Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's not too late to check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Held on the Mall for a few weeks every year during summer, the Folklife Festival is always entertaining and educational - one of the truly quintessential DC activities.

Here's the schedule.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Yoga class reading, 6/27/05: If God Invited You To A Party, by Hafiz

I'm usually groggy for half an hour after I wake up, and prefer to gently ease myself into consciousness: stretching, yawning, showering, wandering back and forth between the bathroom and the bedroom, forgetting what you were going to get in the first place - I'm sure you know the drill. But I've never woken up faster than I did this morning - this morning that I was scheduled to teach a 7am yoga class at Studio Serenity - when I saw the clock flashing 6:44. There wasn't time to wonder why the alarm didn't go off, to brush my teeth or wash my face; I sprang out of bed, pulled on some clothes, ran downstairs and jumped on my bike as I was still blinking sleep out of my eyes.

The class went well though - four people showed up, which is good for a Monday morning (which we've decided is a bad day for a 7am yoga class, as the start of the week, and will probably switch back to Tuesday or Wednesday next week).

This teaching diary is a bit self-indulgent, I'm afraid - I've been trying, with this blog, to only include entries that might actually be useful to a reader, whether related to an activity you could do, a poem/author/resource you might enjoy, or an insight into life I've had that has actually helped me and which might conceivably also help someone else. Nonetheless I'm gonna keep posting them, because I think it'll help me to look back on my teaching - and perhaps there's some other yoga teacher out there who might be interested in the musings of a new teacher.

I've already started to notice my habits as a teacher - ways of teaching, certain poses and turns of phrase, certain asana sequences, which I tend to use frequently and especially when I'm a bit tired/distracted/not in the moment. I don't think it's a problem to have habits, but I want to stay aware of them and avoid getting stuck in a rut. For example, my standard warmup sequence begins in an extended child's pose for the centering meditation - then I ask students to stretch and begin waking up their spine - then a few variations on downward dog and thread-the-needle twists. Last week I made a conscious effort to change this up, beginning in corpse pose and asking students to do a meditation locating their heartbeats and tracing it through their bodies. It's something that really worked for me in a yoga nidra workshop I took, but I suspect it requires a certain level of body awareness to be effective and I'm not sure if my students got anything out of it.

After a warmup I usually do one round of sun salutations slowly, with some hip-opening movements in the lunges especially, and then a few rounds more quickly - and I always try to include a few rounds of sun salutations where students move on their own, without my voice instructions, to help them feel more independent and to deepen their meditation.

Keeping track of time is a constant challenge. For example, I realized today at 7:55 that we were still doing standing poses and the class was almost over, so I quickly took the students to the floor for a few backbends, an abbreviated shoulderstand, side twists, and then corpse pose - without time for any other interesting seated poses, abdominal strengthening, or long hip openers. When I first started yoga teacher training I was intimidated by the idea of filling a whole hour with choreography, but it turns out that my major problem has been making the classes fit. It seems that with every class I teach, I resolve to finish the standing flow earlier and give more time to seated poses - but I haven't managed the balance yet.

One of my students seems very fit, and she must enjoy yoga because she has a two-month unlimited pass and always comes back to my classes, but I feel challenged teaching her because she performs all her poses quite limply, without seeming enthusiasm or building any heat. Her breath always seems quite shallow; her warrior poses have a very short stance, hardly bending the knee at all; and in general she just doesn't seem to push herself in any of the poses. I'm struggling with how to push her, or even whether it's appropriate to push her, as I say things like "Exhale and sink into your front knee a little deeper, allow your breath to carry you through this very active pose..." But I suppose I shouldn't worry about it too much; she's got good regularity in her practice, coming to class 3-4 times a week, and I'm sure that she will make her own discoveries at her own speed.

I included a Warrior II -> Side Angle -> Triangle transition today, which I think is an interesting alternative to the regular way of coming into Triangle from a standing position. Neva gave me a good Trikonasana adjustment in her morning class on Saturday - apparently I don't lengthen the bottom side of my waist enough, which requires a bit of shifting the hips around - so I should practice it more at home in order to understand the pose better when I teach it.

Some of my other favorite things to teach in class: Tree pose with an arm flow: inhale raising them to the sky and exhale open them out - this really helped me focus on the breath when I was a beginner; a Cowface or seated twist transition of keeping the feet in place, lifting the hips, and circling 360 degrees around the feet (fun, and always such a surprise when you get there with the legs reversed); a vinyasa involving rocking on the spine all the way up to a standing pose. I've really got to get more seated poses in, though. And I should start teaching Dancer with the use of a strap.

I also want to start weaving better philosophical themes and meditations into class - but that's quite hard to do and can seem pretty hokey if it's not thought out well.

My reading this morning was an old favorite, since I was still feeling rather flustered from my hurried start.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Inner Domain with Neva: Saturday, June 25th 3pm-5pm

Martin said this morning of Neva Ingalls, a teacher at the Hot Yoga studio, "Damn her - she's spoiled me for any other yoga class! Nothing else is as good..." When you consider that he was saying this to his yoga teacher girlfriend, that's quite a strong statement - but I've got to admit he's right, and I feel the same way. To give you some slight indication of my own devotion: as a teacher at Studio Serenity, and a teaching assistant at Tranquil Space, I can go to classes at either studio for free - but I still ride my bike half an hour uphill almost every Wednesday and Saturday to the Hot Yoga studio, near the National Cathedral, to learn from Neva. And when I look around at her 2-hour advanced class on Saturday mornings, I'd guess more than half the people in there are also yoga teachers from studios in the area.

Neva's teaching a workshop this Saturday:


The Inner Domain with Neva
Saturday June 25, 2005
$40.00 pre-reg/ $45.00 at door
"Help support our Workshops by forwarding this email to a friend or fellow yoga teacher."
This Workshop is hosted by HOT YOGA
202.HOT.YOGA (202.468.9642)
See more details at

All of your potential and force for good lies dormant inside of you. Through guided meditation, imagery and extended svasana, melt through the outer koshas or layers of the physical and mental bodies and enter the "Inner Domain" of the sacred wisdom heart. From this place of balance drink the nectar of clarity, spontaneity and creativity.

3408 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (Suite 205)
Washington, DC 20016
(202) HOT-YOGA (468-9642)


So I plan to go to her two-hour class in the morning tomorrow, grab some lunch & eat it in the National Cathedral garden, and then go back for her meditation workshop.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

TV Be Gone

Diary of a recovering television addict:

Device to turn off any TV in a 50 foot radius:

*Insert self-righteous essay here about what a waste of time watching TV is and how much better it is to do things. Actually I haven't watched TV in such a long time that I've forgotten all the indignant details of this rant. I'm just surprised every once in a while when I realize how much most other people watch it, because I tend to's like I'm living in a slightly different reality. Yes, there are some good & artistic shows on, I'm sure. It's just that the cost of being plugged in to TV and all the other crap on there, to me, outweighs the benefits of figuring out what those few shows are & selectively tuning in. Etcetera.*

Monday, June 20, 2005


I'm moving, which is a good opportunity to throw things away. Or, according to my friend Ben, sell them on ebay.

Yoga class reading, 6/20/05: The Journey, by Mary Oliver

I chose this especially for a good friend who was attending class this morning and will be facing a lot of changes and challenges over the next year. Since she's one of the strongest, wisest people I know, I have no doubt that she'll thrive on the challenges.

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Internet socializing aficionado that I am, I was interested to look at the site. I was quite disappointed by it, so I filled out their feedback form with some rather harsh comments. The owner of the site wrote back within a few hours. Here's our exchange:

From: YogaConnect [] Sent: Monday, June 13, 2005 11:54 AMTo: Support PersonellSubject: YC Feedback From: satara,

The other internet friend/dating sites I use do not have such a restrictive pricing model. Friendster, which is aimed at friends and secondarily at dating, is free; the Spring Street Personals charge to send messages, but not to read them. Considering that you can search based on interests on those sites as well - allowing you to find other yogis - I doubt I'd ever consider paying for a site like yours, especially since you have a very limited membership so far and there are few people in my area. Am I expected to pay a monthly fee while I wait for you to build your membership to the point where the site is worthwhile? In addition, I think your site feels commercialized/hokey/not in the spirit of yoga. This carries through even to the profile, which has a lot of little boxes/categories to fill out and not much room for self-expression. I think profiles like the Spring Street Personals, which encourage more creative liberty with the profiles, are much more simpatico and I get a much better sense of the person's true nature based on what they decide to mention. In short I was excited about this site since I love yoga and yoga culture, but have been very disappointed with your implementation. I detect a stink of the notion that yoga is trendy, and you are trying to cash in on a hot fad.

From: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 13, 2005 4:46 PM
Subject: RE: YC Feedback From: satara,

Hi Zoe,

Thank you for your honest comments...we sincerely appreciate it. There is a lot of validity and insight to be considered in what you have shared. I agree with you, in many regards. You probably do not know this, however we are a brand new site (2 weeks new) and are obviously still working through the components of our offering and model. We have been receiving quite a bit of feedback from our members, mostly positive. However, the not so positive always provides the best insight. Our original intent was not to duplicate the Friendster or Tribe social networking model, rather something more similar to a Lava Life or exclusively for the yoga culture with community features. I would share that comparing us to any of those companies is a stretch, given that these are seasoned and well funded companies, that have had the luxury of time to refine their business models. We are likely moving toward a hybrid of these sites. I'll take a look at the Spring Street Personals for profile and user communication ideas, thank you for bringing that to our attention. Our current profile and pay model is simply the first iteration. I am sure it will evolve.

In truth, we understand that members will only pay for our service when they see value as they define it. Most people have just chosen to fill our their profile for now. I can share with clarity that we created the site from our heart and with pure intentions of bringing value to a culture that we love as well. Our commitment is to creating a long term community that the yoga culture embraces, not just generating quick buck. The last thing that we want YogaConnect to convey is being hokey or commercialized. We are actually quite the contrary.

Please be patient with us as we continue to evolve and grow the site. I would love to hear your additional insights and thoughts. We realize there is a wonderful community here that is being underserved and YogaConnect has great potential. If you have ideas on how you could help us get there, let me know :)


From: Fun Things To Do in DC
Reply-To: Fun Things To Do in DC
To: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 13, 2005 5:27 PM
Subject: Re: YC Feedback From: satara,

Thanks for your response, Chris.
Yes, the mixture of the ideals of yoga and business is tough - I worked as a strategy consultant for two years out of college, so these types of business issues fascinate me -mixing ideals with capitalism. I do some free-lance teaching at home,and teach at a studio where I have gotten to know the owner, who started the place up a year ago. You don't just want to cash in, butyou also want to run a clean business, pay the bills and make a living... But I do suspect that your current pricing model is not going to get off the ground.
I've been using the Spring Street Personals for two years (I accessthem through but they're also on Nerve and The Onion) and really enjoy meeting people on the internet. Never used since it turned me off for many of the same reasons I mentioned in mynote to you (all the little boxes). I much prefer Spring Street to the larger since it seems to attract much moreeclectic/literate/interesting people, partly with interesting/provocative questions that allow some room for interpretation, and an emphasis on expressive writing as opposed to checking off boxes (which never tells you much about a person.) I think is probably a much larger business, but it also seems to me that yoga people are more expressive and creative and in my opinion something closer to the Spring Street model would be a better match. SS has two tracks; with free profiles you can receive but not send messages, and with payment (they have you buy points instead of a monthly subscription) you can send messages (cost 1 point) or "winks"(no informational content & free as long as you also own paid credits). I think that system probably works great, because there are many desirable people with free profiles, and the ability to contact them, without them having to pay, makes purchasing credits much more useful for people who do. I purchased credits at Spring Street, butI'm pretty sure that there's a demographic that's just never going to consider paying cash for such stuff. Nonetheless, makes no sense to drive away that demographic since their profiles still increase the overall value of your site.
I don't know what your funding's like, but it seems like network effects are so important here that it would be worthwhile to burn a bunch of capital in the beginning with promotions to swell your ranks and make the system worthwhile.
In terms of yoga-specific features, one thing that would really turn*me* on is some kind of organizational system for freelance yoga lessons or group yoga practices, perhaps at someone's house . I teach yoga to my friends at home right now, and I use Yahoo! Groups -they've got a calendar, bulletin board, little files section, etc. But one thing that's lacking is a sign-up system to register for class (necessary since my room is small), which I was lucky enough to have a friend build for me in PHP. This type of thing might be useful not only for yoga teachers but for groups of friends that wanted to get together to organize private lessons - or just practice by themselves. And even yoga teachers at studios often do freelance work on the side. That would drive your site more towards a community type ofthing rather than strict dating, but would probably also attract some desirable people - lots of people want to date their yoga teacher ;)
I'd also love to find a really useful active & intelligent bulletin board to discuss yoga teaching - methods, relationship with students, tricks of the trade, etc. I'd imagine it could be in the context of other conversations about yoga. Of course building this type of community that really requires a large group of active & articulate particpants is sooner said than done.
Well, that's my 75 cents! Good luck with your site & sorry if my first words were harsh - I did assume that a business owner that really cared would appreciate frank feedback.


From: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 15, 2005 4:40 PM
Subject: RE: YC Feedback From: satara,

Thank you again Zoe. Yes, it's an interesting balance. You have given us some really good food for thought.
In appreciation,

From: Fun Things To Do in DC
Reply-To: Fun Things To Do in DC
To: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 19, 2005 10:07 PM
Subject: Re: YC Feedback From: satara,

Good luck with everything, Chris :) You're going to get a lot of advice from everyone (and their aunt and their cousin too) but in the end it all comes down to your gut...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Yoga class reading, 6/12/05: Just This, by W.S. Merwin

It was a very small class, so I took the opportunity to read a beautiful but slightly opaque poem by Merwin.



When I think of the patience I have had
back in the dark before I remember
or knew it was night until the light came
all at once at the speed it was born to
with all the time in the world to fly through
not concerned about ever arriving
and then the gathering of the first stars
unhurried in their flowering spaces
and far into the story the planets
cooling slowly and the ages of rain
then the seas starting to bear memory
the gaze of the first cell at its waking
how did this haste begin this little time
at any time this reading by lightning
scarcely a word this nothing this heaven

-W.S. Merwin

Hitch a ride from DC to New York - virtually!

I travelled up to New York on Memorial Day weekend to visit my adorable friends Rikhil (who was staying with his boyfriend in Queens for a few weeks before going to India for the summer and then starting a political science PhD at Stanford) and Roberto (a gargantuan-ly eclectic philosophy grad student who lives on the beach on Long Island and just finished teaching his first college philosophy course). Naturally I left any decisions about transportation to the last minute, and after spending a few minutes staring grimly at the Chinatown bus website and recalling the pervasive smell of chemical cleaning product mixed with very unclean bathroom that had indelibly marked my last trip, decided to try the craigslist ride share.

I hope never to take the bus again.

I corresponded with a number of people and ended up with 2-3 choices both for the trip up and back. All of the people I spoke to, when mentioning their motivations for offering a ride, didn't mention a desire to defray the cost of gas, but said something along the lines of, "I make this drive all the time, because I have family/work in New York, and I thought to myself, what a shame that this car is always empty. It's so wasteful. And the bus is so uncomfortable."

On the way up, I was picked up at my door by Salid, who had graduated from college a year ago, was working in DC and had moved houses, and was driving up a few extra pieces of furniture to his parents' house in Boston. He agreed to drop me off in Queens on the way up to Boston, but there was one caveat - he'd already offered a seat to Baht, a Turkish engineering student. He was driving a minivan, with all the seats in the back removed, and one of the pieces of furniture he was taking up to Boston was an over-stuffed armchair - in which I could sit. On the way to pick up Baht, Salid and I had an interesting conversation about his time living in the Netherlands when his father, a college professor, was on sabbatical. I regaled him with my admiration for the dynamic Dutch bikers. The conversation dropped off, though, when Baht replaced me in the bucket seat and I moved to the armchair in the back. It was like sitting in a very tiny living room during a low-level earthquake, which is, in fact, quite comfortable. I slept for most of the way up, waking only to give Salid directions to Rikhil's front door. I asked him how much to chip in for gas, and he said, "Well, five dollars? Maybe ten..." I gave him fifteen.

On the way down, I went with John - an older guy working for the Defense Department and driving a green truck. The departure was slightly less convenient, since he asked me to meet him at the Newark PATH train station - but he also dropped me off at my front door. I gave him $20 for gas.

John had spent a lot of time in the military, which seems to feed into a certain personality type which I haven't had much experience with, but which is so distinctive that I can easily recognize it nonetheless. Some markers of this worldview/character include an obsession with efficiency, a preference for "straight talk" and a highly developed loathing for B.S. or insincerity, high respect for loyalty, and even higher respect for courage, sacrifice, and determination - as well as a slight complex about the fact that "regular civilians" both do not understand the rigor and intensity of a military lifestyle, where every decision might influence human lives, and disrespect that lifestyle, even while lacking the strength and determination to succeed at such a lifestyle themselves, should they want to. I've never spent much time with military types - most of my friends are more along the lines of absent-minded professor/ organic vegetarian/ tree-hugging/ /bohemian, and if you handed me a gun, my first instinct would be to use it in an art installation. Nonetheless, I do have a lot of respect for military men and it was refreshing and illuminating to chat with John and have some of my steretypes dispelled - a two-person, in-car version of the One Big Dinner.

John worked in the propaganda division of the Defense Department. His job was to communicate good things about the US to the Arab world through newspapers, radio shows, and various other forms of media. And he was very, very, very bitter about his job. "How am I supposed to say that America's good when I get no support from military leadership following my words up with actions?" he demanded. When I mentioned that my dad used to work for the World Bank, he said, "It's a good thing he doesn't work there now, because I believe that its new head, Wolfowitz - alongside Rumsfeld and Cheney - they should all be hung from the nearest tree. Those men have blood on their hands."

John volunteered at the Red Cross hospital in Virginia - he used to be an army medic - and he said that Iraq casualties were more than 50% larger than official statistics, because the Army shipped mortally wounded soldiers back home. When soldiers die in US hospitals, they aren't added to the official casualty statistics.

To sum up: the bus and the train are for suckers! Hitch a ride on craigslist,* and you get a high likelihood of door-to-door transportation, a comfy seat in a car, and conversations with the type of person who travels between DC and New York and is willing to offer a ride to a stranger - which, as it turns out, is a very nice type of person indeed.

*Yeah, I don't know, I guess a psycho serial killer could get you in their car and rip you off. But honestly, there are so many other ways that a psycho serial killer could get you. Living in a city, you interact with strangers all the time. It just seems like such an inefficient way to get someone. Besides, I'm a big believer in scoping someone out based on their writing style and what they choose to mention. My gut instinct hasn't ever led me wrong, when I've been willing to listen to it. There's a chance that arranging a ride-share with a stranger will get you in trouble. There's also a chance that you will live a boring life during which you'll never take any risks, and then you'll die and turn into dust.

Overheard in New York

I was in New York for Memorial Day weekend and had my very own "Overheard in New York" moment, on the corner of Park and 54th St:
A very fat couple, holding hands with giddy grins on their faces, were crossing the road. I heard the woman say, "Aww, you're so funny! ....But you're still ugly."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Bike documentation for the Secret Service

My poor baby!

Bike documentation for the Secret Service Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005

Amanda Sauer's beautiful photographs

Check out my friend Amanda's website here. There are some amazing pictures - including interesting shots of D.C.

By the way, she paid for the 'D.C.' project with a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which provides a lot of different funding for D.C. community arts and education projects (often with rolling deadlines.) Artists & community go-getters should look into it.

Sufi events in DC

I recently attended a Sufi spiritual retreat with Katja, the owner of Studio Serenity (this was how I got the job as a yoga teacher.) It was an absolutely wonderful experience and I'm planning to put up a long entry about it sometime. In the meantime, if you're at all interested in learning more about Sufism, it seems that the community in DC is very small - but very welcoming.

From the newsletter, for upcoming events (don't hesitate to contact any of the emails listed; I added the "NOSPAM" myself because I didn't want to flood their inboxes with a buncha junk):

Sun, June 5 - Circle of Worship in Silver Spring, 11 AM, followed by a potluck lunch. Our theme will be Healing Words. The right words at the right moment can be a healing force in our lives. Words are especially helpful when they come from the presence of the Heart. We have planned an activity where we will create healing prayers for ourselves and to share with others. We will put our prayers together to create a collective community prayer of healing. After the potluck – from 2:15 – 3:30 PM, we will have a long overdue Community Meeting. See directions to Stream and Tania's below.

Sun., June 5 - The Spirit of Guidance, a monthly class in Alexandria (date varies; not in July). We're covering many approaches one-by-one, including prayer, attunement to great beings, seeing from within, listening with the heart, and working with breath and light and dreams. Held from 4 to 6 PM this month, followed by a potluck supper. Our method is to learn from each other. This month's topic is: becoming receptive to the Spirit of Guidance, with practices from last month's retreat. " Shatter your ideal on the rock of truth," Murshid says. - Jami

Mon., June 6 - New moon, and time for the next monthly practice for mureeds (initiates). This month we are continuing on last month's practice of Tasawwuri Murshid, from Aziza. It's requested that you have a guide that you are working with for questions and issues that come up.

Fri., June 17 - Celebration of the Urs (passing) of Pir Vilayat. Details not yet known. The first anniversary of a murshid's death is especially significant, and it's a time to remember all the contributions he made to our lives and to celebrate the magic and mystery of his being. Held at Zarifah and Munawir's in Chevy chase. or

Sat., June 18 - The Hollow Reed Teahouse, with religious music from many different traditions, in a friendly atmosphere with tea and desserts. This is the fourth of our gatherings, and will be held at the Washington Ethical Society 7750 16th St., NW, at 7:30 PM. $20, including desserts, or half price for young adults. The location is close to Silver Spring on the corner of Kalmia St., where there is plenty of parking.

Sun., June 19 - Universal Worship in DC, at 2 PM sharp, at the Institute for Spiritual Development, near Arizona Ave., a block from MacArthur Blvd. Directions are at the end of this letter. This is a time to join people of all religions, throughout the world, in meditation and prayer. Held on the third Sunday of each month, except for July and August.

Sat., June 25 - The first of four monthly Classes for Healing Conductor, for those who are currently Conductors or those interested in becoming, led by Ramana and held at the Ishk Center in Silver Spring. Future dates are: Sat., July 16; Sat., Aug 20; Sat., Sept. 17. 10 AM to 5PM with pot luck lunch. $35.

July 7 to 17 - Annual Sufi Order Summer Gathering at the Abode in New Lebanon, NY.
The first three days, July 8-10, will be devoted to a celebration of the Message, with an big concert on Friday night. Running through this part of the camp, will be intensives to explore several themes relevant to the need of our times: interspiritual dialogue, guardianship of our sacred environment (esoteric eco-science), sacred sound and movement (celebration through music and dance), and the call of the Message (introduction to the new initiative called Universal Awakening).
The second three days, July 11-13, will be an alchemical retreat guided by Pir Zia and Aziza.
The last four days, July 14-17, will offer Leaders' Training with Pir Zia, Aziza, Taj, Gayan, and others. A Jamiat Am meeting is planned for the evening of July 13 at the end of the retreat.

July 11 to 17 - Creative Arts for Peace Camp, at Claymont, near Charlestown, WV. Exploring the Elements of Peace. Each day will be dedicated to an element: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (Spirit/Source). We will weave in ritual, clan bonding activities, spiritual
walking practice, stories, and of course, lots and lots of Dances of Universal Peace! The evenings will include drumming, a family concert, a bonfire, an Abrahamic deepening, and a Talent Sharing.

Oct. 20 to 23 - October Mid-Atlantic Sufi Camp, Practice Makes Perfect, to be held at Camp Holiday Trails in Charlottesville, Virginia, beginning the evening of Thursday, October 20 and ending on Sunday, October, 23. Sponsored jointly by the Sufi Order and the Ruhaniat, and offering lots of opportunities for spiritual practice including: dance, song, walks, prayer, meditation and zikr, as well as time for building friendship and community

Special announcement

Len & Wendy's CD, called Flow, is due out in July, with lots of new songs, and features guest appearances by cellist David Darling, percussionist Jon Seligman, and multi-instrumentalist Stream Ohrstrom. They have three appearances coming: Sat., June 4, at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt; Sun., June 26, at Arlington United Methodist Church, and Sat., July 30, at the Sangha Cafe in Takoma Park. See


Regular classes

Chevy Chase
Mon. evenings: Sufi Teachings and Practices or (Munawir and Zarifah)
Silver Spring Ishk Center
Noor and Ramana have moved here from Gaithersburg.
Teachings and practices, 1st and 3rd Thurs. at 7:30. Zikr on the 1st and healing on the 3rd.
Individual retreats or
12422 New Hampshire Ave Sil. Spr. MD 20904, phone 301-622-2779.

every Thursday night at 7:45 PM. (Zehra)

The Spirit of Guidance
: Once a month. Day varies; this month 4-6 PM in Alex. on Sun., June 5 -Jami Baltimore area:
Teachings and practices, 2nd Thurs.
Healing Class and Service, 3rd Thurs.
Dances of Universal Peace, 3rd Wed.
Universal Worship, 3rd Sun.
In Cockeysville (Savitri)
In Randallstown Raphaelite Interims (tentative)

Raphaelite Training: In Balt. area with Nur-al-Haqq, July 16-17 (in Eldersburg)
New group with Ramana in Silver Spring starts Sept. 9-11, 2005
One on One processing: Dec. 9-11, 2005 (tentative date)

Dances of Universal Peace. Many activities, described in a separate monthly announcement called Spirit of the Dance. Write to to receive it.


Directions to the Institute of Spiritual Development for the Universal Worship
5419 Sherier Pl., NW -- off Arizona Ave, close to MacArthur Blvd.

From the Beltway: Take the exit for the Clara Barton Pkwy, which is #41 from the south and #40 (marked as Cabin John Pkwy) from the north. That changes to Canal Road. Just past Chain Bridge, go left on Arizona Ave. for 1/4 mile, then left on Sherier Place. (If you reach MacArthur Blvd you've just passed it.) The church building is a block and a half on the right.

From downtown DC: Take Canal Road to Arizona Ave. Go right on Ariz. for 1/4 mile, then left on Sherier Place. (If you reach MacArthur Blvd you've just passed it.) The church building is a block and a half on the right.

From upper NW DC: Take Nebraska Ave (by American University) to Arizona Ave. Go left on Ariz., go past MacArthur Blvd for 1 block, then right on Sherier Place. The church building is a block and a half on the right.

From Virginia: Either go into town and follow the directions above from downtown DC, or take Chain Bridge and follow the directions above that start from the Beltway.

Directions to Stream and Tania's for the Circle of Worship: Wash. Beltway to Exit 33 for Conn. Ave. North. Stay left on Conn. Ave (not Univ. Blvd.) After Viers Mill, Randolf and Weller Roads, take the first left on Atherton Dr, first right on Neola, and right at end to Littleton St. 3804 Littleton is on right, phone 301-949-8984.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Take a yoga class at Studio Serenity on Monday or Wednesday at 7am...

I'm teaching them!

A common misconception about yoga is that it is "soothing and relaxing" but "not real exercise." There certainly are some yoga poses that soothe and relax you, and all yoga should help to calm your mind, but the flowing vinyasa style I prefer to teach is pretty vigorous and strength-building, and students are generally drenched in sweat by the end of class. Aerobic? Absolutely. You may be familiar with sore legs from running or sore arms from is the only exercise I've encountered that can make every single muscle in your body sore, all at once. When I overdo it in an advanced class, it's sometimes difficult for me to walk the next day.

I generally begin with a centering meditation, asking students to set an intention for their practice, then a warm up that flexes the spine in each of its six different directions (front back side side twist twist), then sun salutations with various variations, then a bit of pranayama, then standing and balancing poses, then deeper backbends and hip openers, then inversions, then finishing poses and a stint in savasana or "corpse pose" and a final meditation during which I read a poem or quote. I've noticed that some teachers skip the reading but I love it...where else would I get a captive audience of people to read poetry to?

Oh yeah...a blog.

So I'll start keeping a record of my readings, mostly for my own benefit - it'll be interesting to look back at the themes I chose.

Wednesday morning:

Gitanjali (selection)
by Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


My friend Marcella, with whom I spent last evening scampering around the roof of her new house throwing water balloons at the neighbors; who, when she graduated from American University and came back to work in DC after spending the summer in Mexico with her family, seriously considered buying a $2,000 van and living in it, while using the bathrooms at the AU gym, to save on rent; who quit her job as a waitress at Blues Alley (said job allowed her to sign up for any shifts she wanted based on whether she liked the band that was playing that night) because it was "too much commitment," and earned most of her cash nude art modelling for the next few months; who once saved a woman being beaten up by a gang of thugs on the side of the road; who had a musician/painter boyfriend break up with her once because she was, quote, "too bohemian for him to handle" (to which Marcella said exasperatedly, "What does that word mean anyway?"); who told me seriously sometime last year, "Zoe, I've decided to stop being an existentialist"...

Marcella just got a job at the IMF. And she's doing a great job. They love her.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Spinning my wheels

The search for a new bike continues, although Martin kindly lent me one of the beaters from his basement to tide me over. It doesn't have handbrakes - you stop by pushing the pedals backwards. Since one of my habits is to idly spin the wheels quickly backwards while I'm riding downhill, this has resulted in a number of embarassing jerky stops.

But never fear, reader, I'll try to find a bike that does not closely resemble a nuclear bomb, in order to avoid the inconvenient events of Monday.

In the meantime my friend Ben's post, on how the whole world and legal system likes to kick around us poor bikers, is great and rather cathartic.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Whatever you do, don't lock up your bike near the White House

I went to a briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building this morning for my think tank research assistant job. Cindy Courville, the director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, was holding a briefing for policy-makers in the community to discuss a recent trip to South Africa she'd made.

Now, my boss, stretched in forty seven directions and the mother of two young children, never goes to events anymore - even at conferences where she gives speeches, she tends to show up five minutes before her speech and leave shortly thereafter. The only events she attends are the ones she organizes. It seems that in Washington, once you're "important", events are irrelevant. Your network of people lets you know what the important facts are anyway.

As a result of this, I get sent to an awful lot of different events: Capitol Hill, other think tanks in the area, hotel conferences: you name it and I surf the buffet table and scoop up all the available literature for our files.

I'd never been to the Eisenhower building before, so I biked over early, enjoying the sunny morning and the wide, car-free expanse of Pennsylvania Avenue near 17th St. After searching vainly for a bike lock station, I locked my bike to an inconspicuous fence around a garden. All the briefing attendees were huddling in a security tent outside and we chatted amiably as we waited for our escort, who turned out to be a pleasant young summer intern with a thick, tan, bulgy neck that protuded over the collar of his polyester blend suit. He'd been on the job two weeks and was still distracted by the click of his business shoes against the polished marble floor.

In the wood-panelled meeting room, Cindy Courville launched into a teeth-grittingly optimistic report of a conversation she'd had with the President of South Africa about his "initiatives" in various genocide and atrocity-ridden regions and the continuing progress of the horrific plague of AIDS. Her talking points were smooth; she stressed the points of cooperation with South Africa and smoothed over disagreements by labelling them "the inevitable disagreements that two mature sovereign nations can have with each other while agreeing to disagree."

She gave an update on the status of bilateral free-trade negotiations with South Africa: basically, nothing had happened but this was not surprising because "there are tough negotiators on each side who are committed to upholding their countries’ interests. Nonetheless President Mbeki is committed to pushing this process forward."

Further, President Mbeki was committed to pursuing South Africa’s leadership role in Sudan and the US was committed to supporting that effort whole-heartedly. The US was also committed to supporting South African initiatives in the troubled regions of Zimbabwe, Burundi, and the Cote d’Ivoire.

In fact, according to Cindy, there was enough commitment involved on both sides to make a young 20-something Washingtonian in a fuck-buddy relationship jump 20 feet in the air and run for the hills. Commitment was in the air, in peoples’ hearts and minds. It just wasn’t reflected in any legal documents or concrete agreements.

I’m sure Cindy would have loved for Africa to have been more of a strategic priority for her bosses, for W. to pay attention to her memos in the free time between his morning jogs, his speeches on terrorism, and his pancake breakfasts. But she didn’t have much to work with and her facade of optimism, though I mock it, was a brave show. Because that was her job and she was doing the best she could to help the world.

There are people in the Bush administration who do genuinely care about Africa. After all, the Millennium Challenge Account - a rather ground-breaking organization aimed at delivering aid in a new way, encouraging recipient countries to design their own projects based on their assessment of their needs - was the brainchild of the Bush administration. Granted, it’s received funding at levels approximately half what Bush originally promised it’d get by now, but part of that shortfall is caused by delays on the part of the recipient countries designing their projects.

Such were my musings as I left the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, about forty five minutes later, and headed towards the fence where I’d locked my bike.

It wasn’t there.

I looked left. I looked right.

Near the security tent where I’d first registered for the Africa briefing, there was a bike resting upside down with its tires spinning sadly in the air. It looked a bit like an antelope after every single lion in the pride including the cubs has had its turn chewing the entrails out. Lying on the ground near the bike was something that used to be a Kryptonite lock.

I demanded of the security guard in the tent, "What happened to my bike?"

He snickered. "That’s your bike? You’d better talk to that policeman over there."

A fat man in a police uniform was leaning against his patrol car on the empty Pennsylvania Avenue, watching us. He walked over and after a bit of back and forth we established my name, my Social Security number, my date of birth, my employer, and my purpose for standing there near the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

"How do I even know that’s your bike?" he asked.

"Well, my key fits the lock for it, want to try?" I offered.

So he picked up the mangled half of the lock that had the keyhole in it and I turned my key. It sprang creakily open, wagging little flaps of plastic.

Although he’d been truculent at first, after he’d chatted on his walkie talkie for a while and established that my data checked out and that I wasn’t on any no-fly lists, he warmed up and became quite apologetic.

"Once your bike is locked to government property, it becomes abandoned goods," he explained. They’d instated this rule to help deal with all the protesters who did things like chain themselves or their possessions to gates.

I said, "There wasn’t any sign on the fence not to lock things to it. And I couldn’t see any other good places to lock my bike on the whole block. I thought for less than an hour, it’d be fine."

He shrugged. "You know, in this heightened terror alert 9/11 world... security... preventive response..." I can’t remember if he put in any filler words or if he just recited the buzzwords like a mantra, but it’s not relevant.

I noticed that he was holding a bandage against one of his hands, which was dripping blood. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, I injured myself with my boxcutters trying to saw your bike in half," he said. "You know, that Kryptonite lock is great. I tried blasting it, I tried drilling on it, it wouldn’t budge. So I had to saw the bike in half. You should really feel great about that lock."

I said, "For future reference, if you ever need to break a Kryptonite lock, try a Bic pen. Apparently you can pick them by just sticking a pen in there. They issued a recall and I always meant to send in my lock for a replacement but I never got around to it." I thought but did not comment that if the cop had known the Bic pen trick, my bike (and his hand) might still be in one piece.

The cop glanced at my driver’s license. "Zoe - that’s a beautiful name! My little girl is called Zoe," he beamed.

"It means ‘life’ in Greek," I said.

"Yes it does," he replied. He was warming up. "You know, you might see your bike on the
evening news tonight."


"Yeah, you don’t understand, I was really going at that bike with the drill, the box-cutters... and there are always media people hanging around near here." he said, idly kicking a few charred scraps of rubber lying near the bike carnage. "Hey," he said, brightening, "maybe you could keep the lock and send it in to Kryptonite. Tell them that someone stole your bike. I bet you anything they’d refund it."

"No way," I said. "That’s bad karma."

In the end we filled out an accident report which I am to turn into the Secret Service. It will also include my name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and sundry other details. It is a multi-purpose form, for government negligence that causes damage to property, injury, or wrongful death. In the case of injury or death the person who fills out the form is asked to itemize their hospital and medication bills and provide documentation from a doctor (or, I presume, a coroner in the case of wrongful death, although I remain curious as to how you can fill out such a form in the grave, considering how dark it is down there). But in my case since there are no bicycle doctors per se I will simply take some photographs to document the damages. I can expect an answer within 4-6 weeks although, stressed my friendly policeman (who provided his name and badge number) the government is not actually obligated to reimburse me. Abandonment of property and all that.

I leave any thoughts on creeping police state, regime of terror, endemic paranoia, etc as an exercise to the reader.

But I do ask you two pieces of advice. Should I fill out this accident reimbursement form? Or will it land me on some sort of trouble-maker list with the Secret Service? This seems paranoid but then again I never anticipated that locking my bike to a shrubbery fence would present me with bicycle Kibble n’ Bits within the course of half an hour.

Also, anyone know of any good used hybrid bikes that would fit a 5'7'’ woman (who prefers frames to run large)? Please let me know!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Music (ethereal, beautiful, dreamy - for a rainy day)

For those who enjoy new music tips: my latest musical obsession is the hauntingly beautiful indie chamber music group Rachel's. You can download French Gallease free at the always entertaining

In the same ethereal and beautiful vein, people who haven't discovered Sigur Ros yet can check out two of their songs here.

Here's a gorgeous Blonde Redhead song, Misery is a Butterfly.

Kristin Hersh's music has become even more exquisite since Throwing Muses broke up. On this page I especially like Echo.

And the Ida song, Blizzard of '78, is fun.

Henry Cowell
's Exultation is cute, stylishly peppy piano...

Terminal 4 does bad-ass things with cello improv...

Finally, I'm afraid that the Pretenders song offered here, Complex Person, does more to sum up my personal psychological pathologies than I ever thought possible in a pop song...

Notice that I did not mention Enya even once here. I'm very proud.

Anybody have any recommendations?


Crooked Deals
by Hafiz

There is
A madman inside of you
Who is always running for office -
Why vote him in,
For he never keeps the accounts straight.
He gets all kinds of crooked deals
Happening all over town
That will just give you a big headache
And glue to your kisser
A gigantic

The Jam-Jar Hop

When I was younger than I am now
I dreamed I could teleport objects
Just by staring at them.
Then I woke up. But I thought
I'd only dreamed that I woke up.
Sitting bleary at the breakfast table
I glared at the strawberry jam jar
Surprised it did not jump into my hands.

I love to tell the story of this memory
Because it is cute.
However, I have re-told it so many times
The memory itself, for all I know, may be a dream.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Smallest Witnesses: the Crisis in Darfur Through Childrens' Eyes

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Committee on Conscience

Smallest Witnesses: The Crisis in Darfur Through Children's Eyes

This event will be live webcast at

Friday, June 3, 2005
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

On a recent mission to the refugee camps along Darfur's border with Chad, Human Rights Watch researchers, Dr. Annie Sparrow and Olivier Bercault, gave children pens and crayons to draw while their families were being interviewed. Without any instruction or guidance, the children began to draw scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the "Janjaweed", the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the rapes, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad. Join us to see the children's drawings and learn more about the situation in Darfur.

Jemera Rone, Sudan Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Olivier Bercault, Emergencies Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Dr. Annie Sparrow, Third Millennium Fellow, Harvard University
Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Moderator: Jerry Fowler, Staff Director, Committee on Conscience, U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum

This event is presented in cooperation with Human Rights Watch. It is free and open to the public. RSVP to It is held at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl., SW, Washington, DC, 20024. Metro: Smithsonian.

This event is made possible in part by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.