Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Economics of Human Capital

There is a new four-letter word, the "E" word. This word is "The Economy." Strangely, it's neither four letters long nor even one word. Regardless, hearing the phrase (brace yourself), "The Economy" probably conjures worry and a knot in the stomach. Whether directly or indirectly, we are all being effected by what's happening with (here it is again) "The Economy."

Unfortunately, hard financial times often makes us feel like we need to circle the wagons, draw in our resources, and look out for our own interests. The scarcity of financial means sometimes leads to scarcity of good will toward each other.

But despite what is happening on Wall Street, there is another form of abundance we can all cash in and rely upon. This resource is each other. Us. You and me. Instead of shielding ourselves from others, we can enrich ourselves and others during this tricky financial time by investing our sincere humanity (our love, compassion, trust, and laughter) into the reservoir of well-being and happiness of each other. We are each other's bail-out plan in the essential economics of human capital, a resource without a deficit and yes, one that is even more vital that dollars. We are each other's interest and will receive an immediate return on our investment each time we share a little of love and care from our endless account of humanity.

This is yoga's (read:union) true meaning. One-ness of all.

Tough financial times is an opportunity to draw together and build friendships and communities because sometimes that is all that is left. Community is what's essential. Community will get us through. Ask your grandparents who may have lived through the Great Depression. We can help each other out in myriad ways. Give each other rides. Share job opportunities. Even just making the effort to come to yoga and give your best effort is an investment into the energy and spirit of everyone else who came to class. We feed each other. Plus, tough times moves us toward fun creative solutions that we'd otherwise never have discovered.

I love my job. I love it because I am constantly feed by your generosity and your human capital. One of my treasures of what I do is connecting with you on a personal as well as group level. I am often allowed a sneak peak into many of your hearts and get to see first hand how yoga has effected your lives. Countless times, I have looked into your eyes as you've spoken volumes to me by the tender tears rolling down your cheeks and perhaps mixed in a few words to describe some of your unspeakable challenges. You've shared with me your immense peace and joy and your stunning moments of clarity. You've shared with me the ways in which yoga has been your lifesaver, an island, an oasis. I'm deeply honored to play a small part in your unfolding.

I love these emails. For one, I can practice being vunerable, something I'm still learning. You all know much more about me than I think I'd normally be comfortable with, but you know, it's only in that vulnerablility that connection can happen. This is part of my growth. Unfortunately, you don't see the tears in my eyes as I type this jazz. I also love these emails because I often get responses back from you in which you share your personal stories, insight, and appreciation for these principles and thoughts.Thank you.

I communicate with you. You communicate back to me. But I feel a little selfish. There is a missing link with this connection--your connection to each other.

In this community that we're building by practicing yoga together, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to see who else might be feeling the same way you do or what other insights others might offer each other.

Therefore, I am launching a blog where you can both read this same message, review past emails, but perhaps more importantly, comment on the message and share your experiences (either anonymously or publicly).

I also invite you to check out my Facebook page as a way to see how big your yoga comunity really is. You may be pleased to see that you have several friends who are coming to other classes. You may make new connections and friends. One dear friend predicts 3 marriages from this idea. We'll see. Maybe you can find friends with whom you can carpool to yoga. If you know your friend is going to pick you up for 6 am yoga (Tues at Flow, Thurs Centered City) it's an added incentive to do 'Get-'Yer-Butt-Out-Of-Bed Asana.'

Please don't stop sending me your personal emails. But you may also want to consider posting a comment for others to read. To see this same message on my blog and to post a comment about this or another message, check out my blog (see the link below). At the bottom of the blog, you'll see "comment" where you can click and leave a comment and see what others have said.

Please know that all of the information you send me is private. You are in charge of what you post. I will not post anything you say unless I have your permission.

So check out my blog by clicking here.

Allow me to be your Facebook friend by clicking here.
Click on Add Friend. If you're not a member of Facebook, it'll ask you to join. Don't worry, there is no fee, no hype, and its fun.

Now, I know that this invites more technology mayhem into our lives but if managed with mindfulness, I feel this can be a great way to connect to each other during difficult times. And, it's free. Possibly priceless.


I asked one of my private students to write in her journal what she feels about yoga. She's a woman who I'm so proud of, a woman who has seen immense personal growth since she's started to practice yoga. She gave me permission to copy it here.

I Love Yoga!

Recently when I was planning out my week, looking to see which days I could attend a yoga class and which days I would need to practice at home, it suddenly came to me: I LOVE YOGA. The truth is, I love almost everything about it. I love thinking about it, talking about it, practicing asanas, meditating, learning from my teachers, going to the studio, being with my yoga friends, putting on my yoga clothes, reading yoga books, studying about it...You get the idea. For whatever reason, yoga just does it for me. I’m addicted to those yoga “moments” - when I’m in a pose and I feel completely weightless and at ease, when I’m meditating and I lose track of time and place or when I’m consciously breathing and I feel it in every inch on my being. I started practicing yoga about 2 ½ years ago and I was hooked from the beginning. I’m a fairly straight-forward, no nonsense person so I feel a bit silly writing this. But truthfully, I feel like a five year old who’s found the hidden candy jar. I love yoga and it has changed my life.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dream of Peace

On that sweltering hot day of August 28th,1963, Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to hear the social revolutionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sing to the hearts of the world the song of his dream of racial equality. Even though racism isn't completely erased in America, who would have even dared to imagine that 45 years later we would be inaugurating our nation's first African American president?

Dr. King knew of the imperative for non-violence as did his predecessor of peace, Mahatma Ghandi. Our new president, Barack Obama, whom we will inaugurate this week, fittingly the day after we commemorate Dr. King, plans to use his influence to perpetuate non-violence even in the face of immense challenges. He plans to eventually establish peace on several battle fronts including Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our influence toward establishing peace between Israel and Palestine. Our president simply represents the most politically influential part of all of us and therefore we can all help to support the plan for peace from the grass-roots levels by being active in our communities.

The principle of non-violent revolutions and non-violent living parallels the ancient yogic principle of non-violence, Ahimsa.The yoga scholar, Patanjali, lists Ahimsa as the principle step toward finding Samadhi, our highest self. Consider the idea of not only personal Samadhi but a Samadhi of community or collective.

If, as we learn from yoga, we originate from the same source, call it God, Universe, Creation, then to hate or harm someone else is the autoimmunity of humanity, the failure of one part of the organism to recognize itself and therefore to to fight against it.

But Ahimsa goes deeper than not throwing punches. The gate into the temple of peace is non-violence, however the true lesson of Ahimsa is to honestly and deeply love each other, even when your brother or sister holds radically different ideals, morals, or opinions than you. When the power of our conviction meets the peace of our compassion, we can sit together as brothers and sisters and build lasting solutions to differences and problems. These solutions last because they are built from the most durable and fundamental element of us all--love.

Dr. King said, "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

Tacit in this understanding of non-violence is understanding our responsibility to be gentle to ourselves. Harming another harms our own spirit because we are each other to some degree. Others aside, Ahimsa means not harming YOU. I'm amazed how easy it seems not to hurt another but to be emotionally, spiritually, or physically brutal to ourselves. Remember, you are a part of the universe and deserve to be here, to be happy, and to have abundance. I believe we cannot truly love someone else until you honestly love yourself. You deserve this pleasure of peace and to truly appreciate it you must also work for all our brothers and sisters to achieve it.

This communal peace within yourself and with all others is enlightenment of the whole organism of humanity, an ideal that begins with a dream. And just like Dr. King's dream, will grow into a reality.

Peace begins now and it begins in your own heart. It spreads to your family, to friends, to community. It spreads to politicians and policies. It spreads across borders to other nations. It spreads into a consciousness of this generation of all living.

Dr. King pointed to this peace in the form of freedom when at the rousing finale of his I Have A Dream speech he said:

" And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Whatever your political preferences, may I encourage you to practice Ahimsa by supporting our new president Barack Obama and doing everything you can in your own heart to love yourself, your family, friends, your enemies, your communities, other nations and those brothers and sisters, those parts of yourself, whom you haven't meet yet. Practice compassion for those who get under your skin and find the universal lesson there.

I invite you to consider ways you can spread peace to yourself and to your immediate environment, your work, family, etc. Commit to doing something toward peace this week, today.

Let's practice peace in yoga this week. One of my teachers quotes her teacher who said, "Yoga is one of the most compassionate things we can do for others because suddenly we are not such a pain in the a#! to be around anymore."

See you in class.


Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm thinking of that big part of our yoga practice, our souls. What is that, anyway? This week, as I was practicing yoga, I felt it again for the millionth time. That big, big, part which is right there, which is everything but which is the part that I can't really put a name to. It's not Scott. It's bigger.

And I guess this is what people have been trying to point to since there have been people. We all have such a grand language for it. Such a crisis over it. We go to war over it. We put each other in hell for it. Something that isn't a question. Something that's right there. I can reach out and touch it. And sometimes, I feel that you can too-- yours, yes but mine, too. As I'm teaching and I can see you getting into your groove, I see you breathing, I see the focus. Then I see it when things click, lights go on behind your eyes and I see you think to yourself, "There it is!"

And if you're like me, you get it and before you know it, it slips between your fingers and suddenly you're looking all over for it again, under the couch, behind the dresser, because you thought you knew what it was and what it looked like but now you're not so sure any more.

Then it seems to find you because it was there all the time, or you were there and you and it are all the same thing.

Pretty soon, I guess we get so comfortable with it--it's like Peter Pan stitching his shadow onto the sole of his shoe--it doesn't go away anymore. Maybe Patanjali, the ancient guru/yoga scholar who wrote the yoga sutras about finding that big part of yourself called Samadhi, maybe his first given name was Peter Pan until he was reborn with the truth that his sole is always there, right at his feet, and it was then that he was bestowed the honorable name, Patanjali. He learned and teaches that it is by singular concentration that we simply open our eyes to it. We learn to see again.

This is what our practice is about. This is why it's a practice, yes, because it is slippery. And because it feels really, really, good everytime we make that discovery, and even the journey leading up to it.

One of my guru teachers is poet Mary Oliver. She's a teacher whom I've never met but who has tought me so much by her simple and astounding words, written after she has paid a small amount of attention to this amazing heaven, the world around us. She wrote (in much fewer words than I, mind you) something about this practice of searching for the soul. Enjoy.


Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape--

and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something--
for the ear bone


is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer's head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only

two inches long--
and I thought: the soul
might be like this--
so hard, so necessary--


yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn't see anything
through its dark-knit glare;

yet don't we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it


lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts--
and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
the pale-pink morning light.

I hope to see you in class.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bramacharia: That Which Drives You To Your Hightest Truth

In the yoga sutras, there are 10 inner and outer observances known as the Yamas and Niyamas that act as guides for us as we search for our True Nature. One of these guides is the principle of Bramacharia; Brama, meaning truth and Charia, meaning that which drives you, like the word chariot or car.

Often this term refers to an act of celibacy, a choice to contain vital energy to help one drive themselves toward their spiritual goals. This isn't the only meaning of Bramacharia. The yoga tradition holds a deep respect for the householder and family life. Whether you live monastically or not, the principle is the same: To find your True Self, spend your energy on those things that you know drive you toward what's most important.

First, I believe that this means understanding our passions and controlling our indulgence of our sensual delights (food, sex, shopping, you know what your sensual delights are) so we don't get bogged down along our journey toward Self by something as simple as clogged arteries or credit card debt. But more importantly, I believe that this points toward finding those things that are the most important to us and bravely organizing your life to move in that direction.

It takes courage, focus, and energy to do those things that you know are so important to you and drive you toward your best self. For me, its making time to practice yoga, to play my sax, to maintain a great relationship with Celeste (my wife), and to meditate.

These things may or may not be what we need to earn a living and provide for ourselves and family. This is where it gets tricky. I'm sure we've all fallen prey to that dilemma of sacrificing what makes us feel alive for that which simply keeps us living. That's part of our journey: to find the balance and keep enough energy moving on both sides of the isle to keep the car moving generally down the middle of the road.

I invite you to pause for a moment and think about what are the things that drive you toward your highest self. What are the things that get in the way of this journey? What can you do to organize your life in order to consistently maintain that momentum of forward movement?

I hope that part of this involves practicing yoga.

I'll see you in class.