“It's easy to build knowledge and experience in good times. In good times, leaning and such things is a matter of enjoybale adventuring.”
Carole Deppe

The Resilient Gardener

Deep Beautiful Sadness

n

I wasn’t very social as a kid, I didn’t like to travel with my family or schools, I didn’t go to parties, I wasn’t very happy. I was drastically misinformed and misformed. In my late teens and early twenties my misformation bloomed into a healthy depression. Depression got the world off my shoulders and I found a temporary peace and bliss. It wasn’t a pleasant place, but it was a major improvement on what I had before. The experience of that period of my life is bookmarked in my consciousness – I would sit with headpones on for hours listening to a loop of Sting’s album “The Soul Cages“. There was especially one song “The Wild Wild Sea” which became a meditative experience – I would get lost in it’s opening seconds and feel as if hours had gone by:

To this day listening to the album draws me inwards to a place of special sadness that envelops me in serenity and brings tears to my eyes.

Present day … I live so off the-grid that I didn’t know Sting had recently put out an album and is on tour (I used to be on the cutting edge of all things Sting : ). A few years ago I saw him in a disappointing concert in Israel and his recent years have been very desolate and uninspiring – so I went to check out the news with very low expectations. At first glance I saw a collaboration with a symphony orchestra and thought to myself “not again”. Then I switched to youtube and though the videos are of poor quality – it looks like something good has happened to Sting. Amongst the videos from recent performance I came across “Why Should I Cry For You” from “The Soul Cages” album:

… yes North has been true … and yet … sure enough there it was – that deep beautiful sadness. It was just one song – so I didn’t get to sink too far inside. Instead I had a chance to be with it and ask myself “Why was I sad? Why am I sad?”. I wasn’t sad because of where I was – I was in a comfortable place. I was sad because of the pressures to be somewhere else. I was sad because everyone seemed to be (sympathetically) blind to or denying what my senses told me about the world around me.

That hasn’t changed much. I have since been blessed with the presence of a few rare individual with whom I’ve shared a connection and view, with whom I’ve communicated in peace, with whom I’ve created. I have also been blessed with circumstances that granted me over recent years an opportunity to live in relative peace and isolation. An isolation that protectes me from a ferocious onslought of caring people who would gently but persistently erode my sense of truth.

20 years ago I was sad for myself, sad because the future seemed to hold an inevtiable, painful and purposeless existence. Today, feeling that I’ve been blessed with a rare freedom, I am sad for a world from which I am separated by an invisible wall. A world with which I wanted to share, a world it seems I am leaving behind – a remote world that some small part of me still longs for.

I wonder if this is what Buddhists mean when they dedicate their practices to all the living beings.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Israel, Quality | You are welcome to add your comment

Change in Morning Pranayama Practice – Surrender?

n

A couple of days ago my teacher changed my morning Pranayama from this:

10 – 0 – 15 – 0 Gradually build up Ujjayi breath
10 – 0 – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 5 – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 5 – 15 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 10 – 15 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 0 – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
6 – 0 – 6 – 0 x6 Ujjayi

To this:

8 – 0 – 16 – 0 Gradually build up Ujjayi breath
8  – 4  – 16 – 4 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
8  – 4  – (8 – 4)2 x12 Anuloma Ujjayi
8  – 0  – 16 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi

My evening practice continues to be:

10 – 0 – 15 – 0 Gradually build up Ujjayi breath
10 – 0 – 15 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 5 – 15 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 5 – 20 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 5 – 20 – 5 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
10 – 0 – 15 – 0 x6 Anuloma Ujjayi
6 – 0 – 6 – 0 x6 Ujjayi

Both practices are built around a 1-2 ratio which demand longer exhales. In both practices I’ve encountered resistance in mind and embrace in body – I thought I didn’t have enough capacity but I did.

Emphasis on the exhale has had an immediate effect on attention. If I am present and stable and attentive to the breath – then I can comfortably contain both practices. But if my attention wavers, a strain develops – the practices place pressue on me from the inside out.

After 2 or 3 practices (of the new morning sequence) I came to wonder about my previous practices (which I had set out for myself). Generally, the stop afer the inhale has a quality of strength and control, while the stop after the exhale has a quality of surrender and assimilation. The direction I chose for myself was to stir up a sense/experience of vitality – placing emphasis on the stop after the inhale. My teacher seems to be redirecting me towards a sense of surrender.

I am in a state of intense transition – an intense transition in which many things seem to be coming to an end and in their place is a large void of unknowns. I am taking my faith to new heights – and I am doing this with an almost complete sense of surrender. I feel I have very little control over what’s to come – and most of me wants to keep it that way. All this is to say that my life off-the-mat is about surrender – and yet my choice of practice was to counter that by trying to conjur up vitality – as if I was going against the grain. The practices my teacher gave me seem to be going in a different direction – embracing the quality of surrender. There is still a challenge – but it is now with the grain – refining my experience of surrender.

Both of the pranayama practices deliver me smoother then before into a meditative state. They demand more attention and lead to a more subtle experience.

Posted in Pranayama, Pranayama Journal, Yoga | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Rain

n

תודה שרה 🙂

Turn on your speakers (to dispell any potential doubts), press play and close your eyes 🙂

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Hanging Humanity

n

I encountered this wonderful quote in an odd and special book. It is from a speech that was given by Dwight Eisenhower shortly after he took office in 1953. In the book the speech was referred to as the “Cross of Iron” speech, though online I found it as the “Chance for Peace” speech (though it seems to be referenced with both names).

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.  We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Because the quote is obviously insightful & direct I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) to find that the speech draws an unbalanced picture that promotes a political agenda. In my mind it is an immoral speech – as it subverts a higher intellectual truth to a lesser social need. I believe that it exemplifies a kind of subtle compromise which can go unnoticed at first but slowly festers and eventually manifests as destruction.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Quality | You are welcome to add your comment

Inside First

n

Shulamit has, over the past few months, brought to my attention the idea of Restorative Circles. I have read a couple of articles and my thoughts & feelings about it are mixed. The last of these articles consolidated my thoughts.

I have not invested enough time and attention to properly describe what Restorative Circles is – so I will call upon the words of it’s founder Dominic Barter:

“Restorative Justice is effective when our intentions are those of social cohesion, community resilience, healing and sustainable changes in behaviour towards underlying values of well being, inclusion, mutual aid, learning and responsibility. The restorative approach looks not at who has done wrong but at what needs are unmet. It seeks not to label and condemn but to alert us to our place in the web of relationships, to our power to act and our power to mend.”

That is a wonderful outlook but when I first read it I had some reservations about it’s applicability. I have no doubt its a good direction to go, but there has to be both personal and social readiness to approach it. The applied tools of Restorative circles as I understand them are based on communication. Communication relies on other subtle skills such as observation, listening, speech, openness. These are not trivial skills, they are not inherently available to people in modern societies – and their absence may be one of the root causes for the very conflicts Restorative Circles tends to:

“Restorative practices rely on social conventions and emotional literacy. Such conventions are far from new – in fact some believe they are older than our current, punitive view of justice. However they have been marginalised and devalued for centuries. The process of remembering and revaluing them is still gathering ground. The capacity to articulate our feelings and needs without attributing blame is also both ancient and only recently rediscovered in urban cultures.”

My initial feeling was and remains that an approach such as Restorative Circles cannot (yet!?) replace punitive approaches. When dialogue is possible dialogue should prevail, when it isn’t then punitive interventions are required (maybe punitive systems can be improved by taking the opportunity to gift social-outlaws with communication skills that can give them access to the alternative restorative approach).

“The idea that biological crimes can be ended by intellect alone, that you can talk crime to death, doesn’t work … The instrument of conversation between society & biology has always been a policeman or a soldier and his gun. All the laws of history … Constitutions & the Bills of Rights & Declarations of Independence are … instructions to the military & police.”

( Robert Pirsig from Lila on the relationship between social, intellectual & biological )

But here’s what I found truly interesting. Here is a quote taken from a recent interview with Dominic Barter:

“Being afraid and not listening yourself and avoiding conflict, that’s what’s dangerous. The conflict has to speak louder to get your attention. The way to raise the volume is to violate others.”

I recently spent some time at a cancer-radiation facility (visiting a relative). The center provides one of the most lethal self-inflicted interventions invented by man. The body is exposed to lethal radiation aimed at cancer cells. The center is equipped with modern machinery and is overbooked/overloaded with work. There are both hospitalized and out-patients waiting in an ever-busy queue to get their lethal dosage of radiation.

I sat there wondering how has a so-called modern society reached the point where cancer wards are over-populated and people are lined up for lethal radiation? Can no one see that something is terribly wrong? Can no one see that the “internal conflict has become so loud because we are not paying attention to it“? Is it reasonable for us to pursue an advanced idea such as Restorative Circles when we are unable, as individuals and a society, to achieve basic biological health and a corresponding peace of mind?

I feel there is an inner Restorative Circle that everyone of us has to nurture, develop and maintain. That is the point of greatest leverage available to us. I feel that “fixing society” is becoming an escape, a fashion of our times that is actually diverting our attention from where it is direly needed. If “fixing society” gives you hope and inspiration then harness that inspiration and turn it back inward – maybe one day you will arrive at a humbling realization that there is nothing outside that needs fixing.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours