Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Inspiring Friends

We meet every morning.

Our first interactions are slow, thoughtful.

Sometimes we stay on one topic for a while.

At other times, the conversation moves around;

laughing at the absurdity of it all.

And then there are times when there is a great focus

and a desire to understand, to break through an old resistance

or way of being. Sometimes an argument.

But we always meet the next morning, and give salutations.

Because we need every part of this, and no matter where I go anyway,

these inspiring friends are alway waiting to meet me again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unplugged, Unfettered, Uncomplicated

This article is primarily about the practicalities of living full-time in a mobile home, unplugged, or “boon-docking” as it is called. For those of you who have found yourselves wondering from time to time, as you sign yet another rent cheque, if this is possible, let me assure you it is, you will not become any stranger than you already are, and the financial ramifications of living this way are profound. You will become a millionaire.

I’ve been living in an 18 foot Nissan motorhome for 6 months now, with my dog. My reasons were initially to save rent and have a home I could have my dog in - most apartments do not allow pets. At 18 feet, the motorhome can be parked in any regular parking stall. It has a full kitchen, hot water, shower, toilet, furnace, upper double bed, and a dinette. For years I had considered living this way and always wondered about staying clean, sleeping without being disturbed, and generally not looking like a weirdo. Finally circumstances made the choice easy and I bought my 1985 Nissan motorhome for $4,600. This is profound. I purchased my own home, which is also my car, outright, immediately. Many monthly housing payments come close to this figure when you add the mortgage, heating, maintenance fees or monthly repair costs, and that montly cost lasts 25 - 30 years, eventually paying 2 1/2 times the initial purchase price of the home. The argument that the price of the house increases, making the investment worthwhile falls apart when you consider the power of inflation. Every 40 years, one dollar is devalued to a nickel. The price of the house has increased yes, but so has the cost of everything else.

An average day in the motorhome includes getting up, listening to the birds outside and looking out at the rolling fields of the Hazlemere Valley, where I have found a quiet country road to park that is about 8 minutes from work. I turn on the furnace and make breakfast. The fridge stove, furnace and hot water run off a propane tank that needs refilling every two weeks at $18 dollars. Then I have a hot shower. The fresh water holding tanks become full every two days, at the same time the “grey water” or shower and sink water tank needs to be emptied. At just about every corner of a city block you will see an iron grate covering the city septic system. I dump the grey water which consists of organic soap, water and some organic food particles from the sink into the city septic. I don’t use the flush toilet, which would require adding chemicals to keep it from smelling and finding a “sani-dump” station to empty it. Instead I use a folding toilet seat and a plastic bag. It took about 2 days to become accustomed to that, but now that as well as the dog’s poop goes into a trash can. I would prefer to compost, but the space just isn’t there. Alternatively, I use the washroom at Starbucks if I go in to check my email. I fill the water tanks with the gas station water hose. The deep cycle battery that powers the fan to the furnace and the interior lights is charged by the Nissan charging system when I’m driving. I thought initally I would need to install an expensive solar system. As long as I drive a few minutes per day, I have enough battery charge to power everything I need.

A benefit that might not be immediately apparent is the lack of commuting to work. I simply find a quiet spot to park near where I’m working (I teach yoga trainings, so I’m in a different spot every month in B.C.) and park the motorhome on the street like everyone else and walk. I have never had a problem doing this. Gas is getting more and more expensive, the average Vancouverite spending 200 to 300 dollars a month in gas and up to two hours a day in the car not to mention vehicle depreciation. No commuting, no wasted time, no wasted gas. The Nissan gets 18 mpg, which is about the same as a modern SUV.

In the evenings I come home, take the dog for a frisbee toss or walk, make dinner, do some reading or watch a movie online (wi-fi is everywhere and if you don’t get a signal, you can get 3G access for about $40 per month) and go to bed. It is that simple. If I don’t like the view, I drive somewhere more enchanting. If the neighbours are too loud, I move. If I go out for drinks with friends, I don’t have to drive home - I am home.

Now for the really interesting part. The monthly savings on rent (about $1,200 for a place I’d like to live that would allow a dog) and gas (about another $300) totals $1,500 per month, or $18,000 per year. Invested conservativey at 8% return (Berkshire Hathaway is a solid investment firm and has done an average of 18% return over the last 30 years), when I retire in 20 years at 65 I will have:


That’s right. Without even trying. Just investing what I would have spent anyway on rent and gas. If I lived this way for 30 years, I’d have


"The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest" - Albert Einstein

So, the next question is what to do when you retire? Many people buy an expensive new motorhome, trying to replicate their living room in a vehicle out of habit, and stay in campgrounds. I’m just going to fly to Europe, buy a small used motorhome, and travel and live there just as I’m doing here. When I come “home” I will leave the motorhome with the mechanic I’ll pre-arranged rental with and split income from renting it out to tourists when I’m not using it. I may do the same thing in Hawaii. It’ll be nice to spend the coldest months of the year there. And I’m not waiting until I retire.

I often watch the older people in White Rock shopping at the thrift store, picking up little useless items and considering their value. This is a deeply embedded habit - shopping. Our ancestors would keep their senses keen by picking berries and roots. We’ve dulled our senses by picking out candy and looking for couches. Driving daily to a job you probably dislike so that you can pay for the car that takes you to the job, the couch you use to relax on to forget about your job, and the walls that surround the couch is a habit you can walk away from.

You don’t need to worry about money. You don’t need to stay at a job you dislike. For most of human history, we were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Notions of ownership of land have seeped into every aspect of our modern life, even relationships with others and “ownership” of a space in the sky called a condominium. You don’t need to spend 30 years of your life paying for a strange idea. You may appear strange to the majority of our culture. That is the only price you do have to pay.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hatha Yoga

The Sun and the moon.

The reflected light of the moon is like our more subtle, inward nature. The sun, like our outward actions. We contain both, and reconciling the two is a daily practice. When we do, it is like the two lenses of a telescope, or microscope. There are moments when the focus is just so, and in those moments we can see into the cosmos, or into our innermost nature clearly. And then, there is nothing so much as spacious peace - we recognize every star, every cell is just fine as it is, and we navigate on.

Asana - Form and action ( Outward form like the sun, internal action like the moon)

Standing crescent moon
Urdva hastasana - shoulders on back, expand
Sun Salutation
Peaceful salutation to the moon
Ardha Chandrasana
Standing splits
Upward dog

Heart opener on block

Headstand prep, wall backbend inverted

Prasarita Padottanasana
Shoulders - peaceful shoulders on back like the moon, arms overhead like the arc of the sun

Rajakapotasana (back leg bhekasana)
Urdhva Dhanurasana

Ardha matsyendrasana
Janu sirsasana

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Seeking the source - theme and asana

Seeking the source

I was filling my water tank on my r.v. wondering what I would teach today. Some of the water was spilling onto the pavement, and the surface tension of the water made it look like something living as it moved slowly toward the lowest spot nearby. Not in a straight line, but it would pause, fill itself and finally gain the momentum to move around some pebbles or obstructions.

If you looked at the water at one of these pauses, it would look like the water was not doing anything, lacking power or direction. But then, it would move again, around the obstruction. Moving to seek the lowest point, to eventually merge with the groundwater - it’s source.

Not all who wander are lost, as Tolkien said. And not all of our pauses are a waste of time. In the end, when we look back we see that our path, though it meaders, is often the most direct way around obstacles and toward the source of our lives.

Asana - long, slow holds with and emphasis on organic energy

Tadasana - rooting the pelvis

Down dog - wide legs, water hips

Lunges - lunge twists - build a boundary for the flow to increase

Prasarita - shoulders - longer holds

Trikonasana, A. Chandrasana - the coolness of the moon reflected in the water

Salutation to the sea

Parsvottanasana - head on block on wall - organic extension through head

Pavritta Trikonasana

Sirsasana - seek the source through the place where you speak the truth

Parsvakonasana/Pavritta Parsvakonasana

Cresent pose


Setu Bandasana

Urdva - wall



Thread the needle/twist



Thursday, June 23, 2011

3 stages of life - Bob Marley

The 3 stages of a man's life, as delineated by the great yogi Bob Marley:

Stage one 0-18 years. Separated from the womb, seeking re-connection. "No woman? No!!!....Cry!"

Stage two 19 - 45 years. Taking on the mantle of responsibility, a sturdy shoulder to lean on. "No woman, no cry".

Stage three 46 - 99. Finished with procreation, validation of that role no longer required, moving toward contemplation and silence. "No woman = no cry".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's about your yoga..I'm afraid there's been some complications

I'm going say it.

Yoga is too complicated. And I mean this sincerely. I teach this stuff for a living, and I've watched eyes glaze over as talk of tattvas and kleshas and the various states of samadhi are outlined by those of us who have not experienced a stable state of this experience. Therefore, I submit that all of us who talk about this stuff should speak from experience, period.

Why do we love yoga? It is because of the way it makes us feel. The way it makes me feel is difficult to put into words, but if I need a flow chart and a Sanskrit dictionary I'm already in trouble. Because yoga is an experience of assimilation, of digestion of our experiences. Hatha yoga balances opposites - inhale, exhale, determination, surrender. These states do not dissolve, oh no. The problems of life do not go away. Rather we may become more able to digest our experiences. They move through us, and as they do, we witness from a place of.... the best word I can come up with is - poignancy. Poignance is the state of holding two contrasting feelings at once, like bittersweet. A bittersweet experience is the full acceptance of life's ups and downs. We don't get better at feeling both ends of the spectrum by trying to manage them, by withdrawing or by utilizing complicated yoga inner technology. We get better at feeling by...feeling. Feeling what life brings. So instead of rationalization, or in any way attempting to mask our sometimes painful experience of life, how about simply saying "this too." I feel bad. Yes, I do. And there is no shame in that, I am not less spiritual or valuable because I feel like crap sometimes. But I can hold it, hold the experience, and when it shifts, it shifts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yoga and math

I think I may be getting why it is so hard to explain yoga. Usually, we are involved in a process of addition - getting a new thing, taking a course, buying a book. We collect experiences too - going to warm climates, eating great food. These experiences "add" to our lives. But yoga is really a process of subtraction. Yoga practice has the tendency to "remove". Yoga removes stress, removes the disconnection between deeper parts of ourselves, removes some of the need for external validation. It removes muscular imbalance, and internal toxins. Meditation can remove thoughts. So, it's tough to introduce a subtraction way of thinking to an addition based culture as a "positive" benefit. Yup.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My heart is Canadian

My heart is Canadian,
and so is my body
my muscles and bones
live in a socialist society,

No dictator, but strings
of tendons, tissues and
bones listening to one

No celebrity muscle.
no part that needs
more attention because
it feels distant from the others.

Sometimes my Canadian body
gets sick. But have an internal
medicare system, and thanks
to Tommy Douglas, an external one too.

I move into postures in a Canadian way;
I go for a beer afterward because that too,
is union.

I try to teach yoga as a Canadian.
A melting pot of practices
no need to brand it. We are
in this together, aren’t we?