Three Chords And The Truth

I was at the Newseum in D. C. not long ago. It’s the museum dedicated to journalism and the history of the first amendment. Whether or not journalism always achieves it, its objective is to report the unbiased truth. The principle of Satya means truth, which is one of the core pathways to arriving at yoga’s goal of oneness with all things. I felt as if walking around the Newseum was in some ways an homage to Satya and a practice in truth.

The Newseum displays brave and honest journalism. I saw through a poignant gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs how telling the truth can be both beautiful and bellicose.

I was interested to see actual copies of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and to learn about America’s early struggle for freedom of speech. But the special exhibit called Louder Than Words: Rock Power Politics, not surprisingly, the display with all the electric guitars, was the one that caught my ear.

Louder Than Words featured a few short documentaries including one about the nation’s political gasp after Jimi Hendrix, a symbol of hippie anti-establishmentism, spontaneously rocked out with The Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock. Also celebrated in this exhibit was the hallowed and hand-written lyric sheet for Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They Are A Changin' ,” a commentary on the assassination of JFK. But my heart skipped a beat when I came around a corner and perched in front of me was a glass case holding the sacred relic of a beat-to-hell guitar belonging to none other than Joe Strummer from The Clash.

If you aren’t familiar with The Clash, then on behalf of all humans: Welcome to the planet Earth. We're happy you’ve come. The Clash was an important band from England in the late 70s. They were midwives for the birth of Punk, a “stick-it-to-the-man” movement born of the frustrations of a generation. Punk gave voice to a host of people who were angry at what they felt was a conservative, bleak, and expressionless era leading them hopelessly forward toward a vacuous future. Punk protested social norms, the economy, art and style, and of course, politics. They were not afraid to sing, and often scream, their truth.

Check out these environmentally proleptic lyrics from “London Calling,” the title track of The Clash’s 1979 album:

"The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growin' thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
'Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river."

Yoga has broad definitions and “a yoga” can be defined as an action or response to pure observation. Therefore, Punk was “a yoga” of Satya in response to the politics of the day.

Yes, there must be a distinction drawn between spewing opinions into a microphone, and striving for an objective truth. But isn’t that the distilled practice of yoga, to ultimately discern between observation and assessment about any information, be that the tight hamstrings or a tight-ass politician?

The Clash are not the only ones to have spout off into a microphone. Today, there are many television and talk radio rockstars like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and others, who, just like The Clash, have their spotlight and their audience and wield their right to say whatever they want. While I may not agree with much of what some of these people say, because I believe Satya is a pathway to Oneness, a foundational pillar to yoga, I’ll defend their right to say it, even if they manage to offend the entire world in a mere 140 characters.

Wandering through the Newseum, I couldn’t help but become agitated as I thought about the emerging “war against the media,” waged by Trump, Poland, China, and others. It worries me because I believe such an attack on the media threatens the institution of journalism and so directly threatens what I feel is the sacred notion of freedom of speech. By controlling the media, ultimately Satya gets hijacked.

We stood in front of Joe Strummer’s guitar, me reading the plaque and two-year-old Elio shouting, “Guitar! Play it!” I leaned close to Elio and said, “Remember that guitar, Elio, it changed the world.”

Little did I know what an impression this display of “stick it to the man,” noise, and freedom of speech had made on little Elio. The next day at the hushed halls of the National Gallery of Art, Elio decided to practice some of his own freedom of speech.

While we were strolling this cavernous edifice of art, Elio became drunk with glee over the sound of his own tiny screams echoing off of the gallery’s walls. Each time I asked him to please use his “inside voice,” he happily screamed louder (at The Man, read: me, I had become The Man).

Once, as we were taking in the art, walking in a large crowd of tourists, we passed a next-to life size nude statue and Elio squealed with delight and screamed, “BUM BUM!” Feeling quite self-conscious about the raucous he was making, I told Elio gently but firmly that he needed to lower his voice or we were going to have to leave the museum, a textbook The Man mandate, or The Man-date. Elio responded to my reproach by hushing just long enough for me to begin pushing the stroller again. Then, with perfect timing, his piercing, tiny voice burst out even louder with, “Papa tooted!” This was followed by his menacing peal of laughter.

My face blushed more crimson than Childe Hassam’s poppies and in an attempt to recover some dignity, I retorted to Elio, but decidedly loud enough for others nearby to hear, “Ha ha. No I didn’t,” but my worlds fell flat upon the stony faces of both the tourists and statues alike. So childish, so Punk. I considered attempting to teach my two-year-old about the concept of libel but then thought better of it and simply pushed the stroller to another wing of the museum, Elio chuckling the entire way. This was Elio’s foray into the freedom of speech and stick it to the man and Punk in the face of “established culture.” And while I might appreciate it if he could say it more subtly, I must respect his right to say it.

So, whether it’s a little voice piped from a stroller or an ear-splitting voice screaming above an electric guitar, whether it’s cynical opinions about politics or capturing a split second through the lens of a camera, I believe in your right to speak your truth. I believe this moves us toward Satya and ultimately toward Oneness. 

I invite us all to practice pure observation in the world and strive practicing the yoga of discerning the truth in what we see and hear. As you practice discerning truth, let’s cheer for the freedom of speech. And because of this freedom, choose whichever source you like for your information, but for me, I choose to listen to both a particular tiny voice and The Clash.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

~ Bob Dylan

Guitar Jimi Hendrix Played at Woodstock

Guitar Jimi Hendrix Played at Woodstock

Lyrics for The Times They Are A Changin'

Lyrics for The Times They Are A Changin'

Joe Strummer's Guitar

Joe Strummer's Guitar

The Clash

The Clash

Elio Sticks it To The Man

Elio Sticks it To The Man


San Francisco Yoga Tour Sept. 21-24 2017

Yoga and Writing Retreat Aug. 27-20 2017. 1 Spot Left

Time Is a Phony

The ancient and epic poem the Ramayana says that long ago there was a powerful Demon king named Ravana. His power blinded him with pride, deceived him into thinking he was larger than Dharma or Truth. Ravana stole a princess, Sita, another's wife, and a war was waged to get her back.

And though Ravana was often blinded by pride, he was not completely blind to profound understanding. There was a moment in the tale where Ravana is mentally preparing to go to battle against Rama, the unbeatable prince, God incarnate. That night, he went up to a great tower, onto the roof of his palace, and suddenly had a great insight regarding time. With this understanding, he suddenly had a great feeling of freedom like a band had broken from his chest. He danced for all of the heavens looking on and with his last step felt as though he'd crushed the tight hold with which time had him.

On his way down the stairs from the ramparts, Ravana is confronted by Kala, the god of time. Kala is old and decrepit and wasted like a skeleton. He tells Ravana that soon he will be in time's power and that Ravana will have to spend the rest of time paying for the sins of his lifetime.

Ravana listens for a moment then scoffs, "You little liar!"

Kala retorts,"What? You stole Sita and you'll pay-".

"You are the thief and not I," said Ravana. "For a few moments' pleasure you take whole lives in payment. And whatever you give you steal back, by fraud, from hiding, when you're not watched. Death and misery are your good friends-but you are yourself unreal: you do not exist; you cannot steal from me."

"Do you know who I am?" cried Kala.

"A marketplace of sorrows," Replied Ravana

 Kala said, ". . . your home is empty your friends have died and all the good times are long gone . . . all must change and die . . . ."

"We know better than that," said the Deamon King, "Love is eternal and we are beyond your reach. . .  But I must be on my way now, I can't be late, and my time is far too valuable to waste on anything but daydreams. . . Good love never dies."
(Buck, pp. 334-9)


Despite his faults, Ravana exposes a startling truth: the past has dissolved, the future is an abstraction (has never been, really). All we have is now. We are always in the present. But despite the unreal natures of past and future, we seem to spend a lot of time there. Pining or regretting the past, biding time or biting our nails waiting for the future. What we need is here. What we have is now. I think what we really practice in yoga is presence. Presence with our breath. Presence with our muscles and bones in postures. Presence with other practitioner's in class. What we pay for when we go to a yoga class isn't the space, isn't the time to do yoga, isn't even necessarily instruction. What we get when we do yoga is a reminder to look inside and experience the timeless, the result of living continuously in the present.

One morning I was sitting in Small Town Coffee House in Kapa'a Kauai soaking up the morning sun, feeling the tropical sweetness, and savoring a cup of jo when I looked over to the clock on the wall and instead of numbers pointing to the hour, each hour mark read, "Now."

I believe clocks are mostly misunderstood: they only point to now but we translate what we read into what has or hasn't happened, into past or future.

This week, break the illusion of time and practice being present. Yoga is a wonderful reminder about presence. We can practice presence at any moment of the day.
 

What We Need Is Here
 
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
 
Wendell Berry
 

Works Cited:
Buck, William. Ramayana. Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1976

Scott

 

The Worry Haiku

Salt Lake City Yoga

We are all subject to doubt and indecision from time to time. Recently I was wallowing in my routine despair about life and all of its desperate decisions.

You know, the typical: What am I doing with my life? What would have happened if I would have done things differently? Why is Pluto suddenly not a planet anymore and why didn't I get to vote?

So, feeling burdened by the weight and whirlwind of indecision about what direction my life should go, I decided to meditate. After mulling my mind over the various directions I could choose, I got tired of the fruitlessness of freaking out and instead tried to simply be aware, to focus on my breath rather than focus on my problems, to find that place that I've heard is always peaceful.
 
It took a while but I found some peace there in my heart. And in a moment of clarity, my mind recalled that all these temporary and illusorily (but still important) decisions will be made clear the more I cultivate and understand that peace, that inner self. I realized that I didn't need to make a decision about those things now. That what I could to do is grow my relationship with what I call the True Self, the part that isn't defined by all of these temporary details of those momentarily important decisions.

I felt that perhaps whatever my decisions, actions, or endeavors I faced, when made based from a grounded place of inner-peace, will be the product of something trusted and sure. Also, when I looked at my decisions or problems from that place of real clarity, I could see how I was reacting to fears and worries instead of looking at these questions with objectivity where I could move forward with power and conviction. With that sure knowledge of seeing things as they are, I had the courage to step out to those precarious edges of potential, pushed by a power of my own grounded knowledge of Self.
 
And then suddenly there was no more searching because I'd momentarily found the source-it was right here all along. I've also discovered that when I've made a decision based on this knowledge of Self, it doesn't exempt me from problems or struggles further down the road but at least I know that the difficulty I will encounter is necessary turbulence for the path I've chosen. It is the Tapas, the Sanskrit concept meaning the heat necessary for transformation. It's the medicine.  It's what will continue to lead me down my path of self-discovery, the path that feels the most right to me because ultimately it is the product of my True Self.
 
And as I go that True Self whispers like Gandalf in my ear, "Speak your truth, act with honesty and integrity, and always listen."
 
Haiku:
 
The Clash wails questions
Weighed down by indecision.
All things grow from Self.
 

Holding Space

salt lake city yoga

We don't need to change or be better than we are. We practice deep compassion as we extend this same privilege to other people and things around us and allow them to simply be, especially those things that would easily turn our hearts bitter.

As we practice yoga and meditation, we cultivate and practice being. We also reduce the suffering known as Dukkah, which would hold us back from experiencing our highest self.

One act of holding space is allowing yourself to be with a person or thing and allow them to be just as they or it is. I'm thinking of a friend who is sick or experiencing something mentally or spiritually challenging. Simply being with that person and holding space for them, without the need to fix or change anything, just being, allows a deep compassion to exist between the two of you.

Another act of holding space is the decisive act of making room in your heart for that which would sooner canker your heart with feelings and make your mind fester with "shoulds" and what-ifs." When you hold space for someone or something, you don't have to fall in love with this person or thing but you are simply offering compassion toward them or it by not becoming sour toward it. And by so doing, you ultimately offer your own heart and mind in the same compassion--the heart that flourishes when it feels abundance and love, not bitterness, and the mind that abounds when it is sheltered from shoulds and what-ifs."

Here are a few examples of holding space:

The NYC 4 Train: stopped en route causing me to miss my flight home (years ago).
Me: bought a NYC 4 Train T-Shirt--holding space for the 4 Train.

World: Just as it is.
Me: Accepting the world as it is.

Holding space is often the first part of forgiveness toward yourself and others.

This week, practice holding space for things that your either don't understand or which bother you.

Scott

If Children Ruled the World

Ronda, Spain

Ronda, Spain

I'm back from my yoga retreat in southern Spain. Traveling is a wonderful education. One of the things I discover every time I come back is that sometimes it takes going away to make me understand that what I need to help me grow and evolve exists as much in my own backyard as it does anywhere else. The notion that you need to go away to discover yourself is only as true as the fact that sometimes somewhere else reminds us that if we are not present, it doesn't matter where you are. You'll miss the show entirely. 

On this trip it was a joy in many ways traveling with Elio, my 11-month-old son. He's such a charmer and I watched unnecessary barriers of shyness, cultural disconnect, and even different language crumble as Elio meet strangers with his coy grin which were equalled with big smiles, laughs, and petitions to hold this sweet boy. Even waiters on our trip asked to hold our little prince and took pictures of themselves with our cutie. Love, purity, goodness all resides in us and we light up whenever we find it. Let children rule the world, or at least the child-like curiosity, love, and acceptance in us all. 

Moments after realizing that we had no memory card in our camera.

Moments after realizing that we had no memory card in our camera.

Being on this trip also reminded me about presence. One blissful afternoon in the ancient city of Ronda, Spain, we were sitting down to a glass of sangria (our second for the day) under the shadows of the ancient church, listening to a soothing Spanish guitar player in the courtyard when we decided to review the pictures Seneca had taken with her camera. The moment was perfect! It was then (more than two weeks into our trip) that we discovered that there was no memory card in the camera and that all those photos we'd taken could only be recalled in our memories. What a great lesson! You can't capture it. You've got to live it, feel it. You must get into the habit of living it, knowing that this is all there is. NOW.

Nonetheless, we managed to capture a few photos on our phones. Still, the lesson was not lost.

 

The Cosmic Taco

 

The Power of Intention
 

Several years ago, I decided to move to a different place in town. I had been looking for a place to live for a while and had even committed to leave my old place by February 21st. I looked and looked and looked. Nothing. Nothing that made me feel comfortable enough to move. I soon found myself with 5 days left to find a place, sign a lease, and move and I had no real prospects. Needles to say, I began to get a little nervous.

Maybe its because I'm a slow learner but it suddenly dawned on me that maybe I wasn't finding what I wanted because I didn't even know what I wanted. So, I took literally 30 seconds and wrote down about 12 things that I really wanted in a place. I didn't compromise, I didn't hedge what I wanted. I just laid it out: how much money, how much space, where, architecture type and era. Everything. Why not?

The very next day, I found it. Not just something that sort of matched what I was looking for. Everything I was looking for, down to the neighborhood, price, and even charm factor. Oh, and it had to be clean.

I was certainly pleased but not terribly surprised. Things like this have happened to me before. One dear friend says that if I really wanted a taco (perfectly Random), all I have to do is intend it and watch as my cosmic taco appears from the sky. Now I'm not so naive as to think that I get whatever I want from life, I have my share of disappointments, but I do see the effect of regularly setting intention manifest itself over and over in life. I feel that and meditation is simply a concentrated form of setting intention.


I don't believe that I'm particularly charmed, but I do believe that we should all be brave enough to ask the Universe for what we want. I think it has something to do with what we feel we deserve.

What do you deserve?

In yoga we call this Sankalpa. It is the practice of setting an intention like planting a seed or finding a star by which to navigate your ship through this existence. This Sankalpa is one of the ways by which, I believe, we have commerce and conversation with the world that is bigger than ourselves.

Try it out. Plant your seed of intention. Choose your star. Then devote your yoga practice and your practice of everyday living to this intention and keep your faculties of attention acute.

Watch out for falling tacos!


Scott

 

 

There's Something In The Tea

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I lived in Korea for a year teaching English and studying meditation. I loved to explore the locals-only part of this fascinating country.

One day a few friends and I wandered into a tea shop in the old part of town. At the back of the shop was a man, dressed in the Han Bok, the traditional Korean habit, who noticed us enter the shop.

Without a word he began to prepare tea. It took us a few moments to wander to the back of the store. By the time we noticed the man sitting behind a small wooden table, the water was hot. He motioned for us to join him. Delighted, we sat on a few cushions lying on the floor in front of the low table. He poured the tea into the pot and allowed the tea to steep.

After a few minutes, he laid out a few delicate tea cups and performed the proper ceremony to serve tea.

He didn't speak English. We didn't speak Korean. Together we spoke the language of human beings sharing tea. We simply sat in each other's presence and enjoyed tea. We didn't need to make small talk. We didn't need to make charades. Words would have been excessive.

Several long minutes passed. Then, we rose and bowed humbly to him. He smiled and bowed humbly back. We left the shop but he has never left our hearts.

There's something in the tea.


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