“This time, however, my fear was a true novelty. It came from an unknown part of the world and hit me in an unknown part of myself.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-16

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  • http://veryawesomeworld.com/ #
  • Asana and Pranayama practices have a beautiful and complementary energy-relationship: http://bit.ly/hoIcvY #
  • how to create data-ENTRY forms on WordPress using Contact Form 7: http://bit.ly/foyMTi #
  • @raymondpirouz what brought on the spiritual wave in your thoughts and words today? 🙂 #
  • @raymondpirouz that 9 year old left you a precious gift in her death 🙂 may it stay with u and move u for a long time. #
  • @zenpeacekeeper I think this is true of any change – it's so much slower then we want it 2b: http://bit.ly/gs1Yb2 @alanna_shaikh & @fpfj #
  • @zenpeacekeeper "outsider" or "tourist" is a taking relationship, "resident" is a participating give and take relationship #
  • @zenpeacekeeper time is just one factor … not deciding … people can be "outsiders" for many years without ever connecting #
  • @zenpeacekeeper as for change … all one can do is sow seeds with good intentions … the rest is not really up to us is it? #
  • @zenpeacekeeper ironically … I think it's possible to be an outsider not only towards your surroundings but towards yourself as well #
  • we have a date tonight with another couple who are looking to build a sustainable home in Romania … excited 🙂 #
  • we have established contact with the local faculty of architecture … two meetings expected there in the coming weeks 🙂 #
  • @zenpeacekeeper so much is out of our hands 🙂 all we can hope 2 master (not quite control) is clear perceptions, intentions and actions 🙂 #
  • starting a new series of posts to tell an "in real time" story of how a website evolves: http://bit.ly/eJHKNn #
  • Passivhaus, though a commendable effort, feels 2me like more of an academic excercise then a practical building method: http://bit.ly/iaWlu1 #
  • @lifeinromania multumesc 🙂 more on hemp coming tomorrow (I hope 🙂 #
  • I offer Samual Mockbee's Rural Studio as a reality check for the Passivhaus peple: http://bit.ly/eAoj3N #
  • this is one of those days where meditation leaves with an overflow of inspiration that overwhelms and drowns my mind #
  • and the crazy thing is that everything is connected on a thread … these aren't some out of the blue unrelated to anything ideas .. #
  • approach yoga with empty-hands and an open-heart, do not approach Yoga with an agenda: http://bit.ly/dQlenv #
  • starting an excel for construction costs … this is actually happening!! wow! #
  • man standing outside of Cluj market carrying a leather-bag … pulls out a chicken for sale 🙂 #romania #
  • what happened to Hemp in Romania? http://bit.ly/eXCxy2 if you know something about it please drop by and leave a comment #
  • the best freely available information I found (so far) on growing hemp was published in the USA in 1942: http://bit.ly/e0DaAa #
  • started reading the #1 book on my house-building reading list – about wood framing … empowering to sense I can do this w/my own 2 hands #
  • alpine skiing on Eurosport, coffee, fresh home made chocolate cake … life is good 🙂 #
  • oh and … when did poker become a sport? mind boggling … though it does make it easier to digest dart throwing as a sport #
  • @Shuliji may you find loving kindness towards your disappointment and anger 🙂 #
  • @Shuliji may you find loving kindness towards your disappointment and anger 🙂 #
  • embarking on "firefox-tab-closing" mini-project, 2 many open threads, need to do some writing, linking and closing #
  • I whistle better pulling air in then blowing air out! #
  • so now I really get the difference between wood framing and timber framing: http://bit.ly/hPo1nW #
  • JOB = Just Over Bankruptcy? #

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Yoga Will Not Deliver

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Do you practice Yoga? Why?

Is it explicable? Is it because there is something about yourself you don’t like? Is it because you’ve seen someone else do something you can’t do but want to do too? Is it because someone has promised that Yoga will make  you thinner, wiser, kinder, strong, more flexible, forever englightened?

Is it inexplicable? Is it because there is something deep inside you that you can’t quite put into words that is looking to make a connection? Is it because something seems to be missing from your understanding of this thing called life and the world around you?

It doesn’t really matter because either way Yoga will not deliver. Yoga will not live up to your expectations. This isn’t a chance occurence … it’s a systemic quality of Yoga … as if it’s designed to challenge and shatter them. Whatever your bring to the Yoga table, Yoga will probably question and undermine it.

The roots of wanting to practice Yoga are in an unknown place deep inside. Like a left-over question “why?” that you can’t quite shake off and  nothing you do or think of seems to satisfy. Yet when we approach Yoga we come at it with existing patterns – including a pattern of yearning for and seeking satisfaction. Yoga will not deliver.

You can think of Yoga as a shy and delicate entity. It needs a warm and supportive embrace to emerge from your shell. If you become demanding and aggressive it will disappear faster then you can say namaste … and then you have to be even warmer and more supportive for it to appear again.

You can also think of Yoga as a powerful and resilient entity. Your petty concerns, wishes and expectations do not even scratch its surface. It will ignore and skip over you unless you achieve a critical mass of presence and resolve worthy of its attention.

Yoga will only meet you on it’s terms not on yours. Yoga will offer you a clear and uncompromising reflection of what you are, not what you think you are or what you want to be. It will be an honest picture not necessarily a pretty one.

If you come to Yoga empty-handed and open-hearted you will come away with something new, something you didn’t already have.

If you come to Yoga with an agenda two things can happen. If it reflects something aligned with your agenda, something you can “like”, then you’ve got nothing new – just confirmation of something you already knew. If it reflects something in conflict with your agenda, something you can “dislike”, then you’ve got something you need to lose (as if your going to do that without putting up a fight!).

With an agenda you can either gain nothing or lose something. Without an agenda you gain something every time.

If you want to sustain your Yoga practice leave all your expectatins at the door. Definitely stay away from doors with a door-man hading you a menu or a fortune cookie telling you what you will find inside.

A good reason to practice (probably the only one that will get you to practice) is that you want to. A good reason to avoid practice (probably the one that will keep you from practicing) is that you don’t want to.

Unmet expectations will suck your well of motivation dry – leaving you with good reason to avoid practice. Unmet expectations is your own personal baggage – it is you that brings it to the practice and it is you that walks away not wanting to practice.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Pranayama Before Kriya

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There is too much evidence that Kriya practices have, like many other Yoga practices, devolved into a fashion based on superficial information. This includes practices like Neti (cleansing of the nasal passages for which  you can find “instructional” videos on YouTube or accessories in Yoga shops) and Vasti (enemas) which (though thankfully not yet represented on YouTube) are sometimes offered by fashionable “Ayurvedic” clinics as periodical cleansing treatments. So I thought it may be a good idea to visit the HYP (Hatha Yoga Pradipika) where these practices are described to gain some perspective.

Before delving into the specifics of the the Kriyas (and yes, their relationship with Pranayama) it is important to establish a correct and contextual relationship with the HYP. It was written when the typical Yoga practitioner was a healthy young man living and practicing in monastic conditions. These conditions facilitate a focus and intensity of practice that most of us are not afforded. That means that we need to drastically tone down and reconsider any advice that is given in the text within the context of our own modern lives.

The HYP is made up of four chapters:

  1. Asana – physical practices where energy is stimulated (this is one of the most extensive description of Asana available).
  2. Pranayama – breathing practices where energy is regulated.
  3. Mudras – energy practices where energy is directed.
  4. Samadhi – a meditative state of integration.

Kriyas are described in the 2nd chapter – the one dedicated to Pranayama (breathing practices). Why is that? What do Pranayama and Kriya’s have in common? They are both instruments of purification, of removing impurities. They are both cleansing practices.

Why then do we need both Pranayama and Kriyas? What is the difference between them?

  • Pranayama addresses the energetic body – it is engineered to achieve a natural cleansing process that occurs when energy (Prana) can flow freely. A healthy flow in the energetic body restores the physical body.
  • Kriyas address the physical body directly – if you think about nasal cleansing and enemas – they are used to literally remove excess matter from the body.

The question is then when to use Pranayama and when to use Kriyas. The text offers both an implicit and explicit answer. The implicit answer is in the order in which the two are presented: Pranayama comes first. The explicit answer comes in the form of two warnings (like those found on cigarette packages) – one in the verse that precedes the description of the Kriyas and one in the verse that comes after they have been described in detail.

2.21: “If there be excess of fat or phlegm in the body, the six kinds of kriyâs (duties) should be performed first. But others, not suffering from the excess of these, should not perform them.”

2.22 – 2.36 descriptions of the six kriya practices.

2.37: “Some âchâryâs (teachers) do not advocate any other practice, being of opinion that all the impurities are dried up by the practice of Prâṇâyâma.”

Translations by Pancham Sinh

I want to address the second warning first because it holds simple and applicable advice: Anything Kriyas can do, Pranayama can do too. Any purification that can be achieved using the Kriyas can be achieved with a consistent and quality Pranayama practice. So much so that, as the text insinuates, some teachers are completely opposed to any use of Kriyas.

The first warning requires a deeper underdstanding of the metaphyics of Yoga. Specifically, the three doshas Vatta, Pitta and Kapha which can be roughly correlated with the elements of air, fire and water. The doshas work together like an engine where the elements mix and combust. As long as the engine is used and maintained properly it runs OK, but if the engine is neglected it requires more serious intervention such as taking it apart and cleaning it out thoroughly.

Asana and Pranayama are the tools needed to maintain our internal engine. Kriyas are needed when the engine has been neglected – when “there be excess of fat or phlegm”. They are a gross intervention in a system that no longer responds to more subtle interventions. But if you are generally healthy – practicing Kriyas is like having open-heart surgery to cure a common-cold – it’s an abuse of practice.

You have to have a really good reason (serious illness) to benefit from Kriya practices. Yet anyone alive and breathing can benefit from Pranayama – as it is a subtle tool of regular maintenance. BUT … Pranayama too should to be used properly otherwise it too can lead to adverse effects. In the words of the HYP:

2.16: “Correct pranayama will weaken all diseases. Improper practice of Yoga will strengthen all diseases.”

Translation by Brian Akers

Posted in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Pranayama, Yoga, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-09

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  • Have you considered the karma of breathing? what if every breath you take ripples throughout your body, consciousness and energy forever? #
  • 3 things you need to know to start a Pranayama practice: length of breath, breathing ratio and a breathing technique http://bit.ly/hkIC7p #
  • do you remember? http://bit.ly/dJPkCW #

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Do You Remember?

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Some days ago my Pranayama practice left me vibrating with thoughts about memory. I had an OK practice though my mind was wandering. At one point in the practice I found myself trying to recall if I held my breath as I was supposed to on the previous breath. Even though it happened just seconds ago I could not remember. I came out of the practice with a question glued to my consciousness – what if there’s no such thing as memory?

1: I Only Remember Stories … and ones that I Like

Naturally my stubbornly-logical mind kicked in and came up with examples (memories? duh!) of how (my) memory works. It actually came up with two very interesting examples.

Most of my professional career I specialized in systems-analysis – which is to software like architects are to buildings. It involves uncovering and juggling a lot of sometimes obvious sometimes hidden information from a lot of sources with diverse motivations and transforming it into an architectural description of software (which is then handed over to software engineers to actually build it). I was really good at holding loads of information in my mind, seeing into it and through it and then creating a mental image of a software system. I then had to create tedious written descriptions of what I was seeing – but those weren’t for me they were for other people who couldn’t fit into my head and see what I was seeing.

In my late teens and early twenties I was deep into tap-dancing (long story I will get around to telling) including performances and teaching. There too I had an uncanny memory – a single dance contains loads of information – sounds, moves, rhythms. There is a method of documenting dances but I never got around to learning or using it. But I remembered all the moves – easily.

Both of these examples reveal that my memory revolves around a bigger pictures. There needs to be some kind of story-line (be it a dance or a software system) which acts as a center of gravity for all the information I remember. It’s much easier to remember a picture then it is to remember all the points it contains, or to remember a melody then it’s notes. But (with me) it can’t be any story it has to be a story I can relate to and care about … it has to be a story that moves me … that shimmers for me.

Today I remember very little information about the systems I meticulously created and described many years ago. I do magically remember some of the dances I used to dance (this was put to the test about a year ago when I went in for a dance class with my sister who now carries the tap-torch). But I do remember both tap-dancing and systems-analysis clearly because they are a part of the bigger-picture story of my life.

2: What If There are Only Present Echoes?

When a drop of rain hits water it’s presence as a separate drop ceases to exist and is transformed into ripples. The ripples are a present manifestation of what it used to be.

What if there is no absolute memory – just ripples of the past in the present? What if all the experiences of my life are rippling through me – some stronger then others, some rippling above the surface, others rippling below, some moving in slow undercurrents others in apparent waves on the surface?

If all I have are present echoes – then my present state of consciousness and perception effects how I “remember”. Memory is no longer an activity (illusion?) of digging things up from some imaginary archive. Memory is how I experience the left-over ripples of past experiences. There is no past – only a rippling present.

3: Impressions instead of Memories?

I no longer subscribe to memory as an archive we can access. I don’t assume that I or others remember things. There may have been a shared experience and that experience may have left an impression on me and you and that impression may still be rippling differently through me and you – but that’s all there is – an impression. I don’t pretend to remember and I don’t pretend that you can either.

This can have quite on impact on dialogue … it smooths the edges off certainty … it turns attention inwards … it makes the present a softer less conclusive experience … it’s nice 🙂

4: What about Books & Computers? They Remember!

My mind just wouldn’t relent … it continued to challenge me … books and computers have “perfect memory” … and my mind almost had me convinced until I realized that (1) books and computers can only store what I choose to put in – which is drawn from a past experience of present and (2) when I come back and revisit words (and images and what not) I have stored – I am seeing them in a new present experience – it is impossible to experience them as they once were. No matter how many bookmarks I place in it – memory as an archive continues to be an illusion.

5: Do Snowflakes Remember?

These strange thoughts were sitting in my notebook until they resurfaced this morning when I came across this in the book Chaos: Making a New Science:

“As a growing snowflake falls to earth, typically floating in the wind for an hour or more, the choices made by the branching tips at any instant depend sensitively on such things as the temperature, the humidity, and the presence of impurities in the atmosphere. The six tips of a single snowflake, spreading within a millimeter space, feel the same temperatures, and because the laws of growth are purely deterministic, they maintain a near perfect symmetry. But the nature of turbulent air is such that any pair of snowflakes will experience very different paths. The final flake records the history of all the changing weather conditions it has experienced, and the combinations may as well be infinite.”

(Image complements of SnowCrystals)

Do you remember?

Posted in Expanding, inside, Pranayama Journal, Yoga | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours