“But science itself, though extremely useful in other ways and serviceable as a battering ram to smash religion, if not out of existence at least out of shape, was not in my view fit ro tule the domain where faith holds sway.”
Gopi Krishna

Kundalini – The Evolutionary Energy in Man

A Shitty Lesson


A few days ago I completed watching (I watched it in chunks) the movie ‘Waiting for Superman” which offers a dramatic and critical view of the USA education system.

I made some twitter comments about it but I didn’t feel like writing a post (that was me practicing being less critical – this post is me failing at it). The whole time I was watching the movie I had a feeling it was completely sidestepping the problem. Almost every experience I have that originates in the USA is that it has fallen for the “American Dream” it represents – it has deluded itself into believing that capitalism is an end.

Life is purpose (dharma) PERIOD(.) Living in ignorance of purpose is a life that is bound to break. Consumerism and ownership (cornerstones of capitalism) are devoid of purpose and if that is all your system (capitalism) is geared to do (whether you are an individual or a country) then that system is going to break down. The “success” of the system IS in breaking down.

Just now, Andreea and I were discussing, again, our waste-management options (there are no sewers) in a village house we are building. The most difficult challenge we face is, bluntly put, how to remove shit from the house. The conventional and comfortable way is by using flushing water. The most simple and ecological way is by carrying it out (into composting bins). It’s a major decision with many aspects and effects. It’s a difficult decision because we really like not having to carry around our own shit (aint that a rich metaphor).

We then came across The Humanure Handbook – a prominent resource in ecological circles. There in chapter 4 I found this quote that went to the heart of the education problem:

By emphasizing the intellect at the expense of intuition, creativity, and conscience, our educational systems yield spiritually imbalanced individuals. No discussion of a subject should be considered complete without an examination of its moral, philosophical, and ethical considerations, as well as a review of the intellectual and scientific data. When we ignore the ethics behind a particular issue, and instead focus on intellectual achievements, it’s great for our egos. We can pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves how smart we are. It deflates our egos, on the other hand, to realize that we are actually insignificant creatures on a speck of dust in a corner of the universe, and that we are only one of the millions of life forms on this speck, all of whom must live together.

Education systems in almost every developed country (east and west) are either in overdrive or collapse, and no attempt to fix them seems to work. This, to me, is a classis platypus situation where rational observers are ignoring and denying what is actually there. Education systems don’t need to be fixed, they need to die. Education needs to be reinvented – from scratch. Our kids will not go anywhere near a system of education. For better or worse they will be nurtured by us and by others in our community – learning through life and naturally gravitating towards and discovering their own sense of purpose.

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The Non-Jewish Jew


4 or 5 years ago were living in Raanana a small city north of Tel-Aviv. We lived on the first floor of a small apartment building. One of our neighbors was an old man who lived by himself in a second floor apartment. He was a private, polite, soft-spoken individual. He spoke Hebrew with a rare accuracy and punctuality.

One day we encountered him on the footpath leading from the sidewalk and into the building. He tripped and fell and slightly injured his knee. We helped him up and Andreea helped him clean and bandage his wound.

A few days later he came to us carrying a gift. It was a paper he had recently written and published (or was about to be published). It was then that we discovered that he was a Professor of psychology at the Tel-Aviv University. His paper (in Hebrew) was titled “Psycho-history of the Jewish People”. Though I still haven’t read the entire article, it was in it’s first few pages that I encountered some vague connection to being Jewish.

Most people that know me have probably heard me say that the only thing that makes me Jewish is having been born to a Jewish mother. I have purposefully distanced myself from any religious practices, I know very little about Jewish traditions and I object to it as I do to any religion or, for that matter, any ritual that is performed blindly. In fact the modern incarnation of Judaism as it manifests through the state of Israel has been a source of much conflict and suffering for me.

Yet in this paper I encountered something which resonated with me. According to the paper the term The Non-Jewish Jew was first coined by Isaac Deutscher who was born to an orthodox Jewish family. Though he denounced Jewish faith and Jewish national aspirations he refused to forfeit his Judaism. The paper then quotes a letter written by Freud to a local Jewish organization in Vienna (following is my own rough translation from the Hebrew article into English:

“I must admit that I share neither Jewish faith nor national pride … but there are other qualities that endowed Jews and Judaism with an irresistible attraction. This attraction is rooted in mysterious forces and feelings which draw their power from an inexplicable source that defies definition”.

When I contemplate this I can feel a movement somewhere deep inside but it does not have enough momentum to reach the surface and sustain itself. My Israeli (and Jewish) Yoga teacher is my primary source of Jewish inspiration. Through her I have, in recent years, learned to appreciate and wonder about the spiritual qualities of the Hebrew language. Yet as I think of her, my heart and mind travel on to other people who have inspired me and with whom I feel a connection and the thread that connects this small and special group is indeed something that defies definition and it is the only tradition where I feel at home. I know of no clear religious, tradition, national, social, intellectual or ideological thread that passes through me.

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

One Romanian Woman in a Japanese Tsunami


A single Tsunami has shaken up the lives of so many people, yet it’s too far away for me to relate to it. I spent a few minutes consuming a bit of mass media (TV, Internet) and I despaired – it’s hard for me to connect to any real human experience beyond the superficial, sensationalistic and overly dramatic repetition by plastic reporters dressed up as humans.

I am however carrying with me in my heart and thoughts one Romanian woman, the woman we regularly buy milk from at the market. We first purchased milk from her during our first weeks here. Over recent weeks something has happened to her. She doesn’t look well, her smile is almost gone. We’ve asked her and she said she isn’t feeling well, but the hectic-market is not a place for lengthy intimate conversations.

Last week we purchased fresh milk from her. On the way home we drank from it (it went really well with the cookies we were snacking on) and Andreea sensed something is not right with the milk. When we got home we placed it in a pot to boil, Andreea went out again and I drifted off at the computer, forgot to turn off the gas, and spoiled the milk. When Andreea came home and looked at it she found traces of milk-powder.

What is happening to our milk-woman? What is her suffering? What could cause here to dilute her marvelous fresh milk with milk-powder? Will a few more lei make her suffering go away? Can I do something for her? Should I speak to her? Should I buy my milk elsewhere?

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Witness Fault


Every time I witness a fault in myself I am in the presence of  an inner witness
A witness in me that knows better
Every time I embrace the witness I drift gently towards better
Every time I grasp the fault I fall swiftly away

Every time I witness a fault in another I am in the presence of an inner witness
A witness in me that knows better
Every time I am softly present for the other we drift closer together
Every time I am harshly critical we drift quickly apart

Every time I embrace
Every time I am present
My witness grows stronger
Every time I grasp
Every time I am harsh
My witness grows silent

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Pranayama Prepares Mind for Meditation


Have you ever noticed that when you sit down to meditate the mind becomes frantic? No matter how soft a meditation practice you have, when you first sit down and observe the mind it’s all over the place. Then when you want to gently help it settle is seems to run around even more.

Dropping directly from life into a meditation can be a sudden transition for the mind. The mind is usually busy getting things done, remembering what needs to be done and anticipating what may need to get done – it’s driving around the city in a rush to get from place to place. If you’ve ever been in a car that’s come to a full and sudden stop then you know what happens to the mind when you sit down to meditate. The sudden and radical change from hectic business to sudden stillness is a shock.

Pranayama (Yoga breathing practices) are a transitional practice for the  mind. The use of formulated, measured and repeated breathing keeps the mind busy and involved. It gives the mind something to do. So now instead of driving hectically around the city we’re asking the mind to drive around the block a few times. The first few rounds may still be fast and furious but then repetition kicks in. The familiarity of driving around the same block over and over again brings the mind into familiar territory – repetition reduces surprises, places less demand on the mind and enables it to relax.

Bringing the mind to stillness is much easier this way. The mind has slowed down making the transition to stillness easier. The mind is also less anxious making it less resistant to the qualitative change from movement to stillness. The transition into stillness is no longer an attack on it or even against its nature. The transition into stillness is now completing that last drive around the block, pulling into the driveway and coming to a soft and welcome rest.

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