Thursday, June 24, 2010

Your Thing to Ponder (Despair = Joy)

"Discouragement and weariness are fruitful moments. They represent a natural pause that comes along to interrupt the course of our eagerness. The cessation of a dynamic carries space within itself. The guilty feeling of our incapacity can lead us to despair, and despair can lead us to silence and joy - provided that we dare to remain there, to settle in there, in some way. At the end of hope exists the seed of the end of fear, the smell of freedom and independence. Let us dare to abandon the frenzy of seeking. Let us dare to stand aloof, to doubt all that has seemed essential to us up until now, let us dare to stop believing in anything at all; then we will have the experience of a great letting go. Then, in this relaxing, we will perhaps be able to taste of the essence of inconceivable freedom." - Daniel Odier




Sunday, June 20, 2010

Little Letter to Equus

Horse, you are haunting. Not because you are a conditioned idea of fantasy and romance; not because of your "soulful", big brown eyes and brushable, braidable hair; not even because of your running and jumping and rolling, that "step or two from freedom" thing. People don't know what they want freedom from and they expect you to tell them?


No. You are a freakish embodiment of paradox, of heaven and hell, of chaos and peace. This is nature; I suppose it is what draws everyone to you despite their lack of really knowing why: you express freely what they are, what they can be if they step out of their own way. So of course, of course they want you. But you scare them, too - being reality and all. It is hard to face you and play with you as you really are. 


So then most people spend some time blundering around in the dark with you. Facing you is too weird, so they do all sorts of weird things to make it seem like they are reaching you. They try to perfect you, mechanize you, play games with you, dress you up and sanitize you. And suddenly you're out of sorts - often in a way that closely embodies the very qualities the human likes least about themselves. Suddenly you are so frustrating to the human and they can't figure why. Why? You force them to look - whether they understand that or not. So frustrating. They wanted you to be this oasis. They wanted to parade their achievement of mastery over you to someone. They want to run away from the world on your back, which of course will never work because you are the very thing they try to run from. 


Now they must erase you. You are a memory of a lost time, a lost wisdom; you make them ill because you reflect their ugliness, which they believe can't be true. So they try to shatter the mirror. They hit you. Twitch you. Sore you. Confine you. Force you. Scare you. Break you. Tame you. Slice your tongue. Tie your mouth shut. Crank the noseband until your bones break. Tie your head up until you can't help but carry it low. Pull your head in until you stop breathing and behave. This is mastery. This is skill. This is art. This is love. 


If I did the same to their child, or their aging parent, or their beloved, or their friend, I would be sadistic, sick, a torturer, inhumane, criminally insane. What, it's different because you outweigh them? Because you don't speak English? Because you regularly kick and bite your herd mates? And supposedly they revere you? Maybe they should revere themselves a little bit...


If you live with someone who still possesses the gall and the snobbery and old-fashioned stupidity to treat you as an animal rather than an oversized, retarded, human infant, to be firmly realistic and ever more subtle, to treat you as a working partner with a mind, to develop your strengths and utterly forget your faults, to become more like you, to desire nothing you cannot provide, you most likely don't know what I'm talking about. Long may it stay that way. 


Otherwise, fate save you from love and reverence, as it is nowadays. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Don't Just Exist

Asthma is making me uninspired and exhausted. I can't wait to get back to the luxury of sleeping lying down. Pathetic. 


Enjoy this video and go live your life until I find the muse again. I posted this on Facebook a little while back, but I'm sure you didn't watch it. So watch it now. 


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Your Daily Thing to Ponder (Spiritual Mirage)

"Anger, fear, hate, and jealousy are great gifts. Finally, we leave spiritual mirage behind. We are no longer this sanitized being smelling sweetly of lotus flower perfume. We smell like hate. We stink of it. This is reality. This is unity, at last! Transforming hate into love and compassion is like putting saran wrap over a container of rotting food; it does not resolve anything. We must go to the raw and direct feeling. There is nothing to transform. To transform is to lose the chance that we have been given to look at reality. The solution is in the problem and not in its solution. The problem is a marvelous gift."


-Daniel Odier

Observations

Am I crazy, or is the amount of time a hater spends obsessing over the object of said hate in direct proportion to if not greater than the amount of time they spend obsessing over something they "love"?.


Whether something costs $8.00, $80.00, or $800.00, it's tacky to make a point of making sure everyone knows how much it cost and where you got it.


There is nothing more unflattering and unimpressive than being harsh with an animal to get it to do what you want. There is a reason it didn't listen when you asked nicely. Furthermore, why SHOULD it listen? You didn't prove anything by dragging your arthritic dog up the porch by his collar because he wasn't moving fast enough for your backwater, ignorant ass. Except that you're ignorant and you probably treat your woman and children in a similar fashion.


Yoga isn't a sport. Stop being so serious.


Sometimes...you just don't get a shower. 


The trick to dressing cheap while looking like money is keep your mouth shut. It's entirely possible that the girl next to you got that bag at Kmart...but you think it's worth a grand purely due to her ability to fake it. And, let's face it, she might simply have better taste than you. 


Kind of related to a lot of these little ideas: I hate people who hate people who are better at something than they are.


Vegetarianism/veganism won't make you skinny or model-esque or trendy, even. Unbalanced vegetarianism/veganism will make you ill. Like, what do you THINK you're going to look like if all you eat is pasta and rice cream? I'm not saying don't do it. I think it's grand. I'm saying do it smart or quit bitching about your itchy skin and puffy face and irritable bowels. That rule applies to everything, actually. Go ahead, test it against something else.


Tell me whether or not you enjoy a convertible car, and I'll tell you who you are.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your Daily Thing to Ponder (Ultimate Courage)

"There comes a day in the practice of yoga when the entire reality of the world, all its forces, all its antagonisms, begin to run together and to have a single taste and smell. The absolute smells wonderfully good, and its most fetid components are part of this divine perfume. 


"Practicing this way is practicing without interruption but with extreme care for punctuation. Practicing intermittently, returning to the ashram after work, is a way of refusing the continuity of mystical experience. The continuity can never be experienced that way, since only a part of the Self returns. Nothing can be divided. There can't be a box for the pleasures of the mind, a box for the pleasures of the body, a box for the divine, a box for violence, a box for those without social standing, a box for the privileged. 


"The real way life works is that everything communicates and everything transmits a charge. Fragmentation leads to explosions on the individual and social levels. Everything separate is destined to die out. To be alive is an act of ultimate courage, since to live is to realize how immaterial these divisions and boxes are, and to throw oneself into the great maelstrom. Contrary to what most people think, there is no risk in throwing oneself into the maelstrom, but one can know that only after having jumped. And that's the difficult part, to jump. 


"To jump! That's the Great Yoga!"


(from TANTRIC QUEST by Daniel Odier)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Your Daily Thing to Ponder (Those Who Wait)

"Do not approach the sport faintheartedly or you will miss the uplift of spirit it can provide. Those who must wait for perfect weather and footing seldom go out fox hunting." - Sheila Wall Hundt


Addendum: Do not come at me with any animal rights blah blah blah. I am not condoning or condemning the sport. I posted the quote entirely for the philosophy in it. I can't believe I even have to explain this...but let's get real, I do. 



Simple

In the kitchen around 2:00 a.m., I thought:


Whether a person is afraid of commitment, or believes that once they commit to something they can never, ever change their mind even slightly, they are being driven by the same fear. 


A person fears commitment because they know, if only subconsciously, the reality of change. Therefore, a commitment feels like a trap, an anchor, a final sentence: change will come and they won't be able to escape. What this person does not understand is the nature of change and the possibility of what change can be. They feel caged by something that exists only in their mind. How one handles change is what change can be.


A person fears changing their mind because they believe it compromises their credibility or their time, perhaps. So people stick with education, work, other people, etc. that they no longer jive with. Why? "Well, because I committed to it." So you did. And so what. Now your internal compass shifts, and you refuse to follow it? To be more specific, your internal compass shifts a degree, you overreact, and tip over one edge or the other instead of simply rebalancing. 


Both people are afraid of being something other than linear, one-dimensional, predictable. Both fear the same thing: change. Change equals the unknown. The unknown represents the big change, the big fear: death. But you came out of your mother changing. Dying. You are shedding skin, losing hair, and exhaling right now. You are constantly expiring. So what's unknown? 


Evolution is constant; change comes inexorably. If you commit to being aware of your internal state, of what you truly feel and who you truly are at any moment, you won't go wrong. Throw yourself completely into life without fearing the shifts that inevitably come - ride them and don't resist. 


It's simple. That's why we can't do it. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Your Daily Thing To Ponder (Protective Prison)

It's late. I'm grouchy. More tomorrow.

"Education, society, sick love, hate, desire, jealousy, ambition, mental and material quests - all these things make us strangers to ourselves. We think only of copying, imitating, achieving new states, and whether or not our desires are fulfilled, we lose the happiness within us. Then we come to imagine heaven and hell separate from ourselves. This is great subterfuge, which allows our consciousness to function outside of ecstasy. If man knew that he himself was God and heaven and hell, no illusions would have a hold of him; nothing could limit his consciousness. Placing heaven outside self allows suffering to become an institution maintained by society's dream at such a high level that we can no longer escape from it. Whatever our fortune starting out in life, a day comes when we decide to limit our consciousness, to dry it up."

Also:

"Everything is rushed. How long since we've delighted in eating a piece of fruit? How long since kissing's made us lose our breath, feel dizzy, and blush as a wave of energy surges through our bodies? How long since our lips have traveled up and down the whole body of the one we love? How long since we've smelled the world? How long since we've sensed a being's distress or joy by the odor? How long since we've lost ourselves looking at the marvelous wings of a butterfly, at the clouds, at the stars, at the bark on a tree, or into the eyes of another human being? How long since we've understood what another human being says to us, not by the words but by the inflections of the voice, its timbre and tone?

"Without a deep connection to these things, the heart is not opened. All that we exclude from our experience because of principle, belief, fear, ideals, ignorance, or lack of attention feeds our protective systems, which are slowly transformed into prisons. The day comes when we are so well protected that others no longer even think of speaking to us, looking at us, touching us, tasting us, or listening to us."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Your Daily Thing to Ponder

"What does the worshiper do? He cleans the temple. How? By asking all who have been sitting there forever to leave so he can sweep, throw fresh water drawn from the river on the stones, scatter rose petals. Very quickly, the worshiper takes count of those sitting in his consciousness who refuse to leave the temple. Why? Because, like us, they are afraid. It is because of fear that the consciousness remains cluttered. Not the little fears, easy to define, not the fear of this or that, but the great fundamental fear, which is the fragile terrain on which we construct all our dreams, and which, one day or another, paralyzes us and destroys what we have constructed with so much care.

"The day to act arrives. You purify yourself by bathing in the sacred river. You feel alive and full of determination. You draw fresh water, take a broom, gather a basket of rose petals, and enter the temple of consciousness. That is meditation: to enter fresh, the mind alive and alert in the temple of consciousness. You see them, all seated, immobile, anchored in the ground, fossilized. They have been there for such a long time. They have loved you so much, given you so much, spared you so much. Since you were very young, their voices have guided you. Even now, at this moment, as they watch you enter, ready to clean, freshen, and scent, they talk to you and you listen: 'Listen, this is what we think of you. Since you were young, we've been trying to keep you from danger, to warn you of life's pitfalls. We punish you when you make a mistake, but when you listen to us, when you are a good boy, we reward you, we sing your praises, and, thanks to us, you haven't come out too badly. Now then, don't chase us away. Keep listening to our voices, following our advice. We only want what's best for you. Freedom? It's chaos. Listen to us closely, follow the way we show you, and all will go well.'

"But in this instant, you know that you have listened too much, that these stone-colored men are there only to keep you from scattering the roses and fresh water. That all is not going so well. You are like two fears face-to-face. Like two fears finding themselves nose-to-nose in a dark forest, full of creaking and cracking and other frightening sounds. One fear says to itself, 'Let's hope he doesn't do anything to eject us from the temple!' The other fear says to itself, 'Let's hope they don't get up to go out! What would become of me without them!' And like that, day after day, one compromises with the consciousness, receives blame and encouragement, falls into line, and becomes someone for whom grayness is acceptable. All of society adores the monochrome of gray. Gray is the most widespread color. There are millions of varieties. Gray is the ideal color for social camouflage. It is thanks to our gray that we manage to exist socially, to merge into the immense cauldron of suffering and ordinary violence."

-from Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Upside Down


“Peace is not the same as being anesthetized.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Find freedom within your harness. Find your practice and return to it, day after day, with the understanding that everything can be new. I am not saying force it to be new by pasting a “calm” half-smile on your face while you breathe shallowly through your gritted teeth. I am not saying ignore your pain. I am not saying pretend that the sun always shines. It doesn’t.

I’m suggesting that, whatever you practice, really know that you don’t know what will happen. Be infatuated with the process. It’s insanely difficult to gather all your energy and intention into right now, but right now is all you have. I know. I know. That sounds a little trite…but it’s not, so I’m allowed to say it. Spend about five minutes thinking clearly about that so-called triteness, and you’ll find it to be true.

Today I came under some minor fire about my plans for the sort-of immediate future: “It’s not a sure thing.” Guess what? Life is not a sure thing. Right now, the only mostly sure thing is that waiting and stagnation just breed more of the same, and nothing falls into one’s lap unless one happens to be really stupid lucky. Guess what else? Luck is spelled W-O-R-K.

Life is not a sure thing. Take that reality into your practice, your yoga – whatever you do that gets you “there”. You’ll find this incredible expansion; you’ll find all the juice hidden inside “ordinary”. I mean, really. Have you ever really paid attention?

Instead of bracing yourself against the inevitable pain, maybe remember that it will pass and most likely will pass quicker if you just give up fighting. Ever tried embracing exactly what is, without much thought about it? The pain passes so fast. You forget the concept of unsatisfactory. The instant I quit trying so hard to hold myself up on my hands, I knew how gentle real strength is. I simply was strong enough, and paradoxically, did not need to be all that strong, because in giving up you become weightless.

One of the first things they teach you with horses is how to fall. You’ll hear it in regards to inversions in yoga, too. It only takes rolling right over your neck and crumbling out of a headstand to stop fearing the fall, and suddenly you’re cool with playing left, right, forwards, and back of center. And suddenly going upside down becomes effortless. The impossible becomes possible and now contains the depth, the freedom you so desperately tried to muscle your way to. You have harnessed it…and still, you control nothing.

Go upside down and learn how to fall. 

Tragic

"But horses are tragic beasts, especially good horses, especially good Thoroughbreds...a Thoroughbred is likelier than not to press on. That's what we ask of them. But, I ask myself, at what cost? We rely on them not to consider the cost, but to press on anyway. That's heart, you know. They have great hearts. But it's their downfall, that they don't feel the cost until they've paid it." - Jane Smiley

Friday, June 4, 2010

Veil

“It should be clear that telling the truth to another person has little meaning until we first remove this veil of self-deception. It is ourselves we have deceived, and it is ourselves to whom we must first be true.” – John McAfee

Hiding in a cave does not mean one found “enlightenment” or is even in the process of doing so. Maybe he actually fears taking his blinders off, or maybe he can only keep them off if he doesn’t have to be faced with any potential ugliness. Not only does he ignore the world as it is, but he ignores his world as it is – he creates a cave in his mind. Behind thick rock walls he can hide from his violence, his lies, his lust, his greed, his jealousy…from his human reality. Is that strength, or discipline, or equanimity? I doubt it. Remaining on even keel in spite of the world around you – or better yet, doing so while simply being part of the world around you – seems stronger than retreating from the darkness that exists within the light outside, and then shouting advice to all of us “unenlightened” people who choose to stay out.

We can’t will anything into existence. This includes so-called “right” in opposition to “wrong”. Likewise, it hardly counts to will life away in order to be “right” or a “real” yogi. In trying to force change, to force enlightenment, to strangle the things you think shouldn’t exist within you, you are behaving in as ego-rooted a way as the next heathen or complete idiot or whoever. In short, you deceive yourself when you shut out life in the name of some ideal…an ideal you won’t reach through shutting down, anyway. You might lie to yourself enough and believe you’ve reached it, but some part of you will be out of balance. Off-natural. And that isn’t really yoga.

How you deal with the things that are truly, fully, messily part of really living defines your spirituality, and I think spirituality is simply a way of walking the Path (a.k.a. life) without the blinders and without the huge stick up your ass. “Wrong” or the things we label “wrong” seem more like a symptom, at worst, and we never solve anything by only eliminating (or more likely, covering up) the symptom. The sickness remains, maybe becoming fatal or perverted. We become chronically crippled and call it saved. Be really honest. It’s not the sex or the ice cream or the violence or the emotion making you less “yogic” or “spiritual” or whatever you like to call it. Try looking for the actual disease instead of the symptom.

Anyone, most likely, can hide in their personal cave and ignore life and start hearing the voice of God. When you start to see God in the gutter with the trash, then you’re on to something. When you stop needing to define God, you are getting even closer. When you stop needing to define and sanction and compartmentalize every little thing into mind-numbing, tiny, insignificant, stupid bits and pieces, then you’re really deep. Humans, all on their own, created the concept of opposition, of versus, of disharmony. None of that exists in nature, and nature doesn’t bothering agonizing over the fact that it isn’t agonizing. “Is that wrong?!?!?” We cause ourselves all this grief through division.

Can I say that real presence is not dividing things? Distraction is only distraction because you labeled it thus and now you believe it. You only see hours of meditation and fasting and lifetimes without love and pretending you’re not an animal as better because you labeled it “better” and so you believe it. Division. Problematic bullshit and you created it. You create your disharmony and unhappiness. Maybe being a fanatical loon and humming mantras constantly to attempt to drown out the traffic isn’t helping. Maybe people need to stop dividing themselves from what they just are, stop dividing themselves from their animal natures, stop believing that they must do what Sri So-And-So said at all costs, stop not being real, and maybe unity – yoga (insert choirs of angels here) – comes. Naturally.

Stop trying so damn hard to swim upstream and be a useless hero. Let go and let the power of the flow just take you where you want to go and make you everything you’ll ever be anyway. Slow down and do exactly what you’re feeling, and things will be different. And I’m not talking just laying around and hugging trees all day when I say “slow down”. Slowing down mentally, physically, and otherwise forces you to think, first of all, and thus forces you to get to know the concept of intention, which forces you to use power over momentum. Forcing you, essentially, to tap into a lot of stuff you ignore or think you don’t possess.

Uncomfortable? Probably, at least on occasion. But it’s so much faster then running in circles for years and decades doing that pretending-to-be-okay-and-harmonious-when-I’m-really-not-and-I-don’t-know-why thing in your little cave.

BabbleBabble BitchBitch

I am kind of small, Caucasian, less than 100 years old, and naturally enthusiastic about striving for constant improvement in the things I am passionate about. Does that make me less of a yogini? The girl with no hamstring injuries and more fantastic extension than me is no more of a yogini, same as the woman who will never attempt the more "out there" postures and frankly isn't interested isn't less than me. Being a purist doesn't bring you closer to it, and neither does looking down on said purist. Being cliquey about your particular style and methods is just high school bullshit - I don't care how many malas you've collected or how many times you've been to India or whatever. You're still acting like that privileged little ignoramus I couldn't stand back in 2000. What the hell IS yoga, anyway, that everyone keeps arguing about it as if they KNOW?

1) I am well aware of and not missing the irony in the pages upon pages of ads in a fucking yoga magazine for designer clothes, designer mats, designer laxatives, designer retreats, designer jewelry and all the other ridiculous yoga stuff. Personally, it makes me laugh and roll my eyes and not really take any of the articles seriously because obviously the rag is not that interested in being more than mostly fluff. But I don't lose sleep over it nor do I bother flaming the editors about it, because if they really wanted to do something REALLY different, they'd run ads with more "average" models (or - let's get real crazy - models like some of loopier folk that regularly attend yoga classes!) or whatever else you wish they would do without being asked. And what is "average"? Let's not shoot me off on a whole different tangent, please. The point is...don't attack young naturally-small Caucasian girls. We didn't write the damn magazine and most of us actually wish said magazine would get real as much as everyone else. We get older every day, just like you. You were 26 once. Why don't you just write a letter tearing apart the magazine's lack of being a solid publication in general? It would be more effective.

2) If you need told that the physical practice that most Americans are familiar with is less than a century old and is not entirely some divine download but an amalgamation of the intelligence of humans who made a point to live in both the spiritual-traditional and on the cutting edge of their time AND THAT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT...you've.been.brainwashed. WAKE UP. Go read the damn book, maybe, that this guy is talking about.

3) Same as that reverse-bashing-pigeonholing thing with young flexible people. Why do you hate someone who is exceptional at whatever they do? What IS that? And how is she personally harming you or pigeonholing YOU? She is not. Neither is she missing the point of yoga (I am going to get to that in a minute.). Mediocrity and protecting it is so uncool. And the fact that maybe you can't wrap your leg behind your head does not make you mediocre. Read that sentence again, please...okay. What makes you mediocre is if you saw someone with their leg wrapped behind their head and instantly got snotty and jealous and down on yourself and started with that, "Wellthat'snotyoganywayIcouldneverdothatblahblahblah". You're mediocre because you didn't TRY. You're mediocre because you don't attempt the best version of your leg behind your head on any given day. Finally, if you know you have tight hamstrings (and that's a basic yes-or-no) and you try to push your body beyond its range of motion because you think it makes you more of yogi...that is so your own fault.

So. Back to my main gripe about all my fellow American yogis thinking they are so right and everyone else is so wrong. Do you even know what you're arguing about? What exactly are you defending? You know you want to go to that huge summer solstice thing where everyone is going to practice in Times Square; you love the unity and togetherness of the whole idea...but you'll all be acting snarky. You know you will! The power yogis will being in one quadrant, the Anusaris in another, the Svaroopis won't go but will definitely organize their own solstice party which will almost certainly involve a lot of sorrowful head shaking and tsk-tsking...you know it, and don't act like I'm out of line. All this stupidness and boundaries created over whose lineage came first and whose is "real" and...do we know what yoga is yet? Let's ask the son of that troublemaker T. Krishnamacharya.

In case you are not familiar with it, T.K.V. Desikachar wrote a solid book called The Heart Of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. The more I read it, the more I find in it. Anyway, the titles of some of the chapters alone give a good clue as to what yoga is, where it originates from, what the point of it is: "The Things That Darken the Heart", "Living In The World", "The World Exists To Set Us Free", "The Many Paths Of Yoga"...do I need to go on? Probably. Quite early in the book, Desikachar provides sentence after sentence of to-the-point ideas that you'd think would dissolve all this yogic hierarchy shit. But...to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh...sometimes people have a lot of fluff stuck in their ears...

"Yoga is intimate." "It has to be the right yoga for the person." "A guru is not one who has a following. A guru is one who can show me the way." "Every change is yoga." "We begin where and how were are, and whatever happens, happens." "There are many definitions of yoga, and I have already mentioned some of them: yoga as the movement from one point to another, higher one; yoga as the bringing together, the unifying of two things; yoga as action with uninterrupted, undivided attention. These definitions of yoga all have one thing in common: the idea that something changes." "That which was impossible becomes possible; that which was unattainable becomes attainable; that which was invisible can be seen."

Do I need to keep going? I almost can't. How much clearer does it have to be?

Desikachar offers multiple definitions of the word asana but two of them are particularly striking: "to stay" and "to be". So, then, even the relatively young physical practices are, at the end of the day, a practice, a reflection, an expression of the choice that all of us living make every minute: to stay. To be here. To live. What it means to live. Change. One second to the next.

How is that useless? How is that contained within styles? How is that something to break into bitchy little factions over? How is that right or wrong? How is that even restricted to what we typically consider to be yoga? How, then, is yoga not a hugely beautifully individual thing that always has and always will continue to evolve? Change. One second to the next.

It seems like a "no duh" explanation, but unfortunately it seems to need explained over and over again: yoga is not the moves, the breath, the concentration, or any other method. Yoga is what occurs between each movement, in the pause between breaths, in the break between thoughts. Something that leaves you behind when you attempt to chase it. Beyond that, I can only tell you what it's not.

Violence In Your Heart

"It should be obvious that the condition of non-violence would never need to be raised if we were not in fact violent people. We might reject that conclusion on a personal level, while recognizing violence in others, but if we are honest with ourselves we will see that violence is an integral part of our nature.

"What are we to do then with this violence which is part of our being? If we attempt to overcome it, don't we commit violence against ourselves? We struggle against our own violence, attempt to subdue it, contain it, eradicate it, and this effort is violence.

"...There is no formula for self-discovery...Our violence is a fact, as factual as the page on which these words are printed. To see the root of our violence we only need to look." - John McAfee

I am thinking of the stereotypical yoga lady. You know her. She's anywhere from mid-twenties to mid-forties in age. Fairly well off or pretending well, otherwise she wouldn't be rocking her pRana headband, tank, and super breathe-weave non-chafing anti-funk capris (all matched in a chic burnout print), unrolling her Jade mat, or delicately refueling on some 200% "organic" yoga snack on her way to the spa to maintain her tan and pedicure. If her elitist presence doesn't scare off those people considering yoga (obviously a fat chunk of cash is a serious requirement for enlightenment and will sculpt your ass quicker, too), then her personal torture on a rectangle of rubber will.

She steps to the top of her mat and strangles it with her toes. She grinds her palms together EXACTLY in line with the center of her chest. Shoulders tense. Veins already popping out in her neck as she brutally kicks all thought from her mind with an impatient exhale. Her namaskars put you in mind of some mutant cross of a toy soldier and a Clydesdale: rigor mortis limbs up down up down, leaping crashing thudding snorting. Brow knitted and already starting to drip. (But you've GOT to sweat, damn it, or you're not burning through your impurities to the center of your being...or burning through the B&J's you are SO regretting this morning...)

And not just sweating, but running soaked by the time she gets to the standing poses. Which there are a lot of and stacked in sets of five or ten that play hell on her human anatomy (she almost always gets a massage after class, how could she not?). Glaring at herself in the mirror as she suffers in one of the multitude of Warrior variations, she can smirk in miserable satisfaction. The sweat glistening on her arms (which could be slightly more toned...hopefully we do a lot of static holding on the elbows in plank or maybe just a thousand more poorly executed chaturangas) looks GOOD, yeah. She's a real yogi, man: she yanks, forces, struggles, shakes, cramps, sweats, yanks some more, pushes, shoves, and oh yeah, sweats. Good thing her outfit doesn't trap moisture or odor. She's all hard angles, stressed joints, heavy breathing, and is absolutely wiped out by the time she reaches savasana. As it should be. Right?

"They look more like real yogis. You know..." No, I don't. What the hell is a REAL yogi? For sure it's not the lady whose "practice" totally turned me off and actually scared me a little. What she just showed me was nothing short of violent...and if you can't see that, I can't help you. I wish I could, but sorry. Can't. See it first, then come talk to me. Once you see it, we really don't even need to talk, because I'll have nothing to tell you that you didn't already figure out by yourself. Once you see it.

And if what you do on the mat reflects what you do in life...then what is yoga doing for her? There are all kinds of ways to beat your body and soul to death. Yoga - real yoga, whatever that is and I do not presume to have an answer - should not be one of them. It IS not. If you're beating your body and soul to death in the name of yoga, you aren't anywhere near yoga anyway. It protects itself by remaining elusive to those who exploit it.

They love running around in cute t-shirts with poor old Gandhi's wisdom printed across their (maybe) artificial breasts, while real violence continues to surge through them and their lives. It is a subtle surge...or perhaps not. Look again.

The Game

Following a terribly interesting and inspiring conversation late last night (or early this morning, however you like it), I spontaneously remembered this passage, which mirrors a lot of the fundamentals of said conversation.

"The state in which a given tantrika finds himself, even within society, is exactly this state of joy, of marveling, of jubilation. All his experience is like a spring that is continually regenerating itself and encouraging him to come to know the limitless in the most banal experiences. Often we imagine that the mystic life involves intense moments of encounters with the divine. For tantrikas, the mystic life is drinking a glass of water, putting one's feet in the river, sitting at the foot of a tree or on the terrace of a cafe', listening to the night, waiting for the bus, looking at the stars, walking, eating. Becoming an ordinary person again.

"Within the framework of society, it means living very normally. Tantric masters keep working, at the same time teaching a few disciples. Sometimes they have very simple jobs, because they are people from all walks of life: garbage men, butchers, civil servants, prostitutes, engineers. They find fulfillment in making sandals, cooking galettes, spinning pots, or selling lentils. It is thus truly possible to live this fulfillment in the most everyday reality." - Daniel Odier

We think too much. We all want to be rock stars. We want to be seen. Our hyper-individualism grabs us by our very suggestible brains and refuses to let go. We all get off on being a lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing", sound and fury that, for the most part and despite our desperation, goes unnoticed by the majority. And if you're like me, you get so furious, so hurt, so irritated with the world, the world you're stuck in, the time that completely does not suit you. You just do not understand how so many people can not understand.

But time and again, someone a little wiser reminds you that, well, you are here. This IS the time you're upon. What are going to do about it? And you realize that the only person keeping you shackled and unhappy is YOU. By refusing to play the game. By forgetting that the only really important thing in this world is breathing another day; everything else can wait. By remembering simplicity and how it actually has everything to do with intelligence.

You can play the game and remain whatever you are and maintain the things you find essential. All the weirdness and beauty and existential oddness you love so much can only be helped by your willingness to play, to remember that it is just a game, to keep that secret smirk in your heart.

Lost Bodies

"Undesirable" human behavior springs from that longing for freedom, because most humans can't figure out how to access "out-of-my-head" without intoxication, immersion in distraction, getting off (not just sexually), etc. It simply is not provided; it needs to be provided because not everyone can just find it and not everyone possesses the will to seek it out alone. The matter/spirit split does not help at all.

To be difficult, "undesirable" behavior actually is not undesirable or wrong or whatever you want to call it. True wise men and women long understood the validity of drugs, alcohol, sex, food, dance - really any sensory, "base" pleasure - as gates to pass through into ecstasy, our natural state. Any gate is a perfectly valid gate. Recognizing that a gate is just a gate - that's where wisdom comes in. Understanding the gate for what it is and retaining your common sense awareness even as you fully dive in.

The challenge in our hyper-modern, hyper-dual, neck-up society is finding a way to set ordinary people on the path to this understanding. As a teacher, you can't just start waxing philosophical about heaven not being a tangible location or encouraging drunken orgies. The heaven talk just offends most people and as for the orgy...that would be like asking someone to write a thesis in another language when they aren't even familiar with its alphabet. Even something fairly simple (or not) like living the paradox of materialism and mysticism just does not make sense to the multitude of nice-house-nice-car-twoandahalf kid-nine-to-fivers. You must begin from some kind of common ground, someplace fully accessible - though for many, this home turf is mistaken as alien.

I refer to the body. We all live in a body. Our bodies are alive, though they may not always feel that way. The body is a vehicle, a mount, a stage, paints and inks. And while it is absolutely possible to access ecstasy through riding or performing or creating art, the easiest place to access ecstasy may be through the moving body. Because movement is life. Movement remains the most natural, archaic, straightforward way back to the truth: that we ARE natural, old as time, uncomplicated - dare I suggest divine. Divine in that we are greater than we think and that we are as part of, as enmeshed in, the universe as electrons and water.

By healing the schism between matter and spirit in the body, through the template of the body, this healing naturally carries over into the "rest" of our life - all our more macrocosmic schisms can be healed by first doing it through the microcosm of the body. Doing this through yoga asana is natural, because yoga by its very nature transcends splits. Yoga functions as both a science of the body and bodily art. Yoga understood through Patanjali's asthanga - eight limbed - system also naturally embraces the concept of wholeness. If the eight limbs are practiced in parallel development, the entire human is being worked on, from the gross physical to the loftiest spiritual and all that lies in between.

The definition or translation of asana that most people are told is "seat". Most teachers will then tell the student that this of course refers to padmasana or full lotus, the archetypal seated meditation position. Following that explanation usually comes the diatribe about all the other physical yoga postures being useful only to the extent that they prepare the body and mind to sit comfortably for long periods of time in padmasana. This isn't false but at the same time it feels like only a slice of the whole truth, especially regarding the usefulness of yoga in our present time.

A definition of asana that feels more natural and whole expands upon the meaning of "seat" as not just referring to a seated meditation posture, but to rootedness and the human connection with the rest of nature. Asana could then be a method of developing and expressing our connection to the world. Connection to the world is not just how we relate to the world, but also how the world moves us, our story of being part of this world, what the world does to us and what we do to the world. This is a deeply moving concept. And isn't it interesting how we sum up strong emotion, reaction, or feeling as being MOVED? We never say, "That song really seated me"...no, we are always moved, stirred, driven, inspired. And one could argue that often accompanying a deep connection to a piece of music or a work of art or simply watching the play of light and color at dusk comes a profound stillness. But if you really pay attention, you will notice that stillness rests at the core of the sweeping, powerful, moving energy of our heart's response.

Inspiration. Respiration. At the core of our embodied existence is the movement of respiration, the spiral contraction and expansion of our heart to power that respiration. Motion, flux, fluidity, and energetic phenomena are the root of everything we are as humans, all the way through to the cellular and subatomic. It seems almost ridiculously ignorant to push our moving reality to the side, making it subpar with the static supposed holiness of viewing the body as mere annoyance, trash that we are trapped in until the grand day when our super-consciousness blows out the back of our skulls.

Certain individuals come out with witty comments like, "If sensory and worldly pleasure were the path to the Self, everyone would be a mystic. Why aren't they?" Allow me to retort that if sitting still as a corpse for hours on end and staring into space while barely breathing were the only answer, then you could find a mystic in almost every home or office in America.