My First Mysore Style Practice and a New Friend

Shiva Spray Painted portrait

I have to admit that I am always a bit surprised when I meet people in other countries that I connect with. It always seems like such destiny, like I had already known them for a long time.

Two days ago when I first arrived, I kind of blew off a rickshaw driver He was pretty close to my age, but I felt like I wasn’t sure if he was trying to swindle me or not. He tried to make a plan with me where he would take me to the palace, then come back to pick me up and show me other stuff. It was a pretty sweet deal honestly, I was just very skeptical and wasn’t sure about how much rupees were actually worth. Well, today I passed him as I walked back from Gokulam and he was a little disappointed that I didn’t come back to his rickshaw. He just wanted to be friendly.

In the afternoon, I went to Gokulam, in the Northwest of the city, which is where all of the yoga shalas are (I didn’t know this at the time), there  where I met Sharath’s son and we got to play a little soccer outside of the yoga shala. I think Sharath might have walked outside, but I wasn’t sure, then Saraswathi came out to meet me and tell me what to do. Arrive at 9am tomorrow, practice at 9:30. Then register in the afternoon. They are also giving me a break on the price without even asking, which is extremely considerate of them. I think they probably do well for themselves and their kids, but it always nice to be considered for my age, because I really don’t have a lot of money and this is going to make things much easier as my bank account dwindles down.

On my way back from Gokulam, which is on the
Northeastern part of the city, and I was planning on walking the whole way home to keep strengthening my legs. I was pretty close by the palace, but completely lost and pretty tired when I saw the rickshaw driver again. I still can’t remember his name.

We got to talking and he started to tell me about his friend who is into Ayurveda and they showed me their awesome essential oils, made completely from plants. Sandal oil, Lavender, Amber, you name it they have it. I bought some lavender, but I’ll give you the full details in my next post on Ayurvedic medicine. We made a plan for real this time and I decided that I would give a little trust because he seemed to just genuinely be interested in me and in general liked foreigners. He took me to the palace to see it at night, with the lights, which is pretty incredible.

We then went to his friends medicine shop, where I found all kinds of awesome oils and medicines. They had a ton of marijuana oil for therapeutic and medicinal benefits, but I didn’t try any cause I didn’t want to pay for it. Then we went to dinner and I ate like a freaking king for under 4 dollars.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant that has the best Indian food I’ve ever had, hands down. We hung out for an hour or so and I got to ask them all kinds of questions. Indian people are so laid back its incredible. Apparently, the Jois shala is currently the top school of yoga and Saraswathi the best teacher, though they spoke a bit about the elite nature of the shala. That means there are a lot of arrogant white people around, though I haven’t really seen this side of things and really don’t want to. Learning about Saraswathi’s unique method from the outside was pretty cool to hear, especially considering that I met her earlier and I will be practicing with her for the entirety of my stay. One woman named Katie that was studying under her told me that Kino McGregor and some other semi-famous yogi were here and she said that the Jois fire was the hottest around. It’s also the most expensive. Cool, I guess.

Back to the rickshaw homie; this guy was just totally showing me India and just being my friend for no reason other than he knew I was foreign! It was awesome! I think that foreign people must be extremely interesting to them, because it is very expensive to travel outside of the country. But the driver and his friend were cool enough that when I couldn’t take money out of the ATM, they lent me some dough for food! I will repay them tomorrow, but wow it’s really amazing how generous they were. I am so grateful that I got to eat good Indian food and make a couple of friends!

There is a really interesting juxtaposition between acceptance of poverty and greed and it all has to do with expectation. Some seek to receive, others seem to avoid it for no reason. I tried to give one guy an extra 10 rupee for a raw coconut and he refused. On the other hand, the dinner server couldn’t seem to wait for his tip. He was standing over me as I got out my wallet and paid.

I came back to Gokulam this morning, but my friend didn’t show up on time so I had to take a separate rickshaw, which sucked. Some rickshaw drivers really can be jerks, they try to take advantage all the time. But I got to the Shala at 9, walked in and started the primary series.

I practiced this morning so I finished my 5 sun salutation A & B, then started working towards standing postures, triangles and side angles. That’s really all I have been taught in the strict traditional method and I forget the order of poses, so Saraswathi started telling me what to do, in spite of everyone else in the room. It was kind of awesome, to receive that kind of attention while she was assisting others she just kept talking to me, trying to tell me what to do, how to go about the postures and such. At the end her assistant came up to me to make sure I was okay and I think she was surprised that I didn’t understand what she meant. I’d rather be critiqued completely on something rather than left to stagnate in bad habits. Yoga is truly a practice where bad habits can be formed, whether it’s a thought process, or an alignment issue, or whatever.

The traditional Ashtanga method have some particulars that I am very unused to, in transitions and even in the postures themselves. It’s probably going to take a few days to get it all down, but the standing postures are rad, I’m happy to do them a bunch. I’ll probably practice the order mostly, rather than working with my breath tonight, just to get my body used to it so I can stop thinking about it. It’s kind of weird for me to think about my practice while I do it because I am used to just flowing with what my body wants. This is more disciplined and more rewarding as a result.

I am very excited for tomorrow, and for hanging out tonight, I am on a mission to find my friend, but I can’t remember his damned name!

Also, I saw my first monkey today, from a distance, in a tree above the city. Next quest monkey pictures!

In the meantime, check out my latest pictures below:

cows and dogs eating trash

 

police_officer_Mysore

 

calves on the street

 

stray_pup

 

stray_family

 

indian_randos

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

 

 

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya means to follow Brahman. To seek supreme reality, self, and god. In this aspect, Brahmacharya is inherently Hindu. It also represents fidelity when married, simple living, and celibacy when unmarried. Brahmacharya is also taken more seriously by many ascetics, including being complete celibate and emphasizing chastity for obtaining moksha.

However, Brahmacharya is a concept that exists in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism for monastic life that includes complete celibacy and no marriage.

Brahman is the universal spirit of Hinduism, the “divinity” that is at the core of each being, but also represents absolute reality and the universal-self.

Charya is a word that means following conduct, following, engaging, and is usually translated as virtuous.

Together, these words form the concept of following dharma towards moksha, or liberation. This concepts form the 4th Yama in the Hindu tradition and one of Mahavira’s eight teachings. It is a concept that follows alongside dharma, providing guidelines to act upon.

Okay, so let’s adapt this concept to modern life. If you are acting in a divine way, you aren’t doing anything that doesn’t feel great to you, this can include whatever you want it to include. You avoid pain and suffering. Other people’s judgement of the lifestyle that you choose is irrelevant to your own happiness, so forget about what people think about how you live. You can do whatever you want or need to do to make yourself happy, as long as it doesn’t intrude upon the divinity of other people. Understanding that each being is divine and contains this magic spark of life and that they are free to express that in whatever that being chooses to is important to being able to express your divinity.

Obviously this can apply to a wide variety of things. Suburbs made of concrete and tar do not respect the divinity of the land they are on. The trees around the developments have to be implemented and instead of cultivating and terraforming in congruence with the growth of the land, it is chopped away and replaced and completely controlled. We are not respecting the divine nature of the self-sustaining natural ecosystem by replacing it with our structures and squares that aren’t made in conjunction with prosperity for the land that it is on.

It also applies to relationships. How often do you feel great after a one night stand? What kind of bonds do you want with the romances in your life? How is it that we always remember our freaking roommates?!? How can you possibly be happy living with another person? I think a lot of relationship things come down to compatibility. Can the two people stand each other while they change over time? Do they explore together, or drive around in circles separately? What do they want out of life? What are their values, or what do they consider important? All of these things have to be compatible, not necessarily the same. When you find someone who has values, habits, beliefs, etc. that are compatible with your own, you can feel a sense of overwhelming calm, as if it was meant to be. Sometimes you can forget what it was like before you knew that person. I think this is all a side-effect of the human condition, of our own divinity, if you will.

But anyways, what does that mean, compatibility? Hell if I know, but I think it means that you don’t over-react to each other, that you live in somewhat similar circumstances. Tolerance is key, but honestly, it sucks. Shared passions I think make the greatest compatibility.

Find someone else that is compatible really comes down to the search. How you go about looking for love. Friends can become great lovers. So can expedited friendships that immediately turn into relationships. No need to rush things, everyone is already thinking about sex way too much in this country. People tend to find each other when they are following their passions. A lot of times, this is at work. I think that understanding that the other being is divine is key to the core respect of the relationship, or at least understanding that they are the same as you in so many ways. Even if you don’t use the word divine, instead maybe “hypercomplex”, “ultrasmart”, “understanding”, etc. I think divine is a great word to describe human capacity and potential. It is the only word that really encapsulates the tremendous power of it all, of human existence.

After all, we are closer to the size of mountains than the size of atoms. We are not insignificant cosmically, especially the complex molecules of our bodies regulatory systems. Whether you believe in divinity, or nothing, I believe we are talking about the same thing.

You see, to believe there is nothing is to deny the sense and all prior experience. To believe in something is order with the way of the cosmos. So if we make the assumption that the cosmos is, then the next question, inevitably, is what is the source of the cosmos. The only possible answer to this, is the cosmos itself. So the universe is its own source. To believe that a god created this source is to lack accounting for the source of god. So Hindus believe that Brahmacharya is to act in accordance with the universal laws of dharma, or the universe. Celibacy is definitely not necessary to truly be immersed in Brahmacharya.

 

An Interview with Colin Wright

Colin_Wright
About 5 days ago, I wrote to Colin Wright, an indie author, expressing how much I appreciate his work and how he has really inspired me for 2015. He travels and has written a buncha books. Well, being the responsive young chap that he is (though I think he’s a bit older than me), he responded and said he would be happy to answer some questions for my blog.
I couldn’t resist the chance to ask a fellow traveller about their perceptions of yoga and go figure, he’s a yogi. He also written over a dozen books and travels constantly, exploring the world and staying in each country for about 4 months at a time.
Besides having some incredibly interesting things to say about yoga, Colin has developed a very balanced approach to traveling and never being in one spot for too long, so he has a great perspective and a provocative voice. Enjoy!
1. Do you have any experience with yoga? Favorite poses? styles? Any experiences you would care to share?
CW: You know, I actually practiced yoga every day for about ten years. Love it as an exercise and means of better understanding my body/managing my health. Have never really been into the spiritual side of it, but I think the health/meditative benefits speak for themselves.
I’ve tried a lot of different modalities, but tend to prefer those that focus on postures and stamina. Doing yoga was one of the few things that allowed me to wear myself out and sleep well back when I was working myself to death in LA. Very valuable habit.
2. I heard you visited India. What was that like? What were your favorite places?
CW: I lived in Kolkata for about 5 months, and it was tragic and educational and inspiring in equal measure. There are so many problems that operate on the foundational level, there, and so many people suffer day-to-day as a result. On the flip side, I met some incredible people, and learned a whole lot, especially in terms of attaining new perspective; it was so radically different from anywhere else I’ve lived, and far astray from any lifestyle I’d lived before.
3. What are a few places you are planning to travel in 2015?
CW: I’m in Seattle at the moment, and will be heading to Missoula, Montana for three months at the end of February to prepare for a two-month book tour through the western half of the US and Canada. From there, I’ll tally the votes my readers cast through my blog and see what country I’m headed to next.
4. What kind of music do you listen to on the road?
CW: All kinds. And I don’t mean that in the ‘I have no preference’ way; I actually have a collaborative playlist on Spotify that allows folks from around the world to add whatever it is they’re listening to, so I get to ‘taste test’ all kinds of genres, artists, and styles. I like mixing it up and having stark contrasts throughout my day, and music is one means of achieving that.
5. What is your social life like on the road?
CW: Usually one of two extremes: either very social and meeting and meeting up with many people every day, or completely hermetic, only leaving my flat to take long, silent, meandering walks, and then returning home to sit and write and be entirely in my own head. I need a balance of both to be at my best, in terms of happiness and creativity (and productivity).
6. What is the nicest hostel you have stayed in?
CW: I don’t stay in many hostels, actually. I tend to rent flats in the countries I visit, as I generally stick around for four months or more. I will say that renting is a pain in Kolkata (which is sometimes called ‘the land of paperwork’) and super-easy in Prague (which has many Facebook groups that act as short or long-term person-to-person real estate listings).
7. What was your favorite read of 2014?
CW: Oh, there were a lot of good books last year. One that stands out (and that I find myself referencing in conversation quite a bit) is called How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. Really compelling read, and some fascinating stories.
8. Any recommendations for India?
CW: Be friendly, be open to new experiences, and be aware that the cops will sometimes hassle you (or even pull over your taxi) looking for bribes. Eat all the food (it’s cheap and delicious), but know that most of it isn’t very good for you. Don’t stick to the tourist track; try and check out some legitimate neighborhoods where people actually live. Have fun.
Thanks Colin, I’ll be sure to have a good time over there. Good luck with your tour and thanks for sharing!
If you are interesting in seeing more of Colin’s work, head over to his blog exilelifstyle.com, you won’t be disappointed!

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.

The Last Diet you’ll ever Need.

dieting_no

Are you looking for the list of ten things? I hate to break it to you, but your body’s nutritional needs are much more complex than a 10 item list, so stop looking for the easy way out. With that said, I have about 5 or 6 points I would like to make :), these are lessons that I have learned myself, with guidance of some very educated and experienced people along the way. This diet post is going to be different, because I would like to educate you about your endocrine system, and why your emotions have far more of an effect on your body weight than you could have ever imagined.

What if I told you that your metabolic speed is directly related to your actions? That you are 100% in control and that genetics don’t play a large role in metabolism? What if the way you felt directly correlated with how you looked?

What if you had more control over your metabolism, how fast energy recycles in your body?

If you were thinner, more energetic, and more prepared to face the physical stresses of your future, would you be happier? Maybe how you feel is a more important question than you have ever realized.

All of these things are controlled by the endocrine system, a chemical messaging system that runs through your bloodstream and is released by your brain, your kidneys, and your digestive system. Seratonin is the neuro-hormone that scientists have found correlates with happiness, and 90% of our seratonin is in the intestines. What you eat correlates with your state of well being, and is the single largest contributor to good health beyond your mental state.

 

I am pretty sure humans were meant to be sensitive to our environment to help us survive. That is what will really have to change, if you want to change the way that your body operates, because you are the same as your environment, a part of it. Think there is an easy way out of the food question? Your ancestors didn’t either. Its time to step up and educate yourself so that you can become self-sufficient and eat optimally for your happiness, because its probably having a much bigger effect on your life than you realize.

The endocrine system is the chemical messaging system your body uses for slower change, such as digestion, growth, hormone regulation, etc. When we talk about dieting, this is probably the most important aspect of your body to pay attention to. Unfortunately, modern foods tend to have lots of excess chemical additives for extended preservation, which cause our internal chemical systems to get messed up. A lot of these chemicals are used in junk food, but also in things like meat, dairy, and poultry, so when we eat them, they can really mess up certain chemical processes in the body because the body doesn’t really know how to react to them because it isn’t evolved to consume and process them. They are engineered chemical additives that cause imbalance and things like obesity and illness due to improper nutrition and overconsumption and with time, things like cancer and heart disease.

1. This takes me to the first major thing you have to understand to optimize your body’s nutrition; your body is an ecosystem. 37 trillion cells, according to recent, incomplete estimations. Approximately 60% of the human body mass is water; less if you are obese, more if you are an infant or child.

2. This takes us to the second major point, water consumption; you are a walking hydraulic water lift system! Water and fluid content of your body is an enormous contributor to your metabolism, and one of the most overlooked aspects of dieting. Foods with high water content tend to be cleansing for the gastrointestinal tract and can provide the body with electrolytes, like potassium or magnesium from bananas or mangos. Legumes and big fruits are great. Harder, more sinuous vegetables like spinach and kale tend to build tight muscle. You are what you eat! Onto #3

3. Your environment has a huge effect on your body. Our body is designed to fight gravity from the moment we are born, and to take in the air around us through our lungs. The human body contains 65%  oxygen, 18.5% carbon, and 9.5% hydrogen yet oxidation is a force that we are constantly fighting with the recycling of the cells in our body. So there is a certain balance that the body maintains, and that cycles with the environment. This brings me to the third point, your environment is a part of your body and your body is a part of your environment. We have to consider where you do the things that you do and ensure that you spend time around other humans and ideally nature. Other humans and their bodies are also a part of this environment and highly stressful situations can lead to higher stress levels, requiring greater outlets for stress release. Pay attention to the cycling of the moon, eat the food that is more abundant in your season, give your body a chance to cycle with the earth. Try to eat before 8pm and right when you wake up, eating a few meals earlier in the day rather than a huge dinner. Give your body nothing but the best, maybe go organic or find some local farms, try to avoid preservatives. Do you think that stuff is easy for your stomach to digest? Of course, if you live in the city, lots of these things aren’t available to you, but you should explore your city! Find way of exploring cuisine that bring you satisfaction, and don’t worry too much about it! This brings me to the fourth point:

4. Stress is the single biggest contributor to death in north america, in the form of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Stress is something that needs to be released on a regular basis, and can really be useful to maintaining a high level of physical performance. However, like all things, stress must be maintained in balance. Physical yoga could be defined as a certain type of stressing of the body, so there are definitely good types of stress, as well as bad. The single largest contributor to stress’ affect on your is your perception of stress, whether you like it or don’t like it, essentially, and your confidence level for success. In reality, it is all about your perception of the stressor. This brings me to the final, last, but certainly not least point:

5. It’s all in your head. When you are happy and at peace, your body will be too, even if you are eating less that optimally for your nutritional balance. Imbalance always correct themselves in one way or another, but happiness is truly something that is generated from within.

There are things no authors talk about in their ultra-marketed books made for mass consumption (sounds like McDonalds to me) because it would alienate their audience. The truth is very simple. Sugar is the number one drug on the planet. Its mass consumption is killing us, releasing its toxicity through our pores, giving us acne, causing massive dehydration because people prefer it to water, and getting us addicted to dorritos, cheetos, cheeze-its, and chilly dogs. High fructose corn syrup seems to be in every single desert at the major gorcery stores. America is sick, and only we can fix ourselves. Humans are not supposed to be obese, in fact, this new epidemic is 100% a result of the lifestyles we have chosen as Americans. Convenience. No, I’m not talking about the people with endocrine disorders, mental illness, or the genetics that cause those things. I’m talking about overconsumption.

6. Convenience kills. Things that look too good to be true often are. Cheesecake is ridiculous. Soda should be illegal. So should fast-food. Not really, but it really is that bad for you. Once a month, maybe, but why? Can’t you be more satisfied with something fresh that you cook for yourself? This brings me to my final point, I don’t even want to talk about the agricultural industry: You really aren’t meant to eat much meat.

There is some weird obsession about getting enough protein in the US. I’m not saying protein isn’t important, but its only 1/3 of the equation, with fats and carbs. Eating balanced in every meal is hard, but is makes it easy for the body to digest. Lentils and beans are great sources of protein if they are cooked properly.

I am not trying to offer rules, only guideance, these are things that work for me. I am almost completely pescatarian and try to eat organic when I can, but its hard because its expensive. But I do believe in supporting things economically, so where I spend my food money is important to me. I eat mostly from local grocery stores that buy the stuff that is around me. Whole foods when I can, though they have lots of junk now. Be careful out there, let me know how you do.

 

 

You don’t need to be Saved

This article might offend you if you are Christian, so if you are, you are forewarned.

There is one concept that exists within all of the Judeo-Christian religions that I completely disagree with and I believe is consistently misinterpreted as a foundation for the faith that accompanies the religions that stem from Abraham. Original sin. This cascades from the book of genesis into the entire religious tradition and causes a separation between humans and their environment as “the land of the corrupted”. It makes the entire world evil, because at the core of the human race, there is this flaw described in Genesis as the fruit of knowledge.

I think that somewhere along the line, mis-interpretations led to ignorance of the original meaning behind the story, that man is caretaker of his land. We are unifiers, creators, builders, sustainers, and our gift of intelligence means that we must learn how to sustain the system that we are a part of. And to view the entire world as flawed and sinful by nature, must be very depressing, hopeless, except for the afterlife, which leads to a tremendous fear of death and precipitation upon the moment of exiting this realm of consciousness (or going to heaven, whatever).

So what I am saying is, there is no original flaw, just the chaos of the universe, which people like to interpret themselves as the victim of until they are let into the pearly gates for their subjugation of suffering in this world. The truth is, this world is suffering, and yet, that is what makes it so beautiful. Without conflict, there is nothing. So rejoice in the somethingness, the thereness, the presence, instead of worrying about what is not, what could be or what should be. It’s not that you don’t want to think about how things might be different, but looking back can only take you to imperfect and subjectively biased memory, so let go.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are not a sinner. And that idea was developed by humans to try to teach people how to live more fruitfully and harmonically with their neighbors. That is the biggest reason why the 10 commandments were developed by men, influenced by the code of Hammurabi. You are an animal, like a dog, just a whole hell of a lot smarter.  Think of how lazy you like to be, you can sit in bed all day, no problem. We all can, we do it when we are sick. I have this argument with people a lot, but I really don’t think humans are too much smarter than animals. Maybe I am biased because of my language major, but I honestly believe that the only major difference between a human and an animal is our language processing which leads to increased complexity of social interactions which has led us to a collective consciousness, which is now directed mostly by interactions on the internet.

I am a big fan of Jesus’ work, however, I don’t like the church or any formalized establishment that claims to teach Jesus’ work because he was inherently anti-establishment. I don’t think he would be super stoked about the church, at all. I also think that he would be pretty pissed at Joel Osteen for being such a tremendous douchebag. I mean, go to his website, it looks like the ’08 Obama campaign, “Give hope”, “hope now”, “encourage yourself to be more encouraging” and all of that self-improvement bullshit that really only has to do with you wasting your time and money listening to his voice, which is probably really enjoyable for some people.

So yeah, I think our friend Jesus would be pretty fucking pissed at how things have turned out with his teachings, from misinterpretations to blatant disregard for metaphorical storytelling and mythological literature. There are no magic tricks, apart from the love the Jesus teaches being transformative in the highest degree, but let me ask you, have you ever felt this love at church? Blinding light, bliss, peace, nothingness? I don’t think this kind of stuff happens at church, but it definitely does in mediation, and if you look back to Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, what the fuck you do think he was doing out there? Enjoying the blistering sun and probably big lack of water and proper sanitation? No way, he was probably breaking down his body and mind so that he could discover the core of his humanity and become aware of the awe-inspiring forces at work inside of his body and mind. (which if you think logically about what humans have written about god, it has to be self-referential to the life that already exists, because we are essentially the top of the food chain)

So why the hell do people go to church, when it wasn’t ever mentioned by the propagator of the religion. “Yeah” he said. “Go once a week, then when you die, you be let into an all inclusive resort on a cloud with a big golden gate and everyone you’ve ever met will be to congratulate you on your life”. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus was talking about had nothing to do with death! He was talking about the mental state of consciousness when you exist in this world. He was explaining relative psychology and true happiness, not some technique for ensure that you can life forever in heaven.

If Jesus were still alive, and you asked him to save you, what do you think he would say? He would probably say something like, “Why do you need me to free yourself to live in the liberation of the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, it’s all in your own head, if you want something to change, then go change it. But there is nothing wrong with you to begin with that you have to change.

Acceptance for the chaos of the world and willingness to continue on will save you from your own thoughts. You don’t have to know what happens after you die, you don’t have to think about the bad things you’ve done to become a better person. All you need is the somethingness of the present moment and a big breath in to enjoy your consciousness.

This is how I think about things so I am really not sorry for expressing myself. Come practice some yoga with me sometime!

Buddhism

buddha_sky

Buddhism is named after the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in about 500 CE. He was recognized as the enlightened one, or more literally, “awakened one”. He taught those who followed him how to avoid ignorance and suffering by the paths of knowledge and understanding. By obtaining truth and awareness, they would be granted nirvana, bliss and would become enlightened.

The Buddha was born into a wealthy family; when he was young his father, King Suddhodana, shielded his son from all suffering, because wise men had foretold that the young prince, his son, would become a buddha. His father wanted Siddhartha to become a powerful ruler, so he showered his son in wealth and luxury. But the future Buddha became disillusioned and made four trips outside of his palace free from suffering. On these trips, he saw sickness, then old-age, then death. He despaired; “how can I enjoy luxury when there is so much suffering in the world?” (note the difference between Christ’s acceptance of poverty and suffering in the gardens of Gethsemane). On his fourth trip, the Siddhartha saw a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to end to suffering. He left his kingdom to wander and find an end to suffering, as the monk had done.

Siddhartha cut his hair and called himself Gautama and for six years he wandered, trying to find the wisest of men to study under. He found no one. For six years he practiced severe asceticism  eating almost nothing, until he realized that his hardships would not lead him anywhere. He ended his fast and sat under a Bodhi tree on a full moon, where he began to meditate. But Mara, the evil one, found Siddhartha and tempted him, first with his daughters of desire, then with lightning, rain, wind, and storms, and finally with his demon armies of flame and fire. One by one, the Buddha stood his ground, unmoving from his meditation, defeating them with his virtue.

When the struggle ended, the Buddha gained the most supreme knowledge and wisdom, having cultivated a deep and unceasing awareness. He became the Buddha, or enlightened one, and from then on he was called Shakyamuni Buddha.

“All living beings have the buddha nature and can become buddhas. But you must do your own work, because I can only show you the way.” This is a combination of two quotes from the Buddha that I believe most completely encloses Buddhism. The religion is communally based, on teaching like compassion, love, forgiveness, and teaches detachment from the pleasures of the senses, very similarly to Patanjali’s yoga system. You can see that the Buddha, Patanjali, and Jesus are all very alike in their actual teachings and that there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the three. While they do overlap, each has lessons that are not contained in the other two. All three written collections of work were collected after the death of the primary figure, so much is unknown about each primary figure of the religion. The Buddha’s work was passed down in oral tradition for about 400 years, then transcribed in monasteries.

The Buddha’s teaching is called the middle-way and calls for balance in every aspect of life especially between sensual indulgence and severe asceticism. He taught that the causes of suffering are greed and ignorance and that cause desire for the wrong things and ignorance of the laws of Karma and the function of the universe.

He taught the four Noble Truths, still held by Buddhists today:

  1. There is suffering that is common to all (babies are born crying, no one wants to die, when we are sick we are miserable, and when we grow old we have pains in the body).
  2. We are the cause of our own suffering
  3. To end suffering, we must stop doing what causes suffering
  4. The path to end suffering can be followed by all, everyone can be enlightened

The path to end suffering is known as The Noble Eightfold Path, eightfold path wheelwhich is represented by a wheel with eight spokes (see right), representing the eight parts of the path, which continues to spin throughout one’s life. The goal is to reach the center of the wheel, also known as Nirvana, or the supreme bliss. This can be equated to Samadhi in yoga, or the ultimate bliss of existence, the highest peaks of meditation. In the eightfold path, samyaksamādhi is known as right concentration which is meditation that leads to increased awareness. Just like every spoke of the wheel is needed for a wheel to keep turning, so is every path needed to attain nirvana.

The eight paths are as follows:

  1. Right View – to see the world through wisdom and compassion, or the eyes of the Buddha
  2. Right Thought – we are a result of what we think; clear and kind thoughts build good and strong character
  3. Right Speech – speaking kindly and helpfully creates respect and trust from others
  4. Right Conduct – our words are only words, others know us from the way we behave. Before criticizing others, we must examine ourselves internally
  5. Right Livelihood – choose a job that does not harm others, do not seek happiness in the unhappiness of others
  6. Right Effort – a fulfilling life means doing our best at all times and having goodwill towards others and not wasting efforts on things that harm ourselves or others
  7. Right Mindfulness – being completely aware of your words, deeds, and thoughts to allow cultivation of awareness of your self
  8. Right Concentration – focus on one object or thought at a time, which will lead to a quiet and truly peaceful mind

Following the path is often compared to growing a garden, where the plants are wisdom, the mind is the ground, and the thoughts are the seeds. Deeds are the way one cares for the garden and our faults are weeds. Pulling the faults as close to the seed as we can so they don’t root into the mind will allow for the garden to grow fully and result in a harvest of love, happiness, and fulfillment.

There may be as many as 1.6 billion Buddhists in the world; it is recognized as one of the world’s fastest growing religions. Devotion is an extremely important part of the practice; you will often see people bowing before statues for long periods of time after a pilgrimage is made to a holy site, or chanting while an offering is burned at the feet of an altar. Buddhist monasteries are some of the oldest human organizations on the planet. They follow Dharma, or the eightfold path, and participate in Sangha, or the monk’s order. Most have obtained one of the four stages of enlightenment which are integrally tied to rebirth. For more on rebirth, see my article on Samsara.

  1. Stream Enterer – Recognition of Dharma as the path; these beings will be reborn as at least humans
  2. The Once Returner – one who has had less than seven lives. They have at least one more rebirth before they obtain Moksha, or freedom
  3. The Non-Returner – this person does not come back to the world, but is birthed into one of the five higher planes of existence, known as Suddhavasa worlds, or “pure abodes” and there they obtain Nirvana
  4. Arahant – a fully awakened person. This person has abandoned all sensual desires and will not be reborn; they are free from the clutches of Samsara. An Arahant has attained waking from the teachings of the Buddha; the title “Buddha” is reserved for Siddhartha Gautama, who discovered the path for himself.

This is Buddhism’s structure of enlightenment, you can also see some interesting world views in the teachings. Buddhists believe in reincarnation and are trying to obtain liberation from Samsara, the cycle of suffering and life, to achieve Moksha, freedom. Zen Buddhists are simply Buddhists that place extra emphasis on mediation, mostly in China, Korea, and Japan.

As you can see, there are tons of parallels and similarities in the eastern religions; Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have a tremendous amount of overlap.

Honestly, I could write about this type of stuff all day, I could write a post just on the Buddha, or the eightfold path, or enlightenment, or a comparative article between Hinduism and Buddhism. Let me know what you want to read in the comments!

 

The Best Way to Wake up

Phillip Miller's photo

I got a chance to visit the Sierra Hot Springs last night and came back this morning. It was an interesting experience, both because of the Hot Springs and the relaxing atmosphere of the mountains. The elevation is probably about 6,000 feet high and the springs are 108 degrees. Extremely hot.

It took some getting use to, that was for sure. But the water was so relaxing; when I put my shoulders under the water, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. There were two cold pools as well, with water that was about 55 or 60 degrees, for cooling down in between sessions of the hot pool. It was a pretty cool experience. After a couple rotations in the hot tub, I went straight to sleep.

I woke up to a brisk gust of wind and birds chirping loudly in the evergreen trees, some were sequoias. I did the hot/cold rotation in the spa a couple more times, then went in the 80 or so degree pool outside and let the sun dry me off. The most relaxing part of this whole experience were the shifts and changes in my breath and how my body relaxed drastically with the heat and changes in temperature. It made me rethink the ways that I wake my body up in the mornings. I think that the changes in temperature in the shower are probably similarly therapeutic. Kundalini practitioners wake to cold showers to stimulate the nerves. Needless to say, it was a blissful way to wake up. But after its relaxation, this experience made me miss something… waking up to do yoga.

That may sound a bit weird, but meditation are beginning to become a really special part of the day for me. Right when I wake up, if I can get 10 minutes of breath focus and a few yin asanas I feel amazing. But I am getting back into a routine of working, which means that I am also getting back into my ashtanga routine. The stimulation of sun salutations and breathing exercises in the morning is an incredible way to wake up the mind.

Sun Salutations are probably the most powerful exercises I know of to wake up the spine. They sooth the body, stretch arms, legs, and flex and bend the spine back and forth, then proceed to increase heart rate and stimulate the circulatory system over time. Throw some jump-backs, jump-throughs, chair poses, warrior 1s, handstands, and of course everyone’s favorite chaturanga in there and you have some extreme burpee-like calisthenic exercises. Tomorrow I am going to start a sun salutation video series, or at least try to get one rolling without a goPRO.

I am planning on starting a new video series tomorrow teaching the fundamental poses of surya namaskara A. Surya is the sun god from Hinduism, to whom the poses are devoted. I’ll show you some of the techniques I use to wake my body up in the morning with the sequence. Stay tuned and check back tomorrow yogis…