Death, Life, and Walking the Line

My grandmother passed on February 14th, 2012.  She was 95.  She died of uterine cancer, one that she had chosen about three years ago to not treat but to allow to run its course because she was not at a point where she was willing to trade the misery of chemo for a few more years.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched her go from a vibrant woman to a shut-in invalid who was waiting for death.  In the end, with hallucinations, confusion, and lots of tears, she lost consciousness on February 11th and never regained it. 

Last week was hard for me.  As a spiritual person, I turned to my faith in God, my connection to the Divine, capoeira, yoga… and promptly chucked it for a beer, smokes, and eating badly. 

Granted, this woman was a part of my life since I was born.  Her home was my sole refuge for nearly 20 years, and for many of my cousins, it was sanctuary.  Sanctuary meant that when the dogs bite, the bees sting, and the rest of the world turns their back, I always had a warm bed, a plate of hot food, and someone who would be there for me no matter what.

When I said ” F*** this” to my college life and ran for the hills and mountains of Colorado, my one stop on my mad flight away from the shambles of my life was my grandmother’s house.  She gave me $50  (and she was living on $286 from Social Security), a bag of burritos, and a plea to stay there.  Maybe I should have, but I was insistent that I had to go to Colorado.  She gave me a hug and told me that I was always welcome at her house.

Who else gives unconditional love like that? 

Yes, I fell apart.  My carefully constructed life of balace, harmony, and easy acceptance of my relationship with God and my eternal soul promptly fell apart like a sand sculpture before the ocean – instead of peace, all I had was an aching emptiness inside where a person’s life once comforted me.  Nothing felt more like a lie than trying to go through a sun salute with this hole blown through the middle of my life, not to mention eating healthy.  It was easier to smoke a cigarette and drink a beer to take the edge off then it was to accept the pain and move on.

A week afterwards, I have since carried her to her final resting place, and cried with my cousins, eaten so much greasy road food that I gained three pounds, and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes.  Self-destructive behavior was oddly pleasurable, as though each bite of greasy food, each drag on a coffin nail, each swallow of beer hurt and let go of a little bit of the horribly relentless pain, that hurt that nothing can ease… and each day I did it again.

This morning I finally was able to calm down enough to meditate, to turn my focus from my pain and try to reconnect with my soul and with God.  I didn’t follow a specified meditation, I just closed my eyes in the bath and followed the path to my soul and God.  Instead of regimented discipline,  I just floated in that peace for a moment, feeling a gold light surround me.  It was peaceful, and for the first time, I was at peace with my grandmother’s death.  She’s at peace, a more profound peace than I will ever find, no matter how much I meditate, no matter what yoga set I do.

Yogi Bhajan said that there are levels of afterlife.  Simplistically (relatively), it goes  like this:
1.  30 seconds before you die, you see your life flash before you.
2.  20 seconds before you die, you judge yourself.
3.  10 seconds before you die, you take your last breath and then die.
As you die, you enter a cylinder (the white light of Near Death Experiences) and you pass to a place to choose where to go – to the left and heat or or to the right and cold.  Yogi Bhajan says to go to the cold and not the hot part.  From there, you hang in Earth’s electromagnetic field for 17 days before you enter the blue ethers and go on to the next life, or stay in heaven.  Occasionally, some people just skip that and fly right through to the ethers, according to YB.

I personally think we simply go to God, and ask to stay there or occasionally ask to return.  Some souls seek to find heaven, others seek to wander because they have to see.

Back to my grandmother – I can feel, in my heart and in the core of my soul that she is with God, in the realm of pearly gates, streets of gold and precious stones, and where all is fulfilled.  She lived a hard life and made hard choices in the name of protecting, raising, and maintaining her family.  In the end, when she died, I am sure she cast aside her body, which must have been like shedding dirty, rank clothing and being free.

Yoda said, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

The night I left West Texas to go home, I stopped to eat on the road and looked at the stars… they were so bright and seemed like there were billions and billions of them.  I kept looking at them and wondering where the boundary between physical and spiritaul was, and how many people sat at that boundary, watching the people who go by.  Loved ones watching us and wondering if they loved us enough, held us enough, or otherwise did enough while they were here.  I know I wonder if I told her I loved her enough times, hugged her enough.

On a show that I follow on Netflix, one of the principal characters lost his dad.  He was sitting with his brothers as they shared profound statements that were the last words their father had said to him, and his last words were that “Crocodile Dundee 3 was worth watching, and it totally holds up.”  instead of revealing that his dad pocket dialed him and saying he loved his son.

My last words with my grandmother were when she hugged me, and said a blessing for me as I traveled home.  I kissed her forehead and told her that I loved her.  that was the last time I saw her, smiling and happy for me and my family. 

I love my grandmother and miss her dearly. Today I was able to reconnect with my soul and with God again.  It still hurts, and it will hurt for a long time.  No more beer, or smokes, or bad eating.  I’m done with my streak of self-destruction, and ready to move on.

In the path of my life, this is yet another stretch where there were only one set of footprints, although I think I’m ready to start walking on my own again.

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Following Your Bliss

This conversation started as I was riding into work one day.  My wife and I were sharing a conversation about a show called Dharma and Greg, a sitcom concerning a lawyer and a bohemian hippie girl’s marriage to each other and their struggles reconciling his upper-class values with her hippie values. 

At one point, Greg has struck out, hung his own shingle, and is starting to feel the stress of being on his own.  He said something profound, but it only makes sense if you reverse the order of his two sentences:

You know, when somebody says follow your bliss it sounds like it’s gonna be a lot of fun. And that’s what’s scary ’cause it’s a lot harder to create your own path than to follow one that’s been laid out for you.

It’s true.  Following your bliss is always simpler said than done.  It’s easier to walk a trail someone else blazed than it is to blaze your own.  Its hard, scary, and you don’t get to blame anyone else for the pitfalls you encounter.  Nothing is easy about following your bliss, except the knowledge that it becomes easier for others to follow you, or to be brave enough to make their own path.

I have had some setbacks.  My two classes are on hiatus because of lack of attendance for a while – and it sucks.  I wondered if I just suck as a teacher, or if there is something about what I am teaching that is not fun, or if it is just boring as hell.

Then as I was feeling miserable for myself, my wife’s belly dance class got supplanted by a hatha class that is just now getting started and took her slot at the district she works at.  Now the both of us are looking at our bliss and wondering why we are not ‘there’ doing it.

Cary Tennis of Salon.com writes a column called Since You Asked where someone who followed her bliss has found herself at the end of her rope and wondering if she wasted her life.  It’s the burning question that those who follow their bliss have – did I waste my time since others who followed a well-trodden path have so much more than I?

Did I waste my time?  As I reflected on it, no I didn’t.  I didn’t have many students, but I was able to be with them and discuss the things that bothered them, to talk to them and offer comfort.  In a world where love and comfort are precious commodities – I was given a fortune and spent it well.  As for my wife, she found someone who has a love for belly dancing that wanted to learn – students like that are rare and far between.

So – there is merit to following your bliss.  Yay!!!!

The path to following your bliss is simple, yet hard.  Like a bad habit.  Its easy to say “don’t do that” but its harder to put it into effect.  Joseph Campbell laid out a way to do that:

  1. Find your bliss.  This means you have to go and discover yourself and find what makes you happy.  Its the one thing that makes your eyes light up, your heart go pitty-pat, and makes you feel like all is right in the universe.
  2. Make your recipe for bliss.  Do you need a space for it?  Students?  Time?  Your list may shorten or expand as you explore how to take your dream from inside your head to the outside world.  Document and spend time figuring out how to make it work.
  3. Reflect on those ingredients and see how they manifest in your life.  See where the elements of your bliss are in your life and how they are expressed.  Take that and reconcile it with your recipe.
  4. Understand why your bliss makes you happy.  For me, on top of yoga, I play capoeira – a Brazilian martial art.  The bliss of capoeira balances the bliss of yoga.  Others are jazzed to just knock on the sky.  I have to have the dual aspects of combat and stillness to feel complete. 
  5. Write it down.  Describe it in your own words and give it shape.  God spoke the Universe into existence – by speaking your own bliss into shape, you create it and give it form and substance.
  6. Test drive your plan and refine it until its working perfectly.  Your bliss is alive and evolving as you are alive and evolving – so it should flex and adapt as you flex and adapt.
  7. Start living your bliss.  As you live it, you will find yourself describing your life as you refine your bliss.  Careers will turn up that take you farther along with your bliss, or you may find that your bliss was in what you were doing in the first place. 

However, as my wife realize that what we are doing at the time doesn’t lend itself to following our bliss, we are restructuring our time to find and follow it again. Our own refining of our plans should finish by the end of the school year in a few months.  We will be focusing our endeavors at CircleSpace for the summer, since our time constraints are looser over then.

So keep following your bliss and keep up with us.  In between now and summer, I have a series of small workshops coming that will introduce kundalini yoga again to another population and get that rolling, as well as a few couples workshops.

My bliss is still in teaching. 

And, to wrap things up, Greg found his bliss was in what he was doing all along. 

Sat Nam everyone!

Anger and Peace – Part Three of Three

I’m a firm believer that there is no really negative emotion – even the little venal desires can be channeled to positive outcomes.  Anger, however, is an emotion that can be destructive and can get out of hand so quickly.  It’s no wonder that we liken anger to fire – hot and blazing.  Even the Buddha did so:

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else.  You are the only one who gets burned.

The point of this is to address anger as part of a yoga practice.  We as yogis and yoginis practice an art that is designed to give us control of ourselves.  Very little, though, is addressed to the volative explosive power of anger.  Its like a rogue wave in the ocean – destructive and dangerous.  No matter how it is expressed – aggressive, passive, or passive-agressive, anger is something that needs addressing, yet rarely is in yogic circles.

For my previous posts on aggressive anger and passive anger, please click on the links.

Passive-aggressive anger is like mixing bleach and ammonia – both are some pretty nasty chemicals to begin with, but the mix of the two is lethal.  Not only are you internalizing your anger, but you are lashing out in unfair ways against the person you are angry with.

Of all the ways there are to be angry, this one can cause the most harm because not only do you hurt, you are hurting those you love.  By manifesting your pain as ‘getting even’ with nasty little attacks here and there, you not only destabilize your own emotional well-being, but you are actively destabilizing those around you.

To be honest, its a human thing to have schadenfreude.  To take delight in someone’s misfortune.  Generally it relates to competition – you win, they lose, so they suck and you rock!  However, outside of the drive to win, this emotion only serves to poison yourself and your own environment – you can have the vicious satisfaction of lashing out at the people around you and enjoying their suffering, but in the end it drives people away and leaves you alone with your pain.

The permutations of passive-aggressive anger are endless, but in general traits include:

Physical:

  • Denial or rationalization about your behavior
  • Sarcasm
  • Fleeing the situation 
  • Rubbing your head
  • Becoming silent or withholding
  • Isolating yourself in response
  • Compulsive eating, spending, cleaning or sex
  • Revenge fantasies

 Emotional:

  • Irritated
  • Resentful
  • Fearful
  • Dominated
  • Powerless
  • Sad or depressed
  • Guilty

Passive-aggressive anger poisons the self and others.  These behaviors quickly internalize – actions can invoke feelings just as much as feelings invoke actions.  These behaviors can consume the person and destroy the relationships around them.  In punishing the other through this kind of anger, we not only hurt them, we hurt ourselves, too. 

When we move from these states, we not only inflict harm on ourselves, but others, too.  This kind of anger burns us internally and externally burns the other person by manipulation.  In the end, we end up hurt and alone.

To Conclude:

The variants of anger are as many as the clouds in the sky – to be able to identify each iteration would be endless and pendantic.  Instead, anger should serve as the need to notice that you feel you have been wronged and the situation needs to be addressed.  It is not a call to arms, or a reason to be nasty to the person who wronged you.

Voice your emotion without attack.  State the grievance and speak constructively on how to solve it.  Indulging your anger  as “I have a right to be angry” serves nothing but destructive ends.  Everyone has the right to be angry, but no one has the right to hurt another person.

One last passage from the Buddha on anger:

An angry person is ugly and sleeps poorly. Gaining a profit, he turns it into a loss, having done damage with word and deed. A person overwhelmed with anger destroys his wealth. Maddened with anger, he destroys his status. Relatives, friends, and colleagues avoid him. Anger brings loss. Anger inflames the mind. He doesn’t realize that his danger is born from within. An angry person doesn’t know his own benefit. An angry person doesn’t see the Dharma. A man conquered by anger is in a mass of darkness. He takes pleasure in bad deeds as if they were good, but later, when his anger is gone, he suffers as if burned with fire. He is spoiled, blotted out, like fire enveloped in smoke. When anger spreads, when a man becomes angry, he has no shame, no fear of evil, is not respectful in speech. For a person overcome with anger, nothing gives light.

Be filled with light.

Sat Nam.

Anger and Peace – Part Two of Three

I’m a firm believer that there is no really negative emotion – even the little venal desires can be channeled to positive outcomes.  Anger, however, is an emotion that can be destructive and can get out of hand so quickly.  It’s no wonder that we liken anger to fire – hot and blazing.  Even the Buddha did so:

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else.  You are the only one who gets burned.

The point of this is to address anger as part of a yoga practice.  We as yogis and yoginis practice an art that is designed to give us control of ourselves.  Very little, though, is addressed to the volative explosive power of anger.  Its like a rogue wave in the ocean – destructive and dangerous.  No matter how it is expressed – aggressive, passive, or passive-agressive, anger is something that needs addressing, yet rarely is in yogic circles.

This segment deals with passive anger – this insidious anger that is deflected inwards instead of outwards as in aggressive anger.  Inwardly directed anger is dangerous for the angry person, since anger turned inward is both fueled by you and consumes you.  As your anger is suppressed, it eats away at your emotional landscape, leaving you vulnerable to a host of dangerous behaviors that can become compulsive as you try to soothe the damage your anger did to you.

Passive anger has many symptoms:

Physical:

  • Clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Some form of self-harm; biting nails and picking on the cuticles, hitting something with bare fist, banging your head, etc.
  • Increased and rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Beginning to cry for no reason
  • Compulsive eating, spending, cleaning or sex

 Emotional:

  • Self-loathing
  • Feeling stupid
  • Believing you are bad
  • Sad or depressed
  • Guiltyfeelings

The danger in passive anger is that you have two problems – the root causes of your anger, and the need to soothe the pain that the anger wreaks inside of you.  Imagine if you will that the burning coal you are holding in your hand is swallowed – that is what passive anger is doing, scorching you on the inside.

This can lead to all sorts of problems – soothing the pain with drugs, both illegal and prescription, health issues like ulcers and high blood pressure, and dangerous behavior like eating your pain, or (pardon the vulgarity) screwing the pain away.  None of these actually fixes it – the satiation of being full can overwhelm the burn of the anger, or the wash of orgasm can overrider the burning pain.  In the end, after the meal and sex, the pain is still there.  Self-harm only makes the inner pain manifest outwardly on your skin.

This anger is yours, and the pain.   For passive anger, its ok to bare your teeth and say “I am angry.”  To voice the anger is to take that deflected anger and instead of turning outward, brings it to examination.  What made you mad?  Why are you turning it inward?  What kind of behaviors are stemming from needing to soothe that anger?  By bringing your anger forward and voicing it, you also acknowledge the fact that anger is a valid emotion, not one to hide and repress.

Digging through to these roots are part of the skills you have in your yogic practices – did you think all this stretching, breathing, and focus was to stare at your navel and figure out the atomic structure of your navel lint? 

LOL

By bringing it out into the light of day, you can see just how dangerous and insidious this anger can be.  This kind of anger can feed into many self-destructive behaviors simply because if they didn’t feel good, we wouldn’t do them.   Smokers didn’t smoke to feel bad and hack up lungs, they start because the nicotine makes them feel good.  It soothed whatever was going on inside.  After a while, though, it quits feeling good and it’s done to keep from feeling bad.

People take drugs because it made them feel good at first, but they end up so dependent on them that to stop hurts, so they continue it because it hurts less than stopping.

It hurts to own your anger, though, because you have to say that it is there and you have to admit that you are angry.  But, I promise you, it hurts less than not owning it and letting it eat you from the inside.  If you own it and witness its actions, you can start to figure out what the roots of that anger is, and instead of letting it burn you from the inside out, you can move with love and care to stop that rooted anger from hurting you, instead of letting it eat you alive.

Expressing anger in a healthy way is not venting, or negative, or weak.  Expressing anger in a rational, calm way is owning it – the first step to finding out where it stems from, and how to remove that particular stimulus from your emotional makeup.  This is much better, emotionally and physically, then letting it burn you up inside and then trying to blunt the emotional and physical pain.

Anger and Peace – Part One of Three

I’m a firm believer that there is no really negative emotion – even the little venal desires can be channeled to positive outcomes.  Anger, however, is an emotion that can be destructive and can get out of hand so quickly.  It’s no wonder that we liken anger to fire – hot and blazing.  Even the Buddha did so:

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else.  You are the only one who gets burned.

The point of this is to address anger as part of a yoga practice.  We as yogis and yoginis practice an art that is designed to give us control of ourselves.  Very little, though, is addressed to the volative explosive power of anger.  Its like a rogue wave in the ocean – destructive and dangerous.  No matter how it is expressed – aggressive, passive, or passive-agressive, anger is something that needs addressing, yet rarely is in yogic circles.

This segment focuses on aggressive anger.  This type of anger is one that I share, so I am focusing on it because like all yogis, my yoga practice is one that continues and this is something with which I struggle.  Thus, as part of my practice and as a yogi, I share this with you.

This kind of anger is like those fires you see burning on the medians when its dry and parched – they are hot, quick-burning and go out quickly.  They are also destructive in that they can quickly burn up a hundred yards of median before the fire department can get there in time to put it out.

We have all heard techniques to ‘calm down.” Breathe and count to ten. Remove yourself from the situation.  Find a healthy expression of anger.  Do something that distracts you from the anger stimulus until you are under control.  While these are good at solving the immediate need to control the angry emotion until you are able to deal with it – these are not final solutions.  Failing to resolve the anger will only feed that particular beast until you have the emotional equivalent of a Chernobyl-level meltdown.

Agressive anger causes some of the following manifestations:

Physical:

  • hot in the neck/face
  • increased and rapid heart rate
  • pacing
  • sweating, especially your palms
  • shaking or trembling
  • acting in an abusive or abrasive manner
  • beginning to yell, scream or cry

 

Emotional:

  • resentful
  • rage
  • out of control
  • anxious
  • like striking out verbally or physically

The physical manifestation is indicative of the emotional power of this kind of anger.  You would not breathe calmly and count to ten when a fire starts, so why would you do it for your emotional flames?

You must put it out.  In the case of fire, you have to catch the fire before it spreads and put it out.  In the case of anger, you have to catch the anger before you ignite and light up emotionally.  And it’s hard to, because it feels good.  Let me repeat that: it feels good to be hot and fired-up angry. 

Powerful and filled with burning purpose, aggressive anger can make for change, revolution, and righteous glory.  Unchecked, it causes emotional devastation, burnt emotional landscapes, and in the cases it overflows into physical action – assault, domestic violence, and murder.

The roots of aggressive anger run deep – to childhood, internalized trauma, many different things.  The key to this is to experience and take responsibility for your anger – it is, after all, yours.  Blaming others for making you angry only shifts the blame – this is your emotion, your fire, your responsibility.  By ignoring it or suppressing it, you will only make it hotter and more dangerous the nest time it comes. 

See how the anger operates, and then work on resolving the emotions.  To follow our metaphor to its end – the only way to stop those hot median fires is to not put the burning cigarette butt into the dry grass – to quit smoking.

Meditation and yoga provide opportunities to examine your triggers, to find your smoldering cigarette butts of unresolved emotions and to put those out before they light fires.  Besides a workout and blissful experience, powerful tools exist in your yoga practice to find and identify these nuggets that get triggered and resolve them before they trigger such destructive firestorms of emotion.

This week’s yoga sets and meditations will address harnessing and moving past our emotional, reactive selves. If you internalize this fire, it will burn you, in the form of a poisoned emotional life, ulcers, and a host of cardiac and vascular issues.  Calm and peace come from eliminating the fire, not containing it and ignoring it.

Attachments and Freedom

Freedom.  As an American, I am schooled to believe that freedom is inherent to all humans.  As a yogi, I believe in freedom as deeply and passionately as Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin did.  I believe in freedom from the bevy of sins that steal the soul as well as the life that we see done with such numbing regularity.

But, I have serious doubts as to what the American idea of freedom is.  We are often claiming freedom and love the taste of freedom to do what we do, even as we don chain after chain of debt, because we have to have the latest and greatest thing.  New cell phone, check.  New car, check.  Hot new threads, check.  Then we have to pay – the car note, the house note, the cell phone bill.  We have to work that job that numbs the mind and soul to keep up with what we want.  Then we tie one on during the weekend, recover the next day, and then make our social appearance at church… the list is endless, and we end up trapped, chained to the same stupid cycle week after week, month after month, and year after year, til we retire, look at the stranger next to us, and wonder what the hell happened.

So, what brought us from being free and loving our freedom down?  Attachment.  We are attached to so many things, each other, our image, our social standing, our fashion sense.  We have to live in the right place, and wear the right clothes, and do what that social status tells us is the right things, even if you hate the activity and have to raise a glass with people you find vacuous and boring.

Attachment.  You suffer through what you hate in order to get what you think you want, which isn’t really what you thought it was in the first place.

Does this mean that you should chuck it all, be homeless and glory in the absolute freedom on living freegan on the world?  Not at all, unless you feel your personal path calls for it.  As a yogi in a householder’s tradition, I believe that you have a duty to your progeny, to yourself, to maintain yourself as you think you need to do.  But, we can take some of the chains we have and remove them.

Our lives were meant to be lived free and in a state of harmony.  Chains clanking do not harmonize well.

So, how do we get out of this?  We minimize our chains to maximize our freedom.  I try my best to live with this credo, so this is what I have come up with:

1.  I buy durable, classic fashion.  I have one suit in my closet that I never wear, a couple of match-everything dress shirts, and one set of dress shoes.  The rest are cargo pants, jeans, and pullovers.  Wash and wear, mix and match, permanent press.  I have one set of brown motorcycle boots, and one set of black ones.  One belt.  My closet fits into one suitcase.

2.  I can do most of the repairs on my own motorcycle.  I have the gear to ride it most days, notwithstanding extreme cold days.  The only thing that keeps me from riding my motorcycle 100% of the time is creature comfort.  On cold, wet days, its nice to ride in my wifes’ Chrysler Pacifica and be warm and dry.

3.  My job is deeply fulfilling and pays ok.  I teach motorcycle safety courses and I substitute teach.  I can walk into any classroom and have good control of the class and get the content taught.  I engage the kids well because I genuinely believe that I am helping them.

4.  I budget and try to stay in there.  Extra gets stashed for days that I need extra.

5. If I don’t have the cash for it, I don’t get it, plain and simple.  I had planned on contacts this month, but my budget did not cover it.  thus, no contacts.

Attachments are things that limit your freedom.  Think of the 20 year old who is paying for an apartment, food, and  a good time. S/he is as free as it gets in American society.  S/he can pick up and go if s/he chooses, or stay and work.  S/he can drink and play, or s/he can be cool and keep to him- or herself.  Either way, s/he is free to move and do as s/he chooses.

The first attachment comes with the would ‘should.’  I should have that new car.  I should make more money.  I should settle down.  I should have this and that or the other… and this goes on and on.

Does this mean you should not care, get married, have kids?  Those are decisions between you and your partner, not me.  I’m just a yogi.  I love and care deeply for my kids.  Each of them is like a precious gem, unique and perfect to me.  I chose to have kids, and I take my commitment to them deeply.

In Star Wars, the Jedi are the ultimate in Justice.  They are superpowered people schooled to emotionless objectivity.   Jedi say that they cannot do their work and be attached, that having emotional attachments leads to the dark side, often with tragic consequences. we saw how well that works out, because hiding attachment adds another chain that weighs down.

I have to disagree with the idea that not having an attachment is ideal – its not the attachment that leads to the dark side, it’s the craven need to protect what is ‘ours’, which is really not, because when phones break, clothes tear, and cars die, we discard them.  They were never ‘ours’ because they pass in and out of our lives with nary another thought than to get another.  If it can be upgraded, traded, or discarded, what was so important about it in the first place?

Be free, take that chains that hold you down and cast them off.  Keep the attachments that mean something and hold them, and let the rest go.  Be mindful of that each time you want something new, upgraded, or updated.

Be at peace.  Sat Nam.

A Seed, Needing a Place to Sprout

At some point, we all decide that we have information to give, to teach, to want to share.  I have plenty of knowledge and wisdom to draw from with Kundalini Yoga, and I would love to share it with people.  I have considered the idea of an intensive workshop – a 2 to 4 hour workshop consisting of yoga, some lecture, and a lot of fun and camaraderie.

So I ask you, the yogis that follow me – what would you like to see?  Currently in the works are Meditation and the Mind, and a mini White Tantra course.  Since my home is small, I would only be able to host a small number of people.  A light snack area would be in place to ward off hunger, and to help ground us after our presentation.

What other topics would you like to see?

Cursing, Foul Language, and Negativity

Wisdom comes at times you least expect it.  Yesterday was not a good day for me.  I was supposed to get my eye exam and new contacts.  That didn’t happen.  My wife got her bladder scoped, which led to other complications like pain and misery that I wasn’t aware that she was suffering.  Arguments ensued. 

Then, after a long fun run in the mud with the kidgets, I find my new puppy Fluffy (this puppy is not fluffy, but I offered the kidgets a choice between the names Hondo and Fluffy, and they picked Fluffy) has his tie-out line wrapped around the base of a set of shrubs.  This set of shrubs was supposed to be taken down at a later time, but ended up getting put off since my chainsaw had died and my Jason mask was not to be found.

Fun and games with a chainsaw and a hockey mask

chop chop

So, now I had to get my folks electric chainsaw (gag, retch) in the middle of the night in order to chop down some wood to get Fluffy out of his mess.  So, without my saw (it’s family, you know 🙂  ) and no mask, I was in the dark chainsawing through dense shrubbery to find my puppy.

My foul mood lifted, and not because of the shrub massacre.  I was doing what needed to be done to help a life that I was responsible for.  No one else was there, it was dark, just me and a saw and a little puppy who couldn’t get out.  I was able to shear off the shrubs at the base of the bush to be able to get the shrub out without getting too close to Fluffy.

Fluffy is currently enjoying his Iams puppy food and lounging in the sunshine, safe.  He’s probably wound around something else out there, now, but that is another story for another time.

 The other shrubs went down on general principle. 

So, what does this have to do with cursing, foul language, or negativity?  Let me explain.

In my head, I was cursing at the way things had gone.  They could have been better.  Appending curse words to the players involved in this drama extended the negative feelings, shaping the remaining part of the day.  As things went wrong, the more I used foul language, the worse things got.  I don’t mean the genial foul language that we employ with our friends and in knocking off, I mean the genuine I’m-upset-and-loading-this-with-all-my-anger cursing we do when we are pissed off.

By focusing and giving voice to my negativity, it created within me a negative expectation which in turn brought more negativity.  The more I voiced my negativity, the stronger it became.  It even lingered enough to poison a conversation this morning that should have cleared the air between my wife and I.  This is what happens when you feed the negative, it becomes stronger.

Be mindful, then, of what you say.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names with never hurt me.”  is just wrong.  Words can and do hurt – they are intention given energy and direction.   Be mindful of where you send that energy.

Concerning Christianity and Yoga

Doctor R. Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the primary seminary and theological backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He wrote an essay on www.albertmohler.com discussing Stephanie Syman’s book The Subtle Body: the Story of Yoga in America in which he makes a pretty dramatic statement.

“When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.” Dr. Mohler brings this conclusion due to a number of fallacious yet deeply-held assumptions within his own Southern Baptist culture that need to be addressed from a yogi who comes from that same tradition.

Let’s look at his argument, shall we?

In my humble opinion, this all derives from his understanding of kundalini.  Kundalini is, as we all know, the basic primal life-energy that resides at the base of the spine and is channeled into higher energy so we can reconnect to the Divine/Universe.  Its a deeply spiritual yet non-religious path.  This, I think, is where Dr. Mohler gets lost.  The good doctor feels like this channeling of kundalini (which is also called sexual energy because its also generative energy, what makes new life through sex) is just using sex to raise our consciousness, conflating red tantra (which uses explicit sex to raise and hold energy) with other yoga paths.  What this practice actually does is transmute the primal energy into more etheric energies, to better connect with the higher Power/Universe.  Think of prayer – connecting to God – and know that this is just another means. 

Dr. Mohler, you can’t conflate one path into every yoga path’s methodology.  That would be like claiming that all theological leaders are gay because Bishop Eddie Long was playing with boys in his spiritual retreat.  Is that unfair to conflate one leader’s activities with the whole?  Yes, it is.  Therefore Dr. Mohler should not conflate one path with the whole.  Shame on you, sir.

Let’s move on, shall we? 

Let’s look at meditating.  Meditation, according to Dr. Mohler, is when the mind is empty and looking inward for answers.  However, this is not meditating in a yogic sense.  In yoga, the silence we achieve is to create a mental space to rest and be at peace.  In this peace, we can find the answers, but they don’t necessarily come from within.  Take the Biblical example of Elijah – he looked for God in the hurricane, the earthquake, and finally heard God in the quiet breeze (I Kings 19:12).  So, in this, In yoga, we make space to hear that quiet breeze when we meditate. 

So, I call bullshit on you, Dr. Mohler.  You can’t tell people something that meditation contradicts the Bible, or you are wrong.  You are being hypocritical at worst, or blissfully ignorant at best, in telling people that God does not talk to us in the quiet of our minds.  Its also somewhat hypocritical to practice dwelling in the presence of God, as Kevin Martineau discusses here, when Martineau is in essence telling his people how to meditate and feel the presence of the Divine.

I guess its a matter of DADT, right?  If you don’t ask, we don’t tell you that you are meditating…

So, let’s talk about the other thing, the thing that scares Christians.  Sex… that insidious beast that thunders in our loins and drives us to greatness, recklessness, and the need to marry.  We lust after beauty, we desire to sate our lust and bring ourselves to ecstacy.  We are human, rooted in a body that desires these things in order to perpetuate the human race.  Christianity’s fear of this primal energy can be traced to Paul of Tarsus, who apparently had an issue with women in general.  Pauline Christianity – which is an appropriate designation for most forms of Christianity – takes Paul’s teachings as amplifications and clarifications of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings… which contradicts Dr. Mohler’s primary belief – Jesus’ divinity.  If Jesus was God, then why does His teaching need clarification. Can’t God talk clearly to everyone?

Therefore, the paradox exists – either deny Jesus his divinity, or accept that Paul was an undue influence in Christianity and either reject his influence… tough choice for people who have internalized their rejection of their own appetites. 

Look, we get that you are struggling with – how to maintain this elevated discourse with God while wanting to take your mate and give her some hot love… do these have to be separate?  God gave you a mate to slake that heat and taste the bliss involved when you and your mate quit being two and become one for that split second of incredible pleasure.  God gave that hot, torrid embrace to taste what ecstacy is like so you can share it with your partner forever. 

To take that and transmute it into something that elevates you spiritually to God should be something you would want – imagine instead of stroking furtively in the dark, that energy was focused into communion with God… why again do you not find that desirable?  It’s bound to be better than endless stained sheets and other clothing. Besides, I guess no one pointed out to Dr. Mohler that meditating is good for the brain.

To finish this response, Dr. Mohler concludes with ” Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality.”  In this, Dr. Mohler feels that Christians are at risk of becoming something that he doesn’t recognize, and therefore is not really Christian.Yet more bullshit.  This fallacy occurs because Dr. Mohler thinks he is an authority of what Christian is… and the only thing he really has expertise is in being a Southern Baptist.  This is like saying all tires are Michelin because Michelin makes tires.  Christians will never stop being Christians because of yoga because yoga is not a conversion.  It’s just a practice that helps clarify the person’s connection to the Universe/God/Divine.  the polyglot part applies to those who don’t subscribe to Christianity, though, and this will give them another tool in a vast chest to find God.

Maybe, Dr. Mohler, you should take your limited view and instead of condemning without understanding, learn about what you are talking about.  It’s clear that you are neither as conversant with your Bible as you think you are, and definitely not educated beyond some sadly held misunderstandings of what yoga is.  You should fix that, sir.  You are a Christian leader, and instead of unifying your people, you added a new fracture in a mosaic of cracks, simply for feeling like you had a good, easy target.  By doing this, though, you simply tarnished an image of Christian leaders that’s still cleaning egg off its collective face.  Most Christian leaders marginalize themselves from other spiritual leaders simply because they speak authoritatively without understanding, so in essence those who get maligned end up shaking out heads in amused disbelief…

I see that you are trying to lead your people to a closer walk with God.  We all want that, sir.  Maybe instead of condemning, you heard some dialogue instead.  Its worked for Billy Graham, and the Pope. 

I offer this – I teach Kundalini Yoga, a yoga designed to help you in your path.  Come take my class and compare what you think you know to what you find… you’ll be surprised how much of what I teach is just another version of what you teach or intuitively know about your own spirit already.

Sat Nam (I see the truth in you)

the Motorcycle Yogi.

Why “the Motorcycle Yogi?”

Sat Nam!

The question was posed to me – why call your blog Motorcycle Yogi?  I thought this was entertaining, so I did what I like to do – turn a simple explanation into a yarn.

Firstly, people who know me know I ride a motorcycle.  Yes, I wear leather (I don’t particularly like wearing dead animal skin, but leather is tougher than I am, so I’d rather damage dead animal skin than my tender living skin) and I ride a motorcycle (a Yamaha V-Star, to be exact).  I’d like to address that first.

Most people feel that riding a motorcycle is dangerous.  I tend to agree – San Antonio is not known for the high caliber of driving skill, and everyone thinks a cherry bomb and some rims is all you need to make a tuner out of a POS (piece of s***) car.  For me, then, I have to bring all my awareness, all my thinking, and focus clearly and concisely upon what I am doing, which is riding my motorcycle.  I can’t think of how crappy my day was, or how hungry I am.  These non-critical things go away in the face of flying at seventy miles an hour on a highway with people who think they can tune out and drive home on autopilot.

In other words, in order to be a safe rider, I have to be totally in the present, in the now, and focused precisely on what I am doing, while being aware of what is going on around me. 

Riding a motorcycle, then, becomes a form of meditation.  For me, that means that the more time I spend in that meditative state, the calmer and more at peace I am.  Therefore I find myself almost completely lost in the act of Being as I ride.  It’s very peaceful, although a little sticky during the summer.

So… a thought on the word Yogi.

I tend to shy from titles… I don’t want to be Master, Siri, Sahib, Swami or any other title.  I’ve seen the guys who claim these lofty titles (sadly, the English equivalent is Sir, but Sir as in Knight or other elevated person) and when they fall, as they do… you find piddly, venal little sins that led to their downfall.  They were screwing the help, or the parishioners, or whoever.  Maybe they dipped into the cookie jar instead of their pockets for a car, or a plane. 

Often they have a wife who has to deal with the infidelity or fraud and put a brave face on, because previous wives from others who fell did.  Either way, they fall down, and their loved ones have the fallout to deal with.  Lives get ruined.  People get hurt.  Folks lose their way because instead of realizing they are the servant of the people, they think they have power, when in fact their authority derives solely from their service.  Isn’t that ironic, all these people with Bishop and Cardinal and Father and Pastor with pretensions of grandeur when they have it solely to minister to those they look down on? 

I think that titles are pretensions.  I am on a path to mastery, but I am not a master, so I should not have aspirations to that title.  Those that need a title to reflect themselves perhaps aren’t suited to be in power.  I don’t need someone to drape me with the accourtrements to be what I am inside.  Mastery is a path, not a destination.  The moment you think you got there, and you stop, then it’s gone.

I would rather be humble than lofty.  My bath spigot brings hot and cold water regardless of whether its steel or gold.  My bike serves me as well as a Rolls-Royce.  I still pull my clothes on one limb at a time.

I do, however, use the title Yogi.  Why?  In Sanskrit, Yogi means someone who does yoga.  karateka is a karate practicioner.  Judoka is someone who does judo.  So, I take Yogi as a title.  Its the most basic of terms… no Guru for me, or Swami, or any other title.

I teach because I think I can do some good in the world by teaching what I know. 

I don’t need the power of a title, or want one.  I’m the Motorcycle Yogi just because it helps other people distinguish me from the other yogis and yoginis (male and female yoga practicioners) in a person’s head.

That’s it.

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