“Whatever it is that’s aroused by these cues, isn’t put off by any lack of originality.”
Robert Pirsig

Lila

My New 2.4 Shakuhachi

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A couple of days ago I met my new Tai Hei 2.4 Shakuhachi and the meeting was surprising and, well… intimidating. When I first saw it I was sitting in a car – so I didn’t have a space to hold it properly – which just amplified my initial impression of “It’s huge and I can’t even get my fingers to close the holes”. The new instrument is a longer 2.4 Shakuhachi then my first 1.8 Shakuhachi and it is much heavier and massive.

Yesterday, a beautiful ray of sunset light entered my practice space and provided warm illumination. So I took out the camera and created these closeup photos hoping to capture some of the beautiful and subtle visual elements of this instrument.
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shakuhachi_sidebyside

The 2.4 Shakuhachi is exactly what I had hoped for but not at all what I expected. When I got home and sat down with it, I still couldn’t hold it peacefully – my fingers, wrists and arms ached – before I even made a sound. The thought of moving a finger to play the instrument seemed ludicrous. When I tried to change my grip and posture to bring comfort to my hands, the Shakuhachi reached so high that if I didn’t move my head it would have lodged itself up my nose and into my brain.  My mind went into a frenzy, and came up with a brilliant solution … ahum … “Send it back and get a different one”. Thankfully my mind was not in the driver seat.

The first thing I did was to blow into it as best as I could to experience it’s sound. When that happened I realized that this was indeed what I had hoped for. A 2.4 is tuned to a lower pitch then a 1.8 and it’s sounds are deep and warm. The sounds also brought some calm to my mind. Then I wrote an email to Monty Levenson (the maker) and asked if he could offer any advice. He answered very quickly and had some great advice which helped bring the instrument to rest peacefully in my hands.

It’s now been two days and I am thankful and grateful for having this instrument with me. It’s amazing that despite that massive presence of the new Shakuhachi it needs to be played much more gently then the 1.8. A very gentle breath brings it to life with a deep and resonating tone. Slight changes in the position of the head greatly affect the sound as well. My fingers are learning and adapting to playing it much faster then I expected (they don’t hurt any more, even after moving them and playing).

This new Shakuhachi and my experience of it embody and clarify some changes I expect to introduce into my Yoga practice:  “more” & “more subtle”.

Thank you sis 🙂

Posted in inside, Shakuhachi, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 6 comments and to add yours

I Should Have

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During my morning Yoga practice, a thought came to me about a change I should make in it (something about it’s energetic qualities). It was a special moment –  a new, fresh and subtle perspective – a crystallization. It happened in an instant and then, within a few seconds, a second thought appeared in my mind: “I should have done this a few weeks ago”.

The Yoga Sutra – Chapter 1 Sutra 30 offers a list of 9 obstacles/distractions to clear perception: disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, over-indulgence, delusion, non-achievement & instability. The problem is that when perception is clouded it doesn’t know it!

So the next Sutra (31) gives us a diagnostic tool – how do we know our perception has been clouded? These are the signs: suffering, negative thinking, unsteady body & unsteady breath. Yes it’s that simple – when our perception is clouded we don’t feel good. This works both ways so – when we don’t feel good it is because our perception is clouded.

I place attention and effort in my life (off the mat) and my practice (on the mat), on being present. I call on faith to put aside inhibitions from the past and hesitations about the future. In my practice (on the mat) I do this by working with familiar postures and going into subtle details in body and breath – remaining open to experience and making small adjustments. Simply put, I’m doing my best to do my best.

Today’s experience was mixed. On one hand, I clearly knew (still do!) what to do about my practice, I also know it needs to be a gradual process over time. On the other hand, I was harsh and judgmental about my past choices – it felt wrong – it was “negative thinking”. My sweet moment of clarity came with the distraction of doubt.

Yoga Sutra Chapter 4 Sutra 12 says:

“The substance of what has disappeared as well as what may appear always exists. Whether or not they are evident depends upon the direction of change.” (translation by TKV Desikachar)

This is a warning that no amount of practice will change the past. All of our experiences remain within us, they are a part of we are. They may be dormant, but they are forever present. We must always be vigilant because we never know when they may reappear. They are tricky and slippery – just when we think we got it – they pop up and pull us down.

“I should have…”  is a bad call. When it happens you should recognize it for what it is – clouded judgment. Embrace it so it doesn’t sow the seeds for future “I should have’s….”. Don’t let it take away from your present clarity and experience. What you realize now is the truth of this moment. What you realized before was the truth of that moment. Appreciating them both is a good practice for the truths yet to come.

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

Strong Undercurrents

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I followed a twitter status from Fred Wilson to a blog post by Seth Godin about “freemium, abundance, and scarcity“.  Seth demonstrates  his point about “free” (as in a business model) by referencing a company that gives “free Yoga lessons” in order to sell and promote their brand of yoga clothing. I followed the link and read the article and lost heart (disclosure: I am a yoga practitioner & teacher).

Fred & Seth have way more practice & experience then I do when it comes to business, so I can’t challenge them on that front. There is only one thing I can responsibly relate to in all of this – and that is Yoga. That stuff that was given for “free” in the park is not Yoga – it is an illusion made to look like Yoga  – a misapprehension due to a lack of Yoga. Therefor, any logical argument based on that illusion is tainted by it. I very much wanted to reach the conclusion that Seth is wrong – but I honestly couldn’t because:

  • I think he’s a smart guy and I’ve have been inspired by him numerous times.
  • I wasn’t able to follow his train of thought.
  • I didn’t care to make an effort because I felt that this post (which is just a case in point, that happened to brush closer to me) doesn’t qualify for a  “wrong and right” argument. It lacks context – as did most of the battle around the idea of “free”.
  • I believe that his thoughts would shed a different light if they were applied in a context.

I’ll stick to the Yoga. The fact that Yoga is so popular indicates that:

  • People are suffering (this is so spiritually obvious, yet seems to get overlooked – after all those yoga-clothed people in the park look happy – don’t they?).
  • From that suffering shines a small yet unwavering light of seeking (there is hope).
  • People associate Yoga with a remedy to this situation (people know good).

People are looking for something – and that’s a promising prospect. Seeking is a treasure of potential energy that can be used or abused. Yoga (and I am assuming other spiritual) teachers rely on that energy to guide people towards freedom. Others ab-use it to create bondage. Business, the way I see it as of the writing of these words, is dominated by ab-users (though I can see islands of inspiring change).

As a Yoga teacher I often get an urge to shout out to people “you are getting it wrong, let me help you” – but  I don’t act on it. It doesn’t work for me because that very thought is an act of enslavement – it insinuates that I know better and you should follow me (and abort your way – your freedom), and I know, from my practice, that’s just plain wrong. In the Yoga-related article Seth linked to there is a quote that depicts an opposing position:

“You don’t need anything to do yoga. You don’t even need shoes. ”

This is also misleading. To take on a practice of Yoga you have to have a caring and passionate interest in yourself, in others, in life and in nature , a sense of purpose – and maybe, just maybe, if you carry those with you for some time you may encounter a teacher. Passion, care and purpose can’t be sold off shelves in stores. Fortunately – they exist in infinite abundance inside every one of us and all we have to do it sit still long enough to take notice of them.

The only conclusion I’ve been able to reach and sustain about the idea of “free as a business model” is that the people who support and use it, think they can afford to. There are strong undercurrents in this post of my critical views of current business practices. I have not yet matured enough to connect all the strings needed to make my point in writing. So, I leave you with two video clips from two seemingly unrelated issues – and I leave you to invest your own caring efforts in making your own connections:

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-13

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  • ripping CD's and organizing files…. preparing to disperse my physical CD collection … #
  • sustaining vibrant energy is a delicate art, especially when it's not so vibrant and I need to be patient with it #
  • it feels like summer is over here in the north, days are getting cooler nights are cold – amazing air 🙂 #
  • "when you doubt you know; when you know, doubt" #
  • meditation is observing the path you are on, not trying to pave a different one #
  • What are we? the building blocks and forces of nature – a #Yoga perspective: http://twurl.nl/abuzqh #
  • RT @JangalaRetreat: RT @PJA64X Eating In Heaven and Hell http://bit.ly/1wiRwZ A great story. Must read! #
  • every day I wake up and wonder why … ♫ http://blip.fm/~czd8k #
  • I was hypnotized by a strange delight under a lilac tree ♫ http://blip.fm/~czdc2 #
  • for you dear I was born ♫ http://blip.fm/~d0z59 #
  • my kind of shopping: helped neighbor collect eggs in chicken coop, came back with a tray of eggs 🙂 #
  • a #Yoga journey: mind to heart and beyond http://twurl.nl/2b7tw6 #
  • a core Vedic principle: something cannot come from nothing #
  • social is mediocre #
  • yoga is "containment of the mind's activities" and deserves a supportive practice space: http://twurl.nl/3cp3rn #
  • good morning all 🙂 a little something about writing: http://twurl.nl/obv77u #
  • beauty flowing freely and gracefully from the inside out: http://twurl.nl/b6dz1k #
  • finally got around to writing about Kundalini (there's a good chance it's not what you think it is): http://twurl.nl/1yvu7g #
  • all of my photography posts have been brought home: http://twurl.nl/iaeo8u – photography site is images only http://twurl.nl/aoor2m #
  • a good way to experience me is through the glimpses posts: http://twurl.nl/bwia5j #
  • 99% of Israeli government web-sites/services I encounter are not compatible with Firefox – bad bad government! #

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Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

Energy – Kundalini

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Kundalini is a famous myth in the realms of Yoga & Energy – there’s even a school of Yoga named after it.  It is considered a majestic goal of Yoga, but it is by no means the end of the journey.

Like Granthis, Kundalini is an obstacle/blockage – actually the king of all obstacles. It is located above (and gets it’s name from) the Kanda – the point of origin of all Nadi – (HYP Chapter 3 Sloka 113).   The metaphor used to describe it, is that of a coiled snake – which prevents a merging of energy flowing in Ida & Pingala into and through the center channel – Sushumna. The snake is said to be coiled three and a half times so symbolize “om” – which is actually made of of three sounds a/u/m – a coil for every sound and then a gap of waiting.

kundalini

HYP Chapter 3 Sloka 2: “… when the sleeping kundalini is awakened by the grace of a guru”
HYP Chapter 3 Sloka 3: “then the cleared path becomes the royal road for prana…”
(translation by Brian Akers)

After careful and intense purifying preparations (assuming you are a young healthy man who is dedicating his life to Yoga and living in a hut)  including asana, pranayama and kriyas (mentioned in the first two chapters), Kundalini is introduced. The tools to awaken Kundalini are intense energetic practices – intended to awaken the serpent and causing it to straighten – and in doing so opening the blockage and allowing the two energies (ha & tha) to merge.

HYP Chapter 3 Sloka 12: “Thus the kundalini will stretch out, like a snake that has been hit by a stick The two nadis die off thereby, because the prana leaves them.”
(translation by Hans Ulrich Reiker)

The posture prescribed for beating Kundalini is an asymmetric  seated posture called Mahamudra – which is very uninteresting externally but can be very energetic inside. I am not going to get into the posture in this article – because (a) it has many subtle points; (b) requires intense, specific and personalized breathing; (c) needs to be incorporated in a practice with proper preparation and counter-postures; (d) should be taught and practiced with a teacher present; (e) all of which means you REALLY shouldn’t play around with it (you can, and people have, suffered injuries from it). I do want to point out that a core seated posture, and not some convoluted circus posture, is at the gateway to the higher-plains of Yoga.

If, like me, you are of a western mind-set then the words “prevent” & “obstacle” are calling out for you to do something. But, before rushing off to awaken your serpent and get your juices flowing, please ask yourself if there maybe a reason it’s there? I invite you to read one story of a person who apparently did manage to awaken the snake: Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man.

Posted in Energy, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Models & Metaphors, Yoga, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

WordPress – Write Now

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Your blog is about you, the things that interest you and your passion to share them with others
Your blog is about you, the things that interest you and your passion to share them with others
Your blog is about you, the things that interest you and your passion to share them with others

Once you’ve gotten past the technical hurdles of setting up WordPress (or found someone to help you through them) you are most likely going to find yourself facing two issues: (1) writing content and (2) designing the look of your blog. This post will be dedicated to writing, the next to design – and this is the order in which you should do it too. Let your content lead into your design.

You don’t need WordPress to start writing

You can start writing now even before you’ve got your WordPress installation working. Get a pen & paper, cue-cards, open your favorite text editor, take our your drawing pad – start creating your content.  Publishing your work on WordPress is the END of your writing process.

You have all the time, space and freedom to explore writing. Here are some things you can do to get started and explore:

  • If you could walk on stage and talk to a bunch of people who were curious about you and what you have to say – who do you envision sitting in the crowd? what would you like to talk to them about? You can do this exercise more then once 🙂 Your blog can make this happen for you.
  • Make a list of topics you’d like to write about. Stay close to things you know, things that are in your heart and things you are most passionate about.
  • Make a list of ideas for posts that come to mind – try to give them working titles.
  • If you have more then a working title for some of your ideas then write down your thoughts, list links to other resources (books, websites, images…).
  • Spend some time with your list – you may encounter more ideas to add, you may decide to remove some ideas you don’t wish to pursue.
  • When you feel ready, choose one idea, the one you like most, the first one, and try to write a first draft.

Look around and see how others do it

Find inspiration – look around. Search and keep your eyes open for other blogs and writers. When you read something you like: pause and take a moment to appreciate it, ask yourself what it is you liked about it, read more posts by the same writer, look for links to other posts and other writers. Exposure to things you like will inform you on conscious and subconscious levels.

Pay attention to things like length of posts, styles of writing (1st/3rd person, formal/personal, etc.), how they affect you and motivate you. See what turns you on and what turns you off, what provokes you to think, what causes you to want to comment and then to actually do it.

Practice & Explore

You are at the beginning of something new – try to approach it with curiosity and an open mind. Everything you don’t know is a creative opportunity. Claim the freedom to try & explore – seek and create the answers that are best for you. Throw them out when they don’t feel comfortable and try out new ones. You will find that WordPress is wonderful at changing with you. The first steps on this journey can shape your experience for years to come.

Your writing will change as you practice writing. Your perception of blogging will shift and change as your blogging experience accumulates. Changes in your life will change the way you blog, and changes in your blogging may change the way your life.

I strongly recommend you do not read blogs about becoming a succesfull blogger – they will narrow your perception and inhibit your imagination.

Your writing will inform your design

Designing an empty blog – is an empty design. The next articles in this series will elaborate on the visual design of your blog – but for now think of design a skin that wraps your contents and shapes how it is presented to your visitors. Without content any design is an empty shell.

Your content will create a feeling and atmosphere which can help in making design choices. Designs will also be more truthfully experienced with your content already inside. An empty page, or a page with some generic content is not the same as a page with your content in it. Having your content inserted into design ideas will help you relate to them and make better choices.

Doing the other way around can be inhibiting

Design is a creative process. It is relatively easy and tempting to “have” great design ideas, but it is something else altogether to followup on them. A recurring pattern I encounter when working with people on new WordPress blogs is long shopping lists: we want an area for articles, a contact form, a customizable news-letter, a place where people can comment and interact, a place for special announcements, collapsible menus and on and on.

Technically almost everything on the lists is possible with WordPress. But most of the work is not technical – it’s content. Each and every item on the list needs to be filled with relevant content – this means writing. Essentially your shopping list becomes a task list for things you need to write:

  • You now need to write at least one post (preferably more!) for each content category (it’s kind of silly clicking on a “category” and finding no posts or just one).
  • You now need to choose a special event you wish to advertise, author & design a graphic banner, write a page with more details about the event and upload all that into the blog.
  • You need to write every single page on the list (try writing an “about me” page – and see what happens!).

You are now flooded with work – facing a huge project, you have so many things to do before you can actually open your blog and it looks like an impossible task. 99% of the time this will block your creative energies and drain your motivation to even get started. This will prevent you from writing and you look around for something else to keep you busy and focused. There’s a good change you will end up obsessing even more about the design of your blog and find yourself immobilized in a negative feedback loop.

Focus on what you have to say now, not on what you think you may want to say in the future. WordPress is great at changing and accommodating your changing needs.

Energy and motivation are subtle elements. They thrive and prosper when there is space and playfulness, they fade and hide when crowded by demands and expectations.  Let your heart and what you have to say lead the way.

Your blog is about you, the things that interest you and your passion to share them with others

Posted in outside, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours

About Writing

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I don’t know what comes out but I do know what goes in

Is there a point in writing something pointless? Probably not more or less then writing something pointfull!

Some words originate in distraction, no words originate in true knowledge.

Yes there is a point, some words and sounds carry eternal truth whether or not we recognize it, but the passing sound may resonate and create movement.

My mind is grasping, insisting that something be said, that words be uttered, that exciting questions be asked, that magical wisdom be revealed.

Truth is sitting there quietly, like a wise parent, watching the scene play-out, smiling, supporting, allowing, encouraging, even curious about the path mind will choose this time… and then out of nowhere…

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

A Place for Yoga

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A few years ago I taught for a few months at a very fashionable Yoga studio. It was located on a boardwalk facing the ocean. There was also a power station emitting toxins into the air near by. A student once asked me if it wasn’t potentially unhealthy to practice Yoga and especially breathing practices (Pranayama) with the polluting power station so close by.  I replied that I was more concerned with the pollution of the mind – the hectic business of the place, people walking back and forth and bicycles flashing in and out of view outside the huge studio windows, the ocean waves hammering away relentlessly, the noise of other classes coming and going, etc. Yoga is a science of the mind, and the place we practice can support that.

“Yoga is the containment of the minds activities”

(Yoga Sutra – Chapter 1 Sutra 2 – translation by Paul Harvey)

In the first chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a prominent Yoga text) one of the first things mentioned is a specific description of where Yoga should be practiced (Chapter 1 Slokas 12 & 13):

“12: The Hatha Yogi should live in a secluded hut free of stones, fire, and dampness to a distance of four cubits in a country that is properly governed, virtuous, prosperous and peaceful.

12: These are the marks of a Yoga hut as described by masters practicing Hatha: a small door, no windows, no rat holes; not too high, too low, or too long; well plastered with cow dung, clean and bug free. The grounds are enclosed by a wall and beautified by an arbor, a raised platform, and a well.”

(translation by Brian Akers)

So, cow-dung aside, the core idea resonates with the purpose of Yoga – it is about containment – removing distractions and creating a support for the practice of mindfulness. The short version: practice Yoga in the basement not on the beach. Too many practice spaces cater and indulge the mind instead of supporting it. Where do you practice Yoga? Does it support you in your practice?

… oh and … Pranayama is not about the air that moves in and out but about the affect of breathing on Prana which is already inside us… more on that soon…

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

Mind to Heart & Beyond

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Yoga teachings suggest that the heart is the “seat of knowledge”. In thinking back about the evolution of my practice and of people I have taught – I recognized some milestones which seem to mark a path. I began my journey as most westerner’s do – entrenched in the mind, seeking something more. Early in my practice I observed that Yoga both reflects and affects my life. Therefore these milestones can be found both on and off the mat.

The beginning is strongly anchored in the mind, which depends on the senses, which are anchored outside. Stimulation from the outside are observed and are often translated into action – we see and we do.

heart2mind01

A delicate first change is a small break in the immediate link between observation and action. Yoga postures are new to most beginners so they require a bit more attention – there isn’t yet an automated routine to handle them.

heart2mind02gap

This small gap in reaction to stimuli presents an opportunity for even more refined attention. There are potentially limitless variation and details to explore in postures – this exploration takes time and extends our stay in contemplation and observation. Conscious & expanded breathing linked to movement give us time to and space to explore.

heart2mind03stay

With the skills of opening a gap and staying attentive at hand, a teacher can now guide us into more subtle aspects of practice. This leads us to the heart. As with the mind, visiting the heart is done gradually. Initially the visits will be short – they bring about a subtle quality of care.

heart2mind04extend

As our capacities for attention, breath, movement and emotions expand the heart gets more involved. This is a phase where clear instructions are replaced by subtle queues, metaphors, meditative focuses, etc. It is usually an extensive period of continuous practice.

heart2mind05stay

This has the potential for a very subtle but major shift in experience – it is approached slowly and gradually, but arrives suddenly. When you get it, it feels like you’ve know it forever. The point of origin is no longer on the outside – you find it is now within you – your intentions. Another subtle change is that the loop is no longer open ended, things seem more connected, there are subtle relationships that draw a bigger picture than the mind was able to comprehend on its own.

heart2mind06origin

I think this is where the “beyond” part begins to really kick in. You may find that you can both sense the world and act on it directly from your heart. Enough said!

heart2mind07heartWhen that gate has opened … well .. the heart emerges as “the seat of knowledge” and … well… enough said!

heart2mind08allheart

Engaging the world with heart and care can lead to a new perspective –  differences observed by mind are replaced by commonalities known in the heart.

heart2mind09connectEventually we may even come to the conclusion that what we have in common is what dominates our lives. That the seat of knowledge is one.

heart2mind10merge

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

Heart of Matter

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Yoga is founded on a unique perspective on human life & existence. As a Yoga practitioner and teacher this knowledge paints my life with a sense of “coming home” – it inspires me, it directs me, it refines my experience and it resonates with my intuitive perception of what is happening in my life. This knowledge has a mysterious affect on my mind – it refuses to get pinned down into a fixed and clear explanation – is it both confusing and settling at the same time. It dances inside me.

I chose to start this journey with the introduction of Elements & Gunas – the building blocks of existence and the forces that shape them.

Elements: a Static Aspect

I found an inspiring description of the elements in Vaisesika Philosophy. It is a practical approach that claims that the fact that are diverse materials and objects in existence, indicates that there must be different subtle (basic) elements – building blocks. We cannot perceive these subtle elements directly – we can only infer their existence based on how they make themselves known to us.

Let’s take for example – Water. We intuit there is a basic element called water from the different forms it takes – we know that water flowing in a river, wine and apple juice share a common element. But we can never perceive this subtle element directly – we can perceive it only when it comes into being in some gross form.

Then how do we know what elements there are? Vaisesika suggests that all subtle elements have numerous qualities. Some of these qualities are common, and some are special & unique. We can’t tell things apart by their common qualities, but we can identify them uniquely through their special qualities. A special quality is so tightly related to it’s subtle element that you can’t separate them – you can’t take the wetness out of water.  If we could identify such special  qualities – then we could say that each special quality is associated with a unique subtle element.

elements01Vaisesika suggests that an examination of the objective clearly reveals such special qualities – and each quality reveals a subtle element:

  • The special quality of Sound points to the existence of subtle element of Ether
    Ether is that which has the special quality of sound
  • The special quality of Touch points to the existence of subtle element of Air.
    Air is that which has the special quality of touch.
  • The special quality of Form points to the existence of subtle element of Fire.
    Fire is that which has the special quality of form.
  • The special quality of Flavor points to the existence of subtle element of Water.
    Water is that which has the special quality of flavor.
  • The special quality of Odor points to the existence of subtle element of Earth.
    Earth is that which has the special quality of odor.

elements02

Samkhya philosophy suggests that the subtle elements are evolved from one another – each having the special properties of it’s preceding elements in addition to it’s special element:

  • Ether – sound
  • Air – sound & touch
  • Fire – sound & touch & form
  • Water – sound & touch & form & flavor
  • Earth – sound & touch & form & flavor & odor

And so we have the building blocks that make up everything in existence. Because it seems so obvious, it may be interesting to note that the special qualities relate not only to the subtle elements but also to our knowing senses – BUT they are not the same. Sound is not hearing,touch is not feeling, form is not sight, flavor is not taste and odor is not smell. This is something to meditate on.

Gunas: a Dynamic Aspect

Gunas describe the dynamics of matter – they are the forces that “pick up the pieces” of subtle elements, shuffle them around cause them to take the different forms of matter and objects we perceive. Gunas are foundations of existence, but unlike the foundations of a building, they are constantly shifting and changing. Gunas are also the roof of all change – nothing can manifest beyond the limitations they impose.

There are three Gunas – Rajas, Tamas & Sattva.

  • Rajas is a perky Guna – it is activating and exciting, always leaning into change, destabilizing.
  • Tamas is an inhibiting Guna – it slows and prevents movement, it allows things to settle.
  • Sattva is a content Guna – it is where it needs to be and has no need or motivation to change.

Connected & Ever-changing

According to Samkhya the Gunas were in perfect balance before the objective world manifested – and then there was a disturbance. Which of the three Gunas do you think moved first? Sattva is just fine with the way things are, Tamas does not initiate -so  it can only be Rajas. Then Tamas kicked in opposing movement initiated by Rajas. Sattva is a state of balance & harmony of Tamas & Rajas. The Gunas are always affecting one another, leading into and through change.

Dominance & Continuity

At any given time one of the Gunas is dominant:

  • Do you ever get the feeling that the world around you is busy or hectic? That would be dominant Rajas.
  • Do you ever get the feeling that the world is heavy and depressing? That would be dominant Tamas.
  • When you feel that everything is sweet, simple and peaceful, nothing needs to be changed? That would be dominant  Sattva.

It would be great if it were that clear and obvious all the time, and though it’s not too far from that, it’s not always so straightforward. When a Guna becomes dominant it tends to stay that way for a period of time. This is most obvious with Tamas – since it is in it’s nature to persist: if you’ve ever been depressed or gone through a phase of heaviness and low motivation then you have experienced Tamas – it is very difficult to escape it.

Rajas is required to move away from Tamas. Rajas is by definition a less continuous Guna – it is prone to change. A continued state of Rajas is likely to pass through Tamas and Sattva. If you’ve ever experienced a period of hyper-activity then you may have noticed that eventually you will probably end up in either sleep (Tamas) or a special kind of stillness, often just gazing at something in a kind of meditative trance (Sattva).

Depression (Tamas) can last days, weeks, months and years. Hyper-activity (Rajas) usually lasts minutes, or hours, very rarely more then that. It if does last longer it will go through periods of rest which can be Tamasic or Sattvic. Still, Rajas can be a dominant quality in people through out life – and for many people it is.

There is no tool for measuring Gunas. They can be observed on subtle and gross levels. We may say that sleep is dominated by Tamas, yet who has not experienced a Rajasic night of sleeplessness and agitation? Gunas also need to be observed in context: for an athlete, running a race may be a Rajasic experience; for a person who is ill, getting out of bed may be a Rajasic experience.

Gunas are not Good or Bad

There is a tendency to fall into a trap of simplifying and judging the Gunas: Tamas is bad, Rajas is good, Sattva is the best. This is a common mistake and a source of much misapprehension. Tamas cannot be good bad any more then ether can be good or bad. Gunas are qualities and life is an ever changing balance of their relationship.

Gunas can be functional or dysfunctional. Sattva is a meditative quality but if it was always dominant and unaffected by Rajas & Tamas there wouldn’t be life. Rajas is a functional quality in our waking ours, but if it were not for Tamas we would not be able to sleep at night. Tamas can be a burden when it prevents us from moving, but it can be a lifesaver when we need to stop.

The Gunas & I

One of the most useful realizations I had in observing Gunas in my life is that they are bigger then me – I am playing in their playground and everything I perceive, feel an do is under their influence. It’s useless and hopeless to pretend to be meditative when a storm is upon you.

guna_sattva

guna_rajas

I recall a story about a person who went kayaking. He got caught in a stormy current and fought to get free. He drowned, died and was shortly afterward released from the current further down the stream. An experienced person would have known that your best chance of surviving is to surrender to the current and let it carry you through.

There are times when I sit down to meditate (Sattva) and immediately notice that my mind is all over the place (Rajas). At times like this it is almost useless for me to choose a focus for meditation, as I am not likely to stay with it for a long time. The best meditation practice for me at times like this is to ride out the storm in my mind. When I do this there is chance I may end up in a peaceful place.

The Gunas & You & I

The Gunas connect us all. We may experience the Gunas differently as individuals but we are all swimming in the same ocean, we are all lifted up and dropped down by it’s currents and waves.  We are in this together you & I.

guna_connect

Posted in Models & Metaphors, Yoga, Yoga Philosophy | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours

Kinetic Sculpture

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Saw this on Andy’s blog – very cool 🙂

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-06

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  • RT wanna bet? @SaraJChipps: My little sister is way cooler than yours. #
  • 13:31 #
  • RT how wonderful 🙂 @erangalperin: if you like cats + piano, well… 🙂 http://bit.ly/2FfXW #catcerto #
  • "We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give" (Norman MacEwan) #
  • Just joined a twibe. Visit http://twibes.com/yoga to join #
  • if you are shopping for "yoga clothes" you're looking in the wrong place #
  • Hello @JangalaRetreat – thank you 🙂 you've been on my mind for the past few hours, letting my thoughts collect, will write you soon #
  • increasing frequency of firefox crashes is turning from frustrating into a welcome experience, karma sweeping away web-pages I don't need 2c #
  • choosing a #Yoga mode of practice that is right for you and your energy: http://twurl.nl/nqebsi #
  • according to the #Yoga Sutra – meditation is a gradual process: http://twurl.nl/q4ti31 #
  • RT @JangalaRetreat: "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." The Dalai Lama #
  • here in the north of Israel if feels like summer is already coming to an end, days are getting cool & breezy… delightful! #
  • @t I choose power of will over empathy, the latter can cloud perception: http://twurl.nl/p6m1db in reply to t #
  • "meditation is recognized more by the beauty of the discoveries we make than rather by the number of facts we know" Desikachar #
  • simple postures allow you to go deeper, and deep is where you find things you can take off the mat: http://twurl.nl/oso1jj #yoga #asana #
  • i can't believe Leonard Cohen's manager doesn't want me to photograph his Israel concert 🙂 http://twurl.nl/euurum #
  • @fredwilson re: health care is not medical care, confusing the two is great for medical not so great for health #
  • I love to be reminded that everyone (absolutely everyone!) knows good: http://twurl.nl/hvxl2s #
  • “No posture makes us more concerned about others. This is worth meditating on” Desikachar #
  • how to recognize a yoga teacher? there are no preconditions! http://twurl.nl/8p44f8 #
  • an honest presentation: http://twurl.nl/h415sb #
  • getting lots of email offers to execute the wills of rich people who have died… is there a plague no one told me about? #
  • Meditating on Sabbath: http://twurl.nl/icg0fp #
  • beauty and beauty in the beast – watch all the way through 🙂 ♫ http://blip.fm/~cwb5s #

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Meditating on Sabbath

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We have new neighbors – they moved into the house next to ours – they are religious Jews.  They moved in this week, and from the day they moved in, their house emanated noises of a hectic family: children running & playing, a constant hum of a washing machine, babies crying, children yelling, parents yelling back, dog barking, etc. Today is Sabbath and their house is dead-silent – a welcome change.

The Hebrew word “Shabat” can be translated as a break or recess. From what I know about Judaism, there are many subtle manifestation of this idea – for example: time is allocated for prayer three times a day, time is allocated for short prayer around meals. I believe it requires a caring and attentive practice to create a balanced application of this wonderful and simple idea of taking a break from the daily flow of life to rest and observe (and pray, if that is your inclination). The duality of rest and work flows through our life on many levels:

  • We rest & shower after intense activity.
  • We are active during the day and sleep during the night.
  • We travel out in summer and stay in during winter.
  • We are playful in childhood (when life begins), contained in adult life and meditative as we near an end of life.

This morning as I was preparing coffee and looking out the window at the silent house next-door, meditation came to mind. It feels to me as if their house and family are in a meditative space. It also feels to me like an extreme shift – from a violent week to a peaceful weekend. It’s reminds me of people who come to Yoga classes, they claim to experience peace and integration but before they’ve left the studio they are already on their phones in agitated conversation (I wonder what these people are like when they get behind a steering wheel after a Yoga practice!).

We need to find a healthy combination of meditative practice & involved life. There can be no single formula to do this  – it is unique to our individual cycles of life. When a meditative quality is missing from our living-cycles there can be a sense of emptiness – as if something is missing. From that perspective we look at meditation as if it were some kind of sacred or elevated practice – we expect it to carry us into the light. This is an illusion caused by it’s absence. Meditation is a quality, a meditative practice is intended to introduce that quality into our lives. An effective meditation practice can cast a new light on all of our actions. It can change the way we view ourselves and communicate with others. It can change the way we move and breathe. It can change the way we sense and perceive. It can change meditation itself and our outlook on life.

Being meditative is not how long you can sit, how many words you know in Sanskrit or your philosophical knowledge.  It is about your capacity to love and your ability to communicate with your loved ones.

After thought: Sabbath carries a mathematical property – it is one-seventh of the week. Maybe this is a hint about a healthy meditative balance? Maybe it carries a prescription that one-seventh of our time should be allocated to meditation? Is your practice like this?

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

Having a Price

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

How to recognize a Yoga teacher?

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Following is a paraphrasing of text from “What are we seeking?” By TKV Desikachar:

If you are seeking for help from a Yoga teacher then they should meet you on your own ground, as you are. A teacher should adapt the teachings so they reach you.

There are no preconditions

No preconditions means that a teachers accepts you as you are, with your personality, views and culture.

No preconditions means that there is no standard method. How can a teacher help you by forcing a uniform model on you? Is this a sign of respect to you?

No preconditions means that a teacher accepts your situation however difficult it may be and regardless of any differences between you.

No preconditions means that there is always hope – a living force which tells you that things are never blocked. A teacher will remind you that by embracing things as they are, hope will arise and bring about change.

No preconditions means that a teachers accepts you as you are and doesn’t tell you that you are wrong only because your opinions differ.

Comment: a relationship is a mutual experience, no preconditions applies to both sides. Come with an open heart to a teacher that greets you with an open heart.

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

People know Good

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The book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance opens with this:

And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good –
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

A couple days ago I picked up Andreea from work, she had just treated a couple to a massage. She was happy and filled with energy and said she had a great time and that the couple enjoyed them-selves. This isn’t the first time, I’ve seen her like this before, I’ve seen people leaving her after a treatment and I’ve heard her praised by others. Andreea belongs to a rare breed of professionals who are a league apart from most of the people in her field – she was gifted with opportunities to study with inspiring teachers carrying quality teachings, and in very intimate settings over a substantial period of time. I have experienced the touch of both her & her teachers and it is a world apart from most of the “spa” treatments on the market.

Almost everyone who has experienced her touch can tell the difference and usually expresses it. As we were driving home I thought about this and a smile came to my face. It reminded me that people, all people, know quality when they experience it. Quality is indeed a universal thing, it transcends culture & words – everyone knows it and recognizes it instantly – and it is distinct from everything else.

We cannot create Good, it is a relationship we can choose to enter with whatever we experience. We can nurture conditions that enable us to experience it. When people make time to come to a special place and treat themselves to a therapeutic treatment they can create these conditions. When Andreea meets them in kind spirit – Good makes an appearance.

Being reminded of this gives me hope.

You may want to also read Yoga for a Murky Mind

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

Twisted Learning

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My lower-back and shoulders carry and give voice to many of my fears and frustrations. My shoulders get stiff and my lower back becomes sensitive (if I am not careful with it, sensitivity becomes pain). The past few days have been like this and I’ve been practicing accordingly. I try to practice twice a day:

  1. In the mornings I practice mostly lying on my back. This anchors the center of my body and allows me to work gradually on mobility, strength and flexibility with relatively low-weight-bearing postures. The core posture is a lying twist.
  2. In the evenings my practice varies – but generally it’s focused on standing postured working towards a seated posture.

Both practices including a Pranayama breathing practice and a short meditation.

This post is dedicated to the lying twist to demonstrate the vast potential of subtle variations and attention to detail that can be applied in a single asana.

The Core Posture

I will be focusing on a basic core posture – where (1) the arms are opened to the sides; (2) the knees folded close to the chest and placed on the floor; (3) the head is rotated to the side opposite of the knees.

twist_core

If you try the core posture directly you may find yourself experiencing some limitations such as (1) knees that do not reach the floor; (2) one knee is on the floor while the other floats in the air; (3) the arm opposite the knees cannot reach the floor; (4) the shoulder opposite the knees cannot reach the floor; (5) the knees move away from the chest to a more open position.  A gradual exploration of the posture may shed more light on it for you.

twist_core_escapes

Moving into the posture

Finding an accessible &  comfortable starting point is always useful in approaching our limitations in asana. In this case lying on your side will do the trick – arms & knees are placed  one on top of the other and the head is rested on the floor facing the same direction as the entire body.

twist_start

From this position we will use Ujjayi breath to grow into the posture. With every inhale start opening up – the top arm reaching away from the body and lengthening. The head follows the arm – you can do this with open eyes and keep your gaze on the moving hand. Go as far as your breath will take you and your body will allow. The first time you do this don’t go beyond 90 degrees. As you exhale bring everything back to the starting position. Repeat this numerous time, going a bit further every time. Take as long as you need.

twist-open1twist-open2twist-open3twist-open4

Every time you feel a limitation, slow down and come to a stop. Try to find what is limiting you. If it’s a physical limitation try to identify a place in your body where you feel the most stretch or a pain. If it’s a limitation of mind – such as fear or insecurity about moving on – try to see what is the source of the inhibition.  Don’t automatically extend beyond your limitations, revisit them once or twice more and see if something changes.

Staying in the posture

If, after numerous movements your arm reaches the floor or close to it then you can stop moving, stay in the position you’ve reached and focus on your breathing. If you arm is in the air, keep it active, stretching away from the body, don’t let it go limp. You may find that breathing is enough to keep you moving around the place you’ve stopped. As your inhale to the chest the arm and shoulder may rise and as you exhale they may sink back down. It may find it’s way to settle on the ground and it may not!

twist_stay

You may also find it useful to place the second arm (the one on the side of the knees) on the knees to keep them fixed on the floor.

twist_handonknee

Then you can turn your attention to harnessing the range of movement created by the breath. As you inhale try to hold your position (this may cause some tension to build in your body), as you exhale try to embrace the sinking movement and relax “into” the space created by the exhale. You may find that with each breath your posture opens up and expands. Stay active, the outstretched arm should remain active and focused on length – all the way to the tips of your fingers. Try to maintain a quality breathing pattern – locational or directional breathing and a quality sound of ujjayi. An active breath keeps the posture moving &  active  on a subtle level.

Coming out of the posture gradually

We will use the movement of the breath to start moving out of the posture. As you inhale and your chest begins to expand, allow your arm and shoulder to rise from the floor.  As you exhale allow it so sink back down (it doesn’t have to reach all the way to the floor).  With each breath extend the range of movement allowing the arm to rise further up until finally it goes beyond 90 degrees and you come all the way back to the starting position.

twist_close

From there  you can roll back to a centered lying position. Stay here a few breaths, observe sensations that may come to you, see if you notice any differences between the two sides of your body. When you are ready you can begin this entire sequence on the other side of the body.

twist_end

Coming out of the posture directly

If you feel up to it then you can come out of the posture in directly. Using an inhale, simultaneously twist your head back to and raise your knees back to a center position. As you exhale bring your arms back alongside your body.

If you’ve been following this practice then you’ve spent some time working on one side and since this is an asymmetrical posture it is recommended that you do the same on both sides.

Expanding through our limitations

I’ve been told that people with a handicap in one of their senses often compensate by developing enhanced sensitivity in other senses. For example a blind person may develop refined hearing to compensate for his lack of sight. I believe that physical limitations (which we all have) can facilitate similar development in our practice. If we embrace our limitations and work with them, they may lead us to a refined practice.

I’ve extensively studied and practiced many forms of lying twists over the years. But now, thanks to my sensitive lower back I can breath better in a twist, I have more range within the posture and it is more accessible to me then ever before. I discovered these qualities by gently shifting my consciousness from trying to “fix” my lower back to  working within the limitations it imposes on me. I am looking forward to applying what I’ve learned to other forms of twisting, lying & standing, and other asana as well. Finally this brings into interesting light obstacles and frustrations which are what got me started in the first place.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” T.S. Eliot

Posted in Basic Movement, Yoga | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 1 Sutra 17

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“Discernment follows the form of reasoning, reflection, joy & unity”
Translation by Paul Harvey

The process of meditations is a gradual movement from distraction toward containment. You can experience this on a gross level in a short meditation and you can experience this on a more subtle level over years of meditation.

When you start off meditating (assuming you are not in a monastery or a retreat) the mind is occupied with everything and anything, this is the nature of mind.

meditation01Then gradually ( = waiting patiently & softly, without expectation, without judgment) the mind settles a bit and releases some of its preoccupations. The first thoughts to go are the “easier” ones, those that stay are more immanent and can take a bit more waiting.

meditation02

When the mind is settled it is able to start focusing on one object. At first the mind may still dance around and the relationship with the object comes and goes.

meditation03

With some practice the mind is able to hold an object steadily and for a longer period of time.

meditation04

Eventually subject-object duality ceases to cloud perception.

meditation05

Practice tips:

  • asana and pranayama practice shorten the time it takes to make this journey.
  • a simple and supportive object to place your attention is on your seated position.
  • a caring teacher can give you a supportive meditation focus, choosing a focus for yourself indulges your mind (like a kid will go for candy).
  • one effective meditation practice will carry you through years of practice, don’t change it like you change socks.
Posted in Meditation, Models & Metaphors, Yoga, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 5 comments and to add yours

CATcerto

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In what do you believe? Enjoy 🙂

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-30

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