Thursday, December 17, 2009
2010: Sweetness and Light
So, for the last couple of years, right around the Solstice, I have been giving each incoming year a little theme, inspired by yogic concepts that I feel most in love with at the time. 2008 was 'unmesha', which is the word for gap; the space between breaths, or concepts, or stances, or the space between anything -- the infinite space in which anything can shift, even to its opposite. Unmesha is the freedom that anything has to be what it is not, and the freedom that we each have to lose our rigidity and enter the realm of possibility.
2009's theme was 'anugraha', which is a word for Grace: the grace that comes from knowing what to hold tight to, and what to let go of.
Anugraha is about loving and releasing, and the freedom to choose. Anugraha is also about one of Krishna's deepest teachings to Arjuna; anytime we make a choice based on fear or ignorance, the choice brings a chain of karmas behind it... And one cannot avoid the responsibility of choice, for even not choosing is a choice, with all of its own inherent repercussions.
I got a lot of emails back from people who appreciated my little theme-game, so I'm inclined to do it again, but I'm also a little embarrassed... It's embarrassing because it's really very cheerleader-y of me, as if a year would need a theme to really rise up and make something of itself. In truth, each year has its own momentum, and doesn't need anyone waving pom-poms around, or telling it what to do. Each year, just like each singular moment, has its own essential nature, its own path, and, as much as I do enjoy setting intention, I don't pretend to actually have any particular influence on how life unfolds. Life seems to me to have inescapable heft; it gives and takes without warning. With no compunction life can crash upon us like one of those colossally huge avalanches that comes plummeting down a hillside, and then in an eye-blink it can as easily turn us awestruck and blind with the magnet-pull of love. Life doesn't have to preface or forewarn, it is as precocious as the snapping shut of the trap of a lion's mouth, closed in on its prey, or the sudden sheets of heavy rain, snatching away complacency.
How, then, to name this year? How, when I am more than anything stunned by the raucous whimsy of life's events; how one knows almost nothing about anything, and how everything is so constantly the same and then suddenly new. I am not sure if this is just the normal lament of someone who realizes that they're getting older, but life seems so uncontrollable to me, and I'm grateful and terrified, in unequal measure. Gratitude wells up more powerfully than fear, somehow, because, above all, life is the incredible sweetness of music, that touches everything without using hands. I walked into my office the other day to find one of my therapy clients -- at the agency where I work in the East Bay- transfixed by a tiny down feather. The speck of a feather was floating up on an invisible updraft, and she was all a-twinkle over it; ga-ga, like a child... and I thought, how precious it is, to see this woman, who has come to me to share her troubles, and whom I know has suffered in a way so disporportionate to justice, as fascinated as a child, by this feather. She'd fallen in love, like a child does, with the simplicity of wind and lightness, and a feather's indignance towards gravity.
So I've given the year the theme of honey-sweetness and light. Sweetness; Sukha, Madhu; Honey, and light; Jyotir. May your life give you the capacity to apprehend sweetness in the midst of everything, regardless of dukha, and even because of dukha, pain. May your eyes stretch up to see the light of the terrestial world, and the luminous nature of your own precious consciousness.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Jeweled Net of Indra
FAR AWAY IN THE HEAVENLY ABODE OF THE GREAT GOD INDRA, THERE IS A WONDERFUL NET WHICH HAS BEEN HUNG BY SOME CUNNING ARTIFICER IN SUCH A MANNER THAT IT STRETCHES OUT INDEFINITELY IN ALL DIRECTIONS. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EXTRAVAGANT TASTES OF DEITIES, THE ARTIFICER HAS HUNG A SINGLE GLITTERING JEWEL AT THE NET'S EVERY NODE, AND SINCE THE NET ITSELF IS INFINITE IN DIMENSION, THE JEWELS ARE INFINITE IN NUMBER. THERE HANG THE JEWELS, GLITTERING LIKE STARS OF THE FIRST MAGNITUDE, A WONDERFUL SIGHT TO BEHOLD. IF WE NOW ARBITRARILY SELECT ONE OF THESE JEWELS FOR INSPECTION AND LOOK CLOSELY AT IT, WE WILL DISCOVER THAT IN ITS POLISHED SURFACE THERE ARE REFLECTED ALL THE OTHER JEWELS IN THE NET, INFINITE IN NUMBER. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT EACH OF THE JEWELS REFLECTED IN THIS ONE JEWEL IS ALSO REFLECTING ALL THE OTHER JEWELS, SO THAT THE PROCESS OF REFLECTION IS INFINITE
THE AVATAMSAKA SUTRA
FRANCIS H. COOK: HUA-YEN BUDDHISM : THE JEWEL NET OF INDRA 1977
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Did you take your blue pill this morning?
Of Shaivism, he wonders how it is that the sages expect us to believe their rather contradictory thesis. They seem to be teaching that enlightenment-- or realization of the sacred oneness -- is a state so fully unique that we cannot even imagine it, and yet, simultaneously, they tell us that when we get there, we'll realize that it is precisely what we've known and been all along. He writes; "We’re still left to wonder how something ---the state of Oneness recognition ---is by definition nothing like what we are having now and yet is nothing but what we are having now. Did you take your blue pill this morning?"
I won't comment too extensively on these writings, since I just barely grok them. But give them a read, and if you do, tell me what you think.
Douglas Brooks is Author of Poised for Grace, Anusara Books, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Two sides of the Cosmic Coin; The dance of Karma and Lila
The sea of masks and painted faces swirled around us in phantasmagoric splendor last weekend. Even as I fought a cold I found myself buoyed up by the spectacle of it; the sheer randomness of human expression. This seems to me a perfect expression of Lila; the urge to play. Lila, according to Yoga, propels the unmanifest into manifest, propels the divine to take form. The idea in Yoga is that there is no reason for 'creation' or the manifesting that happens at every moment; the universe is simply playful, and free, and has some inclination or potential to reflect itself back upon itself. In Yoga there is not one Godhead; we are each the source of all that we perceive. So each moment, which flashes form into our awareness, is derived from our own precious instinct to see ourselves. And the source of the instinct is simply playfulness. This is Lila. Seeing the world through the lens of Lila, there is no order, per se, but no lack of order either. Phenomena arises simply out of its own potential energy, and things happen simply because they have the potential to do so. When a good thing happens to you, you might try to figure out why you are reaping what you've sown, so that you can feel proud of yourself, or pleased, at least, with your good work. This would be a practical application of the law of Karma. But the law of Lila says that your good luck is simply the fact that you arise out of the psychic soup of being-ness. What happens to us happens because we are ultimately interconnected with everything, and because the universe is playful, and inclusive. We all are impacted by everything that has ever occurred. Therefore there is nothing that has ever happened that did not also happen to us, and nothing that happens to us that did not or will not ultimately happen to everyone. This is Lila; and if we believe in it fully, we will either become saints, or criminals; devotees, or nihilists. Lila is just one side of the cosmic coin.
Lila is balanced out by the impeccability of karma: the fierce perfection of cause and effect. According to Karma, this causal realm is bound by and govered karma; the law of action. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, we reap precisely what we sow. How then, do we apply these paradoxical and complementary theories to our lives, relationships, careers, and practices? One way to play is to exchange self for other. This comes from Buddhism, but Tantra and Yoga all affirm it. When the person across from you is suffering, know that you could easily switch positions. Their suffering is your suffering, their joy is your joy. Attend to the suffering knowing that it is your own. This is not quite like the Christian idea - of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's actually a little deeper-- an acknowledgement that we have no capacity to think "he seems like he is suffering, it must feel bad" unless we are actually projecting our own suffering outward. So when we resist another's experience, because it is annoying, or suffocating, or cloying, or obsequious, we are actually simply in resistance to some aspect of self. The other theory that I play with is that Karma is only fairly applied to the broadest definition of self. If we start blaming other people's misfortune on Karma, we short-circuit our empathic process. Similarly, if we blame our own suffering on our karmic debt, we are less than likely to heal. But if we consider that we all carry a karmic debt collectively, and trust that collectively we are transcending and healing and stepping up to the grace plate, then life is much much more pleasant. And if we recall that Lila is constantly playing a hand, we can un-furrow our brows a bit, and trust in the process which is beyond our control or comprehension. All those crazy characters that come out on Hallow's eve, or any other day, for that matter, are all playing the same game. As perfect reflections of our own inner masquerade, all the rest are dancing the karma-lila dance with us; suspended between utter randomness and strict cause and effect.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The steady and inevitable transformation of Governance- and the tools we need to do it.
"I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin Roosevelt
For years, Britt Blaser (my dad) has been intent on developing internet tools to transform the way we communicate with politicians. Essentially, he wants to transform governance itself. NYC iVote4U and its Facebook app are complete and designed to be simple to use and radically effective, so that We the People can exert true influence over elected officials. The point of these apps is to take the power out of the hands of lobbyists and big corporate interests and give it to constituents. Not just another place on the web to complain, but a way to pledge our votes for and against politicians on Facebook and publicly gain up on them.
Each politician in the running has a 'page' where we can read what their platform is, see who is supporting them amongst our friends, and also register our support or lack thereof. The idea is that we can guide each other, and get guidance from our trusted FB friends, and in so doing, create a record online of what our political interests are. IF this takes off, because enough of us care, and use the app, then conceivably it will also be a place where our elected officials go to learn what we care about, collectively. Thus, we can force them to do the right thing.
iVote4U has received some attention: Huffington Post: New York's digitized Dems can take over city council Sept. 15 - "This website allows voters to use the web to bring about the audacity of hope and change instead of letting party insiders and candidate cronies re-elect an elite of tired incumbents or hand-picked buddies who are mostly out of touch with the real world that savvy New Yorkers occupy."
Doc Searls: Primary needs for political tools - "The idea, sez Britt, is to give voters a way to manage their politicians as easily as they manage their iTunes."
Right now it's being tested in the NYC primaries - now in run-off. Dad maintains that primaries can be the secret weapon of progressives and that the essential political algorithm is voter management of primary elections, as significant as Google's link-weighting algorithm. He calls primaries narrowly traded election markets, and political parties don't want much attention brought to them.
I hope we can bring it to CA after the New York test.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The Five Acts of Shiva
So, last week I talked in class a bit about The 5 Acts of Shiva, for those of you that graced me with your lovely presence. Admittedly, even when I talk about the divine acts in complete and grammatically acceptable sentences, I am virtually unable to really 'grok' what this is all about. I do know that this is way way groovy. Here's what I think is going on:
The five acts of Shiva are creation (or emanation), maintenance, withdrawal (or destruction), concealing grace, and revealing grace. The universe is emanated from within the absolute freedom of consciousness, the universe in maintained, because consciousness believes in it, and the world is destroyed, because consciousness recognizes again its own autonomy, its own authorship, and draws the universe back into itself, in a moment of repose. In the moments that the universe is maintained, concealing grace is the instrument via which the subject is convinced of the universes' veritable being-ness. In the motion towards withdraw, or dissolution of the universe back into consciousness, revealing grace provides this revelatory magic of grace which allows the subject to see itself again, as the absolute.
The tricky part is that the mind is so dang linear, we inevitably think of this as an historical event, as if these five acts were actually performed by some ethereal being, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Then, on those assumptions, we either accept or reject the whole concept. The deal is, the five acts are happening right now. And NOW! and now, and again and again and again, over and over again. The five acts are occurring inside my own consciousness, and your own consciousness, and inside everyone's consciousness, for this is the only 'place' anything ever 'happens', just as NOW is the only time anything ever happens. At the level of the absolute, at the level of Paramashiva, there is of course no time separate from any other time, and no place, for there is no limitation on space; all is one, you know the deal.
But the beauty of the 5 acts is to differentiate, to the degree that one has the capacity to do so, the Self (big S) who is somehow engaging in the 'world' (also within consciousness), and then, of course, to DIG it! All of 'this' (idam) is simply agreed upon phenomenon, agreed upon by us; you and me (aham). And many aspects of this supposed 'reality' are less than palatable, it's true. I can think of a lot of things that I am averse to (DVESHA!!), and a lot of things I really love love love (RAGA). This is what Douglas Brooks calls the Yum-Yuk. mmmmm.... yummy... eeeewwww, yucky. We do it all the time, and get so identified with these 'afflicted' states of being (kleshas) that the world can seem either way inconvenient, practically intolerable, or, in another moment, full of goodness that is unattainable, like some precious elixir just out of our reach.
But it's all just grooving on itself!! So dig it. Hey, there's this amazing song... From 1971. It's called 'if you're diggin' what you're doin', keep on doin' what you're diggin'. I can't find it, but if anybody can, let me know. It could be a whole life-orientation.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Dinner at Fairy-Tale Farm
From my friend Tod, in Santa Cruz:
Dinner at Fairy-Tale Farm 17 April 2009
Please join us for our first "guerilla in the field", an underground restaurant located in the middle of our vegetable patch in downtown Santa Cruz. We will be featuring a Persian inspired menu, cooked by masterful chef Tod Nysether and sous-chef Karsten Wade.
Suggested donation: $20-$40, wine and dessert included.
Friday 17 April 6:00 PM
Where, When ...
Friday 17 April 6:00 pm
Contact us for location
Crudites w/ yogurt-garlic-dill dip, Spanish romesco sauce, bagna cauda
Fresh compagnon bread w/ butter
Kale and beet salad w/ citrus vinaigrette
Moroccan carrot salad w/ garden greens
Wilted escarole salad
Polo sabzi (Persian rice)
Persian chicken (yogurt marinated with Persian spices)
Coptic chickpea (chickpea and artichoke stew)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Memorize your credit card #. Donate quickly when the urge hits you.
I just got this email from AVAAZ:
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, a blackout is descending across Tibet. Foreign media are being detained and expelled, armed troops are patrolling the streets, monks are being arrested, and phone networks are being cut, closing off crucial information channels to the outside world -- click on this link to donate to send crucial technical support and equipment to Tibetan civil society groups, such as Voice of Tibet, and help protect Tibetans from further human rights violations.
P.S. Consider donating to support organizations like Voice of Tibet at this crucial time. They need our support now more than ever. Even a modest donation will go a long way
i would really like to believe
Sleeping beasts are putty in God's paws
They are all children when they sleep.
There is no war in them.
They open their hands and breathe
in the slow rhythm given to humans by heaven.
Whether soldiers, statesmen, servants, or masters
they purse their lips like small children
and they all half-open their hands.
Star stand watch then and the arch of the sky is hazed over
for a few hours when no one will harm another.
If only we could talk with each other then,
when hearts are like half-open flowers.
Words would push their way in
like golden bees.
-- God, teach me sleep's language.
Translated by Glenn Storhaug
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Anugraha: The Grace of holding tight and letting go
These last few years I've become fond of giving years themes. It's silly, really, but it pleases me, and the themes come to me in dreams, which makes them more salient and me more impressionable. My theme this year is Anugraha, which means 'Grace' in Sanskrit. Anugraha is the deepest kind of grace, that can well up in any situation, no matter how unlikely. Anugraha is the clear chartering of a course, and simultaneously is the grace that allows a course to be changed, even against fierce odds. In the midst of chaos, under pressure, at the mountaintop, up against the wall, grace. This is my dream. Under all circumstances and under all stresses, may we each find grace in our own hearts, and may grace also be bestowed upon us from the place beyond our knowing. May we remember that Anugraha, grace, comes from the convergence of Anu - which means holding tight to - and graha - letting go of... thus- the capacity to know what to hold close and what to release is the essence of grace, and each of us holds the choice in our own hands.
My second choice for Yoga theme of the year would have to be Fun. That's not sanskrit, and it didn't come in a dream, but it deserves to be secondary yoga theme anyway. Because with Yoga, even adversity is fun! And if one is having fun doing yoga, the most un-fun things in life are less un-fun, if not actually fun. So, with that in mind, I'll be offering Yoga adventures galore, coming up in the spring, summer and fall. Yogify with reckless abandon and all will be well. One's focus moves swiftly inwards, and the conundrum of the outer realms ceases to be so stubborn. Yogify, and get down with your bad Yoga self. It's fun.
Friday, January 30, 2009
The Yoga Total Freedom Package
This year, with a heightened sense of crisis and opportunity in our land, I question myself, again: why do I find this path of yoga to be so compelling? Amongst so many possible choices, why do I keep doing it over and over? I come to the same conclusions I've come to before. What Yoga offers is unparalleled. Yoga's overarching aim is to deliver to the practitioner the following:
· peace within, regardless of fluctuating circumstances and the endless interplay of the three Gunas: Tamas (inertia), Rajas (activity, passion), and Sattva (luminosity, harmony).
· steadiness of being (santosha), through a deeper awareness of breath
· the capacity to take even pain (dukkha) as merely another invitation to practice
· a confusing new interest in the eternal; never to be understood, but to be forever esteemed
· finally, a severing of the attachment to suffering, and simultaneously, a release of the fear of suffering.
Subsequently, there is a billowing of love. And it is real love, not just the gooey, yummy kind, but the kind that holds up on its own, even under great stress, because it comes from underneath everything. Because with yoga, reality gradually becomes more palatable, more shimmering, more real and simultaneously more digestible. Yoga renders reality tastier, plus nicely liquified for human consumption. A reality smoothie. With endless refills.
The only difference between Yoga and a smoothie is that Yoga is a totally do it yourself job. Grace provides all the ingredients, but there is no one but the self to mix it all up and swallow it down. Although everything necessary is provided by some invisible means of support, we must collaborate, with our own willingness, our own efforts. In the words of the notorious Pattabhi Jois; "Practice, and all is coming."