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Dave Stringer on Hollywood

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Kirtan and World Music recording artist Dave Stringer on his home base:

People come to Hollywood with all kinds of expectations — fortune, fame, self-fulfillment of a certain kind — and are generally greeted with nil. … You try to control the timing of things, and you simply have to wait. In the face of all your attachments and desires, the universe says “no”, and you spend a tremendous amount of time staring at the void.

… The doors of Hollywood open sometimes to those who are more or less desire-less, and also to those people who are incredibly driven and ruthlessly ambitious. Ultimately, of course, there’s a price. But so you spend a lot of time staring at the void, at emptiness and disillusionment and ultimately you start to ask those questions again: “What am I here for? What does it all mean?” There are a lot of people dealing with that in Los Angeles and I think this is one reason why yoga is so popular there, why it is one of the epicenters of things yoga right now.

… People have a lot of time on their hands, often with more money than not. Or even without money, it’s a place where you really have stare at yourself and ask what all this means. So many of the things Hollywood offers turns out to be specters, mayas, illusion, and you have to contend with that, and also, in turn, yourself. So there are a lot spiritual opportunities there, underneath the surface. And I have met many, many, very spiritual people in Hollywood, all trying to come to grips with this paradox of seeing beyond illusion. But at the same time they’re working to create it. That’s the paradox.

Source: The Yoga of Kirtan


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November 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Posted in Art, Quotes

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Inspirational story, awesome pipes

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Introducing, South Korea’s Sung-bong Choi

Also see:

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June 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Posted in Art, Social Justice

Sufis and Yogis

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I’m in the middle of reading William Dalrymple’s beautiful book on Spirituality in Modern India, viewed through the lives of amazing individuals he encountered through his years of travels in South Asia. In one chapter about Sufis in Sindh, he recounts the 18th century Sufi master Abdul Latif, a spiritual seeker at home in the company of people of other faiths. Sadly Latif’s modern-day Sufi descendants, are being hounded by Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan.

(Ratif) … set off wandering through Sind and Rajasthan in the company of Hindu sadhus and Nath Yogis, a sect of ash-smeared Shaivite mystics who invented hatha yoga in the twelfth century …

(Ratif) … reflects on the three footloose years he spent wandering the deserts with these yogis, visiting both Hindu and Muslim pilgrimage sites. For Latif, there is no distinction between the different faiths: the divisions, as he sees them, are between the bigoted and orthodox, on one hand, and itinerant and free-thinking mystics on the other.

From the Sur Ramkali chapter of Risalo, by Shah Abdul Latif:

Yogis are many, but I love these wandering sadhus.
Smeared with dust, they eat little,
Never saving a grain in their begging bowls.
No Food in their packs, they carry only hunger,
No desire to eat have they,
Thirst they pour and drink.

These ascetics have conquered their desires.
In their wildemess they found the destination
For which they searched so long.
On the path of truth, They found it lay within.

Hearing the call,
Before the birth of Islam
They severed all ties,
And became one with their guru, Gorakhnath

Now, sitting by the side of the road, I look for them.
Remembering these sargrasis, tears well up.
They were so very kind to me.
They radiated brightness.
Yogis are many, but it is these wandering sadhus that I love
Says Latif

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April 11, 2011 at 7:51 am

Posted in Art, Faith, Yoga

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  • How to Roll Your Pilates and Yoga Mats: Great advice on how to keep your mat clean, especially useful for yogis & yoginis who go to several studios.
  • Ermita: Beautiful images from Belgian photographer Sebastian Schutyser.

    The hermitages in these photographs were all chosen for their aura rather than their cultural-historical importance. Some of them are cracked open by time, but still remain hermetic and austere. The almost complete absence of windows gives the buildings a sepulchral quality which is often at odds with the open nature of the land. They seem both alien and organic at the same time. Others are overgrown with vegetation, retreating even more into their surroundings. They become a fusion between nature and the spiritual footprint of man. As they blend with the empty landscapes in which they stand, the original meaning of the word ermita emerges.

    Also see Sebastian’s album of images of Adobe Mosques in Mali.

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March 28, 2011 at 8:59 am

Posted in Art, Malas, Yoga


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March 21, 2011 at 7:48 am


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  • Cognitive Bias Modification (therapist-free therapy):

    … A typical course of a modern talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, consists of 12-16 hour-long sessions and is a reasonably efficient way of treating conditions like depression and anxiety (hysteria is no longer a recognised diagnosis). Medication, too, can bring rapid change. Nevertheless, treating disorders of the psyche is still a hit-and-miss affair, and not everyone wishes to bare his soul or take mind-altering drugs to deal with his problems. A new kind of treatment may, though, mean he does not have to. Cognitive-bias modification (CBM) appears to be effective after only a few 15-minute sessions, and involves neither drugs nor the discussion of feelings. It does not even need a therapist. All it requires is sitting in front of a computer and using a program that subtly alters harmful thought patterns.

    … Similar biases may affect memory and the interpretation of events. For example, if an acquaintance walks past without saying hello, it might mean either that he has ignored you or that he has not seen you. The anxious, according to the theory behind CBM, have a bias towards assuming the former and reacting accordingly.

    The goal of CBM is to alter such biases, and doing so has proved surprisingly easy. A common way of debiasing attention is to show someone two words or pictures—one neutral and the other threatening—on a computer screen. In the case of social anxiety these might be a neutral face and a disgusted face. Presented with this choice, an anxious person instinctively focuses on the disgusted visage. The program, however, prods him to complete tasks involving the neutral picture, such as identifying letters that appear in its place on the screen. Repeating the procedure around a thousand times, over a total of two hours, changes the user’s tendency to focus on the anxious face. That change is then carried into the wider world.

  • A Joyful Noise with Krishna Das:

    Adams: How would you describe kirtan to someone new to the practice?

    Krishna Das: It depends who I’m talking to, because I don’t want to scare people away. If I say it’s “meditation with music,” some will be put off by that. In India they call it the “repetition of the sacred names of God,” but I don’t want to say that to someone who doesn’t believe in God. I don’t even know if I believe in God — not the one described in Western religious traditions anyway. In India people understand that God is within. There are Hindu images associated with God — deities like Krishna, Hanuman, and Kali — but when it comes down to it, these deities are symbols of the divine that lives inside each one of us. Indians are more creative about worship, whereas Christians are generally very tense: there’s only one right way to do it and only one God to worship. Of course, there is only one God in the Indian traditions, too, just many forms to symbolize it. It’s ok to worship anything in any way in India, because there it’s understood that nothing is outside of us. There’s only one God, and we’re all it.

    … I’ve been to yoga-teacher trainings and heard people say, “If you don’t understand the deities, you’ll never be a good yoga teacher.” Bullshit. We’re Americans. We didn’t grow up with this. It’s not native to us. I’ve spent a fair portion of my life in India and still don’t have a clue. It doesn’t mean that much to me. There it is: I told the truth.

    All these so-called deities exist inside of us, but we don’t understand that. We don’t know who we are, so we can’t know who they are. Find out who you are, and you’ll know everything you need to know.

    When I lived in India, I went to all the temples and holy places, and I read the history and the stories, but these days I don’t really think about all that, because to me the names simply represent the love inside of me, inside of you. Whether we’re chanting about Kali or Durga is irrelevant.

    … The first place I chanted was Jivamukti Yoga School in New York. I called them up, and they said, “Sure, you can come down on Monday.” They had a program for yoga-teacher trainees, and I sang for about twenty minutes before it began. I started doing this every Monday. That went on for a month or two, and then I showed up on a Monday night as usual, and the teachers weren’t there. I was told they had gone to India and wouldn’t return for months. So I sat down and sang for two or three hours. I did it again the next week, and the next, and more and more people came. Monday night became my night.

  • The power of vulnerability: Social work academic Brene Brown studies “… our ability to empathize, belong, love.”

  • Sex and the Spiritual Teacher:
  • … The problem of spiritual teachers seducing or sexually abusing their students tarnishes every spiritual tradition, in seemingly every culture—and recorded cases go back many hundreds of years. These misdeeds damage the lives of women and men, children and adults, the rich and the poor, the foolish and the wise, the gullible and the discerning.

    A list of spiritual teachers who have committed sexual transgressions during the past few decades reads almost like a Who’s Who of modern spiritual figures, and includes priests, ministers, rabbis, gurus, yogis, roshis, senseis, swamis, lamas, maggids, and imams. Sometimes their misconduct involves other transgressions as well (misappropriation of money, physical or emotional abuse, attempted brainwashing, etc.). This widespread misconduct has created scandal after scandal for these teachers, and much suffering for their students and spiritual communities.

    With very few exceptions, each of these teachers is or was male; each offered something genuinely worthwhile to their students; each knew that sex with their students could have potentially damaging consequences for those students; and each—including those teachers raised in other cultures—understood that the prevailing social norms prohibited such sexual relationships. Many of these teachers were married, and thus had vows of fidelity to uphold, as well as (presumably) willing sexual partners. Some had taken vows of celibacy. So why did they act against the best interests of their students, their own spiritual communities, and, ultimately, themselves?

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March 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

Posted in Art, Health, Malas

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  • Women Conquering Holy Ground: BBC’s Heart and Soul profiles women from three major faith traditions who are venturing into traditionally male dominated roles — presiding over worship rituals.

  • Hula HoopGirl:

    Zamor is magnetic and incredibly talented, but what sets her apart from other Bay Area hoopers is her avid following, cultivated by Hooping! The Book!, an array of instructional DVDs and 72-hour teacher training program that has certified 570 instructors in 16 countries. Zamor is HoopGirl® — a persona that not only has allowed her to whittle her waist and tone her tummy but to explode into a fitness franchise.

    … “I wasn’t really looking for hooping,” she says. At 27, Zamor was a UC Santa Barbara PhD student struggling to find academic support for her interest in ethnomusicology and drumming. Frustrated, she dropped out from her program after receiving a master’s degree, traveled to Senegal to study djembe, returned to the States, enrolled in Pacifica Graduate Institute’s master’s program in mythology and depth psychology, and began working as a personal assistant. Amid the confusion, she says she didn’t have the power to envision a life outside her studies. “I wanted to be a healer but didn’t know it,” she says.

    … Next up, Zamor will be working on bringing that whole-body healing to women who may not be willing to step inside the hoop. She has expanded her business to include empowerment classes that honor the “divine, delicious feminine” and that will help women become a more supple, radiant, and luminous version of themselves, she says.

    These classes in “hooping outside the hoop” are geared toward helping others uncover the empowerment and sense of self-worth that Zamor has found through HoopGirl. Of course, unless Zamor is planning on turning out hundreds of successful fitness revolutionaries with profitable book deals of their own, it’s hard to say whether her personal transformation will be replicable. But with one irresistible smile from Zamor, it’s easy to see that the hoop has worked for her — and difficult to resist the urge to run out and buy one for oneself.

  • DIY Criminal Appeals Law: Sadly, this tragic story of an innocent man sent to prison for 21 years, is far from rare. (See for example this documentary on the Daryl Hunt case.) When overworked investigators and prosecutors rush to judgement, their mistakes end up sending innocent people to prison. Based on the many examples of botched investigations that have surfaced in recent years, there are probably many innocent people in death row. The self-taught investigator Carl King profiled in the story, personifies seva!!


    … is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually.

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March 7, 2011 at 8:11 am