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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

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Find teachers who are attuned to the Deeper Aspect of Yoga

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David Williams was one of the first Westerners to study with Pattabhi Jois. The quote below is from a 2004 letter to yoga students in Oahu1. The sentiment he expresses is consistent with previous posts I’ve written on the subject of finding teachers and classes.

I am occasionally asked if someone is “good at yoga.” I quickly respond that the best Yogi is not the one who is most flexible, but the one who is most focused on what he or she is doing, the one most intensely doing the mulabandha and deep breathing … My goal is to convey the idea that the greatest Yogi is the one who enjoys his or her Yoga practice the most, not the one who can achieve the ultimate pretzel position. It is my belief … that in your practice of this moving meditation, what is really important, is what is invisible to the observer, what is within each of you.

Unfortunately the hyperlink to that letter is broken. I came across the above quote in this essay written by an Australian academic.

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May 20, 2011 at 7:22 am

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In the end, just three things matter

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From Jack Kornfield on Twitter:

In the end, just three things matter: how well we have lived, how well we have loved, and how well we have learned to let go.

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January 26, 2011 at 8:36 am

Posted in Meditation, Quotes, Sadhana

Methods and Purpose: Vegetarian Meals at Eiheiji

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Part of our series on Kaoru Nonomura’s account of his year-long stay at at Eiheiji, the premier Zen training center in Japan (Eat Sleep Sit: p. 158-159):

… I should mention here that even though the main ingredients are all vegetables, such dishes are not strictly vegan. At Eiheiji, curries and stews are made using standard commercial roux, which does contain meat products. Even so, this does not violate any Buddhist precept.

In Thailand and other countries practicing Hinayana Buddhism, which emphasize adherence to ancient precepts, monks go begging for their food. They eat whatever is placed in their begging bowl, be it meat or vegetable, without penalty. The Discipline of the Ten Chants stipulates three conditions under which it is permissible to eat meat: if you did not see the animal being killed for your consumption; if you did not hear the animal being killed for your consumption; if it is certain the animal was not killed for your consumption. As long as these three conditions are satisfied, the meat placed in Thai monks’ begging bowls may be eaten with impunity.

What really matters is the determination not to take life. In fact society is full of people who spend so much energy pursuing the means of doing something that they all lose sight of purpose. Rather than thinking about purpose, people are more attracted by, and more proficient at having various methods at their disposal. But methods that are devoid of purpose or detached from ultimate meaning will often — like war, and like development in the name of progress — lead only to disaster.

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January 14, 2011 at 7:23 am

Posted in Ahimsa, Meditation, Quotes, Sadhana

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Finding the right Yoga class

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From Max Strom (A Life Worth Breathing, page 69):

Healing your own anger issues:

… If you feel that you tend to be competitive or aggressive by nature, I recommend that you avoid yoga classes that approach “attaining” postures as the main focus. Instead, seek out classes that are noncompetitive and more oriented toward healing. Release your addiction to “power” and seek out breath and alignment. You will discover a new kind of power that will astonish you. …

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January 12, 2011 at 7:45 am

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Five things to help you relax in two weeks

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One of the best things I attended last year was a breathe workshop conducted by Max Strom. Max has such a gentle way about him, notwithstanding the fact that many regard him one of the finest yoga teachers in the US. These tips are from his recent book, A Life Worth Breathing (see pages 55-56).

1. Listen or read the news once a week — no more. … Does this mean we should go into denial and ignore the problems? Absolutely not. … If anything momentous happens you will hear about it; everyone will be talking about it …

2. Read inspiring, life-affirming books before going to sleep at night … Whether it is the Bible, the Upanishads, the Torah, the Koran, great philosophers, or inspiring poetry — to go to sleep with hope and inspiration will improve the quality of your sleep and dreams.

3. Watch no violent or disturbing images on TV or at the movies. No explanation is necessary.

4. Get to sleep by 10 PM. According to traditional Chinese medicine (those who practice acupuncture), the period between 10 PM and 3 AM is the most vital for the body to replenish and repair itself.

5. Give up caffeine gradually. Sorry but this is important. … What will amaze you is that you will find you have more energy, not less.

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January 5, 2011 at 8:02 am


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  • Buddhists in the US Military: Heart and Soul on how the US Military struggles to accomodate minority religions. Some Buddhist countries (e.g., Thailand) have robust militaries, so military service among Buddhist practitioners is “possible”. The challenge faced by non-Christians in the US Military is the large and vocal contingent of Evangelical Christians.

  • Healthy Alternative to China Gel: China Gel is popular among yoga practitioners, I myself have come to appreciate it.

    After a cardio-sculpt class involving repeated lunges with hand-weights or when I’ve had one asana too many, the last thing I want to slather on my aching body is China Gel.

    I realize that sounds kind of sacrilege, since China Gel’s considered the muscle remedy of choice at many New York City gyms and yoga studios. I can see why it’s popular: The topical pain reliever has a handful of ingredients that make sense—like menthol and ginseng. But it has way too many ingredients that don’t, like Triethanolamine (a skin, immune system, and respiratory toxin), DMDM Hydantoin (a formaldehyde releaser), and dyes like Blue 1 (CI 42090) and Yellow 5.

  • Mimi Silbert on Delancey Street’s rehabilitation model: As Jerry Brown starts his term as Governor of California, I’m hoping he listens to experts like Mimi Silbert. A SF success story, Delancey Street is now found in five other US cities.

    We take applications from people who have hit bottom, from prison, jail or walk-ins. Residents who have been at Delancey Street awhile interview all applicants. The minimum stay is 2 years; the average stay is 4 years. We have 3 rules: no drugs or alcohol, no physical violence, and no threats of violence. The goal is to learn to lead a productive crime-free, drug-free life of purpose and integrity. Everyone learns a marketable skill (the goal is 3 skills), and earns at least a high school equivalency degree. Advanced education is available.

    Silbert on Options for Dealing with Criminal Offenders:
    “I am going to describe two options. One option: you get put somewhere where you don’t have to work, where you don’t learn anything, where the government – the taxpayer – pays $40,000 to $50,000 dollars. Here’s the second option: the government pays nothing, you have to wake up at 7:00 am, you have to work eight hours a day, you must get educated, you must volunteer in the community… Which would you rather see?”

  • Thought-full Meditation: I’ve written about the scandal which engulfed Sally Kempton’s guru in the past, and I still haven’t found any indication that she’s distanced herself from some quotes attributed to her in the midst of it. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading her columns in the Yoga Journal! From the Feb/2011 issue:

    From the Yoga Vasishta text of high Vedanta: “Consciousness plus thoughts is the mind, Consciousness minus thoughts is God.”

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January 3, 2011 at 6:27 am