Tag Archives: yoga philosophy

Yogic Values, Diversity, and Inclusivity

LuluLogoDiversityI had the good fortune to score one of only a hundred seats for The Practice of Leadership, a panel discussion held at the Yoga Journal Conference in New York City this past weekend. The discussion grew out of Seane Corn’s decision to decline an invitation from Lululemon to participate in a leadership training program they were developing for the Yoga Journal Conferences. Ms. Corn explained the reason for her decision:

I told them that I couldn’t be a part of a training program they were hosting unless they themselves were willing to model true leadership, which includes ownership. Their lack of transparency and silence around the controversy in 2013 was irresponsible.”

The “controversy” was a perfect storm of long-standing questions regarding the compatibility of Lululemon’s philosophy and ethics with those of yoga combined with incendiary statements by Lululemon founder and majority shareholder Chip Wilson regarding, among other things, problems with Lululemon’s product line. It all resulted in a public relations disaster and an invitation from Alanna Kaivalya in a phenomenally viral Huffington Post article.

The Practice of Leadership panel discussion was described as follows:

“In this session, we will take on the delicate balance of spiritual values and corporate responsibility featuring community leaders, social change activists and Lululemon leadership. It will be an open and honest dialogue that gets at the heart of our practice, our role as conscious leaders and how to create community in conflict.”

Yogadork posted a nice summary of the proceedings and asked readers to stop and ponder a significant question: “Do you feel Lululemon (a corporation) should be held responsible for upholding yogic values, diversity and inclusivity?”

My answer is that Yogadork rolled two very different questions into one. A coherent response is not possible until the two questions are separated. Here’s why: Continue reading

Ten Years After

NYC-Ten-Years-After

Photos © James and Karla Murray

In a few weeks I’ll be visiting some of my old neighborhoods in New York City. It’s been a while since my last visit and I expect to feel discombobulated by its unfamiliarity. Like a time-displaced Captain America bounding into a future-ized Times Square, I’ll recognize all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces and reconcile myself to the fact that they look all wrong.

But it’s not just a case of sullen nostalgia because my old haunts don’t look they way they used to; it’s a case of disenchantment because now my old haunts look just like everyplace else. When I was born, no other city in America looked like New York City. Now, New York City looks a lot like everyplace else. People from Des Moines can have dinner in New York at the same restaurant they go to in… Des Moines! C’mon: really? You’re in the Big Apple and you want to eat at Applebee’s?

Every day everyplace looks a little more like everyplace else: the same corporate brands, the same architectural design, the same urban planning, the same kind of commoditized experience, sanitized and made safe for mass consumption. You used to be able to escape from the malaise of the suburbs by moving into The City. Now, the only real difference is that you won’t need a car (but you will need a trust fund). Continue reading

Wanting The Other To Be

CatAndDogI was particularly impressed by Jivamukti Yoga co-founder Sharon Gannon’s recent Focus of the Month essay, Bhakti Trumps All, in which she made a point of saying that animal rights activism, Jivamukti’s de-facto calling card, is subordinate to devotion to God. She unequivocally states that veganism, environmentalism, and other forms of social activism are not ends unto themselves but, from the standpoint of yoga, are meant to be an expression of something higher, namely, the desire to act in a way that’s pleasing to Krishna.

Continue reading

Time Stand Still

JagannathTemple_USEI suspect that, for most of you, the New Year is old news, that you have already ushered in the New Year with resolutions or, for those disinclined toward such declarations, a sense of making a fresh start, of putting the past behind in favor of future ambitions. This has not been the case for me: my sprint to the finish of last year won’t end until today. The last item on a long list of time-sensitive tasks will be completed in the course of composing this post.

I found myself playing ‘beat the clock’ with most, if not all of the assignments I’d acquired. And my anxiety about completing everything on time was exacerbated by uncooperative technology, the very devices upon which the completion of my tasks depended. Thanks to problems with my Internet connection it was taking 90 seconds to do things that should have taken 10 seconds. There were even times when my connection was so bollixed up that I had to close my browser and re-start my computer. As a result, it was taking 3 or 4 minutes to do things that just a few years ago I could not do at all; our contemporary expectations are such that we become frustrated when doing what was once impossible is not accomplished immediately. Continue reading

Svadhyaya

red-pill-blue-pill-matrixHere’s a fun thing to do on a slow afternoon: make a list of ‘me’s. I have plenty of them. And they’re predictable, arriving on cue like programmed robots. When I’m driving, the ‘impatient me’ arrives as soon as the car in front of me drives one mile per hour below the speed limit. When the sun deepens its arc into the western sky, ‘anxious me’ arrives to tell ‘complacent me’ that I’m running out of time for all the things I wanted to do today. ‘Complacent me’ couldn’t care less.

There’s ‘grateful me’, ‘grumpy me’, ‘garrulous me’, ‘guilty me’, ‘greedy’ me, ‘generous me’ – one way to create a list of ‘me’s is to just pick a letter of the alphabet and run with it. If you have enough time you can go the distance; I’ve got ‘me’s from ‘abiotic’ to ‘zippy’.

There’s one thing that all of these different ‘me’s have in common: they’re not me. Yes, they’re manifestations of various aspects of my personality but my personality isn’t ‘me’, either; it’s something I possess. That’s why I talk about it as a possession: I have a personality. 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