“Moral decisions are always easy to recognize, they are where you abandon self interest.”
Frank Herbert

Chapter House Dune

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-06

  • a theory on what happened to hemp: it has many industrial applications that would simply crush existing industries http://bit.ly/14bTF #
  • my official romanian name is Nutzu "Boom" Icewalker #
  • 3 months ago I could not have imagined myself participating in a Romanian peasant meetingand yet here I am … http://bit.ly/eFjsPi #
  • today we met the architect of our future home … another piece in the puzzle falls into place … so exciting 🙂 #
  • going off-the-grid in Romania in 3 steps: http://bit.ly/f21TG2 #
  • remember: meditation is also a physical practice and should be treated as such: http://bit.ly/fBiIZA #
  • this is no laughing matter: http://bit.ly/fjhQZt #
  • my #monthofmindfulness was off to a rocky start – but already a new friendship is emerging from it: http://bit.ly/fAAqil #
  • growing is forever: http://bit.ly/eRg1yF #
  • philanthropy and business are not necessarily exclusive #
  • Asana (physical) practices are a case of body training mind, it is more about relearning how the body works then actually changing it #

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Mind Friend Heart


This February comes with a special twist. I’ve been gifted with an opportunity to partake in Peter Fernando’s A Month of Mindfulness online meditation course. For the past 12 years I’ve been studying and practicing exlusively under the guidance of my two Yoga teachers. This is the first time I am venturing off my spiritual-treasure-island to spend time with another teacher and other teachings.

When I scanned the five themes offered in the course my impulse was to go with “Focusing on Rest”. When I explored them in more depth I gravitated towards “Opening the Heart” and began my month with it. Each of the themes is offered with an article that gives a context and direction to the practice and a ~30 minute guided meditation. And so, with an open heart I sat down for my first guided meditation of the month.

In Yoga there is a distinction between Dhyana (meditation, Dharana (focusing the mind) and Pratyahara (quieting the mind). To this day my teachers have not prescribed to me Dhyana (meditation) practices but all of my practices are inherently infused with Dharana qualities. This includes a practice that to an outside observer may look like Dhyana (meditation) but to me is still a Dharana (focusing of the mind) or Pratyahara (quieting the mind) practice. In any case this is a quiet and intimate practice that does not involve an outside voice. Therefore, I am not versed or particularly skilled at guided meditations.

This guided meditation opened with surprising friction. Peter’s voice is soothing and friendly and joyful … but I couldn’t keep up. Listening is, for me, an act of mind – hearing and understading the words requires that I engage thought – so the very essence of the practice – a guided meditation – seemed to be in conflict with the intention of the practice – moving into the heart. I encountered words and phrases I could meditate on for weeks but when they finally did reach my heart new words came into my mind and again pulled me back into the mind. On occasion I ignored some of the words so that I could spend some time in my heart – but then when more words came I had already lost the thread of the story. I had to spend even more time in my mind trying to figure out where I am and what I missed. I felt tossed around, agitated and disturbed … and I did not want to experience that again, let alone for an entire month.

Peter was open and receptive to my experience and offered numerous alternative directions to go,of which I chose to return to my initial impulse to the “Focusing on Rest” theme. So the next day I sat with the guided meditation from that theme. There was still friction, though less then before. Still the act of listening and understanding words brought me into my mind – and I have a trigger happy mind. It can easily turn on itself and, if nothing else is available, think about thinking itself. This time I stopped about 20 minutes into the practice. Though I wasn’t very emotional about it I felt alone and confused.

Yesterday we had a long (and inspiring) day away from home so there was no space for practice. Today I resumed practice and as I approached it I asked myself what to do. I decided to resume my existing practices – Pranayama and then sitting – and to simply add an idea of “not doing” to my sitting. I was doubtful when I began the practice because I seemed to be gravitating towards my existing and familiar patterns and avoiding the opportunity to explore a new teaching. My doubts were unwarranted.

The “not doing” theme led to a fascinating “dialogue” between my mind and my heart. My mind introduced itself to my heart as a “doer” – it identifies challenges, obstacles, problems and it  solves them by either moving thoughts or limbs. It could not “do” anything with “not doing” – it couldn’t see the point. Then my heart smiled and offered to help – it said it loves not-doing and was willing to “help” my mind by shouldering the burden of “not doing”. My mind didn’t object and said “ok” and my heart began to “not do”.

But at that point, my disinterested mind began to wonder off in another direction of “doing”. My heart, as if clearing its throat, gently called my mind back and said “but I prefer that you stick around”. To which my mind replied “what for?”. To which my heart replied “I just want you here with me”. This happened numerous times until in my mind there seemed to grow a sense of respect and recognition towards my heart. This way, my mind realized it did not need to surrender its nature of “doing” for some inconceivable and senseless notion of “not doing”. Instead it found in my heart a friend who seemed to be able to do something it couldn’t … and all it had to “do” was observe – which is something it felt comfortable “doing”.

And so I found myself in a miraculous dialoge of mind and heart and ironically engaged in both of the themes that called out to me. It didn’t need to be (as my mind had assumed) a choice of either one or the other. It apparently could also be one through the other. I am now looking forward to the remainder of my month of mindfulness 🙂

Posted in Meditation, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-30

  • some excellent resources on home heating systems: http://bit.ly/faogEY #
  • sleep just quit on me … totally …. its dark enough waking up in normal hours here … but at 5am … sheesh #
  • day is officially starting … Shakuhachi instead of Pranayama this morning … going on 1st excursion to see potential land to buy 🙂 #
  • u've purchased some land – now where to place your house? three considerations can do the trick – sleep, sun and view: http://bit.ly/h8bN5c #
  • at first we didn't have a clue – now we've got a list of things to look for when buying land: http://bit.ly/fx8wwW #
  • I don't trust people wearing ties talking about sustaintable/ecological/green building … dirt under the fingernails is a look I can trust #
  • Anyone considering building an ecological home can learn alot from this movie about a Passivhaus building project: http://bit.ly/dOaJoA #
  • souls are real … see for yourself: http://bit.ly/ecn7Z3 #

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Are you here? Count down from 10 … really … do it … 10 …  9 …  8 …  7 …  6 …  5 …  4 …  3 …  2 …  1 …  0  … now think of someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while? Are you there? Can you hold an image of that person?

Now, in your heart, ask that person “Do you believe that souls exist?”. Regardless of what thoughts are streaming through you – whatever it is you are experiencing RIGHT NOW – that is a soul! It is a presence of another person. It’s that simple.

You may already be indulging in psychological, metaphysical or spiritual explanations … whatever your natural inclinations. But regardless of what you think, believe, accept or deny … that experience of another presence is all there is to it.

I can experience Andreeas presence in the other room sleeping.
I can experience Radus presence – who I met a couple of days ago.
I can experience my sisters presence – who replied to an email I sent earlier today.
I can experience my other sisters presence – who I haven’t heard from in weeks.
I can experience both of my grandfathers presences – both of whom passed away years ago.
I can experience my uncles presence – who I don’t get to speak to as often as I’d like to.
I can experience his wife – my aunts presence – who passed away 3 months ago.
I can experience a friends continuous presence over many years – who I haven’t seen and rarely spoken to in years.
I can sometimes experience other people experiencing my presence (without being in their physical presence).

I can experience my parents – but that is, to my utter surprise, a special double whammy – because I have also experienced their souls as separate from their physical presence. I have been in their presence and heard critical and hurtful words from their mouths and at the same time felt soothing and clear waves from their souls. It wasn’t always like this – I wasn’t always able to tell the two apart. Most of my life I was in the grasp of my parents’ physical presence and completely missed their alternate, and in retrospect truer, soul presence.

Now here’s a crazy thing my parents’ presences (both of whom still occupy physical bodies on this planet) inadvertently taught me. A souls presence can be at least as dominating, if not more so then a physical presence. At times, a soul’s presence can be more tangible and real then that of a physical presence. There you have it, my two well grounded, logical, reasonable, spiritually denouncing parents have taught me that a spiritual presence can be more substantial then a physical presence. I can experience my father, who I know reads my writing, reading these words before it’s even happened.

So now I’d like to really push the envelope – because the envelope has been really pushing me. If a soul’s presence can be felt regardless of physical presence – then it should be possible for me to experience souls who I have never met in this lifetime (in this physical body my soul now occupies). I can imagine this being far fetched for some (many?) people … but honestly … the more I consider it, the more it makes sense … and that brings some magical perspective into my life in recent years … and beyond.

Souls are everywhere – they are more powerful in shaping my thoughts, feeling and beliefs then people who are physically present in my life. It seems that somewhere in this highly intellectualized era in which we live I lost touch with a true life essence … and it was sitting right there all along … patient, quiet, determined … guiding my life all the same.

Are you still here?

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

Suncuius – Our First Roadtrip in Romania


A few days ago (time is really flying) we went on our first roadtrip with Ina & Sabin to see the area of Suncuius where they recently bought land and are planning to build in the summer. It was a beautiful sunny day following a few days of substantial snowing. A longer story of what went down (with some more images) will soon be available on Bhudeva.

Posted in Life, Photography | You are welcome to add your comment

Recent Pranayama: Refinement, Chaos & Sound


I’m fairly settled in a very regular practice sequence. I get around 08:00, much later then I used to – maybe it’s because of the winter light (or lack of it). I read a little and drink some water and then sit down for a practice that includes Pranayama practice and meditation. I still do not have a regular asana practice – that seems to come and go – I practice for a week or two and then I don’t for another week or two. Though our apartment is comforting, it still does not feel like a home … and the yoga/practice room is the coldest room in the house – so it too is not particularly inviting … so … anyways …

During the last 10-14 days something has happened to my Pranayama practice.


At first there was a sudden refinement – it happened suddenly, one morning. My breathing became very refined, smooth and steady. Transitions were precise and gentle. BK (holds after the breath) were open and spacious – I was able to contain them with ease. There was also a fairly equal flow in both nostrils – a rare experience for me. My presence was delicious – peaceful steadiness.

This lasted for 2 or 3 days. Then came chaos.


Ever since those refined days I have been having a very mixed experience. On one hand most of the refinement has stayed with me, on the other hand the edges are coarse and unsetady. There isn’t something specific I can point out – and to be fair with myself, it’s still a good practice. The transitions are not as smooth. The krama part of the practice though still nicely contained can demand more attention. The flow in my left nostril is again lesser then the flow in my right nostril.

I am also experiencing more resistance to practice. Part of my practice is now standing at the window for a few, sometimes long, minutes, staring outside, watching the dog pace from side to side on his chain … until there is an invitation to practice.

Generally, compared to the refined days, it feels like a mess.


Sound is a new gift that appeared in my consciousness during the refined days and has stayed with me since – including the chaotic days. The sounds begins in the first breaths of practice and stays present throughout the pranayama and meditation practice.

The sound has two layers. One layer is external – it is a high-pitched steady sound – I am surprised time and again that it doesn’t agitate me – as it is kind of like a kettle whistle – only higher and continuous.

A second layer is internal – it is a low-pitch sound that oscillates – like an engine only without a mechanical quality – a kind of sound I would imagine is heard in a nuclear plant (not that I’ve ever heard one). It is an addictive sound – the sound of me. This internal layer has been my dominant bhavana (focus) in meditation.

When I practice asana the rumbling is louder and takes center stage, leaving the higher-pitched sound as a background noise.

I feel something has shifted and that it will soon be time to change my Pranayama practice. I am looking forward to hearing my teachers.

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-23

  • curious expression of japanese culture in skiing slalom race – when most athletes miss a gate they stop and express some kind og anger #
  • twice 2day, I've seen japanese athletes come to a screeching halt, climb like crazy 2the gate and complete the track … intense commitment #
  • they have no chance of winning but they will do whatever it takes to finish the track … they don't hesitate at all … they just do it #
  • more thoughts on house heating requirements; stove-heat that is already available used for… almost everything else http://bit.ly/e0X7Ei #
  • a little confession about what I mean when I say "sustainable": http://bit.ly/hbPajD #
  • hug to the right – bring hearts together! #
  • if you are considering building a hemp home in the UK you really should check out Modece Architects: http://bit.ly/g5TFof #
  • just received a 1st quote for designing a custom heating system – still can't believe we are really doing this #
  • building with hemp removes so many insulation related framing issues – makes the work so much simpler and cleaner #
  • same goes for all firestopping framing elements – hemp is cast around the frame, sheathes and protects the wood and is also fireproof #
  • but when building with hemp u need to add extra framing elements for hanging things like high kitchen cabinets that a hemp wall cant support #
  • Andreea gone 2meeting about local grown hemp, I'm reading about framing and l8r we have a meeting with the dean of faculty of architecture #
  • @ecominimalnick civilizations seem to also decay by doing many important things without thinking of them …once more balance is needed #
  • we met with some eco-skepticism today so I thought I'd try to separate the bullshit from the real shit: http://bit.ly/gNhvAb #
  • @gregorylent yep 🙂 as far as we know, the 1st hemp-built house in Romania! #
  • @gregorylent thank u 🙂 here's a gr8 hemp building video: http://bit.ly/hOTpaG and an in depth free ebook: http://bit.ly/gIVHns #
  • there's only one USA company actively present in my life – they still think "spend more save more" is a good business proposition … sheesh #
  • realizing that we are not only building the first hemp house in Romania – but also the 1st Romanian hemp building team 🙂 so much fun! #
  • listening to Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter Paul & Mary) – you should too: http://bit.ly/UlHEB really 🙂 #
  • careful is literally "full of care" not full of fear #
  • @Shuliji #omcru yes 🙂 #
  • waiting and not doing created space and space carried me beyond survival: http://bit.ly/dGanuI #
  • @Shuliji 🙂 @karmapawo @espritrelax #
  • @msurman I'd be happy to try and help you create a WordPress look of your own #
  • I love that we both go crazy for the soupish substance left over from cooking lentils …. delicious #
  • back to the basics #
  • learning to read architectural plans – feeling proud that I can make some sense of these diagrams: http://bit.ly/eOmIJB #
  • and now we find this person talking about hemp construction rooted in vedic philosophy IN ROMANIA: http://bit.ly/ezNbYf #
  • there's comes a point in every chocolate cake's life where the slicing needs to shift to a perpendicular direction #
  • though I doubt there r many self-builders among you – this an excellent free eBook about concrete http://bit.ly/ehgtLY from down-under! #
  • a trillion is a miliion million #
  • observing my last two weeks of Pranayama – there has been a rich mixture of refinement, chaos and sound: http://bit.ly/eAuwhV #

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Space Carried Me Beyond Survival


I was raised under the influence of a survival mentality. My fathers parents were holocaust survivors – and though I managed to evade the direct effects of that intense experience on my life (mostly by refusing to partake in rituals that are designed to sustain its presence) I am sure it was indirectly present in my consciousness through my father. My parents are another kind of survivor – they are socio-economic survivors who managed to make a comfortable life for themselves and their children.

My grandparent’s life achievement was life itself – the biological process of survival in the face of death. My parent’s life achievement was food and a roof. These mentalities were hammered into me consciously and subsconsciously. This mode of existence has a paranoid flavor – it’s a life strategy built predominantly on the expectation that what happened will happen again. It leads to an insurance mentality in which much (if not most) of the effort is diverted to sustaining what has already been achieved and then directing what is left towards improvement. It’s kind of like running a country where most of the budget is directed to security and leftovers are invested in education.

One example of this mentality in action recurringly appeared during my career. I was taught to look for a job (secretly) while I still had a job. Continuous income was the top priority.  Yet despite my addiciton to security, the best transitions in my life didn’t occur like this at all – it was actually the other way around. I had to first leave one job (leading to a period of unemployment) before another good job appeared.

In retrospect I have learned that the best conditions for good change is space. There has to be space for something new to appear. There has to be space for creative movement. Space created an opportunity to ask myself what I wanted and pursue it, to peacefully consider what appeared before me and to identify what was best. Safety would have lead me to more of the same – to changing the name of the employer printed on my salary slip. Space led me to exciting and fresh challenges. Safety would have trapped me in familiar comfort. Space led me to frightening voids.

I’d like to say that I knew this all along – but that isn’t true. I was scared shitless, I was worried about money, I felt pressure to compromise and take whatever comes. But there was something better guiding me – unconsciously at first. I wasn’t really in the driving wheel, but there was some kind of magical cruise control working for me – my achievement may have been staying out of the way.

Now, when I want to create change I start by creating space. It still isn’t easy for me to do but I have experience and faith supporting me. I am ingrained with impulses of survival that have been out of context most of my life. These impulses never really go away but I’ve learned to wait until they pass and to not-do until they do. It’s a cliche but I’ve found it to be true – the cup has to be emptied before it can be filled with something new.

It took me well into my 30’s to appreciate that my achievements in this life time stand on the shoulders of the achievements of my parents and their parents. It was difficult for me to see because I had to struggle against survival patterns that were holding me back. It was difficult for me to see because my achievements seemed to be in conflict and contempt of my parents and their parents achievements. To this day there are many situtations in which my parents will take action and worry I will wait and (try to) relax.

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-16

  • http://veryawesomeworld.com/ #
  • Asana and Pranayama practices have a beautiful and complementary energy-relationship: http://bit.ly/hoIcvY #
  • how to create data-ENTRY forms on WordPress using Contact Form 7: http://bit.ly/foyMTi #
  • @raymondpirouz what brought on the spiritual wave in your thoughts and words today? 🙂 #
  • @raymondpirouz that 9 year old left you a precious gift in her death 🙂 may it stay with u and move u for a long time. #
  • @zenpeacekeeper I think this is true of any change – it's so much slower then we want it 2b: http://bit.ly/gs1Yb2 @alanna_shaikh & @fpfj #
  • @zenpeacekeeper "outsider" or "tourist" is a taking relationship, "resident" is a participating give and take relationship #
  • @zenpeacekeeper time is just one factor … not deciding … people can be "outsiders" for many years without ever connecting #
  • @zenpeacekeeper as for change … all one can do is sow seeds with good intentions … the rest is not really up to us is it? #
  • @zenpeacekeeper ironically … I think it's possible to be an outsider not only towards your surroundings but towards yourself as well #
  • we have a date tonight with another couple who are looking to build a sustainable home in Romania … excited 🙂 #
  • we have established contact with the local faculty of architecture … two meetings expected there in the coming weeks 🙂 #
  • @zenpeacekeeper so much is out of our hands 🙂 all we can hope 2 master (not quite control) is clear perceptions, intentions and actions 🙂 #
  • starting a new series of posts to tell an "in real time" story of how a website evolves: http://bit.ly/eJHKNn #
  • Passivhaus, though a commendable effort, feels 2me like more of an academic excercise then a practical building method: http://bit.ly/iaWlu1 #
  • @lifeinromania multumesc 🙂 more on hemp coming tomorrow (I hope 🙂 #
  • I offer Samual Mockbee's Rural Studio as a reality check for the Passivhaus peple: http://bit.ly/eAoj3N #
  • this is one of those days where meditation leaves with an overflow of inspiration that overwhelms and drowns my mind #
  • and the crazy thing is that everything is connected on a thread … these aren't some out of the blue unrelated to anything ideas .. #
  • approach yoga with empty-hands and an open-heart, do not approach Yoga with an agenda: http://bit.ly/dQlenv #
  • starting an excel for construction costs … this is actually happening!! wow! #
  • man standing outside of Cluj market carrying a leather-bag … pulls out a chicken for sale 🙂 #romania #
  • what happened to Hemp in Romania? http://bit.ly/eXCxy2 if you know something about it please drop by and leave a comment #
  • the best freely available information I found (so far) on growing hemp was published in the USA in 1942: http://bit.ly/e0DaAa #
  • started reading the #1 book on my house-building reading list – about wood framing … empowering to sense I can do this w/my own 2 hands #
  • alpine skiing on Eurosport, coffee, fresh home made chocolate cake … life is good 🙂 #
  • oh and … when did poker become a sport? mind boggling … though it does make it easier to digest dart throwing as a sport #
  • @Shuliji may you find loving kindness towards your disappointment and anger 🙂 #
  • @Shuliji may you find loving kindness towards your disappointment and anger 🙂 #
  • embarking on "firefox-tab-closing" mini-project, 2 many open threads, need to do some writing, linking and closing #
  • I whistle better pulling air in then blowing air out! #
  • so now I really get the difference between wood framing and timber framing: http://bit.ly/hPo1nW #
  • JOB = Just Over Bankruptcy? #

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Yoga Will Not Deliver


Do you practice Yoga? Why?

Is it explicable? Is it because there is something about yourself you don’t like? Is it because you’ve seen someone else do something you can’t do but want to do too? Is it because someone has promised that Yoga will make  you thinner, wiser, kinder, strong, more flexible, forever englightened?

Is it inexplicable? Is it because there is something deep inside you that you can’t quite put into words that is looking to make a connection? Is it because something seems to be missing from your understanding of this thing called life and the world around you?

It doesn’t really matter because either way Yoga will not deliver. Yoga will not live up to your expectations. This isn’t a chance occurence … it’s a systemic quality of Yoga … as if it’s designed to challenge and shatter them. Whatever your bring to the Yoga table, Yoga will probably question and undermine it.

The roots of wanting to practice Yoga are in an unknown place deep inside. Like a left-over question “why?” that you can’t quite shake off and  nothing you do or think of seems to satisfy. Yet when we approach Yoga we come at it with existing patterns – including a pattern of yearning for and seeking satisfaction. Yoga will not deliver.

You can think of Yoga as a shy and delicate entity. It needs a warm and supportive embrace to emerge from your shell. If you become demanding and aggressive it will disappear faster then you can say namaste … and then you have to be even warmer and more supportive for it to appear again.

You can also think of Yoga as a powerful and resilient entity. Your petty concerns, wishes and expectations do not even scratch its surface. It will ignore and skip over you unless you achieve a critical mass of presence and resolve worthy of its attention.

Yoga will only meet you on it’s terms not on yours. Yoga will offer you a clear and uncompromising reflection of what you are, not what you think you are or what you want to be. It will be an honest picture not necessarily a pretty one.

If you come to Yoga empty-handed and open-hearted you will come away with something new, something you didn’t already have.

If you come to Yoga with an agenda two things can happen. If it reflects something aligned with your agenda, something you can “like”, then you’ve got nothing new – just confirmation of something you already knew. If it reflects something in conflict with your agenda, something you can “dislike”, then you’ve got something you need to lose (as if your going to do that without putting up a fight!).

With an agenda you can either gain nothing or lose something. Without an agenda you gain something every time.

If you want to sustain your Yoga practice leave all your expectatins at the door. Definitely stay away from doors with a door-man hading you a menu or a fortune cookie telling you what you will find inside.

A good reason to practice (probably the only one that will get you to practice) is that you want to. A good reason to avoid practice (probably the one that will keep you from practicing) is that you don’t want to.

Unmet expectations will suck your well of motivation dry – leaving you with good reason to avoid practice. Unmet expectations is your own personal baggage – it is you that brings it to the practice and it is you that walks away not wanting to practice.

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

Pranayama Before Kriya


There is too much evidence that Kriya practices have, like many other Yoga practices, devolved into a fashion based on superficial information. This includes practices like Neti (cleansing of the nasal passages for which  you can find “instructional” videos on YouTube or accessories in Yoga shops) and Vasti (enemas) which (though thankfully not yet represented on YouTube) are sometimes offered by fashionable “Ayurvedic” clinics as periodical cleansing treatments. So I thought it may be a good idea to visit the HYP (Hatha Yoga Pradipika) where these practices are described to gain some perspective.

Before delving into the specifics of the the Kriyas (and yes, their relationship with Pranayama) it is important to establish a correct and contextual relationship with the HYP. It was written when the typical Yoga practitioner was a healthy young man living and practicing in monastic conditions. These conditions facilitate a focus and intensity of practice that most of us are not afforded. That means that we need to drastically tone down and reconsider any advice that is given in the text within the context of our own modern lives.

The HYP is made up of four chapters:

  1. Asana – physical practices where energy is stimulated (this is one of the most extensive description of Asana available).
  2. Pranayama – breathing practices where energy is regulated.
  3. Mudras – energy practices where energy is directed.
  4. Samadhi – a meditative state of integration.

Kriyas are described in the 2nd chapter – the one dedicated to Pranayama (breathing practices). Why is that? What do Pranayama and Kriya’s have in common? They are both instruments of purification, of removing impurities. They are both cleansing practices.

Why then do we need both Pranayama and Kriyas? What is the difference between them?

  • Pranayama addresses the energetic body – it is engineered to achieve a natural cleansing process that occurs when energy (Prana) can flow freely. A healthy flow in the energetic body restores the physical body.
  • Kriyas address the physical body directly – if you think about nasal cleansing and enemas – they are used to literally remove excess matter from the body.

The question is then when to use Pranayama and when to use Kriyas. The text offers both an implicit and explicit answer. The implicit answer is in the order in which the two are presented: Pranayama comes first. The explicit answer comes in the form of two warnings (like those found on cigarette packages) – one in the verse that precedes the description of the Kriyas and one in the verse that comes after they have been described in detail.

2.21: “If there be excess of fat or phlegm in the body, the six kinds of kriyâs (duties) should be performed first. But others, not suffering from the excess of these, should not perform them.”

2.22 – 2.36 descriptions of the six kriya practices.

2.37: “Some âchâryâs (teachers) do not advocate any other practice, being of opinion that all the impurities are dried up by the practice of Prâṇâyâma.”

Translations by Pancham Sinh

I want to address the second warning first because it holds simple and applicable advice: Anything Kriyas can do, Pranayama can do too. Any purification that can be achieved using the Kriyas can be achieved with a consistent and quality Pranayama practice. So much so that, as the text insinuates, some teachers are completely opposed to any use of Kriyas.

The first warning requires a deeper underdstanding of the metaphyics of Yoga. Specifically, the three doshas Vatta, Pitta and Kapha which can be roughly correlated with the elements of air, fire and water. The doshas work together like an engine where the elements mix and combust. As long as the engine is used and maintained properly it runs OK, but if the engine is neglected it requires more serious intervention such as taking it apart and cleaning it out thoroughly.

Asana and Pranayama are the tools needed to maintain our internal engine. Kriyas are needed when the engine has been neglected – when “there be excess of fat or phlegm”. They are a gross intervention in a system that no longer responds to more subtle interventions. But if you are generally healthy – practicing Kriyas is like having open-heart surgery to cure a common-cold – it’s an abuse of practice.

You have to have a really good reason (serious illness) to benefit from Kriya practices. Yet anyone alive and breathing can benefit from Pranayama – as it is a subtle tool of regular maintenance. BUT … Pranayama too should to be used properly otherwise it too can lead to adverse effects. In the words of the HYP:

2.16: “Correct pranayama will weaken all diseases. Improper practice of Yoga will strengthen all diseases.”

Translation by Brian Akers

Posted in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Pranayama, Yoga, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-09

  • Have you considered the karma of breathing? what if every breath you take ripples throughout your body, consciousness and energy forever? #
  • 3 things you need to know to start a Pranayama practice: length of breath, breathing ratio and a breathing technique http://bit.ly/hkIC7p #
  • do you remember? http://bit.ly/dJPkCW #

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Do You Remember?


Some days ago my Pranayama practice left me vibrating with thoughts about memory. I had an OK practice though my mind was wandering. At one point in the practice I found myself trying to recall if I held my breath as I was supposed to on the previous breath. Even though it happened just seconds ago I could not remember. I came out of the practice with a question glued to my consciousness – what if there’s no such thing as memory?

1: I Only Remember Stories … and ones that I Like

Naturally my stubbornly-logical mind kicked in and came up with examples (memories? duh!) of how (my) memory works. It actually came up with two very interesting examples.

Most of my professional career I specialized in systems-analysis – which is to software like architects are to buildings. It involves uncovering and juggling a lot of sometimes obvious sometimes hidden information from a lot of sources with diverse motivations and transforming it into an architectural description of software (which is then handed over to software engineers to actually build it). I was really good at holding loads of information in my mind, seeing into it and through it and then creating a mental image of a software system. I then had to create tedious written descriptions of what I was seeing – but those weren’t for me they were for other people who couldn’t fit into my head and see what I was seeing.

In my late teens and early twenties I was deep into tap-dancing (long story I will get around to telling) including performances and teaching. There too I had an uncanny memory – a single dance contains loads of information – sounds, moves, rhythms. There is a method of documenting dances but I never got around to learning or using it. But I remembered all the moves – easily.

Both of these examples reveal that my memory revolves around a bigger pictures. There needs to be some kind of story-line (be it a dance or a software system) which acts as a center of gravity for all the information I remember. It’s much easier to remember a picture then it is to remember all the points it contains, or to remember a melody then it’s notes. But (with me) it can’t be any story it has to be a story I can relate to and care about … it has to be a story that moves me … that shimmers for me.

Today I remember very little information about the systems I meticulously created and described many years ago. I do magically remember some of the dances I used to dance (this was put to the test about a year ago when I went in for a dance class with my sister who now carries the tap-torch). But I do remember both tap-dancing and systems-analysis clearly because they are a part of the bigger-picture story of my life.

2: What If There are Only Present Echoes?

When a drop of rain hits water it’s presence as a separate drop ceases to exist and is transformed into ripples. The ripples are a present manifestation of what it used to be.

What if there is no absolute memory – just ripples of the past in the present? What if all the experiences of my life are rippling through me – some stronger then others, some rippling above the surface, others rippling below, some moving in slow undercurrents others in apparent waves on the surface?

If all I have are present echoes – then my present state of consciousness and perception effects how I “remember”. Memory is no longer an activity (illusion?) of digging things up from some imaginary archive. Memory is how I experience the left-over ripples of past experiences. There is no past – only a rippling present.

3: Impressions instead of Memories?

I no longer subscribe to memory as an archive we can access. I don’t assume that I or others remember things. There may have been a shared experience and that experience may have left an impression on me and you and that impression may still be rippling differently through me and you – but that’s all there is – an impression. I don’t pretend to remember and I don’t pretend that you can either.

This can have quite on impact on dialogue … it smooths the edges off certainty … it turns attention inwards … it makes the present a softer less conclusive experience … it’s nice 🙂

4: What about Books & Computers? They Remember!

My mind just wouldn’t relent … it continued to challenge me … books and computers have “perfect memory” … and my mind almost had me convinced until I realized that (1) books and computers can only store what I choose to put in – which is drawn from a past experience of present and (2) when I come back and revisit words (and images and what not) I have stored – I am seeing them in a new present experience – it is impossible to experience them as they once were. No matter how many bookmarks I place in it – memory as an archive continues to be an illusion.

5: Do Snowflakes Remember?

These strange thoughts were sitting in my notebook until they resurfaced this morning when I came across this in the book Chaos: Making a New Science:

“As a growing snowflake falls to earth, typically floating in the wind for an hour or more, the choices made by the branching tips at any instant depend sensitively on such things as the temperature, the humidity, and the presence of impurities in the atmosphere. The six tips of a single snowflake, spreading within a millimeter space, feel the same temperatures, and because the laws of growth are purely deterministic, they maintain a near perfect symmetry. But the nature of turbulent air is such that any pair of snowflakes will experience very different paths. The final flake records the history of all the changing weather conditions it has experienced, and the combinations may as well be infinite.”

(Image complements of SnowCrystals)

Do you remember?

Posted in Expanding, inside, Pranayama Journal, Yoga | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Three Keys to Starting a Pranayama Practice


Please note:

  • Though I intend to show you that you can start a basic Pranayama practice on your own please keep in mind that that is pretty much all you can and should do on your own. There is a lot of superficial disinformation about what Pranayama is and how it should be practiced. Breath is a very powerful instrument with both immediate and long term effects. Pranayama is an alchemical process that effects (by design!) your energetic body more then it does your biological body. This happens regardless of what you may think you know about it or even feel in your practice. It is possible to trap yourself in a practice you like that has adverse effects on your health.
  • Extra care should be taken in states of illness or recovery when both the energetic and biological bodies are more sensitive to any intervention. A Pranayama practice can be invaluable in recovery but should NOT be self-prescribed and ONLY be used with guidance of a teacher.
  • Pregnancy is not an illness. It is a demanding, more sensitive state of being that affects two sentient beings  – therefore it deserves a Pranayama practice that is offered with more care and consideration.

There are three things you need to know in order to begin a Pranayama practice: (1) the length of your breath; (2) a breathing ratio; (3) a suitable breathing technique.

Length of Breath

Determining the length of your breath can be achieved with a fairly simple exercise (and a little mathematics) you can find in this post about the four parts of the breath. Once you know your base breathing duration you can apply that to a breathing ratio.

Ratio of Breath

A core teaching in Pranayama is that a practice should focus on lengthening the exhale – the inhale will follow the exhale. From this comes a first rule of thumb in determining a breathing ratio: the exhale should be equal to or longer then the inhale.

It is a good idea to start with a ratio of equal inhale and exhale. For example, if your base breathing duration is 4 seconds – then you should inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Practice that for a while until it becomes familiar and comfortable.

From there you can move into a ratio in which the exhale is one and half times longer then the inhale. For example, if your base breathing duration is 4 seconds – then you should inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds.

If your breathing leads you into it naturally then you may add short 1 second holds between inhale and exhale. Please do not play around with holding the breath beyond that – this is where the magical alchemy of Pranayama is intensified and directed. Holding the breath based on your natural preferences or curiosities is very likely to lead you into a dysfunctional practice.

Don’t count seconds on your own – your mind will cheat and twist your sense of time – in the face of effort you will simply count faster. Get a ticking clock or a metronome so you can precisely time your breaths.

Breathing Technique

Your first taste of Pranayama should be with simple Ujjayi breathing. Though it isn’t really a Pranayama practice until you introduce nostril control it is a soft and simple way to get acquainted with structured breathing. It will gift you with a space to first get acquainted with your own breath, with timed breathing and with breathing ratios.

When you are comfortable with timing and counting your breath you can move into an actual Pranayama practice. To do this you will need to introduce nostril control to your practice. Then, a good technique to get you started with nostril contol is Anuloma Ujjayi.

Connecting the Pieces

Putting just these basic ideas together demonstrates an important aspect of Pranayama: it is a gradually evolving process of practice. Each practice introduces a gradual increment built upon the previous practice. Consider these practices:

  1. 6 Ujjayi breaths with an equal inhale and exhale.
  2. 10 Ujjayi breaths with an equal inhale and exhale.
  3. 6 Ujjayi breaths with an exhale 1.5 times longer then the inhale.
  4. 10 Ujjayi breaths with an exhale 1.5 times longer then the inhale.
  5. 6 Anuloma Ujjayi breaths with an equal inhale and exhale.
  6. 12 Anuloma Ujjayi breaths with an exhale 1.5 times loonger then the inhale.

At first each of these is a SEPARATE practice. Stick with it until you feel comfortable and peaceful with it – it can take days, weeks or months. Practice regularly and take your time.

To take your Pranayama practice further find a teacher with whom you can work in a one-on-one setting. A teacher can guide you on a refined exploration of breath through care-full observation and tailoring of personalized practices.

I offer one-on-one online Pranayama teaching at iBreathe.

Posted in Getting Started, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-02

  • just realized that hot water pipes are running under the work-table … how cozy !!! #
  • have you ever noticed that things to become what you see in them? #
  • When you encounter ur limits in Pranayama focus on quality of breath rather then length of breath: http://bit.ly/eMHANr #
  • how about gifting yourself (or a close friend) with a gift of breath for a new year? iBreathe Pranayama: http://bit.ly/ee3CBi #
  • in Romanian "Frig" means cold (I get that) but "Culd" means warm … duh! #kindalearningromanian #
  • today is a day of rest and recovery = two coffees and no pranayama 🙂 #
  • asked her: "What would I do without me" to which she answered: "probably have a much easier time in life" … hmmm #
  • Is it just me or do you also think there is something not-quite-right in a society where this can happen: http://bit.ly/99Fni5 #
  • "Something as simple as loading a photo of ur bunk in Afghanistan 2Flickr, & geotagging it, can bring a mortar in2 your area of operation." #
  • wonderful video that gets across a message I don't always manage to communicate clearly "you need to get off Facebook" http://bit.ly/eI7XZc #
  • @jberd ucan practice Pranayama close2 bedtime but then u should do a practice that facilitates sleep & avoid practices that may disturb it #

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You Need to Get Off Facebook


This is a post I haven’t yet written … I haven’t achieved a clarity of thought that enables me to say in words what my heart knows.

AND THEN out of nowhere this wonderful video appears and does a great job of expressing at least part of what I wanted to say. Thank you Ross (I think this is his personal blog)!

Posted in AltEco, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Asana & Pranayama – An Energy Process


There is a fuctional relationship between Asana & Pranayama. Understading it is useful in putting both Asana & Pranayama practices in context and draws them together into a fuller understanding of Yoga.

I’ve been looking for a metaphor to demonstrate this relationship for some time until I remembered to revisit the engine metaphor which I had already called on, but this time with a different focus.

A combustion engine (which is what you will typically find in cars) is a mechanisms that literally transforms explosions into orderly movement. A typical engine block has numerous cylinders and in each cylinder is a piston. An explosion is typically created in the cylinder by mixing fuel and air and igniting the mixture – creating an explosion. The explosion pushes the piston out of the cylinder. I found a great animation of this on Wikipedia:

The pistons in the engine block are connected to a crankshaft in such a way that when they are moved in a synchronized way the crankshaft rotates. This synchronized movement is achieved by precise timing of the explosions in the cylinder. And once again Wikipedia provided a nice animation of this process:

I’ve never really noticed (until now) that it is possible to divide an engine into two logical systems. One system creates explosions using fuel injection, air intake and ignition. The other system creates physical movement using pistons and a crankshaft. They come together in the cylinders and  together transform raw explosions (which have no particular direction or even use) into rotational movement.

In Yoga, Asana practices are the 1st system – the one that creates explosive energy. This is what physical practices are intended to do. It is easy and inviting to relate Asana which involve physical movement with the 2nd system of physical movement, but that is a common misunderstanding. Yoga postures are designed to move energy and do so by moving the body. Movement of the body is the means by which energy is moved.

Pranayama is the 2nd system which regulates the flow of energy that is created in the 1st system. Without Pranayama, Asana practices are like misdirected explosions. If you don’t hook up the pistons  to a properly placed and maintained crank shaft then you have an engine that simply creates explosions – which, rightfully, seems pointless.

This raises the question – can Pranayama be practiced without Asana? One important difference between a car’s engine and ours is that ours runs all the time. So yes it is possible and recommended to practice Pranayama even if you don’t practice Asana. But Asana practice does  support and enhance Pranayama practices. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when mechanics check your car they rev-up your engine? There are some things about an engine you can only see when it is rotating fast or as it settles back down again. Asana is kind of like that – it places effort on the system, invigorates it and then lets it settle back down (which is why very often Asana practices end with a posture like Savasana).

A final interesting parallel to draw between a combustion engine and ours is the cylinders where all this magic happens – where the two system connect. The pistons needs to be a perfect fit inside the cylinders – tight enough so that nothing leaks out of the cylinder and lubricated enough so the piston can move really fast in and out of the cylinder. In our engine we can think of the cylinders as our Nadis – channels of energy. Energy “explodes” into the Nadi in Asana and then their flow is regulated with Pranayama.

With this in mind we can make some applicable observations about Asana, Pranayama and their relationship.

  • If you have limited time and have to choose between Asana & Pranayama – Pranayama will probably serve you better (remember: your engine is running all the time!).
  • If you practice only Asana make sure you run your engine properly (don’t push it too far too fast) and remember to let it settle at the end of the practice … oh … and please add Pranayama to your practice.
  • If you are practicing both Asana & Pranayama – asana should come first and Pranayama second. Pranayama will will both help the system settle and will be more effective when the energy is coursing through you and malleable.
  • Pranayama expands your breathing capacity, refines the quality of your breath and articulates your understanding and control of your breath. This will support you in your asana practice, it will give you an increased range of practice … which in turn will empower your Pranayama practice in a never ending feedback loop of expansion and refinement.
Posted in Asana, Energy, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-26

  • @zenpeacekeeper thinking of #30daysofyoga u may enjoy/benefit/be-inspired by this book http://bit.ly/eQeyVy (by my teacher @YogaStudies ) #
  • @Shuliji yes c u there 🙂 #omcru #
  • @lifeinromania doesn't look like we are going to make it … but we wish you a pleasant gathering tonight 🙂 #
  • what to do when Firefox crashes and does not restore all of the tabs you had open (ouch!) http://bit.ly/f0hr7P #
  • @Shuliji don't forget to remember and leave room for the things you don't know you don't know 🙂 #
  • "Mandate of Infinite Variety" – doesn't that sound like mathematicians trying to describe Brahman? http://bit.ly/hYQdgY #
  • 1of the most brilliant albums I've ever heard "An Introduction to the Story of Spedy Sponda" by Oren Marshall http://bit.ly/ghKeXE #
  • @fredwilson just sent you an email with information on rare performance in Israel tonight! #
  • combination of holiday and time differences twitter is so quiet, feels as if I have this huge space all2 MYSELF …myself …self …elf #

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Playing DVD’s on Ubuntu


I took it for granted that DVD’s should play on Ubuntu … and sadly discovered earlier today that they, by default, often don’t. If you have a favorite player and it’s not working don’t bother trying other players – they probably won’t work either.

I didn’t research to deep into the cause of the problem (it seems to have something to do with zones and to have legal repercussions which prevent Ubuntu from making it work out-of-the-box) – but I was happy to find an easy solution (here) to make it work. It takes to command line commands to do correct it:

sudo apt-get install libdvdread4

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh

… and you are good to go 🙂 enjoy!

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In Pranayama Quality Trumps Quantity


Pranayama is the most regular practice I’ve taken up since returning to a regular morning practice routine. I am currently practicing once a day with my current morning practice – where the crown posture involves a krama on the exhale (exhaling 8 seconds, holding 4 seconds, exhaling 8 more seconds and holding for another 4 seconds).

I’ve noticed a recurring pattern over the last two weeks. The right nostril has better flow and less congestion and facilitates a much smoother exhale. The left side is more congested (though improving) and there is more tension and resistance on the exhale.

A more prominent expression of tension is at the end of the second exhale and manifests as a shortness of breath – as if there is just enough to complete the exhale. It is interesting to note that this does not necessarily effect the second hold whicih may be peaceful even following an effort on the exhale.

A more subtle sign of the tension is in the first part of the exhale. In my mind there is an awareness that I need to “preserve” my breath and let it out in such a way that there will be enough left over after the first part of the exhale for the second part – it’s a somewhat economic thinking. Yet my experience has been that this awareness is counter-productive. Trying to “hold on” to enough breath simply does not work. In fact it gives birth to tension since the very thought of “holding a reserve” carries a subtext of “expecting a shortage” – and mind delivers both.

Instead of focusing on “holding it in” when I feel tension arising I focus on quality of breath. In practice this means making the breath more soft and steady – refining the flow. This affects both mind and breath. Mind responds to softening and relaxes some of it’s hold on rationing the breath. At the same time a refined flow of breath actually leaves more breath available and in doing so achieves what an assertive mind failed to achieve.

So the right nostril offers a meditative and flowing experience and the left nostril offers a teaching experience. They work well together 🙂

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