Sunday Signs and Symbols: Sun

In honor of the recent Summer Solstice and my practicing Bikram Yoga in Times Square that day, I think it appropriate to dedicate a Sunday Signs & Symbols post to the sun. The image above depicting a circle with a heavy dot in the middle is an ancient symbol of the sun that is often used in astronomy and astrology.

The sun is such an integral factor to life on earth and it only makes sense that various cultures, disciplines, and religions have various representations for it. Throughout history, you will find groups of people worshiping the sun to varying degrees, in either the literal, metaphorical, or metaphysical sense.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped Ra, the sun god, while the Incans believed that their sun god Inti, was birthed out of a rock on Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) in Lake Titicaca, a mountain lake that inhabits both Bolivia and Peru.

"isla del sol", "lake titicaca". bolivia, peruHiking along the top of Isla del Sol with Lake Titicaca in the background.
"isla del sol", "lake titicaca", bolivia, peruThe sacred rock believed to be where Inti, the sun god, was born.

In hatha yoga, students practice sun salutations, a series of postures done in a flow sequence. In fact, the Sanskrit word “ha” means sun and “tha” means moon and put together, “hatha” represents the cosmological balance found in the universe. In Sanskrit, “ha” represents energy, masculinity, and the right side of the body while “tha” represents serenity, femininity, and the left side of the body.

Today’s modern day sun worshipers can be found mainly in Westerners who love to soak in the sun and get a tan. In NYC, locals and tourists alike, flock annually to the streets for several days in the year to watch Manhattanhenge. I actually discovered a lesser known but equally interesting solar event in NYC that I coined Queenshenge.

Sunday, derived from “the sun’s day”, can stir up debate as to whether it is the last or the first day of the week. Nevertheless, it is a testament to our deference to the sun and the word itself embodies how we understand and measure time.

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic. Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Yoga in Times Square

The Times Square Alliance held its annual Solstice in Times Square on June 20th, the day of the Summer Solstice.  Thousands of people descended onto the crossroads of NYC to participate in free yoga classes throughout the day.  One of the classes offered during the day was a Bikram class and this year, Bikram yogis got a special treat:  Rajashree Choudhury, the wife of Bikram Choudhury (creator of the series) taught the class.

A preliminary count of 3,260 people participated in last Wednesday’s class, arguably making it the largest Bikram class ever assembled. And I was there in attendance!  I ended up practicing in the fifth row from the stage with a clear view of Rajashree and the backdrop of Times Square behind her.

Practicing yoga in the heart of Times Square with thousands of yogis was a unique and exhilarating experience.  The sea of yogis stretched from 42nd to 48th Streets.  The added challenge was to find stillness in the total chaos. Cars honked, sirens roared, large TV screens flashed, the subway rumbled underground, and passerbys took pictures with their phones.  For more than 3 years, I have practiced concentration and focus in the serenity of a yoga room.  I was pleased to discover that after several “Oh-my-God-I’m-on-TV-Do-I-Look-Cute?” moments, I set aside the distractions and found my focus.

Lying in Savasana, Dead Body Pose, on Broadway in Times Square

View of the Sky from Savasana, Dead Body Pose

Stillness of the mind starts with stillness of the body. The most effective way to still the body is to still the eyes.  As Bikram teachers, we like to say “Where the eyes go, the body follows.”  When my students struggle to find physical balance, I encourage them to pick one spot with their eyes and focus on it.

In Times Square, the best focal point in my line of vision was ironically a billboard sign of a Corona bottle.  I stared at it and found my balance. I successfully managed to tap into my inner stillness amidst the chaos.  If I can find peace in the middle of Times Square, I can do it anywhere especially in the midst of the chaos of life.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Denver International Airport

image

This weekend I am in Keystone, Colorado for a conference called TBEX, Travel Blogger Exchange. When I attended TBEX last year in Vancouver, it helped solidify my decision to take a leap of faith, leave my job, and follow my dream.

This year’s TBEX location had me flying into Denver International Airport. I’ve seen airports offer a lot of amentities but this option is something new to me.

In your travels, what unique things have you seen in airports? Leave a comment below!

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Philippine Nationalism

Philipppine Independence Day is celebrated on June 12. The symbols that evoke great Filipino pride are the country’s flag and its national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Taken at the Philippine Consulate in NYC

Flags are designed to have symbolic meaning.  According to World Flags 101, the Philippine flag means the following:  

The blue stripe symbolizes patriotism and justice. The red represents valor and the blood spilt for freedom and independence and the white stands for peace and purity. The white triangle represents equality and the Katipunan nationalist organization. The three stars represent the three main geographical regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao and Visayas. The sun represents independence and its eight rays represent the eight provinces that led the Philippine uprising against Spanish rule.

When I first visited my family in the Philippines as a child, my aunt (an elementary school teacher) taught me that the flag can be flipped so that during war time, the red stripe flies on top.  Fortunately, this turning of the flag has never been purposefully done.  Recently, it was wrongly displayed to the embarrassment of the US government.

Dr. Jose Rizal is considered to be the Philippine national hero.  Trained as an ophthalmologist, Rizal was multifaceted and seemingly a genius.  He apparently spoke over 20+ languages, wrote poetry, essays, and books, drew, and had many more interests.  Every Filipino child learns about Rizal in school.  His books Noli Me Tangere and its sequel El Filibusterismo are required high school reading.  These books describe life in the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century.  Eventually, the Spanish imprisoned and executed him as a revolutionary instigator.  His death made him a martyr and fueled the movement to fight for independence from Spain.  Today, the Rizal Memorial located within Rizal Park, or Luneta, stands near the site of his execution in Manila.  The memorial has a statue of Rizal along with his remains; it is guarded at all times by two soldiers.  Below, an excerpt from “Mi Ultimo Adios” a poem written by Rizal, on the eve of his execution.

“My Last Farewell”
Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic.  Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.