“I suffered unbearable torture in silence, weeping internally at the sad turn of events blaming myself bitterly again and again for having delved into the supernatural without first acquiring a fuller knowledge of the subject and providing against the dangers and risks of the path.”
Gopi Krishna

Kundalini – The Evolutionary Energy in Man

10 Principles for Good Disruption

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This morning I came across this in reading Frank Herbert’s “Heretics of Dune” – which I am assuming was written sometimes before it was first published in 1984:

Technology, in common with many other activities, tends toward avoidance of risks by investors. Uncertainty is ruled out if possible. Capital investment follows this rule since people generally prefer the predictable. Few recognize how destructive this can be, how it imposes severe limits on variability and thus makes whole populations fatally vulnerable to the shocking ways our universe can throw the dice.

As I read this I thought of Fred Wilson – the only person I currently read from venture-capital-startup-land. He appeared in my thoughts in two contexts: (1) he is a subject of Herbert’s writing; (2) I believe he believes he isn’t – because he subscribes to the fashionable idea of disruption. Disruptive is a popular theme in the world of technology startups. Luckily Fred also lists Yoga among his interests. I am more passionate and more knowledgeable in Yoga (then I am in business) so I would like to try exploring the subject in this light.

Agitation

My teacher recently hosted an event celebrating the launch of a new book in Hebrew about the Yoga Sutra. I didn’t attend the event nor have I seen the book but I did speak with my teacher about it before and after the event. The book is an academic analysis of the Yoga Sutra – it is an artifact of reading, writing and thinking – a product of mind. I am not inclined to reading it because to me the Yoga Sutra is a source of inspiration – I believe that intellectually dissecting it misses this quality and defeats it’s purpose.

My intuition (and prejudice) about the book was confirmed when my teacher described the author’s physical presence. She said that he was physically agitated and had very nervous body language. These are symptoms that Yoga, as outlined in the Yoga Sutra, describes as illness that can be healed. To me this says that this person does not yet know the Yoga Sutra.

Sloka 2.25 of the Yoga Rahasya states:

“The teacher, having understood the Sastra-s, must practice regularly for himself and then teach the prescribed asana-s to others.”

Energy: Health & Illness

Yoga views the body as a system of energy which flows through an extensive system of channels (nadi). In his book “What Are We Seeking?” TKV Desikachar likens our energy systems to a natural system of irrigation in which energy (like water) flows naturally. Optimal flow is a state of health. Optimal flow is disrupted when it encounters obstacles (in mind and body). An obstructed flow of energy manifests as illness (mental, emotional, physical, etc.).

Purification

Purification is a core idea in Yoga – it is intended to remove obstacles. Purification takes place in mind and body. Purification makes it possible for energy to resume it’s natural & healthy flow.

It is a common misperception that Yoga is a kind of peace-invoking practice when actually Yoga is a disruptive and agitating practice. To correctly understand the concept of disruption in Yoga it is necessary to remember the context in which it is being used – illness – the already disrupted flow of energy.

Note to Yogis: If you have taken offense from the suggestion you are in any way “ill” – please remember that Yoga sets a very high bar for “success” – unity with that which is within and eternal. In that light, manifestation in human form always falls short – it is an “illness”.

Administering Disruption

Yoga practices are a disruption of an already disrupted flow of energy. Proper application of Yoga is outlined in sloka 2.26 of the Yoga Rahasya:

“After having examined the origins of the diseases of the body and senses, the teacher must apply Kriya yoga. Otherwise there will be no benefits.”

Krishnamacharya‘s commentary adds:

“Before doing Kriya-yoga, the teacher must find out the history of the student’s illness and symptoms. Based on his observations he should ascertain the origin of the illness. After much meditation on this, he should teach the student the appropriate asana-s.”

A disruptive intervention assumes:

  1. There is a student.
  2. The student has a potential state of healthy energy flow.
  3. The student is currently in a state of illness.
  4. The illness is caused by obstacles which are disrupting the healthy flow of energy.
  5. A purifying practice can remove the obstacles and restore healthy flow of energy.
  6. A purifying practice needs to be administered by a teacher.
  7. The teachers needs to be healthy.
  8. The teacher needs to identify the student’s obstacles.
  9. The teacher needs to meditate on this before acting.
  10. The teacher needs to introduce a practice that is suitable for the student.

All of these are required for “disruption” … otherwise it will lead to more disruption, more obstacles more illness ..  at best “no benefits”.

A Good Example

Curiously, one technology project came to my mind, as I was writing, that is actually in the process of administering what seems like effective disruption. I thought it would be nice to see how it resonates with these assumptions. The project is Mozilla’s Drumbeat project:

  1. Student: are people who are not aware of the value of and inherit threat to Internet freedom.
  2. Healthy energy: the presence and involvement of people in a free Internet.
  3. Illness: energy flow is currently compromised.
  4. Obstacles: people’s lack of awareness to forces (business entities that are diverting the natural flow of energy for financial gain) threatening Internet freedoms.
  5. Purifying: Drumbeat is trying to to make people aware of the benefits of participating in a free Internet.
  6. Teacher: Drumbeat is created by Mozilla.
  7. Healthy teacher: Mozilla is an organization dedicated to keeping the Internet free.
  8. Identifying the obstacles: this is what Drumbeat is currently doing in the spirit of a free Internet (open collaboration).
  9. Meditating – though some ideas have surfaced, they are gradually being developed and discussed – Mozilla is not shy about not knowing what needs to be done.
  10. Practice – we’ll see what the future brings 🙂

An Unknown Example

Though Fred writes a lot and I’ve read much of his writing I have not yet seen through to a clear “disruption-purpose” that drives him. I believe he is inherently good but I also believe he exists in a disturbed (ill) system. I would like to see how these 10 principles apply to him and his business. The fact that he is a venture-capitalist makes it a formidable challenge. Tackling it, I believe, is a small step towards a better future.

Advertising Based Business Models

One of the most popular and undisputed revenue models amongst technology companies is advertising. These companies create an engaging service that is offered for free and captures the attention of it’s users and then sells that attention off to advertisers.

My jaw dropped when I recognized a description of this business model in the Yoga Rahasya – Sloka 1.42:

“Through the disturbance of Prana, all the indriya-s (senses), get disturbed and move along with the mind towards external objects, which are poisonous. Therefore, through exhalation, inhalation and retention, Prana must be regulated.”

According to Yoga philosophy Prana is something that Spirit created when it wanted the freedom to get around in the world (instead of just witnessing it). The first thing (before all of the subtle elements of nature) to manifest from Prana was faith. Prana is too great a force for any conscious entity to abuse. Faith isn’t.

Note to Yogis: Did you notice that breathing (not asana) is indicated as a primary practice to reducing the disturbance of Prana?

Posted in AltEco, Business, Expanding, inside, outside, Yoga, Yoga & Life, Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Rahasya, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Rahasya

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During my years of Yoga training I heard numerous times mention of a text called “Yoga Rahasya”. It came to me only in the past year. It arrived on the day Andreea left to Romania as if it waited for a space to open up.

Yoga Rahasya (“Secrets of Yoga”) is said to have been written by Nathamuni a 9th century Yogi who did much for the evolution and application of Yoga. It was lost a few decaded after he died and remained dormant for a long time. It was revived in a mystic occurrence by Krishnamacharya – my teacher’s (Ziva Kinrot), teacher’s (Paul Harvey), teacher’s (TKV Desikachar) teacher.

It is a very dense source of knowledge. When I first read through it I felt as if it was at the heart of all the teachings I had received. I believe it would have been lost upon me had I encountered it in my early Yoga years. Now it is like a well of endless inspirations that sends me back to my teachings and brings them into new light time and time again.

It is a unique source of knowledge about the application of Yoga in a therapeutic context and it’s role in different phases of life. It is also the only text I know that directly addresses Yoga for women and for pregnancy.

I believe it should only be consumed under the guidance of a teacher who knows it, respects it and practices it both as a practitioner and teacher. It contains powerful knowledge that can be easily misused and abused – leading to illness instead of health.

It can be ordered here.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-06

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Wanting to Practice

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Not Practicing

Almost all of the people I’ve taught Yoga one-on-one encountered difficulties when it came to taking up a regular practice. They all had personalized (tailored to their needs and abilities) and short (20 minutes at most) practices. I suggested they try to find a regular time in the day for their practices and that they try to practice a few times a week. Still, it was difficult for them to find a place for the practice in their daily routines.

They all came to Yoga and to me of their own free will. They all invested time, effort and money in coming to private lessons. They all came back for more lessons. When they didn’t practice they ended up with a self-inflicted feeling of guilt. One person even said to me something like “I didn’t do my home work”.

Resistance to Change

People usually take on Yoga when they want to change something. People who come to one-on-one Yoga are usually seeking deeper – inviting substantial change into their lives.

Change starts as a confrontation with unknown elements that are appealing. But like most relationships, initial appeals are replaced with a lesser reality. You come to a Yoga teacher seeking enlightenment, you leave with a practice. A practice may be interesting for a few times – but then it loses some of it’s charm. Now instead of enlightenment you have a boring and repetitive practice. You also have a family and a job and worries … and amidst all this you need to make room for a boring practice.

This is the subtle workings of resistance to change. Change always meets resistance. If you are experiencing resistance – then you are probably in change.

… But You Are Practicing

The resistance to change cannot be removed – it is a natural and inevitable force. The feelings of guilt are redundant and can be resolved.

All of the students that came back for more lessons and who had guilt-trips about not practicing were constantly thinking about Yoga. They wanted to do their practices. Wanting to practice is a practice. Wanting to practice should always be the first “posture” in any practice sequence.

Wanting to practice means there is something inside you, a deep craving, reaching out to your awareness. Recognizing it replaces your attention from guilt & resistance into motivation & practice. It is so much better to move towards something you want then to escape something that weighs you down.

This is true both for beginners and advanced practitioners. If all you can today is want-to-practice, remember to see the wonder in that. It may not get you on the practice mat today, but if you let it it can be a rewarding practice.

Tip: It is OK to just go stand and look at your Yoga mat. It is OK to stand by it for a few minutes. It is OK to just lie down on it for a minute or two.

Posted in Getting Started, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 2 Sutra 46

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Have you ever watched someone thread a needle using funny and useless facial expressions – as if that would help to get the thread into the small hole? In a way that’s what this sutra is about

sthira sukham asanam
“Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation”

Translation by TKV Desikachar

This sutra is a preamble to sutras which are dedicated to the topic of asana. It is what Patanajali chose to say first and foremost about all asana practices – and on the face of things it seems like a paradox.

  • “Sthira” comes from the root “stha” which can be translated as “fixed place”. “Sthira” can be translated as fixed, stable, changeless.
  • “Sukham” comes from the root “kha” which can be translated as space or ether. “Sukham” can be translated as soft, comfortable, happy.

TKV Desikachar explains:

“It is attention without tension, loosening up without slackness”

Examples in practice may shed some light on the duality of sthira-sukham:

  • For some people raising the arms straight up above the head  is not useful – for an effective practice they may need to bend the elbows and relax the shoulders. The correct position is personal and strikes a balance between active effort in the arms, neck & shoulders (sthira) and softness in the elbows & shoulders (sukham). Stubbornly pushing for straight arms is overdoing (excess sthira)  that compromises other physical aspects. Underperforming by releasing the elbows and shoulders too much (excess sukham) makes the posture much less effective.
  • For some people keeping the legs straight in forward bends severly limits bending in the spine. By slightly bending the knees (sukham)  they can gain access to bending the spine (sthira). Stubbornly keeping the legs straight actually defeates the purpose of forward bends – keeping the  legs straight becomes the focus and effort (wrong sthira) while the spine barely bends and remains largely inactive (wrong sukham).
  • Breathing to your full capacity is another delicate balance. Aspiring to long and steady breaths (sthira) requires delicate attention and adjutsments in breath and asana  (sukham). Over exertion of the breath (excess sthira) quickly breaks it and the flow of practice. Underperformance of the breath reduces the effect and intensity of the asana (excess sukham).
  • A present mind is key to achieving a balance between alertness and relaxation. A mind that wanders off can lead to both slackness (excess sukam – in postures where effort is required) and tension (excess sthira – in postures where forces such as habit or gravity take over). A mind that is anchored in past asana achievements can also lead to both slackness (excess sukham – when past experience indicates an asana is not accessible) and tension (excess sthira – when past experience is attached to successful practices in the past).

How can such a balance be achieved in practice?

Krishnamacharya mentioned two tools: Vinyasa and Pratikriyasana. Vinyasa is about gradually placing the body in a posture – the number and character of the steps required may differ for individual practitioners. Pratikriya-asana are counter postures that are used to counter excess effects of practice and to create smooth flow and transition in asana practice sequences.

Desikachar adds that this sutra is brief because asana practices should be learned directly from a competent teacher. A balanace of sthira-sukham is personal and ever-changing. There are no set rules or recipes for achieving such a balance. It is a pursuit that requires careful observation and attention. It is not so much a result of practice but rather an artful quality that can guide and shape it.

I would end this article with two additional interpretation that have crossed my mind for meditating on sthira-sukham:

  • Well (sukham)  – Being (sthira)
  • Correct (sukham) – Effort (sthira)

I invite you leave a comment sharing your experiences of sthira-sukham in practice.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-30

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Yoga & Design

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The last chapter of my career was a 2 year period in which I specialized in software product design. When I started it I was convinced that it was the best possible line of work for me at the time. To this day I view it as my favorite. I left not because of the work, but because of people – namely customers.

I view design as an opportunity to go deeper – to revisit the purpose of a product, it’s alignment with the larger purpose of a business, it’s value to customers, who the customers are … many questions that come before screens are actually designed, even before user experience and way before usability is addressed. I believed (and still do believe) that having a clear purpose of where you want to go makes everything that comes after that (design, development, testing, sales, support … literally everything!) smoother, more efficient, more pleasant … better. Without it is too easy to drift off course without even knowing it … sometimes until the business itself fails (you can create a failed product with superb usability). All of this, I am happy to say is aligned with my personal beliefs and pursuits.

The problem was that customers did not share my views. Customers would usually reach design at the end of their development cycles – when there were very little time, resources or motivation to actually do design. There really was’t space for raising the kind of challenges design can bring to the surface – it would mostly introduce insecurity, aggrevation & frustration. So the alternative was a compromise. Sometimes the compromise would work OK – not necessarily in the sense that we would arrive at a good product – but a satisfied and paying customer – I never was at peace calling that “OK”. Sometimes it wouldn’t work and that would lead to friction and divert the project into harsh & unpleasant energies – I hated that but  I was OK with it – because I wasn’t expecting anything else. The odds were that “design” wasn’t going to work out well (with one outstanding exception which deserves a separate post).

I do believe that bridges between different views can be built – but that takes care, time, patience and requires that everyone involved want to pursue that. I also felt that there were some pretty long bridges to build. Design, if given a chance, inevitably introduces creativity and unknowns into any process. Most the organizational cultures I encountered were not mature enough or open to these qualities. This would start with top executives who felt it important that the fact “they don’t like yellow” be incoporated into the design process – through to programmers that would decide that some of the visual details were too much of a hassle to implement. Unfortunately the circumstances of little time, budget or patience in which most of the design projects took place – left little chance for any bridge-building.

Many times I felt that the place to start was to take the leading executive aside for two years of Yoga – and then, when the foundations were in place, to resume design. Customers didn’t want that, it wasn’t part of the contract … but it came to a point where I felt that was the only way to move forward. I felt that people needed Yoga but didn’t want it. Add to that the fact that I like teaching Yoga waaaay more then I like design – and you may be able to see why I chose to leave my career behind.

Recently I had another “business-related” incident – which prompted this collection of thoughts. I was participating in a high-friction business-related conversation (there is no customer this time – it is a project I initiated) – and it reached an  impasse that had a deja-vu feeling from my design days. But this time the other side wanted and insisted on understanding. So we got into a conversation about communicating, the limits of understanding and it’s friction with the need to understand … and finally I tabled my theory and said “But this isn’t about me being your Yoga teacher – you don’t really want that!”. Before I finished saying those words I intuited what the response would be – and it was “Yes I do”. Woah!

This stayed with me for a few days – and I began to wonder … is it possible that people I met in business were actually looking (consciously or unconsciously?) for a more spiritual significant context in their lives that I overlooked? Is it possible that many of the frictions I experienced (and sometimes still do) are actually an expression of unspoken words? It is possible that people need Yoga and (consciously or unconsciously) do want it?

Knowing this doesn’t make building bridges any easier. A “mind & control” dominated business relatioship does not resonate well with a “heart & surrender” teacher-student relationship. Reasoning can lead the way in business, but it takes faith to let a spiritual teacher into your life. I have no doubt that qualities that can be acquired in Yoga can be beneficial in business – but they can’t be acquired using the way things are acquired in business.

Things keep going round and round 🙂

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

Quality in Family

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My choice to create a life with Andreea in Israel was a revolt – we went up against powerful cultural norms. We were aided by “NewFamily” – an Israeli non-profit organization that is fighting to advance relevant family-status legislation (family status in Israel is subordinate to religious norms instead of legal norms). NewFamily is currently in the news representing a single gay man who has officially and legally born two children with a surrogate in India (because there is no legal framework for it in Israel). The babies are now two months old and the Israeli government is refusing to let them into the country. I am very familiar with the kind of blind bureaucracy he is facing.

But, I believe that if you peal away the emotional layers, this is a wonderful example of intellect attacking social norms and a social system (in this case mainstream Israeli society) struggling to advance. A single homosexual father to surrogate-born twins is more then the current social system can accommodate. You can tell by the government officials’ lame responses – they are not really stupid people, they are facing a frightening change of social values – and their fear blinds them and … well makes them sound stupid. The problem is that the legal system has not yet matured enough and is not yet equipped to process this situation and as a result one man’s struggle is actually shouldering an entire society and its stagnant social values.

My family values are not typical family values – to be honest I don’t know yet know quite what they are. This current event together with my recent immersion in Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality got me thinking about family.

On one hand family is the most fundemental building block in the social structure that is society. Family regulates the biological conditions for bringing new people into society. Family is the first and most dominant environment for transmission of social values to new members of society. Family embodies the most intense emotionally committing relationships. Family often represents a mechanism for acquiring social and economic status through marriage. Family often stretches out into adult life through family-businesses (Dad & Sons Inc.). While there are various social definitions of family, I am guessing that most (if not all) societies have some kind of construct that represent a basic social building block.

On the other hand family is the most exposed social building block to intellect-rooted change. Family is almost exlusively free (even in the most tightly controlled societies) to form it’s own mix of social & intellectual values. In the privacy of a home parents can choose to introduce intellectual values that are not aligned with the social norms of the world outside the home (or even the extended family). Almost all social structures outside the family are by definition larger and therefor more socially dominant – they are often charged with promoting and enforcing social values (especially education systems which are supposedly dedicated to intellectual values). Family is probably the only social structure where intellectual rebellion can find support – a father can choose to support a rebellious teen even though there may be a conflict in values – because family trumps!

Seen from the outside, family is a building block cemented into the foundations of society. Seen from the inside family is an incubator for change. Society is built upon family while family incubates dynamic change that will attack society and force it to change. In the war of social-vs.-intellect, family-bonding is poised (like carbon did for biology?) to tip the scales in favor of intellect.

Marriages (two people choosing to spend life together) that challenge religious and social boundaries, homosexuals, single-parents, surrogates … these are all expressions of change, of personal pursuit for fullfillment and expression, of intellectual liberation struggling against static social patterns … all taking place within family. For me that sheds new and important light on family!

It amuses and placates me to know that people like Andreea & I and this proud gay father are the ones carrying the torch of change on behalf of a unknowing and ignorant society who treats us like enemies.

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Reading Lila PDF

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I thought I was finished with Reading Lila – but it resurfaced in my consciousness. This time around the content became associated with my images. So after a week of random & associative browsing through my image archives I have put together a PDF version of the excerpt with a more personal touch and a more pleasant finish.

Click here to download “Reading Lila” in PDF format

As I was working on this PDF, I visited my photography website StillCreation. I wasn’t happy with it at all and so decided to bring it down. I created StillCreation with the intent of sharing some of the inspiration I was experiencing at the time. My experiences took place in unique and intimate settings. I was hoping that my images would extend the reach of those experiences and that the inspiration would travel further. I feel I failed at doing that. If I one day encounter new inspiration and actionable ideas how to do this better – I may try again. For now I prefer silence.

Posted in Lila | You are welcome to read 16 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-23

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  • April was a month of regression for me: http://bit.ly/bo0doY #
  • a student learns when a teacher learns #
  • I'm looking for a 2nd (there is already a 1st) seed investor for an functional&fashionable Yoga gadget product-startup! #
  • If I ever said Namaste to you this is what I meant: http://bit.ly/98CWTu #
  • something nice to ride into a new weekend 🙂 ♫ http://blip.fm/~qpxhr #
  • human nature is to be lost, nature's nature is to find … and when it finds is … sweet 🙂 #
  • "From bitter searching of the heart, Quickened with passion and with pain We rise to play a greater part." #
  • "This is the faith from which we start: Men shall know commonwealth again From bitter searching of the heart." #
  • "We loved the easy and the smart, But now, with keener hand and brain,
    We rise to play a greater part. " #
  • "The lesser loyalties depart, and neither race nor creed remain
    from bitter searching of the heart." #
  • "Not steering by the venal chart that tricked the mass for private gain,
    we rise to play a greater part." #
  • "Reshaping narrow law and art whose symbols are the millions slain,
    From bitter searching of the heart we rise to play a greater part." #
  • @msurman A critical review of Facebook most likely written before Mark Zuckerberg was even born: http://bit.ly/dgfV3c in reply to msurman #
  • I have very little patience left for people who expect that everything be "explained" – I prefer building on of trust & faith #

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Namaste

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Namaste, as I know it, means something like “I recognize and cherish the eternal light that shines forth from you”. That’s a heavy load for a single word – which is why I don’t use it often. If I say it to you it means:

I am assuming that there is a higher force / god / quality

I am assuming that this higher presence resides in everyone including you and I

I am assuming you can contain my bringing it up

It indicates that at some point in our recent conversation I probably lost track of it

It indicates that I realized I was lost

It indicates that I found it once again

It indicates that I have experienced again that which we have in common and gives us direction in life

It indicates that I am grateful for having seen this through you

It indicates that I am grateful to you for having given me this gift

What do you mean when you say namaste?

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to read 8 comments and to add yours

Myself – April 2010: Regress

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During the period of October 21st 2009 – December 18th 2009 I was home alone while Andreea went to test the waters in Romania with her work. During this period I focused on myself and my practices. I slowly realized a morning ritual which filled my entire morning and would set the pace for the remaining waking hours. I felt good, collected and healthy. Then on December 18th  I flew to Romania to join Andreea for the remainder of her visit which coincided with the holiday season there. It took me time to regain a sense of center and peace after that – and then again lost it to a hectic month of March – where I lost it again. So it has been almost 6 months of being away from my steady practices. I gravitated away from intense practices back to healing practices. I don’t play the Shakuhachi regularly and I feel empty.

April was a most difficult and unpleasant month.

Depression was constantly present and aspiring to consume my emotional body. It did once when I was younger. This time it didn’t. I wasn’t really threatened by it. Years of Yoga helped me to recognize that I am riding a wave that will eventually pass. I didn’t attach to  or identify the depression as “myself”. It would pass and I would remain. This awareness didn’t make feel any better – but it definitely kept from feeling any worse. It was like being in a midst of a storm with a confident awareness that this storm, like all storms, will pass.

Another difficulty I experienced in April was asthma. I was very asthmatic for all of of my childhood and teen-years. It magically vanished when I entered my 20’s and hasn’t effected me since. April brought back breathing experiences I had not known in over 15 years. On more then one night I would lie in bed with an itching chest & back, with a trumpet like wheezing from my chest and finding it very difficult to breath in. I am thankful that I was able to be present in it and go through it with soft patience and no medication.

As I write these words a thought came to me. The disappearance of asthma coincided with my period of deep depression. In retrospect I recognize this period as a period of emancipation, of violently breaking free from a the grip of so much about life that I didn’t like. I was depressed but I was also free. So it makes sense that my asthma receded (that probably deserves a separate post). It’s reappearance confirms my experience of struggling to regain my sense of presence.

April had a defining event – a very painful and difficult experience. Shahar invited me to partake in a studio session that was to be a preparation for our next performance. The previous performance (one of the “hectic March” events) was mostly an unpleasant experience for me – so I had doubts about partaking in the next performance. I spent the entire week debating if I would join the session – and though I wanted to go very much it was up in the air until I packed all my stuff and drove (it was a Saturday, so there wasn’t any public transportation) to the studio. As I was preparing my camera’s wireless setup connection to a computer – I encountered difficulties. The camera was malfunctioning. I felt anger brewing deep inside and called on all my internal skills to remain calm and accepting and focused on getting it to work – this went on for almost 2 hours. When I realized it was a hardware problem (the camera’s USB port wasn’t functioning) – I gave up. One time I picked up the camera to just join the space as is – and I was held back by fear and doubt. It felt like a cosmic slap on my face. Coming all this way (physically, mentally, emotionally) only to be stopped dead in the tracks. It was the last thing I wanted, the last thing I expected, the last thing I was ready for. It left me hurt. Shahar called me as I was driving home (I left in between sessions without saying goodbye) – and I couldn’t answer – seeing his name on the phone screen brought me to tears. A couple of days later he called again – and hearing his voice brought me to tears again. We talked after more then two weeks.

April has a second defining event. This time it was with Yoav – a close friend with whom I share an intense and friction-filled relationship. Yoav is a Buddhist immersed in the world of business. I am immersed in my own spiritual pursuit. I urged Yoav to watch the movie Zeitgeist – when he finally did he sent me what felt to me like an aggressive, condescending email preaching to me in the spirit of “open your eyes and appreciate all that life has given you”. My usual response to these communications from Yoav is a period of (few days/weeks/months) silence – until I can again embrace him. This time I attacked – sharply, intensly and personally. Now we are again in a period of silence.

Posted in About, Myself | You are welcome to read 10 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-16

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Designing an Engine

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This post is also dedicated to Mark and the guys at Diaspora

When I was working as a software designer – we would sometimes run into clients that would ask for a “per-screen” quote. My partner would then answer that we aren’t Samsung – we don’t manufacture screens. Usually when people, especially developers, hear “design” they think about screens, graphics, usability, user experience. While all these are a part of design they don’t touch on the most important part of design (which also happens to be the part I do best and love doing). This post may hopefully shine some light on what that is.

If you’re a developer (especially an open-source developer), you’re reading this and you haven’t yet read “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” then get the book now. It’s easy & fun to read, and may open up new avenues of thought for you. If you were to read only one book on software design – this should be the book!

Update: I came across a comprehensive preview of the book.

Here’s a quote of one relevant paragraph:

“It might be counter-intuitive in our feature-conscious world, but you simply cannot achieve your goals by using features lists as a problem solving tool. It’s quite possible to satisfy every feature on the list and still hatch a catastrophe. Interaction designer Scott McGregor uses a delightful test in his classes to prove this point. He describes a product with a list of features, asking his class to write down what the product is as soon as they can guess. He begins with 1) internal combustion engine; 2) four wheels with rubber tires; 3) a transmission connecting the engine to the drive wheels; 4) engine and transmission mounted on a metal chassis; 5) a steering wheel. By this time every student will have written down his or her positive identification of the product as an automobile, whereupon Scott ceases using features to descibe the product and instead mentions a couple of user goals: 6) cuts grass quickly and easily; 7) comfortable to sit on. From the five feature clues not one student will have written down ‘riding lawnmower’. You can see how much more descriptive goals are then features”

I am guessing the guys at Diaspora are going to start by building an engine. The question is do they know what kind? For a private car? jet airplane? semi-truck? tractor? generator? Or something else altogether? They’re all “engines” – but they have different purposes and different qualities designed to fulfill their purposes.

How can you know you are heading in the direction you want to go? What do you do to stay on course when you reach an obstacle that forces you to take a detour? You need a lighthouse or a north star – something that calls to you, something that shimmers for you in the dark, something you can look to, something you can aspire to.

You may get there and rejoice. You may get there and realize you really wanted to go somewhere else. You may only get close and realize that is enough for you. You may have to move away from it in order to get closer to it. You may find new places on the way. You may lose interest and decide to go somewhere else. All these movements gain a coherent and supportive context when you have an anchor, something steady to which you can relate, something that can be perceived as getting further or nearer.

You may also want to read: [Design]ating Purpose

Posted in Open Source, outside, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Melange

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In Frank Herbert’s “Dune” world there is a substance called “melange” or “spice”. It is said to have life-extending and consciousness-expanding qualities upon which most of the foundations of humanity’s existence depend. As a result it is also the most powerful currency in his universe.

This morning I came across this quote from the “Children of Dune” and as I read it I made two replacements: (1) I replaced “melange/spice” with money ; (2) I replaced “God” with good.

“It is commonly reported … that there exists great natural virtue in the melange money experience. Perhaps this is true. There remains within me, however, profound doubts that every use of melange money always brings virtue. Meseems hat certain persons have corrupted the use of melange money in defiance of God Good… they have disfigured the soul. They skim the surface of melange money and believe thereby to attain grace. They deride their fellows, do great harm to godlinnes goodliness, and they distort the meaning of abundant gift maliciously, surely a mutilation beyond the power of man to restore. To be truly at one with the virtue of spice money, uncorrupted in all ways, full of goodly humor, a man must permit his deeds and his words to agree. When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations.”

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

Depression, Suicide, Freedom

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Depression

When the perceived world becomes to ominous for an individual to bare – depression is a popular solution that appears. Depression is sophisticated. It is a strategy of freedom through surrender. To the outside world it appears to be a collapse, and as such it disposes of almost all expectations. A depressed person is not expected to function and partake in the workings of the world. A depressed person is not held accountable emotionally intellectually, and even biologically (sustaining the body by eating and drinking). On the inside a depressed person is therefore free from responsibilities, even though on the outside this person may be completely dependent on others.

This internal place of freedom is a place of healing. Cumbersome chains of life are replaced by emptiness and unknown – by an opportunity for re-framing thoughts & emotions. Unfortunately it isn’t usually this idyllic because of interruptions from the outside world. Depression is frightening for observers, probably much more then it is to the depressed. Depression is not a pleasant sight, it isn’t intended to be. It doesn’t cater to outside expectations and norms – it is by it’s nature an escape from all these into a private, intimate and isolated place. It is as natural for observers to fear and misunderstand depression as it is for a depressed individual to embrace it.

When observers aren’t capable of containing their fears, they naturally act on them, they work to dispel them. Unfortunately, when it comes to depression they engage not themselves, but another, and not just any other – a depressed other, an other that is depressed because of similar previous unwanted engagements. They insist on helping, but their thoughts and actions are systemically perceived as threatening and aggressive by the depressed individual they are trying to help.

When observers are capable of containing their fears, they can create and facilitate a supportive experience. They can create a supportive, embracing, protective, light and spacious bubble in which a depressed person can rest and depression can do it’s job. They can help a natural process of healing take place. They can transform their fears into giving, understanding and love – and in doing so better themselves too.

When outside intervention interferes with depression the healing process is compromised. The process of getting better is interrupted. This is what happens with most medications for depression. Medication is easier for the observers because it reduces symptoms and promises “recovery”. Medication robs depressed people of their internal freedom. Medication is intended to pull them back into the reality they are trying to escape. As a result many people live their lives in a place of compromise, with a backdrop of depression that sometimes resurfaces, but is mostly contained & sustained. There is no way to completely uproot a inherent urge to change.

Sometimes when outside intervention interferes with depression it leads to suicide.

“The intelligence of the mind can’t think of any reason to live, but it goes on anyway because the intelligence of the cells can’t think of any reason to die.”

Robert PirsigLila: An Inquiry into Morals

Suicide

Professionals often cite (though it is rarely public knowledge) suicide as one of the leading causes of death in societies – many times outnumbering and outweighing car accident deaths, terrorism, smoking & other life-threatening illnesses. In the dominant spirit of scientific thought this gives birth to the question of what can be done about it? What can be done do battle this disease?

But what if suicide is not an individual illness but an illness of society itself? A society in which so many individuals are choosing an extreme and deadly change needs to ask itself (if such a thing is possible) what are we doing wrong? How can we get better? What is it about our society that makes so many individuals prefer an unknown death over a known life? What is it about our society that makes it so difficult to even admit that we may be having a problem – that we don’t even dare talking about it?

People & societies are strongly affected by the adversities they meet and how they meet them. Terrorism is a prominant example of a force that shapes our lives – it fosters in us fear and violence. What would happen to our societies if we were to acknowledge and allow suicide to affect us? People who wield swords against a society need to be met with violence – hence violence manifests. People who shy away from society need to be met with love – is it not therefore reasonable to expect love to manifest?

Freedom

When depression calls out to you there is very little you can do to resist it. Once inside it is an amazingly peaceful and addictive experience – you really don’t want out. If you follow it through you will change. It is a liberating presence that takes you away from everything you know & despise to something that is unknown & unpredictable. Depression is a process of creating new life – a kind of rebirth.

The pursuit of creativity, inspiration, personal expression  & freedom is a sign of our times. It indicates that something is missing. People are looking for magical keys that will open magical doors to magical realms. What if for many people depression is/was their doorway & opportunity to this elusive salvation? What if they had been given the opportunity to go through it – would they have found what they are looking for? What if depression is another example of blindness to what is right before our eyes? What if depression is another example of a miraculous natural phenomenon we discard and trample because we don’t understand it?

It is naive to expect a life transforming experience to be a pleasant session of sitting in a group of people in a circle, all dressed in white, holding hands thinking positive thoughts decorated with tears of joy. Life transformation is a difficult and painful process of letting go of superficially comforting and familiar patterns and standing naked before the unknown. Depression is not a disease. Depression is a natural sedative that makes it sanely possible to enter an insanely terrifying change.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Quality | You are welcome to read 9 comments and to add yours

Spirituality

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Spirituality is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. It is the way I am. It is about asking and challenging my own perceptions of what better is and then moving in that direction. It is about engaging life with a sense of purpose. It is about being clear with my intentions. I can now acknowledge that I have gravitated in this direction almost all of my conscious life. But only during the last 10+ years have I become aware of it.

I now feel like I am riding one of those trains that can’t be stopped – there’s no going back, only moving forward. It is with this awareness that I meet everything I do. I am still very protective of this quality. It is, ironically, one of the only things left that can make me aggressive and violent. I have very little tolerance to what I perceive to be spiritual compromise. It is also therefore the source of my greatest frictions. I believe it to be the reason I now live in what seems like a growing (or shrinking) isolation.

I teach Yoga rarely because I am uninterested in the “popular & entertaining” qualities expected of it. My teachers have taught me to teach with a quality of “Give them what they you want so you can give them what you want”. I can do that, but only to a limited degree. I can be creative in tailoring tools and practices to meet individual needs (in one case I’ve even had to prohibit a student from actually doing Yoga in order to make a space for it). It is very difficult for me to teach generic/weekly Yoga classes for people who want to feel good about themselves by associating with Yoga superficially. There are plenty of teachers who do that, so I leave that to them.

Another, less obvious, example is creating websites – I don’t do much of that either. On a rare occasion that I do it is a wonderful process. For me it is very similar to teaching Yoga where instead of asana, breathing and meditation there is personal expression & discovery through writing. I have very little interest and patience for superficial aspects of “designing a website” – which is where most people get caught up. While I do appreciate good great design, it is, in my eyes, an empty & false shell unless it is anchored in a deeper sense of personal purpose & communication … or at least a craving for one.

My spirituality paints/taints everything I engage. You can have a flexible body and a good looking website – I just can’t help you with that unless I sense a deeper & spiritual connection. I assume this connection is always present or close by, and I always seek it out. But many times people don’t want that – and it becomes a source of friction. “Just make it look nice” they say, to which I usually reply “I wish you a pleasant and inspiring journey”.

On the face of things it seems that my spirituality has placed me in a place of separation rather than integration. This seems to be in contradiction with the spirit of Yoga, a spirit of union and integration. I can embrace the world around me as an observer, less so as a participant. My emotional body is hoping this will change. I sometimes wonder if I may be crazy? But the existence of a few rare & precious relationships in my life indicate that I am not.

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-09

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About Reading Lila

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Updated: June 21, 2010 after launch of modified online version.

When?

In early March 2010 I began my third reading of “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals” by Robert Pirsig. I returned to it for inspiration which it quickly began to provide. I wanted to share some of that inspiration by sending out some quotations on Twitter. I soon realized that there were too many to choose from – and that some far exceeded the 140 character limit imposed by Twitter. The result was a playful attempt to send out a philosophical metaphysics in bursts of short messages.

How?

I would sit, usually first thing in the morning, and read a part of the book. When I felt I had gone through a part I wanted to to send out I’d stop reading. Then, depending on my energy and inspiration, and usually on the following morning, I would re-read it and send out select quotes via Twitter. I stripped out almost all of the dramatic story line and focused on the philosophical inquiry that inspired me. A few times I encountered sections that were very difficult for me to process – which put me off any more writing and reading for a few days. I sent out the first message on March 7 and the last message on May 2 (I estimate approximately 1000 messages).

Soon after the process started I realized that I was creating a kind of excerpt of the book and that I would want to be able to review it as a whole. Luckily I was able to do this. The software running my website has a component that automatically collects all of my updates on Twitter into a single weekly post. Luckily it does this in chronological (oldest to newest) order, so it was very easy for me to string together all of the separate parts. Once a week I would extract all of the relevant updates from this post, add them and edit them a bit more to what accumulated into an excerpt of the book. It was published as the 500th post on my website.

I though that was the end of it. Then last week I was sitting in the morning staring out the window asking myself what I’d like to do that day. I didn’t feel like doing any of the obvious things on my agenda. So I dis some more staring. Then I started seeing images from my work coupled together with some of the ideas in “Lila”. That same day I sat down and experimented with a formatting that combined text and images – and this PDF was born.

I really thought that was the end of that. But then (originally prompted by a comment by Bob on this very post), when I began to think about updating the design of this website, I found myself dedicating an entire section to it. Now the online version has caught up with the PDF version and includes imagery and a similar formatting (this is what it looked like before).

What?

The sequence of this excerpt remains true to the book. It’s division into sections and the title of each section is an ongoing and spontaneous editorial choice I made. Each section represents what I perceived to be a coherent idea or theme. Each title is a motive that shimmered to me and originally served primarily as a mnemonic bookmark. The rest of the words are directly from the book.

The editing process was mostly spontaneous and affected by my understanding, my preferences and the requirement for conciseness imposed by Twitter. There were no professional intentions or processes employed. There was no objective – it was a playful endeavor. I take full credit for any errors, misunderstandings, alterations of context or other incoherences that may have resulted.

Why?

I have drawn much inspiration and insight from both of Robert  Pirsig’s books “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and it’s sequal “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals“.

In the 25th edition of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (where the journey picked up in “Lila” began) that I have, I found two relevant quotations to answer why I did this. The first is an afterward by Robert Pirsig:

“There were no deep manipulative ulterior motives. Writing it seemed to have a higher quality than not writing it.”

The second is the opening of James Landis’ (the book’s publisher) keynote presentation of the book to his colleagues before publishing:

“This is, in an ultimate sense, a book about living, about how to live and, at least by inference, about why.”

The world I live in feels ‘not right’. All of my attempts, to date, to find a place in this world have come up short. I am therefore in a movement towards isolation – of distancing myself from this world. Yet, despite all my tempering, there is something passionate inside me that wants to touch and connect. I do see evidence of good and better amidst the pointless noise – they give me support and hope.

My Yoga teacher suggests that sometimes we need to “fake it until we make it”. I am trying to embrace the world around me, especially the parts that cause me to revolt. My default position is not “What is wrong with the world?” but rather “What am I not seeing?”. It’s not yet an instinctual attitude – I am still faking it, hoping that one day I will make it. Robert Pirsig’s writing has been a great support in this endeavour – shedding new, cohesive, embracing, intellectual and inspiring perspective on this world I live in. In this spirit I share it with you.

Images

All of the images in this document were created during recent years within a process of creative exploration which started in the summer of 2006 (very shortly after I ended my career) and met Shahar Dor. Shahar is a living manifestation of Dynamic Quality. Our meeting was a divine turning point in my life. He invited me into his world. He gave me refuge from the outside world and ushered me into a space in which, for what felt like the first time in an otherwise dull and pointless life, I could appear. On numerous occasions I felt like I was in an insane asylum – but one in which insanity was a prized possession not an illness to be cured.

All of the images are spontaneous occurrences. All of the images are a result of a meeting between digital technology and human nature. Some took place in practice settings others took place in performance settings, some took place somewhere in between – performances with performers and no crowd. Some took place indoors, some took place outside, some took place in Israel, some took place in Europe. It was never about a pursuit of an image – it was always a pursuit of presece. There was never foreknowledge of what would come and there were many disappointments. There were also many moments of pure joy – a sense of individual presence, a sense of connection and a sense of an embracing presence that goes beyond words.

Online

This excerpt is available online in both an HTML web page and as this downloadable PDF. At the time of this writing the PDF version has gone through another editing cycle but the HTML remains more dynamic. The HTML web-page is built with internal page links (anchors) – which make it possible to link not only to the page itself but also to specific sections. This makes it possible for me to reference parts of the excerpt in other writings and also in other place on the Internet (for example – when I comment on other people’s websites). Some of these references accumulate at the bottom of the web page making it a Dynamic collection of other related resources. In addition the web-page has some embedded links to resources that expand on or relate to some of Pirsig’s references. I expect the web-page will continue to change, more then the PDF.

PS: 500 Posts

‘Reading Lila’ was the 500th post I published. My website displays posts in reverse chronological order – new ones appear before the older ones.  This post was posted later because: (1) I wanted and timed the actual reading to be the 500th post;  (2) I only wrote it after I completed and published the reading process; (3) It was intended to reference the reading itself and appear as a foreword to it.

PPS: Mark

My usage of Twitter is not very social. I follow very few people and strive to follow less. I don’t care how many followers I have and sometimes I also block followers who are ‘mass-followers’ (who follow, or so they like to make others think, thousands of people) who I don’t want hanging around my karma.

Yet, I was constantly aware that this game I was playing was causing a flood of updates to anyone who was following me (I believe I sent out ~1000 updates in this reading). I did most of my writing in my (local time) mornings – while most of the people following me (at least those in the USA) were sleeping and therefore spared the real-time flood I was generating.

One of the people I follow is Mark Surman – a unique individual who’s work I appreciate and admire. He is currently involved in a project called Drumbeat which is about spreading an awareness about the freedom of the internet and which stronly resonates with my interpretation of freedom.  During the reading I sent a reply twitter message to Mark who in response, and to my surprise, followed me. I was excited and happy about this. Mark represents, to me,  one of the rare islands of good and better that makes me want to reach out and partake.

A day or two later I felt like reading and writing a second time in the same day. It was evening (local time) which meant late morning USA time – which meant my updates would be showing up in real-time for the people following me on Twitter. And, as luck would have it, the section I was reading was about Insanity. I don’t know if it’s what ‘I said’, or how much ‘I said’, but my hunch was right – Mark unfollowed me. I considered that a loss, not important, but a loss.

Posted in Lila | You are welcome to read 14 comments and to add yours

I Shakuhachi – May 2, 2010: Communication

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Communication.

Posted in inside, My Shakuhachi Recordings, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours