Tuesday, March 30, 2010


PBS will air a special about the Buddha next Wednesday, April 7, from 8-10PM Central Time.

Narrated by Richard Gere, of course.

And at 10PM they'll show one of my favorite films of all time - Unmistaken Child, about the search for the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama. If you have doubts about karma and reincarnation, this incredible documentary will make them disappear.

Monday, March 29, 2010


The Kali Ray workshop this weekend was rather amazing.

The sequences felt GOOD on my back, which had been in great pain before class. They are all about systematically moving the spine from top to bottom or vice-versa. The movements are controlled, like tai chi, and feminine. I don't know much about different types of yoga, but her system seemed to include the props and long holds of Iyengar and Yin Yoga, the vinyasa (movement linked with breath) of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, the multilevel options of Dharma Yoga and the spinal / pranic focus of Kundalini Yoga (not that I know anything about the last).

PLUS there was a focus on pranayama, concentration and meditation.


* * *


I keep messing up the full moon day. Apparently it wasn't yesterday, as I told some students. Apparently it's not today, as it says on many calendars. Apparently it's tomorrow (Tuesday) at 1:25 AM central time.

Sorry for any confusion.

That said, the full moon is meant to be very auspicious for meditation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


The sages say that our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy.

In yoga, we are trying for the former.

But first, we can experience a lot of the latter. Over and over. And over again.

(As Chandra says, the samskaras never disappear. They are like leopards, waiting in the wings, ready to pounce).

"Our main problem is ourselves. Our bondage lies within us, not outside. Others are not our problem. We are more our problem than all others put together. The ultimate freedom is freedom from oneself. This little human personality is the one great bondage that denies you the freedom that is your birthright."

--Swami Chidananda

"With the help of the subconscious mind you can change your vicious nature by cultivating healthy, virtuous qualities that are opposed to the undesirable ones. If you want to overcome fear mentally, deny that you have fear and concentrate your attention upon the opposite quality, the ideal of courage.

When this is developed fear vanishes away by itself. The positive always overpowers the negative. This is an infallible law of nature. This is the Pratipaksha Bhavana of the Raja Yogins. You can acquire a liking for distasteful tasks and duties by cultivating a desire and taste for them. You can establish new habits, new ideals, new ideas and new tastes."

-Swami Sivananda

Dharma says that when this happens, the mind is like the best friend, the best lover we ever had.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Yesterday Chow-Patti and I enjoyed a late, last-minute lunch at Uru-Swati (Masala Dosa for her, Chana Masala for me). The TV was playing Bollywood songs from the 70s, including hits starring Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan. I loved it, especially because: A) I haven't seen Chow-Patti in ages, and B) they always play old-time movies in the afternoon on TV in Mysore. It made me feel a bit "home"sick.

On the way home, I turned on the Indo-Pak satellite radio station... and heard the opening strains of one of the best songs ever - "Dard E Dil" (above). It's from 1980's Karz, which starred Shashi Kapoor's more famous brother, Rishi. The film was inspired by 1975's The Reincarnation of Peter Proud - and in turn inspired the 2007 hit Om Shanti Om. But I digress. It was so wonderful to hear the old music, after eating the familiar food and talking for over an hour straight about yoga, yoga, yoga.

And then, still on the way home, I learned I get to cover the Kali Ray workshop for YOGA/Chicago. Very thankful indeed.

(Kali Ray's guru is Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda, whose ashram is at the base of Chamundi Hill in Mysore. Krista and I had a madcap drive there one night in 2008, on my scooter. We wanted to go and hear the bhajans (devotional songs), and got absolutely drenched on the way there. You have not lived til you have driven a scooter through nighttime Indian traffic in a monsoon downpour with Krista on back, laughing her ass off.... while your leg is still bandaged from a recent accident. Now that's living in the moment).

(Of course we missed the bhajans).

(Now that's living in India).

* * *


I was picking up knäckebröd near the homestead in Wes Andersonville this afternoon, when I came upon the best thing ever.

It was the puppet cat bike theater!

You know - the ultracute puppets I was too cool to stop and enjoy two months ago (read all about it here).

This time, I smiled broadly as I walked by.

This time, arms filled with knäckebröd, I came back and watched the cat puppets dance to music from the 1940s. When you give the puppets money, they dance with it, too. They pop out of doors here and there and, I have to say, it is the cutest thing ever. There are several puppets, including a dog and a long-eared rabbit.

Soon, a crowd had joined me.

There was a male couple, a woman in a wheelchair, a male-female couple, and a Latino deliveryman. Everyone was smiling broadly at this unexpected bit of delight in their day. Watching these sweet, beat-up puppets ignited the spark of childlike innocence that is still buried deep inside all of us somewhere.

And it was proof again that we really all the same.

Afterwords I went back across the street and watched for a few minutes. The puppets continued do dance to music - including Bill Haley's version of "Flip, Flop & Fly." A passerby smiled now and then, but not a single one stopped.

Still too cool I guess.

Gotta get over that somehow.

We're missing a lot if we don't.

(If you go right now, they might still be there).

Thursday, March 25, 2010


This is one of my favorite stories of Swami Vivekananda - and something I needed to be reminded of over and over again:

Once at Varanasi, as Swamiji was coming out of the temple of Mother Durga, he was surrounded by a large number of chattering monkeys. They seemed to be threatening him. Swamiji did not want them to catch hold of him, so he started to run away. But the monkeys chased him. An old sannyasin was there, watching those monkeys. He called out to Swamiji, 'Stop! Face the brutes!' Swamiji stopped. He turned round and faced the monkeys. At once, they ran away.

Many years later, Swamiji said:

'If you ever feel afraid of anything, always turn round and face it. Never think of running away.'

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Despite attempts not to be attached, I've been become quite fond of satellite radio. First,there are two Bollywood stations. Second, Rosie O'Donnell's radio show is awesome (I also dig the psychic/intuitive Mary O, not to mention the British pet psychic).

From what I can tell, Rosie is a yogi. She is incredibly positive, and seems plugged in to The Reality. She uses her platform for good.

She's also really, really funny *and* a rabid feminist (only she never throws it in your face).

Plus she does the show out of her house on Long Island, with her high school friends as co-hosts. Her kids come and go when they're not at school.

Today, Larry David was the headlining guest. He said he was "leaning towards" doing another season of Curb. Rosie said she's leaning towards a daytime TV talk show.

They talked about how difficult it is to do standup - especially when the audience is rude and talks through their act (hmmm, sounds familiar).

And of course they re-hashed Rosie's appearance on Curb last season:

Monday, March 22, 2010


The "A Night Out With" feature in yesterday's New York Times featured famous vegan actress Alicia Silverstone, who's appearing in "Time Stands Still" on Broadway.

Instead of the usual boite or bowling alley, the star of 1995's "Clueless" dragged the reporter and her friends out for organic, vegan food at Candle 79 - and proceeded to talk about how going vegan changed her life (Before, she was constipated and asthmatic, and did movies like "The Crush" and "Scooby-Doo 2. After, she felt like new, and wrote a vegan cookbook called "The Kind Diet").

“At one point I looked at my dog, who was my best friend, and I thought, If I’m not going to eat you, then how can I eat these other creatures who have the same capacity for love and joy?” she recalled. “The karma of turning vegan is amazing. And then to get this sudden weight loss, and my skin is glowing and my nails are strong and my eyes are white — it was wonderful.”

[As Dharma says, "The compassion has to extend beyond the pets."]

Ms. Silverstone stays up late cooking or working on her “Kind Diet” Web site. She is also returning to movies as a 200-year-old vampire in a comedy by Amy Heckerling, the director of “Clueless.”

“I have so much energy these days, so much more than I did when I was 19 and had bags under my eyes,” she said. “Once the sludge was removed from me, I felt my body soften and open, and I felt awake and alert and inspired and turned on. The way I live and eat now, it’s changed me as an actress — totally.”

How heartening it is when they use their platform for good.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


....in the form of a 40-degree temperature drop *and* a snowstorm.

(The photo above was snapped exactly three minutes ago; yesterday it was springy, 60s and sunny. People were wearing shorts).

But the sun will be shining again at today's Maha Sadhana.

As Dharma says, when it is sunny inside, it is always sunny outside.

Om shanti

Friday, March 19, 2010


From Swami Sivananda's Daily Reading:


Every student should maintain a spiritual dairy. Then only can defects by rectified and the mind controlled. The spirit of serving the humanity must be ingrained in the heart of every aspirant. Sattvic virtues such as mercy, generosity, tolerance, forgiveness, nobility must be developed.

Keep a daily spiritual diary. Note down in the diary when you become angry towards others and when you hurt the feelings of others. This is very important. If you exhibit anger or hurt others, impose some self-punishment on yourself. Give up your meals at night. Do fifty more Maalas of Japa. Write in the diary, I have forgotten God twice this day. If you proceed like this for one or two years you will attain remarkable Shanti, progress and will power.

While reading The Eternal Companion today I came across something quite similar:

Devote some time every day to self-analysis. Ask yourself: "Why have I come here? How am I passing my time? Do I really want God? Am I really struggling to find him?" A man's mind tries to deceive him, but he must not allow himself to be swayed by his mind; he must curb and rule it. Hold fast to the truth. Be pure-hearted. The purer you become the more will your mind be absorbed in God. You will be able to see the subtle deceptions of the mind, and you will be able to root them out. Who are your enemies? Your own senses. But if you can control them they will become your friends. Your mind is your only enemy, and your mind is your only friend. The man who analyzes himself thus can wipe out the subtle deceptions of the mind, and by doing so move rapidly along the path of spirtuality.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


How I loved Big Star, his second band (which was slated to play South By Southwest on Saturday).

He did suddenly yesterday, at 59. The story is here .

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Although whenever I see an Irish flag, I assume it's the Indian flag* (this building is in the Southeast Asian neighborhood, and is decked out this way year-round).

Plus, the ladies were all wearing green on Devon Avenue last week.


I don't think so.


The History of the Indian flag dates back to the pre-independence era. It was in 1904 that first Indian flag came into being. It was made by an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Her name was Sister Nivedita and after some time this flag came to be known as Sister Nivedita's flag. This flag contained red and yellow color. Red signified freedom struggle and yellow color was a symbol of victory. It had words "Bonde Matoram" in Bengali written on it. Along with it the flag contained a figure of 'Vajra', weapon of god 'Indra', and a white lotus in the middle. The 'Vajra' is a symbol of strength and lotus depicts purity.

The flag has gone through many incarnations since. Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


which has delightful students, and is where I taught a Dharma Mittra workshop on Friday.

I don't get the infatuation with Blatz beer. As children, we'd make fun of it when my father drank it (perhaps it was the name that tipped us off!).

Sunday, March 14, 2010


The New Yorker recently ran a profile of Chicago mayor Richard Daley, by Evan Osnos. According to Chicago Reader columnist Ben Jorvavsky, Osnos is "a former [Chicago] Tribune reporter who's spent most of his career in New York and overseas and now lives in China."

Joravsky wrote a wonderful rebuttal to Osnos's puff piece, called "Taking the New Yorker for a Ride: The Chicago in Evan Osnos's Story is the Chicago You'd see out the Window of the Mayor's Limo." Here's an excerpt:

Osnos invokes the old Wall Street Journal line about Chicago being "Beirut on the lake" in the 1980s, as Washington and his white City Council battled for control of city government. "Daley took office at a moment when Chicago was paralyzed by infighting and mismanagement," Osnos writes. "In 1987 William Bennett, the Secretary of Education, said that Chicago had the worst school system in the country—'an education meltdown.' The center of the city was a desiccating museum of masterpieces by Mies van der Rohe and Louis Sullivan. Infant mortality in remote neighborhoods was comparable to levels in the Third World."

But then in 1989 Richie took charge, and "in the years that followed, Detroit, Cleveland, and other former industrial powers continued to wither, but Chicago did not. It has grown in population, income, and diversity; it has added more jobs since 1993 than Los Angeles and Boston combined. Downtown luxury condos and lofts have replaced old warehouses and office blocks. New trees and flower beds line the sidewalks and sprout from the roofs of high-rises. (Chicago has significantly more green roofs than any other city in America.) Diners and pizza joints have given way to daring restaurants like Alinea and L2O, where the chefs Grant Achatz and Laurent Gras are among America's highest priests of the chemically complex food known as molecular gastronomy. Chicago is a post-industrial capital of innovation from house music to fashion—the Milan of the Midwest, as the Washington Post put it last year."

OK, stop. I can't take it anymore. Who wrote this stuff, Billy Dec? I like a good meal as much as the next guy, but what the hell does any of this have to do with Mayor Daley?

The downtown real estate boom was part of a larger demographic shift that started in the 1980s. It's true that it was fortified with the hundreds of millions of property tax dollars Daley has handed over to well-connected developers and corporations, but it's also true that thousands of the swank new condos are empty because there's nobody in the market to fill them.

Osnos also repeats City Hall's boast about leading the country in buildings with green roofs. But as the Reader has reported, his administration has also failed to offer residents a real recycling program, stood by as two coal-fired power plants on the southwest side produce dangerous air pollution, and done little to implement its own plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

And while I'm at it—house music? House music originated in the late 1970s, when Frankie Knuckles started spinning at the Warehouse on South Jefferson. If any mayor should get credit for house music, it's Michael Bilandic....

Joravsky is just warming up, and best is yet to come (especially the kicker); read his piece in its entirety here.


Photo snapped a few weeks ago by CK (c) 2010.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Dharma says that without Yama there is no yoga.

Yama is the first limb of the asthanga or eight-limb yoga system. Yama is its ethical underpinnings.

The first Yama is Ahmisa, or non-harming of any living being in word, thought or deed. (If I remember correctly, Sanskrit scholar Edwin Bryant, author of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary, told our teacher training group that the limbs appear in order of importance, as do each of the directives contained within).

Ahimsa would including everything from beating up yourself physically and mentally in class to eating animals - even ones that someone else has butchered. As Dharma often explains, "You are somehow participating in the violence."

If not for the animals, or for health, or for your practice, then do it for the environment.

Read why in my recent Yoga Chicago article, Eat Less Meat and Save the World: A Gradualist's Guide to Going Veg.

You don't have to do it all at once. I certainly didn't:

I began eliminating meat from my diet in 1987, when I started feeling sorry for the cows (I grew up on a farm that had cows, and eventually their soft, innocent eyes got to me). First, I cut out the big mammals--beef and pork. I made do by eating a lot of poultry for a few months--until a sweltering summer day, when I saw a truckload of chickens crammed into crates and gasping for breath. I immediately gave up eating anything with wings. A few months later, I cut fish out of the diet; after all, they suffer too. For me, the diet stuck because I did it gradually; I have many friends who went vegetarian abruptly and fell of the wagon, hard, a short time later. At first, my diet was not good; I ate a lot of grilled cheese, enchiladas, French fries, and other vegetarian “junk” food. Then I got a job at Chicago Diner and learned how to eat and prepare healthy meals. Finally, many years later, I cut out eggs.

Many experts agree that it's easiest to eliminate one type of meat at a time. Or, simply eat one meal a week without meat. One easy way to transition is to substitute tofu, tempeh, or other meat alternatives in your favorite recipes.

You may eventually choose to become vegan, which means no animal products--including eggs, dairy products, and honey. But the important thing is to start thinking about your diet--and how small changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference in the world.

As Jane Goodall said, “Each one of us makes a difference every single day we impact the world around us, and if we would just think about the consequences of the little choices we make--what we eat, wear, buy, how we interact with people, animals, the environment--then we start making small changes, and that can lead to the huge change that we must have."

Thursday, March 11, 2010


From Maharaj - aka, Swami Brahmananda, one of the three main disciples of Sri Ramakrishna - quoted in "The Eternal Companion," by his disciple, Swami Prabhavananda:

"Pray to the Lord. Practice with regularly. Gradually the mind will become inclined to worship and meditate. In the beginning the mind will refuse to come under control, but force it, urge it, entreat it in order to fix it on meditation. Faith and regularity are very important; nobody can succeed in anything without them.

"You have to practice spiritual disciplines in such a way that no matter what your circumstances may be you will follow your regular routine. Once the mind tastes sweetness in the thought of God there is nothing to fear. Seek the association of the holy so that you may acquire that taste. If anybody has tasted the nectar of God's name, is it possible for him to give up chanting it? The power of His name is such that the effect is realized whether one repeats it with feeling or mechanically. The Master [Sri Ramakrishna] used to say, 'Suppose a man is walking on the bank of the Ganges. He can bathe in the river willingly, or he may accidentally fall into it, or someone may push him in. He will have a bath in the Ganges anyway."

Kirtan this weekend! Jump in!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Everyone from A.R. Rahman to Mittra Om to Krishna Das is coming to town this spring....


On Saturday, March 20 I'll be leading a rare Dharma Mittra workshop in downtown Chicago. It's at YogaNow Gold Coast from 1-3:30 and is only $35 ($40 at the door). More details here. It's the only one I'm doing in the city this spring - and it really will deepen your yoga practice.

One of my favorite living ashtanga vinyasa teachers, Lino Miele, above, only comes to town every other year. He'll be at Yogaview April 20-23 for Mysore-style classes from 6:15am-9:15am, and at Moksha Yoga on April 24 and 25 - including a teacher adjustment workshop on the 24th and a Primary Series Full Vinyasa class on the 25th. Students who have trouble doing correct vinyasa (and futz around during practice) are highly encouraged to attend, in order to understand the counting system and how/why to move in an out of the poses with the breath.

Senior Dharma Yoga teacher Mittra Om will lead a workshop called "Entering the Ocean of Dharma Yoga" at Outerspace April 30-May 1. It includes a Maha Sadhana on Saturday, and is only $85 for the whole shebang.


Suzanne Sterling
will do a "Modern Kirtan Exploration Concert" this Saturday, March 13 at 7:30pm at Moksha Yoga; she'll also do a weekend-long workshop Mar 12-14. TiaS and I went last time she was here, and it wonderful. (She's represented by the Yama Yoga talent agency, by the way).

King of the Kirtan wallahs Krishna Das (above) will lead a kirtan with Deva Premal & Miten and Manose from 7:30-10:30 on Monday, April 12 at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie (which has a big, free parking lot). If you've never seen him, now's your chance (although there was nothing like having him perform for an intimate group at Dharma's studio back in 2008... or last year at Dharma's 70th celebration, where he said, "I'll do the Krishnas, you do the Rams" and everyone knew what he was talking about). Tickets for this gig are $37. More info here.

The lovely Snatam Kaur will lead a kirtan accompanied by GuruGanesha Singh (guitar) and Ramesh Kannan (tablas) on Sunday, May 16 at 1pm at the Northeastern Illinois University auditorium, 5500 N. St. Louis. Tickets are $30-$55. She'll also do a workshop on May 14 at 6:30 at the Evanston Ecology Center. Her album "Grace" is pure shanti (peace). More info here.


Ustad Zakir Hussain (above) and the Masters of Percussion hit the Symphony Center on Sunday, March 21 at 7PM. The tablas master has played with everyone from George Harrison to Tito Puente, and I got to see him a couple of years ago with a North Indian dance maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj. Wow, wow, wow! (He smiles when he plays). This concert promises both North and South Indian masters in an acoustically perfect setting. More here.

Black & White: The Sequel
, an "audio-visual tribute to the Golden Era of Indian Film Music (1948-1965)" takes place Sunday, May 9 at 6PM at the Meadows Club, 2950 W. Golf in Rolling Meadows. Singers include Rishikesh Ranade, Vibhavari Apte, Jitendra Abhyankar and Savanai Ravindra; it's emceed by Rahul Solapurkar. For tickets ($25 and $50), call 847-566-2029 or e-mail drishti@gmail.com

Grammy award-winning singer and composer A.R. Rahman will play Sears Center on Friday, June 18 as part of his "Jai Ho" summer tour. Bindi and I saw him perform his Chicago debut with a bevy of top-notch playback singers a few years back and it was amazing (his voice sounds a bit like Sting - only more earnest). Read all about it here. More info on the current tour here.

Monday, March 08, 2010


The Inspiration:

The cartoon:

The aftermath:

Saturday, March 06, 2010


provides many unique opportunities to practice self-control and equanimity -

especially when it continues to return mail to the sender rather than forwarding it to one's new address.

especially when the returned mail includes 1099 forms and bank statements and correspondence from one's union

especially when mail sent to the new address takes two months to get there.

One can aside an afternoon and wait on hold for eons before finally speaking to a supervisor at the post office where one used to live, which is not forwarding the mail. The supervisor tells the caller she probably filled out the forwarding info wrong, and to call the supervisor at the post office in the new zip code - because that's where the problem is. The caller can argue that she has proof that the forwarding was done correctly three months ago, and be told yet again to call Post Office B.

One can go through the motions again - dig up the phone number, call and call til the line isn't busy, wait on hold, finally get the right supervisor, explain in detail what has happened... and be told the same thing; that one has not correctly completed the paperwork (even though she has proof that it was indeed done correctly) and that the problem is at the first post office.

One can complain that mail sent to the correct address takes as long as two months to arrive, and one will be told that the problem is the fault of the old post office. "But it was sent to the correct address!" the caller protests. The supervisor assures her she'll talk to the carrier.

One can act very nice but refuse to get off the phone until the supervisor confirms that all is well in the computer after all. Still being kind, one can also stay on the phone long enough to learn that someone at the old zip code is probably not putting the mail into something called "The CSS," where they put the mail that is to be forwarded.

One can call Post Office A the next day at 7:30am, when the mail carrier is there, and be stuck with the supervisor, who refuses to put the caller through to the carrier and says again that it is all the caller's fault for not filling out the paperwork correctly. One can tell the supervisor in a testy tone of voice that it was done correctly and is in the computer correctly - the problem is that someone is not putting the mail in "The CSS." Pause. There is no problem here, the problem is downtown, the caller is told. The caller can ask yet again to speak to the mail carrier for Route #30, and again, and again, and never actually speak to him. One can go around in circles for 10-plus minutes before finally speaking to the person in charge of forwarding, who says he is doing everything correctly; the problem is downtown. The caller is kind to the forwarder (after all, she has red Charles Bukowski's novel Post Office), who admits he started on the job just over a month ago - which, interestingly, is exactly when the problem began - and says again that the problem is downtown. The caller is returned to the supervisor, who says even she doesn't have a number for downtown; they don't want her bothering them. "So I have no way to get to the bottom of this?" the caller asks. No. The supervisor says she has other work to do and must get off the phone. "Like I don't?" the caller asks. Click.

Later one calls the post office's official 800 number, and waits on hold for eons before telling the story, again, with full details, and starting a case - which is meant to be followed up in 72 hours.

Three days pass, then four. Then five. No one calls.

So one calls the 800 number again to check up on the case; there is no record of it, ma'am. So the caller starts a new case, which takes another 25 minutes.

Two days later a Mr. L--- calls from the first post office; everything is fine in "the system." He has spoken to the mail carrier and the problem has been corrected.

After several attempts over two days, one finally gets ahold of Mr. L---, and asks exactly how the problem was corrected. Mr. L--- can't say anything other than that the information is correct in the system and that everything is fine. "How can I follow up if more mail is returned?" the caller asks. The problem is solved, there is no need, and if there is a problem you can call the supervisor at this post office, says Mr. L--- - who becomes perturbed when the caller laughs at his answer. "Don't laugh," he says.

And it becomes quite clear that the caller will have many more opportunities to practice - and perhaps succeed, next time around - at the yoga of self control in the very near future.

Om shanti indeed.


The YouTube video was made by another critic of the post office in question, who writes, "Take a look at what could be Chicago's crappiest post office - the Northtown Station - where they do not shovel their sidewalks, have poor parking, where customers have to climb over mounds of snow and ice to get to the sidewalk, and the lines are more vicious than Disney World."

Friday, March 05, 2010


(Hint: It's not asana - the poses).

Dharma sometimes begins a class or worshop by saying that yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. This is a variation on the second Yoga Sutra: yogash chitta vritti nirodhah (Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind). And once the mind is quiet, we can remember who we really are.

This quote, from the Divine Life Society's daily reading on Thursday, builds on that idea:

Yoga provides the lost link between man and the infinite. To realise once again his everlasting oneness with the Divine is actually the practice of Yoga.

-Swami Chidananda

What's your definition of yoga?

Thursday, March 04, 2010


was utterly spectacular.

(and early, too - around 6:15am).

This is how it looked from Lake Shore Drive.

(The blob at the bottom left of the horizon is not an apparition, but a water intake crib*).


*A long, long time ago, when I was a triathlete, PeeKay and I used to do early-morning training swims in Lake Michigan (in those days, the bathrooms at the North Avenue boathouse were often smeared with feces, for some reason). One day, a gentleman struck up a conversation with us after our swim. He asked why those little buildings were in the middle of Lake Michigan.

"They're cribs," said PeeKay.

"Cribs?" the man asked, incredulous.

"CREE-ibs?" he said again, elongating the word.

"You mean people live out there?"

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Dharma says that when it is sunny inside, it is always sunny outside.

In other words, if there is awareness of the Atman - the spark of the divine residing in the heart - it doesn't matter what the weather is. A yogi is the same in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor, etc.

But it's so much harder to maintain equanimity in March - the grayest, longest month of the year (in Chicago at least).

Listen to my public radio essay on the topic here.


North Side alley photo by CK (c) 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010


The Yoga Sutras after the one posted below state that practice should be undertaken with supreme detachment. Or, as I explained yesterday, it can be compared to depositing money in a bank (before the crash): You keep putting it in, having faith that eventually some interest will be paid (in today's terms, very little interest - which is where the faith part comes in).

Or, as this awesome website puts it:

Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).

1. Abhyasa/Practice: Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.

2. Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.

They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.

Supreme Non-attachment: Gradually, non-attachment expands to the depth of the subtlest building blocks (gunas) of ourselves and the universe, which is called paravairagya, supreme non-attachment (1.16). Eventually the three gunas resolve back into their cause during deep meditation, leading to final liberation (4.13-4.14, 4.32-4.34)....


Two directions: There are two directions that one can go in life as well as individual actions, speech, or thoughts. One direction is towards truth, reality, Self, or spiritual realization. The other direction is opposite, and involves those lifestyles, actions, speech, and thoughts that take one away from the higher experiences.

Abhyasa means cultivating the lifestyle, actions, speech, and thoughts, as well as the spiritual practices that lead in the positive direction (rather than going in the opposite direction, away from the positive, and towards the negative).

Vairagya is the practice of gradually letting go of the mental colorings (1.5, 2.3) that lead one away from the spiritual (rather than going in the opposite direction, giving in to the attachments and aversions).

Discrimination is key: To be able to do the practices and to cultivate non-attachment, it is necessary to become better and better at discriminating between what actions, speech, and thoughts take you in the right direction, and those which are a diversion (2.26-2.29, 3.4-3.6). This discrimination is both a foundation practice and also the subtler tool of the inner journey

The Sanskrit term for this discrimination is Viveka (as in, Vivekananda, who brought yoga to America when he spoke at the World`s Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893; there is also a Mysore connection, which you can learn more about here). I am trying to cultivate viveka with the speech and the actions - especially while in the snack aisle of the grocery store. Thoughts are even more difficult to police. Sometimes, replacing a negative one with the exact opposite does the trick - for a while, anyway.

*The Aleve ad, above, paid for air travel to and from Dharma's 500-hour teacher training. Be the first to guess which figure I am and win!