Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 2: Stability – Part 2

Chapter 2: Stability – The Physical Body (Asana) – Part 2:

Here are some more extracts and quotes I found valuable in the second part of this chapter:

The mind does not balance when you force.

After reaching the final pose, one has to learn to let go of the effort and tautness of the muscles and shift the load onto the ligaments and joints so that they hold the asana steadily without even the breath causing the body to waver.

Focus on relaxing as you hold the stretch, not clenching, but relaxing and opening. This relaxes the brain as well as the body.

Notice your eyes as well, as you hold the stretch. Tenseness of the eyes also affects the brain. If the eyes are still and silent, the brain is still and passive. The brain can learn only when it begins to relax.

If the asana is done with continual reference to the back of the brain there is a reaction to each action and there is sensitivity. Then life is not only dynamic but is also electrified with life force.

One who knows the art of relaxation also knows also knows the art of meditation.

When an asana is done correctly the body movements are smooth and there is lightness in the body and freedom in the mind. When an asana is felt as heavy it is wrong.

Think of yourself as graceful and expanding however unlikely it may seem at the time.

When we lose this lightness our bodies shrink. The moment the body shrinks the brain becomes heavy and dull, and you see nothing. The doors of perception are closed.

We are seeking the balance of polarity not the antagonism of duality.

When performing asanas no part of the body should be idle, no part should be neglected.

Illustration: Tadasana (Mountain Pose) from Yoga Wisdom and Practice by BKS Iyengar

When the intellect is stable, there is no past, no future, only present.  Do not live in the future; only the present is real.

In asana, we find balance and integration in the three dimensions of space, but we also find balance and integration in the fourth dimension of time.

Many people focus on the past or the future to avoid experiencing the present, often because the present is painful or difficult to endure. In a yoga class, many students think they must simply grit their teeth and bear it until the teacher tells them they can come out of the asana. This is seeing yoga as calisthenics and is the wrong attitude.

It is not that yoga is causing all of this pain; the pain is already there. It is hidden. We just live with it or have learned not to be aware of it.

The goal is to do the asana with as much possible intensity of intelligence and love. To do this, one must learn the difference between “right” pain and “wrong” pain. Right pain is not only constructive but also exhilarating and involves challenge, while wrong pain is destructive and causes excruciating suffering.

If the practice of today damages the practice of tomorrow it is not correct practice.

When we extend and expand our body consciousness beyond its present limitations we are working on the frontier of the known toward the unknown by an intelligent expansion of our awareness.

When everything else is stripped away the essential is revealed.

The test of a philosophy is whether it is applicable now in how you live your life.

An asana is not a posture that can ever be assumed mechanically.

Practitioners of the asanas alone often forget that yoga is for cultivating the head and the heart.

You must purge yourself before finding faults in others. When you see a mistake in someone else try to find if you are making the same mistake.

In asana and pranayama practice we should have the impression we are working on the outer to get closer to the inner reality of our existence.

There is no such thing as a doorway that you can only go through one way. Yes, we are trying to penetrate in, but what is trying to come out to meet us?

The body is the bow, asana the arrow, and soul is the target.

How can you do asana with your soul? We can only do it with the organ of the body that is closest to the soul – the heart.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

This 1823 poem is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, as well as the tradition that he brings toys to children

Wiki

A Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,
And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

—Clement Clark Moore

Another take is that Santa is a Siberian Shaman:

Trends for 2012

1. Economic Martial Law: Given the current economic and geopolitical conditions, the central banks and world governments already have plans in place to declare economic martial law … with the possibility of military martial law to follow.

2. Battlefield America: With a stroke of the Presidential pen, language was removed from an earlier version of the National Defense Authorization Act, granting the President authority to act as judge, jury and executioner. Citizens, welcome to “Battlefield America.”

3. Invasion of the Occtupy: 15 years ago, Gerald Celente predicted in his book Trends 2000 that prolonged protests would hit Wall Street in the early years of the new millennium and would spread nationwide. The “Occtupy” is now upon us, and it is like nothing history has ever witnessed.

4. Climax Time: The financial house of cards is collapsing, and in 2012 many of the long-simmering socioeconomic and geopolitical trends that Celente has accurately forecast will come to a climax. Some will arrive with a big bang and others less dramatically … but no less consequentially. Are you prepared? And what’s next for the world?

5. Technocrat Takeover: “Democracy is Dead; Long Live the Technocrat!” A pair of lightning-quick financial coup d’états in Greece and Italy have installed two unelected figures as head of state. No one yet in the mainstream media is calling this merger of state and corporate powers by its proper name: Fascism, nor are they calling these “technocrats” by their proper name: Bankers! Can a rudderless ship be saved because technocrat is at the helm?

6. Repatriate! Repatriate!: It took a small, but financially and politically powerful group to sell the world on globalization, and it will take a large, committed and coordinated citizens’ movement to “un-sell” it. “Repatriate! Repatriate!” will pit the creative instincts of a multitude of individuals against the repressive monopoly of the multinationals.

7. Secession Obsession: Winds of political change are blowing from Tunisia to Russia and everywhere in between, opening a window of opportunity through which previously unimaginable political options may now be considered: radical decentralization, Internet-based direct democracy, secession, and even the peaceful dissolution of nations, offering the possibility for a new world “disorder.”

8. Safe Havens: As the signs of imminent economic and social collapse become more pronounced, legions of New Millennium survivalists are, or will be, thinking about looking for methods and ways to escape the resulting turmoil. Those “on-trend” have already taken measure to implement Gerald Celente’s 3 G’s: Gold, Guns and a Getaway plan. Where to go? What to do? Top Trends 2012 will guide the way.

9. Big Brother Internet: The coming year will be the beginning of the end of Internet Freedom: A battle between the governments and the people. Governments will propose legislation for a new “authentication technology,” requiring Internet users to present the equivalent of a driver’s license and/or bill of health to navigate cyberspace. For the general population it will represent yet another curtailing of freedom and level of governmental control.

10. Direct vs. Faux Democracy: In every corner of the world, a restive populace has made it clear that it’s disgusted with “politics as usual” and is looking for change. Government, in all its forms – democracy, autocracy, monarchy, socialism, communism – just isn’’t working. The only viable solution is to take the vote out of the hands of party politicians and institute Direct Democracy. If the Swiss can do it, why can’t anyone else?

11. Alternative Energy 2012: Even under the cloud of Fukushima, the harnessing of nuclear power is being reinvigorated by a fuel that is significantly safer than uranium and by the introduction of small, modular, portable reactors that reduce costs and construction time. In addition, there are dozens of projects underway that explore the possibility of creating cleaner, competitively priced liquid fuels distilled from natural sources. Plan to start saying goodbye to conventional liquid fuels!

12. Going Out in Style: In the bleak terrain of 2012 and beyond, “Affordable sophistication” will direct and inspire products, fashion, music, the fine arts and entertainment at all levels. US businesses would be wise to wake up and tap into the dormant desire for old time quality and the America that was.

via Gerald Celente’s Dire Predictions For 2012 | Disinformation.

Russia oil spills wreak devastation

Environmentalists estimate at least 1 percent of Russia’s annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year. That is equivalent to one Deepwater Horizon-scale leak about every two months. Crumbling infrastructure and a harsh climate combine to spell disaster in the world’s largest oil producer, responsible for 13 percent of global output.

Oil, stubbornly seeping through rusty pipelines and old wells, contaminates soil, kills all plants that grow on it and destroys habitats for mammals and birds. Half a million tons every year get into rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean, the government says, upsetting the delicate environmental balance in those waters.

It’s part of a legacy of environmental tragedy that has plagued Russia and the countries of its former Soviet empire for decades, from the nuclear horrors of Chernobyl in Ukraine to lethal chemical waste in the Russian city of Dzerzhinsk and paper mill pollution seeping into Siberia’s Lake Baikal, which holds one-fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water.

Oil spills in Russia are less dramatic than disasters in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea, more the result of a drip-drip of leaked crude than a sudden explosion. But they’re more numerous than in any other oil-producing nation including insurgency-hit Nigeria, and combined they spill far more than anywhere else in the world, scientists say.

“Oil and oil products get spilled literally every day,” said Dr. Grigory Barenboim, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Water Problems.

via AP Enterprise: Russia oil spills wreak devastation – Boston.com.

Solent Way Video, Stages 2 and 3

Continuing my hike along the Solent Way along the south coast of Hampshire, here are Stages 2 and 3, from Hilsea to Portsmouth Harbour, then yesterday from the Gosport side, along to Lee-on-the-Solent.

Stage 2: From Ports Creek in Hilsea down the east side of Portsea Island through Milton and Eastney to the seafront at Southsea. Then past South Parade pier (looking pretty shoddy these days) along to Clarence Pier and Old Portsmouth, with views of the Isle of Wight. Along the defences, past The Camber and Gunwharf to The Hard:

Stage 3, from the Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour to Lee on Solent, via Haslar’s Naval Bases and Marina, former hospital and prison, forts Monckton and Gilkicker, Browndown, and the coastline of Stokes Bay at Alverstoke. Apologies for the wind noise – I’m working on a solution. Cotton wool over the mic helps somewhat. Apologies too for the dust into the sun – it’s not on the lens but inside…

Scrap Book: Camping in Combe Martin with Martin

Here we are, Martin and I in Combe Martin north Devon on one of many family camping trips. This is a beautiful stretch of coast, from Ilfracombe along the north of Exmoor. This camp site had an amazing view but back then, in 1984, we were more interested in the rope swing in the woods, even fighting with other camping kids over it. Luckily big Philip Coward was with us to sort it out. I’m rocking the skinny 80s jeans and a Fred Perry, Martin’s rocking the biggest smile.

Old Sarum

Feel the ancientness! Just north of the city of Salisbury sits the site of Old Sarum hill fort and castle. From Wiki:

The site contains evidence of human habitation as early as 3000 BC. Old Sarum is mentioned in some of the earliest records in the country. It is located on a hill about two miles north of modern Salisbury adjacent to the A345 road.

Old Sarum was originally an Iron age hill fort strategically placed on the conjunction of two trade routes and the River Avon. The hill fort is broadly oval in shape, 400 metres (1,300ft) in length and 360 metres (1,180ft) in width, it consists of a double bank and intermediate ditch with an entrance on the eastern side. The site was used by the Romans, becoming the town of Sorviodunum. The Saxons used the site as a stronghold against marauding Vikings, and the Normans built a stone curtain wall around the Iron age perimeter and a centrally placed castle on a motte protected by a deep dry moat. A royal palace was built within the castle for King Henry I and subsequently used by Plantagenet monarchs. A Norman cathedral and bishop’s residence were built at the western end of the town.

In 1219, the cathedral was demolished in favour of the new one built near the river and the townspeople moved down to the new city, then called New Salisbury or New Sarum. The castle fell out of use and was sold for materials by King Henry VIII.

Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 2: Stability – Part 1

Extracts from Chapter 2: Stability – The Physical Body (Asana)

It’s a long chapter, so this is Part 1:

Yoga is as old and traditional as civilization, yet it persists in modern society as a means to achieving essential vitality. But yoga demands that we develop not only strength in body but attention and awareness in mind.

Yoga offers us techniques to become aware, to expand and penetrate, and to change and evolve.

As you explore your own body you are in fact exploring the earth element of nature itself.

[One] must do asana not merely as a physical exercise but as a means to understand and then integrate our body with breath, with our mind, with our intelligence, with our consciousness, with our conscience, and with our core.

Yoga has a threefold impact on health. It keeps healthy people healthy, it inhibits the development of diseases, and it aids recovery from ill health.

You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation, and infinity. This is health.

As long as the body is not in perfect health, you are caught in body consciousness alone. This distracts you from healing and culturing the mind. We need sound bodies so we can develop sound minds.

Sensitivity is not weakness or vulnerability. It is clarity of perception and allows judicious, precise action.

The effects of impurity are highly undesirable. They cause us to develop a hard shell around us. If we construct a stiff shell between ourselves and the world outside our skin, we rob ourselves of most of life’s possibilities. We are cut off from the free flow of cosmic energy. It becomes difficult in every sense to let nourishment in or to let toxic waste out. We live in a capsule, what a poet called a “vain citadel.”

Central heating, air conditioning, cars that we take out to drive three hundred yards, towns that stay lit up all night, and food imported from around the world out of season are all examples of how we try to circumvent our duty to adapt to nature and instead force nature to adapt to us. In the process, we become both weak and brittle. Even many of my Indian students who all now sit on chairs in their homes are becoming too stiff to sit in lotus position easily.

Does not the American Declaration of Independence talk of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? If a yogi had written that, he would have said Life, Happiness, and the Pursuit of Liberty.

If you say you are your body, you are wrong. If you say you are not your body, you are also wrong.

How does one find such profound transformation in what from the outside may look simply like stretching or twisting the body into unusual positions? It begins with awareness.

The sensitive awareness of the body and the intelligence of the brain and heart should be in harmony. The brain may instruct the body to do a posture, but the heart has to feel it, too. The head is the seat of intelligence; the heart is the seat of emotion. Both have to work in cooperation with the body.

The duty of the brain is to receive knowledge from the body and then guide the body to further refine the action. Pause and reflect between each movement. This is progression in attention. Then in the stillness you can be filled with awareness.

When we ask ourselves, “What am I doing?” and “Why am I doing it?” our minds open. This is self-awareness. However, it is necessary to point out that students should be self-aware, not self-conscious. Self-consciousness is when the mind constantly worries and wonders about itself, doubting constantly and being self-absorbed.

If you do not know the silence of the body, you cannot understand the silence of the mind.

When action and silence combine like the two plates of an automobile’s clutch, it means that intelligence is in gear.

The moment you bring attention, you are creating something, and creation has life and energy.

Extension is attention, and expansion is awareness.

Overstretching occurs when one looses contact with one’s center, with the divine core. Instead, the ego wants simply to stretch further, to reach the floor, regardless of its ability, rather than extending gradually from the center.

Always try to extend and expand the body. Extension and expansion bring space, and space brings freedom.

When there is strain, the practice of yoga is purely physical and leads towards imbalances and misjudgement.

Your energy extends through the tips of your skin and beyond. This is the secret that martial artists use to generate extraordinary force. They do not punch a brick, they punch through it. Extend the energy of the asana out through your extremities. Let the river flow through you.

Picture from B.K.S. Iyengar – Yoga Wisdom and Practice

More Radioactive Leaks From Fukushima

TOKYO — At least 45 tons of highly radioactive water have leaked from a purification facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, and some of it may have reached the Pacific Ocean, the plant’s operator said Sunday.

Nearly nine months after Fukushima Daiichi was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami, the plant continues to pose a major environmental threat. Before the latest leak, the Fukushima accident had been responsible for the largest single release of radioactivity into the ocean, threatening wildlife and fisheries in the region, experts have said.

The new radioactive water leak called into question the progress that the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, appeared to have made in bringing its reactors under control. The company, known as Tepco, has said that it hopes to bring the plant to a stable state known as a cold shutdown by the end of the year.

The trouble on Sunday came in two stages, a Tepco statement said. In the morning, utility workers found that radioactive water was pooling in a catchment next to a purification device; the system was switched off, and the leak appeared to stop. But the company said it later discovered that leaked water was escaping, possibly through cracks in the catchment’s concrete wall, and was reaching an external gutter.

In all, as much as 220 tons of water may now have leaked from the facility, according to a report in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun that cited Tepco officials.

The company said that the water had about one million times as much radioactive strontium as the maximum safe level set by the government, but appeared to have already been cleaned of radioactive cesium before leaking out. Both elements are readily absorbed by living tissue and can greatly increase the risk of developing cancer.

Tepco said a check on Saturday had found no sign of the leak, suggesting that it began Saturday night or early Sunday morning. The company said it was exploring ways to stop any more water from escaping.

Since the disaster in March, workers have been struggling to cool the stricken plant’s reactors by flooding them with water, which is contaminated with radioactivity in the process and becomes a problem of its own.

via More Radioactive Leaks From Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant – NYTimes.com.

Alan Moore Interview – Economics

The economic problem is a strange one…

Economics is always strange. You’re not talking about anything that’s actually real. Researching a chapter for Jerusalem, I read a couple of books on economics to see if I could get my head around the facts of the situation. I was astonished when I found out the value of derivative bonds, in 2008. These are bonds that have a value in themselves that were once connected to a real thing, there might have been a bond made for the sale of a herd of sheep, but that can be sold on and they gain in value. The notional value of the world’s derivative bonds was in the region of sixty trillion. Exactly ten times the economic output of the entire planet, which is around six trillion. That means that the gap between what economists and what the world’s economic forces and the banks thought they had to play with and what actually existed was fifty-four trillion. That would seem to me the depth of the hole we are in.

So something has to be done about that. I would suggest beheading the bankers, but while it would be very satisfying and would cheer us up, it probably wouldn’t do anything practical to alter the situation. Behead the currency. Change the currency, why not? It would disempower all the people who had bought into that currency but it would pretty much empower the rest of us, the other ninety-nine percent.

via The Honest Alan Moore Interview – Part 2: The Occupy Movement, Frank Miller, and Politics.

Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 1: The Inward Journey

Extracts from Chapter 1: The Inward Journey:

Most of us think of our “body” as simply our physical form—our skin, bones, muscles, and internal organs. For yoga, however, this is only the outermost layer of our body or annamaya kosa. It is this anatomical body that encompasses the other four subtle bodies, or kosas.

The demarcation of the different sheaths is essentially hypothetical. We are unique and integral. Nevertheless, in order to achieve the integrity and wholeness we desire, there must be communication from the inner to the outer and the outer to the inner as each sheath blends with the next. Only then are we bound together as one functional human being. If not, we experience dissolution and fragmentation, which make life uncomfortable and confusing.

[If] you too live and practice yoga in the right way and with the right attitude, far greater benefits and more radical changes will take place than mere physical flexibility.

We too are part of Nature, therefore constantly changing, so we are always looking at Nature from a different viewpoint. We are a little piece of continual change looking at an infinite quantity of continual change. Small wonder that it gets quite exciting. The most important thing we can learn about Nature is the inherent and innate laws by which it functions.

It is through the alignment of my body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.

I have purposely avoided until now using the usual translation for the non-physical reality as its mention usually stops people thinking for themselves. In Sanskrit, the word is Purusa. In English we can call it Cosmic or Universal Soul. The word Soul usually has such strong religious connotations that people either accept or dismiss it without reflection. They forget that it is simply our word for an abiding reality. It is logical but remains conceptual to our minds until we experience its realization within ourselves.

Everything that exists in the macrocosm is to be found existing in the microcosm or individual.

[The] demonstration of one’s spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one’s fellow human beings.

[We] discover ever more self-control, sensitivity, and awareness that permit us to live the life we aspire to, one of decency; clean, honest human relations; goodwill and fellowship; trust; self-reliance; joy in the fortune of others; and equanimity in the face of our own misfortune.

Self-cultivation through asana is the broad gateway leading to the inner enclosures we need to explore. In other words, we are going to try to use asana to sculpt the mind.

Breath is the vehicle of consciousness and so, by its slow, measured observation and distribution, we learn to tug our attention away from external desires (vasana) toward a judicious, intelligent awareness (prajna).

We may say that we want to reach the domain of the soul, but there remains a great tug-of-war. We neither go in nor out, and that saps the energy.

This process of relaxing the brain is achieved through asana. We generally think of mind as being in our head. In asana our consciousness spreads throughout the body, eventually diffusing in every cell, creating a complete awareness.

How to keep the brain cells in a relaxed, receptive, and concentrated state is the art that yoga teaches.

[We] all have access to a space, an inner space, where there is an end to duality, an end to conflict. This is what meditation teaches us, the cessation of the impersonating ego and the dawn of the true, unified Self, beyond which there is no other.

[A] word or action done to another is ultimately done equally to oneself.

Spirituality, as I have tried to make clear, is not ethereal and outside nature but accessible and palpable in our very own bodies. Indeed the very idea of a spiritual path is a misnomer. After all, how can you move toward something that, like Divinity, is already by definition everywhere?

Bank funding crisis deepens

In other words European workers must now be forced to compete toe to toe with Chinese labor costs even though the cost of living in Europe is vastly higher than living in China. Of course the obvious solution to that conundrum is to make the cost of living here more like that of living in China. Which is a simple matter of doing away with workers rights, health care, education and any sort of pension at all. The outlines of a plan emerging here I think.

This is a BANK funding crisis, but it is nations of ordinary people who are being blamed and forced to pay for all the corruption, stupidity, greed and lies which caused it and are still causing it.

via Bank funding crisis deepens | Golem XIV – Thoughts.