Units of Measure

Recently, these people decided that a lump of metal wasn’t good enough as a standard weight.  They decided to lose the lump and create a standard based on fundamental theory.

This got me thinking.

No matter what discipline you’re into, you have to have a basic unit.  It can be a tooth if you’re a dentist.  Or a dollar if you’re an economist.  It can be a stone tool if you’re an archaeologist.

What if you are trying to understand politics?  Or medicine?  Or your dog?

Let’s face it.  Trying to figure out a politician might be easy if we use a unit based on dollars of influence.  Votes are secondary.

As for medicine, how many units do you have to have before you’re healthy?  Or happy?  Maybe the units are negative, as in, how many aches and pains DON’T you have?

Finally, Fido.  How do you measure your dog?  Licks and wags?  Barks at the neighbor?  How well he cuddles while you sleep?

So, the next time you and your friends are complaining about something,

and you KNOW you will,

take a second to think about what kind of unit is involved.

Man problems?

Woman problems?

Boss problems?

Coworker problems?

I’ll let your imagination handle those.

It’s more fun that way.

By the way, Fun?  Measured in groans and smiles.

 

Au Contraire

I was taught once, a long time ago, that contradicting someone was considered impolite.

No it isn’t.

Perhaps it’s a matter of culture.  Having recently returned from the English pre-Victorian years described in Pride and Prejudice, I was jealous of the rules of society.  If you said you would attend a party, you would.  If you couldn’t, you would tell the host ahead of time.  And if you were late you apologized to the host and asked forgiveness.

Recently, I witnessed some instances where the husband was immediately “improved” by his womanly loved ones.  Both wives and daughters are featured here, but the identities have been altered to protect the innocent.

Oh, who am I kidding?  It’s to protect me!

The first instance was during the telling of the sale of our first home.  I mentioned that a large family was buying it, and would have to live in all of 890 square feet.

“No, it was 980,” said the wife.

I noted that I wasn’t going to argue and pressed on.  No matter that it interrupted the flow of a great story, and there were lots of other family sitting around waiting expectantly.  No matter that I am a numbers person and work around machines that use numbers all the time, and she is a manager of people and also works in a pet shelter.  Besides, no matter which number is correct, it was still a small house for a family of five!

Later, I mentioned that we watch relatively little TV.

“No you don’t,” corrected the daughter.

I was telling a story as to why we don’t have a dedicated large screen TV.  We have a large-ish computer screen and stream everything.  Even then, the few hours we see a night is nothing to the average of 5 hours a day.

But what’s the point of arguing?  I was only saying that to reinforce the fact that we use the computer instead of a big screen.  What did our daughter think she was doing, correcting the official record?  Or perhaps she feels we watch more than we should?

I didn’t argue it then, and I don’t think I’ll ever bring it up again, except here.

What’s the point?  Why is it these contradictions have to be made so immediately and so publicly?  Is there some kind of vendetta going on against men by their loving women?  Or does it have more to do with setting a pecking order?

Watching behavior is not only fun, it’s my profession.  But sometimes, at the level of the individual, things happen that not even I can explain.  And I’m not even sure I want to.

Any of your insights would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, yes they would.

 

Yoga: Eight is Enough

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AUM…

So here’s the post that this post is based upon.

To recap.  This guy, Patanjali, suggested we live our lives according to an eight part plan.

He called this plan Yoga.

Aummmmmmm...

Through the years, many people have worked to turn his plan into “holy” text, and him into some kind of deity.

He was no deity.  And his plan is exactly that, a plan.

In my humble opinion, it’s a pretty good plan.

By following his plan, one can find their life centered, peaceful, and relatively uncluttered by conflict, anger, or anxiety.

He’s not the first one to come up with such ideas.  But he was the first to be so darned organized about it.

I realize this now because, according to Patanjali’s plan, I’ve been doing yoga since my late teens.

Back then I’d discovered religion.  Not just any religion, all religion.  And I worked at understanding their commonalities and strengths.  It was cool.

It was also the era of books like “I’m OK and You’re OK.”  Self-help books that also offered life plans for happiness and success.  I read those as well.

Now that I understand the essence of what Patanjali was writing, I see him for what he was.  Another self-help writer.

So, without further ado, here are the eight limbs of yoga presented in modern self-help terms, in my favorite order.

  1. Samādhi: This is the top of his plan.  Call it self-realization or inspiration.  It basically means you accept yourself as part of the great infinite universe, and allow yourself the freedom to influence your own fate.  You’re in charge.  I like starting here because it’s the grand culmination of everything else Patanjali suggests.
  2. Dhyāna: This part of yoga means meditation, or at least being thoughtful.  Think about one thing.  Think about many things.  Think about all things.  It’s OK to meditate in any way you want.  The point is to be able to think, calmly, peacefully, and productively.  Some people truly freak out about meditating.  Don’t.
  3. Dhāraṇā:  Concentration.  This is the part that worries some people regarding meditation.  That’s not what Patanjali was telling us.  For this part of yoga, he’s encouraging us to focus on whatever it is that concerns us.  Family?  Pain in my hip?  Global warming?  Doesn’t matter.  Whatever it is that worries you, or makes you happy, focus on that.  Study it.  Compare it.  Don’t get possessive!
  4. Pratyāhāra:  Did I mention not getting possessive?  That’s what this one is all about.  Chill.  Don’t sweat it.  Back off.  Watch yourself watching.  In the end it’s not about you.  If you can’t do anything about it, then worry less.  If you can, then be patient and spend your energy wisely.
  5. Yama:  These next two items are great, because they correspond to the judeo-christian commandments.  Every religion has do’s and don’ts.  These are the DOs.
  6. Niyama:  The “Ni” means no.  These are the DON’Ts of yoga.
  7. Āsana:  Here’s the exercise part which is how we in the West think of yoga.  You see it’s far down on my list, but that’s not because it’s not important.  It’s rather more a foundation element.  And it doesn’t mean crazy dancer-like postures.  You can run.  You can row.  You can jump or bicycle.  They aren’t as efficient as traditional poses, but they are still your asanas.  Own them.
  8. Prānāyāma:  This is the ultimate foundation of all yoga.  Patanjali is reminding us, that at the bottom of all things, no matter what’s bothering us or what the situation is, JUST BREATH.  Isn’t that great advice?

There you have it.  Ancient wisdom in modern terms.  Patanjali’s 8 point plan in modern parlance.

I recommend it.  I’ve been using it for decades now, and feel great!

AUM.

 

 

 

 

Yoga: Beyond Religion

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I started a yoga class for exercise in 2006 and have been hooked ever since.

Along the way I started learning more about the mythologies that many people associate with this discipline, and used to ignore them.  After all, I was getting what I came for.

An incredibly complete and efficient way to exercise and stay healthy.

Aummmmmmm...

 

But, as usual, my curiosity got the better of me.

I learned more about yoga.  Where it came from, how it’s been interpreted over the years, and who the big players have been.

What I learned will have to be a whole other post.  For today, I’ll tell you what I learned in a nutshell.

Yoga isn’t about exercise.  Far from it.  The guy who invented yoga had far bigger ambitions.

His name was Patanjali.  Whether he was one guy or three guys is not relevant here.

What’s important is that he took an established word, yoga, and used it to create a whole new lifestyle plan.

That’s right.  Yoga isn’t about asana.  It’s about living your life so that YOU are relaxed, balanced, and able to make good decisions without causing too much trouble.

Sound familiar?  That’s because lots of guys came up with similar plans around this time.  Confucius.  Socrates and Plato.  Buddha.  Jesus.  Guys like that.

Except Patanjali was going for something even greater than these other blokes.  He wanted to set out a life plan for everyone that incorporated any religion.

That’s why yoga looks semi-religious to some people.  But it’s not.

It’s beyond religion.  It’s a META-religion.

That’s right.  Patanjali recommends studying your own religion as much as you want.  That’s one eighth of the secret.

Exercise?  That’s one eighth.  Breathing?  That’s one eighth.

In fact, now I know Patanjali was trying to free mankind from being servants of any one religion.

Yes.  Patanjali was trying to teach people to let religion serve them, not the other way around.  So even religion should only be one eighth of a person’s life.

So now I think of his eight parts of yoga in very different terms.

Want to hear them?

Stay tuned!

 

Yoga: Poked Slapped and Kicked

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It took me years to get used to the idea that someone would come around and “adjust” my while I was trying to perfect my down dog or my half moon.

It didn’t hurt that some instructors were absolutely refined young women with a touch as gentle as a breeze.  I’m just the kind of guy that doesn’t like it that much.

I’ve gotten over it.

In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I still don’t like it, but I appreciate it.  That guiding hand helps me refine my pose and understand the fine muscles that normally get ignored in daily life.

Along the way I’d heard stories about teachers from the old country (India) where such adjustments weren’t so gentle.  When a teacher wanted you to pay attention to between your lower shoulder blades, you could get a very sharp poke from a finger.

Or if your leg was turning out in tree pose, a healthy slap from the teacher reminds you to level the hips and push through the heel with your outer thigh while bringing the inner upper thigh up and in.

In a recent interview, I heard about one of the great Masters (BKS Iyengar himself) who kicked his disciple in the back while she was in headstand.  She remained poised and steady, and he congratulated her on finally “getting it.”

Why?  Why this brutality?  Why do some of these experts cause pain, while the nice teachers are gentle?

In the light of #MeToo, and with a little bit of psychology, there are other reasons it makes sense to guide students with an iron hand.

First off, it makes an impression – sometimes literally.  There is no ambiguity as to where the teacher is drawing your attention.  If it gets you off balance, that tells you that you’re not grounded enough either.  Even in a handstand you should be able to hold your position, even if guruji kicks you.  And you remember better.

Secondly, in the light of the so many complaints emerging from women who have been “man-handled” through the years, it removes another kind of ambiguity.

A light touch is often associated with attraction, arousal, and ultimately seduction.  If the situation involves a male teacher and a female student, the opportunity for drawing the wrong conclusion is high.

On the other hand, even if the most handsome teacher in the world slaps you on the back, or pokes you with a sharp finger right in your thigh, there’s less chance you’ll think it’s some kind of foreplay.

Do it right and feel your eyeballs vibrate!

So, if you’re caressing your students, think about the impression you’re leaving on them.

And if you’re on the receiving end of a sharp comment, appreciate it for what it means.  The teacher wants you to remember and get better.  No extra strings attached.

AUM….