“For my teachers, unfortunately, certain things were, as they are for you, only tales of power”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power



Pretty amazing technological instrument:

And a guided demonstration of what it can do:

Thank you @ronenk for sending this my wa.

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

Shakuhachi Notation


Yesterday I had my first official Shakuhachi lesson (though it is our second time communicating). When I first purchased a Shakuhachi I also ordered a guide (book and CD) that includes instruction on reading notation. I couldn’t figure it out – and it was rather disappointing – especially because I was told it’s fairly easy!

Now I know better. There is no one Shakuhachi music  notation – there are numerous notations, each representing different schools, traditions and eras of Shakuhachi. Therefore, Shakuhachi notation is best learned with a teacher… and it is fairly simple. A teacher will choose a notation for you – and that choice carries with it hundreds of years of evolving tradition. Each notation is a doorway to musical pieces that come from that same tradition. There are even some well-known pieces that are written and played differently in each tradition. I am guessing that in time a teacher may present more then one notation to a student.

It is of course best to learn notation by learning to play a piece. As we started studying a piece and the notation required to read and play it, I encountered some symbols, such as the length of a note, which were not precise – as I had come to expect from western music notation. I asked my teacher “so this isn’t like rocket science?” to which he replied “no, it’s art”. What a relief… I was scared of notation because I had an unpleasant experience learning to play guitar some years ago – I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the theoretical aspects. Shakuhachi notation feels so different and so right for me. There is so much space for exploration, personal expression… so much space.

Aside from Shakuhachi playing I am reconnecting with the experience of having a teacher present. It is inspiring, supportive and already greatly affected my playing.

I am learning a well known piece called Take Shirabe in a variation & style that is typical of the Fudaiji temple. I have learned the first 6 breaths. This is an excellent rendition of it:

It is, for beginner Shakuhachi players kind of like Pink Floyd’s “Is there anybody out there?” for guitar players. It’s a great starting point – accessible and beautiful.

Posted in inside, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-10-25


  • if u r a WordPress (but not only) dev working with people who don't know much about tech – maybe this can help u: http://bit.ly/309h0y #
  • I get a recurring feeling something is not right with WordPress Community… maybe compassion? #
  • RT 10:10 @ronenk: @iamronen 10:08. #
  • RT @ronenk: איזה אפקט מגניב זה למזוג משהו לכוס צמודה לקיר כשרואים את הצל של הכוס והמשקה שנשפל על הקיר, מרגיש כאילו זה נשפך. #
  • YO Twitter engineers: Following 666, Followers 2, Updates 1 = SPAM #
  • Little waste to Zero Waste: http://twurl.nl/xl3z77 #
  • an old blog of mine is gathering great spam jokes: What do you get if you cross a giant and a vampire? A BIG pain in the neck! #
  • I saw an albino eating carrots, it seemed like the right thing to do #
  • listening to Leonard Cohen – Live at Isle of Wight 1970 – beautiful and delicate #
  • "It's a large nation, but still weak, very weak, needs to get a lot stronger before it can claim a right to land" Leonard Cohen 1970 #
  • some things you can try to practice pranayama with blocked nostrils: http://bit.ly/45lqpf #
  • Will you miss me? http://bit.ly/3Oq7bm #
  • RT @KathySierra: inspiring-yet-practical advice from Online Photographer (but helpful for all): http://idek.net/awN (via @Jeff_Bailey) #
  • I wish someone (Peter Jackson!?) would finally make good Dune movie #
  • @ronenk כחחחח כחחחחח in reply to ronenk #
  • had my 1st full Shakuhachi lesson, how wonderful that words like meditation,friendship,understanding are part of the notation and teaching #
  • @andreea_hl 's website http://www.feminitate.org has served over 100k pages of feminine knowledge to over 23k Romanian women #
  • fears are on the move, feeling like a failure, going to have dinner #

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Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

Pranayama with Blocked Nasal Passages


Many people, myself included, frequently experience difficulties in Pranayama (breathing) practices that involve nostril control. The problem is usually due to some kind of obstacles that block or disturb the flow of air through the nostrils. This can be frustrating for people who want to pursue and develop a Pranayama practice. Fortunately there are some things you can do.

Choose an Appropriate Technique

Blocked nostrils usually inhibit inhaling more then they do exhaling. In Pranayama we are practicing lengthening the breath. When practicing with nostril control, in exhaling we use our fingers to partially block the nasal passages to control the outward flow of the breath. Blocked nasal passages work in the same direction – so in a way they are supporting the practice. The problem is usually on the inhale when we want to bring air in and blocked passages prevent us from bringing in enough. This creates physical, mental and emotional pressures and disturbance in the system. This usually leads to short and unsteady breathing.

In this series about Pranayama I have listed techniques in an order in which they are taught and should usually be practiced . The more advanced practices like Nadi Sodhana are subtle and require preparation – it is difficult to practice effectively with blocked nostrils. Alternately, a basic practice like Anuloma Ujjayi is more accessible and can be practiced even when the nostrils are partly blocked (and therefore also partly open).

Anuloma Ujjayi works within the limitations of blocked nostrils. Inhaling through both nostrils (using Ujjayi as a control) circumvents the difficulty of inhaling through one nostril. Exhaling through alternating nostrils gives us a chance to experience the more subtle qualities of nostril control. Exhaling also works in a direction that may push out mucus that may be causing blockage.

If Anuloma Ujjayi is not accessible then take up a breathing practice based on Ujjayi breathing without any nostril control.

Practice Asana before Pranayama

It is useful to remember the bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve in our practice. Pranayama is intended to regulate the flow of Prana. To do that effectively Prana must first be stirred and moved – this is what Asana (physical) does. An effective Asana practice will awaken Prana inside the body, generate heat, prepare your body for comfortable sitting and by practicing with Ujjayi it will gradually prepare your breathing. Often, I find that my nasal passages are more open after Asana practice. My experience is that after Asana practice there is generally less resistance in the body and a more fluid movement of breath.

Cleansing Breath

Kapalabhati and Bhastrika breathing techniques can also be used as a preparation for Pranayama. They can be very effective but they need to be taught and practiced under the guidance of a teacher. I am careful about prescribing them here because in addition to their cleansing effect they also have a potential for a strong energetic effect for which the body needs to be prepared. If not applied with care they can cause a disturbance that outweighs any beneficial effects. If you have access to a good Yoga teacher then you may consult with them on learning and using these techniques.

Give it Time

Pranayama is a subtle practice. It takes time to realize and appreciate it. My teachers have suggested that it takes 3 to 6 months of consistent & quality practice. Get yourself comfortable if you want to sustain yourself through this journey. If you constantly push beyond your limits you will experience constant friction and failure. Find a recipe that works for you (good preparation and an appropriate technique) and it will sustain you in your practice.

Pranayama is a practice of never ending cycles that go deeper into subtle aspects of breath and energy. There is no point in rushing, there is no finish line to reach.

A Little Trick

One day, not too long ago, I sat to practice Nadi Sodhana, event though my nostrils were slightly blocked. I felt I could sustain a quality practice despite the blockage. During the practice I found that I could actually use nostril control to bypass the blockage and create a better passage. I found that if I applied slight pressure on the nostril AND slightly pull it out (away from my body) – I was able to form a more open path for the breath to flow. I realized that my fingers can be used not only for closing and opening the passage, but also for slightly changing its shape.

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

Will You Miss Me?


This is my second morning waking up to a new day in a house without Andreea. Andreea has gone to Romania for 11 weeks to promote her work and hopefully bring us closer home. She asked me numerous times if I’ll miss her when she’s gone.On the day she left I recalled something I read by Robert Pirsig, and it moved in me the entire day. This morning I looked it up. It is in the afterword of the 25th edition copy I have of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

“This book has a lot to say about ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

The receding Ancient Greeks perspective of the past ten years has a very dark side: Chris [Pirsig’s son] is dead.

I tend to become taken with philosophic questions, going over them and over them and over them again in loops that go round and round and round until they either produce an answer or become so repetitively locked on they become psychiatrically dangerous, and now the question became obsessive: “Where did he go?”

Where did Chris go?… Did he go up the stack at the crematorium? Was he in the little box of bones they handed back? Was he strumming a harp of gold on some overhead cloud? None of these answers made any sense.

It had to be asked: What was it I was so attached to? Is its just something in the imagination? When you have done time in a mental hospital, that is never a trivial question. If he wasn’t just imaginary, then where did he go? Do real things just disappear like that? If they do, then the conservation laws of physics are in trouble. But what if we stay with the laws of physics, then the Chris that disappeared was unreal. Round and round and round…

The loops eventually stopped at the realization that before it could be asked “Where did he go?” it must be asked “What is the ‘he’ that is gone?”. There is an old cultural habit of thinking of people as primarily something material, as flesh and blood. As long as this idea held, there was no solution. The oxides of Chris’s flesh and blood did, of course, go up the stack at the crematorium. But they weren’t Chris.

What had to be seen was that the Chris I missed so badly was not an object but a pattern, and that although the pattern included the flesh and blood of Chris, that was not all there was to it. The pattern was larger than Chris and myself, and related us in ways that neither of us understood completely and neither of is was in complete control of.

Now Chris’s body, which was a part of that larger pattern, was gone. But the larger pattern remained. A huge hole had been torn out of the center of it, and that was what caused all the heart-ache. The pattern was looking for something to attach to and couldn’t find anything… The pattern is trying to hang on to it’s own existence by finding some new material thing to center itself upon.

Some time later it became clearer that these thoughts were something very close to statements found in many “primitive” cultures. If you take that part of the pattern that is not the flesh and bones of Chris and call it the “spirit” of Chris or the “ghost” of Chris, then you can say without further translation that the spirit or ghost of Chris is looking for a new body to enter. When we hear accounts of “primitives” talking this way, we dismiss them as superstition because we interpret ghost or spirit as some sort of material ectoplasm, when in fact they may not mean any such thing at all.

In any event, it was not many months later that my wife conceived, unexpectedly. After careful discussion we decided it was not something that should continue… So we came to our conclusion and made the necessary medical appointment.

Then something very strange happened. I’ll never forget it. As we went over the whole decision in details one last time, there was a kind of disassociation, as though my wife started to recede while we sat there talking… You think  you’re together and then suddenly you see that you’re not together anymore.

… It was a really frightening thing, which has since become clearer. It was the larger pattern of Chris, making itself known at last. We reversed our decision, and now realize what a catastrophe it would have been for us if we hadn’t.

… This time he’s a little girl names Nell and our life is back in perspective again. The hole in the pattern is being mended. A thousand memories of Chris will always be at hand, of course, but not a destructive clinging to some material entity that can never be here again.”

  • Andreea and I have described this recent period of our life as a process of dying, where old patterns are making way for new ones
  • I sense that we are, as individuals, in many ways already dead… yet there are powerful patterns of living still awake and moving within us
  • I miss having a life where those patterns can attach to real & material people & objects, and I know Andreea misses it even more then I do
  • There is fear in me that those patterns may not find things to attach themselves to again
  • I now realize that as a couple,together, we are alive and vibrant and reaching out
  • Andreea’s visit to Romania is an effort to make new connections which we intend to expand and follow to a new home
  • I’ll probably miss, at some point, Andreea’s physical presence and nearness.
  • I am looking forward to life that will bloom from Andreea’s visit, and I expect those hopes will outshine any short term pains I may experience from not having her near me.
Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment