Tag Archives: yoga

Life is only possible in insecurity.

Lotus

Life is only possible in insecurity.

This is something that is very fundamental to be understood: life in its very essence is insecurity. While you are protecting yourself, you are destroying your very life.

Protection is death, because only those who are dead in their graves are absolutely protected. Nobody can harm them, nothing can go wrong for them. There is no longer any death for them – all that has happened. Now nothing is going to happen.

Do you want the security of a graveyard?  Unknowingly that’s what everybody is trying to do. Different are their ways, but the goal is the same. By money, by power, by prestige, by social conformity, by belonging to a herd – religious, political – by being part of a family, a nation, what are you seeking? Just as an unknown fear surrounds you, and you start creating as many barriers as possible between you and the fear. But those same barriers are going to prevent you from living.

From The Great Zen Master Ta Hui: Reflections on the Transformation of an Intellectual to Enlightenment by Osho (Chapter 35, available here).

Photo credit: Venkataramesh Kommoju on Flickr

Good Reads 2013

Books

Photo credit: Henry on Flickr

I’ve been reading as much as possible the past few months, simply because I’ve missed making time for learning about bigger topics and exploring themes from new angles. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve had Essay Club and also quite a few plane rides, i.e. excuses to turn off the webernets.

Things I’ve been thinking, reading and writing about:
• Rapid cognition, i.e. snap judgements and the science behind them. What makes someone great at sizing up situations and people quickly and correctly? Is it possible to train myself to be better at this?
• Mentorship
• Vulnerability
• How and why do women and men behave and think differently in the workplace, and how can we better equip both sexes for success?
• Meditation

I’m sure we could have a fascinating chat over coffee about how these themes are all interrelated in my head; this is a work in progress. Maybe I’ll write about it here again as I tie things together and unravel them again. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from some really good books I’ve read in the past six months.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

In my favorite chapter, which revolves around the decision-making process of USMC Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, Gladwell quotes Riper as saying: “You disaggregate everything and tear it apart, but you are never able to synthesize the whole. It’s like the weather. A commander does not need to know the barometric pressure or the winds or even the temperature. He needs to know the forecast. If you get too caught up in the production of information, you drown in the data.”

The crux of the entire book for me is here: “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated—when we have to juggle many different variables—then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.

It seems that the father of the unconscious [Sigmund Freud] agreed: ‘When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.'”

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

On Mentorship: “We need to stop telling them, ‘Get a mentor and you will excel.’ Instead, we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’”

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The Sweet Potato and the Flexible Heart

Saturday morning with Jordan is my one can’t-break commitment with myself. I take Jordan’s 90-minute yoga class in TriBeCa whenever I’m not traveling. I go as much for the stories he tells during the first 15 minutes as for the workout that follows.

refocus

Photo credit: j / f / photos on Flickr

After his story today, he took us into practice by asking the usual question: “Please let me know if anyone has any injuries or physical issues I can help you with.”

For once, I wanted to pipe up and say, “I have an emotional injury.” I’m going through a rough transition in my life right now and I have some emotional work to do. That’s the stuff I address through yoga. I get on the mat, put my hands on the ground and give my mind the space it needs to wrap around my life. To process.

After seven months of regular yoga (and that after a decade of trying to find a type of yoga I enjoyed), I feel less angry when I didn’t even know I was angry to begin with. I have less stress but also more clarity about areas of my life that have to change.

Jordan shared with us about his time rooting around yesterday on his farm upstate where he’s been growing all manner of vegetables: carrots, beets, squash and tomatoes. With all of those, a farmer can see evidence of their labor as the hints of the vegetable push through the dirt or blossom on the vine.

After almost 100 days in the ground, his sweet potatoes still showed no sign of progress. He’d never grown potatoes before and admitted the sweet potato patch was the hairiest. Snakes and frogs had taken up residence in the overgrowth. Yesterday, he decided to just dig in and root around to see if he could feel anything.

From my yoga mat at my favorite spot in the front right-hand corner of the room, I watched as he reached behind his back and then held up the largest sweet potato I’ve ever seen. He harvested about half the patch yesterday and pulled up 60 sweet potatoes.

He drew for us a parallel between growing potatoes and our yoga practice. One can do yoga for months or years without seeing the real fruits of the work. Sure, your butt might get a little boost and you might feel more flexible.

However, (at least for me) the real results of the daily practice are the feeling of honoring a personal ritual, finding my center and feeling more calm and patient. One may practice for a long spell before feeling and seeing this inward work show itself in our day-to-day lives.

So, I’ll keep practicing. Yoga isn’t all about having a flexible body. It’s also about having a flexible and resilient heart.