“An ideal is something we believe is right, but it may not be practical. Whereas an attitude should be something that we can put into practice right from where we are.”
TKV Desikachar

What Are We Seeking?

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

Three Keys to Starting a Pranayama Practice

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Please note:

  • Though I intend to show you that you can start a basic Pranayama practice on your own please keep in mind that that is pretty much all you can and should do on your own. There is a lot of superficial disinformation about what Pranayama is and how it should be practiced. Breath is a very powerful instrument with both immediate and long term effects. Pranayama is an alchemical process that effects (by design!) your energetic body more then it does your biological body. This happens regardless of what you may think you know about it or even feel in your practice. It is possible to trap yourself in a practice you like that has adverse effects on your health.
  • Extra care should be taken in states of illness or recovery when both the energetic and biological bodies are more sensitive to any intervention. A Pranayama practice can be invaluable in recovery but should NOT be self-prescribed and ONLY be used with guidance of a teacher.
  • Pregnancy is not an illness. It is a demanding, more sensitive state of being that affects two sentient beings  – therefore it deserves a Pranayama practice that is offered with more care and consideration.

There are three things you need to know in order to begin a Pranayama practice: (1) the length of your breath; (2) a breathing ratio; (3) a suitable breathing technique.

Length of Breath

Determining the length of your breath can be achieved with a fairly simple exercise (and a little mathematics) you can find in this post about the four parts of the breath. Once you know your base breathing duration you can apply that to a breathing ratio.

Ratio of Breath

A core teaching in Pranayama is that a practice should focus on lengthening the exhale – the inhale will follow the exhale. From this comes a first rule of thumb in determining a breathing ratio: the exhale should be equal to or longer then the inhale.

It is a good idea to start with a ratio of equal inhale and exhale. For example, if your base breathing duration is 4 seconds – then you should inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Practice that for a while until it becomes familiar and comfortable.

From there you can move into a ratio in which the exhale is one and half times longer then the inhale. For example, if your base breathing duration is 4 seconds – then you should inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds.

If your breathing leads you into it naturally then you may add short 1 second holds between inhale and exhale. Please do not play around with holding the breath beyond that – this is where the magical alchemy of Pranayama is intensified and directed. Holding the breath based on your natural preferences or curiosities is very likely to lead you into a dysfunctional practice.

Don’t count seconds on your own – your mind will cheat and twist your sense of time – in the face of effort you will simply count faster. Get a ticking clock or a metronome so you can precisely time your breaths.

Breathing Technique

Your first taste of Pranayama should be with simple Ujjayi breathing. Though it isn’t really a Pranayama practice until you introduce nostril control it is a soft and simple way to get acquainted with structured breathing. It will gift you with a space to first get acquainted with your own breath, with timed breathing and with breathing ratios.

When you are comfortable with timing and counting your breath you can move into an actual Pranayama practice. To do this you will need to introduce nostril control to your practice. Then, a good technique to get you started with nostril contol is Anuloma Ujjayi.

Connecting the Pieces

Putting just these basic ideas together demonstrates an important aspect of Pranayama: it is a gradually evolving process of practice. Each practice introduces a gradual increment built upon the previous practice. Consider these practices:

  1. 6 Ujjayi breaths with an equal inhale and exhale.
  2. 10 Ujjayi breaths with an equal inhale and exhale.
  3. 6 Ujjayi breaths with an exhale 1.5 times longer then the inhale.
  4. 10 Ujjayi breaths with an exhale 1.5 times longer then the inhale.
  5. 6 Anuloma Ujjayi breaths with an equal inhale and exhale.
  6. 12 Anuloma Ujjayi breaths with an exhale 1.5 times loonger then the inhale.

At first each of these is a SEPARATE practice. Stick with it until you feel comfortable and peaceful with it – it can take days, weeks or months. Practice regularly and take your time.

To take your Pranayama practice further find a teacher with whom you can work in a one-on-one setting. A teacher can guide you on a refined exploration of breath through care-full observation and tailoring of personalized practices.

I offer one-on-one online Pranayama teaching at iBreathe.

Posted in Getting Started, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-02

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  • just realized that hot water pipes are running under the work-table … how cozy !!! #
  • have you ever noticed that things to become what you see in them? #
  • When you encounter ur limits in Pranayama focus on quality of breath rather then length of breath: http://bit.ly/eMHANr #
  • how about gifting yourself (or a close friend) with a gift of breath for a new year? iBreathe Pranayama: http://bit.ly/ee3CBi #
  • in Romanian "Frig" means cold (I get that) but "Culd" means warm … duh! #kindalearningromanian #
  • today is a day of rest and recovery = two coffees and no pranayama 🙂 #
  • asked her: "What would I do without me" to which she answered: "probably have a much easier time in life" … hmmm #
  • Is it just me or do you also think there is something not-quite-right in a society where this can happen: http://bit.ly/99Fni5 #
  • "Something as simple as loading a photo of ur bunk in Afghanistan 2Flickr, & geotagging it, can bring a mortar in2 your area of operation." #
  • wonderful video that gets across a message I don't always manage to communicate clearly "you need to get off Facebook" http://bit.ly/eI7XZc #
  • @jberd ucan practice Pranayama close2 bedtime but then u should do a practice that facilitates sleep & avoid practices that may disturb it #

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You Need to Get Off Facebook

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This is a post I haven’t yet written … I haven’t achieved a clarity of thought that enables me to say in words what my heart knows.

AND THEN out of nowhere this wonderful video appears and does a great job of expressing at least part of what I wanted to say. Thank you Ross (I think this is his personal blog)!

Posted in AltEco, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours