Tag Archives: books

Yoga for the Not-Totally-Self-Absorbed

Yoga
Image courtesy of Flickr

It’s sometimes hard to justify a yoga class. The day-to-day challenges of life in NYC are pretty time-consuming, and the bigger picture is full of oil spills and underprivileged children and other important causes that need help. How is a full two-hour practice, or even a five-minute routine, really going to make the world a better place?

Tina Fey, for example, has “thought about yoga, even done it a couple times” but says “While it would be great to work out an hour a day, there is something inherently sort of selfish about it. I can’t do it.” [quoted on YogaDork]

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A (Soon-to-Be) Teacher Prepares

A decade ago, a friend of mine noticed the toll that stress was taking on my life. I was in a new career and drowning. He threw me a lifeline and offered to give me private yoga lessons. Not realizing the tremendous offer that he put on the table, I told him I didn’t have time. Without batting an eye, he told me to make time because this work would be important. Then I told him I didn’t have any money for yoga, and he told me he’d teach me for free. The only payment he requested was that I pay forward the favor if I found yoga helpful. His offer changed my life because yoga allowed me to generate and hold peace in the palm of my hand.

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5 Clear Flags of Hidden Intuition

Which way does the wind blow?
Which way the wind is blowing...

Where do you find answers to your major life decisions? Hopefully you have a few trusted friends. Maybe your family still gives good advice. Obviously you have Google. But at some point aren’t you tired of digesting everyone else’s advice? Where’s your intuition?

Once I started listening, I found answers everywhere. Some are quiet, some are loud. Here are five clear flags I learned to trust.

Read the whole thing on the Huffington Post: 5 Clear Flags of Hidden Intuition

GTD! The 10 Motivations

I just finished a really strange book called Think and Grow Rich. If you can get past the title, there are some powerful thoughts inside. I kept hearing about it from various blogs and teachers, so I finally gave it a chance.

Author Napoleon Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie (in 1908) to interview over 500 successful people of the time to discover their secrets of success. This twenty-year project culminated in “The Philosophy of Achievement,” which Hill used as the basis for his career as a consultant and lecturer. Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937, consolidated his philosophy and sparked the “motivational literature” genre. It’s a bizarre combination of business, self-help, and psychological advice plus new age (and kind of yogic) teachings.

One thing I keep coming back to is its list of “The 10 Mind Stimuli.” I’m always looking for that exhilaration or enthusiasm that helps in GTD, and this list brings in a few sources I hadn’t considered…

The 10 Mind Stimuli

The human mind responds to stimuli through which it may be ‘keyed up’ to high rates of vibration, known as enthusiasm, creative imagination, intense desire, etc. The stimuli to which the mind responds most freely are:

  1. Desire for sex
  2. Love
  3. Desire for fame, power, financial gain, money
  4. Music
  5. Friendship (same or opposite sex)
  6. Master Mind alliances (defined as those based on harmony of two or more people pursuing spiritual or temporal advancement)
  7. Mutual suffering
  8. Autosuggestion
  9. Fear
  10. Drugs and alcohol

Eight of these stimuli are natural and constructive. Two are destructive. The list is here presented to enable you to make a comparative study of the major sources of mind stimulation. From this study, it will be readily seen that the emotion of sex is, by great odds, the most intense and powerful of all mind stimuli.

See what I mean? It’s a little racy for a business guy. But interesting. (Fear is stronger than beer!) It groups a bunch of activities that I hadn’t really connected before — using loud music to get off the couch, or finishing a project based on the jokes of a friend. Exits from slugville. Sublimation congregation.

I’m sure there are other energy sources, too. Meditation is one obvious omission. Food is another, especially all the great health food that wasn’t around in 1937, and I’d also include physical movements like dance or of course yoga. (Maybe this list is focused on mental energy more than physical.) Laughter might deserve its own category aside from friendship / “Master Mind” alliances, and inspirational literature could surely be added. Or maybe we could just keep ourselves focused on the greatest mental bang for our stimulatory buck, and stick with sex.

If you’ve read this book I would love to hear what you thought… or any other great motivations!

The Happiest Man in the World

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

The Times has a profile of Tibetan monk Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, “The Happiest Man in the World.” He’s released a new book called Joyful Wisdom describing his methods.

In his book he recounts being extremely anxious as a child in Nepal, having had what a Manhattan psychiatrist would likely diagnose as panic attacks, and how he cured himself of this chronic anxiety by making his fears the focus of his meditation. He has had to earn his good cheer.

Rinpoche has studied both Western science and Tibetan Buddhist meditation in detail. He’s participated in scientific studies of meditation; since he’s spent over 10,000 hours meditating he’s considered an adept. (That’s the threshold for excellence, according to research.)

One form of meditation that seems particularly conducive to happiness, and stress reduction, is mindfulness meditation. This is generally a practice of observing the thoughts, body, etc, without trying to change anything. A clinical study of beginning meditators at a high-stress office, practicing mindfulness meditation thirty minutes a day for eight weeks, left them “saying that instead of feeling overwhelmed and hassled, they were enjoying their work.”

If you’d like some instruction in this practice, I know that Om Factory and New York Insight offer guided classes appropriate for all levels. Allyson Pimental and Michael Fayne, who teach the class at Om Factory, said that mindfulness meditation has been shown to help heart disease, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression, and many other ailments. My very first class at New York Insight got rid of a clenched jaw I hadn’t been able to close for two weeks. (Yes, I was a little stressed out.) I’ve also heard good things about the Dharma Punx talks at Lila Wellness. But there are many great centers around town, and many classes are by donation. So go try one on!

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Most Americans are introduced to yoga through the poses. (Sometimes I think that Krishnamacharya’s genius was to let us see it as a physical thing, instead of another religion to convert to or flee from. Later on, we can try on the spirituality.) Then we might find breathing or meditation practices. And eventually we get it hammered into our heads that it’s not just about physical health, or habits, but our whole psychology and worldview. And there’s more to practice than just Down Dog. As Patanjali put it:

“The eight limbs of yoga are: respect toward others, self-restraint, posture, breath control, detaching at will from the senses, concentration, meditation, and contemplation.”

[Bernard Bouanchaud’s translation of Sutra II.29 in The Essence of Yoga]

That’s where you get the benefits beyond a gym workout. Postures are only step three. Do we want to be in third grade forever? Did we even DO first grade?

But still, once we study and (somewhat) understand these tips that Patanjali gives us, it’s really interesting to circle back around and apply each of these steps to our roots, for example our asana practice.

  1. Are you respecting your teachers, fellow students, and studio staff?
  2. Are you applying self-restraint in asana practice, or always going for the most advanced variation?
  3. Do you understand the definition of a yoga pose — hard yet soft?
  4. Are you breathing comfortably in your practice, or holding / controlling / ignoring the breath?
  5. Are you able to detach from the sensations — or appearance — of your body?
  6. Are you really concentrating on the present moment as you practice?
  7. Are you able to prolong your focus and receive insight?
  8. Are you able to leave “you” behind and become just insight?

I’ll be on retreat for the next 8 days, so think about these 8 limbs for now. We’ll have some special guest posts, too, so keep dropping in. Take a look at some of the archives. Or, you know, actually get off the computer and practice ;)

Integral Yoga Bookstore Sale

If you love the Integral family of shops (the grocery, the vitamin store, and most of all the five-floor ashram), you might like to know that the bookstore has a 20% off sale each month.

March: Children’s section

April: Chakras section

May: Holistic animal care section

June: Raw and live foods section

They are located at 227 West 13th Street in Manhattan. (I heard they’re not doing so well, so I wanted to send them some support! I have been to a lot of great lectures there.)

Ms. Ueland Says…

[Substitute “yoga practice” for “walk” throughout.]

In the days when I thought a walk was just exercise, the ideas did not come until the end. “It is only in walks that are a little too long, that one has any new ideas,” I find that I wrote in my diary. I now understand this. It was because I was nearly home and so gave up the willing, the striving to get this calisthenic chore, the walk, out of the way.

At once I felt released, lazy and free. I suddenly lived in the present and not in my destination where I would be (dully enough) reading the newspaper or eating dinner. Suddenly I was seeing how pretty the winter evening was, how black the trees in the phosphorescent moonlight, how the stars are different colors, how egotism is fear and self-preservation, but how there is an egotism that is great and divine. In other words ideas came and even poetic feelings.

And how do these creative thoughts come? They come in a slow way. It is the little bomb of revelation bursting inside you. I found I never took a long, solitary walk without some of these silent, little inward bombs bursting quietly: “I see. I understand that now!” and a feeling of happiness.

— Brenda Ueland, If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

I just finished If You Want to Write, and it’s the best book on creativity I’ve ever read. Written in 1938, it’s still fresh and inspiring and feels like the voice of the wise grandmother or inner epiphany you always wanted. I will be gifting it a lot this year.

Imagining the Tenth Dimension

A wonderful animation about string theory, by Rob Bryanton. Looks like he has a book to go with it.

Following are the dimensions, with his visual descriptions in parentheses. Not sure if these names are right, he just describes the visuals. Each dimension is actually “twisting and turning in the dimension above” like a Mobius strip. The pattern is point, line, branch, fold, then view the created structure as a point and repeat. The tricky part is visualizing volume as coming from folds/curves, not depth.

0:  Point (no size or dimension)
1ST:  Length (one line)
2ND:  Width (lines branch)
3RD:  Depth (lines folded to create volume)
4TH:  Time (one line indicating state change)
5TH:  Possibility (all branches of space/time)
6TH:  Universe (space/time branches folded)
7TH:  Multiverse (line between universes)
8TH:  Infinity (all branches of all universes)
9TH:  Maximum Possibility (infinity branches folded)
10TH:  All possible branches for all possible timelines of all possible universes (as a single point)

And then he says these tenth-dimensional points are all vibrating to make our elementary particles! Which are composed of universes!

I have to pair that with this:

And this classic:

Someone please vibrate the Eameses.

POSTSCRIPT: My dad the physics major says the video stops making sense about the fifth dimension. We say he needs new bifocals.