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On Service

In these troubled times, when we all seem so divided, what is a conscientious citizen to do? Will stopping traffic on the interstate stop the “Electoral College” from over-riding the popular democratic vote? Will writing my congressional representative or protesting change things?

What should I do? What CAN I do? Where (or how) can I make a meaningful contribution to society, where can I help implement positive social change? How can I support and increase local democracy, state democracy, national and (as desired) international democracy?

Perhaps more importantly, how do I manifest and maintain responsible personal government, before I look for good government outside myself? How do I make myself an educated, I intelligent, and compassionate voter and citizen, before I look to others to be so?

How do I create positive change in myself and my community, while engaging myself in stewardship of the things I love most? How do I get involved in a way that unites us all, instead of dividing us?

These are questions I have been asking myself during the election and continue to ask myself. I find it incumbent on me (but not necessarily others) as a good citizen.

For me, few activities fulfill these requirements. Yet it is critically important to me to fill my precious 86,400 seconds per day (if lucky) with as much service and stewardship as possible.

I have spent plenty of time trying to (or allowing to) improve myself, or in basely seeking pleasure or looking out for my own welfare. I have long experienced that real meaning is possible only in service to others. I have marveled how once I place my compassionate attention beyond the boundaries of my own nose, my perceived pain and suffering decreases and my perceived happiness increases, especially if that attention is focused toward helping or supporting others.

I find to the degree I focus on things that unite us, I am happy and productive of the general Good, and as I focus on things that divide us, I am less so.

Of course, there are times one must differ from the majority (in support to personal ideals promoting peace, goodwill, fellowship and fairness to all, if necessary. That can often be done by peacefully holding my own space and beliefs/conclusions, while honoring the right of others to hold differing ones. I can do that while openly trying to understand the viewpoint and needs of those ostensibly opposed to my own.

I can still do that while focusing on what unites us, and spending my time on service and activities that help us all.

Bow I do that will be part two of this blog (written once the sun goes down). For now, there is one critical wildlife habitat I need to concern myself with, only a few last precious seconds to pick up trash before it sets behind the mountains There is only one Now, and I must go I into it, in service, stewardship, good will to all.

A smile and some service is a potent remedy to what ails us.

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Uncategorized

God(dess) Enough For Me

While we might feel we experience the Divine in everything and every moment, we also must admit this might simply be a construct of our minds, as the Buddha suggested. Still, no one knows for sure…it is a subjective and individual experience, each different than the other. Some say we might know for sure when we die, while some say we can only know for sure Now. Everyone has their idea of ‘God’ and the Divine, with none more valid than another.

God

330px-Ravi_Varma-Lakshmi330px-Ravi_Varma-Lakshmi

I am totally okay if at the end of the day someone could prove there is no god(dess). Would that make the magic of the rain or sunrise any less? Would it seem (or be) any less if the hand of god(dess) was merely the workings of Nature? What if there was no God(dess) consciousness of herself (or himself) as such; would that be okay? Would we glory any less, or would our hearts rise in praise and gratitude any less?

I suggest the universe turning on its axis, the ebb and flow of the seasons and the tide, the timeless drift of galaxies is plenty divine, and requires no more to make it perfect. Would it be any better or worse if it had a Creator, or if it simply Was? Is?

galaxy.jpg

Is the Infinite Radiant IS any less than a mighty and omnipotent God? …a God who wants us to do stuff that seems more like the desires of people than of gods? What is so bad about the way things undeniable are, that we want or need to add gods and angels, devils and commandments? If all that were B.S., would it be okay anyhow?

something

nothingness

Note that I try to stick to questions here; questions only you can answer, in the safety and privacy of your own heart. You don’t need to proclaim, or testify, or even say it out loud. You don’t have to kiss a cross, or rub purple mud into your belly-button. Whatever the ultimate ‘answer’ is, or if there even is one, doesn’t matter. It is all here Now, all okay Now. In fact, that’s all there is…Now, this one precious moment.

heart om2

If you are sharing it with a loved one, or if you experience it in (even relative) health, how much more ‘god’ do you need or want? When butterflies flit past our faces, do we really need angels? Couldn’t this crappy old defective world and our fallible old selves be simply…enough? Okay? Do we need or even want perfection, when the eternity of Now is at our fingertips?

wave cloud

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

The Ten Commandments: A Guideline to Morality?

A fellow on the Quaker website made the statement that the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue) provides an ethical basis to evaluate religious establishments.

I wanted to examine if that was possibly true…are the commandments universal? Are they something an omnipotent, divine being concerned with love and unity would tell us? Do the ‘ethical’ propositions in the Decalogue apply to all religions, either as a basis for morality and ethics, or as a basis to evaluate religions?

The Commandments (reportedly given by God to Moses; see Thomas Paine on this subject) are:

1. Thou shalt not have any other gods before me

2.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

3.Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain

4.Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy

5.Honor thy father and thy mother

6.Thou shalt not kill

7.Thou shalt not commit adultery

8.Thou shalt not steal

9.Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor

10.Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, wife, servants, or animals

Numbers 1-3 are definitely not universal. Some cultures perceive the divine to manifest in a number of ways (interpreted as a number of gods by westerners). Some like graven images and statues. Some do not think ‘God damn’ is a curse. These are by no means capable of evaluating a religion.

Note that religions are based on faith and superstition, not on empirical data or facts which can be checked and compared. Thus, the claims of no religion outweigh those of any other…nor do they take moral precedence over another.

Numbers 4 and 5 are entirely subjective, and dependent on culture. Thus, they are no basis for universal comparison or evaluation.

Number six (no killing) is the only precept that is potentially universal, yet the supposed god who gave this commandment is also the god who reportedly ordered the Hebrews to massacre the Canaanites. A god who orders genocide? Hardly.

victory-of-joshua-over-amorites-1626blog

Joshua performing genocide on the Amonites…per God’s order?

 

Number 7 (adultery) is a social precept. Not all belief systems ascribe to monogamy

Number 8 (stealing) is the second potentially moral (and potentially ethical) precept in the Decalogue. However, it does not account for poor who have no means to pay, and the sick who have no means to work. All things being equal though, most of us would agree that taking things that are not ours is (if not bad) in poor taste and a social problem.

Number 9 (truth) is the third moral precept, and potentially universal (as are precepts against killing or stealing).

Number 10 (coveting) is unique to Christianity. No other religion condemns one for ones thoughts or impulses. We can only be judged based on our demonstrated actions. Thus, this precept is not valid universally.

god spy

The decalogue describes a patriarchal god, a jealous god, and an angry god…hardly universal traits (or universal perception of the divine), and hardly a description of the God of Love.

God doesn’t get pissed.

Jesus and the moneylenders

God doesn’t order us to kill people, or applaud us for taking their wives (e.g., David and Uriah’s wife). No, these precepts are hardly universal, and thank God for that!

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architecture, earth-friendly housing, Green community building, Uncategorized

A Call for a New Architecture

Our old paradigm of non-integrated, ‘stand-alone’ architecture has resulted in the littering of our precious surface space with unsightly buildings and edifices. This wasteful paradigm precludes use of the surface land for gardening, yards, or pleasant outdoor living spaces – the land potentially used for these is taken up by inefficient box-like structures.

Older ‘visionary’ architects showed remarkable lack of vision, in merely softening the lines of the boxes, or in feeble attempts to hide them with natural features. At the end of the day, once-pristine valleys were littered with a series of boxes, as ‘developers’ failed to truly develop the land, and instead tied it up supporting structures that have not changed in essence since the dawn of ‘buildings.’

building old

I propose a ‘new’ architecture; one integrated with nature, one that allows a better use of the land (both commercial and residential). The architectural paradigm I propose (the same I did in 1976) will increase energy efficiency immensely, reduce electricity requirements, and simplify cooling and heating of living/working spaces. It will reduce building maintenance costs considerably.

The paradigm I propose is not really new – it has been used by other animals since the dawn of time. It was popularized by J.R.R. Tolkein’s mythical hobbits. These furry-toes creatures lived in comfortable houses built mostly underground, allowing the surface space to A) remain unsullied and natural or B) be ‘put to use’ as home gardens (enough space to feed the family living below) or simply as above-ground yards, gazebos, rock-gardens, etc.

Ancient underground cities in Cappadocia region of Turkey, in Italy and Wales show this idea is not new. While not entirely underground, the abandoned cities of Mesa Verde in North America exhibit a similar integrated synthesis between natural spaces and community spaces.

mesa verde

Native American pit houses approached this ideal, and if modernized would be an integration between partially above ground housing and nature. Note the visual and ecological impact of housing is minimized with both these interim methods.

pit house

Of course, we have a possible bias of living in holes underground; we imagine moles burrowed in dark, confined spaces without fresh air and shudder. Yet with modern technology, the underground living spaces could be virtually indistinguishable from above-ground living spaces; big-screen monitors, cameras, and microphones could bring outdoor views to video ‘windows’ in below-ground quarters. These screens could show a painting, a ‘window’ view of outdoors, or be used as a TV or computer video monitor.

With modern HEPA air filtration, the air in a new ‘below ground’ home could be just as fresh as a traditional one, and perhaps healthier, since pollen, dust, and pollutants would be filtered out. The ‘exhaust’ from the structure could be carbon-filtered (of smoke, gases, odors, etc.) before being returned to the atmosphere.

As the Earth provides both an insulating and cooling effect, cooling a house in summer or heating it in winter will be much simpler (and thus more cost and energy effective). Sheltered from snow, wind, and rain, the modern housing would be protected from the most direct and obvious effects of weather.

Carports just below the surface would keep the surface space from being littered with automobiles, and provide protection against theft, vandalism,  and the elements. Thus, a typical home’s surface profile may show a driveway stopping at a vehicle lift, or disappearing into an underground or mostly underground carport. An alternative would be community parking areas (also undergound, perhaps below a community garden or solar farm), like modern ‘park and rides’, allowing the residents to walk or bike from their homes to the lot. This would save many tax dollars on unnecessary intra-community roads, by limiting the travel (and thus wear and tear) on them, or eliminating the need for them altogether.

Imagine the neighborhood you live in now, if all you could see when you looked out was gardens, yards, and maybe solar panels. No unsightly houses and cars; at best maybe a gazebo or sheltered porch. Just imagine. Would the land look better, would your view improve? Would you feel you lived in a more beautiful place? Or would your valley look better covered with traditional box homes, packed right next to each other, and lined up like a child’s building blocks?

valley

The same paradigm could apply to commercial structures such as malls and public buildings. When you went to the courthouse or library, what if instead of seeing an aging building which would soon need to be replaced, you saw merely a park or community garden, with a discrete entrance way to the below-ground facilities? For those concerned with safety and security, these types of buildings would be easier to protect, police, and control access to than typical above-ground structures.

What if instead of unsightly government housing projects, we built them underground, and left the surface for a community garden, which could potentially feed (and productively occupy) large parts of the tenants? What if instead of new malls blighting our landscapes, we saw parks above, then below parking lots and stores? What if Wal-Mart used the above ground space saved to make solar farms, to provide the entire facility’s electrical needs at no cost to the company or communities?

Would you rather have this (a current Wal-Mart ‘super store’ footprint)…

Wal Mart

…or this? Which has a more positive impact on the community and planet? Which would be more profitable to Wal-Mart? To us?

solar farm

Simply by deciding to build down instead of up, we can change the entire landscape. By adopting this new paradigm, we can save ourselves costly maintenance and upkeep above ground buildings require due to ‘wear and tear’ due to exposure to the elements. We can utilize our land more productively and efficiently. We can minimize energy and maintenance requirements.

In a planet that soon will have nine billion people, a planet in which many go hungry, this not only makes sense, but seems imperative. In a planet where much of the litter we make is the buildings themselves; defacing or disturbing the landscape, exhausting unfiltered pollutants, and in general cluttering up the whole place, this is insane.

building detroit

Detroit makes my case better than any words could; an entire city, once the major manufacturing center of our nation, laying in virtual ruins, a pile of trash we made above ground and then abandoned.

In the new paradigm, we would stand to lose little and gain much. Rich people could still have their massive rooms, and still decorate them opulently. Instead of walking through a door to get outside, they might have to take the stairs or elevator first. So many do this in ‘high-rise’ apartments already, the change would be subjectively subtle.

There were many entries for sustainable construction projects in recent years, and this year’s Holcim awards show good attempts at integrating existing spaces, but scant few (none) for implementing an entire new paradigm. Perhaps the best practical solution would be to combine above-ground sustainable construction and communities with newer, below-ground communities.

Whatever we decide on, we had better do it fast. Our population is growing and our ecological burden on the planet as well. We continue to trash our precious surface spaces with unsightly and inefficient above ground structures. Before need presses us underground, a planned step in that direction may preclude a future survival need to do so.

As we abandon old and outmoded ways of thinking about our world and ourselves, I suggest it is time to abandon old ways of thinking about our living spaces; not only where they are built, but how. It is time to abandon wasteful and inefficient paradigms. I call on modern architects to provide us with designs for new and more efficient structures, structures with less visual and environmental impact on our communities. I call on citizens to insist on new ‘green’ communities, instead of the boxlike and virtually identical ‘Californication’ homes that have been pushed by ‘developers’ on our communities.

development

I call to an end on the same old communities, built by mega-builders and promoted by developers. These new developments are a blight on our landscape, a misuse of our land, and do a disservice to community members by providing poorly-insulated, non-green homes that will require an ongoing investment to maintain, heat, and cool. Any up front difference in construction cost (and thus price) would be easily recovered over the years, in personal savings and in  positive effects on the community.

I call on mega-corporations like Wal-Mart and on our government to lead the way in this initiative. Once people see the cost-benefit analysis has proven in reality to be in their favor, more and more people and corporations will get on board. If people are offered the choice between living in an integrated community, or in a typical series of boxes like they do now, I think they will choose integrated every time, once the benefits are demonstrated.

I call on activists to insist on this type of financially, ecologically, and environmentally sustainable construction at all levels.

If we heed the call, we could truly begin the ‘greening of America.’ Modern and visionary architects could provide conceptual plans for consideration. The firm that leads in this could not only positively impact the communities and thus the nation, but also set the standard for others who will eventually follow.

Opportunities abound, in the midst of our crumbling cities and infrastructure. As Albert Einstein so famously said (translated loosely into English) ‘the significant problems we face today can not be solved at the same level of thinking that originated them.’ Here is an opportunity, to move forward in our ways of thinking and being, as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation and planet. Here is an opportunity to implement our sustainable ideals into the very core of our human experience; where and how we live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Peace…Not Just a Word

Peace. We all say we want it. We definitely want it for us…on our terms. Peace for others is a different matter. We seem to see peace -true peace- as an option, not a necessity. Most of us want to consider ourselves peaceful people…yet we vote for candidates who support continued and expanded war. Let’s get this straight…if we vote for war or war candidates, we have nothing to do with peace, in fact just the opposite. We promote and enable war by voting for war candidates.

Earth burning

Both sides of the Big Two political parties think the other candidate is for war, not theirs…but both publicly promote war-based platforms, legislation, and policies. Both deride their opponents’ warlike paradigm, but cling tightly to their own, justifying them as ‘necessity’ or ‘self-defense.’ It is beyond ludicrous, beyond bizarre, beyond heinously criminal.

Bombing countries halfway around the world who are not attacking us can in no sane mind be interpreted as self defense. Using military ‘operations’ that bypass Congress and constitutional law to invade sovereign countries is by no means or no possible interpretation peace-like or peaceful. It is out and out war…the definition of illegal war. To support politicians who do such things or support such things is a vote for war.

Let’s be clear about that.

alice and ralph

If you vote for war or candidates who support war in their platforms, you are not peaceful, so quit saying so. You are making a mockery of those peace T-shirts you wear. You are making a travesty of the peace so many fought for.

I don’t care about your justifications (if I don’t vote for this warlike candidate, another will win who is more warlike). They are insane. War is war, no matter which president-elect or party leads us into it. If you vote for that, you have shown your true colors. Don’t try to rationalize it to me, or to yourself. War is war. You either support it, or not. You either vote what you believe or not.

Now, I cannot challenge the right of people to vote for war…this is (warlike) America, after all. What I can deride, protest, and abhor is voting for war and trying to think you are a progressive liberal for peace. If you vote for war, you are anything but progressive, anything but liberal. Get that right.

Army parade - armed soldiers in camouflage military uniform

It doesn’t matter if you have a list of reasons (rationalizations) for voting for war…the simple fact remains that you vote for a war candidate. Hillary Clinton has started (or helped start) a few wars, and is the successor to a president who has ordered military air-strikes against a sovereign nation in the midst of civil war.

Military air strikes (whether precision or not) are unleashing war. Just ask any mother and child who is under the falling bombs. Mothers for war? We have many of them, thinking they are voting for progress, for a woman president, for positive change. Bombing countries without international support or agreement is not positive change, no matter what the reason (excuse) given. A mother who votes for war is voting against all mothers and children who end up victims of war (on both sides). Do you want a woman president so badly you will accept a warlike one, one who makes war on other women and children?

(EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.)

The other major candidate is most likely no better. While he has not started or engineered wars like his opponent has, his policies and attitudes are anything but peaceful. So voting for either major candidate is a vote for war and warlike policies. It is a vote for the outmoded paradigm of might makes right, and diminishes not just yourself, but all of us.

If we promote peace in our personal lives and then vote for a candidate who will bring war to the world, what good is our peace ‘fronting’? Until we align our personal lives and beliefs with our votes, we are voting against ourselves, voting against what we tell ourselves we believe in.

It’s really quite simple.  You either believe in peace or not. You either vote for your beliefs or not. You either go down on record as having voted for the wars that will surely result if the Big Two win, or not. Some things are black and white. Peace or war…they are polar opposites. You can’t have a ‘justified war’ or a ‘necessary’ war; those are forked-tongue double-talk politicians use to get you to vote for war.

You can wear those love beads all you want. Wear a peace T-shirt every day…get a peace tattoo. The fact remains if you vote for war (or candidates who support war), you make a mockery of those icons, make a hypocrite of yourself, and contribute to the war on this already hurt and bleeding planet. Just don’t try to tell me you are for peace, or a peaceful person. That kind of nonsense may work with two-digit IQ people who also vote for war (and congratulate themselves on being peaceful), but not with me.

So quick, tell me true…tell our nation and the world – with your vote.

Is it to be peace or war?

 

 

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Buddhism, chakra science, hot yoga, life, love, meditation, miscellaneous maunderings, Uncategorized, vinyasa yoga, western yoga, yoga, yoga science, yoga transformation

‘Hot’ Yogis and ‘Vinyasa’ Yogis

I spent about six years doing daily classes of Vinyasa yoga (well, Ashtanga to be more specific). Sometimes before my morning flow(s), I’d take a hot class. Recently (the last two years) I have been taking ‘hot’ (what used to be called ‘Bikram’) yoga classes almost exclusively. The differences between the two (and the people who gravitate to one or the other) seem at first glance substantial, but let’s explore this further…

During this time (mentioned above), I noticed some ostensible differences between those who regularly attend hot classes and those who attend ‘flow’ classes. Before I get into those perceived differences, let me first share my own experience, and then let’s focus on the commonalities between the two.

In my initial experience, I first found ‘hot’ yoga to be, well…too hot. It also seemed far too regimented to me, with a defined and basically never-changing sequence. How was one to find and express bhakti or samadhi under these conditions? Contributing to my initial reservations, Bikram Choudry had ‘patented’ this ancient warm-up sequence, and even the dialog associated with it. The fact he was later accused of violating the sexual spaces of his students somehow added (illogically or not) to my growing aversion.

After six or so years of Vinyasa, I sort of ‘forced’ myself to go and see what was up with this almost cultish group of people. I sensed that in avoiding these types of classes, or in my nascent ‘aversion’ to them, I was missing a key yogic lesson. So I decided to immerse in it, see what I could learn, what I could experience, what ‘truths’ (or insights) might reveal themselves to me in the course of this journey.

What I discovered was (as with almost all life)  not what I had expected or perceived from the outside looking in. At first, it seemed incredibly hard. Not the postures (essentially basic), but the durn old heat…the sweat dripping into my face and nostrils, pressing on me palpably, like a closely fitting (smothering?) hot air suit, or the embrace of the mythical Satan (or Looficer, as I prefer to call this idea, as the dyslexic satanists do). It was just so darn triggering…it reminded me of Djibouti, Somalia, Iraq, Kuwait, Quatar…super hot places (in the now common parlance of P.T.S.D. and ‘veterans issues’, it ‘triggered’ me…or tried to). I could feel my H.P.A. (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis fire up, giving me P.T.S.D.-like symptoms. I could feel my mind and memories (or my amygdala and hippocampus, to be more precise) trying to ‘go back’ to those memories, not all good.

It was hard to find time or ‘head-space’ (heart space) to be filled with gratitude, with devotion in the midst of all that heat and potential triggering. It was hard enough to stay focused, maintain my calm breath (and thus mind) and ‘do the drill.’ I was much more soothed by my home Kundalini or Yin practices. What was so good about this nonsense? Why was I even here?

The people seemed super-focused, almost grim in their concentration, determination, and almost religious attendance (and adherence to rituality). We didn’t ‘OM’ or talk about ‘spiritual stuff’ much, as we typically did in Vinyasa classes. The people seemed more there to ‘sweat it out’, more focused on using outer strength or Yang energy to get there, when Vinyasa is implemented by inner strength, by Yin, by allowing, not forcing or striving for some goal. They seemed to feel secure in the predictability of the sequence, in the ‘rules’ of hot. Nobody seemed to hug each other, or hang out sharing the bliss afterward, as they were apt to do in Vinyasa classes. They rushed in at the last minute, looking like someone who was grimly setting out to do an unpleasant job. They got the heck out of that oven the minute they could, as soon as class was over. It was a like a ‘fast food’ gym, done on a yoga mat. No enlightenment please, just here to lose twenty pounds or get in better shape (or maintain a good shape). It could have been hamsters on a yoga treadmill of effort without goals (or without meaningful ones)…or so it seemed at first glance.

Now bear in mind, these were my perceptions, and may not have reflected the actual reality. After all, I didn’t know these people, had no idea what their actual experience was. So I decided to have an experience of my own, find out what the deal was, come to know in the only way truly possible…through my own experience, and through sharing the experiences of others.

Soon the heat didn’t seem quite as bad…or at least it didn’t affect me as much. The pesky sweat coming off me no longer seemed like unwelcome and salty extrusions, but like holy rain. I had figured if I really had joy and peace in my yoga, I should be able to find it anywhere (or in any type of yoga ‘class’)…and did. Soon, the seemingly regimented sequence stopped becoming a limiting box, and became instead a expansive space from which I could find expression and personal growth and movement….while moving in the ‘constraints’ of the practice. Soon, laying in Savasana for fifteen minutes after class was not an ordeal, but a treat, as the room slowly cooled and wisps of cool, fresh air caressed my body as people left the room (and let cool air in).

Soon I found a lovely set of teachers who managed to bring a bit of joy, devotion , introspection, focus, or detachment  into what on the face of it may seem an unimaginative and uninspired sequence/paradigm. Really, they helped (guided) me to bring that bit of joy into it myself, inspired me to bring it, or gave good examples by bringing it themselves. Soon, I was finding as much focus, joy, and peace in hot sequences as I had previously in vinyasa sequences, or in my home practice.

It became really cathartic. Laying in a pool of sweat at the end, I felt drained…of impurities. I had sweated a gallon in an hour (or close, it appeared). I was getting ready to fill myself up with clean, pure water – like a little oil change for my body. Keep those cells filled with fresh water, dontcha know?

So I continued that way for a while until one summer day recently I walked into the studio and my body, mind, and spirit (and thus what seemed like the entire universe) told me it was too hot to do a ‘hot’ at 9AM on what looked to be a blistering day. Thus, I returned once again to my core vinyasa practice.

So there it is…my meager experience of a decade. Hardly much to base any firm judgments on, or reach meaningful conclusions. It was barely enough to skim the surface, to teach me that I truly don’t know, and that there are as many answers and paths as there are (or were ever) people. Still, I like to make observations and comparisons, if nothing else for the pure ‘fun’ of it, or maybe because as a writer and observer, these things come to the surface naturally, like little checkpoints of where I am at the time, like little rough maps of the world I constantly update and refine (and sometimes throw away and start over).

This brings us to the commonalities between hot yoga and Vinyasa yoga (and their adherents, insomuch as they stick to one or the other, which many do). Examining the commonalities is always a pertinent first step before trying to define apparent differences.

Both are a type of yoga, which is aimed at union…union of body, mind, and spirit, and union of individuals with a higher Self within (and which possibly permeates the universe). Union of thought, word, and deed.

Yogis see yoga like a lotus flower, with many petals. The physical practice (at its core defined as hatha yoga) is just one petal. Within this petal are the many fibers of the various physical practices; hot, Vinyasa, Kundalini, yin, traditional hatha, etc. Other petals of yoga are bhakti (devotion, praise, and gratitude), seva (service to others), among many others.

In our commercial-based western society, we perceive these as separate and distinct. We try to find the best petal, and throw the rest of the flower away. Many argue that only devotion, or service, or praise, or meditation, or physical practice is the real yoga. Each tries to create ‘product differentiators’ to show how their brand of yoga is better religion, theology, or exercise. Each tries to develop new ‘products’ (types of or interpretations of …or focus on one of the petals as the best one…to the exclusion of all others. Each yoga ‘product’ is tailored to meet the desires of untapped segments of the ‘market.’ It’s taken a path toward enlightenment (or at least improved control over/acceptance of/union of) body, heart, and mind and turned it into the business of yoga, the marketplace of yoga, a growth industry, a financial cash cow for the merchants who peddle it.

In reality, it is just petals on a flower. Each has something beautiful to offer, each is needed for a complete understand or practice of yoga, each has meaning and value only when taken in context of (and conjunction with) the other petals of the flower. With that said, I will nevertheless try to ‘differentiate’ between ‘products’ as an entertaining and possibly instructive game, or as a way to document my thoughts of today for later review and consideration. Here goes…

First, back to the commonalities. Hot and Vinyasa are both types of physical practice, and thus parts of the same single petal on the flower of yoga. Both rely on the breath to calm and still the mind, to control, relax, and energize the body/mind/spirit complex at various appropriate times. Both help increase physical and neurological well-being. Both bring us together not as athletes or people with some low goal, but as brothers and sisters, as aspirants in a lifelong practice with no definite or even achievable goal. We just point to the light and start walking…or dancing.

Both practices rely on the drishti (calm focus of attention, concentration, consciousness) to facilitate the physical and mental changes going on underneath the surface. In the ‘western world’, both are mostly taught by super-fit young twenty-somethings in tight, fashionable, and expensive yoga clothes.

Both are often praised (or feared) as a sort of cult, religion, tribe apart from the desire-filled, greed-based majority of the world. Both are greatly misunderstood – by yogis and non-yogis alike. Both can better be implemented (acted out or manifested, if you prefer) with gentleness and allowing than with effort or trying. There are so many commonalities, it would take a tome (and has) to begin to describe them all.

The differences is what we Americans generally like, though, what we focus on. Which is better for us? Which will fit our ideas or images of ourselves better, help us lose more weight or get closer to the Divine? I get it, and will play along.

In general, hot yogis seem to love (take sanctuary in) the predictability, in the ostensible regimentation. They seem to like the heat, the sweat, the effort as cathartic, as undeniable indications that they are doing something, going somewhere. They want and get results…now; a pile of sweat and five pounds of water weight (and associated toxins) lost.

Hot yogis seem to be more pragmatic and determined. The might even seem a bit more grim in their seriousness about their practices. They are almost definitely more perfunctory; they show up early, generally stay (and sweat) in the same place day after day, if they can. They take class at the same hour(s) each day, and want the same instructor on that day. Their routines seem to vary little…and they like it that way.

Hot yogis often seem to eschew the potential religious, theological, spiritual aspects of yoga, preferring instead the tangible efforts and rewards of the physical realm. To many, it is just exercise, and they like it like that. They don’t want to be pestered with pesky OMs and spiritual ramblings. They have to get to work soon, and they only have one hour to get down and sweat it out, get their workout in. They don’t want to trouble their mind with new concepts that may conflict with their world views, religious preferences (or lack of them), or whatever. They want it like they want it, and that’s that.

Now of course, trying to generalize people and categorize them is a fool’s errand, one which we authors seem to love engaging in, even though we know it for what it is. Maybe it’s simply fun and passes the time between yoga classes, hikes, and pedaling (or skiing or snowboarding or climbing or riding). But (feeling like the old prejudiced ignoramus who said -back in the bad old days- that all African Americans were lazy, or all Native Americans were drunks), I’ll continue, since I took this thread this far.

Vinyasa yogis seem more about the devotional aspects of the physical practice. They like to invoke the pranavah; to AUM (OM) together, or sing kirtan (songs of praise, often in Sanskrit) and mantras (healing or focusing sounds and vibrations). They seem to dig the variability of various vinyasa flows (sequences). They most definitely seem to like the fact they can flow and they (nor I next to them) gets covered in icky, unsightly (and possibly stinky) sweat.

Yet we yogis are about union. Yoga means union. We are not about division or distinction, not about discrimination or determination. We are about experience, the special intimate inner experience and transformation that only the individual aspirant can know (through their own direct experience, and shared with the experiences of others, without judgment).

While the two ‘types’ of yogis may seem different, in the end they are the same. In the end, their eyes shine and they hug me…and the world. In the end, they experience the almost magical transformation a continued yoga practice eventually brings. And funnt enough, those same dedicated Vinyasa yogis you see at 9AM every day may also be the dedicated ‘hot’ yogis you see at 6AM (or whenever) every day as well. Surprise, surprise.

Maybe we’re all just yogis after all, each on different parts of our personal paths. Maybe you are a yogi as well, even if you don’t practice (for the beginning and pre-beginning are also parts of the path). Maybe we’re all yogis of the sort, inextricably united by the primary engine of yoga…the breath, which we cannot escape sharing with the entire planet. Maybe we are not just 7 billion shipmates on a rock hurtling through space, bnut seven billion yogi shipmates, untied by breath, despite our apparent or ostensible differences, united in spite of them. United. Yoga. Mmmm. AUMmmmmm

 

‘…and the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine…’

-The Indigo Girls

(c) 2016, Mark Francis Mullen. All rights reserved. Facebook or no other entity owns or is entitled to unassigned rights to this document. It may be shared for free (with credit given to the author), as defined in applicable international copyright laws. I in no way allow rights to this document by virtue of publishing it on the original ‘blogging website’ or subsequent ‘posts’ or ‘shares’ on Facebook or other social media.
Photo credit Radiance Power Yoga (I’m pretty sure)

 

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the Dream

I dream, I dream…

In it, we flow together in the majestic cathedral of Nature. We sing and dance…in joy, in gratitude, in praise of Life and each other, and the divine gift of ourselves and our togetherness.

We make hemp-crete and hemp batteries. We grow good food, real food. We bring organic-based salvation to the world. We help heal through organic food, love, medicine. We play with the children, drum with the adults, sing with the angels.

Maybe we split the time between Colorado and our organic yoga farm in Ecuador. And Ladakh…or Bhutan. We smile at each other, laugh and kiss a lot. We hug children betwen us.

We help people find space (and peace) within their bodies…and minds, hearts, and souls. We join our kindred spirits in caretaking of and caregiving to the world.

We explore the world. We balance our inner and indoor work with outdoor adventures.

We arise, ascend to the new selves and world we help create. We immerse in the healing actions of love and working for a good cause. We not only reduce our carbon footprints, we become a positive factor in the environment, giving back more than we take away.

We live…fully, and with love. We bind each others’ wounds, accept each others’ idiosyncracies, be present for each other and the world. We listen and feel…share and act. We rub almond oil and love into each others’ skin. We feed each other grapes and artichokes.

We bring ourselves fully to each task and moment before us. We chat and laugh as we work together. We feel the grounding and humanizing effect of working with, in, and around nature.

We sing to Gaia, Durga, and each other. We joyfully surf the wave of life. We model love and compassion to our children. We model hard work and service, craftsmanship and motivation.

People come to the farm for respite from the modern world. We welcome them with love and community. They work and play with us, sharing the joyful work of the farm, and of the inner journey. We practice yoga and meditation together, and when they leave, they feel like a new person.

In addition to our working farm and factories, we provide opportunities for responsible, fun, helpful, and meaningful vacations. These are not mindless, hedonistic revels on a beach with a mai-tai, but chances to step out of their ‘normal’ worlds and live for a while another, more elevating type of life.

If we drive vehicles, we plug them into our house at night, to be re-charged from our solar system. Our cancer-fighting (and delicious) mushrooms eat the chicken poop, and some live with the fruit trees, providing a symbiosis to each other and doubling the harvest for us.

We help people ease their pain and anxiety without pharmaceutical drugs, heal their bodies with the abundance of the Earth, drive their cars without harmful chemical batteries.

…or maybe She does all that. She is the brains and heart of this dream, after all. Maybe I help manifest it by supporting Her in the million small ways…in having the chores done, the kids loved and taught, dinner ready or the picnic basket packed. Maybe I just provide an open ear and heart, a strong yet gentle support.

…or all of it. We don’t need to figure it out just yet…it’s a dream. While drraming is fun, turning them into reality is meaningful, helpful…real.

You may say that I’m a dreamer…and I am. I am also doer, of mundane and heroic feats. With the woman of my dreams by my side, there’s not much I (we) can’t do.

Enough dreaming. Time to pedal out into the glorious day, bringing my love…and dreams…with me, in me.

Jai.

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