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MUSIC MONDAY: Danava – “I am the skull”

Oh, yes, friends. I went to a heavy metal show and fell in love.

Danava is an amazingly talented band from Portland (side note: they’re also quite nice) that knows how to rock out. Enjoy.

 

And (heyoo!) it turns out the name Danava is derived from Hindu mythology and references a defeated race of peoples connected to the formless and primordial waters of heavenly realms. In the Rig Veda, according to Wikipedia, all demons referred to as being defeated by the devas are called danava.

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SUNDAY SCHOOL: Bowie

I’ve been wanting to start a series of posts with Sweetheart on music for a long time.  His knowledge of music, past and present, is really encyclopedic – and full of awe and appreciation.  He is the best of rock music history teachers, full of enthusiasm and heart.

So here is the first installment of a Sunday series to educate all us brash Millennials who think we know all about music because we listen to lots of indie bands (aka SUNDAY SCHOOL (w/ SWEETHEART)):

It’s hard to know where to start.  But one place we could start is with David Bowie.  Because the music that people are so infatuated with now, the stuff they’re going crazy about today, pretty directly comes from this guy’s brain.

From the arrangements to subject material to key signatures and gender politics, you can hear echoes of Bowie everywhere – it’s just a matter of listening.  One of the hallmarks of Bowie’s music is the big sound and dramatic effect he creates with just a few instruments.  It’s something you can hear in Spoon, for example, today.  Another hallmark is in his subject material, specifically his ambivalence about modernity and change, which you can really hear in the two selections here from 60s and 70s Bowie but also, say, in Radiohead and Hot Chip.

The most amazing thing is just how crazy Bowie was getting and how much of an impact he had in a short, short period of time.  He’s been making music for 40 years, but the 60s and 70s were a time of upheaval that he definitely played a huge role in fomenting.

The one thing we don’t want people to come away with after reading this post and listening to these two songs is to be like, “OK, that’s interesting.  I see what you’re saying.”  It’s almost an injustice to not have a stronger opinion about Bowie’s music, given how world-changing it was in its time, and the impact it continues to have today.  His records are so intense, if you really listen, that they can’t be consumed in a neutral fashion.  A milk toast reaction is not acceptable.

It was really hard to pick a track off of Ziggy Stardust that encapsulates the whole album and 60s Bowie.  We ended up choosing Five Years (as opposed to Ziggy Stardust, Lady Stardust or Starman), because it’s so incredibly evocative and tells such a story.

Five Years is about a Britain in transition.  It’s about race, sex politics, the cult of celebrity in a mournful, simple song.  We thought it was harpsichord in that shit, but it’s actually a 12-string guitar.  But that’s the sound – almost idyllic.  The thing about this song is that it’s about shocking violence, new technologies that people don’t know how to deal with.  It’s all this weird shit that Bowie (or Stardust) doesn’t even know how to deal with – even though he’s actually at the helm of that revolutionary change and the record’s all about modernity.  He’s young, untethered and adrift – quite unsure about where things are going.

Oh You Pretty Things, on the other hand, reflects an older Bowie.  It’s like a wake-up call – and literally begins “Wake up, you sleepy head”.  The world just changed overnight and Bowie’s singing this song to let everyone know. What’s changed is that, almost without anyone noticing, a nightmare of strange golden-faced children is walking about, driving their parents insane.  He tells this story while also warning an older generation that they’re about to be out-competed and pushed out by a younger generation, an almost Darwinian evolution of man (homo superior).  Bowie also speaks to the youthful naivete of this new generation of children because they don’t even know the threat they’re posing and the upheaval they’re bringing.

This song was also the soundtrack to watching the Northern Lights from an airplane window on a redeye flight from London to NYC when I was 16 (Little 900).  Everyone on the plane was asleep and I just kept rewinding the tape on my walkman to listen to this song over and over for as long as we were south of Iceland and could see the lights.  Epic.

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Dharma Talks & Yoga Playlists: Installment 2

THE TALK
Tonight’s class theme comes from the movie Tron: Legacy.  Jeff Bridges plays a computer hacker trapped for two decades in an electronic world called The Grid.  When his grown son happens to find his way into the Grid, the movie then focuses on their attempt to escape back to the real world, accompanied by a third character named Quorra.

At one point, Quorra is telling another character that Bridges’ character has “been teaching me how to take myself out of the equation.”  Appropriate that Jeff Bridges is a yogi and meditator, by the way, and brings a ton of that to his character and the film.

But what does it mean to take ourselves out of the equation?  I see it as subtracting our own baggage, expectations, and timelines from a given problem or situation so we can actually see it for its constituent parts, what’s really there.  Maybe once we do that, we can see that the solution to a problem doesn’t necessarily run through us.  Maybe the solution can come about in spite of our actions.  Maybe once we remove our own expectations and past experiences, we can see that there isn’t even a problem to be solved.

Heavy stuff.  But, in essence, this is what we do every time we step on the mat.  If yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind and the cultivation of equanimity, then we are building the muscles that remove our internal chatter, countering our striving that says we have to reach up into that full bound Half Moon or we’re a bad yogi, seeing simply what is in front of us.

As we move into meditation and you set an intention for tonight’s practice, I invite you to set the intention of simply being with what is here, with what presents itself.  With a balance of proactive and receptive  effort, maybe we can really see new ways into a pose or clearly see our limit or what’s needed most tonight.

THE SEQUENCE
This was the class on which I was evaluated for my teacher training, so I basically stuck to the template.  It was well rounded with no particular asana focus, but I did bring the theme of removing ourselves from the equation in several poses in particular – Virabhadrasana (Warrior) 3, Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon), and Savasana (Corpse).

THE PLAYLIST
Unlike usual, I started the music during meditation.  The feel was generally space agey, which was fun for me anyway.  Listen here.
1. Events In Dense Fog (Brian Eno)
2. Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (Spiritualized)
3. Hanna’s Theme – Vocal Version (The Chemical Brothers)
4. Solar Sailer – Pretty Lights Remix (Daft Punk) [off the Tron soundtrack :)]
5. Lex (Ratatat)
6. Sun (Caribou)
7. Star Fire Power (Gardens & Villa)
8. Home (LCD Soundsystem)
9. My Girls (Animal Collective)
10. Reckoner (Radiohead)
11. Approaching Pavis Mons By Balloon (The Flaming Lips)
12. Beautiful People (The Books)
13. Black Hills (Gardens & Villa)
14. Unknown title (Helen Money & Krista Franklin)
15. Woods (Bon Iver)

And for post-class fun music:
16. Make’e Ailana (Dennis Pavao)
17. Tomorrow (The Cardigans) —> because I was leaving town the next day, literally

Aside

The truth is I never shook my shadow
Every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle
Calling out “faker” only get me rattled
Want to pull me back behind the fence with the cattle
Building your defenses
Digging your trenches
Put me on the front line
Leave me with a dumb mind
With no defenses
But your defenseless
If you can’t stand to feel the pain then you are senseless

Since this,
I’ve grown up some
Different kinda figther
And when the darkness come, let it inside you
Your darkness is shining
My darkness is shining
Have faith in myself
Truth.

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Music Mondays – Alexander “Truth”

Thanks to K. for sharing this!  Alexander Ebert (of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes) brings together several different forms and contemporary styles here – from Nancy Sinatra (a la Bang Bang) to the more melancholy and stripped down of 90s rap (can’t think of an example, sadly). Features The RZA! Beautiful video!

Alexander – Truth from Alexander on Vimeo.

Download the MP3 for free here.

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Dharma Talks & Yoga Playlists: Installment 1

Not all yoga teachers incorporate spiritual or philosophical concepts into their classes, in the form of dharma talks or themes.  Coming into my yoga teacher training, however, I knew that I had two major strengths as a teacher – being a strong asanist and my background exploring Buddhism through meditative practice and scholarship (as much as my meager library of Buddhist and related books and listening compulsively to Buddhist Geeks podcasts can be called scholarship).

I am currently inviting discussion as to the merit of dharma talks and concepts in really helping yoga students, and clarity for myself on what’s most skillful.  One teacher I greatly admire, Jason Crandell, told me that he never incorporates dharma concepts into his classes unless he’s got at least 2 hours, like in a workshop setting.  “People come in needing to move,” he said.  And I can wholly understand and agree.

But for the time being, I know that in my experience as a teacher, I feel better able to weave an instructive, challenging, and wholesome environment when I start a class off with a dharma talk and a short (3-5min) meditation.  So I’ll be posting written versions of my dharma talks (and class playlists) here.  Hopefully, I can find opportunities to teach in my new Midwestern home soon that will keep my skills sharp!

The first dharma talk I gave was for a trainee class attended by a small number of other trainees, a few generous friends, and one drop-in.  I called the theme “Brave Heart” and structured the class around our trainers’ vinyasa 1.5 class template but incorporated a lot of backbends and twists to open up the heart and encourage feeling into that region for power and strength.

THE TALK
I wanted to bring in a theme for tonight’s class that could maybe meet us where we are today – physically, emotionally, mentally, temporally.  It’s the beginning of August, and you may have already been experiencing some of the heat of this month in your life – maybe you’ve witnessed or been involved in some confrontations, seen passions rising.  Maybe you’ve been to (Washington, DC’s) 18th Street recently and seen the lines of policemen trying to keep the party under control. Read more

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Music Mondays – Gardens & Villa “Black Hills”

Man, I just found out that big deal deal indie record labels Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar are based out of my soon to be hometown of Bloomington, IN.  I was already looking forward to some idyllic stillness and heavy Buddhism (apparently, the Dalai Lama’s brother lives and teaches there) and the benefits of living in a college town.  Now, I can look forward to some serious hipster music action.

Music Mondays sharing – which I apparently have a compulsion for (sharing, that is): “Black Hills” by Gardens & Villa.  Somehow, it meshes some of what I expect of Bloomington (bicycles, Midwestern hipsters) and what I just saw in the movie “Winter’s Bone”.  Random, I know.

Black Hills by Gardens & Villa from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.