“Once it has learned to dream the double, the self arrives at this weird crossroad and a moment comes when one realizes that it is the double who dreams the self.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Some Things Are Once in a Lifetime

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Some things or all things?

What is health-care?

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

Drying Season is Open

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Last year I was an amateur at drying leaves, this is year I am still an amateur – but I’ve picked up some local wisdom – so I’m doing this a bit differently. This year I’ve started a bit earlier – getting ahead of the sun and of little creatures with who we share some of our plants. I’ve also gone from hanging thing outside to laying them out inside in a less extreme environment. I also wash them before setting them to dry.

It started today because I’ve spent more time then I usually do (which is a lot anyway) on the computer working on a wonderful website project (more on that soon I hope). I finished my work for today and then wanted to do my evening Yoga practice – but my mind was really all over the place and my energy nervous. So I sat down to watch an episode of Flash Forward (we are late to the game as we live without any broadcast media) – and that was a huge mistake – my energy completely crashed and all I wanted to do was sleep. So it was either surrender or see what I can do. I wondered around pointlessly for a few minutes looking for a way out of the trap I walked into …  that’s when drying season opened 🙂

I started with what little mint leaves have grown for us. What they lack for in quantity and size they make for in aroma. Amazing! They will be an excellent decorating-flavor in the tea mix.

Next up was the primary drying objective for this evening – the overflowing lemongrass. I didn’t get a shot of it full grown this time (maybe it will grow again this season and I’ll get that image) – but here’s a sink full of it:

And that’s what was set to dry – that flat pile is about 1 meter long and half a meter wide. We still have a few bags leftover from last season – but I think we’ll indulge in some fresh ones first 🙂

It is so amazing to watch these things grow every year – over and over again – a direct and natural experience of abundance.

Now off to practice 🙂

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

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 2 Sutra 29

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I’ve been dancing around Sutra 2.29 in two recent articles. The first was “Tapas & Relationships” and just yesterday as I was exploring Sutra 2.31. I didn’t have any intention to write about it until a recent debate began between myself and Bob Weisenberg on the comment thread of one of his Gita Talks posts. The debate broke off after I wrote a length reply that got lost in the commenting system. I will be using this post to pick up the thread. Sorry for the delay Bob.

A Table of Contents

On the face of it Sutra 2.29 seems like a straightforward list of “ashtanga” the 8 limbs of Yoga:

  1. Yama – your attitude toward your environment.
  2. Niyama – your attitude toward yourself.
  3. Asana (physical practices)
  4. Pranayama (breathing practices)
  5. Pratyahara (quieting the mind)
  6. Dharana (focusing the mind)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (integration / being present / clear perception / …)

For an overview of Yoga it seems to be in the middle of nowhere – but it’s actually strategically placed:

  • It’s not in the 1st chapter – which is about Samadhi – which, interestingly, is the last item on ashtanga list. If you can relate to and experience what is described in the first chapter – then you don’t need this list. If, like most people, you don’t then the 2nd chapter is there to help you.
  • The 2nd chapter is about practice – the things you can do to get to a point where you will be able to take on the 1st chapter.
  • The 2nd chapter starts with an explanation of why practice is required – to overcome obstacles. It explains about the different kinds of obstacles and how they effect us.
  • Only then, when we have some perspective and understanding about what it is we are trying to do, a system of tools is introduced in Sutra 2.29.

Weight of Practices

A table of contents can be, and in the case of Yoga in the west, is misleading. Let’s have a look at the number of sutras that are dedicated to the topics.

  • Yama & Niyama (external and internal attitudes) take up a better part of what remains of the 2nd chapter – 16 sutras.
  • Asana (physical practices) is mentioned in 2 sutras and in a 3rd sutra in which it shares a place with breath.
  • Pranayama (breathing practices) is mentioned in 4 sutras and shares a 5th in which it shares a place with asana.
  • Pratyahara (containment of the senses) is mentioned in the last 3 sutras of the 2nd chapter and serves as a transition into the 3rd chapter.
  • Dharana, Dhyanama & Samadhi (which make up the domain of meditation) take up the entire 3rd chapter – 55 sutras.

How does this reflect on your practice? Are you practicing asana or Yoga?

Samkhya Separates – Yoga Integrates

What set me on this path was a parallel I believe exists between this list and the philosophy of Samkhya. Samkhya is one of the ancient philosophies of India and is closely related to Yoga. Samkhya is a practical philosophy based on a number of assumptions:

  • There are two ultimate realities: Spirit (Purusa) and Matter (Prakrti).
  • The universe had a beginning – a “first movement” or “first cause”.
  • The “first movement” is beyond the intellect – so there’s no point in pursuing it intellectualy.
  • It is better to work with what is there now – a dynamic universe which arises from Spirit & Matter.

Samkhya then goes on to describe a process of evolution from which our “current universe” arises:

  1. From a meeting of Spirit & Matter evolved Gunas.
  2. From a meeting of Spirit & Matter came an Intelligent Will.
  3. From Intelligence Will evolved Separation and individuation.
  4. From Separation evolved Mind and thought.
  5. From thought evolved Sensing.
  6. From Sensing Qualities evolved the Subtle Elements of Nature.

It seems that Ashtanga is a process that retraces the path set out by Samkhya:

Yoga-Ashtanga Samkhya Relationship
Yama & Niyama Subtle Elements Our external and internal attitudes are in relationship to a physical universe.
Asana & Pranayama Sensing Initial practices are designed to create an awareness of the workings of the senses.
Pratyahara Mind Until there is an awareness that can tell tell apart the workings of mind from what the sense report through it.
Dharana Separation When the mind has become aware of its inner workings it can begin to focus clearly (without distractions)
Dhyana Intelligent  Will It can experience a sense of disintermediated connection with a higher intelligence.
Samadhi Gunas Finally mind is no longer a slave the Gunas

In my experience it is rare to find such a tight, thorough & systemic coupling of philosophy and actionable practice. I have a great respect for it and for my teachers who have introduced it to me in a way that is professional, inspiring, relevant and caring.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 4 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-11

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  • RT so wonderful, so true, so humbling @ Shuliji What we can offer one another: " … our own centredness … http://bit.ly/cmA9Ql #
  • … it is also disrespectful to assume that “I” am inadeqaute to my own experience http://bit.ly/9QYhaS – thank you @Shuliji #
  • new post at oDharma about the redesign of Feminitate – designing from a new frequency: http://bit.ly/9bQ8hH #
  • If you are technical-WordPress-oriented – here is an easy way to create themes with site sections: http://bit.ly/dc5JRK #
  • encountered a problem with Twitter – thought of contacting them for help – hand on mouse – I realized I felt there is no out there to help! #
  • Robert Pirsig & Frank Herbert – two authors with inspiring insight on love & death: http://bit.ly/cika2R #
  • short Yoga practices are a great substitute for no Yoga practices #
  • @SirKenRobinson why do you wear a suit & tie? in reply to SirKenRobinson #
  • Less talk = more touch, more presence, more communication? http://bit.ly/aFsfOl via @Shuliji cc: @mikhaill #
  • It is a bumpy ride through life that sets us on a path of disocvery that leads to Samadhi: http://bit.ly/bKYvsv – Yoga Sutra 2.31 #

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Yoga Sutra – Chapter 2 Sutra 31

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An article I recently published on Tapas & Relationships continued to reverberate within me for days after I published it. I was particularly caught up with Sutra 2.31 which seems to describes a relationship between the first two practices on the ashtanga list – Yama & Niyama.

Ashtanga: Eight Limbs of Yoga

Sutra 2.29 (second chapter, sutra 29) is a list of 8 disciplines which make up the art of Yoga:

  1. Yama – your attitude toward your environment.
  2. Niyama – your attitude toward yourself.
  3. Asana (physical practices)
  4. Pranayama (breathing practices)
  5. Pratyahara (quieting the mind)
  6. Dharana (focusing the mind)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (integration / being present / clear perception / …)

People sometimes speak of this as a “ladder” – which seems to suggests that Meditation (Dhyana) is a higher practice then Attitude towards others (Yama) or that Samadhi is the “highest achievement” of Yoga. I don’t think this is right, I think it is an incorrect interpretation, I think it blinds people from what Yoga is and I think it gives birth to incorrect views and false promises.

I believe that Sutra 2.31 offers a key to a better understanding of the relationship between the 8 practices of Yoga.

Trim Tabs: Refined Controls

This post started with an image I had from a long time ago about ship-rudders. I did some research into it and came across the idea of “Trim-tabs”:

“Trim tabs are small surfaces connected to the trailing edge of a larger control surface on a boat or aircraft, used to control the trim of the controls…”

Source: Wikipeda: Trim Tabs

My memory of it was related to ships where a smaller rudder (trim tab) is attached to the huge rudder that actually navigates the ship. Ship steering is controlled by moving the small rudder which then moves the large/main rudder. I couldn’t find a good ship-rudder image but I did find the same mechanism on airplanes. You can see how they work in this diagram. Small surfaces are used to activate and stabilize the larger surfaces. The smaller surfaces are refined controls for the larger surfaces.

This is what it looks like on an actual airplane:

Sutra 2.31: Gradual Change

What caught my attention about this Sutra was not the text itself but a commentary on it by TKV Desikachar:

“We cannot begin with such attitudes. If we adopt them abruptly we cannot sustain them. We can always find excuses for not maintaining them. But if we seek to identify the reasons why we hold contrary views, isolate the obstacles that permit such views and our attitudes will gradually change. The obstacles will give way and our behavior toward others and our environment will change for the better”.

Life demands engagement, it creates friction (Tapas) with many people. That is where the practice of Yama comes into play. It’s easier to take on a pleasant facade when you are on Yoga retreat with like-hearted people in a supportive environment then it is in a traffic jam when you are late for a meeting at work with people who annoy you. Yet being stuck in traffic on your way to somewhere you don’t want to be with people you don’t want to see is the more typical state of of life – and that is where Yama is practiced.

Yama is a practice of living an engaged life – it is about navigating truthfully, honestly, moderately, considerably and appropriately when it seems least possible. It’s like trying to fly a plane through hammering cross-winds and the stick is shaking in your hand violently. You may be able to keep a steady course for a while – but eventually you will tire out. The alternative is a refined system of steering – a trim tab to stabilize your flight.

This is what Sutra 2.31 suggests. If you are having trouble navigating in Yama (your relationship to others) examine your relationship towards yourself. Your attitudes towards yourself can stabilize your attitudes towards others. You can never really stop “navigating through life” – but the ride doesn’t have to be so bumpy. Use your attitudes towards yourself to stabilize your flight and to do so with less effort.

Trim Tabs for Trim Tabs

The Yoga Sutra is known for it’s conciseness and sparing use of words. It is an “economically efficient” text – it packs a lot into as little as words as possible. What if Sutra 2.31 is not just about the relationship between Yama and Niyama? What it is a formula that applies to all 8 limbs:

  • Yama – Niyama: If you experience friction with the world around around you, take a look inside – that may make it easier for you to navigate your relationships.
  • Niyama – Asana: If you find your own attitudes difficult to contain you may want to take on a physical practice.
  • Asana – Pranayama: If your physical practices seems limited or stuck – try breathing practices.
  • Pranayama – Pratyahara: If your breathing seems constricted – try practicing where there are less distractions.
  • Pratyahara – Dharana: If you have no distractions and yet you find your thoughts are disturbed – try steadying your mind.
  • Dharana – Dhyana: If you find it hard to steady the mind – try meditating on an image, thought or metaphor.
  • Dhyana – Samadhi: If you find it difficult to meditate – wait.

It’s easy to misread this list and to conclude that one should start with, for example, a subtle practice like meditation. This is not true. To use a refined control you must first experience the limitations of the gross controls. You cannot, for example, experience or appreciate the subtle qualities of Pranayama without first practicing Asana. At some point you may feel that asana has become repetitive and boring and not really affecting you. That is when you may find motivation and appreciation for breathing practices.

Ashtanga seems to describe a system of trim-tabs. As you advance in your practices you gain access and learn to appreciate subtler qualities. As you master subtle qualities you may call upon them to make your passage through life smoother and easier.

It would seem that the “highest achievement” of Yoga is not Samadhi (some theoretical state of bliss) but Yama (traffic on the way to work). Samadhi is merely a subtle tool for steering through life. It is a bumpy ride through life that sets us on a path of disocvery that leads to Samadhi. It is a smoother ride through life that makes it possible for us to appreciate it’s quality.

Buckminster Fuller

The term “trim-tab” was coined by one Buckminster Fuller:

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.”

So I said, call me Trim Tab.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & Life, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours