Tag Archives: individuality

Ten Years After

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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

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

The Mind-Blowing Fantastic-ness of Being a Person

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art by Keith Haring

In my last post, I concluded with a couple of questions, the first of which was: “what does it mean to be a person?” It’s an often-overlooked question in spite of its obvious importance to… people. That’s one reason why, whenever the issue of person-ness arises in my yoga philosophy workshops, I make a point of asking participants to offer their thoughts on what it means to be a person. The Sanskrit word for ‘person’, purusa, figures prominently in yoga wisdom texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali so it should come as no surprise that the issue would come up in any meaningful discussion of yoga philosophy.

The response to my query usually includes ideas such as ‘to be conscious or self-aware’, ‘to keep learning and growing’, ‘to have the ability to communicate’, or ‘to have a soul’. Most of the replies I get suggest what I consider to be the essential element of person-ness but it’s rare that someone directly states my preferred answer: to be a person means to have senses. Continue reading

Tall Tales of the Lonely Void

Void

Let’s think about nothing. It’s a little different from not thinking about anything. If we don’t think about anything then we actually just give the mind free reign to wander without constraint. The mind is always active so not thinking about anything really means not directing thought to a particular object, not thinking about anything in particular.

On the other hand, thinking about nothing means making ‘nothing’ the object of one’s meditation. This carries an exceptionally high degree of difficulty precisely because a void offers nothing to direct one’s thoughts to. In one sense, it’s impossible to think about nothing because there’s nothing to think about: in a void, qualities are conspicuous by their absence. A void can’t feel anything because there is nothing in a void that can generate feelings or be affected by anything. And a void can’t do anything because it has neither the power to act nor any mechanism for action. A void is neither sentient nor is it an automaton.

Curiously, the absence of qualities, energies, and instruments in a void does not always stop people, even scholars of yoga philosophy, from assigning qualities to that which is, by definition, quality-less. Continue reading

Gay Marriage in the Bhagavad Gita

I have a friend who’s a rabid Baltimore Ravens fan. She’s also one of the sweetest and most spiritual people I know – so imagining her maniacally cheering when Ray Lewis crushes a quarterback or going ballistic over a blown coverage actually kind of cracks me up. But, great minds think alike: my own yogic aspirations are mixed with a formidable compulsion to lose myself in the organized chaos of gridiron mayhem.

Living in Washington DC can be rough for a New York football fan like me, though. NFC division rivalry aside, I could never root for my adopted hometown’s team just on account of its name: Redskins? Really? That’s as embarrassing as it is insulting: may they go 0-16 every season (sorry, Ram). At least the Ravens derive their name from a great moment in Baltimore’s literary history. And, although the forces of my illusory geographical identity apply in the AFC as well, I might be inclined to root for the Ravens for another reason: the attention a Ravens player has brought to the issue of gay rights. Continue reading

Psychedelic Yoga, Part 1

When we hear stories about Krishna, particularly those stories having to do with his youth in the village of Vrindavan, we usually get an impression of a little blue flute playing cowherd boy who hangs out in the groves of a forest near the bank of a river and, on a beautiful autumn night, calls his most intimate companions, the cowherd girls, to dance with him by the light of the moon. Continue reading

Love or Confusion

Most people who’ve spent a significant amount of time hanging around the yoga-sphere have heard at least one yoga teacher put forward the proposition that, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, when one attains stillness of the mind then not only is the true nature of the self revealed but one simultaneously merges into an Absolute Oneness of Being beyond all form, qualities, names, and relativity, constituting an ever-present reality of pure consciousness, exquisite peace, complete knowledge, immeasurable happiness, and unconditional love.

Wow, that sounds great, but… uh, love for who?

Continue reading

The Yoga of Gomez

The first person that I ever saw doing yoga was my childhood idol, my role model; the person I most wanted to be like when I grew up: Gomez Addams. Continue reading

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