Friday, August 14, 2009

Haiku #7 - Waving Her Red Flags

Waving her red flags
Arousing an adventure
Gripping life tightly.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

MPOW #27 - Hero

"The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by." - Felix Adler

"True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost."
- Arthur Ashe

Lately I have been inspired by many and have been thinking a lot about the people who inspire me. In schools and camps, people often ask children to talk about their heroes. Sometimes, out of whimsy, I love to pull out such childhood questions and see what the answers are. For this mindfulness practice of the week (MPOW), start by asking yourself: Who is your hero? or Who are your heroes?

This is the first step. The idea is not to choose an idol, but an inspiration. Telling the difference between idolatry and admiration is a second part of the mindfulness practice. What about that person do you find virtuous? What trait impresses you? Once you pinpoint this trait or traits, see what it would take to bring that trait into your life. My heroes are people who behave in ways that I admire but have not yet found the strength to emulate myself. Grove Alexander's quotation parallels the Buddhist notion that environment is just a blink away: "Less than a foot made the difference between a hero and a bum."

After choosing your hero, this is a great opportunity to find that same behavior and virtue within yourself. It is there. You don't need to change yourself or become a better person in any way. Instead you can reveal this for yourself in the same way that a master sculptor reveals the statue in the marble. It is not necessary to accomplish the same feats as your hero, that may actually be counterproductive to your goals. Forcing yourself to do something that doesn't align with who you are is not a change, it is a form of self-hostility. Instead, focusing on the virtue and behavior. Do this gently; you are already perfect and whole.

if you want some more inspiration about heroes, see Paula Grant-LeClaire's Hero Quotations at Bella Online.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” - Christopher Reeve

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” -Bob Dylan

This post is dedicated to my heroes, especially the people who have patiently taught me the things that I have been impatient in learning.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Response to Fatburger Banner

Fatburger banner in restaurant: "Do you really think man clawed his way to the top of the food chain to eat soy?" Today Keith Ferrazzi tweeted that. No offense, Keith, you’re awesome, but I’m drawn to rebuttal on this banner quote.

Full disclosure: I'm on a mostly vegetarian diet (see Why), so perhaps you will find me unduly biased. However, it is a diet that I chose after lots of soul searching and meditation. This diet is my choice and not one that I force on anyone else. I'm not saying that eating meat is wrong. In fact, strict vegetarianism is not for me, and I'm even reevaluating my current stance. So, though I offer the disclaimer, vegetarianism is not something that I follow blindly and with zealotry. Aside - Even when I ate and loved meat, I found Fatburger disgusting. My one and only burger there nauseated me. I preferred In 'N Out… though I haven’t had a beef burger in probably a year and a half. Well, enough about me…

Really, Fatburger? Really? (nod to SNL) That seems both factually incorrect and a blatant attempt to exploit a desire for dominance in order to fill Fatburger’s coffers.

Humans didn't really claw their way to the top of the food chain. If you ascribe to evolution (as I do), our species evolved at this point. If you follow creationism, we were created by God exactly at the top. If you believe something else, well, maybe my argument falls apart, but I leave it to you to decide.

The human benefit is that we have a highly developed neo-cortex in our pre-frontal lobe that allows us to make our own decisions. These decisions let us work with the mammalian and reptilian centers below, but applying more logic and reasoning. We have decision-making abilities. With these decision making abilities comes moral responsibility. Given this potent brain, we don't need to be driven solely by the impulse to consume meat.

Fine, so it’s meant to be a clever advertisement, not necessarily factually correct. But we can still look at it for what it does do. It’s similar to a quote that I see at my local market: “Vegetarian is a Native American world for bad hunter.”

I’ve noticed that some meat-eaters are bothered by vegetarians, because they feel judged by someone else's choices, or they feel a little guilty on their own. Clearly, Fatburger stands to gain by exploiting this, by exploiting a primal hunger for meat, by exploiting this primal desire for dominance. They want you to buy more burgers and will manipulate your desire to feel more powerful, even if it is by being at the top of the food chain.

Perhaps, though, the true power comes from the will power to see this for the commercial manipulation that it is. It comes from the ability to choose, and to see meat consumption as a choice, and perhaps not the best choice for a human-sustainable ecology. Perhaps real power comes from being able to think beyond yourself, beyond your appetite, beyond your own need for power, and to adhere to decisions that support the rest of the world.

I am not for vegetarianism as tree-huggerism, frou-frouism, or a source of identity. I am for conscious decisions that promote a better, more sustainable world. I suspect that less dining at Fatburger would go some way in that direction.

Monday, August 03, 2009

MPOW #26 - Nadi Sodhana - Alternating Nostril Breathing

"Breathe. Breathe in the air.
Don't be afraid to care." -Pink Floyd

If I only have a few moments alone to find calm and center myself, I often turn to nadi sodhana, or alternating nostril breathing. "
Yogis believe that this exercise will clean and rejuvenate your vital channels of energy, thus the name nadi sodhana (purification of nadis or channels)." From the Yoga Infocenter. For this mindfulness practice of the week, try out this millenia-old breathing technique.

Along with being calming and centering, this technique is often revitalizing. It is balancing. I love to use it on a bus or plane ride, first thing in the morning, or before drifting off to sleep. I also used it between interviews while I was interviewing for my current job. And while out salsa or tango dancing, I will center myself with it during breaks.

The Practice

I describe this technique from the perspective of a right hand, but it is possible to use either the left hand, or anything else that can block your nostrils if the right hand will not work for you.

Find a comfortable position with spine erect.
2. Hold your right hand in front of your face, palm facing you.
3. Put your middle and index fingers together, touching them lightly in the center of your forehead. Your thumb and ring fingers should rest on your right and left nostrils, respectively.

4. Use your ring finger to close your left nostril, then inhale slowly and steadily through your right nostril.
5. At the end of your inhalation, release your left nostril while using your thumb to close your right nostril, then exhale slowy and steadily through your left nostril.
6. Inhale slowly and steadily through your left nostril, keeping your right nostril closed.
7. Switch nostrils, and exhale through your right nostril.

Each inhalation starts on one side, and the exhalation completes on the other side. Keep alternating bath and forth. Keeping track of the same breathing count on each side is an excellent technique to keep yourself patient and maintain steady breathing.

Fun Diversion

As you practice this, you will likely notice that one nostril is more open than the other. Yogic traditions have found that the open nostril switched roughly every 108 minutes throughout the day. It will be easier to breath on the right side for 108 minutes, then at the transition equally easy to breath on both sides, then switches over to the left for 108 minutes, going back and forth. It is said that when the left side is freer, this is a more outwardly energetic and excited time, the yang side. When the right side breathed easily, this is a calmer side of your day, the yin side.

This breathing pattern brings the two sides into equilibrium. Laying on your right side encouraging your right nostril to open more, and laying on your left side encourages your left nostril to open more. You can use this information to assist you in going to sleep or awakening.

You might want to play with this yourself to see what you can learn from it.