“Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences, and not to use or value them creatively.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

Farewell Milford Graves

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

Yoga Practice – Winter 2020/21

n

This feels like a long-overdue update. A few months ago I had in mind a post with more “graphs” to illustrate the shifts in my practice, more details about the practice, and my breath, but that never came to be. Now I have only a slight inclination to write … so this will be brief … mostly to make note of some highlights of this period.

Summer: Work

After a relatively good allergy period, I settled into a regular flow of work. I was also practicing continuously and practice itself was on a steady curve of recovery. However, it didn’t go beyond a certain quality. I was not able to settle into a deeper more intense practice:

  • There was physical dstraction: I was doing a lot of physical work which left me physically tired and neading rest.
  • There was physical anxiety: Much of the work this year involved working high up on scaffolding, on a pithched roof … with safety ear. Though I worked slowly and with care, the hightened demands on balance, footing, work process, etc … were taxing … physically and mentally.
  • There was mental distraction: There were a lot of mental challenges which required my attention and occupied my mind. Sometimes resolutions would come during practice … sometimes at the “expense” of presence in practice.
  • There was emotional distraction: It was a disharmonious time in my relationship with Iulia. There was a demanding mixture of working together towards something while growing apart.

So, though I was practicing regularly, it felt like there was only so far I could go within these conditions. I was aware of this and embraced it. I settled into a good wholesome, stable practice. My breath was getting better. I was looking forward to fall, when the work would taper off and for better practice conditions.

Fall: Sleep

Iulia had spent most of the summer sleeping in a tent outside. When the temperatures dropped she folded up the tent and moved back inside. That had a drastic and obvious negative impact on the quality of my sleep … and sleep, somewhat like breath, is a clear indicator of well being … or in this case lack of it.

This biological feedback led to a clear realization that I did not want anymore to share a living space with Iulia. I did not want to wait until next year until we finish the summer kitchen renovation. I wanted to sleep better now.

So I decided to separate our living spaces. I moved into the living room and Iulia stayed in the bedroom. A new mattress converted one of the couches into a bed. Most of Iulia’s belongings moved to the bedroom. I now had a space to myself. Iulia was now free to live with her excesses and I was free to live with my minimalism. I only had to tend to one stove (instead of two). I had a quiet space without constant hectic movement … and I had a desk!

During fall and winter I look for other ways to fill my days (when it is too cold, dreary and muddy for physical work outside). Most of the things I wanted to do required, like practice, a sense of calm and presence. When sharing a space with Iulia I did not feel calm and present. Now I could start to nurture more such presence.

… and I have a desk … I can sit and write, paint, practice shodo

Practice was getting better, but a new obstacle surfaced … a blockage in my left nostril. It demanded my attention and required softeness … and it limited what I could in practice:

  • Sometimes it only required caring attention. This was nurturing … it evoked … caring attention. If I didn’t practice with attention and placed excess demands on my breath … my breath became strained … and called back … attention!
  • Sometimes it required softening of practice. This was also nurturing … it evoked … softness! In terms of asana count, or duration of practice I was “practicing less” … but I sensed an (almost corresponding?) increase in both attention and softness.
  • Sometimes it demanded only a short and soft practice (such as pratikriya) … and sometimes it demanded no practice.

I felt a subtle “peak” during this period. I had no ambition to get over this, to fix or heal myself. I found myself engaged with noticing where I was and praciticing accordingly. A peaceful sense of presence … and indeed, except for a few days here and there, I did not feel that, despite the limitation of breath, my sense of presence was not compromised. I also physically well. I felt my body available for more … but respecting the limitations of breath.

Over time I came to associate the breath blockage with aloneness.

Winter: Alone

As I write these words, almost the end of the 2020 calendar year, my breath is, by my standards, quite deteriorated. Since fall, I’ve gradually had to retreat in Pranayama from Pratiloma Ujjayi to Anuloma Ujjayi and in recent weeks to Ujjayi. There were a few weeks, after retreating to ujjayi, where I was able to gradually increase the length of my breath (from an 8 second inhale to 10 seconds) … but that has not held.

Around the time of the winter soltice I felt a shift. The blockage in my left nostril felt somewhat released and a tension appeared in my upper chest … and then moved down towards the diaphragm. Sometimes it sits at the place I associate with asthma. When it does, I get to inhabit consciously and without urgency that place in me where breathing was (and can be) blocked. Though I now sometimes express a light cough, I feel that shift was of release … of diffusion of a tension that was locked in one place. I am curious to see where this goes.

These days I am practicing whatever I can practice softly. Often it is without a metronome, just tending to an extended exhale, if possible soft AK and BK. When vitality increases slightly, I will use a metronome. I am experimenting, when possible with mid-day and evening practices. I have explored sequences of Ujjayi -> Surya Bedhana -> Sitali.

The limited breath has shortened my practice. I spend generous amounts of time between asana witnessing my breath and how it expresses effort. I avoid pushing my breath so that at the end of whatever practice I am able to do, there is softness in my breath and access to some kind of basic pranayama.

When reflecting on all this I associate it with aloneness. I have been able to fill my days well. But I am alone … I feel profoundly alone. I imagine that even in a monastery there are other monks … even though you may be silent and turned inwards … you are still in a way together.

I think it is very difficult to be as alone as I am. So I want to say that it is difficult … but that doesn’t sound quite right or true. I do not feel emotionally burdened and I am not motivated to go and seek out people. I actually feel privileged to be able to be alone the way I am.

There is an issue with vitality. When I do connect with others and experience meaningful conversation that evokes my essense and gifts to come to the surface I feel a vitality arising. It has clear biological signals … I get warm … and especially in this time of winter I have to shed a layer of clothing to adjust. This vitality is something I do not have access to on my own.

Without this kind of vitalizing engagement, I tend towards heaviness. I counter it by occupying myself well (practice, practice, practice!). Countering the heaviness brings me to an unstable equanimity. The equanimity itself is a place I treasure, but the pull towards heaviness remains. And when I am unable to actively hold the equanimity the heaviness arises. And, I have not yet found a way to shift independently to the vitality I can experience with others.

I do not have a tendency to get emotional, and when I do I do not tend to be activated by my emotions. But my breath … it, I believe, may be expressing a lot of the difficulty that is present and not expressing emotionally.

So … maybe I am not completely alone … I am with my breath.

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

I Shakuhachi – December 25, 2020: Love’s Impurities

n

my silence is the sound of a cleansing fire
that burns through impurities that arise
within a love that binds us

Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – December 23, 2020: Slow Reach

n
Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to add your comment

Mixing Paint

n

Over the last couple of months, I’ve settled back into painting with gouache paints. It took me time to warm up to brushes, to the different viscosities of paint, and to mixing colors … and to find something to paint (more on that soon I hope).

As anyone who mixes colors can attest, it is almost impossible to repeat a mix … to get the same exact color ratios. Sometimes, arriving at a desired color feels like a beautiful accident … I may be able to come close to it again … but it will never be the same.

Sometimes this is not a problem, sometimes it is even desirable … the colors shift slightly as a painting evolves and the colors take on a (and gift the painting) with more life. However, sometimes it does matter. Such as when I am painting a large area, or when I want to go back and touch-up a small detail with the same color.

One of the challenges I am facing, so far with mixed! results, is mixing enough paint. It originates from and evokes a sense of scarcity – some of it subjective and some objective. I have to make a conscious effort to generously squeeze the tube. I do not want a practice of scarcity to sneak into the practice of painting … but there it is!

I recently “indulged” and (finally!) made these color charts … which were, in a way, a complete (and priceless!) waste of paint 🙂 It took two days of emotional blockage until I was able to find softness and give myself permission to do this … and it was a lot more work than I imagined it would be!

… and then I stumbled onto this:

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

I Shakuhachi – December 18, 2020: Calling Rita

n

from Rita to rta

Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to add your comment

The Madame Butterfly Effect

n

This podcast episode on ripples through history by Daryl Cooper is a gem … if I could, I would hand him my “podcast episode of the year” award!

“Why were there Japanese people in an Israeli airport killing Puerto Rican Christians to support Arabs who hated Jews?”

Daryl Cooper – Martyrmade Podcast

  1. A German named Marx invents an ideology called Communism.
  2. During the first world war Germany put a handful of communists on a train to Russia to foment a revolution which spawned the Soviet Union.
  3. A generation later the Soviet Union destroys Germany and plants some seeds in Japan.
  4. Those seeds grow into the Japanese Red Army which followed a former topless dancer to the middle-east.
  5. … which adopted the imperial Japanese technique of the Kamikaze
  6. … and because fate was not yet finished with Germany some of those Arab militants show up and start murdering Jews in Munich
  7. … only this time it was not for German imperialism or Nazism but for anti-imperialism and anti-Nazism
  8. … and finally by way of that circuitous path some Arab militants, who by now have made the Kamikaze attack they learned from Japanese communists their weapon of choice, struck at the heart of the capitalist world with four airliners …

Daryl Cooper – Martyrmade Podcast
Posted in Intake, outside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

I Shakuhachi – December 14, 2020: Fog Lifting

n
Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – December 13, 2020: Remembering Longing

n
Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – December 10, 2020: Be Soft

n

I’ve been feeling out of tune for a few days … and this morning the Shakuhachi spoke that to me. Broken breath and off-pitch … I accepted and continued to breath into it … accepting and invitng soft resonance … no explorations … just vibration … I wasn’t expecting it to anywhere … and then it arrived … one note that vibrated well … and it whispered into my heart “be soft … very soft” … and … well:

… in fact … these incidental whispers are the essence of playing Shakuhachi … similar to breathing in Yoga practice … somehow it all seems to come back to the breath!

Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

I Shakuhachi – December 4, 2020: Child & Sun

n

… of a child and the sun

Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – December 1, 2020: Raw & Direct

n

I woke up with a strain in my back. When I picked up the Shakuhachi the tapping sounds called for me … no warmup breaths, no tuning … but the tapping … which led to breathing. I was playing from and for the strain in my back:

Today (the next day), the strain was more subtle, but still present and again I was surprised to feel summoned to go directly into playing:

Posted in About, My Shakuhachi Recordings | You are welcome to add your comment

My 1st Shakuhachi Decade

n

It’s been over a decade since I first held the Shakuhachi I currently play. I am making a note of it because I am looking forward to a new chapter in my relationship with it.

I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with the Shakuhachi. When I am with it, as I have been for the past few months, it has (as far as I can recall) usually been before my Yoga practice. This is because, like Yoga practice, I feel I need to be in a correct state-of-mind to approach it. Like Yoga practice, playing it does not evoke a sense of presence in me, but requires it of me … so if I am not present and spacious I do not approach it.

A few lessons

Way back then I took a few (2 or 3 I think) via Skype. Shakuhachi teachers were not abundantly available in Israel and are not abundantly available in Romania. I was afraid to approach a teacher for three reasons.

The first was past negative experiences with western music. I practiced piano for two years when I was young. The only thing I remember from that was a story that my parents had to sacrifice a trip to Europe in order to get me a piano … and that I did not like being assigned more homework by my teacher … so I dropped it As an adult, I tried to take on guitar and found myself with a teacher who flooded me with music theory (it felt like mathematics) when I wanted to explore music and sound … so I dropped that too. How was it going to be this time, when, on top of it promising to be a difficult instrument, the music notation is in a foreign language too!

The second reason is the most pragmatic: I was in a transition period (and I’ve been transitioning ever since) and money was becoming scarce … and lessons felt expensive for me … especially regular (weekly) lessons.

The third reason is the most delicate. I wanted to approach Shakuhachi music as a meditative practice, not as a musician. That, in my mind, sets a different bar for a “teacher.” I already had a clear notion of what a teacher can be from my relationship with my Yoga teachers and I knew that finding a teacher is a big ask.

Three things stayed with me from my limited interactions with the teacher I chose:

  1. A practice I’ve held ever since of playing bamboo leaves.
  2. Doubt about the quality/precision of my Shakuhachi and/or my ability to play it. This too has stayed with me ever since.
  3. Anxiety. The Shakuhahi has 5 holes which (initially) resonate with 5 notes from a pentatonic(ish?) scale. There is a higher register (in good flutes in the hands of good players, even two higher registers!) but because there are only 5 holes it takes refined breathing technique and capacity to activate it. The first piece I started to study with my teacher, the most basic of Shakuhachi pieces, soon required this higher register and I could not play it.

So … we (the Shakuhachi and I) were off to a bumpy start and that se the tone for the decade since.

Finding my own way

I’ve had to find my own way with the instrument and this is some of what has worked for me and the process I follow almost every time I do play:

  1. Only play when I want to.
  2. Only play when the Shakuhachi indicates to me that it wants to be played. It is a mutual relationship and there is no point in forcing it.
  3. Sure there are “only 5 notes” (which is not really true!) but there is so much subtlety and color to the sounds a Shakuhachi can produce. Embrace the “limitation” and discover that there is plenty to explore in the space.
  4. The bamboo is seasonal … it isn’t just me that changes with the seasons of the year, it is also the flute … tuning is where we find each other and come together.
  5. Go slow. Blowing (bamboo-shaped) single notes is very rewarding … and tells me something about where my breath is. Then two-note connected, then three … and be attentive to a combination of sounds – a phrase that shimmers for me.
  6. When something shimmers repeat it … again and again … until I can feel the next note that is asking to be added to the short phrase.
  7. Add it to the phrase … and repeat … and go back to step 6 until I feel drawn to go somewhere.
  8. Go where I feel drawn to go.

Sounds

I’ve recently started making some recordings again. Sometimes there’s nothing there except for the basic practices. Sometimes there is friction that, when I am able to stay with it, leads to wild and unpredictable explorations, Sometimes something comes together. Here is one recent example of something that felt like coming together:

Finding Nick

During the last few months, I risked a few small excursions into the “search for the higher register” and I stumbled on to it … or part of it. But the effort to reproduce it was not pleasant (felt very forced) … neither was the sound.

I was curious to see what a Shakuhachi online search would yield … it has been more then a decade since I looked online … and I was surprised. There seems to be more … more people, more flutes … some instructional youtube videos. It is still very much a niche … but it is much larger than I remembered it.

I did not find a resolution to the question of the higher-register (despite some tips on how to go about it). I did discover that a younger generation of practitioners, makers, and teachers who seem to have surfaced. Maybe this is a consequence of technological literacy and a willingness to bring online an art that was traditionally only available physically?)

My search brought me to (amongst other places) this video:

… YES …. it is about the breath … NOW THIS is something I’d like to know more about. So I clicked into the channel and ingested this next video. The best description I’ve encountered so far of the essential differences between ji-ari and ji-nashi Shakuhachi:

But it wasn’t just the information … there was something else about this guy. I appreciated his white t-shirt, or more specifically that he was NOT wearing a kimono to evoke a superficial Japanese vibe. I appreciated the Tatami mats underneath him and what looks like a Shoji screen next to him that together speak of authentic immersion in Japan.

Then I moved to this video that describes an arc of relationship with the Shakuhachi ranging from monastic to musical:

… and finally his intimate (and successful) crowdfunding effort to translate a traditional text into English:

… and I felt peacefully drawn … would he be able to gently guide me into my 2nd Shakuachi decade? would he be able to heal and deepen my relationship with the flute I have? would I be able to one day ask him to make for me a flute that would slip beautifully onto my breath? would I be able to advance my knowledge and practice to the point where I could relate to the Kinpu-ryu text as a living text and not just as a museum piece?

These questions sat with me … and I hesitated … until finally I wrote him … and he wrote back. His name is Nick Bellando and we had a flowing and pleasant introductory conversation. He felt to me like a kind and knowledgeable human being. He listened to me and my Shakuhachi story with care and understanding. If all goes well, he may be my guide into my 2nd Shakuhachi decade.

Posted in About, inside, My Shakuhachi Recordings, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to add your comment

Shodo – Getting Started

n

A couple(?) of years ago Iulia went to a calligraphy workshop in Cluj and the papers she came back with shimmered for me. It stayed with me for a while. Eventually, I did some research into it and that led me to Shodo:

THIS spoke to me. I seem to be drawn to Japanese culture. First the Shakuhachi, then Kumiko (for which I have not had space during this last year) … and now Shodo. This felt like a great “indoors activity” for winter.

While I was inquiring into Shodo, Iulia searched and found that there is a practitioner in Cluj. I was surprised and excited at the possibility of having a living human being who could guide me. I even left my cave and went to meet her at a presentation she gave in Cluj (about a year ago?!). We spoke, she was reluctant and said that if she had space she would get back to me. I haven’t heard back from her (yet?).

I also inquired about online courses and found one that seemed attractive. I signed up for the first-section to sense the vibe. I liked it and started researching for materials. For better and for worst, Amazon is a limited experience in Romana so I had to look elsewhere. After more research, I found a producer from China (Japanese calligraphy originated in China) and, just before the pandemic took off, placed an order.

The order took a long time to arrive (~8 months). I was starting to think that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. However, as fall set in and I was nailing down the last tiles on the roof nearing the end of this construction season, I received an SMS that the package had arrived in Cluj. It took two visits to the city to retrieve it (because during the first visit the post office was closed for disinfection) but it made it home … a brush, an ink stick, an inkstone, and some paper.

… and I’ve been practicing. I am using newspaper as practice paper: … still don’t have the courage to “waste” good paper 🙂

The most interesting aspect of this practice so far, has been a raw and fresh experience of Quality. With every movement, every stroke and every character, I get a direct sensory experience of Quality. Before I get into an intellectual analysis of what worked, what didn’t and what I can improve … there is an immediate experience: this sucks, this is OK, this is actually good … that stroke came out beautiful. It reminds me of breathing in Asana … but this is a new subject matter … where the experience is still new and immediate. I don’t have (yet) past experience to pre-empt my experience.

I feel like I am excercising my Quality muscles 🙂 … and since I am using the newspapers to start the stove … all that is left is whatever embodied knowledge accumulated … and my impression of Quality!

Posted in inside, Shodo | Tagged | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Yoga Practice & Allergy – Summer 2020

n

During the first half of May, I started to sense first signs of allergy. A slight itch at the top of my mouth, a very slight wheeze in my breath, an itch on my back. All these, when allergy is in full swing, can quickly escalate. But they were subtle. I recall one or two mornings where I felt practice was limited due to agitation or constricted breath.

Then half way into May the subtle symptoms got amplified, still relatively (to past years) soft, but affected my breath and vitality enough to warrant a shift in practice. Though this year the shift was different. Instead of gradually winding down the practice (as I’ve done in past years) I decided to make a shift from a siksana (intensifying) to a raksana (health maintenance) practice.

This shift, in retrospect, embodied a deeper intuition than I was aware of at the time. In the past, winding down the practice gradually represented an attachment to the quality of practice I was enjoying before allergy symptoms appeared. It is a quality that comes from a period of deep, continuous and uniterrupted practice. It is usually how I am coming out of winter into spring, but this year it was further amplified by the pandemic. I did absolutely no travelling and so was deep into undisrupted practice.

Though, this year, it seems, I was not attached to my practice. Instead of practicing to my fullest, constantly testing my edges in response to the allergy … I decided to seek a soft, stable and grounding practice that:

  • Respecting and responded to the reduced vitality and somewhat limited breath.
  • Preserving a soft and continuous relationship with pranayama.
  • Staying in touch with my physical body.
  • Keeping up basic strength.
  • Preserving flexibility … avoiding, if possible, settling into a more rigid form that I would have to work at later in recuperation.

I have marked in green the parts of the practice that stayed, in red those that I dropped and in yellow those that were added or adapted. Overall the breath was good but shorter (~8 second inhale compared to my fuller 10 or 12),

PostureRepeat
tadasanaR4
uttanasanaR2 + S2
parsva uttanasanaR2+S2 / –
trikonasana (uddhita + parivrti)ALT4 + [ALT4 + S1]
utkatasana + ardha utkatasanaR6
cakravakasanaR2 + S3
adhomukha svanasanaS6
raised leg variations~8 breaths
dvipada pithamR2 + S4
sarvangasanaS10-12
halasanaS4
bhujangasanaR4
bhujangasana + bent kneesR4
ardha salabhasanaR4 + S1
salabhasana (incremental)R4
dandasanaR2 + S2
janusirsasanaR3 (midrange, micro, static) + S2
matsyendrasanaR6
mahamudraR12 / _
pascimatanasanaR2 + S2

In Pranayama I switched from a 1:2 ratio to a 1:1.5 ratio and from Pratiloma to Anuloma:

8.0.12.0x6 anuloma ujjayi
8.2.12.4x6 anuloma ujjayi
8.4.12.8x6 anuloma ujjayi
8.0.8.0x6 anuloma ujjayi
4.0.4.0x4 ujjayi

And this held steady, with very little fluctuation for this entire period! This steadiness was a precious experience in what has been in the past a very turbulent period.

To demonstrate my feeling consider this theoretical graph that charts vitality/well being over a period of 18 days. This chart tells a story of turbulent fluctuation:

In this next version I describe a quality of well-being at the “50” level. If I can achieve this baseline, it moderates the turbulance. I don’t drop to lows below “50”.

This year, I felt I arrived with a kind of peak vitality and when I “sharply” dropped into Raksana (staying healthy) mode I both avoided the friction (expending energy) of trying to hold on to more practice AND settling into a soft and spacious experience. The result was an experience of feeling better and more stable throughout the period … more like a “70” baseline … much less fluctuation … a more stable experience:

This feeling of stability is also marked by what was absent from it:

  • No sneezing until my spine hurts
  • No sleepless nights
  • No accumulating agitation that leads to impatience and lack of concentration.
  • No loss of appetite.

The symptoms increased during the early part of June, but remained very moderate compared to previous years. I took antihistamine pills only twice (compared to 8-10 times last year). Once as a pre-emptive curiosity when symptoms were escalating before going to sleep. Another when symptoms were escalating midday.

Overall the symptoms were greatly reduced in frequency, intensity and duration. When symptoms did arise, I could sit and witness them. Most times they either dropped away. A few times they stayed around for a few hours but with a relatively with a light presence.

Around mid-June I felt a shift … a subtle increase in vitality. However, towards the end of June, there was a noticeable downturn. A feeling of constriction seemed to settle in my chest and nostrils. It affected practice. It required more softness and attention, shortened my practice, and on a couple of occasions required a minimal ujjayi sequence instead of a full Pranayama sequence. On a few days (4 or 5) I moved the practice from the regular morning time to the evening when I felt more ease in my breath.

During the first ~10 days of July I’d been subtly and gradually re-populating the practice. I’ve experienced some physical tiredness from recent construction work so I started by adding a stay in Savasana (after cakravakasana). I had avoided lying postures because lying on my back aggravated my breathing … so being able to stay in Savasana is an improvement. In recent days I’ve also introduced some raised leg and dvipada pitham … re-introducing the space of lying postures.

Since then the practice is really ramping up at a surprising pace. The standing posture sequence is almost back to full. So is the seated posture sequence… with a moderate and shorter stay in mahamudra. I’ve started re-introducing back-bends. BK are extending and AK are starting to appear again. Shoulderstand may return before the month ends. Then, I expect to plateau and slowly witness a building up of finer qualities. This graph illustrates the difference I am experiencing this year compared to a few years ago:

This graph places me (as I feel) shows a recuperation almost 2 months earlier. As I charted it I realized how long this event lasts. In the past it reached 5+ months. This year much shorter.

This year was a radically different year in terms of allergy. I feel I have stumbled onto some deeper understanding. But I feel I would need another few years (and allergy cycles) to take a deeper look at my “hypothesis”. It may be that it was a “lighter pollen” year, or that the rainy weather kept the air cleaner … time will tell.

I am left with a reflection on allergy as:

An exaggerated response to misperception.

I have been tending to it as such over the years … and as I look at the wider state of the planet … I am seeing this pattern in more context and depth … but these reflections, both at the persona level and beyond, I will reserve for another time.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

The Edge of Something

n

This comes to me to compliment an impoverished philosophy.

“I feel I am on the edge of something …”

David Bohm
Posted in AltEco, Enjoy, inside, Intake, outside, Quality | Tagged , | You are welcome to add your comment

The Price of an Impoverished Philosophy

n

I have and continue to avoid doctors not because of the drugs they prescribe but because of the mentality & mindset with which they look at me.

First, this video in which Jordan Peterson (a renowned psychologist, researched, teacher who disappeared for almost a year) describes what he went through because of psychiatric medication:

Then this, about the false narrative that dominates and drives modern psychiatry:

The 40-50 year arc drawn by Robert Whitaker makes me think about GMO and the claims that are currently being made about their safety.

Posted in AltEco, Intellect Run Amok, outside | Tagged , | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Yoga Practice Spring 2020

n

Tone

On the one hand, it feels like I’ve had a long sequence of uninterrupted practice. Uninterrupted by any major event (no allergy, no back strain). On the other hand, this period has been affected by a continuous sense of agitation and disruption. One cause for this has been lack of clarity and insecurity about my relationship with Iulia, a relationship that is going through a major transformation that I hope leads to a more peaceful co-existence.

The Coronavirus pandemic has added to that. My day-to-day lifestyle and routine have not changed much because of the virus. The most impactful experience of disruption for me was Iulia’s choice to travel to the UK for a Vipasana retreat at the end of February just as the pandemic was gaining momentum. This included a conversation before her travels that left me and my sensemaking feeling alone, lost and helpless … and the brokenness between the two of us (relatively close) people left me questioning the capacity of human beings to move gracefully together on larger scales. Then, as a consequence of her travels came logistic disruptions around her quarantine away from home and then return home after a few weeks.

The common thread has been a continued amplification of a sense of: wholeness when looking inwards and brokenness when looking outward at the world (both near and far). Practice has continued to be a solid foundation upon which I stand. My intellectual sensemaking feels challenged and challenging. But the sensemaking I experience through my body, breath and attention is clear and whole. I can clearly sense subtle (and gross) differences through practice and I use that in a kind of feedback loop to navigate my life.

If my morning practice indicates a sense of diminishment I look back at the previous day(s) and try to identify things that may have affected me negatively and try to adjust the contents of my days to avoid activities or interactions that drain me. The findings are not surprising and often obvious since I likely had negative emotional responses when they occurred. However, I wait for the wholistic feedback of practice to guide me. I find the embodied feedback more reliable than both excessive & fleeting emotional responses and logical reasoning. If my morning practice indicates a sense of increased vitality I try to look back and add more of what nourishes me (basically trying to increase a sense presence and mastery in my actions and choosing activities which evoke my sense of presence and mastery).

In a (simplistic) way, the result is an amoeba-like behavior of moving towards nourishing patterns and away from poisonous patterns. The overall movement of this period seems to be towards increased retreat and reduced engagement. This, to me, is not an obvious or trivial outcome.

… yet in this period I have (hesitantly) reached out to the world once again … this time with an offering of breath

Practice

Practice has remained at its core unchanged. It has however fluctuated. I adjust the practice in response to my sense of vitality.

There are fluctuations that seem to have a roughly-monthly cycle. This will include 2 or 3 days of tiredness where I switch modality of practice to either maintenance or, if necessary, healing. I’ve started logging some information about these ~monthly recurring events and am curious to see if a pattern will emerge over time.

Then there was a larger-scale periodic fluctuation. I do not recall the fall months well (too much time has passed). However moving into winter I felt a steady increase in vitality and expansion in breath. Then, during winter I came to a kind of stand-still in vitality but the quality of my breath suffered.

Most of winter I experienced some blockage in my nostrils … mostly the left … which effected mostly the Pranayama practice but sometimes also the asana practice. I accommodated this by shifting from Pratiloma Ujjayi to Anulom Ujjayi – still using a 1:2 ratio. That brought stability back to my practice and allowed me to ease the breath by shifting, as necessary, from 8 breaths a round to 6 breaths a round.

Somewhere in late January/early February, there was a turn and I felt vitality gradually and steadily increasing. I started to feel strong in my core, extended B.K. holds returned and spread throughout the practice and a sense of strength and lightness returned.

Pranayama had expanded within the 1:2 ratio to a steady peak of 8.8.16.8. But the blocked nostril was still there and I started to feel constrained by it. Some weeks ago I decided to shift back to a 1:1.5 ratio and a 10 second inhale, still with Anuloma Ujjayi, currently peaking at 10.5.15.10. In recent days the nostril blockage seems to be easing somewhat … though seasonal allergy is just around the corner … so curious how breathing evolve over the next couple of months.

The Mahamudra journey has gone through fluctuations (in response to my overall vitality). Over the last 2 months it has seen renewed vigor and is currently hovering around:

12.4.12.4 x6 breaths
12.4.12.8 x3 breaths
12.8.12.8 x3 breaths

Shortly after the new year, I was able to chant Yoga Sutra chapter 1 completely and I started learning chapter 2. I was surprised to experience a much-accelerated learning curve … I am nearing completion of chapter 2.

  • Full practice is almost 3 hours long and occupies my mornings.
  • As the weather has improved we’ve started spending more time outdoors working. I am warming up to that. I currently feel good working physically for 2 – 3 hours of physically demanding work (earthbag construction). I can go up to 4-5 hours of moderate physical work (workshop).
  • When I push the physical work too far it usually affects the next morning’s practice … causing some tiredness which requires some form of compensation in practice.
  • The Coronavirus has brought more people into online interaction and therefor “closer to me”. This has increased my exposure to online interaction … I generally limit this to one session a day, usually in the evening after work … and apply the same amoeba-mentality to them … nourishing stays and diminishing is reduced.

The days are getting longer and starting to feel too long … I am not finding the energy and vitality to fill them well … so still figuring that part out.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

AlphaGo

n

I enjoyed this documentary about AlphaGo – the AI that cracked the game of Go. However, I felt that there was another player at the table, an overlooked player: the qualitative outcome. Despite the potential complexity of the game of Go, its outcome is still a simplistic quantity: area conquered.

I have a feeling that the better this technology gets and the better we get at applying it, the more likely we are to lose touch with quality, with human nature and human sensibilities … with life. Measurable efficiency will attain godhood.

I have witnessed this kind of trap in my own (non AI) thinking. I aspire to have a warm home with little to no energy input. I’ve done research on this and have come up with (for now theoretical) answers on how to achieve this. They involve strategically burying and insulating a house WITH the earth around it. This presents challenges in terms of natural light.

Through my exploration of Christopher Alexander’s work, I’ve come to appreciate that warmth is a holistic experience that goes beyond temperature/humidity experience. I am now willing to compromise (intelligently) on thermal efficiency to provide a space with good lighting because a well-lit (and properly insulated) space can feel warm and inviting (more than an efficiently thermally insulated space that is dark and gloomy).

Posted in Intake, Intellect Run Amok, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

The Unfolding of 17th Century Amsterdam

n

… reminder – you are looking at 100 years in a few minutes!

via Yodan Rofe of Building Beauty

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