Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Education: what direction does it take?

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi

After Learning all scientific theories and becoming highly educated persons in the world, then if the people do not destroy their pride and ego through Self-Inquiry, there is no use of their illusionary achievements.

The uneducated people are better than them.

The pride of acquiring Education, the desire for appreciation and fame are subject matters for discouragement.

That Education is not at all education and real knowledge.

The Education which paves the way for searching the Truth, The education which inculcates obedience in them is the superior education. It will make them humble and honest people to behave with a sense of equality towards all in the World.
Sri Ramana Maharshi

If you've made it this far you must be fascinated by the above quote. Personally, I am mostly attracted by it. Overall, I am attracted to the direction it indicates.
I am very aware from personal experience of the pride, ego and desire that Sri Ramana introduces here. My education carried me through an MBA in a very conservative school that basically taught that greed was good. At the same time I was studying Zen Buddhism at the Rochester Zen Center, so was somewhat balanced, or confused, in turns.
So, I understand that Self-Inquiry can help destroy pride and ego.
It's the obedience that I always have a hard time with! I, for various reasons, have not trusted my teachers and superiors very much. So this comes with difficulty to me. I realized that I'm more an iconoclast: one who facilitates the destruction of religious symbols, or, by extension, established dogma or conventions.
This somehow works well with Self-Inquiry. The turn is that the symbols, dogma and conventions that get destroyed are the ones I've wrongly accepted and live by. No easy task that. However, by turning my attention inward, I have found a teacher over the years that I can trust. 
Quakers call it the 'still small voice' and in Yoga it's the inner Guru. 
The Obedience, I've discovered, is to this voice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

True face of Yoga in America

During a two week stay at Arsha Vidya Gurukulum (residential center for the study of Vedanta) I was surprised to hear the usage Yoga Shastra. It meant the science of yoga. In Raja Yoga, yoga is designed to calm the mind and make it receptive. It is an analgesic, not an end. 

The skill set for teachers of yoga in America today must keep pace with distractions that are always around, including mobile devices. The mind doesn't function differently today; it seeks out the novel and changeable as is its nature.

Yoga shastra is about finding the permanent among the impermanent in any age, in any place.

The major problem in calming students minds seems to be teachers who are themselves overly attached to Asana as a vehicle for teaching Yoga. Asana is meant to illuminate the changeable and cultivate the sense of the permanent through vichar, focused attention, and more importantly through developing Viveka, discerning awareness. The first, vichar, is a process where an individual differentiates the real from the unreal (impermanent). Viveka, called the crown-jewel of awareness, is a state of mind wherein one can operate without distraction.

It is in this state of mind that awareness of the beyond, Brahman, can be present. Brahma Vidya is what can be accessed when Yoga Shastra has done it's work.
"To be born as a (hu)man, to have longing for release (from bondage) and the association with great souls - these three are difficult to obtain."
The challenge we face is to overcome, through Yoga effort, the sanskaras. It is the process of illumination of our habitual patterns that is the goal of Yoga. To see clearly, past our likes and dislikes, in order to be prepared for the depth of our true nature.

As teachers of asana, we have our own sanskaras to contend with. And these show up in our teaching. Not only in our physical but in our conveying of values and concepts.

It takes great effort and time of practice to strip ourselves bare of habitual patterns. Until that time, we should be clear to define them. Otherwise we stand the chance that our students will replicate them.

Of course, this is beyond a 200 or 500 hour, or even two year, certification program. That's why today we have a system developing of propagating sanskaras. Where people are teaching their own habituated likes and dislikes (raga and dvesa) without proper insight.

This seems to be the true face of Yoga in America.
(for another rendition of this view by Ramesh Bjonnes click here)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The game of being somebody or nobody

Recently a friend posted the following quote on Facebook, which began an exchange. D and S are the other people involved in the exchange.

"The game is not about becoming somebody, it's about becoming nobody."
— Ram Dass

Me: ... and after the game is over comes the real work.

D: love this thread. i was philosophy major in college along with spanish...its totally my thing!

Me: Ah, but that's the game, D! In Yoga, and other mystical pursuits, the real work is not entertainment, a bauble of mind or projection or 'undigested introjects', but experiential. Once the somebody realizes the limitations of mind and moves towards nobody, then the opportunity arises for one to experience directly, without mediation of habitual patterns. Work.

D: ur right i still like it tho...cant lie

Me: ... not to go on and on, but that's one of the tel-tales between the game and the real work: likes and dislikes, raga and dvesa, attachment and aversion. Observing how they operate one crosses the horizon. And that's cool :)

S: I'm confused about where the "work" comes in? It seems to me that when I stop trying so hard/work and just surrender to what is, then "it" all becomes clear to me. When i relinquish my illusion of control and my effort to be "somebody", I discover I am like everything:nothing

D: right! makes sense and hard to attain. it would def take work. and wouldnt the work itself be "it? "as it shouldnt be work it should just be but be nothing. mu. idk its difficult to grasp as thats exactly what were not supposed to do -grasp. were a part of the whole and therefore nothing idk its hard....

Me: Relative terms:Work and Entertainment. One can let go and be lost in habitual patterning, like daydreaming, only performing actions still on autopilot. In this thread, it's the end of the 'game' of the independent somebody. However, what is it that's aware that it's a 'nobody?' Tricky bit here.
By following the trail of likes and dislikes one is building the process of Vichar, which is a complex meditative process that leads to another aha moment. Viveka is the state of mind that, hopefully, lasts as a result.
These are experiential states and slippery. That's why 'work' seems to come in, returning repeatedly over time to discern what is real.
All of this is laid out in various Yoga texts, but each one, each person, has to do the... 'Work!" :)

S: ahh thanks for your explanation. i'm not familiar with all these terms. i always thought of meditation as, well meditative and relaxing-this is all sounding a bit ....something other than meditative to me, always more to learn. i feel like i want to come back out of my head right now and just experience...and breathe

In closing this out, I'd like to point out that meditation is not a single practice. As S pointed out one can practice a form of meditation and be amazed that what someone else does can be called meditation!

Also, the beginning forms of meditation practice involve reducing stress of the practitioner. No practices can be helpful without a calm mind. So S, return to breathing and relax. The rest comes with practice!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Labor Day 2010

I'm warming up to Labor Day this year on my bicycle, crossing New York State. I'll be camping and hopefully enjoying the Erie Canal route that took so much money, sweat and commitment to build. 

Labor Day in our time is the end of Summer, the last weekend to go out and swim, boat or do whatever. 

Here are a few things to tuck away for a quiet moment when you can think about how this day came to be celebrated.
The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US military and US Marshals during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with Labor as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. Cleveland was also concerned that aligning a US labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair.[3] All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.
The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
American labor is not strong these days. In fact, this is one of the worst times for workers to get any respect or recognition in our country. Over the past 50 years, wealth-holders and management has undercut the credibility and legal rights of workers to bargain for anything. 

However, in the 1950's through 1970's, when labor was strong, we had the most vibrant economy in our history. This is not a contradiction or a fluke, although it takes some thinking to see the reason clearly.

When the wealth holders gain from productive activities is balanced with the gains of workers  the economy as a whole prospers. The reason is the less-well-off workers spend more of their share on buying more goods and the wealthy spend less. This drives the economy in a healthy way to more prosperity. The balance is the key and it is what has been lost.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yoga-nomics: What's going on?

  Yoga is arguably about integration. Aside from a misunderstanding in America about what exactly is integrated, we also have a lack of understanding about the way our monetary system is integrated into the fabric of our lives. We can do so much good with an intelligent awareness of how things actually are and operate.

Hopefully, you will be interested in learning more.

I've been working on a large scale article on money but as things unfold have decided to simply write about the situation. Having just read Secrets of the Temple, the politics of money are more in my mind. By politics of money I mean who benefits and who looses by the actions of government agencies.

Banksters work without guns but take wealth from borrowers

Here's one view, that I think accurate, of the current situation: the policy has been to create a “workout” time line for large banks to “earn” their way out of balance sheet problems.

The problem with this approach is, of course, that the Federal deficit basically funds the “earnings” of the banks. The FED provides new money that the banks can borrow at near 0% and the banks then buy Treasuries that pay higher interest rates. The “earnings” that the banks get from this “carry trade” process is achieved by the further indebtedness of the citizenry through the increased national debt.click here for full article
So, the banks are sitting on piles of borrowed money and buying financial paper (treasuries) to increase their wealth as a way to get out of the massive bad loans they have. But it's our money that they are borrowing and re-investing! In this way they take from the poorer tax filers and keep the interest income. Oh, and they do keep any money that comes in on old loans to boot.
My hope is that enough people will start to learn about how all this works. We are in the midst of a horrible situation: "... even when we adjust for inflation and normalize to population, this crisis is orders of magnitude larger than anything else in the past in financial terms, including the Great Depression. As much as we criticize actions taken, there are lots of worse conditions we could be in right now. The size of the financial system catastrophe is of historic proportions and we are still alive." here for details and here

I'll be posting more on this topic in the near future.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yoga-nomics: Where are we headed?

Yoga is about seeking truth... about stilling the illusive aspects of mind to see clearly what is. In this video, Meredith Whitney describes what is going on in the economy and let's us see a picture of the next 6-12 months. From all I have been reading, this is an accurate appraisal. Municipal and State governments are cutting back and housing prices continue to be under significant downward pressure.

Additionally, the effects of the Financial Regulations now being put together in Congress will slow the velocity of money, slow down the mania that led to the financial crisis, and be a short term negative for the poor and middle-class. Again, those who can ill-afford it will be making large sacrifices to put the financial system back into shape.
With this pessimistic outlook I have re-shaped all of my finances. It's time.

Specifically for the Yoga teachers and businesses, be ready to mark down your fees, hope your resources will hold out and be ready to re-negotiate rent and lease agreements. It's time.

Of course, nothing of long term value is at stake here. It is our spiritual practice that will sustain us all. I am studying Vivekachudamani and the Bhagavad Gita this summer. Really looking forward to a new teacher and some time in silence.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Yoga-nomics: Ayn Rand and our Market Meltdown

 How much did na├»ve sentiments color Greenspan's decisions as Fed chairman? (for the full story)
I figured out the problems with the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand in my early 20's and am really stunned that our country was taken off course by this inconsistently logical dogma. Argh!
I subscribed to the Objectivist newsletter. I voted for Nixon based on Rand's endorsement. I thought about it all and came to the conclusion that there was too big a divide between the Ideology and the day to day living reality of what is. There, now I've said it...
A main thread running through this insane split in our country is over this issue. Do we trust the people running our Corporations, and to what degree. It's evident from the Tea Party gatherings that people are pissed about any regulations. Liberals, on the other hand, can't understand why good, orderly supervision is denied so vociferously.
Read Ayn Rand's novels to understand what is dividing our country these days. In spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, many are sticking to the rugged individualism espoused by Ayn. Come to your own conclusions about her philosophy and talk to others. This is a very serious time in our country, make no mistake.
We all have this idealism to deal with and it is a good thing. Integrity comes from this source. However, when it is misplaced and dogmatic it can only lead to the kinds of excess that we have seen in the past 3 years. 
Each and every one of us should be able to discuss our views on the role of government in our lives from a deep understanding of the underlying issues. It seems that Ayn Rand is a good starting place to delve into the reasons why so many citizens are today talking about exercising "Second Amendment Remedies."
Take this seriously. This debate and the actions that ensue are part of our history. And history, as we say, will repeat itself until it is understood.
"Greenspan's Fed looked the other way while essentially unregulated mortgage brokers churned out bad loans to dreamers, deadbeats, and suckers during the housing boom.
This is the problem in huge proportions. Greenspan's ideology led him to say this:

"...you and I will never agree about fraud," she remembered him saying. "You probably will always believe there should be laws against fraud, and I don't think there is any need for a law against fraud."
Greenspan... believed the market would take care of itself.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yoga-nomics: Who owns what?

Years ago I began integrating 'Core Strength' into my yoga practice and teaching. However, I have always acknowledged the influences outside of Yoga that gave rise to the changed elements. Satya, i suppose.

This is a tricky issue in Yoga: what are the influences that give rise to 'adjective yoga.' Should they be acknowledged? Whether the influences come from 'inside' yoga tradition or from 'outside,' does this integration allow branding as a 'new' yoga? This is a broad question, not only asked of you, but of all integrators of new elements to Yoga practice.

Well, now the Indian government is taking it seriously. (read the full article)

Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who heads the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, a Delhi-based government organisation set up jointly by the ministries of health and science, told the Guardian: "Simple text isn't adequate. People are claiming they are doing something different from the original yoga when they are not."

"Yoga originated in India. People cannot claim to invent a new yoga when they have not."

From the information at hand, I am in agreement. The problem isn't one of having access to practicing Yoga, rather the issue is individuals laying claim to the right to own some parts of Yogasana practice and name it as their own. The phenomenon of 'adjective yoga.'

"There is no intention to stop people practising yoga but nobody should misappropriate yoga and start charging franchise money," said Gupta, who, like many Delhi residents, practises the ancient art in a park near his home. "As for hot yoga, power yoga, or whatever I have no views to comment. Our job is to provide the evidence and let others decide."
The campaign to preserve yoga as Indian has its roots in a bid several years ago by Bikram Choudhury, the self-proclaimed Hollywood "yoga teacher to the stars", to get his Bikram yoga style patented in the US.
"They are creating brands," said Guru Singh, who has himself invented what he calls "Urban Yoga".

In our culture, Pilates has really brought the whole issue of 'Core' into popular consciousness. Joe Pilates used these principals, which he acknowledged were influenced by gymnastics, yoga, etc., as foundational. In turn, yoga teachers have begun to emphasize the core in recent years. Many teachers are strong, like Dharma Mitra, but the whole core emphasis is of a different kind. 

Today it seems yoga teachers are straining credulity. They do this by finding the slightest connection with bandhas and/or mudras to bring in innovations of other modalities or by selecting one aspect of the broad teaching of Yoga and creating what they call a new style of yoga.

Satya, Yogi's and Yogini's.

Sate hitam satyam. Which translates to "The path to ultimate truth or Sat  is satya (i.e. the real truth).

Download a partial listing of the various Styles of Yoga in the USA... all 'adjective' Yoga's.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yoga-nomics: Is Yoga a business or a practice?

If you come to Yoga through a local studio or yoga class where you do the physical practice, welcome! You've begun to follow a tradition that is very old, revered and spiritual.

There is the anecdote about a group of people in a dark room trying to identify an elephant by each one feeling different parts. That's kind of like what this question is about: practice or business. When you come into Yoga through the business of teachers, classes and studios, which are business oriented, it might be evident that is what Yoga is. Not really. That's just the current and popular face of Yoga.

Yoga is vast. It has survived for thousands of years by integrating practices and philosophies and, as has been talked about here before, has no "college of yogi's" directing it. One of the key elements of all of this has been to encourage newcomers to enter in and do Yoga. It seems to have worked well over the years.

Right now, in America and the western world, Yoga is synonymous with asana; that is the physical practice, one of the eight limbs of Yoga practice. Asana lends itself very well to being commoditized and sold in classes. This is the business of Yoga today. Selling of the meditation limbs has been done before, as in the popularity of Transcendental Meditation many years ago. But the real money-maker is in asana. Oh, and the clothes and stuff you need to do it!

If you are attracted to Yoga, any part or 'limb', simply do it. I've learned over the years that Yoga has a power to attract and illumine people. All by itself. So however you enter, however you practice, Yoga will invite you to more, and perhaps deeper practices.

The nature of those deeper practices is not so mysterious. Many old, sacred texts lay them out so that they can be explored. If that interests you, start by asking your present asana teacher. If they don't know, ask who they can refer you to that can answer your questions.

So, to answer the question directly, in my opinion and experience Yoga is not a business. In fact, the business gets in the way. Yoga teachers that own studios find that they have less time for practice because the business demands attention. It is inevitable. There are business people doing Yoga and I trust the Power of Yoga will transform them. To some degree. In time.

To see some other takes on question this visit: Yoganomics™

Monday, May 24, 2010

Money, the Power of

I've been reading Liars Poker, a book about the Bond Traders by Michael Lewis. He lived the life of a bond trader on Wall Street in the 1980's and recounts his experiences with great clarity.

In his concluding remarks he says:

For me, however, the meaning of making dollars crumbled; the proposition that the more money you earn, the better the life you are leading was refuted by too much hard evidence to the contrary. And without that belief, I lost the need to make huge sums of money. The funny thing is that I was largely unaware how heavily influenced I was by the money belief until it had vanished.

To me, this is the under-pinning of greed. To consciously be aware of the structure of belief that actions are based on. Rarely does this happen, and is transformative. Seeing clearly this 'hard evidence' can come slowly, over a period of years, or in a flash.

The adventure begins when one alters behavior based on this kind of insight.