How to Give Advice to a Bobble Head

BGKrishnaBobbleheadHere’s an idea: find an object that has some personal significance for you, something that represents you or some aspect of yourself; something you can use as a proxy for ‘you’. Personally, I find that Bobble Head dolls work best. Put the object ‘you’ on a table or desk and sit with it. Then think of the biggest challenge you currently face in your life or a challenge that you know you will have to face soon. Now, imagine that you are the Supreme Being and you are looking at the proxy ‘you’ in full knowledge of the challenge ‘you’ face and the difficulty associated with facing it.

What would you, in your role as the Supreme Being, do? Continue reading

The Mind-Blowing Fantastic-ness of Being a Person

13_sept12_86-keith-haring_USE

art by Keith Haring

In my last post, I concluded with a couple of questions, the first of which was: “what does it mean to be a person?” It’s an often-overlooked question in spite of its obvious importance to… people. That’s one reason why, whenever the issue of person-ness arises in my yoga philosophy workshops, I make a point of asking participants to offer their thoughts on what it means to be a person. The Sanskrit word for ‘person’, purusa, figures prominently in yoga wisdom texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali so it should come as no surprise that the issue would come up in any meaningful discussion of yoga philosophy.

The response to my query usually includes ideas such as ‘to be conscious or self-aware’, ‘to keep learning and growing’, ‘to have the ability to communicate’, or ‘to have a soul’. Most of the replies I get suggest what I consider to be the essential element of person-ness but it’s rare that someone directly states my preferred answer: to be a person means to have senses. Continue reading

The Supreme Personality of Godhead

Krishna

As is so often the case, Carol Horton wrote a wonderfully thought-provoking article recently. You can find it on her blog, Think Body Electric. The post was an appreciation of ‘American Yoga’ and, as the long parade of comments that her post generated rolled on, the topic of the Bhagavad Gita’s relevance to contemporary yoga came up. Within the sub-discussion that nested inside the larger conversation, one participant suggested that a definition of “Krishna”, the speaker of the Gita, was required in order to ascertain how one should try to understand the Gita and apply its teachings.

I couldn’t agree more.

One edition of the Gita that was cited among examples of how different translators arrive at different philosophical conclusions was A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In his translation, Prabhupada coined a vivid descriptive for Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Continue reading

Tall Tales of the Lonely Void

Void

Let’s think about nothing. It’s a little different from not thinking about anything. If we don’t think about anything then we actually just give the mind free reign to wander without constraint. The mind is always active so not thinking about anything really means not directing thought to a particular object, not thinking about anything in particular.

On the other hand, thinking about nothing means making ‘nothing’ the object of one’s meditation. This carries an exceptionally high degree of difficulty precisely because a void offers nothing to direct one’s thoughts to. In one sense, it’s impossible to think about nothing because there’s nothing to think about: in a void, qualities are conspicuous by their absence. A void can’t feel anything because there is nothing in a void that can generate feelings or be affected by anything. And a void can’t do anything because it has neither the power to act nor any mechanism for action. A void is neither sentient nor is it an automaton.

Curiously, the absence of qualities, energies, and instruments in a void does not always stop people, even scholars of yoga philosophy, from assigning qualities to that which is, by definition, quality-less. Continue reading

Has The Whole World Gone Crazy?

lebowski_WorldOfPainThis past week was one where I felt spontaneously immersed in feelings of gratitude. For starters, I felt grateful for not having had my legs blown off by a couple of psychos with a twisted idea of how to use a pressure cooker. And I felt grateful that I don’t live in Syria, where massacres far, far worse than the Boston Marathon bombing happen every day.

I also found myself feeling oddly grateful that I live in the District of Columbia, where I’m not entitled to congressional representation by a United States Senator. Usually that bothers me but since it became clear last week that, if I did have a Senator, there would be an even-money chance that they would be more interested in who’s picking up their restaurant tab than what most people in America want, it doesn’t bother me so much. Continue reading

Ya got trouble, right here in Encinitas!

Music Man Trouble1

Hari:

Well, either you’re closing your eyes

To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge

Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated

By the presence of a yoga class in your school district.

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,

I say, trouble right here in Encinitas. Continue reading

In The Beginning

OmGong_Mantra_200As is sometimes the case for those of us who become yoga teachers, my first few classes were a little rough. Fortunately my classes were so small that my early missteps were endured only by an unfortunate few. And, since some of my fellow Teacher Training alumni as well as friends with years of teaching experience mercifully subjected themselves to my classes, I got valuable feedback to help me improve. On one such occasion it was brought to my attention that I was so anxious to get everyone moving on their mats that I had forgotten the first order of business: I had forgotten to chant “Om”.

Of course, not every yoga teacher chants “Om” to begin a class. And some yoga students are just as happy to get centered and focused by other means. But as a general rule, at least in most yoga studios, we begin and end a yoga class by chanting “Om”. Continue reading

The Art of Anger Management

Imageprakrteh kriyamanani  —  gunaih karmani sarvasah /

ahankara-vimudhatma  —  kartaham iti manyate //

“The spirit soul, bewildered by the influence of false ego, thinks them self to be the doer of activities that, in actuality , are carried out by the three modes of material nature.”

Bhagavad Gita 3.27

I love to get angry. Few things make me happier than an opportunity for indignation, righteous or otherwise. And if nothing worthy of my fury comes my way, I’ll go out and find something. In fact, I’m so nuts that I’ll actually observe a circumstance, imagine it evolving into something I dislike, and then get angry about what I imagined. Continue reading