Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yoga as therapy

One thing seems to be a universal truth. The more we inquire, the more there is to know. Yoga therapy is an inquiry into wholeness, which really requires the full participation of the client to be effective - why? Without the energy of inquiry turned toward coming back to health, and the client's participation in that inquiry, Yoga therapy would be at the very least less effective. Our nature is wholeness. If the therapy client sees the yoga therapist as the originator of health, then the process starts to look like an intervention. Our western medical system is largely based on the the paradigm of intervention - thinking the body needs something else, something from outside, to heal. We have sleeping pills, viagra, cholesterol medication, anti-depressants and on and on. All of these interventions have side effects at least as dangerous as the condition they are apparently trying to alleviate. An example:

Common side effects of
SSRI antidepressants:

Decreased sex drive
Weight gain or loss
Dry mouth

Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms:

Anxiety, agitation
Depression, mood swings
Flu-like symptoms
Irritability and aggression
Insomnia, nightmares
Nausea and vomiting
Dizziness, loss of coordination
Stomach cramping and pain
Electric shock sensations
Tremor, muscle spasms

Antidepressant warning signs:

Suicidal thoughts or attempts
New or worse depression
New or worse anxiety
Aggression and anger
Acting on dangerous impulses
New or worse irritability
Feeling agitated or restless
Difficulty sleeping
Extreme hyperactivity
Other unusual changes in behavior

These side effects pile up. If you have insomnia, take a pill. That pill may make you anxious - so take an antidepressant. The antidepressant may decrease your sex drive -so take viagra. Viagra may make you sleepless....
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

The model of intervention is based upon a belief that intervention is necessary. What is often not asked of the patient is "Why are you depressed/angry/sleepless/uninterested in sex?" The answer might not be immediately apparent to the client, but if a process of inquiry begins, and a desire to change the circumstances and behaviors contributing to condition is there, health is on it's way. Perhaps it is a change of occupation, adoption of practices that encourage mental and physical stability, or even something as simple as knowing that there is a deep intelligence in us that when revealed, opens a door to a world that looks radically different and beautiful but is in fact the one we have been living in all along.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

The concept of intellectual property goes back to at least 1888 with the founding of the Swiss Federal Office for Intellectual Property. Intellectual property rights are state-enforced monopolies regarding use and expression of ideas and information. To own something as subtle as the expression of an idea is a strange concept for some. There has always been criticism of the theory, none more to the point than that of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States:

“Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”

Spoken like a true yogi.

David K. Levine, Professor of Economics at Washington University in St. Louis has studied the effects of intellectual property rights, and disputes the assertion that these rights encourage innovation. He cites some examples:

􏰀 Boulton and Watt’s steam engine patent most likely delayed
the Industrial Revolution by a couple of decades.

􏰀 Selten’s automobile patent set back automobile innovation in
the United States by roughly the same amount of time.

􏰀 The Wright Brothers’ airplane patent forced innovative work on
airplane technology out of the United States to France.

􏰀 The patent system of England and France forced the chemical
industry to move to Germany and Switzerland where chemical
patents did not exist or were much weaker.

􏰀 When Verdi gained copyright over his works he stopped
producing new works. More generally, there is no evidence
that the adoption of copyrights stimulated the creation of
classical music.

Anyone who has been in the process of creating ideas – a song, a joke, a poem or a sequence of yoga postures – will attest to the fact that there are two things at work to create something out of nothing. The first is the technical skill required to play the notes, get the timing right for the punch-line, type the words or perform the postures. This, the yogis call Smrti, meaning “that which is remembered”. But the second component is by far the more important – the idea itself. And this part is given more than created. It is as if the idea was already there in some form of collective storehouse, waiting to be received and manifested. Ideas can be manipulated by the mind and grasped by the ego, but they exist as potential in the Source of our being and like shruti, are divinely revealed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Open Source Yoga

Two Paths

Two yogic strategies emerged to deal with this situation of physical embodiment. If the ego and its inherent desire for worldly fulfillment and sense of separation is seen as problematic, and a barrier to our connection with Source, the appropriate strategy would be to separate our universal nature from our ego nature as soon as possible. This is the path of the sage Patanjali. He identifies the essential problem as one of too much identification with what he calls nature – the physical world, which even includes our thoughts and emotions. So for Patanjali, the path back to our true nature requires, to some extent, withdrawing from the world of distraction and disengaging our universal nature from the objects of the senses. This often becomes the path of the renunciate, or the monk.

The second option, as far as addressing the situation of our embodied nature, is best articulated in the Tantric path which brings us back, after quite a diversion, to where we left off. Tantra sees the entire manifest world including thought, emotion and memory not as a barrier to recognizing our true nature, but simply as what Source has created – one reality that includes everything. So Tantra does not see our embodiment as a problem, or as a situation to escape from. It views embodiment as an opportunity to become more conscious, and to see the signature of divinity in all things. The world is the place where we practise our yoga, and to which we may come again.

If we choose a more Tantric option – that God lives in us as us - we can engage in the world and have some real concern for the fate of the world, motivated by the very real possibility that we may be here again to experience the fruits of our actions. If on the other hand we believe the world is a place to escape from and that “Heaven” lies elsewhere, that belief is going to affect our actions in another way. We may be less apt to care about the mess we leave behind, and more concerned with how exactly we get into this “Heaven”.

Because of the limitations of language it is also difficult to transmit a spiritual experience in writing. Teachings that were meant to point toward a real experience of Source by using metaphor and poetry, sometimes became interpreted literally rather than mythically. A myth points to a deeper truth, and is meant to be interpreted, not proven to be true or false. Every culture on our planet from the First Peoples of North America, to the Mayans to Australian Aboriginal peoples has a mythology appropriate to their way of life, using stories, metaphor and images that appear in their daily lives. All myths from all cultures are true in that when interpreted, they tell us deeper truths about our human experience.

The Judeo-Christian mythology shares many of its stories with other cultures – virgin births being a common way to illustrate the awakening of universal consciousness, for example. But in the 4th century, at the First Council of Nicaea, Christian bishops created the first uniform Christian doctrine. They proclaimed, after a vote, that Jesus was to be seen as God’s most perfect creation, rather than made of the same substance as God. They proclaimed also that Jesus was to be seen as the literal son of God, not as a son of God. This view created much of the perceived separation between man and his essential nature we see in Western religions today. In this literalized mythology there is no way for a human to reach God, as God does not live within us, as us. Our original nature, they said, is not Source. We are born into sin, and will be forever separate from God. We may go to heaven when we die to live near God if we do the right things, but we are never part of Source itself, as we are God’s creation.

It is important to note here that this standardization of belief by the bishops at Nicaea was not a conspiracy. Rather, it was an attempt to harmonize some of the disparate beliefs present at the time and to bring order to an organization. The proceedings were well-documented by those present, most notably by Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote a letter to the people of his Diocese explaining the decisions made by the bishops present at the Council.

This decision, based on a literal rather than a metaphoric interpretation of myth, has had some rather severe consequences. Our ego nature could not have been dealt a more severe blow than to be told we are not part of God. Our ego needs to survive in order for us to live, so it does what we all do when we are unfairly criticized – it defends itself.

For our ego to rebuild itself, it must find a way to again become valuable. If our belief is that we are forever separate from Source – Source being a blissful, conscious reality dependant on nothing – then our value must be only a relative value. If we do not see God in others or ourselves, our ego must adopt a new strategy, and that strategy is comparison. Unconditional love is only possible when we recognize our universal nature – when we become “transparent to transcendence”. Our individual qualities – physical beauty, size, intelligence and so on, will change as we change over this life. If our love for another or for ourselves is based only on our individual qualities, without a remembrance of our universal nature as part of God, our love may change when the individual qualities we see as valuable change or diminish.

A society that places value only on individual qualities is a society that loves conditionally. If our belief is that we are not innately valuable, but valuable only because of what we do, then we must do in order to be loved. It is not enough to simply be. It is clear that the focus of our society is on doing. In order to be loved in this context, we must be not just smart or beautiful or funny or resourceful, but smarter, more beautiful, funnier or more resourceful than others. We must compete and win in one of these events in order for the ego to repair itself.

Another symptom of a belief that we are separate from Source is the desire to own. Indigenous cultures living in harmony with their environment see themselves as belonging to the earth, not the earth belonging to them. This is not to say that territorial behaviour is not an aspect of many sentient beings. Territorial behaviour is motivated by the necessary desire for survival and does not extend past one’s own life cycle, and often not past one season. However, with our large brains and sense of separation we have decided that it is actually possible to own something that was here millions of years before we were born, is in fact the organism that allows us to live, and to own it in perpetuity. We wish to be able to pass parts of the earth on to our offspring, or to sell it - something we never created in the first place. It makes as much sense to claim that we also own the sun. From our sense of separation we cry “This is MINE!” in an attempt to own everything – to bring it all back. Perhaps instead we should whisper “I am yours”.