Breaking Rules

Mysore Streets

I do love it when someone tells me what to do. It such a great opportunity to show them how powerless they really are over you. Or to show respect by asking no questions and simply acting.

In India there are no rules. I was told that a bus driver can keep his job, even if he kills 11 people a year. If he kills 12, he gets fired. This is what happens when 1.25 billion people live together in a country. India is the second most polluted place I have ever been after Beijing, and let me tell you, the effects of climate change are all too apparent here.

I can’t believe that there are still people who think that cars don’t do anything to the atmosphere. My first question would be, ‘where have you been?’

It’s unfortunate that only about 30% of Americans have their passport. Most of the people I know have barely left the country, maybe to Mexico or Canada, which really share very similar lifestyles to the states. This leads to a very narrow, narcissistic, and selfish mindset; that America is right and everywhere else is wrong, or just doesn’t know better. You see it constantly  in the news and in nearly every medium that you consume in the states.

The truth is, American might be leading humanity to its end. America consumes 25% of the world’s produced resources, with only 5% of the population. One America consumes as much as 128 Indians. More than 50% of American farmland is used to produce beef. There are more malls than high schools. If everyone in the world consumed as much as an American, we would need four full planets to sustain the human race.

The real problem is that the developing countries in the world see American lifestyles and want them. India, China, all of the Asian countries want the royal consumer lifestyle, where they can do anything with the flick of a plastic card. It’s easy to see why, to the untrained eye, convenience looks like happiness. But rest assured that it is not.

Life should be a struggle. Easy lives breed stagnation, fat-ness, lack of creativity, blockages, laziness, depression and inactivity. And I don’t blame a single American for their lifestyle because how could anyone know better? Challenge breeds strength, scars, and failure, these are the things that make us powerful, that give us perspective and teach us about our limits, our shortcomings, but also our strengths and gifts.

You see it in a zoo, where the animals are not fully focused, not fully present. The same thing is happening in the human race, we are caging ourselves for mass production and there is no reason for it. Humans of all ethnicities are creating system all over the world that are completely unsustainable. And America has led them there.

Honestly, if it wasn’t America, it would have been China. It’s silly to blame anyone or a single group, because it has been a progression. The only thing we can do now is try to rebuilt our societies in a way that creates abundance for the planet and therefore, ourselves.

Going vegan or vegetarian is not the answer. It is completely possible to eat meat in a sustainable way that actually benefits the environment. Same with fishing, or culturing cheeses, milking cows, or keeping a chicken coup. And in reality, eating vegetarian can be extremely resource intensive.

Ok, rant over, story time.

I arrived in Mysore via a taxi that I paid too much for. I don’t regret it, because it was 3 in the morning and I would have had to wait until 9am for a bus. So right off the bat, I was skeptical about people trying to take advantage of the me as a foreigner.

So the first night, I got into a rickshaw and the driver pointed me in the direction of ayurvedic oil. I didn’t realize he would be taking me to his friend’s shop and trying to sell me weed at the same time. Suffice to say that it was an interesting night. All Indian’s try to make plans for the next day, but rarely do they follow through. They are just so present to the moment that they really are somewhat incapable of planning long-term.

This makes for a very interesting culture for me to interact with, because I prefer to be a bit uncomfortable. I try to avoid taking the easy way. This baffles most Indians and while I walk, I am constantly harassed or called or honked at by drivers that are looking for customers. Being detached gives me a power of their consumer mindsets.

Every time I want to challenge myself, I just head over to the city, walk in, and try to get lost. When I am good and lost, and I mean, I have no idea about some of the places I have been, I find some food. This has been great to far, I have eaten food that I will always cherish, and always avoid in the future. Finding my way home without paying too much is always the challenge.

There is an easy way out of paying too much for a rickshaw. You make the driver use the meter. It’s funny that when they say it’s broken, I just walk away. Then they yell after me for a bit and I laugh to myself. I say that this is the easy way out because its much more fun to bargain with them, to push them, see how much they push back. To see where they are willing to go and then to leave when it’s not far enough. It’s almost like putting people into poses and seeing how long they can breathe before waiting for you to say something. or putting someone into chaturanga then making a nice long joke while telling them to hold it. Just testing the limits to see if we can expand upon them, growing comfort zones, getting comfortable with discomfort.

So I have become friends with 4 rickshaw drivers now, just because I enjoy their company and I am pretty sure they enjoy mine, especially because they are getting paid. I’ve found the best rooftop restaurant this way, 80 rupee ($1.30) for mushroom masala, 20 rupee for water. I don’t drink, so I don’t spend much more than a few dollars when I eat. If I do, I am eating like a fat-ass.

The latest man was very interesting, through him I met a woman from Paris that has been living in India for years, she had some great things to say about the culture and I got to speak with her in French for a couple of hours while enjoying the view. She talked about how the pollution gets really bad in March, so I am probably going to write more about the air quality, deforestation, and sustainability then. I am saving up a big photo bank for it.

I have to be constantly aware here, of myself and my surroundings. If not, its easy to get hit by a car. Buses have no mercy here and for some ridiculous reason they have the right of way in the streets. Its a jungle of people out here, and its easy to make a wrong move, though I have only seen one accident so far and it was right in front of me.

My focus on my breathe has been constant lately. I breath through my nose because of the pollution, I learned in Beijing that the nose has a better air filtration system than the mouth because you can catch large particles in your nose hairs. So my meditation is becoming more and more constant, ceaseless, unwavering. And each person that I’ve met has taught me a lesson, every single one.

People stare at me because I’m white and American with long hair and I probably walk differently or whatever. I like to break the ice and smile, say ‘how are you’, ‘watsup man’, ‘Namaskar’, ‘hello’, or whatever. I think its important to be friendly, this world is too impersonal, too disconnected. Walking around and saying hi makes me feel connected to the people I meet, because in reality we are sharing a journey. Comparing ourselves only disrespects our unique individuality. Its like looking at other people’s Facebook and being jealous, or asking yourself why you haven’t done the things that person has done. It’s so irrelevant, your complexity cannot be contained by a mere web application, let alone one so focused on materialism, advertising, and appearances.

Indian people are the same as Americans. So are the French. So are Chinese. In each place, there is a spectrum of diversity and experience and if you are open, you will always find people who resonate with you in different ways. We see ourselves as different because of our ego, our need to feel valuable, necessary to the world and therefore worthy of survival. But in reality, I am the same as the rickshaw drivers. You can bet that I would be taking advantage of every American I met if I was living here to feed my children. Or justify it in whatever way possible.

This is why rules don’t apply to humans. We can justify anything, Malcolm Gladwell in Blink said that prisoners will always justify their actions and it always makes complete sense to them. We will break the rules as fast as we make them, when it suits us. And no one can blame us for this, we are animals after all.

So my point in this article is that we are all the same. And we need to start to see this, because we are starving, over-worked, and toiling for no reason. What is the purpose behind all of this progress if we have to leave the Earth, the most precious planet we know of? It is time to start thinking about things globally, and apply them locally. I think this was the original idea of state and local law organization that America’s founding fathers setup, which has now deteriorated into an oligarchy. I don’t believe in any of that illuminati bullshit, but I do believe that very few are in control of the economy.

So let’s get into trouble. Fuck the rules, they are made for sheep and cows and zoo animals. If you want to be a lamb or a caged tiger, fine, go ahead and wait for your turn, sit in your square car, cubicle, or boring job and believe the nonsense you are fed. But if you choose, you can be free! Ride the line, do things that are illegal, expand what you think you know. Learn the system so that you can break it. Talk to strangers, smile at people who stare and whose brows darken as you walk by. Make them uncomfortable, ask the hard questions, don’t take maybe as an answer, make them tell you no.

Maybe we can find something that is worthy of respecting along the way.

Poverty and Destitution

Indian Children Practicing Yoga

“Health is the greatest gift; contentment is the greatest wealth”

Buddha quoted from the Dhammapada

India is poor. Really fucking poor, there’s no way to explain it other than most people barely have a roof over their heads and food for their bellies. There’s trash everywhere, litter, cows, dogs, birds, little chipmunk rats, and you have to be really careful by the rivers because they are the sewers. I only found one big trash can yesterday.trash can in india

The people don’t seem to care though. They are focused on their own relationships with their friends, and I didn’t see a single person on a phone binge yesterday (you know when you see someone disappear into their phone for about 30 minutes) and everyone was present to what was happening at that very moment. Many are doing fine, many are not. But they don’t seem to care much about any of that, smiles are just about the easiest things to get out of these people, they are so damned happy they don’t give a shit about where they live, or what they are eating. They are together, connected, and the close proximity of everyone seems to bring everyone together.

So I set out yesterday not expecting to really talk to anyone since I don’t speak Hindi and that taxi driver and I could barely communicate. I walked for about thirty minutes before meeting the woman second to the right, who started talking to me in Hindi. She asked where I was from (everyone asks the same things, ‘name’, ‘where you from’) and I talked to her for a bit and shared some nice smiles. Then she invited me into her house for tapas, or tea.

Indian Family for teaHer Daughter on the right spoke French, so I talked to her for a bit, though her level of french wasn’t too high unfortunately. We had a blast not understanding each other though! They were all so nice and they fed me some wraps with curry inside that totally did not make me sick at all, it was delicious! I didn’t drink the water though. I think I just need to stick to cooked food and I will probably be fine for a while. The man on the left was really friendly, but this was when I started to really understand how huge the language barrier is here. This was really one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me, literally inviting me into their home off the street! This picture doesn’t do them justice either, they were all so happy and constantly smiling just to feed me a little food and some tea. I left after about 30 minutes and big smiles and bows.

I took to the street to meet more of these incredibly present and happy people. You can see it in their faces!

Man w Scooter
man with his scooter

So I kept walking around and met more people.

child, Mysore
child in Mysore
man with his house
man with his house

After a little bit of wandering around, I came to a dusty and loud section of town, with lots of burning trash and nasty shit like that around.man who doesn't like photos I met this man, who didn’t want his picture taken. He told me to take a picture of this woman, who was suffering quite a bit, she had some kind of gum disease, though I am not really sure why. So he took a impoverished woman, Mysorehuge pile of trash and threw it at her feet then told me to take pictures haha. So the guy on the left is laughing because she just started to mess with the trash and it was a pretty funny scene, in spite of the obvious implications of the man’s actions. This woman is not even rare, I saw hundreds more like her while I was walking around, but mostly I saw a lot of happy people.

It’s always amazing to me how impoverished people value things differently than those who have excess. They use each other rather than their possessions for comfort and there just seems to be an enormous amount of camaraderie here, if you can catch my drift. Everyone is with their friends conversing, exploring, or with their family along the same terms. These people are in it together.

This kid is the next one that crossed my path and he was pretty cool. I asked him to smile and this is what happened.

hangry child, Mysore

 

Kid not smiling

Suffice to say I don’t know if he understood me, but we had a good time taking his picture. I really like walking around with a camera, everyone wants their picture taken!

Here are a few of the more memorable moments and scenes from the day.

Man of the Market
Man of the Market

 

palace kids, Mysore
kids at the palace in Mysore
cool brick house, Mysore
cool brick house

constructions outside of nice home

government building
government building

So you can see that there is a huge diversity in India between the rich and poor, the photos above have some stark contrasts in them. All of the poorer people were so happy though! It makes me think there really is a relationship between the amount of money you have and how much you enjoy your life. If you waste it all thinking about money, what can you enjoy? What moments will be meaningful besides large purchases and consumption if you spend all of your energy on more, more, and more all of the time?

randos in India
randos in India

alleyway by train station

Maybe we receive less by asking for more? Maybe we need to ask to receive in the first place.

You know that silly chart about women, saying that there is a direct proportion between crazy women and their attractiveness? Maybe there is something similar about rich people and depression. In the end, I think it’s mostly about accepting circumstances and being able to move past them, rather than fighting them and sinking where into the quicksand where you are. If you are happy, why do the circumstances matter so much?

Suffice to say I am very grateful for my experience yesterday and for the incredible people who were so kind to me. I’ve spent the last 16 hours recouping from the flight and day 1, onto the second day and registration for Ashtanga. Stay tuned yogis

 

 

Moksha | मोक्ष

Moksha is the concept of emancipation, liberation, and release from the cycle of Samsara or repeated rebirth. Mukti, vimosha, and vimukti are all interchangeable words that mean emancipation, freedom, self-knowledge, and self-realization. In the Upanishads, it refers to this release with the same word used to release horses from their carriage, but each school of yoga describes a different origin of Moksha and method for achieving it.

Moksha is a word that is similar to Nirvana, but Nirvana tends to be a buddhist concept while Moksha is Hindu; Nirvana means “blown-out” or perfect stillness of the mind. However, in both religions, this is a release from the endless cycles of samsara or the infinite cycles of rebirth. Samsara is seen as a cycle of suffering, pain, injury, death, and bondage, so release from this is the ultimate goal of an individual’s life, in combination with the four other purusarthas, or objective human pursuits. There are two different schools of thought as to how Moksha is obtained: on earth (Jiva Mukti), as an ultimate destiny, or only through concrete, ethical actions in the world. Moksha is a transformation of knowledge that allows an individual to see beyond the fog of ignorance.

The state itself is described as a oneness with Brahman, or the universal god energy that fuels the universe bringing absolute peace, bliss, and a state of knowledge. One of the written ways of achieving this is through meditating on Brahman, or universal “god” at the core of the being that is liberated. In essence, Moksha is liberation into the core essence of the energy of the universe, while relinquishing the sufferings of consciousness.

Jivan muktis, or self-realized humans are said to have the following attributes in the Upanishads (keep in mind these are guidelines and in the tradition, there have been many jivan muktis):

  • not bothered by disrespect and endures cruel words, treats others with respect regardless of how others treat him;
  • when confronted by an angry person does not return anger, instead replies with soft and kind words;
  • even if tortured, speaks and trusts the truth;
  • does not crave for blessings or expect praise from others;
  • never injures or harms any life or being (ahimsa), is intent in the welfare of all beings;[87]
  • is as comfortable being alone as in the presence of others;
  • is as comfortable with a bowl, at the foot of a tree in tattered robe without help, as when in a mithuna (union of mendicants), grama (village) and nagara (city);
  • doesn’t care about or wear sikha (tuft of hair on the back of head for religious reasons), nor the holy thread across the body. To the Jivan Mukti knowledge is sikha, knowledge is the holy thread, knowledge alone is supreme. Outer appearances and rituals do not matter, only knowledge matters;
  • there is no invocation nor dismissal of deities, no mantra nor non-mantra, no prostrations nor worship of gods, goddess or ancestors, nothing other than knowledge of Self;
  • humble, high-spirited, of clear and steady mind, straightforward, compassionate, patient, indifferent, courageous, speaks firmly and with sweet words.

So you can see that there is an idea of what a Jivan Mukti is supposed to be: a teacher, a sage, a mentor, a guide on the path of Dharma.The Jivan Mukti is not only a friend for everyone, the Mukti strives for the liberation of all beings. The Mukti no longer lives for their self, but for others.

 

 

Nirvana | निर्वाण – Liberation from Samsara

nirvana

Enlightenment

Nirvana is a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘blown out’. In Indian religions, this is the achievement of moksha, or liberation from reincarnation. Nirvana refers to the extreme silence of the mind after one has tempered the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion. It is most commonly associated with Buddhism, though Hinduism and Jainism use the concept in association with their versions of enlightenment. Overall, the three agree that it is a release from Karma.

Jainism

In Jainism, Moksha and nirvana are interchangeable. Moksha is release from karma. The Gautama explains it as a safe place without old age, sickness, death, or disease. It is safe, happy, quiet, difficult to reach, but those who reach it are free from sorrows, and have put an end to the stream of existence, reaching complete peace.

Buddhism

Buddhism shares very similar views to those of the other indian religions. The Buddhists call it perfect peace, when all cravings are eliminated. When the forces of raga(attachment), dvesha(aversion), and moha/avidya(ignorance) come to an end, so does dukkha(suffering).

Hinduism

Hinduism‘s views of nirvana are a bit different, many apparently consider nirvana to be a buddhist term, though there are some that say that from the Bhagavad Gita onwards the term has been linked with Brahman, the absolute principle from the Upanishads and the Vedic traditions. The religion occasionally uses nirvana in place of Moksha. Moksha infers liberation, meaning to be set free of bonds. The nirvana of the Gita directly contradicts buddhism in that a person attains egolessness and unison with the Brahman, rather than perfect stillness.

Nirvana Across Traditions

Buddhism has differing approaches to the enlightenment of the buddha, Mahayana Buddhists believe in Dharmakaya saying that the buddha was born to benefit humanity and is one aspect of the buddha while Theravada Buddhists believe the buddha achieved libertation through human efforts. The Dhammakaya movements in Thailand and India view the true self of the buddha as being present in all beings.

Nirvana is death in much of the buddhist traditions. It is the ultimate freedom of life and most Buddhists consider it to be the aim of life. The buddha teaches the way.

Questioning Faith

jesus_vs_satan

“This is what happens when you give yourself to love completely, my son” the priest sighed, continuing to stare at the crucifix. His own distaste at the particularly vivid depiction was apparent. It was almost like Jesus was there.

The boy, only eight, looked up again at the statue, hung over the altar in the center of the church. He wondered how they had lifted it there. He was so used to seeing the crucifix that it had almost no effect on him. It’s not that he didn’t love Jesus, but he didn’t understand what it meant. Why was this nice man, who had helped many people, killed for what he had done? And why was everyone so concerned about it? He had learned about Albert Einstein in second grade, he had done a book report on him. Why wasn’t Albert Einstein in the church? He had also learned about Gandhi in first grade, and also wondered why Gandhi wasn’t in the church. There were lots of people he had never heard of, Peter, Judas, Luke, Matthew, but none of the people he had learned about in his history classes.

“Father, I don’t understand, why is Jesus the one above the altar? We learned about mother Theresa and Gandhi, and Martin Luther King in school. Why aren’t they in the church, or above the altar?”

“Well, my son, there are really many reasons why Jesus is your savior.”

“My savior?” said the boy. “What does that mean?”

“That means he came to Earth, to save you from your sins.”

“What sins father?” said the boy. He obviously did not understand.

“Whenever a human is born, they are born with sin my son. This is the story of Adam and Eve, in the book of Genesis. Eve, the woman, bit the apple when she was tempted by satan, the serpent, and unearthed the path of knowledge for humanity. This is our essential flaw, that our ancestors chose for us.”

“But I don’t want to be bad father! I want to be good, like Jesus, and Mary, and Joseph!”

“Then ask Jesus for forgiveness, my son. I can help you with this.” The priest said with a kind smile. “I have studied Jesus for my whole life, so we can talk about him together.” The priests smile grew with each word, excited to help this child learn more about god and Jesus.

“Aren’t we talking about him right now?” said the boy.

“Well, you need to confess your sins. Otherwise, god cannot forgive you.”

“But if god already knows my sins, like you said today when you said god is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-knowing and all-forgiving, doesn’t he just forgive me? I don’t mean to forget my homework, or leave my gym shorts at home, so won’t god just forgive me?”

“No my son. You need to recognize your sins as sins in order for them to be forgiven. You have to ask, god will answer in his own way.”

“So if I ask god for a new bike, he’ll give me one if I’m good?!?” the boy said with newfound enthusiasm in his eyes. The priests smile faded into a heart laugh, full of empathy.

“No, my son, god does not work like that.”

“So I can ask for forgiveness and he gives it without question, but he won’t give me a new bike if I’m good? What gives? I thought god was all-powerful and if I’m good, I think I should get a bike. Don’t you, father?”

“Things appear in our lives when they are meant to my son. God will give you this gift if he sees fit to award you with it. And yes son, I think you should get a bike. Maybe you should talk to your parents about it.”

“Good idea!” the boy said enthusiastically, but the priest could tell that he still had questions.

“What else concerns you, my son? Why do you look like you are still in contemplation. Can I answer any more questions for you?” he said slowly, making sure the boy felt comfortable to express his feelings. He prided himself on making his church safe and available for the youth, after all, they are the future.

“Well, I still don’t understand what made Jesus so special. Why can’t I be like Jesus? I want to do miracles and help the poor and teach people about happiness and love, just like him!”

“Jesus was special my son. He is god’s son and he sacrificed himself, despite his own divinity, to show humanity the power of love.” He gestured to the altar. “This is the ultimate love, my son.”

“But so did Martin Luther King and all of the martyrs. I just don’t understand why Jesus was different from them.” the boy looked ashamed and hung his head.

“Doubt is a part of faith my son. It makes you stronger, there is no shame.” He held the boy’s head up and looked into his eyes. “Jesus was different, because he chose. He knew that he was going to die, yet he chose to continue on his path. That is what makes him special, son. That is why he was the son of god.” The priest released his gaze and looked back to the cross. “He chose to suffer, to come to Earth, to teach us how to love, despite knowing that he would be crucified.”

“Wow.” The boy sat for a moment in thought. “So while he was in heaven, he decided that he would go to Earth, even though he would be tortured and killed? So Jesus knows the future?”

“Of course, my son. Jesus and God are the same.”

“But why didn’t god to come to tell us himself? Why did he need to have a son?”

“Because God does not take human form, my son. His divinity is too complete. Jesus needed to be sent so that we could see and understand.”

“But doesn’t that mean that he isn’t all powerful? If he had to send his son instead of himself, then he couldn’t come to teach us, right?” the boy now looked confused and disappointed. His brow was heavy.

The priest took his time to respond. He knew that his answer would be important, “I don’t think it is a question of power, or of god not being powerful enough to come himself. Jesus is god in human form. They are the same, there is no difference.”

“But Jesus died,” the boy said with certainty. “Doesn’t that mean that god died?”

The priest looked down. No one had ever asked him this before. “Well, god can’t die son. In the same way, Jesus can’t die. That’s why he rose from the dead. Because he was God, and death has no power over God.”

“But Jesus isn’t around now… If he was all-powerful, why did he only stay for 40 days after he died and was resurrected, instead of living for all of eternity with humanity? Wouldn’t that be more representative of his love, rather than dying for sins? He could still talk to us and teach us so much! He could be the world leader!”

“That’s not how it works, son.”

“How do you know? You aren’t Jesus, maybe you don’t know him as well as you think…”

“Son, I have spent my life studying Jesus’ work. I eat, sleep, and live by his work. Why do you think I don’t know Jesus?” the priest said with serious consternation. The smile was gone.

“Well, what if he is different from the stories. I mean, what makes the Bible different from any other book? I really don’t understand it, because my mom showed me the Veda and some Buddhist scriptures, and they have the same stories as the bible. What makes it so special?”

“Well, son, it was written by God.” The priest’s smile returned in full force.

“How do you know?” The priest’s smile faded into a frown, to match the boy’s seriousness. The priest could tell that he wasn’t going to stop.

“Faith, my son. I believe the Bible was written by god, and therefore I study it and live by it.” the priest talked slowly and deliberately, making sure to put some serious resonance in his voice.

“So you just believe? You don’t think about it? It’s really hard for me to believe that someone was eaten by a whale and lived, or that Jesus rose someone from the dead father. How can you just believe these things?” The boy looked concerned, confused, and frustrated, all at the same time.

“I do think about it son. But my faith is greater. So I believe in these godly. So that my soul can find eternal repose in Heaven, with God and Jesus.”

“Father, I just don’t understand. What if they are wrong and you have wasted your life worshipping Jesus as God when he was like you and me and Martin Luther King? A human, and not a God?”

“Son, now its my turn to play the skeptic.” As the priest spoke, a wry smile came to his lips, though it was a grin of understanding, rather than deceit.

“My boy, I can see God within you, even as we speak. His will is strong in you and the strong question, search, and decide for themselves. So I will tell you what I learned from Voltaire, ‘I believe in God because if he does exist, I will be eternally rewarded in heaven. If God does not exist, then there is nothing after death and my faith will have not mattered in the first place.’”

The boy looked strongly at the priest, as though he was deciding something. Then, without warning, he hugged the priest. “Thank you, father.”

Then the boy walked from the church, unconvinced and uncertain, but knowing that he could return whenever he needed to.

 

The Death of Dreams (Part 3 of 3: Rebirth)

“Death is only the beginning”

We hear this a lot, but I don’t think anyone believes it. But by the nature of physical laws, it has to be true. Energy isn’t created or destroyed, it transforms.

The concept of entropy, or disordered energy, never decreases, but to increase until maximum entropy equilibrates the system. But this doesn’t account for the creation of the system, so it is an incomplete picture due to our lack of understanding of the nature of energy. In truth, I think that people believe that the modern world is much more intelligent than it is. We don’t even really understand how neurons work, let alone the entire human brain. We don’t have the technology to truly understand and measure these minuscule and highly complex concepts.

I don’t know if death is the beginning for the subject that has died, but the death of anything, certainly does mean that a new beginning is coming. All things must end, at one point or another; this is why detachment is such a key concept to finding nirvana. Rebirth implies transformation, and it cannot happen without the freedom and liberation that death creates.

About 18 months ago I ended a relationship that I knew needed to end. Eight months later I moved back to California, to pursue a dream that was growing inside of me, to teach yoga around the world. But I had to let my previous dream die to make space for this new one to grow.

When I was younger I always had problems with love. I went to an all boys high school, Jesuit in Carmichael and it didn’t do well for my social attitude towards women. This changed dramatically in college, but I was always awkward, I never really knew how to act towards the girls that I was interested in. But I had a dream to fall in love and do it right; to be completely committed without hesitation and to share souls with someone else. And then it happened.

I moved to Paris when I was 20 to study French, the major I switched to at the end of my sophomore year. International business, my first major, wasn’t very fun for me and I wasn’t motivated to succeed at all in the classes. I went over there with the dream of bringing back some magnificent French woman who would be the love of my life.

In March, right before Saint Patrick’s Day, I met a girl who changed my life, forever. Her name was Kim and it was like being dropped into a fantasy land. We explored the city together, went on adventures, and had the time of our lives. She was american and from the East Coast and there was so much that was exciting and new. It was like being in a whole new world, colors were brighter, the sun shone higher in the sky, and everything seemed so magnificent. I’ll remember walking through that city with new love in my heart forever, alongside one of the most special people I have ever met.

But like all things, it ended. June came around and we returned to the states and separated to finish school. The rest is history so I won’t get into details now, but the relationship didn’t work out in the end. It was one of the saddest days in my life when it ended. Might have been the saddest, I don’t know. It devastated both of us.

But in the end, I was making space for myself to grow. Death is powerful; volcanic soil is the most fertile, people statistically make love more after funerals than any other event, and the most powerful organisms grow in the wake of enormous death. Even the T-rex was a carnivore and scavenger; part of the reason it could maintain such an enormous size is that it could chew throw enormous carcasses and bones. Just look at the baby-boomers after World War II, the entire country had a collective baby-craze.

So maybe death is just the beginning. Sink into its power and you will find limitless potential. Life is most potent when death surrounds it; the significance grows much more powerful. Give death room and hold space for it; something magnificent will grow in its wake.

Detachment | वैराग्य

random_india

Learning detachment has been a very interesting journey. During my education I had lots of teachers who taught me the concept without knowing what exactly they were teaching me. It wasn’t until I learned meditation and yoga that I started to understand what detachment truly meant. Here is my definition: the ability to perceive the world fully, without hindrances, preconceived judgements, or expectations. It is essentially a cultivation of awareness that extends until Moksha, or liberation from Samsara.

Freedom is the ultimate goal of detachment. Freedom from suffering and pain, loss and sorrow. Freedom from the highs and lows of this existence into a pure bliss that will persist through any challenge or difficulty. This is the goal of the yogi.

I have concluded that in this life, attachment is necessary. We need things like family, friends, and siblings to support us in life, to ground us in reality and true importance. But at the same time that we draw strength and love from those around us, we must acknowledge that these people will someday expire. Their life will not last forever. This makes each moment more significant and beautiful, every detail of interaction becomes so utterly important. It is impossible to imagine living without love, without connection to family and friends; I do not believe that becoming a hermit and disconnecting with the world will create the bliss of enlightenment for anyone.

So let me clarify; attachment is necessary, but in order to truly appreciate our attachments, we must find ways to detach from them. This means we obtain the ability to truly appreciate the world around us and the people who comprise that world. Perspective, it seems, becomes the cornerstone for this appreciation. It also creates the space necessary to detach from our necessary attachments, when it becomes necessary.

Detachment from the material world, things, money, cars, planes, vacations is an required and absolute skill for the yogi. It allows for freedom within the mind from sorrow due to loss. But people even animals are much more complex. Attachment to living beings then becomes a systematic process in itself. Detachment and space become a necessary aspect of any relationship, because the individual grounds and roots in their own self, rather than those around them. With this space and freedom they are able to experience the joy of the world around them and the present moment.

I will give you an example. My favorite yoga teacher has left the studio where I work to pursue his dreams and his own prosperity. He will likely never teach at the studio again, which is sad for me because I love his teachings so much. They resonate with my soul. Being detached from this individual allows me to view the situation holistically; instead of being sad at my loss of his teaching I am happy that he is pursuing his own path of success, I am happy for the opportunity of growth that the situation will offer both of us. This is the benefit of detachment, to see opportunities in challenge, good in change, and love in everything. Perspective is everything.

I will offer that detachment is far more about perspective than hiding away in the Himalayas to wait for celestial light to drop upon your head. Leaving your culture, your family, your friends to explore the world will give you the ability to detach, as well as the perspective that comes with it. It is like a muscle that you need to flex occasionally, a skill that you hone with time and practice. Give yourself the room and it will grow 🙂

How do you detach in your own life? Do you find that it’s all about perspective or do other skills come to mind? Let me know what you think!

Take Days Off

a hammock strung on a palm tree by the beach

I am continually finding that days detached from my yoga studio lead to improvements in my teaching and my practice. I’m not talking about more than a couple of days, but taking 1 or 2 days off is extraordinarily beneficial to my practice. It allows the joints to rest, reset, and relax and the muscles to re-hydrate, re-oxygenate, and recuperate. I also find that when you come back it makes the enjoyment of the practice sweeter, almost like a friend that you haven’t seen in a while. Traditional Ashtanga yogis take Saturday and the new and full moon days off, which I am getting more and more inclined to do. The gravitational and magnetic effects of the moon definitely have a weird effect on the human circulatory system (being 70% water and all).

In college one of my psychology professors was avid about the incubation process for ideas. It is a great concept and definitely seems to hold true; the idea is that the more you sit with an idea, the more connections you allow for and the more robust you allow that idea to become. Coming back to the idea over and over after forgetting about it will lead to strengthening the concept and creating more supporting ideas and connections for that concept. It’s essentially saying that giving an idea time to grow allows the idea to become more robust.

I interpret this as needing to give your unconscious mind some time to process information and create new connections. This is where the popular saying “sleep on it” comes into play; sleeping is where neurogenesis (the brain creates new brain cells and maintains old brain cells) happens and the unconscious is given time to integrate new information, events, etc. Then as the decision maker wakes up, they can re-assess the situation with fresh eyes for a new day, detached from their prior preconceptions.

So days off the yoga mat are important. You need to give certain joints days of rest if you work them every day (*cough* lower back *cough*). It’s great to have a six-pack; it’s better to have a strong and healthy spine. Your mind takes time to integrate what it has learned, and yes, Savasana really is important. It integrates your proprioceptive learning (feeling the individual muscles and ligaments used and integrating the new information into the peripheral nervous system). Savasana is similar to a sleep state and tons of neurogenesis is occurring in the pose. In fact, meditation and especially yoga generally bring up sleeping-state brain waves; this is part of the reason that yoga is so beneficial and healing.

So take a day off here and there. But daily practice is the way to deepen the yoga practice, so try to go multiple days in a row complimented by one day of rest; it will lead to the greatest results. Even 5-10 sun salutations in the morning can change your body and daily practice will help you to get deeper into the muscles, joints, and ligaments that you desire to be stronger and more flexible. Yoga, I find, is all about balance. So allow yourself that freedom

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part 5: Pratyahara)

shiva's meditation

Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses. The breath is an extremely useful tool for this and asana helps to get the body ready for stillness. Building on the prior four limbs of yoga, pratyahara brings the meditation deeper, into a deeper compression and concentration. The senses become more potent and still they must be brought under the control of the breath. The fifth limb of yoga allows for great peace and release from the illusions of the primary senses of hearing and vision. It deepens feeling.

Meditation is most potent when single-minded and focused on a single thing and practicing pratyahara helps to make this more potent. It brings appreciation for the ability to perceive and experience the world in the gift of your body. It builds Santosa and strengthens the other roots, and deepens all the way into the eighth limb of yoga, Samadhi.

Science helps to understand that the senses are constructive, they actively create what we know as consciousness. Everything seems brighter, newer, and fresh after sleep, so pratyahara helps to reinforce his, again creating appreciation for the experiences of everyday life. It is also important to understand that the good experiences in life are all a perspective that you have decided upon. Then one can try to see both for their lessons and choose to avoid attaching feelings to either one. It is an important aspect of yoga to view the senses as part of attachment to the outside world and that all attachment is fleeting.

But withdrawal is only as important as its balancing counterpart, service and communion with others. It is surely true that community plays a role in the happiness of an individual and that complete withdrawal is not necessarily the way to live the happiest life. Balance in all things is necessary, especially with withdrawal from the surrounding world. But the idea is that by detaching, you will open your eyes and ears to a new world of wonder with appreciate and gratitude for all that is, every detail, every minutiae. And after withdrawal, the single pointed focus of Dharana is obtained, the following limb of yoga.

Patanjali’s limbs are a system, meant to scale the heights of knowledge of the self or Raja yoga. After mastering prana-yama, sense withdrawal becomes the focus of a practice, leading to single pointed focused concentration, Dharana, the 6th limb of yoga.