Monday, May 5, 2008

The Peaceful Warrior

Last night I watched the movie "A Peaceful Warrior". It is about a restless, naive, and egotistic young championship gymnast who comes under the tutelage of a wise, zen master type mentor he owns a Gas service station. The movie documents the waking and wizening up of this young man as he goes from being a typical headstrong and selfish American party-animal college student into an aware and mindful of the present moment inner warrior. The wise service station mentor was played by Nick Nolte, and he was full of wonderful parables and idioms taken directly from the wisdom traditions of east and west. I would like to share some of the useful quotes from the mentor character, Socrates:

1. Life has three aspects: Paradox, Humour, and Change.

2. Paradox: Life is a mystery; don't bother figuring it out.

3. Humor: No matter what circumstances, do not lose your sense of humor.

4. Change: Do not be so sure in life; anything can change.

5. There is never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.

6. This moment: The past and the future do not matter; all that matters is now, this moment.

7. It's not the destination that brings happiness, but the journey.

8. Take out the trash from what's inside your head.

9. Empty your mind.

10. Everything has a purpose, even this, and it's up to you to find it.

11. A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.

12. I call myself a Peaceful Warrior... because the battles we fight are on the inside.

13. A warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. He's about absolute vulnerability.

14. There is no starting or stopping - only doing.

15. There's no greater purpose than service to others.

16. Everyone wants to tell you what to do and what's good for you. They don't want you to find your own answers, they want you to believe theirs.

17. I want you to stop gathering information from the outside and start gathering it from the inside.

18. People are not their thoughts, they think they are, and it brings them all kinds of sadness.

19. Death isn't sad. The sad thing is: most people don't live at all.

20. What time is it? Now.

the Free Market in the 21st century

This article highlights the windfall profits that multi-national corporations are lining their pockets with while the rest of the world continues on a downfall plunge into starvation and poverty. As the supply of staple foodstuffs dwindle due to increased demand that has "partly been caused by the boom in biofuels, which require vast amounts of grain, but even more by increasing appetites for meat, especially in India and China; producing 1lb of beef in a feedlot, for example, takes 7lbs of grain." (Would we be having such a serious crisis if the Indian and Chinese kept to their religious heritages and maintained a vegetarian diet?); Giant agribussinesses reap huge profits from skyrocketing prices -

"Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.

Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.

Similarly, the Mosaic Company, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, saw its income for the three months ending 29 February rise more than 12-fold, from $42.2m to $520.8m, on the back of a shortage of fertiliser. The prices of some kinds of fertiliser have more than tripled over the past year as demand has outstripped supply. As a result, plans to increase harvests in developing countries have been hit hard."

On Top of that, investment banks are doing the same speculating on these dwindling foodstuffs -"investment in grain and meat has increased almost fivefold to over $47bn in the past year". This excessive greed and "immoral" behavoir is downright irresponsible, and this immense wealth made off the suffering of the worlds poor should be confiscated and redirected towards solutions for the apocolyptic global food crisis. This is the same as huge profits oil companies are making off of increased oil prices while the communities of the world pay the price.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My yoga routine

As much as possible I try to do the postures of yoga for their manifold health and spirit benefits. I practice a mixture of Ananda Marga Yoga, Vinyasa, Anusara Yoga, Classical Hatha Yoga, and Iyengar yoga, all picked up from various classes in each style over the past 5 years. I became interested in Yoga as a way to practice meditation and also improve my physical health. Now that I have been practicing it on a regular basis for quite some time now, I have found it is a subtle system of total health, mind and body. There are countless physical benefits, such as weight loss, muscle building, greatly increased flexibility. They promote mind body and harmony, positive thinking and positive self-image. It excercises the intuitive faculties of the mind. Yoga connects you to the source of mind, body and breath. It brings in a new awarenes, one that is more organic and connected to subtle aspects of life. I am speaking from my own experience, which has confirmed the testimony of a tradition that has roots over 7,000 years.
Any constructive criticism from fellow yogis is welcomed and encouraged.
I always try to wait three or four hours after I eat before I begin my practice. I do it almost everywhere, in the big city, in the mountains, on the beach, even in freinds apartments with a hangover. All that is required is a body and a basic knowledge of right and wrong posturing. I welcome pain which acts as a massager for breaking the new joints and muscles out of suspended animation, but if I have any suffering or post-practice pain I seek advice from a qualified Yoga instructor or physician. If it is a pose which is aptly held for a long time, such as shoulder stand, I breathe consciously through my nose for 30-60 breaths while in the posture, and repeat 2 times. If it is a posture which I only hold for 8 seconds 8 times, I hold my breathe while in the pose, inhale/exhale going in/out of the pose depending on the posture. Usually when I go into a bending posture, such as standing/sitting forawrd bends,, I breathe out going into the posture and in coming out. When it is a more strenious muscle building posture such as wheel posture I breath in going into the posture, which provides more strength. The benefactors of the Yoga tradition maintain that for the full range of psycho-somatic benefits of regular yoga practice to be effective, a vegetarian diet is incumbent upon the practitioner.
My basic routine is as follows, more or less (unless I need to work on a particular part of my body in which case I consult for the appropriate healing postures):
1. Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutation), with arm and leg posture 4X
2. Tree posture>Warrior III 2X each side
3. Pyramid posture 2X each side
4. Yoga Mudra 8X
5. Seated Spinal twist 2X
6. Dangerous pose and Cow faced posture (legs in dangerous posture, arms and back in Cow Faced) 2X
7. Sitting forward bend, butterfly stretch 2X
8. Cat/Cow posture 8X
9. Cobra 8X
10. Bow Posture 8X
11. Locust posture 2X
12. Wheel posture
14. Shoulder stand into plow 2X (hold shoulderstand for a minute each)
15. Fish posture 2X (between shoulderstands)
16. After these Asanas, I self message my whole body, then I lie in Corpse Pose for 5-20 minutes.
17. After Yoga Asana, I practice tantric meditation for 30-60 minutes. Any sort of meditation after yoga practice is key to fully integrating the powers of yoga. It re-orientates the awareness fully into the mind-breath continuum.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

general thoughts on general thoughts

today the weather was very nice, sunny and pleasant, the kind that laid back summer days are made of. After I woke up I worked for a few hours teaching 10 yr olds about colonial america and related vocabulary for a short story in their reading book. Then they did oral presentations which us foreign teachers had to evaluate. Some of the kids are so shy that they are inaudible and have to dictate to their FT who relays it to the rest of the students packed in the library room. Following teaching I hung out and got a seaweed-yam-rice burger from a japanese fast food resteraunt chain a la McDonalds with my new co-worker who is from Rockville Maryland and whose parents are Taiwanese. Then I went for a hike in my mountains, then off to Wulai hot spring resort with some people in my yoga club. Wulai is a hot spring resort town to the south of Taipei set fairly high in jagged and lush mountains, we sat on a bench on the side of a street and dipped our foot into a pool of 100+ water straight from the hot springs in the stream below. I made peanut butter sandwiches for Zoe and Yogindra, two taiwanese Yogis as the hot spring water massaged my calloused (from previously mentioned hike) feet. Then we went into a path where other Taipei day-trippers were checking out the display from the fireflys, all concentrated in this one area due to displacement from the Taipei basin. Following that I hit a late night meditation session at the yoga house with my boy Dada K.