Where were you when the world ended and a cosmic portal was supposedly opened, December 21, 2012? New Yorker, Margarita Manwelyan was outside, meditating, in Times Square, of course.
From her work with the Occupy Wall Street Meditation group, to her Dharma Punk blog quest with the Interdependence Project, Margarita is on a relaxed, high-smiling quest to bring yoga to the people and consciousness to revolution. She also teaches Hiking Yoga in Central Park and brings her knowledge uptown to work with kids and mothers in East Harlem. The Russian native goes into turbo bliss just talking about the way these little ones move into openness and downward dog. It’s no wonder Margarita’s been marked this year by Shambhala Sun as one of the voices of their under 35 project. The future’s so bright, the Buddha’s got to wear shades, and some rugged boots to keep up with her.
1. What is your hometown?
New York, New York, baby! A place so nice they had to name it twice. I was born in Leningrad, USSR which no longer exists. Go figure! Reality is tricky that way. And a paradox.
I was named after the title character is Mikhail Bulgakov’s epic novel “The Master and Margarita” (a classic of modern Russian literature and my parents’ favorite book) so I can’t help but identify with her. She battles with the Devil, she gets magical powers, she rescues her lover from hell. Pretty bad-ass!!!
This question has totally stumped me. Obviously if there was a movie being made of my life I would like to play the character of me. I have the most experience at it after all.
4. What work of art speaks to your soul?
5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?
Natural Wakefulness by Gaylon Ferguson; The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler; poetry by Rumi, Hafiz, Pablo Neruda and Mary Oliver. I recommend anything by Pema Chodron or Cheri Huber for those curious about Buddhism, meditation or contemplating a spiritual path.
6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?
Pretty Lights, Jai Uttal, Bhagavan Das, Balkan Beat Box, Ziggy Marley, Bob Marley, MC Yogi, Karunesh
7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?
I just cried a couple of days ago while watching a Downton Abbey episode.
8. Cat person or dog person?
Dog. My dog, my main squeeze, Hershey.
9. What is more important, truth or kindness?
Hmmm… At first I read the question as what’s more important truth or kisses. The answer to that is obviously kisses! But, truth of kindness? Well… isn’t there truth in kindness? Untrue or inauthentic kindness is not worth much to me. Minute-to-minute kindness that honors truth is a great intention to practice in life and work.
10. How do you define sin?
Sin is a concept that originates from fear. The fear is an expression of doubt, doubt in basic human goodness. Sin comes from the fear that human nature is flawed at the root. Basic human nature is wakeful and loving so actions may be called sinful when they arise out of confusion or misunderstanding of oneself’s or other’s true nature.
11. How do you define virtue?
Virtue is defined by action. Actions are either skillful or unskillful. A skillful action increases peace, unity and understanding, while an unskillful action adds to confusion, fear and doubt.
12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?
A huge stone lotus open to the sun. “Open Mind, Open Heart. Basically Good. Basically Empty.”
Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?