“Finally, I don’t understand humans. We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming and pollution. But we don’t understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas.”
Joseph Jenkins

The Humanure Handbook

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 1 Sutra 1

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atha yoga-anusanam
“Now begin the authoritative teachings of Yoga”

Translation by TKV Desikachar

This sutra has been on my mind for a few weeks now until a recent conversation with my teacher brought clarity to my thoughts.

This is the sutra that opens the Yoga Sutra – a text that is well known for it’s concise form and sparing use of words – and it opens by saying “this is the beginning”? duh!

Literally it is pretty straightforward. Atha can be translated as “now”. It indicates that this is a text that has a quality of prayer to it. Anusasanam can be translated as “teachings”. So “now come the teachings of Yoga”. My teacher suggests that it is a metaphor where “atha” represents a student, “yoga” represents a teacher and “anusasanam” represens teachings. An “education” requires that all three be present.

Anyway I read it – it is as if this sutra draws a line in the sand – on one side is everything I’ve known so far, crossing over it leads into something different altogether – the realm of Yoga. Why does the primary text about Yoga – which is about unity and integration start with a separation between that which is Yoga and everything else?

Then I recognized the word “anu” – which wasn’t individually acknowledged in any of the translations I consulted. It was always coupled with “sasanam” into “anusasanam”. I remembered the word “anu” from reading about Vaisesika philosophy:

Consider a point, defined as that which has neither parts nor extent, but position only. It occupies no space, has no inside or outside, no parts and is not produced and cannot be destroyed. Therefore it is eternal, has no magnitude – no length, breadth or thickness. This positional reality is what is implied by Anu and Paramanu.

I couldn’t a find a reliable definition for “sasanam” – the best I’ve been able to come up with is that it means “teaching” (I still wonder about it’s relationship with the word “asana”). This means that Anusasanam is not just any teaching. It is a core/root teaching – a teaching that is at the heart of everything.

This led me to another interpretation of this sutra “Now begins the linkage with the root of all teachings” – which led to a train of thought:

  • I came to this text because I was seeking something.
  • I didn”t know what that something was but I knew it was missing from my life.
  • This wasn”t a beginning of a journey – I had been on it for a long time.
  • It brough me to a teacher (the Yoga Sutra is not meant for reading, but to be transmitted by a teacher to a ready student).
  • My teacher and the teachings I received acknowledged my search.
  • This sutra was a marker on my path – it was telling me I was heading in the right direction.

When I was working my way from the outside in, the separation was clear to me. I had finally arrived at something that started to resonate with my questions. Things started to make a new kind of sense – a sense that is a result of a a new, less disturbed sensing.

When I was starting to move inside and looked back to where I came from – the separation was still very clear to me. There was no doubt in my mind I was in a better place and that “outside” was a lesser place. During my early practice years, I had a very hard time coming back from retreats and engaging my day-to-day life.

The farther in I travel into this “better” place, the boundary between it and everything else seems to fade – things seem to be integrating. This is off-the-mat Yoga. This is the Yoga I find in pulling weeds or doing dishes, or facing my fears or living in relationships. The “boundary” is in a way still useful – it reminds me when I stray off my path – it says to me “this is not in the spirit of Yoga, make a change”. From this I can deduct and speculate that there is a place where everything is truly integrated in the spirit of Yoga. Maybe this is “Samadhi”? I am not there yet, I don’t know if it is humanly possible to “arrive’ at such a place? I can and do continue to live my life aspiring to stay on my path – swinging back and forth between friction and peace, identifying more separations and arriving at better integration.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-13

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Got Milk

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Andreea made plans for us to go and purchase some goat’s milk from a local farmer. And there she is on a hot saturday morning on the trail … where we shortly encountered a cow who seemed suspicious of us

and this was our destination on a hill overlooking fruit-tree orchards (mostly peaches) that belong to our village

and a 1 year old orchard of kiwi plants … with the smoke of very-not-organic substances being spread in the background … our path took us literally around a few fields to where we could look back towards where we came from

Where we met the farmer from our village who was doing the spraying of not very-not-organic substances

… and the piles of chicken poop that are collected from the pens in our village

which meant we were getting close to our destination … which appeared soon after the next bend … with, what else, cows to greet visitors

… and after a short climb into the farm we met Hadad and his daughter and were able to take in a panoramic view of the way we had come

… and his son driving around with a dogish-looking navigator

… after a relaxed conversation and a small cup of strong coffee Hadad went to milk the goats

… and then filled up our bottles with all the milk he had – almost 6 liters

… and then refused to take our money and sent us home to process the milk with his best wishes

where we now have 6 jars of milk settling, 1 jar accumulating the fat that floats on top – which we will process into butter

and 1 jar to which we added some yogurt – to make more yogurt 🙂

little things and suprising gifts make for grand gestures and good feelings

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

10 Principles for Good Disruption

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This morning I came across this in reading Frank Herbert’s “Heretics of Dune” – which I am assuming was written sometimes before it was first published in 1984:

Technology, in common with many other activities, tends toward avoidance of risks by investors. Uncertainty is ruled out if possible. Capital investment follows this rule since people generally prefer the predictable. Few recognize how destructive this can be, how it imposes severe limits on variability and thus makes whole populations fatally vulnerable to the shocking ways our universe can throw the dice.

As I read this I thought of Fred Wilson – the only person I currently read from venture-capital-startup-land. He appeared in my thoughts in two contexts: (1) he is a subject of Herbert’s writing; (2) I believe he believes he isn’t – because he subscribes to the fashionable idea of disruption. Disruptive is a popular theme in the world of technology startups. Luckily Fred also lists Yoga among his interests. I am more passionate and more knowledgeable in Yoga (then I am in business) so I would like to try exploring the subject in this light.

Agitation

My teacher recently hosted an event celebrating the launch of a new book in Hebrew about the Yoga Sutra. I didn’t attend the event nor have I seen the book but I did speak with my teacher about it before and after the event. The book is an academic analysis of the Yoga Sutra – it is an artifact of reading, writing and thinking – a product of mind. I am not inclined to reading it because to me the Yoga Sutra is a source of inspiration – I believe that intellectually dissecting it misses this quality and defeats it’s purpose.

My intuition (and prejudice) about the book was confirmed when my teacher described the author’s physical presence. She said that he was physically agitated and had very nervous body language. These are symptoms that Yoga, as outlined in the Yoga Sutra, describes as illness that can be healed. To me this says that this person does not yet know the Yoga Sutra.

Sloka 2.25 of the Yoga Rahasya states:

“The teacher, having understood the Sastra-s, must practice regularly for himself and then teach the prescribed asana-s to others.”

Energy: Health & Illness

Yoga views the body as a system of energy which flows through an extensive system of channels (nadi). In his book “What Are We Seeking?” TKV Desikachar likens our energy systems to a natural system of irrigation in which energy (like water) flows naturally. Optimal flow is a state of health. Optimal flow is disrupted when it encounters obstacles (in mind and body). An obstructed flow of energy manifests as illness (mental, emotional, physical, etc.).

Purification

Purification is a core idea in Yoga – it is intended to remove obstacles. Purification takes place in mind and body. Purification makes it possible for energy to resume it’s natural & healthy flow.

It is a common misperception that Yoga is a kind of peace-invoking practice when actually Yoga is a disruptive and agitating practice. To correctly understand the concept of disruption in Yoga it is necessary to remember the context in which it is being used – illness – the already disrupted flow of energy.

Note to Yogis: If you have taken offense from the suggestion you are in any way “ill” – please remember that Yoga sets a very high bar for “success” – unity with that which is within and eternal. In that light, manifestation in human form always falls short – it is an “illness”.

Administering Disruption

Yoga practices are a disruption of an already disrupted flow of energy. Proper application of Yoga is outlined in sloka 2.26 of the Yoga Rahasya:

“After having examined the origins of the diseases of the body and senses, the teacher must apply Kriya yoga. Otherwise there will be no benefits.”

Krishnamacharya‘s commentary adds:

“Before doing Kriya-yoga, the teacher must find out the history of the student’s illness and symptoms. Based on his observations he should ascertain the origin of the illness. After much meditation on this, he should teach the student the appropriate asana-s.”

A disruptive intervention assumes:

  1. There is a student.
  2. The student has a potential state of healthy energy flow.
  3. The student is currently in a state of illness.
  4. The illness is caused by obstacles which are disrupting the healthy flow of energy.
  5. A purifying practice can remove the obstacles and restore healthy flow of energy.
  6. A purifying practice needs to be administered by a teacher.
  7. The teachers needs to be healthy.
  8. The teacher needs to identify the student’s obstacles.
  9. The teacher needs to meditate on this before acting.
  10. The teacher needs to introduce a practice that is suitable for the student.

All of these are required for “disruption” … otherwise it will lead to more disruption, more obstacles more illness ..  at best “no benefits”.

A Good Example

Curiously, one technology project came to my mind, as I was writing, that is actually in the process of administering what seems like effective disruption. I thought it would be nice to see how it resonates with these assumptions. The project is Mozilla’s Drumbeat project:

  1. Student: are people who are not aware of the value of and inherit threat to Internet freedom.
  2. Healthy energy: the presence and involvement of people in a free Internet.
  3. Illness: energy flow is currently compromised.
  4. Obstacles: people’s lack of awareness to forces (business entities that are diverting the natural flow of energy for financial gain) threatening Internet freedoms.
  5. Purifying: Drumbeat is trying to to make people aware of the benefits of participating in a free Internet.
  6. Teacher: Drumbeat is created by Mozilla.
  7. Healthy teacher: Mozilla is an organization dedicated to keeping the Internet free.
  8. Identifying the obstacles: this is what Drumbeat is currently doing in the spirit of a free Internet (open collaboration).
  9. Meditating – though some ideas have surfaced, they are gradually being developed and discussed – Mozilla is not shy about not knowing what needs to be done.
  10. Practice – we’ll see what the future brings 🙂

An Unknown Example

Though Fred writes a lot and I’ve read much of his writing I have not yet seen through to a clear “disruption-purpose” that drives him. I believe he is inherently good but I also believe he exists in a disturbed (ill) system. I would like to see how these 10 principles apply to him and his business. The fact that he is a venture-capitalist makes it a formidable challenge. Tackling it, I believe, is a small step towards a better future.

Advertising Based Business Models

One of the most popular and undisputed revenue models amongst technology companies is advertising. These companies create an engaging service that is offered for free and captures the attention of it’s users and then sells that attention off to advertisers.

My jaw dropped when I recognized a description of this business model in the Yoga Rahasya – Sloka 1.42:

“Through the disturbance of Prana, all the indriya-s (senses), get disturbed and move along with the mind towards external objects, which are poisonous. Therefore, through exhalation, inhalation and retention, Prana must be regulated.”

According to Yoga philosophy Prana is something that Spirit created when it wanted the freedom to get around in the world (instead of just witnessing it). The first thing (before all of the subtle elements of nature) to manifest from Prana was faith. Prana is too great a force for any conscious entity to abuse. Faith isn’t.

Note to Yogis: Did you notice that breathing (not asana) is indicated as a primary practice to reducing the disturbance of Prana?

Posted in AltEco, Business, Expanding, inside, outside, Yoga, Yoga & Life, Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Rahasya, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Rahasya

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During my years of Yoga training I heard numerous times mention of a text called “Yoga Rahasya”. It came to me only in the past year. It arrived on the day Andreea left to Romania as if it waited for a space to open up.

Yoga Rahasya (“Secrets of Yoga”) is said to have been written by Nathamuni a 9th century Yogi who did much for the evolution and application of Yoga. It was lost a few decaded after he died and remained dormant for a long time. It was revived in a mystic occurrence by Krishnamacharya – my teacher’s (Ziva Kinrot), teacher’s (Paul Harvey), teacher’s (TKV Desikachar) teacher.

It is a very dense source of knowledge. When I first read through it I felt as if it was at the heart of all the teachings I had received. I believe it would have been lost upon me had I encountered it in my early Yoga years. Now it is like a well of endless inspirations that sends me back to my teachings and brings them into new light time and time again.

It is a unique source of knowledge about the application of Yoga in a therapeutic context and it’s role in different phases of life. It is also the only text I know that directly addresses Yoga for women and for pregnancy.

I believe it should only be consumed under the guidance of a teacher who knows it, respects it and practices it both as a practitioner and teacher. It contains powerful knowledge that can be easily misused and abused – leading to illness instead of health.

It can be ordered here.

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