On Being Tumblr

On Being Tumblr

On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
While in India for a YouthAIDS trip with actress Ashley Judd, yoga teacher Seane Corn poses in the Eka Pada Koundiyanasana position in front of the Taj Mahal.
While in India for a YouthAIDS trip with actress Ashley Judd, yoga teacher Seane Corn poses in the Eka Pada Koundiyanasana position in front of the Taj Mahal.

While in India for a YouthAIDS trip with actress Ashley Judd, yoga teacher Seane Corn poses in the Eka Pada Koundiyanasana position in front of the Taj Mahal.

Comments
"Breathe and everything changes."
—Seane Corn, in Yoga, Meditation in Action.
(Photo by Lyn Tally)
"Breathe and everything changes."
—Seane Corn, in Yoga, Meditation in Action.
(Photo by Lyn Tally)

"Breathe and everything changes."

—Seane Corn, in Yoga, Meditation in Action.

(Photo by Lyn Tally)

Comments
Young Indian Hindu Brahmins training to be priests perform yoga on a ghat on the Ganges River, holy to Hindus, at sunrise in Varanasi, India.
(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Young Indian Hindu Brahmins training to be priests perform yoga on a ghat on the Ganges River, holy to Hindus, at sunrise in Varanasi, India.
(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Young Indian Hindu Brahmins training to be priests perform yoga on a ghat on the Ganges River, holy to Hindus, at sunrise in Varanasi, India.

(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Comments
Fourteen moments of precious of a mother and her four-year-old daughter in various yoga poses. Is there anything more joyful than this to wake up to on a Monday morn?
(via 123 Inspiration)
Fourteen moments of precious of a mother and her four-year-old daughter in various yoga poses. Is there anything more joyful than this to wake up to on a Monday morn?
(via 123 Inspiration)

Fourteen moments of precious of a mother and her four-year-old daughter in various yoga poses. Is there anything more joyful than this to wake up to on a Monday morn?

(via 123 Inspiration)

Comments
trentgilliss:

Yes, I do believe @KristaTippett’s yoga classes are paying off in our editorial sessions at On Being. (at Minnesota Public Radio - American Public Media)
trentgilliss:

Yes, I do believe @KristaTippett’s yoga classes are paying off in our editorial sessions at On Being. (at Minnesota Public Radio - American Public Media)

trentgilliss:

Yes, I do believe @KristaTippett’s yoga classes are paying off in our editorial sessions at On Being. (at Minnesota Public Radio - American Public Media)

Comments

Matthew Sanford Demonstrates Grounding and Expansion

by Susan Leem, associate producer

"In order to go up you must go down, you must go down through your base, down through a sense of grounding, and move energy through your spine."

Matthew Sanford has spent the last 20 years trying to reconnect his mind and body through his yoga practice. In this segment from his video, Beyond Disability, he demonstrates a simple pose with his hand that develops one’s sensation of grounding and expansion (and their relationship to each other).

If you don’t know yoga, this is a good one to start with. It illustrates some core principals that will benefit all practitioners, beginners and advanced. As Sanford reminds us, “It takes patience, moving with your breath not against it.”

Comments
Every time we air this interview with Matthew Sanford, people write and express such deep gratitude. It’s the best part of producing public radio.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Every time we air this interview with Matthew Sanford, people write and express such deep gratitude. It’s the best part of producing public radio.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Every time we air this interview with Matthew Sanford, people write and express such deep gratitude. It’s the best part of producing public radio.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
Download

The More Alert We Are in Our Bodies, The More Compassionate and Connected We Become to the World Around Us

by Krista Tippett, host

U.S. culture glorifies “perfect” bodies. At the other end of that spectrum, we champion people who fight when their bodies fail. Matthew Sanford has charted another way. In his lyrical memoir, he describes how he learned to live in his whole body again, despite an irreversible paralysis, in part through the practice of yoga. And like every story well told, his contains lessons that reach beyond the confines of one person’s experience.

Here is the kind of passage — one of several Matthew reads in this show — that made me want to understand more.

"I am forced to feel death — not the end of my life, but the death of my life as a walking person. In principle my experience is not that uncommon, only more extreme. If we can see death as more than black and white, as more than on and off, there are many versions of realized death short of physically dying. The death of a loved one sets so much in motion … Then there are also the quiet deaths. How about the day you realized you weren’t going to be an astronaut or the Queen of Sheba? … What about the day we began working not for ourselves, but rather with the hope that our kids might have a better life? Or the day we realized that, on the whole, adult life is deeply repetitive? As our lives roll into the ordinary, when our ideals sputter and dissipate, as we wash the dishes after yet another meal, we are integrating death, a little part of us is dying so that another part can live."

The “mind-body connection” is a somewhat controversial phrase, a new-age notion to some, though it has been studied and described scientifically in a multitude of forms in recent years. I have spoken with scientists engaged in that work, but none of them has impressed me with the reality of the mind-body connection as Matthew Sanford does by his mere presence.

For over a quarter century, as a result of a car accident that killed his father and sister, he has been in a wheelchair. Yet I’ve rarely sat across from a person so alive, a body so palpably whole and wholly energetic as his. He has knitted his mind and body back together again over a quarter century, wresting wholeness through layers of cultural denial.

As we speak, Matthew Sanford makes me aware of the seamless cooperation of my mind and uninjured body, a synergy most of us take completely for granted. I stand up and walk as soon as the desire crosses my mind; I gesture with my hands to illustrate an idea I am passionate about; I shake my foot as my own engagement in conversation rises.

This kind of fluid connection was severed in Sanford. Yet as he struggled to come to terms with his body’s new realities during years of recovery and violent corrective surgeries, he encountered another kind of mind-body connection that our culture practices instinctively, reflexively. We celebrate those who battle adversity, triumph over obstacles, beat the odds. We love the 80-year-old man who runs a marathon, the injured hero who never gives up pursuing the technology that will enable him to walk again. This is the mind-body connection translated as a battle of will over matter.

Matthew Sanford heeded these kinds of images for many years. He accepted the advice that he should declare the lower half of his body dead and pour all of his energy into creating bodybuilder arms. He lived for years, he says, feeling like a floating upper torso. Then in a time of renewed pain he gave yoga a try. He was fortunate to have a first teacher who specialized in Iyengar yoga.

Iyengar focuses on precision and alignment, qualities Sanford’s body needed and could grasp. Through yoga, he came to a conviction that healing, for him, did not have to mean walking again. Yet he learned to experience his paralyzed limbs in a new way. He describes it as a subtle sensation of energy to which he has patiently learned to attune himself, an alternative to the crisp and clear sensation of nerve endings most of us take for granted. He writes, “My mind can feel into my legs.” Speaking with him about this, coming to a vicarious sense of it myself, is fascinating.

We also speak at some length about a fascinating central idea Matthew Sanford has developed in and through his disability. He speaks of the “silence” he encountered where his mind and body stopped communicating with one another. But this core silence is within each of us, only grown more evident through his injury. He describes it variously in his book and in our conversation, as “the aspect of our consciousness that makes us feel slightly heavy;” “the place where stress lands;” and “the source of our feeling of loss, but also of a sense of awe.”

This is the quality of solitary apartness evoked by the existentialist philosophers. But as Sanford understands it, this silence both separates us from one another and, in its universality, joins us together. In this I sense that Matthew Sanford, through an experience of bodily paralysis, has put new words and a new picture to a core human truth at once both spiritual and physical.

I often feel that I will never be quite the same again after my radio conversations, but rarely is that conviction so tactile and embodied as this time. Through his work with both able-bodied and disabled students of yoga, Matthew Sanford tells me, he sees that the more alert we are in our own bodies, the more compassionate and connected we become to the world around us. Thanks to him, acts like washing the dishes and taking the stairs become moments of gratitude for the grace of my body and all of life.

Comments

Seane Corn Demonstrates “Body Prayer”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Yoga from the Heart with Seane CornFor Seane Corn, yoga is much more than a practice in flexibility. It’s a way of applying spiritual lessons to real-world problems and personal issues. One way she channels her energy and love is through a practice she calls “body prayer,” as she shares in this video from Yoga from the Heart.

She shared this perspective about “body prayer” with Krista Tippett in our show, "Yoga, Meditation in Action":

"I trust that if I do my yoga practice, I’m going to get stronger and more flexible. If I stay in alignment, if I don’t push, if I don’t force, then my body will organically open in time. I know that if I breathe deeply, I’ll oxygenate my body. It has an influence on my nervous system. These things are fixed and I know to be true.

But I also recognize that it’s a mystical practice, and you can use your body as an expression of your devotion. So the way that you place your hands, the ways that you step a foot forward or back, everything is done as an offering. I offer the movements to someone I love or to the healing of the planet. And so if I’m moving from a state of love and my heart is open to that connection between myself and another person or myself and the universe, it becomes an active form of prayer, of meditation, of grace.

And when you’re offering your practice as a gift, as I was in that particular DVD, as I do often, I was offering to my dad who’s very ill. And so when I have an intention behind what I’m doing, then it becomes so fluid. Because if I fall out of a pose I’m not going to swear, I’m not going to get disappointed or frustrated. I’m going to realize that this is my offering, and I don’t want to offer that energy to my father. I only want to offer him my love. And so I let my body reflect that. And when you link the body with the breath, when my focus is solely on getting the pose to embrace the breath that I’m actualizing, then the practice, it’s almost in slow motion.

It has a sense of effortlessness. When people can connect to that, it takes the pressure off of trying to do it perfectly. It just becomes a real expression of their own heart. Sometimes it’s graceful and elegant, other times it’s kind of funky and abstract, but it’s authentic to who the person is. It’s their own poetry.”

Comments
"My life has taught me that there is a wealth of strength within us, there is nothing we cannot handle. Life presents it’s purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways. The trick is to stay open to one’s strength, to not deny or strive to prove it, but rather to simply have it." —Matthew Sanford, from Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence
Photo by Vinoth Chandar (distributed with instagram)
"My life has taught me that there is a wealth of strength within us, there is nothing we cannot handle. Life presents it’s purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways. The trick is to stay open to one’s strength, to not deny or strive to prove it, but rather to simply have it." —Matthew Sanford, from Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence
Photo by Vinoth Chandar (distributed with instagram)

"My life has taught me that there is a wealth of strength within us, there is nothing we cannot handle. Life presents it’s purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways. The trick is to stay open to one’s strength, to not deny or strive to prove it, but rather to simply have it."
Matthew Sanford, from Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

Photo by Vinoth Chandar (distributed with instagram)

Tagged: #yoga #Instagram
Comments

The Practical Mystery of Yoga

by Krista Tippett, host

After my interview with Matthew Sanford a few years ago, I started thinking about yoga. I had dabbled in it intermittently across the years, but until very recently the structure of my life did not yield happily to new “non-essential” commitments. I would sign up for a weekly class and then only attend once or twice.

Then I discovered a studio with a full and flexible schedule — drop in classes literally morning, noon, and night — and I was off. Initially — and this is how Seane Corn describes her experience too — I was mostly aware of how good the physical workout felt. (I’m doing “core power yoga” — a fusion that is indeed more of a sweaty workout than I’d experienced in yoga classes before.) But at some point a few months on, I realized that yoga was working in far more significant ways on my energy, my sense of spiritual and mental well-being, the way I moved through the rest of my life.

Several of my colleagues were nearly simultaneously going through a similar process with yoga in their off-hours. And we’re not special or strange in this. The past few years have seen a surge of cultural and journalistic attention — some wary, some appreciative — to the way yoga has suddenly taken in cities, small towns, schools, and workplaces. Perhaps I’m justifying the fact that this show, as much as any we’ve done, indulged an enormous curiosity that has grown in me privately as well as professionally. But when I read Sebastian Faulks’ James Bond redux novel and found that he has the Chief Spymaster M instructing his agents to practice yoga for strength and focus, I felt we had no choice but to at least devote an hour to it.

Seane Corn

Seane Corn is a wonderful and surprising voice for this exploration. She is a master teacher and a star in the ever-expanding universe of yoga teachers and trainers. She appeared as the beautiful face and body of yoga in a Nike “goddess” ad campaign. But the cadence and intensity of her voice — as she’s quick to point out with some pride — reflects a blue-collar New Jersey upbringing and the fact that she is one of life’s fighters.

Nothing in her early life prefigured her current embodiment of yoga’s alignment of strength, energy, and grace. She left home and school to move to New York City at 16, found work as a waitress, and partied hard. She discovered yoga at 19, as she was on the edge of sanity. She had been battling an undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder, which she believes was connected with an episode of childhood sexual abuse.

The drama of Seane Corn’s story makes for a fascinating conversation. But she is also a very down to earth guide into the basic facts about the practicalities and power of yoga.

I’ve written a more personal essay about the changes this practice has affected in me — the very unexpected lessons it has brought to the rest of my life. On this point, too, the intensity of Seane Corn’s story is compelling. But it also throws into relief parallel experiences I’ve had and heard about in others that have practiced yoga in varying forms and degrees. She had been practicing yoga for years until one day she was filled, walking home, with an utterly strange sensation, which she finally understood to be a sense of joy, of happiness.

Her practice of yoga is thoroughly interwoven, at this point, with her understanding of grace, God, and love. The way she comes at that — and expresses it — is anything but light and airy. The joy and love at the heart of yoga drive her to be ruthlessly honest about the darkness in herself and to face the darkness in the world. She takes yoga’s sense of the teacher in every experience with utter seriousness — working with organizations helping get teenage prostitutes off the streets, for example, from Los Angeles to Cambodia.

Like meditation, this ancient spiritual technology lends itself to interpretation and incorporation with many spiritual sensibilities and religious traditions — just as its range of practices are adaptable to any type of body at any stage of vitality or disability. I also see this yoga phenomenon as part of a larger move that we’ve variously explored towards rooting — or rather, reintegrating — the body into spiritual and religious traditions, from Judaism to Pentecostal Christianity. There is some wonderful, fundamental insight here that many of us are reclaiming from wildly different directions. And as Matthew Sanford still so memorably put it to me, the more completely we inhabit our own bodies with both their strengths and their flaws, the more compassionate we become towards all of life. That’s the kind of earthy, reality-based mystery I love.

Namaste.

Comments

A Linguistic Resurrection for Reconnecting with Compassion: Krista Tippett’s TEDTalk

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Krista Tippett Delivers TEDTalk at the United NationsOn Monday we received an unexpected valentine. Krista’s presentation at the United Nations to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion was posted as a TEDTalk!

Released a week earlier than planned, we couldn’t post it until now. At the time, we were in suburban Detroit (go WDET!) setting up for Krista’s interview with Sylvia Boorstein (looking like she’ll be our Mother’s Day show, yay!).

The Twitter chatter has been incredible, and it’s great to see how people respond to these ideas. Please take a few minutes to watch, share it with your friends, and weigh in with your response. We’d love to know what you’re thinking.

Comments

Bikram Yoga Time Lapse

by Kate Moos, executive producer

Bikram Yoga Time LapseAs I’ve written here before, I’m a Bikram yoga devotee. Though I’ve become rather scarce in the hot room over the last several months, my aim is to get back to three classes a week. So I was delighted to get this time lapse from a friend on Facebook, reminding me of every little moment of those 26 asanas, in 105 degrees, for 90 minutes.

Comments
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.
-

— Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from "The Subtle Body - Should Christians Practice Yoga?"

Mohler

I happened upon this blog post by Dr. Mohler after reading this Seattle Times article by Janet Tu in which Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, followed up on on the Evangelical leader’s statements with this comment:

"Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic. If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class."

Richard Mouw recently told Krista that the antichrist has changed over his lifetime: from the pope to communism to Stalin and now Islam. These articles are worth a read if you’re interested in learning about some conservative Christians’ views on how cultural trends may be diluting their faith. Perhaps yoga is one of those antichrists?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
Download

A Fluid Connection Severed and United
Krista Tippett, host

The Body's Grace, Matthew Sanford's StoryU.S. culture glorifies “perfect” bodies. At the other end of that spectrum, we champion people who fight when their bodies fail. Matthew Sanford has charted another way. In his lyrical memoir, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, he describes how he learned to live in his whole body again, despite an irreversible paralysis, in part through the practice of yoga. And like every story well told, his contains lessons that reach beyond the confines of one person’s experience.

Here is the kind of passage — one of several he reads in our show we titled "The Body’s Grace" — that made me want to understand more:”

"I am forced to feel death — not the end of my life, but the death of my life as a walking person. In principle my experience is not that uncommon, only more extreme. If we can see death as more than black and white, as more than on and off, there are many versions of realized death short of physically dying. The death of a loved one sets so much in motion … Then there are also the quiet deaths. How about the day you realized you weren’t going to be an astronaut or the Queen of Sheba? … What about the day we began working not for ourselves, but rather with the hope that our kids might have a better life? Or the day we realized that, on the whole, adult life is deeply repetitive? As our lives roll into the ordinary, when our ideals sputter and dissipate, as we wash the dishes after yet another meal, we are integrating death, a little part of us is dying so that another part can live."

The “mind-body connection” is a somewhat controversial phrase, a new-age notion to some, though it has been studied and described scientifically in a multitude of forms in recent years. I have spoken with scientists engaged in that work, but none of them has impressed me with the reality of the mind-body connection as Matthew Sanford does by his mere presence.

For over a quarter century, as a result of a car accident that killed his father and sister, he has been in a wheelchair. Yet I’ve rarely sat across from a person so alive, a body so palpably whole and wholly energetic as his. He has knitted his mind and body back together again over a quarter century, wresting wholeness through layers of cultural denial.

As we speak, Matthew Sanford makes me aware of the seamless cooperation of my mind and uninjured body, a synergy most of us take completely for granted. I stand up and walk as soon as the desire crosses my mind; I gesture with my hands to illustrate an idea I am passionate about; I shake my foot as my own engagement in conversation rises.

This kind of fluid connection was severed in Matthew Sanford. Yet as he struggled to come to terms with his body’s new realities during years of recovery and violent corrective surgeries, he encountered another kind of mind-body connection that our culture practices instinctively, reflexively. We celebrate those who battle adversity, triumph over obstacles, beat the odds. We love the 80-year-old man who runs a marathon, the injured hero who never gives up pursuing the technology that will enable him to walk again. This is the mind-body connection translated as a battle of will over matter.

Matthew Sanford heeded these kinds of images for many years. He accepted the advice that he should declare the lower half of his body dead and pour all of his energy into creating bodybuilder arms. He lived for years, he says, feeling like a floating upper torso. Then in a time of renewed pain he gave yoga a try. He was fortunate to have a first teacher who specialized in Iyengar yoga.

Iyengar focuses on precision and alignment, qualities Sanford’s body needed and could grasp. Through yoga, he came to a conviction that healing, for him, did not have to mean walking again. Yet he learned to experience his paralyzed limbs in a new way. He describes it as a subtle sensation of energy to which he has patiently learned to attune himself, an alternative to the crisp and clear sensation of nerve endings most of us take for granted. He writes, “My mind can feel into my legs.” Speaking with him about this, coming to a vicarious sense of it myself, is fascinating.

We also speak at some length about a fascinating central idea Matthew Sanford has developed in and through his disability. He speaks of the “silence” he encountered where his mind and body stopped communicating with one another. But this core silence is within each of us, only grown more evident through his injury. He describes it variously in his book and in our conversation, as “the aspect of our consciousness that makes us feel slightly heavy;” “the place where stress lands;” and “the source of our feeling of loss, but also of a sense of awe.”

This is the quality of solitary apartness evoked by the existentialist philosophers. But as Matthew Sanford understands it, this silence both separates us from one another and, in its universality, joins us together. In this I sense that he, through an experience of bodily paralysis, has put new words and a new picture to a core human truth at once both spiritual and physical.

I often feel that I will never be quite the same again after these conversations, but rarely is that conviction so tactile and embodied as this time. Through his work with both able-bodied and disabled students of yoga, Matthew Sanford tells me, he sees that the more alert we are in our own bodies, the more compassionate and connected we become to the world around us. Thanks to him, acts like washing the dishes and taking the stairs become moments of gratitude for the grace of my body and all of life.

Comments