Monday, November 18, 2013

Yoga Under a Microscope

Yoga is a lot of things. It's an art, it's a philosophy, it's therapy. Perhaps more than any of these yoga is a science. Science is often misunderstood as a bundle of facts-information that has been proven and is now called Truth. But science isn't that at all. Science is only one thing: a method of inquiry. It's a system of asking questions from which comes insight and clarity. So is yoga.

The scientific method is to start with a question: how can I better understand myself or my environment? Is there a better, less harmful, more efficient way to be in the world? How could I help alleviate the suffering around me with a cure for diseases? The question leads to a theory, the theory to experiments. Then comes the most profound part, the observation. Watching. Once the scientist sees, once the mystery is revealed through data, that data organized, translated, and applied, that information qualifies the observer for more refined questions, more refined data, and closer observation. This is the process of unraveling the mystery.

As any good scientist will tell you, the job of the scientist during an experiment is to watch and allow the subject to do whatever it's going to do. Check your ego at the door. It's not like the scientist is passionless about what they are studying. The reason they are watching, collecting data, working so hard, is because they feel they might be able to see something which hasn't been seen before, to learn something new about the world, to understand something more profoundly. The process requires that the scientist simply be an observer and not to mess with the subject. Let it be. But then skillfully apply that information to the betterment or understanding of the world.

And I guess what yoga and scientific have in common is that they both lead toward understanding and they both center in observation. Maybe it's the intention to understand and heal our bodies or to relieve tension. Maybe it's the desire to heal a bruised heart or to find some mental quietness. Now we experiment using that which is most practical, basic and real-our bodies and breath. As we observe, we gather specialized information and start to see the nature or our being, pain or disquietude. This insight then invites us to ask even deeper, more refined questions and the process of inquiry continues.

Remember, it is all just a practice. It's about asking the question even more than finding the answers. So, I invite you to come to yoga ready to observe and let's practice without expectation.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Dog Thinks I'm Perfect

There is a fantastic bumper sticker that says something to the effect of, " May I be the type of person that my dog thinks I am."

For those of us who own dogs. . . who am I kidding, every person in this town owns a dog-you get one free when you buy your Subaru. Anyway, dogs know us better than we know ourselves. Our dog worships the ground we walk on, even though, ironically, we are the ones who pick up their poop, go figure. Back to dogs' undying love for us . . . yes, in our own mind we could be the most miserable wretch who ever climbed out of the pond, the dumbest thing to ever darken a doorway, but at the end of the day, we'd come home to sit on the porch and revel in our misery, only to have our best four-legged friend, come prancing up to us with nothing but profound love and worship for us.

Maybe dogs can see something about us that we can't see. The same way that a dog's sense of smell is dramatically more sophisticated than our own, perhaps the K-9 sense of goodness, the ability to sniff out the best parts of us (not just our crotch) is somehow innate in those creatures. They remind us that we, too, are lovable and amazing creatures.

In yoga, we are trying to see that our own inner-awesomeness is just beneath the surface. In part, yoga is finding focus, strengthening, and removing the physical obstacles of an unhealthy body. Yoga is also cultivating a relationship with both the numinous parts of ourselves as well as those ethereal parts of the world around us. Yoga carves away the crap that blinds us from that lovable person that our dog sees all the time. If our dog can see it all the time, then why can't we? Maybe it's because we forget. Yoga helps us to simultaneously discover and remember who we really are and perhaps see our selves the way our dog sees us: supercool.

Come to yoga and practice being the person your dog thinks you are.

Monday, November 4, 2013


It's Harvest time. Or was recently. I have a stockpile of fantastic peppers grown from my friends garden, just waiting to be eaten.  

I think that the harvest meant a lot more to our grandparents and great-grandparents, many of whom were raised on the farm or who were agrarian for much of their lives. Even if we aren't running our hands through the soil for our daily sustenance, I believe there are many forms of harvests in life. These Harvests equal understanding what you've cultivated, understanding what is, and learning to enjoy the present moment. Yoga teaches us that now is the time to feast on the banquet of what life is offering.

We celebrate the life that causes us to grow. We celebrate understanding that we are all somewhere in our season of growing, of blossoming into our own potential. We make several harvests along the path to this potential. These harvests are not only harvests of years or experience, but also harvests of understanding and realization. Perhaps we have ripened in our career and its time to ask for a raise; perhaps its time to try a more advanced yoga practice, or commit to a consistent meditation practice. Or perhaps our harvest is realizing that things are perfect the way they are and we can learn to be still and appreciate that.

I believe one of the richest harvests is simply being present with what is right now. These harvests come and go, and if we are not prepared to see them,  if we are not present and mindful, the opportunity, the realization, will pass us by. Rainer Maria Rilke says in his poem, "Ripening Barberries," that unless we learn to harvest what is here and now, unless we come to realize this cornucopia of abundant being inside, we are lost in a world of seasonless stagnancy. Kinda harsh but very true. Here it is:

Already the ripening barberries are red
And the old asters hardly breathe in their beds.
The man who is not rich now as summer goes
Will wait and wait and never be himself.
The man who cannot quietly close his eyes
certain that there is vision after vision inside,
simply waiting for nighttime
to rise all around him in darkness--
it's all over for him, he's like an old man.
Nothing else will come; no more days will open
and everything that does happen will cheat him.
Even you, my God. And you are like a stone
that draws him daily deeper into the depths.

We cannot wait for some other time to gather what we are searching for. We must find it, to whatever degree, now. We cannot base our life on contingencies. Unless we learn what abundance is present here and now, we can never hope to see it in the future. Yoga, meditation, breathwork are all ways of learning to open our eyes and see what is here. Every practice is a harvest. We practice until we find the harvest in every minute, where the regale of the world opens up to our understanding and we feast on our lives.   

See you in practice.