What I been doin’

September 25, 2008

Tim Miller was here in East Podunk, actually the Connecticut side thereof, teaching a workshop on Monday and Tuesday. I went. It was really really nice to practice in a room with mat-to-mat matheads. It was hot as hell, and I loved it. I was touched by Tim once on Monday – in Bhekasana. And once on Tuesday – he straightened out my leg in Marichyasana C.

Monday was Mysore practice with Pranayama following. Hated the pranayama. Wanted to kill myself during the pranayama.

Why do we practice Pranayama? Because it feels so good when we stop, maybe?

Tuesday was a double-long led Primary. He held each pose for “five” breaths, and by “five”, I mean “TEN”. ARGH. Not my favorite way to practice Primary, although I enjoy having the extra time in Marichyasana C and D and Supta Kurmasana. Other than that, I just want to blow through the poses. After that, we talked. I asked a question about religion and yoga and whether you have to believe in God to practice yoga, even though what I really wanted to ask was, how can one whose religion forbids the worshipping of idols and the bowing at the feet of humans reconcile the practice of yoga, with its inherent Hindu references, the chanting of the invocation, the bowing at the foot of the teacher, etc. Since I didn’t ask the question I wanted to ask, I didn’t get the answer I was looking for, whatever that answer might have been. When I think about it myself, the answer seems to be that we can pick and choose what parts of the yoga practice in which we can participate. And that’s fine by me.

BUT, I am not sure that it is fine by everyone. I recall reading more than once that there are those who resent the “picking and choosing” of which parts of yoga to practice; such people feel that it is a mockery of their spiritual practice. I suppose the complaint is akin to an Orthodox Jew (a Jew who, theoretically, adheres to all Jewish tradition and rules) resenting Reform Jews, who take from the Jewish tradition that which makes sense for them in their lives. Reform Judaism is not a dumbed down version of Judaism, at least in my opinion (although some others would beg to differ); it is merely following the intention, but not the letter, of the tradition. To wade into another metaphor, it’s akin to strict adherents to the US Constitution, who don’t believe in the right to an abortion because abortion wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution, and abortion would thus appear to violate the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, minus the Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. A different construction of the US Constitution allows room for that which did not exist in the 1700’s and imagines “what would the Framers do?”

Anyway. What I liked about the talk after the led was Tim’s telling the story of Hanuman, who I must emphasize, is not a god to me. It is a story. A metaphor. A fable, like a really long Aesop’s Fable. I didn’t chant to the Hanuman Chaleesa afterwards because I have decided that it violates my religious beliefs. It IS a devotional song, and it’s one thing for me to sing along to it on a Krishna Das or David Newman CD; it’s quite another for me to chant it AS a devotional song. In the former case, I could just as well be singing along to Sarah Brightman. In the latter case, I might as well be in church.

I also liked Tim’s talking about the good old days at the shala in Mysore and how he came to the practice (he taught first, practiced later. Yes, Tim was the original yoga “CRIMINAL”, oh how it pains me to use that word).

Wednesday, I went to see the Good Doctor, not to be confused with the Jungle Physician or Neil Simon or Chekhov. Damn, but I love practicing in his presence. And although the five-on-one assist he orchestrated for my Kapotasana served only to freak me out, not once but twice, it was a noble experiment, and afterwards, all that adrenalin made for a really awesome Kapotasana B. Maybe my best ever.

Today, I went back to Val’s place. She gave me the most awesomest Marichyasana D assist – not to get me into the pose – since I can do that quite handily and take the wrist of my non-grabbing arm, while the non-grabbing hand takes strong hold of one of my lotus leg. I feel like I could fit into a bowling bag when I get that tight. But anyway, Val came up to me AFTER I had bound, and twisted me deeper and got my back shoulder back, back, back, in effect giving me a bit of a backbend in my twist. Yum!

THEN….I took my first horseback riding less in like 25 years! And it all came back to me!!! I could post! I could trot and post! I even got into a canter for like two seconds. Three more free lessons (well, not totally free because I did bid money at an auction in order to win them), and then I am going to have to decide…should I go to yoga class only once or twice a week and spend my money on riding?

Nothing like a new obsession to get my juices flowing!


Why do we do what we do?

September 21, 2008

Why does it matter so much to be able to backbend or bind in Mari D or whatever it is we are trying to learn at any given time?

And it does matter. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t talk about it so much. We wouldn’t write about it so much. We wouldn’t read books about it. We wouldn’t bother going to see a teacher for asana lessons. We wouldn’t become teachers because we wouldn’t understand why it matters to anyone else either.

But why? Why does it matter?

Well, it does FEEL good, physically, to be able to make a bind in some poses. And I don’t just mean difficult binding poses like Mari D and Pasasana, etc. I mean, even grabbing the big toe in Trikonasana feels better than NOT grabbing the big toe.

When I see someone in Kapotasana with hands on heels, or someone in Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana with the sole of the foot curled around their own head, it looks so satisfying. It looks like the hand, or foot, as the case may be, was just meant to be there. It’s like the heel was designed as a hand rest. And the sole of the foot, designed to curve elegantly around the head.

The way the arm gets into position for a bound twist, the way the legs curl around the arms for Bujapidasana, the way the legs find their way to the arms in Bakasana B – when you get it right, it feels like hitting the sweet spot of a tennis racket. Whoomp – right into place.

But there’s more than that. There must be ego involved. If there weren’t, then there would be no reason for the whole line of comments on my most recent backbending post.


Today’s backbend, and a first-time-ever video of me standing up – not after a dropback….

September 17, 2008

Slowly, slowly, slowly, by fits and starts, it gets better. Yesterday, my wrists hurt so much, I couldn’t press up into a backbend. I think I have arthritis in my wrists. I already have it in a couple of knuckles. That sucks. I hope that continuing to practice the yoga will stave off the onsent of arthritis in my wrists. I don’t care so much about my fingers. But my wrists, I need them.


Newsflash: Breast Cancer Sucks, And You Could Die From It.

September 15, 2008

Here’s my latest rant on the Huffington Post: Newsflash: Breast Cancer Sucks, And You Could Die From It.

It’s tough to make a case for that when you’re alive and well and living in the suburbs. But I think a lot of people tend to forget it, and it’s pretty easy to do so these days. My article discusses why that is – and, please be forewarned: I lay partial blame on the Knicks City Dancers.


Confessions of a "Nigerian Email Scam" Spammer

September 15, 2008

How are you doing? hope all is well with you. I am sorry that i didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a program called Empowering youth to fight racism,Hiv/Aids,and lack of education.

I need a favour from you as soon as you recieve this e-mail because i am presently in United Kingdom and i came accros a very good business offer,If i can secure this offer i will make about $7000 profit when im back in the states, i will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently with thsum of $2,500 US Dollars to sort-out this business and i will pay you back the money with 10% intrest as soon as im back.

I will realy appreciate whatever you can afford and i’ll pay you back as soon as i return,Kindly let me know if you can be of help? so that i can send you the Details to use when sending the money through western union.I look forward to read from you soon.


This was the email that went out under my Hotmail address recently to hundreds of my contacts, some of ya’all included.

The thing was, I didn’t write it.

I first became aware of the fact that someone had hacked into my Hotmail account and used it to perpetrate a version of the “Nigerial Email Scam” when my mom called me, mere seconds after having received the offending email to tell me: “Someone stole your identity! You have to call the police. You have to call the FBI. You have to call the credit bureaus…”

She had to be mistaken. This was not possible. I mean, I was using my Hotmail account just minutes before.

Except that she was not mistaken. When I clicked on my “Sent” messages, there it was. Panic rose in my throat as I considered whether people might believe that I was actually asking them for money. Or whether they would know that it was a fake but deride me for having become vulnerable to a hacking, somehow.

And anyway, how did someone send a message from my account in the first place?

My friend S clicked in, and I hung up on my mom, who as much as I love her, was doing a superb job of pointing out the problems afoot, but not really doing much to help me to arrive at solutions. S, a particularly calm and clever law school friend, calmed me down immediately by pointing out that all was not lost since I was still able to access my account.

What was odd about that was that it soon became apparent that the hacker had already changed my password, which meant that I might not be able to access my account for long.

So, I had to figure out a way to change my password yet again, thus fully wresting control of my account from my hacker. The problem was that in order to change my password, I needed the current password. And only the hacker could help me with that. And he wasn’t talking (except to ask for money from my friends, professional contacts and others who had made the seeming mistake of entrusting me with their email addresses).

So, I had to go through the “Forgotten Password” procedure, which offered me two choices. One was to have my password sent to me at my “alternate email address”. Unfortunately, this was out of the question, since I quickly discovered that my hacker had already changed the “alternate email address” to his own. The other choice was to use my “secret question”.

I held my breath as I typed the answer to my “secret question”. What WAS the name of my first pet anyway? When I opened my Hotmail account 10 years ago, was I thinking of my first dog? Or was I thinking of a pet turtle that I had before that? If I had been thinking of the dog, would I have typed her full name? Or her nickname? And what if my hacker had already changed the answer to my “secret question”?

Somehow, by some miracle, I typed the magic words, and Hotmail allowed me to create a new password. (Now that I think about it, it is actually quite disturbing how easy it was to do so, which goes a long way to explaining how my account got hacked in the first place.)

You might be wondering why I didn’t call someone at Hotmail to help me with this. Well, let me tell you: I tried. But apparently, Hotmail doesn’t have an emergency fraud line, or for that matter, any sort of help line. All you can do is email them and wait for a response, which in my case came many hours later in the form of a list of ways to avoid being hacked in the first place.

But anyway, after rejoicing at having gotten my account back and after drafting an apologetic email to all of my contacts (“Please send no money, and please accept my apologies…”), which I could not even send until nearly 24 hours later because my hacker had used up all of my emailing privileges for the day (who knew there was a limit on how many emails you could send out in a day on Hotmail?), I was finally able to sit back and enjoy the hilarity of some of the email replies my hacker’s handiwork had wrought.

Here are my favorites:

“Thanks for writing me about this. I’m really interested in this offer. Can you send me more details after you kindly go fuck yourself?”

“What’s going on there? Does your husband know about this? Do you really need money? If you’re in some kind of trouble, I can help you.”

“I don’t get it. What do the children w/aids have to do with the business opportunity that will make you $7000 and for which you’re requesting a loan?” (the friend who wrote this later told me that he was just “messin’ with the hacker”…but I wonder…was he really just considering an irresistable business deal? Hmmmm).

Another friend wrote only after I sent my apology: “We just sent $10,000. We thought you needed it. Please let me know who to call to get it back.”

But my favorite reply was from our mutual friend and Ashtangi, Arturo, who assumed that I had, in fact, written the initial email, but that I had intended it as a satire. He commented that while it was “mildly funny”, it contained “insufficient pathos”. When I explained the actual circumstances, he was the one who told me that I need to write about this experience.

And so, in honor of Arturo, who made me laugh the hardest on a most unpleasant day, I give you the following “Nigerian Email Scam” that, if I were so inclined, I would really write:

“Dear Beloved Freind or Email contact,

I am Miss Lauren Cahn from Westchester. I come from living in New YOrk City for 20 years and now find myselff to be stranded in small town oppression by gas prices extortion and road kill, and with no use for my stilettos because all of the ladies are wearing Uggs instead. What disturbs me most is my allergies, and I fear for the welfare of my nosejob.

I have learned recently of an opportunity that I might purchase an handbag in one Store in city. That handbag is one that my doctor say may make me suffer less the agonies of being strended in not the big city. It is called “BIRKIN” and your kindliness could help me to put it to a good usage.

I only will set out to utilize the Birkin for godly purposes like taking it with me to visit orphans who are sick with the hiv/aids and lack of education.

Unfortunately, the Store will not release the bag into my possession wtihout the payment by me of the sum of $4,000. I do not want to ask you for this sum. But I am going to ask you for this sum.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of a BANK in Kumbaya. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will give you absolutely no power over this money in the future.

Your reward is my happiness. My happiness is my reward. Your happiness is not really a part of this, but your money is. So send some please and I shall send prayers for you to my alma mother. Please be always prayerful and send me the money so that I may get my Birkin bag and help the orphans with aids and lack of education.

Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I so stated in this letter to which I wrote to you in the hobnestest recesses of my material desires. Remain blessed my beloved friend amd send me your money as soon as possible/.

Blessed be Birkin Bags,

Miss Lauren C”


Happy Friday!

September 12, 2008



September 9, 2008

It’s that time of year again, when Jews all over the world start to think about the Jewish Forgiveness Trifecta: (1) What they are sorry for, (2) To whom they should ask for forgiveness and (3) What constitutes appropriate amends.

According to rabbinical tradition, if you ask for forgiveness and make reparations, then the person to whom you have asked forgiveness and made reparations MUST forgive you.

We talked about that today at a workshop at my synagogue for the parents and children involved in the religious school. It was a rather unsatisfying discussion in that it raised far more questions than provided answers (thus, reminding me of law school; damn Socratic method of teaching).

Questions raised:

1. What IS forgiveness? Is it an emotion or an action? And if it is an emotion, then is it even possible for someone to be obligated to forgive? How does one compell a feeling?

2. Aren’t some bad acts unforgivable? If a nazi asks a Jew for forgiveness for the nazi’s actions in murdering Jews during the Holocaust, must the Jew forgive? If a child molester asks for forgiveness from the parents of a victim, must they forgive? If the answer is no, is it because there is simply no possible reparation?

3. How does forgiveness figure into the politics and polemics of the Middle East? Would forgiveness on an individual level help to bring about forgiveness on a cultural level? And if so, is forgiveness in this set of circumstances even possible? Is it possible for it NOT to be possible?

I thought I’d bring up these nuggets before mentioning that I played the role of the Lady Who Lunches today, meeting my friend S in New Canaan at a restaurant frequented by Richard Gere. Unfortunately, he was not there today. But lunch was delicious, and S and I talked about politics, gardening, yoga and whether we want to go back to work, now or ever. She and I were roommates in law school, and we both had some success in our careers before leaving it behind. She is more inclined to go back to work than I am. I quite enjoy my leisurely life.

Nevertheless, I had an odd dream early this morning, an interesting and disturbing prologue to our lunch. In the dream, S had a great job, and I didn’t work. And she was happy and fulfilled, and I was anxious and uncomfortable and desperate to find work that would make me happy. I found it strange that my subconscious might be providing me with enough ambivalence about my life choices that my conscious need not even be bothered. Except when for whatever reason, my conscious mind remembers the dream and then feels grumpy all day about it.

Still, and this is for my fans out in the far Northwest: I luv being a lady who lunches. If you watch Madmen, then you will know what I mean when I say, I am totally a Betty. I’ve even taken to wearing a-line shirt dresses…with crinoline. Seriously. That’s what I wore last night to the country club my friend J and her family invited us to as their guests. Ah, the good life.

Practice did kind of suck after a two course lunch, two sodas and the large coffee I had at the gas station in Pound Ridge on the way home. But I was proud of myself for practicing, when I knew it would suck.

And that made it kind of good.