Michael, Jason and Margaret
by Jason Wyman
14 Black Poppies is committed to building and sustaining sincere, compassionate, creative and equitable relationships across and amongst the generations. In fact, there is a 20+ age difference between Margaret and me. A lot of people ask us, "How can you be friends?" Then comes, "And business partners?"
For the two of us, it is just life. We met over 13 years ago through the Japanese Community Youth Council. My ex (then girlfriend) worked in the Asian Youth Prevention Services program and Margaret worked in development. We hit it off thanks to our love of writing and shared values of creativity, social justice, diversity and hope.
Over the years, our friendship deepened and blossomed into what it is today: a wonderful partnership working towards healing the world by bridging the differences that divide us through arts, wellness and community practices. It is our dream that 14 Black Poppies exemplifies the power of intergenerational friendships and relationships to create a more harmonious and pluralistic view of our communities and world. And the way we do this is through sharing our stories, creating together and honoring the space between us.
To refine and hone our practice, we have partnered with Professor Michael Lane at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, to facilitate a tele-workshop on building intergenerational relationships workshop for his senior seminar for students in the BFA program. As part of the workshop, we are tasking student to interview someone 15+ their senior. We are asking questions such as:
The students will be answering these questions for themselves as well as asking them of their interviewee. Their responses will form the crux of our workshop, and we will creatively share some of their responses with you, our fine readers.
We also want YOUR STORIES of building and sustaining intergenerational relationships. Has someone significantly older or younger than you changed your world view? How? What is the true power of building bridges across, amongst and between the generations?
by Margaret Bacon Schulze
Walking to yoga one morning, I was dismayed to see the sidewalk right outside the building I was entering being torn up. “This is nice for yoga,” I commented to my friend, Takako, over the jarring drone of a jackhammer.
Inside the studio where Angela Pashayan was leading a class in the Yoga of Devotion, the jackhammer penetrated the walls, rising from the street below. It might have been dulled from its two story climb, but it was still loud enough to be annoying and Angela had to raise her voice as she led us into meditation.
There was no ignoring the aural distraction outside the window, yet remarkable, without yelling, Angela was able to speak loud enough for us to hear her. Instead of competing with the grating noise from below, she encouraged us to use the vibrating sound as a tool of focus; to break up stuck thoughts in our minds and loosen tightness in our bodies.
As we progressed into asanas, Angela guided us to “jackhammer” away resistance. The imagery was empowering as I imagined petty worries turning into dust. I felt the stiffness in m y right shoulder being chipped away, dissolved to bits like the cement on the sidewalk, the ache eased no longer of service. In warrior, the jackhammer’s steady plummeting actually helped me sink into the powerful pose, drawing strength from the incessant hum, breaking through my own self-defensiveness.
When we reached savasana, the jackhammer suddenly stopped, as if in reverence to the dead of corpse pose. Tears of release flowed as I lay on my back through meditation. Like the old, stuck cement, I was able to break up and throw out old aches and pains, resentments and frustrations that needed to go. Everyone agreed that the class had indeed been a powerfully, moving one.
In her classes, Angela often talks us through affirmations in the unique Bhakti practice that she has developed. She encourages us to set our intention in prayer pose, to acknowledge our past when looking back in twists, expressing gratitude for where we’ve been. Reaching up and out in warrior, she guides us to look forward and reach out for our intention, to see it and realize it at our fingertips. And, just as the jackhammer is was a tool to tear up the sidewalk that day Angela used it as an instrument in her teaching. What would normally have been an annoyance in any yoga class became the sound of healing. In parting, Angela encouraged us to use all external distractions as implements in our yoga practice.
As we left the building, the workers were already laying new cement on the sidewalk. I almost stepped in the smooth, wet pavement before some miraculous reflect sent me jumping over a newly laid square. One of the workers paused to kindly move a barrier out of our way as we filed past.
One of the things I most appreciate about Angela’s classes is the imagery and visualizations she presents which work as affirmations for me. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and had to have a procedure to remove and prevent further artery blockage. I saw Angela soon after I got out of the hospital, tired, bruised and a bit depressed. I also felt somewhat defeated that, as an advocate of holistic health and a physically active vegetarian, I had to undergo such drastic treatment. I was also pissed off at all the meds I’d been prescribed. In addition, I wondered if, despite all my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle, the arteries would again become clogged. My cardiologist had explained that my condition was hereditary and that my liver produced excessive cholesterol.
Angela gave me a CD of “healing music” and visualization. Knowing my background in swimming she told me to visualize myself swimming through my arteries to keep them clear. Hers was some of the best medicine I took. I continue to listen to the CD, I continue to use the visualization and I continue to practice yoga. I’m feeling very well these days and have been able to cut back on medication. My cardiologist told me that if all her patients practiced yoga she’d be out of business.
The metaphor of the jackhammer from that class has stayed with me for a long time, just as yoga stays with me long after I have come out of an asana. For that reason I am devoted to Yoga of Devotion.
Angela Pashayan is the founder of Yoga of Devotion, a philanthropic yoga organization serving the needs of children worldwide. For more information, please visit www.yogaofdevotion.org.
Photo of Hampshire where the shooting occurred.
by Jason Wyman
My dear friend Jennyb was in town, and she invited me to go with her to Fort Funston on a Wednesday morning in August. The evening before a shooting took place outside of my apartment about 200 feet down Hampshire Street. The man shot was a father who was out walking his dog. It occurred at 11pm, and it could have been any one of us.
Outside on that Tuesday night the neighbors gathered. People were consoling one another, speaking to police and trying to make sense of what had just occurred. Hampshire, blocked off by "Do Not Cross" tape, was a crime scene of flashiing reds and blues. Officers with their flashlights in hand carefully scanned the street for gun shell casings and other evidence. And Luke, a cashier at the convenience store, the one who's alarm rang in response to the shots, was consoling, organizing and caring for the community. Amongst the tragedy, compassion and camaraderie were found.
The police detectives came to our door at 5am and asked if we knew any details. We only heard the four shots, and couldn't offer much help. They thanked us and left. My husband and I tried to go back to sleep, but shots kept ringing through my ears and the red and blue kept flashing the backs of my eyelids. I got up, and so did my husband. It was 6am.
I had plans to grab some coffee with Jennyb later that morning. I was going to call it off because all I really wanted was to sleep. Four hours really isn't enough rest for me, which makes me grumpy and tense. Add to that the events of the night and grumpiness and tenseness can turn into despair. I knew it was on the edges of my psyche. It is a familiar friend.
As we played tag via text, I decided it was best to keep my plans. Jennyb lives in Portland, and it is a treat when she visits. She also enticed me with the beach. I couldn't resist letting the ocean air and Jennyb's sunny disposition renew my sense of hope. It seemed the right response to an evening of chaos and death.
We picked up her friend Izak as we drove from the Mission to Fort Funston. The trip in the car was filled with smoke and laughter and brightness. And as we arrived at Fort Funston, my nervous edges were blown away by the cool ocean breeze. It was perfect.
As we made our way down to the beach, I couldn't resist snapping photos. I felt grateful that amongst everything I was still able to find beauty. The photos, the friendship of Jennyb and Izak and Fort Funston renewed me. For that I am eternally grateful.
About the Blog
The 14 Black Poppies Blog is the place to find creative works, personal reflections, articles and various arts and wellness sundries that either inspire or are created by co-founders Jason Wyman and Margaret Bacon Schulze.