Ten Years After

NYC-Ten-Years-After

Photos © James and Karla Murray

In a few weeks I’ll be visiting some of my old neighborhoods in New York City. It’s been a while since my last visit and I expect to feel discombobulated by its unfamiliarity. Like a time-displaced Captain America bounding into a future-ized Times Square, I’ll recognize all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces and reconcile myself to the fact that they look all wrong.

But it’s not just a case of sullen nostalgia because my old haunts don’t look they way they used to; it’s a case of disenchantment because now my old haunts look just like everyplace else. When I was born, no other city in America looked like New York City. Now, New York City looks a lot like everyplace else. People from Des Moines can have dinner in New York at the same restaurant they go to in… Des Moines! C’mon: really? You’re in the Big Apple and you want to eat at Applebee’s?

Every day everyplace looks a little more like everyplace else: the same corporate brands, the same architectural design, the same urban planning, the same kind of commoditized experience, sanitized and made safe for mass consumption. You used to be able to escape from the malaise of the suburbs by moving into The City. Now, the only real difference is that you won’t need a car (but you will need a trust fund). Continue reading

Why I’m a Certified Yoga Teacher

HKD_Jivamukti 800-HourI’m a certified yoga teacher. It’s true – says so right on my certificate: “Teacher Certification”.  My teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, have certified that I’ve “successfully completed” 800 hours of training that qualifies me to teach the style of yoga they developed, Jivamukti Yoga.

And I’m a teacher of teachers: I participate in a lot of different Yoga Teacher Training programs. I’ve even signed certificates to confirm the successful completion of trainings by program graduates. I’m not just certified; I’m a certifier.

One could make an argument that this makes me complicit in a system that certifies people who are not actually qualified to teach yoga. Well, nolo contendre – some of the people who have successfully completed programs I’m affiliated with are not qualified to teach yoga. And, thankfully, as far as I know, none of those people are teaching yoga.

The question of being “certified” or not, along with nine other teacher training pet peeves, came up recently when my friend and colleague, Peg Mulqueen, kicked the beehive over the fence in her blog post, “Why (Almost) Everything You Learned in Teacher Training is Wrong”.

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Wanting The Other To Be

CatAndDogI was particularly impressed by Jivamukti Yoga co-founder Sharon Gannon’s recent Focus of the Month essay, Bhakti Trumps All, in which she made a point of saying that animal rights activism, Jivamukti’s de-facto calling card, is subordinate to devotion to God. She unequivocally states that veganism, environmentalism, and other forms of social activism are not ends unto themselves but, from the standpoint of yoga, are meant to be an expression of something higher, namely, the desire to act in a way that’s pleasing to Krishna.

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Time Stand Still

JagannathTemple_USEI suspect that, for most of you, the New Year is old news, that you have already ushered in the New Year with resolutions or, for those disinclined toward such declarations, a sense of making a fresh start, of putting the past behind in favor of future ambitions. This has not been the case for me: my sprint to the finish of last year won’t end until today. The last item on a long list of time-sensitive tasks will be completed in the course of composing this post.

I found myself playing ‘beat the clock’ with most, if not all of the assignments I’d acquired. And my anxiety about completing everything on time was exacerbated by uncooperative technology, the very devices upon which the completion of my tasks depended. Thanks to problems with my Internet connection it was taking 90 seconds to do things that should have taken 10 seconds. There were even times when my connection was so bollixed up that I had to close my browser and re-start my computer. As a result, it was taking 3 or 4 minutes to do things that just a few years ago I could not do at all; our contemporary expectations are such that we become frustrated when doing what was once impossible is not accomplished immediately. Continue reading

Tamasa Samskara: Reflections on a Dark Impression

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the mid 1980’s I embarked on, or perhaps lucked into, a career as a computer graphics artist. Successive opportunities led quickly to a position with a firm that specialized in channeling sales of computer graphics and video hardware through a network of re-sellers. My job was to demonstrate how the technology worked and train people how to use it. It was exciting because the technology was esoteric stuff at the time. It was also my first job of consequence after having spent my early twenties in yoga ashrams and my later twenties wondering what to do next.

Business trips were totally new to me. The computer graphics industry, like most others, had periodic trade shows and going to them was part of my job. In fact, practically the whole company went: it was a very small firm and we all had a role to play at such events. I joined the company in June and by August I was traveling to my first major convention, SIGGRAPH, an annual conference on computer graphics that was held in a different city every year. In 1986, the year I went, the conference was in Dallas, Texas. Continue reading

Why Men Don’t Do Yoga

Russell Wilson July 29, 2013 Photographed by Peter yangAn article entitled “Why yoga is still dominated by women despite the medical benefits to both sexes” recently appeared in the Health & Science section of the Washington Post. The author’s overarching theory is that men shy away from yoga studios because they believe ‘myths’ about yoga such as “yoga isn’t a decent workout, that it’s too touchy-feely, that it’s not made for men’s bodies…” etc. The underlying premise of the article is that more men would do yoga if they just knew more about it.

I disagree. The reason more men aren’t going to yoga classes is not because they’re ignorant of yoga’s health and fitness benefits, it’s not because flaky New Age touchy-feely-woo-woo hasn’t been explained to them in a way that’s suitable for their understanding (good luck with that), and it’s not because they have misconceptions about yoga. On the contrary, men are reluctant to take yoga classes on account of a correct conception based on easily observable data: yoga is for women. Continue reading

Svadhyaya

red-pill-blue-pill-matrixHere’s a fun thing to do on a slow afternoon: make a list of ‘me’s. I have plenty of them. And they’re predictable, arriving on cue like programmed robots. When I’m driving, the ‘impatient me’ arrives as soon as the car in front of me drives one mile per hour below the speed limit. When the sun deepens its arc into the western sky, ‘anxious me’ arrives to tell ‘complacent me’ that I’m running out of time for all the things I wanted to do today. ‘Complacent me’ couldn’t care less.

There’s ‘grateful me’, ‘grumpy me’, ‘garrulous me’, ‘guilty me’, ‘greedy’ me, ‘generous me’ – one way to create a list of ‘me’s is to just pick a letter of the alphabet and run with it. If you have enough time you can go the distance; I’ve got ‘me’s from ‘abiotic’ to ‘zippy’.

There’s one thing that all of these different ‘me’s have in common: they’re not me. Yes, they’re manifestations of various aspects of my personality but my personality isn’t ‘me’, either; it’s something I possess. That’s why I talk about it as a possession: I have a personality. Continue reading

How to Give Advice to a Bobble Head

BGKrishnaBobbleheadHere’s an idea: find an object that has some personal significance for you, something that represents you or some aspect of yourself; something you can use as a proxy for ‘you’. Personally, I find that Bobble Head dolls work best. Put the object ‘you’ on a table or desk and sit with it. Then think of the biggest challenge you currently face in your life or a challenge that you know you will have to face soon. Now, imagine that you are the Supreme Being and you are looking at the proxy ‘you’ in full knowledge of the challenge ‘you’ face and the difficulty associated with facing it.

What would you, in your role as the Supreme Being, do? Continue reading

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