“I too did not want to take the path of a warrior. I believed that all that work was for nothing, and since we are all going to die what difference would it make to be a warrior? I was wrong. But I had to find that out for myself. Whenever you do realize that you are wrong, and that it certainly makes a world of difference, you can say that you are convinced. And then you can proceed by yourself. Any by yourself you may even become a man of knowledge.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Pranayama with Blocked Nasal Passages

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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?

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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

Little Waste to Zero Waste

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At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils are not your typical cafe-counter garbage. Made of plant-based plastics, they dissolve magically when heated for more than a few minutes.

At Ecco, a popular restaurant in Atlanta, waiters no longer scrape food scraps into the trash bin. Uneaten morsels are dumped into five-gallon pails and taken to a compost heap out back.

And at eight of its North American plants, Honda is recycling so diligently that the factories have gotten rid of their trash Dumpsters altogether.

It’s possible, and people are doing it – taken from Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None

Posted in AltEco, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Introduction to Getting Started with WordPress

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Some of the WordPress projects I create are with people who have never heard of blogging or websites, though most people I encounter have basic computer literacy – some have just that. Yet they have something to say – and my intentions are to help them say it. This creates some challenges for me – since there is some basic knowledge that they need to learn and assimilate in order to make some decisions and get started with WordPress- and I take on the responsibility of providing them with it.

I am currently involved in a project where these issues are again coming up and this time I started off by searching for some “getting started” guides to which I could refer my client as we progressed in the project. I couldn’t find any. So I hooked onto this projects and it’s needs and as we progressed I put in writing the things I wanted to say to my client. I used these posts in communicating with my client – and it really helped –  instead of having to repeat myself – the client could refer back to the posts at any time.

Getting Started with WordPress

I wrote (and  hope to continue) this series in the hope that other people in the WordPress community will benefit from it as they work to help other people create their wordpress websites.

Posted in Open Source, outside, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

What are WordPress Themes?

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A WordPress Theme is like an outfit for your WordPress blog – it contains information that tells WordPress how your website should appear and function for visitors. Besides your content, your Theme is what makes your blog unique and special.

Technically speaking you have to have a theme – without it your blog would be invisible. When WordPress is installed it comes with a standard built in Theme. You can add more Themes to your WordPress installation and decide “which one you want to wear”.

What’s in a Theme?

A WordPress Theme usually contains: (1)  Templates that that say what content should be displayed on your web-pages; (2) CSS files that indicate how that information should be visually presented together with Images that may be needed/used to decorate your web-pages.

There can be numerous templates in a theme – each one describes a different usage. For example:

  • What should be displayed when a list of recent posts is displayed? For example – for each post display: Title, Date & Time published, Excerpt, A link to a page where the entire post is displayed..
  • What should be displayed when a single post is displayed? For example: Title, Date & Time published, Categories, Content (the body of the post), A comment entry form, Existing comments, Links to previous and next posts.
  • What should be displayed when a category archive list is displayed? For example: Title, Date & time published.

These are just examples. But they go to show that there are plenty of options available in deciding what information is displayed in different situations. There are many standard templates so you don’t have to make all these choices – but you can.

CSS files are used to describe the looks of your website. They can be used to affect how things are arranged on the screen, colors, typography, etc. Images can be used to build and decorate your web-pages. Some images are used in an obvious way – such as your logo or header (at the top of every page). Other images are used by designers to achieve graphic affects for backgrounds or filling large areas.

Template building requires some programming skills and a familiarity with the internals of WordPress. CSS files & Images are usually created by designers who specialize in web-design. Creating a WordPress Theme requires a combination of programming & design skills.

Ready-made WordPress Themes

The most straightforward and inviting way to get a WordPress theme is by adding  ready-made themes to your WordPress installation. You will find a large and growing repository of themes on the WordPress.ORG website. You can also find many other themes & repositories by searching google for “WordPress Themes” but I would recommend you only use themes from the WordPress repository. Themes that are submitted to the WordPress.ORG repository meet certain technical and ethical standards which are there to protect you.

I started my way with WordPress using ready-made themes and I learned the hard way that this is not a quality solution:

  • My experience shows that many (if not most) of the ready-made themes are poorly built. They may look appealing, but under the hood they are poorly built and this will inhibit you and your blog in the short and long term.
  • You (and most people) probably do not know how to tell apart the poorly built themes from the properly built themes.
  • Inevitably most people turn to ready-made themes when they are just getting started – before they know what they want for their blog. As a result they end up settling for what their chosen ready-made theme does instead of exploring their possibilities.
  • If you do know what you want for your blog you will be hard pressed to find a theme that meets your expectations (form and function).

If you don’t have a better option and you have no choice but to settle for a ready-made theme, then I would suggest you invest in one of the commercially supported themes in the WordPress.ORG repository. These themes are usually backed by developers who offer commercial support services, including customization services, which may be a good option for you.

Custom Built WordPress Themes

If your intentions are clear and serious about expressing yourself online through a blog then, in my opinion, this is the only way to go. You can either take the long-way around and try all kinds of other solutions and then have a theme custom built for you, or you can skip directly to what needs to be done. I am tempted to say that if you are not yet sure about your intentions – then you may want to play around with the ready-made themes – but to be honest I am not even sure that is true. Your experience and exploration of WordPress will be completely different with professional guidance and a custom theme – in more ways then you can probably imagine.

If you do choose to have a custom theme built for you then your challenge is now finding someone who can help you do this. Here are some ideas on how to do this:

  1. Find a professional to help you at:
  2. Ask candidates to send you references to themes they have built – see if you like and can relate to their work.
  3. If you can, contact some of the people who have worked with candidates, ask them how the process was for them.

Theme Frameworks – Don’t start from Scratch

Imagine, just for a few seconds, you were going to order a custom made car. What are the things that come to your mind? It is most likely cosmetic stuff – like it’s shape & color. Of course it needs to have a good engine, gear-shift, air conditioning – but that kind of goes without saying. Building a WordPress theme is kind of like that, and if you want to be able to focus on the cosmetic aspects, you need to make sure they are built around a good engine. Your choice to use WordPress is already a step in the right direction, now you need to do the same for your Theme.

Building WordPress themes from scratch can be a tedious task (remember, there’s more then meets the eye). Fortunately some talented and caring WordPress professionals have done some great work to address this challenge. They have developed “Theme Frameworks”. Theme Frameworks are essentially naked themes – they provide most of the things a good theme needs to have under the hood and they are easy to customize. This is great for theme designers because they don’t need to start from scratch. For you this promises that your custom made theme is not only appealing but also well built.

There are, to the best of my knowledge, three quality WordPress theme frameworks: ThematicCarrington & ThemeHybrid. If your theme developer uses one of these frameworks it is a good sign. It indicates she values quality, recognizes the value of these frameworks, and is probably efficient (because it is much faster to build a theme based on a framework then from scratch). It means you are probably in good hands.

The Business of Themes

Theme framework developers are prominent and active members in the WordPress community and embody some of it’s special qualities. Their theme frameworks are offered freely to the WordPress community, some also offer free themes that are built on their own theme-frameworks. To the best of my knowledge, they all have successful businesses based on commercial support and customization services.

This is the Karma of the WordPress community. Almost everything is made available for you to use free of charge, if you enjoy and benefit from it you can send a nice thank you, make a donation or pass it on and help other enjoy it as you do. There are some commercial services which can address your special and personalized needs. BUT – the best commercial services are usually provided by people who are also contributors of free solutions to the WordPress community.

As in any community there are people who abuse the system and bend it to their needs. Please be warned – it you encounter Theme developers who only offer paid themes (or poor quality free themes intended to lure you in to buying the more luxurious paid themes) – stay away. Not only does this go against the nature of the WordPress community, but in my experience their solutions are technologically inefrior to what you can get for free.

Next up – some tips on how to work with Theme developers.

http://jobs.WordPress.net/
Posted in outside, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours