about John Hughes.  Hughes made movies that seemed to capture what was happening in music: movies about disillusioned teens and young adults, struggling to fit in and find a place within mainstream ’80s culture.  Teenage angst, if you will.  Essentially “feel good” movies, they also did embody the sense that there were those on the fringe of popular culture who, although trying to find their own place, weren’t satisfied with simply “fitting the mold.”  Arguably, this was the place I found myself in and music certainly helped with getting over that.  Over all, ’80s music was pretty darn good, all things considered, when you really go back and have a listen.

And then, of course, came the ’90s.  As much as the “alternative” music of the ’80s seemed to be a backlash against pop culture, the music of the ’90s, the early ’90s in particular, seemed to be a direct assault on it.  Bands like Nine Inch Nails (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao-Sahfy7Hg), Rage Against the Machine and, of course, Nirvana were not only becoming popular, they seemed to be dominating the whole industry.  The number of alternative rock bands of various different yet closely related genres within the alt rock umbrella was astounding (and, for the sake of this article, I am making this alt rock umbrella quite big!  I do realize that it can be broken down and down and down again but, for the sake of my own sanity, and to stop me from writing ANOTHER thesis, I need to take a step back, I hope you all understand).  Hard hitting alt rock bands comprised of women were also flourishing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y6NHbiWbps&feature=related). Where were all of these bands coming from?  It was as if they just appeared, out of nowhere.

But the 90s didn’t “just happen” Lots had been going on pre-1990, both within music, and within society to flame the musical fuels (exhale, music lovers!  This is where I will FINALLY address it.  Feeling better, now?).  To figure out what happened in the early ’90s, we need to look back to at least the three decades preceding it.  Bands like Lou Reed’s The Velvet Underground (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgUs7yWnDJ8), closely connected to artist Andy Warhol and the beat poetry generation of the 1960s, which itself grew out of the beat poetry of writers such as Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Kerouac, would have direct influence on bands such as Nirvana, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, and many others.  Punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Ramones were making music during the disco era of the ’70s. The impact of punk on later genres of “alternative” music in undeniable.  Other types of music would also help to set the stage for what happened in the early ’90s, such as ska, a genre of music actually developed in the 1950s that can find its roots in jazz and blues, along with the musical stylings of the Caribbean. Ska bands like The Specials, Madness (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-uyWAe0NhQ&feature=related), and others, were generally associated with the Mod scene in Europe and, later, North America.  And many of the bands that enjoyed any degree of mainstream popularity in the ’90s actually got their start before then.   Iggy Pop (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4hPnZUMBwA) had of course been actively involved in music since the 60s.  Henry Rollins and Black Flag, Sonic Youth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OdSoKfTP1k), and The Pixies all started writing and performing in the early and mid 80s.   Even the Seattle grunge scene, arguably the impetus for the opening of the alternative music floodgates in the early ’90s, wasn’t just sprung upon us. Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and many others had been playing the Seattle scene, in different incarnations, for several years.

Forgive me for being a little nostalgic now.  Yes, nostalgic, as were those pining for music the way it was back in the ’60s when I was a kid.  Music is different now, though. It can’t be nearly as defined or categorized as it was when I was working at a record store way back in the good ol’ days.  I remember a few years back when I was at university, speaking to some younger undergraduate students about music.  They were talking about concerts.  I mentioned that I had seen Nirvana live just a few months before Cobain took his own life, expecting that they would find that pretty cool.  I mean, my God, if I had met someone who had seen, say, The Doors live when they were my age, I would have thought that was pretty amazing.  But the response was pretty surprising actually.  They didn’t say much at all.  Finally, someone said “Oh.  Really.”  But the look on her face was a combination of both humour and pity.  I took this to mean that the situation was humourous, because I was, and that I was worthy of pity because perhaps I didn’t “get” the whole music scene today.  And, to some degree, I don’t.   Maybe I should re-title this piece “What Old People, Like Parents, Write about Music, When They Just Can’t Let Go.”  I’m sure my daughter, who seems to scoff every time she hops in the car and “Mom’s music” is playing would definitely agree with this sentiment.  And, I do have to admit that music, for the most part, isn’t necessarily being written with people my age in mind much anymore.  Not that I think that “people my age” are outlandishly old.  We’re not at all.  It’s just that the music industry seems,at times, to be so outlandishly young!

I heard it said once, and maybe it was Alan Cross who said it, I’m not sure (actually, I may have dreamed all of this, but I’ll go with it), that music comes in three decade cycles.  In other words, we can expect that there will be a dramatic change in the music industry every 30 years, probably in the form of backlash that has built up against both the music industry and society at large.  However, it doesn’t seem to me that this could be a very well tested, scientific hypothesis.  We can conclude that music  in the ’60s was born at a time when people were still relatively war-weary (there had only been one full decade of “peace” since the end of WWII, after all) and seemingly tired of the cookie-cutter clean edges of 1950s sensibilities. Likewise, the music of the ’90s was a revolt against ’80s consumerism and bubblegum pop.  But, as I’ve discussed, such music was being developed even before its “arrival” in the mainstream arena. It can be argued, then, that it wasn’t really that music was rising up out of the ethers to comment on society, but rather that society was finally ready to hear such music.  So, going back to the 30 year cycle thing, well, I cannot really comment on music in the 1930s.  It was the Dirty 30s, a decade sandwiched in between the Roaring 20s and the second World War.  And, if we are talking about contemporary music in the way we have enjoyed it over the past, say 60 years (which I am), there is no point going back any further in time to determine cycles, as we’ll likely not find any that could back this 30 year thesis up in the 1800s! (can you prove me wrong?  I’m too tired to do it myself at this point).  Which leaves us with only one direction in which to go, and that is forward.  If I have done my math right, we have 8 years left before a “new cycle” could present itself, IF you follow this hypothesis (which may very well have come to me in a dream in which case, I am talking about nothing beyond my own dodgy hypothesis, so please don’t bug Alan Cross about this!)  I’m not sure what that will mean, if anything.  Music seems to be, very literally, all over the board today.  There doesn’t seem to be any cohesiveness to it (which, if you remember, was actually a critique of the Occupy Movement, leaving me perhaps to think that this new generation of movers and shakers knows something we don’t and that all will be very well without our old categories, thank you very much!).  But I have heard some really, REALLY great music being made today, as well.  With all of this diversity, which is really refreshing, it is hard to predict what will happen next, both in musical terms and societal ones, which actually makes this quite an interesting time.  There’s a lot about *right now* that makes life very exciting and, because of that, I am interested to see what shape(s) music will take in the future.  Heck, I’m excited about what will happen tomorrow, quite frankly.  But I’ll also be keeping an eye on 2020, not rushing to get there but rather waiting to see what impact society will have on music (and the arts in general) and vice versa over the next several years.

I can’t believe I just wrote all that!

For me, this post will never be finished.  There is just so much more that could be discussed.  To say that this post isn’t even the tip of the iceberg would be a gross understatement.  There are important bands, full genres of music even, that I haven’t even considered here.  But this post is a start.  Again, as always, writing this has fulfilled something in me. As I move through this blog, I’m excavating little pieces of my own thoughts, feelings and history–pieces of my identity, really–that have been waiting to emerge, or re-emerge, evolve, or implode, whatever the case may be.  This post has certainly been a great writing experience.  It’s also been very challenging to parse it all down.  This has taken me much longer to write than anticipated, actually.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it, even though it doesn’t really tell you much about music that you couldn’t find out yourself (or don’t already know).  And I would love some of your own reactions to this post, or thoughts on music, whatever they may be…

And now, another song.  It’s like musical roulette over here.  You never know what I’ll leave you with next!  (with every post I do, and will, leave you with a song…)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5rRZdiu1UE

On the Tsunami, the death penalty, and other thoughts…

Yes, if you know me, you’ve likely already read this.  Previously published somewhere else in 2009.

I had a dream the other night involving an image that has haunted me for four years now. It is of an Indonesian woman, likely in her early 20s and probably a mother, clinging to several children who, along with her, are almost wholly submerged in the waters of the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. She is struggling to hold on to something as she also struggles desperately to hold the children. She never lets go. They are taken from her by the water as she screams, still trying to save her own life. But the attempt is in vain. I know what her fate was. We all do.

I did not witness this firsthand. I watched it on television from the relative safety of my husband’s home in Bali. But the tsunami itself still dramatically affected me. The “residual” effects still surface more often than I ever expected them to. Although I never lost anyone personally, I felt the sorrow of the whole region. This nightmare still creeps up on me from time to time, stirring me into a place of heightened awareness and emotion.

Several days following the dream, my husband told me about the impending execution of the Bali bombers. Paddy’s Bar, the only bar my husband and I ever frequented in Kuta Beach, was destroyed in the bombs, along with the Sari Club. We were there, in fact, a few nights before returning to Canada in 2002, only nine days before the bombings themselves. I think of that often. . . . How is it we could be enjoying ourselves in one place, oblivious to any potential danger, and then find ourselves a whole world away, learning from CNN that that same place no longer existed? Two hundred people were dead and 200 more injured. And we were no longer even in the vicinity.

Three men have now been executed. They were executed by firing squad. Some of those who follow Sharia law in Indonesia were calling for the men to be beheaded but the Indonesian government considered that cruel and unusual punishment. The men would be executed under Indonesian, and not Sharia, law, which considers death by firing squad the appropriate means of execution.

At my core, I strongly oppose the death penalty in any form . . . I think. I say I think because in my quietest moments, when I think of how our laws here in Canada can, on occasion, fail us, I question the usefulness of our entire system. What if this criminal behaviour visited my front door? What then? Could I claim to be someone who does not support the most severe punishment humanly possible in this type of situation? I don’t know that I could.

Like the tsunami, the bombing felt too close. However, I do not feel any different now, knowing that the bombers have been executed. I do not feel relieved or have a sense of “closure.” I just kind of feel numb about the whole thing. Why did all those people need to die in the first place? How do we begin to understand what an appropriate punishment for such a crime should be? Why do we continue to face these types of tragedies, whether intimately affected or just reading about them online somewhere? What I do hope comes from this is that some people somewhere are getting comfort or closure from the court’s ruling — whether I come to agree with the executions or not. More aptly, I truly hope that terrorism does not show its ugly face in Bali, Indonesia or anywhere else again.

But, we all hope for that, don’t we?

I leave you with this song…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeQD_SwF54I

Julie

Hello world!

Hello there.  You have somehow made your way to my blog, either through a posted link, or by accident, and in either case I welcome you.  I’ll keep this intro brief.

So here I am, blogging. Blogging to write and writing to blog.  Mainly about my relationship with yoga but likely other things, as well.  This blog, more than anything else, is about  turning to my creative writing roots, something I haven’t done for years, to reconcile some of my feelings about yoga.   I’m hoping that it will make me a better writer and that it may help to reignite the spark of practice within me.   I expect it to be painful, funny, witty, whiny, boring, engaging, clever, stupid…  and all things in between.  I’d love it if you checked it out.  But I’m okay if you don’t.  It’s about the process for me, at this point and I am sure a lot of change is to come as this blog evolves…  or implodes.  We’ll see what happens!

Thanks for visiting.

I leave you with this song…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAckMJd8zlA

Julie