Veganism, Cows, and Dharma

ElizabethAndCow_350x250In yoga, veganism is not an end unto itself: it’s a means to an end, an incremental step towards re-establishing the natural relationship between human beings and all other living beings, especially the natural, symbiotic relationship between humans and cows.

The idea that humans and cows have a naturally symbiotic relationship may strike some readers as anything but obvious. That’s understandable given the frame of reference most people associate with farm animals. Yoga asks us to radically re-frame the relationship, to think of cows not as consumable objects of our experience but as sentient subjects of their own experience. Cows have lives of their own and, like all living entities, find the fulfillment of their own lives through relationships with others.

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Bhakti, Others, Words, and Meaning

radha_feet_krishna_sOnce upon a time, words meant something. They came fully equipped with definitions. If you didn’t know what a word meant, you could look it up. We deferred to an authority on the word in question, learned the proper and appropriate usage of the word, and articulated coherent and consistent messages with them.

But that was then and this is now. Today words are meaningless because they can mean whatever you want them to mean. Words come to us open to interpretation, requiring extensive contextualization to know which variation of personalized meaning we’re working with. There’s no authority to defer to because we’re all our own ultimate authority on anything and everything; our personal truths are the only reality so our own definitions are the only ones that are real… for us. Identical sentences using the same words in the same order are no longer guaranteed to carry a consistent message. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

The Mind-Blowing Fantastic-ness of Being a Person

13_sept12_86-keith-haring_USE

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. [Read more...]