Between matter and other there is an old and well worn path. Approach with language, the compass, or the telescope and see nothing but the known. The seeker cultivates an open heart and recognizes true beauty. Dexterity, the way to flow freely in the abyss is acquired. Essential truth reaches out to find the one who looks.
Dec 2006 to Dec 2007
This paper takes several particular views of the nature of consumerism and how it effects the individual. Here I provide my theory on how the maker (as opposed to buyer) is the revolutionary in commodified culture.
October 1, 2006
Liking Comes from Knowledge
Often people respond with surprise when I tell them that I moved suddenly to NM. When I was saying "goodbye for now" to my NY community many responded as though my move was courageous and this struck me as interesting. When I asked my friends why they perceived this move as courageous they noted that I made a fast decision without a great deal of worry or even pre-thinking. And this is sort of true. I got the itch to experience a new view of the world, I looked around a bit, chose a spot and off I went to NM. When I ponder the reasons that I did not labor over the multitude places I could have chosen, or worry that I would not be happy or get caught up in what I'd miss about NY, I realized that a core belief was beneath the surface. It is best described by a quote from sufi sage Hazrat Inayat Khan said "Liking comes from knowledge and dislike from ignorance."
As yogis we know that habit dominates much of our behavior, until we bring habit under our view, which is something that we do in yoga class, we cannot be truly present. This process begins when we discover habit in the body, then we see that it is mirrored in the mind. As the body becomes flexible the mind follows. We could view habit as a record of our lives formed by situations already lived and repeated due to an attraction to the familiar. As such it holds us in the past and prevents us from experiencing each new moment free of the burden of history coloring our view. Logically we know that the stimuli that created the habit is no longer there yet we are drawn to treating new stimulation as though it were the original similar stimulation and habit forms. In this way, it is interesting to look at likes and dislikes as so often they are simply habit repeated over and over again.
When I decided to move to Truth or Consequences NM I knew that whatever I may be leaving (likes/dislikes) I would also be arriving at in my new home and that this would be the case in nearly any place that I chose. Anywhere I could put myself would offer me the same bouquet of potential likes and dislikes. The exchanges seem radical only on the surface, in the material mind: tall buildings/open spaces, snow and rain/extreme dryness, dense populations of people/few people. In the end it is all stimuli! A yogis view is not in the material but rather it is in awe of the uniqueness of the all, whatever that may be - whatever climate, people, landscape, typography, etc. And in this I hope I can leave you with something of value.
Perhaps as you experience your world this week, your attention can rest on this thought, that a meditator is never bored.
"Liking comes from knowledge and dislike from ignorance." Hazrat Inayat Khan
May 27th, 2006
Capitalism, Thief of the Idea
Through the ages cults of a magnificent variety have offered seekers ways to revivify the human adventure. But the structure that dominates the planet, an old and hearty one, limits this experience by propagating systems of oppression and blandness. What power seekers hope to co-opt is ideas - namely the idea of what it is to be human. We are asked now the question, are we limited and mechanistic or unbounded and creative? To create the new is the task of our time as humanness is being commodified as quickly as you can say "MTV's Real World."
Creating anything in a capitalist society produces a nagging sensation on the heart, as the rules of capital are counter-intuitive to those who perceive abundance. But with a bit of attention the system provides all the needed clues to make the discovery of its flaws. Today I'd like to share one such investigation that I made and the secrets that were revealed to me.
Just over a year ago I put a project into the world - a clothing swap that teaches people how to sew, embroider, knit, silkscreen and make old from new through the existing surplus of used clothing. The event frees people from a dependence on consumerism, reduces landfill, inspires recycling and reunites people with an innate part of their being, creativity. As these swaps find their way to many cities around the world I am repeatedly asked, Are you going to franchise it? Did you copyright it? It is the way of the capitalist to lock-down a good idea and then to milk it for all it is worth. These questions gave rise to feelings of irritation and so I searched for deeper meaning.
The bi-product of hoarding this good idea is obvious. It would prevent me from transforming the world into one in which I wish to live. But there is something deeper and even more important worth looking at, something that reaches down to our humanness. By franchising my good idea I am telling myself that this is the last good idea that I will ever have. Capitalism asks us to trade belief in ourselves for a monument that represents an authentic inspiration. Once the monument is built (the franchise, the corporation, the copyright) it begins to collect dust. The creator, once acting on a spark of inspiration, becomes the caretaker of an ageing thought form. New inspiration is not likely to arise outside of the confines of the maintaining of the original idea. The creative person turns into the maintenance worker. Revelation digresses into redundancy. Now I always come from the perspective of a yogi, and as such I know that vitality is born in the newness brought forth through the body, mind and soul. Just as yoga keeps the body young, newness of thought and engagement in creativity keeps the mind alive through the process of ageing. Mastery of this brings harmony to a life lived on earth. In other words, no idea is your last good idea! The only good idea is the one to continue to create through the duration life.
There is a community that has put this concept to practice, the citizens of Black Rock City (the city built each year for the utopian experiment called Burning Man). Would citizens of Black Rock City preserve their city and reinhabit it year after year? Never. The vibrant and ever-unfolding city would turn into the Marriot before you could say "bad taste. What would its citizens do with the 359 days in between events if they were not creating or thinking about creating the city that they would build the following year? The choice is simple, create anew or move energy towards the maintaining of something old. You might now wonder if a project would benefit from being kept, improved upon and made more magnificent over time. I suggest to you that any yet to be born inspirations will always reflect the experience of its creator. Energy is never lost. Future ideas will naturally benefit from those of the past.
This inquiry also invites consideration of abundance. Not just abundance of self and the belief that ones self will continue to have ideas and revelations but belief that the universe is as abundant. The giving of ones best idea is an act of generosity energized by the will. It says there IS abundance conceptually, creatively and materially. Hording, be it of personal wealth or of a good idea, creates lack. And we are after all creating a new world with every idea, thought and action.
As you stand at the edge of the old and catch a glimpse at the many potential futures ask yourself how you will create what has not yet been? A new world will be brought into being by those who are courageous enough be abundant. Take this tool for your bag of tricks... Never take an action that suggests that you have had your last good idea.
Rightness Of Roses
Roses are right violets are wrong. Huh? That doesn’t sound right. Roses and violets are natural phenomena. They are impervious to narrow categories made by the minds of man. Roses are never right, violets are never wrong, they just are. We can likely find ourselves in agreement about this, even though the same type of thinking gets us into heaps of trouble every day as we judge the world around us in dualistic terms.
Humanity is a part of nature too. Yet we find rightness and wrongness in almost everybody. Take a walk to a local store to grab a snack and youll surely pass a situation that you will label right or wrong. This is the nature of the human mind. Our experience can be likened to a monkey mind which thinks it looks like an X so it must be an X, X files with the X and so on. This is generally followed with I respond to all Xs this way and then a quite rehearsed response comes to the lips and projects into the world.
Imp sorry to say, this is not genuine experience. It is repetitious habit-response with no end, a life lived bouncing around in a matrix of a limited number of categories that all things fall into. Reality barely breaks through the cracks. Even western medicine now takes sides with the yogis, the Taoists and a host of eastern traditions that have been hand-holding westerners back to a simple starting point: real life exists beyond the monkey mind which spins around in a blender of surface level experiences and categorizes sensory perception into a dull flat line. You need only drop in on a yoga class or stop by the nearest Buddhist meditation center to begin to unravel this mystery for your self, but do expect to work for it! Fortunately you will find many wonderful tools for bringing this monkey to a quiet resting place so that you can actually catch your first glimpse of what is really going on around you. This may be the starting point it but does not take us to the end. A clear mind is just the beginning.
A quick glance from your computer screen is all it requires to be catapulted back into a world that is in a heap of a mess. Why? Human beings disagree about what is right and what is wrong. The question remains. Can people determine right from wrong? Is there a right and wrong to determine? Questions of such complexity often require a mind of the oddest sort. So I took it to the mystical Sufis who are known for their curious, inconsistent behavior and allergy to dogma. The mystical Sufis view of reality includes the changing context of time. No second in time is the same as any moment before it or after it. This belief prevents Sufis from authoring doctrine because as soon ink from a pen dries on a page the idea being written exists in a different context than when it was created. The world has changed rendering it useless. It is for this reason that Sufi knowledge is found in modes of communication that transcend the linearity of words. Sufi knowledge is archived in poetry, dance and art. Lets grab the Sufi view and come back to the big question, is there such a thing as right and wrong?
Rather than beginning with a list of rights and wrongs and working outward from there, lets begin with what we know best, ourselves and an ever changing universe. If we operate from our own core, that is to say our own purpose, than all that we come into contact with which is relevant to that purpose becomes relevant to us. This gives us a way of knowing when to act. You could say that we have a way to find permission to act. When we move through life in this way situations are lifted from the duality of right and wrong. They instead become relevant or not relevant. This makes it more difficult to categorize things, something that our monkey mind wishes always to do. If we believe our purpose to be authentic, if we trust it, than all that we find on its path belongs to it. This will be different for each of us. If we jump to the end of the story and look at the results of the actions that were achieved using this method of thinking, a new view of truth is formed. A truth that pertains to a given persons purpose and to a particular, un-duplicatible situation. The changing context of events delivers us to where the Sufis arrived long ago, unable to solidify any doctrine because of the endlessly changing context of life. Truth in this way does not become falsely secured as an absolute. There is no chance of it because of its relationship to a unique moment in time. Truth remains true only in a given context, one that is fleeting. This kind of truth leaves us free to move to the next moment of our lives with nothing impeding us from experiencing it authentically. An escape from looks like an X so it must be an X.Ó
Viewing truth through the changing context of time, rightness and wrongness emerges. Not as definitive constructs but as formless and ever changing ideas that wrap around reality even as reality changes form moment to moment. Rightness and wrongness give way to complexity. Truth springs out of relevance. In the end an absolute truth, which is tied only to one moment in time, does not threaten to overstay or distort our perception of future moments.
It takes a bit of practice, step through your front door and try to resist judging what you see. A pause may remind you that that moment has already slipped away. You might be propelled you into the realization that everything is in a constant state of flux always, living, dying all at once. There is no hope to capture it but you can surf it like a wave. Along the way seek truth wherever it may be hiding. And dont be surprised if it wiggles from your grasp day to day, this is an auspicious sign because truth as the Sufis say, is not found in absolutes or externals. It moves! Too ungrounded for you? Then take yourself back to the rose and the violet and sit in the comfort of their eternal trueness. Leave the chaos to wild at heart, just be careful not to judge what you see along the way.
March 28, 2006
What do we do when the world before us does not fit our unique form? Do we adjust to fit a container made for another and by hands that are not our own? What if we allow this 'poor fit' to set us in motion to create change? What if we arranged the world to fit us? When I ask these kinds of questions I always listen to the worlds as I say them. A ring of authenticity always surrounds the truth. Ching. Just a few months ago I heard a neuroscientist at a conference in DC speak along side the Dalai Lama. He described "not having a place in the world" or "not fitting in" as the source for the majority of what evolved into various forms of depression. Can you even imagine nature creating something that does not belong?
What are old forms but ideas that lived in contexts that have long since past? Lets face it, the world we've inherited was created by people who are no longer alive. Surely this world tells us a great deal about human nature, and the struggles, achievements and priorities of people of past and therefore it tells us much about ourselves and has value. But as I consider all of this I wonder what world might I have inherited if each life before me accepted their invitation to change the world to fit their form?
As I look out my window or through the window of my computer I find that commodified culture continues to invite just the opposite view. Branding, advertising, education and most employment environments tell us exactly the opposite "conform." Perhaps if our ancestors accepted their calling to change this would be different? Surely the too inherited a world. What did they do?
As we set out to embrace change many challenges arise. Maybe one of the largest obstacles is the simple fact that we have only lived in one world, the one we were born into. How do we create a different one with no reference points? Perhaps it is in the questions we ask? Are we asking, "How do I become famous?" "How do I become wealthy?" or are we asking, "how do I create a world in which I wish to live?" "How can I create space for myself while leaving space for every single other?" Because as my good friend Tony once said "We reach satori all or never."
This week I'd like to invite you to explore your own birthright. Ask yourself about the ways you have contorted yourself to fit in the container you've inherited. Look at a possible futures before you, one in which you allowed your 'misfitting' to guide you to change the world before you and one in which you contort to fit whats been given to you. What would those worlds look like? Then widen your view and ask, what if everyone made the world their own? Could you really settle for anything less?
As you consider making new worlds, you might fascination in one savant named, Gilles Trehin, and the world that he designed.
March 7, 2006
Beautiful Losers: Renunciation & Transcendence
Sometimes I bump across a concept made poisonous by the events of history. Here's one, renunciation. Ouch! It almost hurts to hear the word as the mind conjures up images of suffering and loss. Transcendence on the other hand brings to mind fluffy images of floating upwards. Perhaps the later can shed light on the former as I take a stab at applying transcendence to renunciation in search of morsel of insight to feed the seeking heart.
I recently caught a showing of the film Naked in Ashes that documents the life of one nagi yogi (nagi babba). Nagi babbas are yogis who spend their entire life naked. They are said to be holders of original knowledge about nature and the true nature of man, knowledge they obtain from the experience that their unusual lifestyle provides. I spoke with others who had watched the same film. Many thought it to be about mad men crazy to renounce the comforts of life for a life of difficulty.
Why renounce anything at all? Our modern consumer culture provides many clear examples of how renunciation can revivify the human soul. Conveniences have made it possible for us to forget the most basic things, how to take care of ourselves. It has been easy to let others do the work. Pharmaceutical companies have our permission to determine what heals. Food and nutrition are in the hands of manufacturers and chemical companies and big biz seems to magically supply as much cheap crap as we can cram in our homes but always at the expense of others. Evolution occurs in all facets of life. Sadly our health and the health of the planet is no longer profitable to anyone.
Dependency gives power to those who wish to have it. Renunciation can bring power back to the individual. In the quest for knowledge of health comes the reward of discovery. Search for knowledge and you will likely find vibrant communities of people creating beautiful things: healthy food, genuine remedies and even healers. Give up consumerism and you might discover how talented you are. Do you yet know what you can do and make? No one can tell a person what he or she should renounce, each knows for themselves. Let life be your teacher. When you look at the Nagi Baba, or any 'fool' be sure and pause before you deem them so. Consider the treasure they may hold. A (wo)man has the right to give up what is offered to him/her for sake of what they value.
True renunciation is voluntary. It is not the result of law, religion, family or an outside force. After all the value of things is unique to each individual, and so what one gives up must be a personal choice. Otherwise something meaningless is likely to be given up and gyp us of the reward of renunciation. Never should we give up what is vital and cause damage to our lives or what might give power to others who seek it. The way of the yogi is to renounce all things, admire all things and let all things go because to rise above what you value the most is to learn real value.
Beautiful losers, those who give up in order to obtain true wealth, might lead the renaissance in America. I leave you to ponder this idea and consider the transcendent nature of renunciation while examining your own life and what you have yet to gain.
"He who wants anything becomes smaller than the thing he wants; he who gives away anything is greater than the thing he gives up."
February 15 2006
Consumer or Creator?
By now most of are aware of the destructive force of consumerism. Its been well documented that mass production of unnecessary goods converts quickly to landfill and contributes additional toxicity to an already dangerously polluted planet. We know that the consumption demands of wealthy countries like our own perpetuate the mistreatment of the people of poorer nations. These are examples of just a couple of the negative effects of consumerism. But since these issues are well covered by a host of thinkers, I thought Id spend some time focusing on the consumer, you and me. More specifically what we have lost along the way and what there is to gain by wrestling fee of consumerisms hold.
Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man (the utopian experiment held annually in the Nevada desert) pointed out in his speech at Cooper Union Hall in NYC (2003), that less than a hundred years ago what people owned is what they created or what someone they knew created for them. Objects conveyed meaning, creativity, and a person's experience as collaborator with the divine. They were imbued with stories and would not likely be tossed to the trash like the heaps of plastic that line our streets and overload our landfills today. These objects were made of sacred stuff. Industry has done its best to turn the sacred into myth. Trend molests meaning. Little plastic Buddhas swim down factory conveyer belts. Music, culture and art have been pumped through the commodification grinder. Burning Man is in itself a vehicle for transcendence from a culture void of meaning. The event delivers a fleeting moment amongst the sacred in a city created by its inhabitants.
In bourgeois society the making of things is believed to distance one from having leisure time. Why spend an hour hemming your pants when we you can pawn it off on someone else and obtain more time for yourself. And what does one do with all this leisure time? They shop. The consumer engages in an entirely uncreative endeavor that offers packaged promised, false experiences and a multitude of ways to escape understanding oneself. Behind mass produced products one will find no care, no love, no intention and no self. These products are imbued with our fears and unhappiness, each one a small and impotent band-aid applied to fast spreading disease. Branding that comes attached to these goods divides people into socioeconomic stalls that reflect the size of their wallet rather than the expanse of their creativity. Is no wondering our 'stuff' can only fill our apartments and not our hearts?
Perhaps the sacred lies in our relationship with creativity. It is up to each individual to break down the barrier between consumer and creator and reclaim the creativity that has been lost to industry. This begins with the making of things and with a willing detachment from our junk. Just as children graduate from their toys we Americans must let go of our cheap plastic crap. The ease or difficulty of these transitions is proportionate to the level of our attachment. In the journey of life as we continuously move from the unmanifest to the manifest state. Objects, property and even living beings come and go. But any journeyer knows that too many things weighs one down and makes travel difficult.
The sacred is never lost; it waits in the wings for you to bring life to the world around you. An object begins to speak when it is the bi-product of your intention and your effort. The ways from consumer to creator are many. A group in San Francisco is making a reasonable attempt at buying nothing but underwear, food and medicine (http://sfcompact.blogspot.com). Numerous others grow their food and make their own goods with great commitment. Or you might join the 35+ thousand people who make the pilgrimage to Burning Man each year to build Black Rock City. But ultimately the change must occur at home and in your daily life where you can rise above what you once valued most and learn the real value of things. What we renounce is a mirror of our evolution.
This week Swap-O-Rama-Rama takes place in Williamsburg Brooklyn, it is my invitation to you to reconnect with your creative nature. Please drop in and enjoy the communal process of reuse with a growing community of makers: http://www.swaporamarama.org .
"He who wants anything becomes smaller than the thing he wants; he who gives away anything is greater than the thing he gives up." - Hazrat Inayat Khan
February 2, 2006
Dismiss Whatever Insults Your Soul
I was chatting with a good friend who is creating a database that will store safety information for all chemicals. We got to talking about how this was an important issue because the FDA, the agency that would regularly monitor such things, can no longer be relied upon to oversee consumer health. Corporate interests have found their way on to the FDA boards resulting in consumer health regulations that are bent to allow these corporations to sell us whatever they wish regardless of the implications to human health. And example this can be found by reading the top executive list of Monsanto employees. Monsanto is corporation that is responsible for much of the toxins and poisons that are sprayed on the food that we eat. Why would they do that? Simple profit. A glimpse of Monsanto's top execs will prove shocking. Their crew switches back and forth between Monsanto and the FDA. They are virtually one in the same.
And so the consumer, or my friend Bill, has good reason to create a new system of coding, one which represents different values and which gives consumers another glimpse into the health risks of various chemicals. In a way he is moving truth, putting it into a new location and saying, "now it is here!" This got my yogic brain thinking about truth and where it lies. Our entire reality is constructed of systems of information that have been developed by people over many generations since the beginning of time. From base information that we have come to rely on such as the periodic table of elements, the calendar, and language itself to newer systems that seem to change endlessly such as the food pyramid. Most recently the religious fundamentalist government of the US has put reality itself is up for debate (intelligent design vs. evolution).
Since humanity cannot return to a time when no such systems existed, a time when life was pure instinct, the best that we can hope to do is to recognize that the hands and minds of man have built everything. As such it is dangerous to deem anything to be 'solid truth' as such truths exist upon the limits of wo/man and wo/mans senses and abilities at a given moment. Truth as it has evolved today is a simple license in the hands of those who hold power.
In a book by the Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, transcribed by Titus Burckhardt, titled Mystical Astrology Arabi writes of the time when man first moved from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of the universe. This was brought about by the discovery that the earth moved around the sun. This scientific discovery tossed out previous idea systems that were built upon man as the center of the universe. And again truth shifted to a new residence. But did we loose something in that shift? Surely we can all agree that the sun is the center of the solar system. But the previous view was based upon more than matter. It held the notion that man is the actual source from which reality generates. This likens the yogic view that reality is not coming at you but coming from you. The way in which this philosophy describes wo/mans relationship to manifestation has little to do with the location of the sun or its relationship to the solar system. It addresses an entirely different question about wo/mans relationship to reality. Century’s later modern scientists have pointed to an interdependent relationship between matter, how it materializes and man. The heliocentric discovery that describes gross reality is accurate, it does describe the way the planets move, but it does not reach into the nature of reality or look at the relationship between man and all of existence.
In the quest for truth, and certainly in the quest for power, truth bounces from hand to hand and culture to culture. Sometimes new discovery bumps an entire thought form out of existence leaving humanity with a flatter and less dynamic view. Other times the development of ideas expands wo/mans ability to see to a wider view of the nature of reality. How does one find truth in the midst of a changing playing field? And how are we to see through the limits of our abilities, those of generations past, and beyond known and unknown deceit that surely follows truth around like a hungry dog?
A starting place might be to let go of the need for fixed and stationary truth. Truth does not stick around long enough for such thinking. If you follow the ideas of modern mystic, the late Terrence McKenna, novelty is speeding up at an uncatchable rate. His theory anticipates a radical shift in reality in the year 2012. And this shift occurs because the universe will not be able to maintain the speed at which 'novelty' is accelerating.
Perhaps truth is best seen as contextual, as living for only a snapshot in time, impervious to being captured by systems that claim it forever. It is often difficult to let go and release into what appears to be chaos. Loose my fixed ideas of truth? What will I rely on? How about a cliché? Jump and the net will appear.
The best offering I have for you is a suggestion that you view all claims of truths with wide eyes and an open heart. This is the way of the yogi. To consult a non-yogi who surely had some ideas about truth (or what truth is not), here is a bit of wisdom from Walt Whitman...
"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."
December 24, 2005
Here we are immersed in the holiday season. It is an interesting time that offers many opportunities to reflect. Asking the question "what is sacred" some of us may find that we seek the deeper meaning of these days. Holidays offer an opportunity to recapture a sense of awe, the ecstatic state of celebration, the reflective qualities of remembrance and the depth of feeling from time spent with loved ones. The holidays, as they've been developed in modern society, also come loaded with the smallness of our nature, consumerism, avarice, over indulgence and for some who are disconnected from loved ones, loneliness.
As yogis who can see from a wider perspective it is clear that all things have many facets. And as our destination dictates, here in world of space, time and causality, we are offered the beautiful opportunity to transcend.
Notice the artificial layers. Ask yourself why they are there? Those who seek power and money know how to herd us into economic stalls lined with bells and bows. But these things will not provide what the heart is looking for. Know the difference between what is real and what is made believe. Can you bring forth all that is sacred and timeless and leave behind what is truly junk?
While your heart is open and soaring in the spirit of this time of year, I hope that you fill up to the very top of yourselves with all that makes you happy. But the greatest gift I can hope for you is that you see with real eyes that are open wide. This will last longer than any gift wrapped in a box and it will make you the giver of great gifts year round and always.
November 14, 2005
Who is the Thief?
In response to my apartment being burgled this week, a few thoughts on crime mixed with bits of wisdom from Lao Tzu:
As I considered the person(s) who may have taken the things that were stolen from my apartment last week I wondered about their circumstances and I asked myself what might lead a person to choose crime for a living. I remembered a lecture that I heard this summer. The speaker was Bob Avakian speaking on behalf of The Revolutionary Communist Party. He suggested that for some who are brought up in the most desperate of situations, crime might just be the only reasonable decision that they can make. Hummm...
"Throw away morality and justice and people will do the right thing. Throw away industry and profit and there wont be any thieves." - Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
As I thought more about this I considered America's poor and the future being offered to them: Mc Donalds or maybe a gig as a janitor, welfare, a cashier job... What awaits the poor kids who get through HS without being shot? You can bet that it's not Harvard and a summer in Europe for graduating. Imagine growing up with no role models and parents who were stuck in the same cycle and who are still stuck. Do white mothers have to worry that their son is too tall and stocky and that this will increase the chances that he will wrongly be shot by a cop or arrested? If you live in one of our country's many ghettos a walk to school or to the store might put you in very dangerous situations. You'll likely be offered career in crime regularly. All the while contemplating a known hopeless future. Even if you make it to the finish line, you get home with groceries in hand or you get a HS diploma, what awaits? Mc Donalds. A reasonable thinking person might determine that the 'smart' choice is a life of crime. This choice offers freedom, money and even dignity (certainly more dignity than is being offered at Mc Donalds).
"When rich speculators prosper while farmers lose their land; when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures; when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible while the poor have nowhere to turn - all this is robbery and chaos." - Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
We can respond to crime by adopting the view that people are bad and the world is unsafe. But arent we all born children, not bad but perfect and capable of anything? This unsafe worldview is a prison for all. Every clenched fist and tightened face is the seed of more negative emotion, behavior and consequence. The yogi is equipped to pause when such emotions are arising. The yogi has the capacity to become empty and watch carefully when new ideas take shape inside of them, particularly those that form around negative ideas. And the yogi is flexible and so capable of seeing a thing from many sides.
"There is no greater illusion than fear, no greater wrong that preparing to defend yourself, no greater misfortune than having an enemy. Whoever can see through all fear will be safe." - Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
The yogi knows that if a thief exists in the world then one exists within him/herself too. In this way the macro organism that we collectively are is not well. No part of it experiences genuine happiness, safety or real health. The problem not only belongs to us it is us. My wise friend Tony once said "We reach satori all or never."
Who exactly is the thief in this scenario? Is it the person who took off with my computer, Mc Donalds, those who prosper while others suffer or... ? I will have another computer. Renters insurance assures that like magic one will appear in just a few short days. This is not 'real' loss. The loss here is one that all of humanity pays for collectively and no insurance can replace.
"If you realize you have enough you are truly rich" - Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
November 1, 2005
Fear & Beauty
I know a man who lives in a world of fear. His life is composed of it. To know him is to witness a series of events that put him in danger and at the short end of the stick always getting the bad end of a deal or ‘ripped off.’ No one could convince him that the world is any other way because it is not so for him. He speaks the truth when he says that the world is unsafe and unfair - his truth. When given a chance to see abundance this man sneers and says, nothing is for free, you get what you pay for. And so it is for him that everything comes at a steep price and he is the recipient of few gifts. Who would give to someone who hordes in expectation of lack? It is really no wonder at all that his world looks the way that it does. As a yogi I know that his reality is of his own creation. It is a world made by his attitude. When he has a chance to trust he chooses to tighten instead. When one tightens there is no space for anything to come in to. This mans expectation is a kind of ‘container’ and one of a certain pitch that seeks it’s own sort. And so the cycle continues.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
No greater wrong that preparing to defend yourself,
No greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear will be safe.
- Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
Fortunately I also know many people who can see beauty even in the midsts of great destruction. Beauty is always there, one just has to look. Often it hides in the dark thing itself. Good, bad, right, wrong… these are reflections of the same one source which has been tuned by the perception of the receiver into the form which one chooses, that which we have made ourselves a container for. The fearful man will see a different reality from the one with an open heart. The one who sees abundance gives generously knowing there is always more. Logically this person finds himself or herself to be the recipient of many gifts. Have you ever noticed that when you treat a stranger with the expectation that they will be the best that you can imagine them to be, they will try to fill those shoes? People often need a container in which they can be something new, even new to themselves.
Effect emptiness to the extreme
From great antiquity forth they have known and possessed it
- Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
While there are situations in the world that are undeniably awful and seem to lack beauty, we can still hold a space for beauty. If Mother Nature, in defense of her own existence, reduced the earths population to half we could surely agree that horrific events were taking place. The same event can be viewed through another lens exposing a life rectifying itself by acting in accordance with its nature. Look into the eyes of the worst of criminal and you will find many explanations for his/her behavior. Keep looking and you will see a small child who once lived there. Look even further and you will notice that that child’s life began as energy. Energy moves. When containers are available it fills them. Will you make space for beauty or for fear? It is never too late to begin to see the former. The man of fear can become the one who generates beauty. A metamorphosis of this kind begins with awareness of habits. Tightening vs. opening, hoarding vs. giving, habits. Practices that bring the workings of the mind into view such as yoga or meditation are a wonderful start.
There is something that is perfect in its disorder
- Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
Who could talk about beauty and chaos without reference to the Tao Te Ching? While the Tao might be called a fluffy read, do remember that it invites the becoming of a warrior. May I suggest that you to consider that a warriors softness provides the strength needed begin to conquer the largest of problems? With an understanding of fear and beauty and a commitment towards the latter, conditions of the world will begin to reveal themselves and expose to you a more complete story than what can been seen on the surface - that which comes before the making of events. This second sight is a great gift that reveals not just the origins of a thing but also a cure.
All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful
- Lao-Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching: www.religiousworlds.com/taoism/ttc-list.html
September 30, 2005
Naked Yoga Once upon our time...
In India the largest gathering of human beings on earth occurs. Approximately sixteen and a half million people gather at the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers for the holy bath, the Kumbha Mela. This bathing ritual is in remembrance of an ancient battle between gods and demons that was paused so that together, the battling armies could co-create the nectar of immortality. The nectar was held in a vessel called the 'kumbh' spawning the name of the gathering. During the ancient conjoining the son of one of the gods stole the vessel containing the nectar and darted off. On his flight to the heavens four drops fell to earth forming the spots of the Kubha Mela pilgrimage. They are called Hardwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Trambak. At the times of Jupiter's return to its position when each drop was spilled, a Kumbh Mela is held.
Kumbh Mela is a gathering of extraordinary yogis. These yogis 'take on' a particular facet of being. For that facets' preservation, and in the doing for the obtainment of an extraordinary understanding and perhaps an enlightened state, the yogi 'holds' the chosen facet for all of his/her life. The yogi in this way becomes the 'thing' itself and moves beyond a fleshy, gross level of existence and into a cosmic realm in which he/she transcends being as we know it. The yogi moves into a single pointedness of being experienced in other dimensions of existence. Paramahansa Yogananda can find ample illustrations of this tradition in the book Autobiography of a Yogi.
It is said that the most amazing site at Kumbha Mela is not the massive gathering of yogic traditions and endless sea of yogis but the sight of the Naga Sannyasis, the ancient order of naked yogis, 'holders' of a tradition from a lost age. These yogi shamans wear nothing but ashes and have long dread locks often piled on top of their heads like crowns. Never in their entire existence do they cover themselves. To see the Naga Sannyasis with ones own eyes has been described as mesmerizing and frightening. They are "'the naked ones' members of an ancient order founded by Dattatreya in the Treta Age and later organized into a sect by Adi Shankara in the 5th century BC. They are protectors of the Sanatana Dharma (the natural order of the universe) charged with maintaining the law of nature. They live in a mythic world where different laws are in effect. They are considered to be mythological beings on earth possessed with unusual powers.
This week I invite you to meditate on the Naga Sannyasis. As you search yourself for a feeling of communion allow yourself to consider what it is you are 'holding.' Do you carry a thread of this tradition? What understanding might the Naga Sannyasis come to know? When the answers being to arise take a glimpse and seek the sacred nature of the naked yogi.
Bowing to the Naga Sannyasis in you, Wendy
September 3, 2005
Season of the Harvest
Soon we welcome autumn, the season of the Harvest. For the yogi it is time to transition. To what? Observe yourself in nature. Temperature, light, the weight of the air... energies are changing. Nature provides a riddle, she is shape shifting. Answers hide in her movement familiar enough to be knowable. The yogi listens now and always. What to be?
The answer is a golden field swaying in the wind and bursting ripe with mature wheat and fruit. It is not missed that life is lost to bring forth this harvest. Death is the reward for those who have lived well, mature and complete.
The wind is anxious; it accompanies the narrowing of light. The sun, even tempered, surrenders each day a little sooner than the last. Shadows stretch tall like gaunt giants. Prompt, a sure northern air delivers a needed cleansing to small spaces hiding pockets of air hot and dense.
It is a time for counting and gathering and returning to beginnings. Inward moves small seed that waits for winters uncertain pace. Patience.
What is it you wish to preserve? And what do you choose to discard? Do you see the dance of the dark and the light in the clear harvest sky? Bring equality and balance to mind now as you enjoy the fruit of labor. Do not miss the contribution of even a single drop of dew when you give and hold back thanks.
- Do not forget yogi that you and nature are one in the same. Take every breath with this in mind and reap knowledge always when you have brought it to harvest. –
August 1, 2005
That Which Transpires Through That Which Appears
Religion is a funny strange thing. I was raised with one, a fairly random occurrence. I inherited a faith from my family as most people do. And as a child does I went through the motions of ritual and behavior with those around me falling into my proper cultural stall. The expansion of view that came with growing up left me perplexed by my family’s lack of knowledge about the faith that they were following. They had adopted beliefs as I did mine, from their parents. A simple continuation of a line of faithless people that went to a house of prayer, said the appropriate greetings as they entered the social gathering and muttered a bunch of religious verbiage for which they knew or cared not the meaning. At the time I often found myself in my own world playing with a coin that I had which when flipped to one of the two sides indicated to me that my imaginary friend was present. I also wrote letters to my dead grand parents. I mailed them by placing them into envelopes addressed to numbered clouds inside the underbelly of my mattress and spent the remainder of such nights dreaming of their replies. I learned the language of my religion and had one of those coming of age religious celebrations which filled my bank account with gift money for a brief period of time before I cleared it out to pay for a car that I stole and left wrapped around a tree. Now some twenty five years later its easy to see the ridiculousness of these events.
This thing called religion that I was given to practice was void of sacredness, something that I found quite easily through the flip of a coin, by writing to dead people and through various other experiences in which children naturally discover the divine such as staring at the clouds. Like many kids raised with religion I was expected to behave as a civilized person because of my religion. But what civility was there in the performance of meaningless ritual that created cultural separation between people? Through my now adult eyes its easy to see that religion has largely squashed out the sacred from its practices. The faithful repeat the inherited gestures with no need for meaning or origin. Many religious leaders could more easily find Noah’s Ark than drum up a shred of the experience of transcendence. Remarkably, the sacred is so easily accessed that we might likely enter into it when we’re not paying close attention. It hides out in our daydreams, our childhood memories, in quiet spaces or momentary fascinations with the natural world, a storm, the moon, a worm making its way across a dirt heap in central park, music, art or simply another being. All one needs to do is recognize it as such and embellish it with attention. Its our innate tendency to connect to our divine dimension. Allow yourself to shift in consciousness back and forth between the divine and the mundane, the infinite and the finite, the archetype and the exemplar. Transcendental patterns and the shape of material reality may be revealed.
With the mundane world in a heap of a mess, largely caused by religion, I now find myself desperate for a connection to the sacred, not through religion and for no gain. I seek it only to catch a glimpse of ‘reality’ or as Sufi sage Ibn Arabi once referred to as “that which transpires through that which appears.” Is the truth behind the hoax the thing that sages of past call god? Looking through a handful of religious and philosophical texts that scatter about my home it frightens me and I begin to feel that I’m on the wrong end of a bad joke as I realize that this may be so. Perhaps the simplest things are the most evasive. I search the world around me looking, noticing, drinking in what has always been there. Practicing being present reveals an implicate order - the fundamental reality behind the physical world. I’m standing before a giant encyclopedia. Explanations are in every movement, sound, smell, taste and idea. I wouldn’t dare use the G word, I left that with my lineage, corrupted by stale religion and a grand master who runs the show like an orchestra conductor. Instead I settle into a comfortable bliss and enjoy my new found friend, myself residing right here where I have always been whirling in the great all there is.
August 10, 2005
Yoga: An Exploration of Selfness
In yoga class we explore and explore and explore. You could say that we're on a great expedition. By using yoga as a lens in which we can view our entire world we can be sure that this exploration goes on to infinity. Yoga will form around whatever object you turn your lens towards. This may be an internal object, an emotional state as well as the body and it's systems. Or the exploration may move beyond the body and to the external where the focus is on the things that we experience through our emotions, bodies and senses. It is in this part of the exploration that the practice takes on a new form. The practice of yoga expands in relationship with our increasing openness. Expanding beyond the self allows us to view the differentiation between the internal and external worlds leaving us to question where one begins and the other ends.
As a group practicing together in the classroom we are offered a view beyond the self, one, which includes the group dynamic as an extension of the individual experience. We begin our practice with ourselves, working from our own awareness of our bodies and mind. But as we continue to practice, and practice amongst a group, this self-awareness expands to include the area beyond the personal container of the skin. In the classroom we are invited to ask what is self and what is other and where does one begin and end?
This week I would like to invite you explore this group dynamic. Allow your awareness to take you through the body. Then move beyond your boundary of self, past the skin and out into the area of other. Notice the ways in which your experience is affected by and affects the students in your practice. As you explore this be sure to leave room to notice what you may not have set out to see. Here's a hint... you might imagine a door which represents where your practice has taken you so far. Be sure to leave it open just a tad. You may even leave an imaginary gift at the door to welcome new observations to find you at the foot of where you've left off.
August 3, 2005
Have you noticed how easy it is to fail to notice the things that are going right? When things are awful we're always aware of it, it becomes all we think about! But when things are just fine, that's when we forget that they were ever not so fine. Maybe this is the path to complacent? Or maybe it is less extreme than that. Maybe it's a kind of bliss in which we just dont think about what isint and we dont think about what is either, we just mosey along not hot or cold but somewhere in the middle.
Yoga can be like that. Some of us begin because we want to feel better, or fix something, or because something is just not as good as it can be. The yoga helps us to begin to feel better, sometimes changes come in noticeable waves and we say "wow." Sometimes we come to class just when we feel lousy and we get that boost that the practice offers an immediate lightness that comes after class. Its harder to see the longer view, or at least it takes a moment to intentionally notice it. How are things different since you began this practice? As you scan yourself for answers think about the day to day, your responses and reactions to things, think about your health, the level of stress in your life, the changes you've encountered and how you dealt with them.
The practice of yoga has plateaus. Often students come to class for the buzz, they come when they feel lousy. But a continued practice, one where we practice when we feel good, not so good and just plain rotten.. This is a practice that transcends the plateaus and puts the yogi on a solid, consistent path to wellness. So join me for class this great, awful, boring, hot, fantastic, dull, brilliant, creative, silly, weird week.
Laughing on a Trampoline
Did you ever notice that you can't not laugh when youre jumping on a trampoline? I was so busy noticing this that I didnt have time to write an email to you about yoga. Somehow I think it fits with good yogic advice to advise you to find the nearest trampoline and begin jumping on it. If you can not find one then I recommend that you do anything that makes you laugh really hard and do it until your completely pooped. Weeeeee...
July 27, 2005
Yoga: Changing With Seasons, Summer
The steamy summer is here. Much of our thoughts are focused on how to stay dry and cool. Too much time in the sun causes a certain kind of crankiness. Just ask any outdoor cafe waitress or watch one for work for an hour. Every summer, about this time, our fine city begins to stink. Street garbage, a constantly changing mass of humans sharing a rather small space (an elevator, a subway).. this city makes an interesting blend of funk. A friend recently brought this to my attention when he told me that he became aware the diversity of smells when he moved to NY. The first example he sited was the garbage.
This email is not really about how awful the city can stink in the summer. It's more about awareness and specifically our awareness of the changing seasons and the affects of these changes on our bodies and minds. It's about cycles. As yogis we notice these cycles and respond to them. We can sense that each season offers an awakening and a closing. Knowing what to do and when comes with having a finely tuned system which recognizes the self in the natural world, part of it, contributing to it, affecting it and being affected by it all at once.
Here are just a couple of examples of how the yogi experiences the summer.
* Smells and Kapalabhati Breath - Smells are actually small particles of the stinky object that are entering your body through the nose. When hit with the smell of stinky garbage the yogi has tools, namely kapalabati breath - a series of sharp forced exhales through the nose with small inhales in between. In this breath the diaphragm visibly moves inward on every exhale while the inhales comes without thought. This breath filters the particles and keeps them in the shallow part of the lungs until the stinky stuff is past and the yogi can deeply inhale again.
* Catching One's Breath - in the summer even the best couch potatoes seem to spring into action performing a plethora of sports previously known to them only through flashes on a box in their living room. One of the first signs we have of the body's health is the breath. Panting is an obvious sign that something is out of balance. Regulating the breath can prevent us loosing it and can prevent us from passing out. Here's a trick I use year round but particularly in the summer months when I tend to get out of breath more easily and from performing physical activity... Break the breath into 4 counts. On the inhale say in your mind Sa- Tya-Nan-Da (which by the way is the name of a Swami who spawned a sa style of yoga). With each sound move your fingers so that they go in sequence with the sounds: thumb to pointer (sa), thumb to middle finger (tya), thumb to ring finger (nan)- thumb to pinky (da). Regardless of the speeding up of or slowing down of the breath break every inhale into sa-tya-nan-da and repeat for the exhale sa-tya-nan-da while keeping the finger movements with it. You will find that your breath is immediately regulated and will give you an instant gage of your bodys condition at the time. Sometimes I pull this out just for a brief moment when I need power, like running up a flight of stairs.
* The Small Stuff IS the Big Stuff - Yoga is a process by which we develop sensitivity. In this way it is elegant and refined. With practice we become tuned. And in this way it is also without limit and can apply to where every we focus our attention: the season, work, art, humanity... From bugs to birds, sounds to smells, temperatures, to light and the changes in the sound of one's neighborhood. The yogis detect the interrelatedness of things and see him/herself at part of nature. With this awareness comes knowledge too: how to be safe and take care of the body. And also gifts such as the simple detection of a quiet hummingbird that's near by or the quality of light reflecting from the moon.
* Cooling Breath - it's easy to get over heated on 90 degree days. But the yogi has a few tricks when the heat is overwhelming. Turn the tongue into a tube by rolling it with the opening sticking out through the lips and inhale while imagining sky blue. Exhale thinking of dark reds. When repeated, this is a cooling breath that can be used whenever overheated.
* Over/Under Doing It - Summer is no time to over do it. Hospitals are full of people who are dehydrated or have injured themselves doing activities they do only in the nice summer weather. For the yogi it's less likely that such injuries will occur. By visiting the body each week through practice the yogis knows what they can and cannot yet do. To the yogi limits are clear and respected. As you play this summer remember that you have this sight. All you have to do to tap this knowledge is pay attention. This is your reward for the time you have dedicated to practice.
July 13, 2005
Yoga of the Face
This has been a funny week that I spent trying not to make faces. It's not easy! My yoga practice has brought my attention to the strain of the face. I mean it's always been there, but now, almost suddenly, I'm totally aware of it all the time. Every time I check in on myself I notice that my face is bearing stress: squinted eyes, clenched jaw, pursed lips. I spent a good deal of the week just practicing keeping my face expressionless when it's not in use. I did this by relaxing the muscles behind the face over and over. Oddly, mid week and while thinking about all this my childhood friend came to visit. She lives in LA and in true LA form she showed me her new non-working forehead and explained that she had just had botox. She went on to explain that after her doctor injected her between the eyes she was no longer able to use (or express in) that area of the face. It's been unwired from the system so that her facial expressions will not cause wrinkles. Instantly upon hearing this I knew that my practice of relaxing the face and her botox were two ways to a common end. Obviously I'm going to recommend the yogic approach and not just because it's cheaper. Identifying the action of the face is an important part of the yoga practice and we have more to gain from it than the reduction of wrinkles.
In yoga we view the two ends of the spine as parts of the body that retain most of our stress. There are 35 muscles attached to the pelvic floor and well over 40 in the face. The pelvic floor extends from the anus to sexual organs. The face includes the entire face, scalp, skull and throat. As you begin to pay attention to these areas you will immediately notice that they are almost always gripping in some way. Like layers in an onion invite the muscles to let go: big muscles followed by smaller and smaller still until there is a softening that feels complete.
This week I will invite you to try this out in your waking life. You'll likely be surprised at just how much stress you will find when you peek into these areas. Keep in mind that the amounts of stress you find will be directly in proportional to how much better you will feel when you achieve bringing these areas of the body under your attention. And yes, it will even save you from a few wrinkles.
July 3, 2005
A Green View of Cali
I'm happy to be back in NY after a fun week of exploring northern California. I had a few adventures but mostly I returned with a new perspective on recycling. I caught a glimpse at what it looks like for a big city to agree about living with eco consciousness. A few key examples are: public recycling bins garbage which break down paper, plastic and glass; urinals that dont use water and save 40k gallons of water per year per urinal (didnt actually see this one my boyfriend did), check out clerks who ask if you want a bag for your merchandise rather assuming you 'need' one, solar panels everywhere and hybrid cars swarm un-littered highways.
One of the things I found most shocking was that the beaches were not privatized. Along highway 1 and for hundreds of miles you can pull over just about anywhere and enjoy your own piece of spectacular beach. Beach fires were permitted and I was told you could set up tent for 15 days before being asked to leave.
The cherry on top of the ice cream sundae part of the story was Berkeley Bowl, a supermarket located in Berkeley that sported more 9's in their fruit and veg department than I have ever seen in one place. Nines on fruit and veg's indicate that they're certified organic, 3's and 4's are regular pesticide sprayed and 8 is genetically modified. I made regular visits to this amazing supermarket and eventually converted a cardboard box into an icebox so I could carry around and much out on organic fruits day and night. Yes of course I then recycled the box and plastic liner right before returning my rented Honda Civic hybrid at the airport.
Returning home is always great, I love NYC. But coming from N. California makes the garbage and litter stand out. Of course in a few days it will blend back in with the graffiti and traffic. I suppose that if I'm going to bitch about NY's garbage I should actually do something about it so I've committed to finding out why my apartment building is not offering recycling and attempt to get them started. I'll also pass on these helpful and informative links should you care to dive in too:
Green NYC: meets monthly, a large social gathering of eco conscious folks who are working with NYC on the green transformation http://greenapplemap.org/page/sep Products, art, building design etc : http://www.treehugger.com Idea tank for all things green: http://www.worldchanging.com
June 15, 2005
Yoga: Macro Organism in Action. Classroom Energy
NY Naked Yoga class is entering its 6th month. I feel that we should have a celebration! I thought that this anniversary was a good time to reflect and gather our thoughts on this class that we have pioneered together. Good things always start with generous people who have the ability to dream. We began with on the good whim of Murray, whom many know as a social glue and happy nudist. Thank you Murray! After being set on our way something else took form, group energy.
While yoga is practiced by individuals and experienced personally, it is also a group endeavor. Not just because we do yoga as a group but also because what the group does in the classroom has an affect on every individual in it. We are a sort of macro-organism which is made up of many selves and in this way we are interdependent. A simple example can be found when you observe a yoga class in which one student comes out their postures early and they're floppy and tired and slouching. The group will likely come out of their poses faster than they would have and everyone's posture will droop a bit. Similarly a classroom of students who feel strong on a given day will pull along a student who feels tired on that day. Our energies are shared and our behavior spreads across the group.
Group dynamic has a special meaning when you apply it our class. We're treading new ground. We're naked, open to anyone who comes to hear about us and nondiscriminatory on gender or any other factor. We accept people, all people. And in that very open door there is a lot going on, trust and a lot more. When a student comes through our yoga door, it's the students (and yes the teacher too) that demonstrate the level of safety, acceptance and openness, the sense of community, level of encouragement and etiquette of the class. This is delicate and it is the work of everyone in our community class. As a female teacher teaching a largely male class I'm acutely aware of the support extended to me, perhaps my trust is felt by you? These fragile things grow, they are the invisible stuff that makes up reality - the architecture beneath the skyscraper.
There's a perfect example in that as the only naked yoga class in town, we're a mixed level class - beginners and advanced students alike. As such, when new students join in, the class experiences a "wobble." In this wobble is generosity on the part of the more advanced students as they will need to give space for the new to catch up. It's also their chance to demonstrate what they've learned with less instruction and become an example for those beginning the journey.
I've received many emails from people all over the country who've commented on the story in Nude & Natural. They're proud, envious and inspired by our class. And they send many good wishes. Steve B, a yoga teacher from OK wrote to me "What better way to learn that we are not this body and not this mind?" Let me invite you to consider the ways we are not this one self but an interdependent clustering of selves acting as one larger being. This class is as much yours as it is mine. It's our creation held up on the fragile ideas and feelings of people, of a group, not concrete and bricks.
I'll leave you with the below quote...
"In group meditation you have the truest friends. Having group meditation is just like having an unconditional good friend or a good beloved; here we all grow together, we share together the same problems and happiness. This is very good for the human psyche.
Sometimes we go it alone and something tempts us, we will fall. But if we go as two, three or four persons together we are likely to stay strong.
In this life everything is like that, even with politics. If a man wants to be president, he must collect a lot of followers who have the same ideal as he has, and who support him. Otherwise, do you think one person alone could create a particular movement?
Or could one person alone change the whole of a country? There must be a lot of people to support! So, when we blame one person, we have to think more! It is a shared ideal, it is a responsibility of a lot of people, not only one or two men or women.
So it's the same SAME with every ideal, the same with every goal we reach for. We must have supporting friends in order to go the same way. So when we fall, when we are weak, our friends will help us, or carry us. When you come in and you meditate together you share spiritual energy as well as the mundane problems. The stronger ones help the weaker ones, and then we have less weaknesses. Eventually we can come together at the same level. Everyone is happy. There is happiness in helping. There is happiness in being helped. In the process we are all cleansed and feel lighter and lighter everyday."
- Master Ching Hai
June 7, 2005
The first time I entered a yoga classroom I felt an emotional surge. As I began reading yoga philosophy I had the same experience, "woosh"... I threw my arms up in the air and safely glided down the rabbit hole. Yoga tapped something innate in me even before I had a chance to experience the benefits of the practice. Looking back I realize that I was responding to sacred space.
In our commerce driven culture even human emotion seems to be for sale sold in a shiny box and obtained with the click of a button or the swipe of a card. Yet less than a hundred years ago people owned only what they created or what someone they knew created for them. Every object conveyed meaning, creativity, and a person's experience as collaborator with the divine. Objects were imbued with meaning and would never find their way into the trash like the heaps of plastic that line our streets and overload our landfills. Objects were made of sacred stuff: intention, energy, care, dedication.
The sacred nature of things seems to be quickly becoming the stuff of myth. Trend molests things that once had meaning, even buddhas swim down the factory conveyer belt in fresh gleaming plastic. Music, culture, art, and yes yoga have all been pumped through the commodification grinder. Access to Native American sites are offered for a fee and guarded by white people who speak on behalf of a culture they never attempted to understand. We buy packaged promised experiences and a multitude of ways to escape understanding ourselves. Behind these products there is no care, no love, no intention and no selves. In fact these products represent our fears and unhappiness, each one a small and impotent band-aid applied to fast spreading disease. And no wonder this 'stuff' can only fill our apartments and not our hearts.
This weekend I attended a very special destination wedding in New Mexico. Now I loathe weddings, actually I loathe what weddings has become - the industry of the wedding. But this wedding was different; it was very much about sacred space. Guests were invited to join a in a sweat lodge as well as women's and mens circles and various other activities in which ritual was observed for the purpose of defining sacred space. In the doing we made discoveries about each other and ourselves. Intimacy flourished as social boundaries were whisked away by group meditations. In the end new friends were to made, ideas shared and for many a feeling of lightness and hope were taken home to be enjoyed well after the bide and groom were off an away on their honeymoon.
As yogis we have a connection to sacred space. Each time we step into the classroom to practice yoga we take an action to create and preserve it. In doing so we join generations of others who have walked the yoga path. In a way, we are the continuation of an old tribe thats members transcend time. We are recipients of the knowledge of those who came before us and creators of knowledge to be passed on to those who follow; each generation adding context to the ancient art. We are keepers of and creators of sacred space right here in the midsts of a culture that has deemed it dead. This week I wish only to thank you for this.
May 26, 2005
Our break next week offers a chance for us to explore self-practice. Discover the yogis you have become! Twenty minutes of yoga in the morning will assure a calm and clear beginning to your day. Of course by now you know that yoga can be practiced just about anywhere. Mountain pose can be practiced when standing around waiting. Hip openers come easy on the subway by taking ankle to knee, one side at a time - if your lucky enough to get a seat that is.
The thing is, it's natural for us to do yoga throughout the day. We just forgot this in all our running around. Somewhere along our way humans managed to train there minds away from what is natural, away from the instinct to take care of themselves. As yogis you have taken the mind back and made yoga a natural part of your lives again. Now that you have this knowledge, all you need do is notice and practice.
You are yogis. And like cats who never forget to stretch when they wake from sleep, yogis never forget the tools of breath, awareness and movement. This week discover your innate knowledge and connection to nature. Before making a morning cup of coffee try three salutations to the sun. When your feeling a bit off, ask yourself the best remedy and apply yoga throughout the day as needed.
This week I invite you to practice realizing that you are a yogi.
May 18, 2005
Vedanta: 8 Limbs of Yoga
It's easy to loose sight of the fact that the work we are doing together in class a small part of the practice of yoga. Lets take a few steps back and widen our view. There are four paths of yoga. Of them we practice raja yoga, the path of physical and mental control. Karma (work/service/action), bhakti (devotion/prayer), and jana yoga (wisdom/study) make up the other three. Each is suited to a different temperament or approach to life. All the paths lead ultimately to the same destination, enlightenment. Since we're practicing raja yoga lets begin by familiarizing ourselves with the 8-limbed path so that we can examine these concepts more deeply in the future and in the classroom.
The 8 Limbs of Raja Yoga (note: the sanscrit words below have different meaning to different schools and traditions. The definitions below are specific to the study of yoga as written in Patanjali's yoga sutras)
1 & 2) Yamas & Niyamas are dos and donts that are designed to destroy the lower self, the ego. These are practiced in spirit, by word or by deed. Yamas represent restraint from violence, lying and stealing. Yamas also include maintaining moderation in all things. Niyamas are observances such as internal and external cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study and living in awareness.
(Note: Before yoga came to the west students were assumed to be of Hindu faith. Study and living in awareness meant that one would study ancient text and live in awareness of god. The western student can translate this to the study of the world around them through science and mathematics or whatever line of study one chooses to view their world through. Awareness of god can translate into awareness of natural world but the student should specifically concentrate on awareness of beauty. We can fret about the world as well but the idea here is to purposefully notice splendor as this is a heart opening gesture that cultivates compassion.)
3. Asana is the word we use for the postures we perform in class. However we are not actually performing an asana until we have found comfort in the pose. This is achieved after much practice when the student finds that the difficulty of the pose gives way to lightness.
4. Pranayama is the regulating or controlling the breath. Breath plays many different roles in yoga. The asanas are physical designs that arrange the body in order to allow the breath to flow. In class we say things like "breathe into your toes" and this makes yogic sense to the yogi. Breath is also used to quiet the mind. Observance of the breath can be likened to mentally tying a string to the wavering mind. Each time the mind wanders the string brings us back to awareness. In this way breath is a tool towards meditation. There are many pranayama practices and a great many advanced practices for the developing yogi.
5. Pratyahara means to withdraw the senses. This might look like a meditation practice, eating of bland foods to dull the palate, withdrawal of negative sensory influences, quitting television, or going on retreat to nature. In an ever changing world pratyahara takes many forms, each student seeks out the kind of withdrawal that will clear space for the next step, dharana.
6. Dharana literally means to hold and in the 8 fold path it refers to meditation. Dharana is the initial step of deep meditation, where the object being meditated upon is held in the mind without consciousness wavering from it. In this state the object of meditation, the meditator, and the act of meditation itself remain separate and known to the student. Success leads the aspirant to Dhayana.
7. Dhyana is a state of pure thought and absorption in the object of meditation. Dhyana is distinct from Dharana in that the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation and is no longer aware of it. He/she is only aware that he/she exists.
8. Samadhi is the super-conscious state. In Samadhi non-duality or oneness is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended and the Yogi is one the universe and able to see into the ultimate nature of reality, eventually obtaining release from all suffering.
March 2, 2005
The last two emails in which we talk about ahimsa (non-violence) have sparked interest and discussion. As promised I am sharing the comments of our group in this email. The world we're living in is very uncertain and we just may be approaching a time when this philosophical inquiry becomes a real life decision. I would like to acknowledge everyone for having the courage to take this on. Please read the comments below and reply if you like.
This topic began with an explanation of the yogic principal, ahimsa = non-violence and the suggestion that practicing ahimsa will assist us in our yoga practice as well as in the way we live in the world.
The original questions asked by Joe: 1) Does not consequence matter more than intention in terms of violence? When we eat plants and animals, we are being violent (albeit with purpose, but that does not change the nature of our action), when we trod upon insects, though we may be ignorant of doing so, we are being violent. How does the Yogi address this? How does one practice Ahimsa without veering into passivity? 3) How does one maintain these principles in a world based on those oppositional to the former?
ANSWERS FROM THE MEMBERS OF THIS LIST:
Peter: Was struggling with Ahimsa last night when a town car decided not to let me walk across the street even though I had the light; as it was, the negative energy partially remained with me into a shiatsu session. How to react in such a way such as the "negative agent" in this case learns something as well, although poetry escapes me in those moments.
Jonathan: I think Lao Tsu would have answered, you needn't look past your own intention: if your intention is pure, there is no consequence. There is only what must be. One translation of the beginning of chapter 35 of the Tao te Ching reads:
She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.
Claire: I think the answers to 2 and 3 are DETACHMENT. If you are detached I don't think those questions can come up or have relevance.
David: I can only say that I hold myself responsible for the consequences of all my actions, however small. I consider consequences more important than intentions, just as I consider actuality more important than idealism--hence I categorically reject communism. For this reason I also oppose war, as I do not believe any moral purpose justifies killing.
Our very existence requires the sacrifice of other, less-evolved (or less-devolved?) forms of life. Vegetarianism, as you point out, requires the consumption of organic matter. But even if one were to stop eating entirely, one could not stop one's immune system from automatically destroying cellular agents. Hence the idea of original sin, the single doctrine of Catholicism I agree with most. I consider helping others an incumbent duty of existence.
Do civilizations ultimately let themselves die? Do they all conduct terminal hunger strikes in an attempt to ascend to a higher spiritual level? I wish I could call such an idea misbegotten, but perhaps this explains the apparent absence of any interstellar traffic.
Matriphagy: this is the grim nature of our universe. Children devouring their parents. This is why I love watching spiders: they most graphically illustrate the forces we find most loathsome, the ones we attempt to deny with our romanticized myth of the Noble Savage. We are all devoured by our collective offspring--even those of us without actual biological children.
Tony: Ahimsa was created out of the social relations of the heirarchical structure of early agricultural/slave societies--it teaches people to maintain the status quo, not question authority. The natural world is completely violent, as you point out. Your answer to Joe about intent and consequence is the right one, it is how we define "violence"--but then you see where this leads, either to attempting to not participate in the "violence" of the whole universe (impossible! what would you eat? where could you go? how would you make stuff? how would you overthrow the government?) or you can start to define "violence" out of existence so that more and more things, no matter how violent, are not "violent" (which you started to do with the food thing, and the wild animal thing, but ends up being just a big justification).
"Non-violence", as an abstract philosophical concept, is impossible and is contrary to the structure of the universe. Not only don't I think you can actually live that way (without feeling guilty all the time!) but it does not allow a person to analyze things individually and make a true determination about their place in the universe. And the worst part is it encourages people to try and "paper over" actual contradictions instead of taking them on directly.
"Violence" is an agitated mental state. If your mental state is not passionate but lucid, your actions are righteous, performed with detachment, not for greed or ego, then the actual results are good. The yogi may find himself in a situation that demands physical bloodshed and killing, and he gets the job done without any hesitation and completes it lacking emotional disturbance. Arjuna learned his yoga from directly from Krishna, after which he commenced killing his cousins on the battlefield! http://www.hinduism.co.za/karma.htm
Now you may be asking yourselves, what do the yogis say? Well they debate it just like us. Questions like these are examined by every generation and hopefully by every individual. Answers come in the form of history and how each generation acted upon their interpretation. I'm reluctant to add more length to this email so I will add only one thought of my own by repeating my comment from a previous email on this topic. A good place to begin a conversation about ahimsa is with a definition of violence.
February 23, 2005
More on Ahimsa
You may recall that I recently wrote a yoga email in which I explained ahimsa, which means non-violence. I got a reply from a good friend. He asked three great questions. Today I tried to answer one of them. For today, you get my opinion. First here are the three questions. I've responded to only the first. Next week I'll report on the rest after some research. If anyone wants to comment on these questions, send me your thoughts and I'll add them to next week's email.
Joe Wrote: 1) Does not consequence matter more than intention in terms of violence? When we eat plants and animals, we are being violent (albeit with purpose, but that does not change the nature of our action), when we trod upon insects, though we may be ignorant of doing so, we are being violent. How does the Yogi address this?
2) How does one practice Ahimsa without veering into passivity?
3) How does one maintain these principles in a world based on those oppositional to the former?
Reply to Q1) I think that we can take responsibility for intention but not consequence. Consequence cannot be determined in advance of an action, even with effort to do so. I hate to slide a cliche in here but "the path to (fill in with hell, ignorance etc) is paved with good intentions." There is too much chaos that cannot be anticipated or controlled to know how anything will turn out. All we can control is intention. On killing for food... Most yogis are vegetarian and do not eat animals but, they do eat plants, as do I. When I look at our plant eating and ask myself if there is violence in it, I see the interconnectedness of life on this planet. I do not see violence. All life forms need to 'consume' to survive, as do we. So I guess that moves the question over to how we define violence. Is it violent to pluck a plant from its life to consume it in order to stay alive? I would say it is not just as I would say that a wild cat killing a small rodent to eat it for dinner is not violence. I think that humans have formed ideas about violence. The chase and kill of the cat and the rodent appears to us as 'violence,' rather than as a beautiful dance of nature in action. Are you familiar with the Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights? Many view it and see violence, chaos etc. I view it and see peace, beauty. In the end my peace looks like chaos and again I think we find ourselves chasing a definition of violence or chaos. The pagans have a moral code that is something to the effect of if it causes no harm than do what thou will. Of course again, we are stuck in our different ideas of what harm is. I also think that ideas have to change with the context of time. There was a time in which the killing of animals for food would have been OK with me. Now that we factory farming and "intentional" abuse to animals for the purpose of our consumption, I believe that there is violence in the killing. I'm not passing judgment on meat eating vs. not meat eating, only pointing out that context is important and ever changing. Next week I'll bring you the yogi's view. Thanks for asking the questions!
Yoga & Ahimsa (non-violence)
Non-violence is what you might imagine, to treat all beings kindly and without violence. But it goes deeper than this. In yoga we practice non-violence with ourselves by doing postures a particular way. When we do postures we are using the body as a kind of lab for the mind. What the body learns, the mind follows. For example, when the body learns balance our external lives become more balanced. In this way yoga is dynamic and practical. We practice ahimsa by performing the poses without pushing. Pushing creates resistance and hardening which leads to more resistance. In yoga we ease up. This is difficult for Americans and particularly New Yorkers who live in a fast paced and competitive city. We've been taught to compete, to push, to rush. Gyms are full of people pushing hard on their bodies. In yoga we find the edge of each pose, the point at which we are inclined to push, and then we back off slightly and breathe. This not only opens up the body and allows for a host of healthy benefits, but it teaches us ahimsa. Once we learn to treat ourselves in this way, we can logically extend this non-violence to others and the world around us.
Ahimsa also applies to our perception of ourselves. By doing yoga we visit our bodies each week and learn that they're imperfect. They change from week to week and year to year. We are a part of nature living and dying all at once. When we accept ourselves as such, we are again practicing ahimsa - non-violence. When we are mentally hard on ourselves, when we expect to be perfect, we are being violent to ourselves. Let go of this idea that perfect exists. The only perfect thing is a living being celebrating the life within them with joy. As a practicing yogi you will find it easier to forgive yourself and others. And soon criticism drops away from your awareness and life takes on a feeling of ease.
You can begin the practice of ahimsa right now and of course bring it with you to class and use it in your practice. Try it, you just might find your day feels a little lighter. See you in class.
January 27, 2005
Announcement of New Naked Yoga Class
I'm happy to announce a new Naked Yoga class that I will be teaching beginning February 7th @ 7pm. I was asked to teach this class by a group that's interested in naked yoga. Of course, regardless of my own inhibitions I may have I opted to do it. After all, yoga is about transcending limitations, removing habits and growing our boundaries. As I considered naked yoga I found myself thinking about Burning Man, about my clothing swap, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, and about the phrase "namaste." As you know I have a great capacity to ramble and so it goes... today I'd like to view naked yoga through these ideas while inviting you to join me in this class.
At Burning Man (http://burningman.com ) naked yoga is common, as is naked hot air ballooning, naked windsurfing, naked bike riding (my personal fav) naked roller-skating and just about any activity you can name! When I'm there I never think about wearing clothing accept when it is cold in which case clothes are purely functional or when I feel like showing off, in which case I wear costumes I made to entertain my fellow citizens. Why does it take an off-grid city in the desert to provide this comfort with nudity? OK yes it's hot and awfully practical to be nude. But I think there's more to it. In regular society we're immersed in learned behavior. We dont act naturally, we act according to training. We follow protocol. We walk on the right side of the street, stand in line in an orderly way and hail a cab as prescribed. We do these things according to what is 'correct.' When I went to Tokyo I was a bumbling idiot as I did not know the Japanese protocol. I was always out of step, on the wrong side of the street and eating with the wrong utensils. What makes Tokyo so different from NYC? Agreement on what 'reality' is. Living in these patterns secures them and performing them creates 'reality' by doing so. At Burning Man 'reality' is turned inside out and flipped upside down. So what is reality but our perception of the relationship between things. In the end it looks as though it is whatever we decided those relationships to be. Naked, clothed, organized, chaotic, joyous, dull, fantastic or silly... but always our choice.
As you may know I throw a clothing swap called Swap-O-Rama-Rama. In 2005 I've designed some changes into the swap. These include the modification of used clothing and the re-branding of clothing through labels that cover up existing brand identification. The labels I designed read "100% recycled" and "modified by me." I added this because I believe that branding, in its current form, creates distinct social divisions. It separates us into categories that reflect the size of our wallet rather than the expanse of our creativity. By re-branding clothing with self-celebratory labels, I'm inviting us to see each other through shared creativity rather than through socioeconomic status. If we remove clothing all together we jump to a place where we're just people - skin, bones, hair, faces. We're perfect, imperfect, peculiar, beautiful and oh so human. We're all subject to the same rules of nature: aging, dying, growing, changing etc. And actually being naked brings us to this awareness very quickly.
In yoga class you will often hear the greeting "namaste. Literally, it means "I bow to you," although the yogis use it to mean "The light (divine) in me sees the light (divine) in you." When used this way we're acknowledging the part of ourselves that is the same. Vedanta philosophy follows an idea that we are a macro organism made up of seeming individual selves that, to varying degrees, are unaware of the macro organism that we are. The practice of yoga is the discovery of our divine sameness, the life that animates us all. This become evident when we look at ourselves each day in practice. We quickly discover that we change from class to class. Sometimes we find we cannot do what we did the class before and sometimes we can do more than we've ever done. We are subject to all the laws of nature and in this we find what we have in common, our humanity.
I'd like to invite you to join me for naked yoga class where we will exercise our own ability to make reality, we'll remove the boundaries that divide and address each other as an extension of ourselves "namaste."
The first class will be held on Monday February 6th at 7pm in Union Square. If your a regular student of mine you know the address. If your not, please email me for details. Please know we'll have a diverse class that includes a family with kids, young and old, big and small and feel welcome to attend.
January 26, 2005
Cats & String
well I tried to spin my week's events into yogic philosophy for this weeks email. I failed miserably! you see it all has to do with a cat and string and these two things, as you may know, lead to one thing.... chaos!
I spent this week building a model for an art project. the materials I was using were the usual balsa wood, foam core, wire and string put together with a glue gun and some pins. my 6-month-old kitten was sure that all of this construction and especially the string, was a grand design of mine to provide him with the very best of entertainment. sigh.
I managed to build my model in spite of the fact that he threatened to destroy it at every turn. and I thought and I thought about how I could spin this story into this week's babble on yoga. know what? I couldnt! in the end I submit to the fact that the universe is ruled by chaos. it is the very fabric beneath everything we know to be true and all the natural laws we live by. it's like the joker in the deck. while the chaos of the cat and the string was entirely frustrating, I remain comfortable with the notion that chaos is a part of all things. it gives us the invitation to peep out of 'reality' and look for something other. in the end I prefer to know that things are not as tidy as they may appear and that maybe 'reality' is not all that solid. maybe we can mush it around like clay? thank goodness for chaos! so, no yogic spin on cats with string, just a toast to pure chaos!
January 5, 2005
Yoga & Fulfilling Resolutions
I find that explaining yogic philosophy is like teaching someone that left is forward. The root through this form of knowledge is not linear, it swims like a fish in a hologram and then whap, there we are. Consider this as I try to explain how yoga brings our actions and intentions into alignment so that our resolutions will naturally come to fruition.
It's easy to remember years past and resolutions that remained a good idea but were never actually achieved. Aren't we strange that we can choose to do something and yet it still doesn't happen? Lets take the yogic view and see if we can find some help for this years goals. For the task I dove into a teaching manual on Anusara Yoga written by John Friend.
In an overview of yoga philosophy he writes . . . "Yoga reunites polarities, reconciles opposites and resolves contrary complements."
He lists examples of polarities and opposites: absolute and relative; unlimited and limited; whole and part; being and doing; manifest and unmanifest; infinite and finite; spirit and matter; light and dark and stillness and movement
We know that yoga uses the body as a playground for the mind. In our practice we remove habits in the body and then the mind follows and lets go of habit behavior. Habit expressed in our waking lives looks something like this... You treat a red haired woman who you have just met as though she was a red haired woman you once knew and didnt like. Illogical right? But we do this all the time. Our yoga practice clears us of old ideas formed from old events that no longer have relevance. We could say that it removes the muck between our intentions and our actions so that our intentions are our actions. It is in this way that yoga "reunites polarities, reconciles opposites and resolves contrary complements."
John Friend goes on to write. . . "Yoga recreates a state of oneness and non-differentiation from whence we originated."
Yoga creates a state of oneness through the integration that occurs when mind, breath, body merge and our practice is from skin to cells, breath to thoughts. The beginning yogi sees the difference between breath, movement and thoughts. Over time the inter-relatedness of these things becomes observable and a new language is created. As the body learns inter-relatedness and oneness, the mind follows. Thought and action reflect each other like a mirror.
For the yogi resolutions are honest reflections of where they are at and headed. Over time the yogis experience is such that thoughts and actions are without contradiction, they are as one. Free from habit behavior the yogi knows no black/white, good/bad, all things are inter-related and all situations new. Resolutions built upon unresolved conflict or that is premature or unrealistic would not become resolutions. The yogis next steps are clear not mysterious. Action, thought and form manifest are all one synchronistic self-expression. You could say that the yogi has no need for resolutions and should she make resolutions that they would naturally unfold as thought takes form and materializes.
Of course you could always play it safe and not make any resolutions! Either way, I will see you in class.
December 28, 2004
The Tao on Winter
We're entering the deep dark Winter. Personally, I am always challenged by the darkness and introversion. The first few weeks are usually welcome and I spend time at home with my sketchbook, guitar, cookbook and projects that require a homebody mindset. But after these first weeks I begin to feel lethargic and gloomy from lack of light and activity. Today I've taken a look at the way that the Taoist tradition view this time of year, here is what some Taoists have to say...
Excerpts from Yoga Journal and Tao Healing Arts... Yin/Yang: Taoist philosophy conceptualizes universal balance in terms of yin and yang, complementary forces that govern the universe. Yin characteristics are cool, wet, slow, feminine, and quiet. Yang is the opposite: warm, dry, fast, masculine, extroverted. Winter, the yin season, is a time for storing and conserving energy in the way a bear retains fat by hibernating, or a farmer stores food for the cold months ahead.
In agrarian cultures, people spend the shortest, darkest days indoors by the fire, eating warm, slow-cooked, nourishing food and sharing stories with their families. The way that Americans spend their holidays can contribute to seasonal affective disorder, depression, exhaustion, and other manifestations of what is known in TCM as shen (or spiritual) disharmony.
The Sun: Winter has the shortest days and the least amount of daylight. The reason that the days or so short is that the sun spends more time below the earth than above it. This draws our energy downward, which resides more in the kidneys, the Tan Tien, and the sexual centers. This kind of energy needs to be cultivated during this season. Kidneys need special care. Adjusting your schedule so that you are awake for the maximum number of daylight hours is recommended.
Preventing Colds: This season is commonly associated with becoming ill with colds and flus. Many turn to flu shots to combat this illness. The Taoist approach differs, in that we try to protect and strengthen the immune system. A common form of disease according to Taoists is called 'wind disease' and relates to our belief about going outside in winter and catching a cold. Because our energy is deep and internal we need to protect the extremities of the body from the cold. Your grandmother may have advised you correctly to put on a scarf, gloves, and hat to protect yourself from catching a cold. We agree. There are also herbal formulas available that are ideal for protecting yourself against winter illness.
Recommended Teas/Formulas: http://www.taohealingarts.com/herbalcombinations.html#resist
Food: Eating cooked, spicy yang foods provides a good way to replenish energy. Prepare yang-strengthening soups, slow-simmered stews, beans, roasted root vegetables, and warm drinks. Add yang spices such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves, and basil to increase the warming effect. Minimize your intake of yin foods such as raw vegetables, salad greens, and cold drinks.
November 17, 2004
"The heart has reasons of which the mind knows nothing." - Pascal
We've been practicing yoga together for some number of weeks now, and for some students even longer. The question of "how am I doing?" arises after we've been practicing for a while. This week I'd like to give you some ideas about how to measure how well you are doing.
The answer of course lies in you. No one but you can tell you how your doing. The student that cannot get into the poses yet but who is somewhere along the way may actually be doing better than the student who can get into every pose. What matters most is your quality of mind as you practice and the way that your practice fits into the rest of your life. Below you will find a few excerpts that explain these concepts.
From Yoga Journal, Living On the Edge by Ezra Bayda If we want to know how we're doing in our practice, we have to examine our life. Unless we begin to connect it with the rest of our life, our practice however strong, calm, or enjoyable ultimately will not be satisfying.
Understanding the connection between practice and the rest of our life means addressing many different concerns. For instance, how are you practicing in your relationships with your spouse, your children, your parents, the people at work? How many resentments do you still hold on to? Do the same people as ever in your life trigger anger, contempt, or other believed judgments? To what extent can you say, "I'm sorry," and really mean it? When a problem arises, can you say yes to practicing with it, even when you hate what's happening? And when criticism comes at you, are you willing to work with your reactions when they arise, instead of justifying them?
The answers to questions like these give us the measure of our practice. This measure is nothing magical or mysterious. It's simply the increasing ability to know what our life is, as well as the growing understanding that to practice with our life means to practice with everything we meet.
Rather than "How am I doing?," the real questions are "Where am I still shutting down in fear and self-protection?" and "Where do I meet my edge, beyond which I'm not ready to go?" Practice is about noticing and experiencing these places not with heaviness or guilt but just as something to be worked with and then seeing how to take small steps beyond them.
To practice with difficult decisions, we must leave the mental world and enter the heart of our experience. This means residing in the physical experience of the anxiety and confusion itself, instead of spinning off into thoughts. How does it actually feel to be confused? What is the texture of the experience? Staying with the bodily reality of the present moment offers us the possibility to see our life with a sense of clarity that we could never realize through thinking alone. How long will it take? No one can say. But practicing like this is a good example of going to our edge and working directly with where we're stuck.
Another example is working with fear. What do you do with your fears when they arise? Do you usually vacillate between trying to stomp them out and trying to avoid the fearful situation? Most of us do. But when we come to our edge and what is fear if not the clearest indicator that we're at our edge we can take the small practice step of choosing to go against our habitual reactions to fear. This is not done with the intention of modifying our behavior by stomping out our fear.
Instead, we take the moment to observe and experience as fully as possible what our fear really is. The next time fear arises, see if you can really feel the energy of fear in the body, without doing anything to change it or get rid of it.
Still, we have to step toward our edge by ourselves. Instead of regarding our edge as an enemy, a place we prefer to avoid, we can realize that our edge is actually our path. From this place, we can take a step closer toward what is. But we can do this only one step at a time, persevering through all the ups and downs of our lives. We may sense danger; sometimes we may even feel as if death is upon us. However, we don't have to leap in headfirst, going for all or nothing. We can simply take a small step, supported by the knowledge that everyone feels fear in stepping beyond the illusion of comfort.
The real measure of practice is whether, little by little, we can find our edge, that place where we're closed down in fear, and allow ourselves to experience it. This takes courage, but courage isn't about becoming fearless. Courage is the willingness to experience our fears. And as we experience our fears, courage grows. Noticing our edge and trying to meet it also allows us to develop compassion, not just for ourselves but for the whole human drama. Then, with an increasing sense of lightness and curiosity, we can keep moving toward a more open and genuine life.
"If you do not dare, you do not live." Spanish proverb
July 19, 2004
This week many activities and projects pulled me towards action and movement and I found myself concerned about balance. Am I getting an equal dose of action and non-action (rest)? The struggle brought my attention to the details of such a battle and yes, my yoga practice. The first thing I noticed is that I was aware of the need for balance. This in itself was new - awareness! Then a friend visiting from out of town helped me to see more of the picture. We attended a meeting that I hosted for a project that I'm working on. When we left the meeting her mind was reeling with thoughts while my mind was quiet and still. She asked me "Arent you thinking about the meeting?" and I said "No, the meeting is over. I'll think about it again when I've slotted time for it." She was stunned and so was I. Then I realized that what I learned in yoga class was taking form in my active life.
When we are in class and we practice being fully "on" during the postures (action) and fully "off" between the postures (non-action). In it's practical application one way that this can look is to be fully engaged in what we are doing when we are doing it and equally engaged in our non-doing when we are no long doing it.
For me the lessons here was simple and yet profound. You never know what something will look like. Initially I thought that I needed to clock in an hour of rest for an hour of work and this was what balance looked like. Silly me. It is attention and mindfulness that is most important. What my body (organs of action) and mind (organs of perception) practiced in class, my waking life has mirrored. When the organs of action and organs of perception are moved with attention, integration occurs and learning takes place on a subtle level beyond the gross physical body. This kind of learning is so far away from our gross physical existence that when it surfaces it is remarkably perfect and eloquently simple.
This week let me put out an invitation to you to notice the subtle. What is it that you forgot to notice?
June 6, 2004
I've have been enjoying a week of starts... starting this project and starting that project. Starts feel great because they usually follow ideas, inspiration, doubt, work, courage, action and they symbolize beginnings. As I stand at the edge of familiarity and look out at my new beginnings I can see that energies in flux do eventually lead somewhere. This got me wondering about the process behind beginnings and of course I found a parallel in yogic philosophy.
Beginnings rarely pop out of the sky. They start with ideas. Have you noticed that creative ideas are often followed by thoughts like "why am I wasting my time on these silly ideas when I have work to do?" But we keep thinking about them because they represent what we really desire but do not yet have. Eventually we take action until we find ourselves in transition somewhere between the old self and a future possibility - a beginning. I'd like to share a yogic concept that expresses this very concept - the gunas.
The gunas are qualities or energies. According to vedanta philosophy the universe is created by these three energies in action. When the gunas are still there is no universe. When they are in action a universe is created. Each guna represents an opposing but interdependent force.
3 GUNAS: Sattwa: form that has yet to be realized Tamas: obstacles that have to be over come for that form to be realized Rajas: the removal of that obstacle that allows that form to materialize To see the gunas at work look at any action. Here's an example from The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. A sculptor is inspired to make a figure of a horse (SATTWA). She stands before the lump of clay, a formless obstacle which has to be over come (TAMAS). She wonders if he can do it, if it's too difficult, if she's too tired and if it's even worth the trouble (TAMAS). Her will conquers his lethargy and she begins (RAJAS). As she tires he pushes on (RAJAS) until it is complete. The yogi knows the gunas. She is grateful when met with sattwa. When difficulties arise she recognizes tamas as a natural part of the process of life and applies rajas.
I'd like to invite you to notice these energies in action in your daily life. When you are tamasic consider what rajasic action would move you. If your too rajasic ask yourself what tamasic behavior might bring you back to centered. And seek sattwa because it may be an indication that you are headed towards a fantastic adventure.
May 31, 2004
Imagine if every day everyone told everyone how magnificent they were? Wouldnt that be an odd reality to be in? Or do you prefer the "hurumph" you get from busy New Yorkers cruising by on the subway platform? What if tomorrow everyone said "Hello, I recognize that you are nothing short of a miracle?" Many of us might just hurumph right on by and maybe add "lunatic" under our breaths.
By now we've all heard the word namaste. Namaste is a Hindu greeting that is based upon the belief that there is divine spark in each of us. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I and "te" means you. Literally it means bow I you or I bow to you. It's often translated as "the light in me sees the light in you." Vedanta philosophy is built upon the belief that we are one organism, each living thing a part or cell in the greater macro-organism. It follows that our freedom from pain lies in our ability to see ourselves as one, all life divine (that includes animals, plants etc). When we see life this way we naturally act more peacefully, with patience, generosity, tolerance and forgiveness. After all if we're all the same who than how could we do anything but support every other who? When we say "namaste" we are affirming this belief by recognizing each other as a piece of the divine that makes up all of creation.
Since New Yorkers are well trained in the ways of yogi I'll bet you can get away with a "namaste" without being hurumphed at. Chances are pretty good you'll even get a "namaste" reply. Or you may find that the power of the words occurs for the speaker and that the reply is really not important at all.
MAY 15, 2004
Each week we end class with three aums. This week's email is a little exploration into the sound aum. I hope it'll make your auming more interesting.
The yogis believe that all of reality is made of vibration. You can see the relationship between vibration and matter by performing a simple experiment. If you were to take a plate with sand on it and place it over a speaker that was hooked up to a microphone and then chant "aum" into the microphone, you would see a perfect geometric mandala form out of the sand on the plate. As many times as you perform this, the image would be the same. All of sound creates a pattern (though none quite as amazing as the aum). In my teacher training a yogi told me a story of a monk's skull that was found in the Himalayas. Where the plates of the skull intersect the monks skull had the aum mandala on it. Folk law has it that the vibration of aum from a life of chanting created it.
Aum is said to be the sound of the creation of the universe. Once there was none, then there was one and at that moment of creation there was a sound which encompassed all there was, aum. Aum - one word interpreted as having three sounds representing creation, preservation, and destruction.
The yogi Yogananda noted that everything in the universe is composed of energy and that the apparent differentiation between solids, liquids, gases, sound, and light is merely a difference in their vibratory rates. He maintained that by chanting the aum, we can increase the bodys supply of energy and even direct it as a healing force to any part of the body, mind, and soul.
Most spiritual traditions chant and in doing so they are calling on this vibratory state. Because these sounds have been chanted with an open heart since the beginning of time, they now contain the energy of years of combined devotion. When you chant aum, you are plugging into that devotion as well as adding to it. Following laws of physics, things of a similar frequency will entrain. If you play an E on a piano and there is a guitar near by, the E on the guitar will vibrate. When you chant aum, you vibrate at a particular frequency and so you come into alignment with all things at that same frequency. I'm happy to report that yogis will naturally find yogis because they're frequency is the same. So if you've noticed that you have been bumping into practicing yogis lately, maybe it's because you have the same frequency.
This week I would like to invite you to the cosmic wonder of aum while we aum in class. And of course you can practice this at home too :)
May 3rd, 2004
Yoga: The Yogi Tree
It is impossible to miss Spring blooming all around the city. I was lucky enough to make it to the Botanical Gardens this weekend where I enjoyed a lengthy hang with mother nature along with the company of a good friend. The flowers were popping up in order: tulips, daffodils, hyacinth. And the big old trees practically yawned before me having shaken their Winter hibernation proving that they contain the nectar of life in those scraggly branches. Standing beneath the great old trees I thought about when I used to climb them and I meditated on them again today through the eyes of a yogi.
In the spiritual world, like the physical world, we climb in various directions. Some routes are short, some long, some straight and easy and some windy and indirect. Sometimes we have to climb when we cannot see where the branches lead. We trust that once the bend is reached we will be able to see more of the path we're on. We continue to climb captured in the amazement of the journey and led by the possibility of reaching somewhere special. There are many routes to the treetop. The journey rewards us handsomely with new perspective as we find our way to the peak. Now we can see vast distances and the wide-open sky, the infinite.
It's not so easy to climb a tree in NYC. I didn't climb one at the Botanical Gardens either, at least my physical body didn't. As you find your way through the city this week take a moment to notice the trees. Check out the branches and the many routes they take to the top. Imagine yourself viewing the city from the apex. Look at the sky. As you do this reflect on your yoga practice. View each pose a microcosm containing the whole of your path. Notice how every posture presents an understanding of where you are relative to where your going. Think about the ways that your perspective has changed from this practice and consider what it means to you to reach the infinite.
Like a tree we need strong roots (compassion, non-violence), a solid trunk (the discipline of a regular practice), and branches that extend toward the sky (the postures) so that we may grow rich vibrant leaves that extract energy from the sun (the actions we take in the physical world) to produce a flower (our intentions manifest in the world). We water our roots with our increasing awareness and understanding and shade those who are not yet ready to climb with the strength we have obtained through our own efforts. A strong, healthy tree surely attracts more life. Attracted to our vibrancy birds and animals find sanctuary in us (new friends who resonate with the energy we project). Inclement weather is nothing to a healthy tree that can bend with change and return again to it's center when the storm has passed (our flexibility). In the end we exist in the world harmoniously, completing our birthright to grow to full potential and providing service to other life.
And please dont forget to build a nice little tree house and invite me over for tea.
April 26th, 2004
Yoga: Horizontal Path. Practice in the World
Last week's email was about putting our yoga practice into action in the world - the practical application of theoretical knowledge. Many of you responded to the below excerpt by telling me about situations in which you found extra patience when confronted by a person who was about to make you angry. This week I would like to expand on how the physical practice of yoga becomes the action of compassion.
* From last week's email: * Yoga teaches compassion. This week remove boundaries between you and the people around you. When someone does something that makes you mad dont judge them. Take a moment to remember a time when you were less than perfect and realize that you dont know what they're going through.
How does a physical practice become a mental condition and then an action in the physical world? Below is an example of how each posture is a microcosm that has a parallel in the physical world.
In class we try to create each pose with our bodies. Immediately our egos show up with big ambitions. The ego wants to do the pose as good as everyone around us and better than we did it before. Naturally we begin the posture by pushing past our limits. As yogis we resist this and instead apply awareness. We stop pushing and find our personal limit and work from there. Our egos jump back in to the picture and judge us for our limits. The ego says we must not be good enough. We return to awareness and notice how we're part of nature. This becomes clear as we observe our bodies and their changing limits from week to week. In the end we discover that the only way to get better at our practice is to forgive ourselves and accept where we are and our limits.
Once you learn to forgive yourself it follows naturally to extend that forgiveness to everyone in the world around you. Surely everyone's ego is putting him or her through the same punishing process. Everyone wants to be good. And surely we all have limits and are doing the best we can to work within them. In this way your practice creates a broad kind of empathy. To feel this you need only your humanity in common. On this common ground you share your struggles, your shouting ego and you share your limits and imperfections. Your experience in class has taught you that forgiveness is the only way to grow.
Recognizing the ego as a separate part of the thought process is an incredible skill and you are working on it every time you come to class. The ego babbles at us all day long. It has a lot of wants and to get what it wants it guides our decision making in selfish ways. When you can decipher the ego from the other part of your thought process you are more likely to listen to the unselfish part of yourself. It becomes easier to choose what is best rather than what's best for one little ego. It is also easier to see that choosing what is best for the whole of humanity is choosing what is best for yourself.
The study of yoga includes Yama and Niyama - dos and donts - that are based on what's helpful and harmful to the individual and society. By design, yoga extends beyond the individual and to the society. In a healthy society each individual practices yoga and applies their knowledge through the way they live in their community.
You have chosen a practice that teaches compassion. I hope that you take the time to thank yourself for contributing a more peaceful world. END
April 19th, 2004
Hello Yogis and Yoginis! In last week's email we finished our reading of Joel Kramer's article. Can you believe? And it only took 6 months. Lets celebrate before we begin our next text. Much of what we've read in Joel's article and learned in class can be put into action outside of class. Lets spend this week by playfully putting our yoga knowledge into practice by being yogis full time.
* It takes over 40 muscles to frown and only three to smile. Save muscular energy - smile!
* Yoga teaches compassion. This week remove boundaries between you and the people around you. When someone does something that makes you mad dont judge them. Take a moment to remember a time when you were less than perfect and realize that you dont know what they're going through.
* Yoga develops awareness of thought patterns. Watch your thoughts. When they run wild or move in a negative direction or towards a repetitive pattern, change them. Take a few deep breaths and replace them with positive thoughts and see yourself happy and doing the things you want most.
* Yoga removes habit. This week fall asleep on your other side, wash with your other hand, talk on the phone with your other ear. Ask yourself why you do everything the way that you do and then do everything slightly different and notice what happens.
* Yoga reverses gravity. This week focus on feeling lighter. One way to do this is to do mountain pose wherever you are: standing on the street, in the subway etc.
* Yoga is often called a fountain of youth. In yoga class we are resist entropy by replenishing the body's vital fluids, oxygenating the blood, and opening the body up from skin to cells. This week feel younger.
* Yoga cultivates awareness.This week don't pass through life half aware, notice the subtleties of the world around you. Try pretending that familiar situations are new and happening for the first time. Decide how to respond rather than doing what you always do.
*Yoga creates energy. This week call upon energy when you need it. Use deep regulated breathing when you confront a situation that may require extra focus.
* Yoga is Play: Yes yoga is sort of serious work, but it's also playful. Yoga is a practice of realizing that you are part of the natural word and as such you are a creature of play. Play!
April 5th, 2004
Have you ever tried to not think? If you meditate your probably answering "Yes, but it's not easy!" Twelve small seconds of non-thought = meditation, anything less than 12 seconds is concentration. If you spend a day practicing non-thought you'll soon discover how difficult it is. You may also notice that what you are thinking most of the time is repetitive, you have the same thoughts over and over again. How tiring.
Vedanta philosophy calls these repetitive thoughts samskaras. It is said that samskaras make up all of reality as we know it. The yogis believe that all samskaras that have ever been thought are stored in the akasic records, a giant library of all there is. Each time you visit a particular samskara you link up with an imprint of every other person who has thought the same thing since the beginning of time. That's why some thoughts seem to have so much weight. Think of thoughts as grooves in a vinyl record. Once your in a groove it can be hard to get out. But you can. You can pave a new groove or jump to another groove. In other words, you don't have to be ruled by your thoughts. Like all good things this requires practice. If it were easy everyone would be gleefully happy all the time. And of course this takes me to our yoga "practice."
In yoga class we work on managing our thoughts all the time. One of the ways that we do this is by focusing on non-competition. This makes sense in the context of our society which is built on getting ahead. Success in yoga is measured by how well we understand where we are (our limit in a pose) relative to where we are going (the full pose), rather than on doing a perfect pose like someone else or like the pictures we've seen. To add another layer of complication, we are different every single day. If we can learn where our limits are each day and practice within them then we are practicing yoga and controlling our thoughts. By doing this we create a new samskara and that puts us well on our way to managing our thoughts in all areas of our lives. In this way the body is the mind's playground and yoga is a method for understanding the mind through physical practice.
March 29th, 2004
As I pasted this week's excerpt of Joel Kramers article Yoga as Transformation into this email, this line jumped out at me:
"Real growth and transformation move you not only from things you don't like, but also from pleasures and habits you're attached to. You cannot be certain how you would be if you were different or in what direction growth will take you."
I also noticed that our classes this week land on two Holidays: the Hindu holiday Rama Navami (Tuesday) and April Fools (Thursday).
As you consider what Joel Kramer is saying, that transformation has an element of chaos - the unknown, think of the god and goddess that rule these days. Rama Navami is a hindu god known for his extraordinary bravery and courage in the face of all adversities. The ancient goddess Eostre is a Saxon deity that rules the vernal equinox (the original April Fools Day) and marks the passage of time, new life and the transition from darkness and cold to warmth and light. Before the reform of the Gregorian Calendar April Fools was a celebration of the vernal equinox. Those who resisted the change in the calendar were considered "fools" and thus the name April Fools. Hummmm... resisting change... fools... now I'm not saying it's foolish to resist all change. I'd be happy if we were acknowledging the beautiful goddess Eostre rather than playing pranks on each other. But Joel Kramer is referring to change that follows removing unhealthy habits.
For this week I hope that you face change with the bravery of Rama Navami and that changes come to you with the welcome newness of the Spring that Eostre ushers in. And if all else fails, sing this mantra with foolish pride "Nice to meet me."
March 24th, 2004
Yoga: Managing the Intensity of the Modern World
On some days I find the news of the world to be to big to grasp. I often buy the paper and then it sits there unread because I get tired just imagining the amount of news that's inside it. On other days I rip through the news feeling unburdened. Did you know that if you read the Sunday edition of the New York Times from cover to cover you'll have taken in more information than a person living 100 years ago consumed in their entire life? I suppose we build new neuropathways for this sorta thing but at times it feels entirely overwhelming.
Each of us responds to over-stimulation, fast paced change and news of grand scale events differently. I flip-flop between ambitiously diving in and running for my life. I always wind up asking "Is anything constant?" There are so few constants in a changing world. Yoga is one. It's not just the regularity of going to class that makes it so, but the taming of the mind that we do in class. And you thought yoga was just physical? Na ah. All of that attention that we pay on the body and breath, feeling, adjusting, being aware... it's delivering us to being in the moment. The body is the minds laboratory for this learning. Once you find this yourself, nothing can shake you off of your center. And then of course kick back and read the paper cover to cover, if you have that kind of time!
March 15th, 2004
Yoga: Body Memory/Spring Cleaning
Ahhhh a sunny Monday! And another week of yoga practice. I've been tearing through my closet in preparation for my seasonal clothing swap. This got me to thinking about emotional Spring cleaning and our yoga practice. In class we often talk about resistance, and this week's text by Joel Kramer (below) is about the psychological aspects of resistance. Now you may be wondering how moving your body in strange formations, stretching and breathing can be so heady and what does this have to do with Spring cleaning? We all know that life dishes out some difficulties and none of us are free from having had painful experiences. Just thinking about them you can feel your body contort. That's because it remembers them just like your mind does. When we are experiencing something painful or difficult our bodies are experiencing it too. Maybe we hunch our shoulders or clinch our fists and you can bet that you inner body - organs, muscles, glands etc.. are all responding too. This response creates an imprint or a snapshot - a physical memory of the emotional experience. In yoga class, when we open the body from skin to organs to cells we release these memories. In class this may feel like surges of emotion - crying, giggling, fidgeting etc... What we're feeling is the release of these emotional memories. The good news is that once we've released it, we have taken it outside the body rather than storing it up inside. Sounds good right? Sounds a bit like emotional Spring cleaning to me! Now working with resistance is something that we learn to do week after week. If it were easy we wouldnt have to learn how. Join me in class for a Spring cleaning that will leave you free from emotional memories and able to treat every new experience fresh. Read below for Joel Kramer's insights on resistance.
March 8th, 2004
Hello Yogis & Yoginis, More snow and cold?!?! But it was 60+ degrees just the other day! Wahhhh?!?! As the weather threatens to drag us back to a wintery state of mind, consider this... your yoga practice can be compared to these tricks the weather is playing on us. No kidding. You may have noticed that your expectations of your body may not always align with your body's idea of where it is at. It's easy to expect our bodies to perform as they had in the past. "Last week I did a back bend so this week I should do a backbend" But this is not yogic thinking. The yogic quality of mind cultivates awareness. Awareness means that you are listening rather than projecting what 'should' be. "That's interesting, last week I did a backbend but this week I can not." With this quality of mind you are open to seeing the larger picture. Now you can notice that like nature we change every second because nothing in the natural world stays the same. Noticing subtle changes and working without expectation develops expanded awareness, whereas having expectations narrows awareness and invites disappointment.
You may have expected another 60 degree day today but ... the fact is that we're the same number of days from Spring as we were when it was 60+ degrees a just a couple of days ago. So enjoy a last chance to immerse yourself in wintery pleasures... port wine, hearty soup, fluffy sweaters and yummy cocoa!
March 1, 2004
Now that we're back to our regular yoga practice and I am home from the ashram, it's time again to think about all things yoga. But first please note that I've added a new yoga class. We now have yoga class twice a week: Tuesday's and Thursday's from 7 to 8:30. The new Thursday class is just getting off the ground so if you have friends who've wanted to do yoga, now is a great time to send them along.
You may be wondering how my spending a month on an ashram will affect our practice together. I'm happy to say that I've brought back many new things to advance our practice including pranayama.
Prana = life force (vital breath), yama = control. In other words control of the breath. The benefits of practicing pranayama are many including cleaning out the lungs (very important for city dwellers), and calming the mind (also very important for us city dwellers). The yogis say that prana is also accountable for what people call "magnetism." When the breath is coordinated with the movements of the body it changes the way that we're practicing yoga and allows us to go deeper. It also helps us to develop greater concentration and clarity of mind. Continued practice will bring the yogi a radiant and youthful glow.
This week we will begin our practice of pranayama by learning kapalabhati breathing, abdominal breathing, full yogic breath and anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing). I welcome you to explore with me the wonderful benefits of a balanced mind through regulated breathing.
Breathe the rest will follow