Wednesday, April 7, 2010

As the Chinese proverb goes, I had some, shall we say, interesting times as an adolescent and teenager, and but for the grace of god, emerged without Black Flag bars tattooed on my body. During one particularly interesting journey to the depths, I wrote a letter to Henry Rollins, the lead singer of Black Flag and Rollins Band.

Six or eight months later, and well after I'd forgotten all about the letter, a postcard appeared in the mailbox, one side filled with small, neat, hand-printed block letters. "Hang in there," wrote Rollins, "the next 10 years are going to blow your funky mind!"

It was compassion as Dogen describes it, a hand reaching for a pillow in the night, and damn if Rollins wasn't right.

The guy is still out there, doing his thing. Here he talks about the fact that the Black Flag logo is now flash-art at tattoo studios around the country:

"It’s what happens when anything stands still for too long. It’s why there’s bird shit on Buddha’s head, ’cause it’s a statue. That’s why monks laugh and go, 'Well, you shouldn’t be sitting there. The birds crap on you.' It’s what happens when anything sits still — it gets swept into the lexicon."

Those of us practicing and, god forbid, teaching ashtanga vinyasa are transmitting this tradition, this lineage. I have written before that ashtanga is a reflexive practice — just as it informs and transforms us, we inform and transform it.

As Eliot wrote in "The Wasteland," "Lips that would kiss/ Form prayers to broken stone." It is our duty as tradition-bearers to not cast new statues to worship. It is our duty to not practice yoga as though it were flash-art off a tattoo-studio wall.

It is our duty to not let the birds shit on our heads.