Category Archives: peaceful revolution

Love as a Strategic Weapon

In a world where everyone seems to be trying to gain ascendancy over everyone else, there seems to be a fixation on weapons and strategies. We look for the super-weapon to destroy (or disable) our enemies, seek the best strategy to ‘win’ in love, or at work, or…wherever we go.

We militarize everything – even the spiritual path. We have spiritual ‘warriors’ these days, and loudly give them acclaim. We have the ‘battle between the sexes’ as if love and interaction are some sort of M.M.A. cage fight. We have a ‘war on drugs’, as if inanimate objects could fight us (in reality, we have a war on citizens who use drugs).

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Our minstrels (court jesters) sing about sapphire bullets of love, and about beating our loved ones over the head with our ‘love.’ All we need is a good weapon to do it with, right? Our politicians make war against each other, and incite us to a sort of war against each other as well.

I literally find myself feeling sick as I contemplate our monstrous separation from each other. No wonder our planet seems to be going down in flames. People stockpile rifles and pistols, as a sort of safety blanket against the scary world they perceive. Most want even better weapons than they are allowed by our (purported) laws.

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We’re just as fascinated by (and fixated on) ‘winning strategies’ as we are on weapons. Whole sections of book stores are dedicated to them…strategies to find love, to manifest love better, to get the job or mate or circumstances we so desire. Just as badly as we want super-weapons to crush the people and problems that lie before us  (or gain ascendancy over them), we want strategies to ensure we ‘win’ in life.

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These attitudes are the enemies of love. When we use weapons or make ourselves warriors, we are not really on the side of peace and love, no matter how loudly we proclaim we are. When we engage in strategies to plot how to unfold our lives, we are fighting against the natural flow, trying to force the universe to do it our way.

win at love

We search high and low, seeking these weapons and strategies. We go to seminars where others tell us how to find or use them…others telling us how to use the weapons they like as our own. We never question this massive solipsism, and often applaud these warmongers as ‘spiritual guides.’

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I gotta tell ya, any spiritual guide who tries to sell me weapons and strategies is nothing more than an arms dealer to me. Although these suggested strategies seem cloaked in visions of love and happiness, I know that love and happiness cannot be achieved or experienced by using weapons and strategies.

Still, we search on, like kids looking for an imaginary Pokemon they’ll never find. We look for a ‘better way’, better techniques, better tools and methods to accomplish what we want. All the while, we are ignoring the one ‘strategic weapon’ that could actually help us. Okay, I gave away the suspense in the title…it is love.

Yes, love is the ‘weapon’ we are looking for, the ultimate strategy we continually seek. Love…real love, as action, as an open heart, as compassionate acceptance of others and their sovereignty.

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At first glance, the concept of love seems incommensurable with the concept of weaponry. Love is at its core (if anything) a healing and uniting tool, not a weapon. Love blossoms from the heart as a natural phenomenon, and is not made manifest by planned strategies. The two seem to be contradictions in terms. So how can I have the outright gall to suggest love is the ultimate strategic weapon? Am I as confused as the rest of our planet seems to be?

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Weapons obviously divide – there is one person at one end of the weapon (holding it metaphorically, as it were), and another on the receiving end. Weapons never bash us with enlightenment – they are made to hurt and harm, perhaps even kill. Even ‘humane’ weapons and ‘non lethal’ weapons share this attribute…one person is using force and the other is subjected to that force.

Love unites. So how could it be a weapon? It really can’t, if it wants to remain love. Yet love can have the end result that weapons intend (but never achieve). Weapons basically are used to get someone to do something you want them to do, or to stop them from doing something you want them to stop (such as living, or messing with your grandma, or whatever).

Weapons are all about force – a force that harms and divides. Love is about force, too – a force that unites. The two seem to be separated by a gulf, polar opposites, diametrically opposed to each other. So how could love be a weapon?

Say we want to get someone to bend to our will, or to force them to see things as we do. Why, we typically just grab a weapon (which could be simply arguments or the sharp side of our tongues) and start bashing until they comply…or run away. That has proven to be highly ineffective – yet we persist in hoping that with a new, improved weapon we might finally get us what we want.

What if instead we used love? Love implies understanding, compassion, acceptance, concern, and respect for the ‘other’. What if we used this anti-weapon as a weapon? Would we have a chance of accomplishing more with compassion, understanding, or acceptance – or will a bigger, better weapon get the job done? Would we get more bees with tasty honey than with bitter vinegar? Uh, let me ask a third grader, for they will surely know what we adults seem to have forgotten.

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If we meet our enemies with understanding (or the desire to understand their issues), we might have a chance. If we meet them with acceptance of how they are (and a desire to find a solution acceptable to both of us), would we have a better chance of getting (if not what we want exactly) a mutually agreeable outcome? Will the sun rise tomorrow?

So yes, love can be a ‘weapon’…the only one that might work. The one peaceful ‘weapon’ we could possibly use.

squirrel bhakti

If this is possible, maybe love would also work as a strategy. Instead of plots and plans, what if we used love (and the open and heartfelt listening and consideration that results from real love)? Love’s strategies are simple…placing the other at the same level as the one in which we place ourselves. Granting the other the peace and understanding we desire for ourselves, could that work…or be a good first step towards communication and eventual harmony? Will the moon shine in the sky this month?

Strategies based on love (instead of the divisive self-interest they usually serve) might just work. They might just offer us a path for ‘getting to yes.’ We sure know that weapons and our ‘normal’ strategies aren’t working…just look around at our divided planet.

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In Nazi Germany, their endlosung (final solution) was to kill all those pesky Jews and Catholics and homosexuals, destroy all the liberals they could find. How did that work out for them? I suggest the real endlosung is to implement the strategies of love. It seems like a no-brainer, but who has tried it…really tried it on a large scale (or even a personal one)? Those who have we call the sages, the wise.

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It disturbs me how insidious the power paradigm is. Today I read a meme post by a woman who is typically quite loving, a real yogi, someone who knows and practices the value of love. Her post said something like ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ Now that is a saying that is sure to unite us all, right? Wrong! It is as nonsensical as its idiot cousin phrase ‘you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish.’

Another woman I know (knew?) was of the idea that love was simply too overwhelming, that it distracted her from her ‘inner work’, led her off her ‘path.’ Now the question pops to my mind…what inner work or path is more important than cultivating and preserving love? What good is the watered-down pseudo-love that attaches to no person, which promotes no tangibly loving actions or attitudes? That is a travesty of love, a mockery of it, as far as I can tell.

Perhaps our world is becoming divided not into ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, or liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, but by those who persist in the Neanderthal notion that weapons and strategies will get us what we want and those who see love (and its attendant attributes and manifestations) as the only real answer.

Yes, I think the only real ‘strategic weapon’ is love. If love is the basis for our strategies, then perhaps the goals those strategies are meant to reach can be achievable. If love is the ‘weapon’ we use (not to get what we ourselves want, but to get what both want…or can accept), then maybe we have a chance.

Otherwise, one more weapon or strategy might just be the thing that puts us over the edge into planetary barbarism…people considering only what they and theirs want, and figuring the best strategy or weapon to get that (at the cost of others not getting what they want or need).

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One more stupid meme (which means ‘the same’ in French) originated by someone else and yet passed on unthinkingly by blind, sheep-like followers…that might just be the thing that sets off the conflagration – if not within the entire world, then in our own hearts and minds. Let that happen enough and the entire world will soon be running around yelling memes (ideas originated by others)…and acting on them.

old yeller

I suggest that if weapons are to be used, let’s try love as a ‘weapon.’ If strategies are to be implemented (or imagined) then let us base them on love. We might just have a chance that way.

Love. It is the only answer, the only valid response, the only hope for our fragmented and tattered planet. Love.

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“All you need is love”

-Da Beatles

“This I command you, to love one another…”

-Yeshua (Jesus) the Nazarene Rebel

“Shine on the world, shine on me…love is the answer”

-England Dan and John Ford Coley

“Love is a rose but you’d better not pick it”

-Neil Young

“Love, love, love”

-Hippies and lovers everywhere (and every when)

food is love

(c) 2016 Mark Francis Mullen. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission (especially for profit). Facebook and other social media are granted no rights to this document or its contents, regardless of publication on their pages.
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Where We Practice Yoga

Where do we practice yoga? If we think of yoga as merely a physical practice, then the places we might practice it are limited…at home, the gym, or at the yoga studio. Maybe the adventurous bust a couple poses out in Nature, or at a yoga retreat. Is that where we really practice yoga?

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If our yoga is based on the Ashtanga (the eight-fold path of yoga), then where we practice yoga is everywhere, in every moment. In fact, the core of this type of yoga practice is not the physical (or Hatha) component of yoga at all. Some, in their denial of the the physical component as crucial (or even relevant) drop the physical ‘petal’ entirely, focusing on the remaining ‘petals’ of the flower (or more typically on a single one, such as meditation).

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Yet yoga is about balance and integration, about union and yoking/joining (its definition means all of these things). The eight petals work together, not alone.

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Each is like a crucial ingredient in a recipe; none is more important than the other, for the recipe can only be made with all the ingredients.

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I once read an article where the author began by saying “without a home practice, you’re not a real yogi.” Okay, this was maybe just a ‘hook’ that caught a reader’s eye, drew them in to the rest of the article so she could make her main point. Further into the article, she did revise her hook to a slightly more balanced set of words:  “A consistent home practice is the essential foundation of the true yoga lifestyle.”

At first glance, this seems like a reasonable statement. Yet I feel some words resonating and others not….’Consistent….practice….foundation…..’ those resonate with me. Others leave me more cold, feel more dischordant…”true yoga lifestyle.” Yet others evoke a blind rebellious response and a feeling of separation (…”a real yogi?!)”

Ugh. Is that fundamentalism I am smelling?

I could get behind something like…’a consistent practice is part of the foundation of a yogic lifestyle.’

As I understand a true yoga lifestyle, it does not include telling others what a real yogi is or does, but instead allows others to discover for themselves what a real yogi is or does. More importantly, it focuses one’s effort and concern on what the practitioner alone does, not on what others do or should do.

That is the beauty of yoga; no one can walk another’s path, or prescribe it for them. The sages have given us the yogic tools and an indication of what a yogic lifestyle might look like…and left the rest for us to determine (each of us, individually and for ourselves only) what that means for us.

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Only we can walk our own path, and no one can prescribe it for us. No point along the Path is more advanced than another; we are all on the Path, all not there yet.

(How can I tell we are all not there yet? Because we are each here on this planet).

The manifestation of a ‘true’ yogic practice varies not only by individual, but by where they happen to be along the Path at the time. What a true yogic lifestyle looks like for one person at a certain point along the Path may be different for the same person at another point along the Path. It may look like another person’s idea of a real yogi or a true yogic lifestyle…or not.

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If we stick with the fundamentals of a yogic lifestyle as outlined in the Yoga Sutra or the Samhita, then one thing would be for sure:

-We would not be writing articles about yoga, but practicing it, dedicating our lives to it

-We would not be living in the modern, commercial, consumer world as we know it, but in an ashram or in isolation as sannyasin

-We would not be having this discussion at all; I not writing it, nor you reading it

If we tried to live according to the standards and values of Krishnamacharya, we would most likely not be telling others how to really rock the yoga life…like only we can do.

I suggest that to live such a life is almost impossible in this modern world. For anyone desiring to live a devoted life in the yogic or Buddhist manner, living in the modern world is (according to their own teachings and traditions) incompatible with the practice. We’d be quietly practicing or meditating away from the modern world.

So we all fall short of what a theoretically perfect yogi is, or does.

Yet we all orient towards that as a goal, all seek with varying degrees of effort or allowing to approach the ‘real yogi’ we imagine, or the ‘true yogic lifestyle’ that is imputed by us.

All are fingers pointing towards the moon. 

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All of this is why I hesitate to use the term ‘yogi,’ for myself or others. A yogi is someone (male or female) who has achieved a state of yoga. The real Sanskrit name for a practitioner, an aspirant on the Path of yoga, is sadhaka.

Who am I to know (or say)? I am just one sadhaka.

Who is anyone to know, or say?

That’s what I always loved about yoga, and one of the major things that attracted me to it, and kept me there for it as a lifelong practice;

-In all other belief systems, they ask you to take something on faith, to accept              the words of others on what a true X does, or what a real life of Y is like. Yoga              does not.

Yoga acknowledges that only you can experience the practice of yoga for                   yourself.

-Others may provide hints or instructions, but ultimately only the sadhaka can             know for themselves whether these practices work or not (and what should               or should not be done). Only the sadhaka can experience them.

We know the only way we can, by intimate personal experience, not by the           precepts and prescriptions of others.

Yes, we practice yoga…with every breath.

Yes, we practice yoga…in every moment, in every place

That is my current understanding (from this place on the Path) of what this sadhaka does, what this sadhaka’s evolving yogic lifestyle looks like.

The sages and saints may agree with me…or not. Real yogis and those living the true yogic lifestyle might admit the authentic truth of those statements…or not.

All I know, all I can speak for is this one sadhaka, this one aspirant and practitioner. If ever that one fine day comes when I can live the life of yogi, all I will be able to speak for is….just…one…yogi.

AUM, Shanti

:  )

‘Noboby right, nobody wrong’

-Michael Franti

lao tzu

Below is the article from Elephant Journal, by Mary Margaret http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/10/solo-yoga-is-essential-8-alone-time-practice-tips/

Without a home practice, you’re not really a yogi.

This may seem like a controversial opinion, but hear me out.

Taking community classes at a studio is wonderful and recommended, as you always pick up new techniques and poses (and, ideally, inspiration) from each teacher. But the sad fact is that a lot of yoga studio drop-in or membership fees are prohibitively expensive for many of us.

In any case, the key is to practice daily, or as often as possible—on your own. A consistent home practice is the essential foundation of the true yoga lifestyle.

I was fortunate to stumble upon yoga early in life and to spend years honing my home practice, sans yoga mat or any other props or accessories, before ever attending a public class.

In a former life, I was a super busy overachieving yogantrepreneur overloaded with commitments, both in Austin and the San Francisco Bay Area. Ten years ago, I was teaching a dozen classes a week and barely finding time to roll out my own mat at home.

Trust me—I know that a consistent personal practice can feel impossible to maintain.

I also know that without it, every other aspect of life gets more difficult and ultimately falls apart.

When I moved to Guatemala four years ago, the space I suddenly had in my personal and professional life was a luxury, and I found myself meditating and practicing yoga in my room for hours each week.

It wasn’t a struggle; it wasn’t just another item to check off the to-do list.I found myself waking up earlier and naturally gravitating to my cushion or mat. It came naturally.

If this magical mystery is yet to happen in your life, you may need to give it a push. Here are some tips for getting started, over and over again.

1. Start small.

Even just five minutes of sitting in stillness first thing in the morning can make a huge difference in the quality of your day.

You do not need to be skinny and flexible to do yoga. So many people think they have to be all pretzel-bendy in order to do yoga. That’s like saying you need to be strong to lift weights or you need to be fast to run.

No. You start where you are. In time, with regular practice, you will gain flexibility, strength, balance and focus. If you delve deeper, you might even have a spiritual awakening.

2. Find your happy place.

Find the place in your house that works for you. Create space for sitting meditation and for practicing yoga. Decorate an altar if so inspired, with plants, flowers, relics and/or inspiring images of your teachers and the people and places you love.

3. Pick a time and stick to it.

Be disciplined. Set a goal. Five minutes, ten, twenty. Work your way up gradually. To do this, sit in meditation every day. Practice some yoga every day. Soon you’ll find it’s not a burden but an automatic and enjoyable habit.

4. Use guidance.

In lieu of a guru, it is important to work with an experienced teacher in order to have a safe and flourishing home practice. If you don’t have quality yoga teachers available nearby, there are billions of good books, videos and online instructional resources that can help get you started.

5. Study the words of the wise.

Yoga is a vast science that involves a whole lot more than stretching, breathing and meditating. Read all about it. Read the dharma teachings, theTao Te Ching or the Bhagavad GitaRead what feeds you.

6. Deepen your practice.

For most of us, the most efficient way to do this is to go on retreat. Take a weekend (or better yet a week, or better yet ten days) to be silent, to practice more frequently and for longer periods than normal, to be alone, to listen to the quiet, to find your balance in the present. If you can’t take a weekend, take a day. If you can’t take a day, take an hour. But try to find some space in your life for retreat.

7. If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again! At first, you won’t succeed. It takes time and devotion to built a solid, unwavering practice. When you notice that you’re off track and have gotten away from a steady routine of meditation and yoga in your day-to-day life, start anew.

8. Seriously, start small.

It’s better to practice five to ten minutes of yoga, once or thrice in your busy day rather than wait for the magical time when you will have one free hour to set aside for meditation and relaxation.

That hour will never come. Instead, do yoga in short spurts woven throughout the day, if that’s what works for you, for now.

Don’t delay! Start where you are. Enjoy.

(end of article)

Post Scriptum:  If you have never checked it out, take a look at more of Elephant Journal. You can read one or two articles a day for free, and unlimited for a small monthly donation. Lots of good content on a variety of subjects.

Tuning the Spirit

When I perform yogic rituals and practice, my consciousness fits in the ‘mold’ I make. When I performed martial ones, it rested in a different mold. Those modes and states are distinctly different. Tuned to one ‘note’ or another, my being resonates there. One place is based on gentleness, the other on overt strength.

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The choice is an easy one to me; one path is based on opposition to the world, one on harmony. They both contradict each other at their core. One is based on non-violence, the other on controlled violence. One is the way of striving, the other on allowing. The differences are undeniable. The choice is clear. One is the way of force, martial force. The other is the way of power, Divine power. One heals and integrates, the other harms and divides.

Yet these simple and seemingly obvious contrasts are lost to many, or moot. To many (especially those operating on more surface levels) there is no contradiction. For those engaged in mere physical activity, the fundamental purpose of the actions is moot. They just want actions, to get in shape or occupy their time or to become a badass. I get it.

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It is the other group I find it hard to comprehend. Their unperceived dichotomy defies not only logic and reason, but also the truth of the heart. This group insists on confusing a meditative practice with a positive, peaceful one. It sees slow, graceful movements and imagines them similar in intent and purpose with the physical practice of yoga. It tries to integrate the two conflicting paths, hoping for harmony by stirring oil and water, hoping to mix and blend the two.

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This group thinks spiritual intent can somehow imbue martial practices with spiritual character, render them non-martial somehow. It ignores the fact that the two practices (and associated paradigms) are inherently opposed. It ignores one basic truism that armies have known and demonstrated through time – in times of crisis, people act from their level of training. They do what they practice, almost without thought, in that one moment when there is no time for thought.

The difference between the two becomes apparent in times of crisis, or when faced by a direct and imminent danger. In this moment, all the theories and paradigms become manifest in action, in physical reality. The differences in response make the differences between the two practices obvious.

The yogi will respond peacefully, their actions reflecting the thing they practice. They will turn the other cheek. The martial artist will respond differently. They will block or strike, place themselves in physical and attitudinal opposition. They will manifest the inherent violence of their practice, just as yogis will typically manifest the inherent non-violence of theirs.

The reflex action is the action we train for, the one we practice in deed and thought, in attitude and being. It is the fruit of the seeds we plant. If you read this and imagine yourself being able to choose your reaction, you may not have experienced that hot, quick instant I refer to. Those who have experienced it know what I mean.

When a ball is flying towards your face, there is no time to ponder, scant time to choose a course of action. You just react…in the manner you trained yourself to, with your practice. If you are a trained athlete, you will react one way. If not, you may react another. One athlete ‘automatically’ thinks to catch the ball, another to hit it, and yet another to kick it back. The non-athlete may dodge it, cringe, or just freeze. The actions and practices they performed prior to this moment largely determine their unthinking, unconsidered reactions.

We are the same way. Why would we, if we consider ourselves on a path of non-violence, peace, and understanding, practice the martial arts of war, fighting, and opposition? How does that serve us? How does that not contradict us, our practices, and our purpose?

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This anomaly, this dichotomy, this contradiction continues to baffle me. I think I’ve dropped it and quit trying to understand when the issue again stares me in the face, confusing me yet again. An increasing amount of yogis (and yoginis in modern terms for female yogis) are blithely integrating kickboxing, kung fu, or tai chi into their practices, like they once integrated cycling, hiking, or climbing.

They know yoga is based on non-violence. It is the first of the yogic ‘commandments.’ They also know martial arts is based on violence, composed of various strikes and blocks. Somehow they resolve the dichotomy, convince themselves their martial gyrations are either spiritual or at least not contradictory to the non-violent lives, attitudes, and practices they outwardly aspire to.

I just don’t get it. I don’t want to. Yet to over-consider the issue (a defect I am all too prone to), I cannot help but hypothesize this phenomenon is based on fear. Fear is a great motivator, a source of all manner of rationalizations that lead us to act in ways contrary to our core beliefs. Fear leads even greed and possibly lust as a (mostly subconscious) motivator.

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Our culture promotes fear – yellow alerts and terrorists. The idea that we think we need a Department of Homeland Security or a National Security Agency shows how little security we feel in our homeland. Daily injections of the ‘news’ (things that have already happened and are history instead of news) make us fearful…constant reportings of suicide bombings, rapes and murders. The news media sells fear…this ‘news’ is how they increase ratings, advertising revenues…money. Fear sells – they are the merchants and TV observer culture members the willing consumers.

It is understandable that in a world of chaos and uncertainty, people cling to ideas, attitudes, and actions that give them the illusion of control. Martial arts does that admirably. In America, they even use this illusion as a selling point; martial arts increases self-esteem.

That it uses a poor and shifting foundation on which to base this foundation, no one seems to notice. That it builds this on a base of violence, no one seems to care. Might makes right, in this view…if you have might, it will be alright.

Yet might inevitably fades with time. Might is relative. There is always someone mightier. Might is transient. This makes any foundation built on might inherently unstable and illusory. To fight fire with fire is an illusion. Most often, violent responses simply evoke more violence, create escalations rather than resolutions. Live by the sword, die by the sword is a more apt aphorism.

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Yet we ignore these inherent solipsisms, cloak ourselves in sophistry. We think we’ll be a bit safer if we ‘know’ and practice a bunch of kicks and blocks. We base our sense of self-confidence and safety on some martial moves, on the idea that we can kick some ass, that we can somehow punch or kick our way out of some problems, that violence will somehow solve anything.

We do it without blinking.

I can certainly understand the increase of young female yogis practicing martial arts, especially in this fear-ridden culture. It must be a scary world to some girls, full of creeps and users, haters and pervos. Yet do they really think that a year’s worth of kickboxing or Tae Bo or even kung fu will help them against truly mean people, bred and raised amidst hate and violence?

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Is it worth it to contradict one’s basic beliefs for the illusion of safety or spirituality?

If one wants to find peaceful physical expressions, why not dance, yoga, sports? Why if you want peace, do you wave a sword during a dance supposed to be for peace?

I would love to ask some of the people who buy into it, but avoid it for the potentially violent division it may cause. People in this fearful world often perceive questions about their choices as challenges to their selves, rather than inquiries. Those who practice the art of opposition may be more likely to do so. I don’t want to risk offending anyone. I don’t even really want to write about it; I’d prefer write about things that unite, inspire, or enlighten us, rather than those that divide us.

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Yet I am a writer, and I write about things that amuse me…or confuse me. I write not so much to seek answers (for few read these words and even fewer respond), but to define my questions, to fix them in time, to watch them grow and change as time flows.

My ideas on this may change; I practiced martials arts for decades, and now practice peace. Perhaps my life experiences or ponderings or interactions with others will result in an even more evolved understanding of this issue. The issue is a non-issue when seen from the point of non-duality, or of karma.

Still, I wonder how I will come to understand this seemingly unresolvable dichotomy, how I can begin to understand the conflicting emotions and motivations involved in this unlikely integration of opposing practices and paradigms.

I won’t try. Striving and seeking are yang, the martial way. Instead, I will allow, drop, create space for new understanding and acceptance. That is yin, the peaceful way of yoga. That is my practice, and there is no need to compare or contrast, no need to seek to understand.

Instead, I will tune myself to other modes of being, resonate at other notes. I will concentrate on my own practice, and allow others theirs, with no reasons or explanations needed. All good, all one.

I’ll just rest here in my own peace, perform my own practice. Until the next time a person who seems to really get the idea of ahimsa (non-harming) suddenly embraces a martial art under spiritual pretexts. Then I’ll scratch my head aloud (in print) and let it pass…another cloud of thought, another issue off the subject of the main issue – peace and love, and how to live that, how to practice that, how to be that.

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The Hardest Yoga Pose of All

When people think of hard yoga poses, they typically think of contortions they can never imagine being able to perform. They think of ‘hard’ poses like Peacock and Garland. They never imagine that the most difficult pose is the one accessible to all people, even non-yogis and paralyzed people.

The hardest pose doesn’t require super strength, or balance, or even flexibility. It requires gentleness and presence. It doesn’t require years of practice; anyone can get into the physical configuration in seconds.

Despite its ease and accessibility, this pose is one of the most beneficial and rewarding of the many yoga poses. It is the pose that helps us integrate and absorb the benefits of the other poses. It is a pose that many of us (yogis and non-yogis alike) are in every day, and that all of us will eventually experience. The pose I am talking about is the Final Resting Pose, typically called Savasana (pronounced shavasana) or Corpse Pose.

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In it, we lie totally motionless, without thought or expectation, without goals. Lying motionless, relaxing all muscles and surrendering to the embrace of the Earth is much harder for most of us than it sounds.   Lying with a still mind, heart, and body makes it even harder. Just ask any meditator how difficult it is to still the mind. Just ask any human how difficult it is to still the heart. Just ask any kid on Christmas Eve how hard it is to still the hopes and dreams and expectations.

Final resting pose is typically performed at the end of practice, but it can be performed alone, at any time. It is the pose we use when experiencing Yoga Nidra, deep yogic relaxation. It is the pose we leave the empty envelope of our bodies in when we leave this mortal sphere.  It is arguably the ultimate yoga pose.

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In meditation, we sit in Lotus Pose. This grounds us firmly to the Earth, stacks the spine, aligns our chakra (subtle energy centers of the body), and allows us to sit in relative relaxation and ease. This posture best allows prakriti (Kundalini Shakti or nectar of life) to flow. We sit here with still mind and relatively still body.

In Savasana, we lay totally still. No muscles need be active, none working to hold us upright. Even the most accomplished meditator has an active body (while sitting perfectly still) to offset the pull of gravity and maintain the position. In Savasana, every muscle is released, there is no gravity to rise up against. In Savasana, there is nothing to be done. No activity is required.

There is nothing to be done, nowhere to go, nothing to occupy the mind.

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No one cares if Kundalini rises or not, or if the vertebrae are stacked. No one cares if the mind is still. Nothing to accomplish. Nothing to be done. Just…release. This is harder than it sounds. Some days it is easier to approach this state, some days you just drop right in, like sinking into a warm bath on a cold day. No one ever truly reaches this state (this side of the grave), but we just drop in nonetheless.

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As you can see, Savasana is more than just a yoga pose or posture; it is a state of being, an integrated state of mind, body, and spirit. It is asana, as all yoga poses are. In Savasana, it is also a state of non-being, to a degree active yoga poses cannot have. Yet all poses contain an element of Savasana in them.

As I write this, my mind is active, my body tingling with energy, my soul vibrant and joyous. Savasana gives me a chance to drop all that, to re-connect to the stillness inside. It is a gift to us all, accessible to us all.

Meditation is also a gift, one yoga prepares us for. To meditate (one component of yoga) without (the physical component of) yoga is hard, for how can we hope to know the stillness of the mind before we know the stillness of the body? How can we hope to control and release the mind when we cannot first control or release the body (of which the mind is an integrated part)?

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To drop and release in Savasana is also hard, but it can be experienced without preparation by Hatha (physical part of) yoga. It can be accessed and experienced by us all. It is simultaneously the easiest and hardest pose in Hatha Yoga.

Savasana is a gift, a respite, a safe sanctuary amidst the activity and chaos of life. It is a holy place, a holy experience where we can find relief from pain, suffering, and all else. It is a gift to us all, a gift that awaits us at all times.

We just need to drop it all and drop in. There we find the peace of AUM.

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There we experience a glimpse of yoga.

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Division and World Citizenship

Israelis and Palestinians…Iraqis and Kurds…Democrats and Republicans…black and white. The divisions among us increase on a daily basis. As we identify with a particular group, we create division between ourselves and other groups. Now, I’m not knocking group identities or cultural heritages, but I am saying this…

How about we first identify as Fellow Humans? Maybe next as citizens of the world…or as shipmates on Spaceship Earth. How would that be?

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If that were our primary identity, how would that change things? Would our current differences matter as much? Could we create space for healing and growth?

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Who benefits from our division? Certainly not us, no one on either ‘side.’ 

In a world where the smallest percentage of the population holds the most wealth and power, what do surface divisions matter? Would an equity among citizens of Earth result if we stood together and demanded equity of resources and wealth? What would we have to give up? Old attitudes? Selfish desires? Angry leaders who keep us divided?

If we see the world in a ‘zero sum mentality’ (to use Stephen Covey’s phrase), we see wealth and resources as finite, like slices from a single pie. More for you means less for me, in this paradigm. If instead we perceived things from an abundance mentality, we perceive that we could make more pies together, and all of us could have bigger slices. More for you means more for me. Would that be a better paradigm for cooperation? What stops us from achieving this?

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The unarguable fact is that we are all together on this common planet. Any divisions (political, social, etc.) we make are contrived by us and us alone. These borders are imaginary, developed and promulgated by politicians and bureaucrats. 

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What would we have to give up to achieve an equitable world? Would we have to give up any survival essentials? What if all we had to give up was outmoded attitudes? What if all we had to give up was identification with a group that considers itself separate from other groups of humans? What if all we had to give up was our apathy and our sense of dis-empowerment, to demand from our leaders such equity? What if all we had to do was lay down our weapons, pound our swords into plowshares?

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What if instead of another F-35 fighter jet, we were to put that money into solving social inequities? What if instead of a second (or third) car or TV, we were to put that money into funds to help people obtain the things they need for survival? What if you kept your old     i-phone and gave the money you’d spend on a new 5-S to the poor?

I was watching a show on how to ‘fix’ or ‘solve’ the Israel-Palestine troubles. One apparently intelligent man argued that the cost would be billions of dollars and would take ten years or more. He said it as if that were a deterrent, an impossibility, as if asking where we could possibly get that kind of money.

The answer seems obvious: if the US had skipped the Iraq and Afghan wars, there would have been enough money and time to accomplish this…we spent more money and time making war (with no apparent gains) than that ‘expert’ projected it would take to create peace. That’s just one single country…what if all countries united in this, spent even a fraction of their ‘defense’ (war) budgets on their citizens?

What would we do if we created a different world, one where we didn’t starve our teachers and recruit more Marines? How would that world look? What would the world look like if the small percentage of the rich were to pay the same taxes as the poor, and that money were used to address world hunger, health, and survival issues?

I’m not suggesting solutions here, merely asking questions…

What if it was more important to be an American than a Democrat or republican? Would that have prevented our recent government breakdown? What if it was more important to be a citizen of the world than to be an American? Would that change things? Would our country act more responsibly, would it be a better world citizen, more a part of the world community, rather than a self-appointed world police?

Am I just a dreamer?

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I think not. I am a lover, but I am also a pragmatist, a realist. All it takes is for us all to unite…not as Americans or citizens of countries, not as members of opposing groups, but as world citizens.

If we start from a place of unity and commonality, we have a hope. If we start from a place of division, we have scant little hope.

It’s not up to the government, or the UN, or someone else. It’s up to US…all of us.

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Who’s in Charge Here?

Government has changed in a fundamental way, or at least our conception of it. Many seem to think of the common person as powerless against the government. Instead of serving the people, government has become a bureaucracy, legislating for its own good (its perpetuation and growth) instead of for the good of its citizens.

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People are now governed by government (told what to do as if they were sheep or children) rather than served by it. The fact remains that public servants (our elected representatives) are our servants, not our overlords. These servants have forgotten that fact, as evidenced by the recent government ‘shutdown’ instituted by the minority Republican party in response to a law they oppose. If we do not remind these people who they are, we will have sealed the fate of our country for generations.

Those politicians are holding hostage the pay of soldiers, and possibly the Social Security of millions (whose funds are not even part of the budget being argued over), to mention a few. They tell Americans they cannot go on their public lands, national parks, or war memorials because the goverment refuses to pay people to charge or police the public. They tell Americans that they are the boss, not the public they were intended too serve.

We have a chance. We can show them who is boss – by uniting and supporting the upcoming truckers’ strike on November 11-13. If we refuse to spend a penny or go to work, we will shut them down, instead of them shutting the governent down. We are the government, and we can prove it to them.

If we will look beyond our selfish desires for three days, we can show them who really has the power. A general but peaceful citizens strike will show this. The Man has a gun to our collective heads. He is counting on our ignorance, apathy, and division to pull this stunt off. He is counting on our greed to keep us apart.

This is beyond Democrats versus Republicans. It is not an issue about Obamacare, or left wing versus right wing. This is not government versus the people, even. This is about a specific group of politicians who have acted against the basic tenets of their job. This is about a group of individuals who need to be held individually and collectively responsible for this misuse of their offices against their constituents.

If everyone would spend those three days of the United Citizens Strike calling for recall and impeachment of these people, we could take back our power, replace them with representatives who will do our bidding. The fundamental characteristic of their job is the ability to work within the legal constraints of goverment, with members of the ‘opposing’ parties. By their actions they have proven themselves as incapable of this, and should be fired for their unwillingness and inability to work with others.

Now more than ever it is true- united we stand and divided we fall.

Now more than ever, we need to show solidarity, go beyond our outward differences and take back our government from the lobbyists and special interest groups. We can form a common interest group, stop such lies as corporate citizenship, and manifest our  citizenship. We truly do get the government we deserve, and we deserve more!

Now is the time we can birth either a benevolent new age, or sit by and allow a New World Order to take over. We can choose unity, or allow tyrrany. We can vote with our pocketbooks, and with our involvement in running this country. We can repeal laws that allow citizens to be tried without trial, and for corporations to have more rights than US citizens.

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We can find ways to do this that meet the needs of both parties, and of all citizens. We must step up though, and look beyond our own greed and outward divisions. We must stand together first as Americans, strong in our unity. Then we can display who is really in charge.

The time is now…the future is at hand. We can either sit idly by in our boxes and watch the mass media coverage of this travesty, of this debacle, or we can stand up together and show who we are, how we want to go down in history. We can choose to either make history, or sit by and watch it made by others. We can show our choice on November 11th, 2013, by uniting and showing who is really in charge.

Citizenship ceremony, 1960
Citizenship ceremony, 1960 (Photo credit: Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center)