Monday, February 23, 2009

Stan and Ollie (and Richard) thinking of NOTHING!

Richard Rosen is a brilliant student of yoga. Well-travelled and experienced in the art and science of yoga - he is the author of The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama , Pranayama Beyond the Fundamentals: An In-Depth Guide to Yogic Breathing with Instructional CD , and Yoga for 50+: Modified Poses and Techniques for a Safe Practice

Richard has taught at our studio on a few occasions. I like his teaching, although he says that he's like "..bock beer. I'm an acquired taste!"

And that is what I love about Richard - his sense of humor. I got a kick out of this little post he threw up on his facebook page last week regarding "thinking of nothing." Enjoy:

I first heard the phrase "think of nothing" of all places in a 1939 Stan and Ollie movie titled The Flying Deuces (one level I suppose below Flying Aces). As soon as I came across this phrase it began popping up in unexpected places. The question is: How is it possible to think of nothing? If you're thinking of nothing are you then thinking of something? What is the experience of nothing like, in all the universe is there a place where nothing is? Abandon all thoughts, then don’t think of anything. ~Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika (4.57), 14th century CE The wise man should make his mind freestanding (niralamba) and not think of anything. ~Shiva Samhita, 5.210, 15th century CE?

SCENE: Stan and Ollie have joined the French Foreign Legion, so that Ollie can forget a failed love affair with a Parisian beauty. Out in the desert, they’re assigned to laundry duty, and it isn’t going well. Stanley is making his usual fine mess of things ...

OLLIE: Haven’t I got enough trouble without you making it tougher?
STAN: Well, it’s your own fault. If you hadn’t fallen in love with Georgette we wouldn’t be here.
OLLIE: Will you stop reminding me of that! Here I am trying to forget, and you keep talking about it all the time. Now here’s another day wasted.
STAN: Well, maybe you don’t try hard enough. If you can’t forget, why don’t you try and pretend to forget?OLLIE: How can anybody pretend to forget?
STAN: Well, I know if it was me, I’d sit down and relax, I’d close my eyes, and I’d concentrate and I’d think of nothing. Wouldn’t be long then, that’s what I’d do.
OLLIE: Say, I think you’ve got something there.
STAN: I know I’ve got something. Why don’t you take a whirl at it?
OLLIE [sits down, supports his chin in his hands, and closes his eyes]
STAN: Now don’t think of anything.
OLLIE: I won’t.
~Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, The Flying Deuces, 1939

Thanks Richard!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Floating around in outer space

Question - "How was the yoga master able to visit all the galaxies in the known universe?"

Answer - "He decided to see the universe one siddhi (city) at a time."


You have to be a devout student of Yoga Philosophy to get that joke. You see - Siddhis (pronounced "sid-ease" or cities) are the "magical powers" described in the third book of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

When a yogi - a yoga practitioner - becomes strong in his/her practice - he or she may acquire "magical powers." These are described at length in the Sutras of Pantajali and may include:

  1. Ability to be in two places at once
  2. Ability to become as small as an atom or as large as the universe
  3. Ability to levitate over water, thorns, swamps
  4. Ability to read people's minds
  5. Ability to see things across the universe or in the other room
  6. Ability to hear things near or far (like a conversation happening in Japan when you're in Oakland).
  7. Ability to enter some one's body at will and animate through that person's body
  8. Ability to keep light from bouncing off your body - thus appearing invisible
  9. Ability to precisely know the future and the exact time of your death
  10. Ability to talk all languages and to all animals (think Dr. Doolittle)
  11. Ability to conquer the "ether" of space (thus the yogi doesn't need air to breathe)
  12. Ability to travel anywhere in the universe instantaneously (quantum mechanics)

And many, many more.

However - while these "special powers" are "cool" and would definitely win you a spot on David Copperfield's next tour in Vegas - the Sutras WARN that when any of these or any other "powers' begin to manifest - that the student should go DEEPER into his or her practice and not get "swept up" in the POWER that seemingly comes from these Siddhis.

The Siddhis' are actually our birthright - but they can become distractions to practice as they FEED THE EGO which is what you don't want to have happen.

The Siddhi's tell us we are on the path to ultimate liberation in our yoga practice - but they must not be given special attention. The ego needs to remain humble and always in a position and attitude of SERVICE to God (Ishvara Pranidhana) - this is what will take us to ultimate freedom - freedom from the self.

Keep practicing!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yoga Brew?

I saw a woman in a BEER commercial the other night doing a YOGA POSE! I've seen advertisers use people practicing yoga in ads for:

  1. Banking
  2. Medications (nasal spray, pain relief, etc)
  3. Cars
  4. Detergent
  5. Clothes
  6. and now BEER!

What the heck? So stupid! Insulting! These ads give the impression that you can achieve peace of mind and serenity as long as you drive a Lexus and you husband's shorts are white.

It also leaves one with another false impression - and that is that if you THINK or WATCH yoga - that you're actually practicing it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yoga is hard - it's hard because it requires practice - it especially requires practice when you DON'T want to do it. That's when you have to practice.

Practice - constant practice - free from all desire to achieve - this is yoga. Not Heineken!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Retreats are Vital!

There's something to be said about removing yourself from man-made electromagnetic radiation. I'm talking about getting away from cell phones, radios, televisions, computers and all electronic gadgetry.

You could even go one step further and stop reading the newspapers for a week.

Last December I spent a week in Sayulita, Mexico at the Haramara Retreat Center with 20 other yogi's and did just that. The result changed my life. Once all the distractions were removed I was left with myself and my surroundings. The plants, the animals, the ocean the sky. I practiced asanas twice a day and the remainder of the day became a blissful and wakeful meditation. I realized that this was my life - now - and I could chose the quality of living I wanted for myself.

Kate and I will be returning to Sayulita in 2010 for two weeks - April 10-17, 2010 and November 27-December 4, 2010.

We have space for 18 other people each week. We'd love to share this life-changing experience with those adventurous souls who can book the time. Here's the website for Haramara

Namaste -

Monday, February 9, 2009

You can't get there if you're not here

At the end of my beginner's yoga class on Monday nights, new students will always ask something to the effect of..."Am I ever going to GET THERE?" - the "THERE" being the place their mind wants them to be.

Let me explain further. Sometimes "getting there" means getting more flexible, or thinner, or more "spiritual" (whatever that means).

So, they ask me "Am I ever going to GET THERE?"

The answer I'm most inclined to give is "What's wrong with being RIGHT HERE?" This is never what they want to hear - and I think they suspect I'm just regurgitating old platitudes from Ram Das.

However, I contend that the biggest obstacle to progress is acceptance. It's extremely difficult to change if I can't accept what is at the present. If I abhor the present moment it's even worse - since the present moment is all I'll ever get.

That's what I love about practicing yoga. I get to surrender and let go of all the "If onlys..."

"If only I were richer..."
"If only I were thinner..."
"If only I were more flexible..."
"If only I were (fill-in the blank).... - THEN ...(the thought goes) my life would be better and I'd be happy!"

All advertising is based on this thought process -"If only I had whiter teeth, then I'd be in a relationship (...and be happy)."

Sadly - this is not the truth. You can be fulfilled, ecstatically happy, content, serene, at peace and filled with joy with EXACTLY AS IT IS NOW. This is what the practice of yoga teaches. It instills a sense of "contentment" - Santosha - with things just as they are.

The "goal" of yoga is not to be more flexible, to do all the funky complex poses. The "goal" of yoga (if there is such an end game) is Kaivalya - ultimate liberation - liberation from the insane thinking that says I'll be better if only.... out there....sometime in the future.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The HARDEST part about Yoga

It's not the pose. The hardest part about practicing yoga is not putting yourself into a challenging pose.

The hardest part about yoga is balancing the opposing pairs. Balancing the opposites. Bringing one-pointedness to the duality of life.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the statement "Abhayasa Vairagya." This statement can be found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanajali (1:12).

Abhayasa can be translated as - Constant Practice. Diligent practice. Determined practice.

Vairagya can be translated as - Complete detachment of the results. Non-attachment. Letting go.

Thus, the hardest part of practicing yoga is PRACTICING diligently without thought of an "END GAME."

One has to practice with determination - "Never give up" - but - "Always letting go."

This concept is incredibly hard to grasp for most people - let alone practice. Why would we want to practice so hard - dedicate so much work - if it wasn't to ACHIEVE something of value.

The practice of yoga is about doing the work, without thought of result. Just do the work. Do the practice. And the practice is to let go. Then you have mastered duality and nothing externally will move you.

Namaste - Jim

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Finding a Job - the YOGIC way

I've been a recruiter since 1979 - since before there were FAX machines - since Gerald Ford was President - a LONG time no doubt!

In 30 years of recruiting one thing has NEVER changed - PEOPLE hire PEOPLE - Period!

Even with all the technology, facebooks, twitters, IM's, chats and blogs (like this one) it all boils down to you getting FACE TO FACE with someone that has the power and authority to say "Yes - you are my person!"

So - with all the scary crap going on in the news about layoffs and end of the world economic crashes - I've put together my 12 steps for successful job hunting in 2009.

And what does all this have to do with YOGA? Everything - yoga is about selfless-service. So here you go. Pass this onto your friends looking for work.

All the best.

Jim's 12 steps to succesful job hunting -

#1 - First of all -remember that you only need ONE Job - so you just have to generate a lot of activity to get the ONE job.

#2 - Tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW you're looking to get back as a taxpaying member of society. Tell the butcher, the baker the candlestick maker. Swallow your pride - send the emails and make the phone calls - AND - make them POSITIVE! No doom and gloom. People don't like gloom and doom. Tell people you're willing to do whatever needs to get done to get a new job.

#3 - File for unemployment today if you were laid off or fired. You'll need every nickel you can get.

#4 - Register with the EDD's job training program - those "upward mobility" programs they have for the white collar job seekers. They're good networking opportunities, you'll see job leads come through. You'll learn tips on working with job search engines, etc. You'll make friends and get support.

#5 - Update your LinkedIN and Facebook profiles. Update your Resume too. Get advice on your resume from friends, family and contacts. Be willing to modify and change your resume based on the feedback you receive. Listen to what people say and suggest. THANK THEM. Don't criticize when people give help.

#6 - Make it a point to TALK to AT LEAST 10 people a day. This means TALK to them - not IM, not Email, not chat - but pick up the phone - or go see them. 10 people a day.

#7 - Look at, and apply for all the jobs that make sense on LinkedIN, Career builder, Dice, Craigslist, Monster. You never know which one will be the pay-off

#8 - Activate Career Builder "search agents" which will generate job listings that fit you and your profile.

#9 - Stay active - when in doubt - call someone else - re-circulate your call lists so that you follow back up on people every few days/weeks.

#10 - Make yourself a personal business card that you can hand to people with your Name, phone number and web address to your resume.

#11 - Stay active by getting exercise (yoga) , proper diet, proper balance of family life, proper sleep - ease off on the boozing and drugs if you do that sort of thing.

#12 - Pray your ass off.

There you go - call me and let me know how it's going.