Sunday, November 09, 2014
The Duality of Education
ISIS, Middle East and learning from Marshall
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Meditation In Schools
PurposeIn my opinion, what sets human beings apart from other species is the part of us that seeks purpose or meaning in life. Perhaps purpose or meaning is merely a product of our imagination, but, that is neither here nor there as our perceptions become our reality. This sense of attempting to comprehend can certainly lead to arrogance and, as we have seen, give us the false sense that we are above and apart from all the things that make up our world. It is inevitable that we create our own order in order to gleam a sense of sanity. Oftentimes, however, I find this order causes us to wish that all things can establish themselves in the relative borders of black and white. We attempt to compartmentalise people and seek a justification for those things that come to pass: karma, god, natural consequence, bad luck, etc. This is not to deny cause and effect - I am not referring to the fact that if you hit your thumb with a hammer that pain will be the result. I am speaking more to the complexity of the individual; our expectations of our selves and others - the "why" of relationships. It often feels as though we wish people to be of a prescribed predictability, while, in our works of fiction set in novels, movies, etc., we seek a greater complexity of the characters. I must confess that I frequently look to fiction - perhaps more often than in my own life - for greater meanings and purpose, coming away with a mix of great satisfaction and savage disappointment. I'll read more about the heroics of others, feeling that my own pursuits pale in significance when held up to such dazzling lights and luminaries. This is a sad thing.
I am trying to live more mindfully and acknowledge the gremlin in our psyche that causes us to look to the grandeur of the sky at the expense of that which is at our feet. Accepting things as they are, as opposed to what they "should" be. Having the wisdom to discern between the imagination of fiction and the incredibleness of that which presently is. When you contrast a beautiful piece of music or well written novel to the infinity that is the universe, we can see the wonder of this one fragment, but must realise that it is a minuscule speck of the greater whole. Everything is magic. The nature of the universe is also chaos; indifferent and limitless. Such a beautiful thing, of which we are a part, and, in which, we may mould our own experiences; there is no failure. Perhaps, this would thus preclude that there is no purpose or meaning - a difficult and discouraging thought. But why dwell on definitions? On compartmentalising and seeking that order? Surely, we have seen as people try to define "god" that such definitions immediately limit that which would be limitless and attempts to comprehend that which is not possible to comprehend. We are what we are. That is all there is. Be happy, for that is all that truly makes sense and regulates our actions.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Saturday, December 03, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
I've been fascinated by religion and philosophy for ages. Despite feeling that I am largely an existentialist and have no a belief in a god or gods per say, I have been finding a spiritual path of sorts, largely through my practice of Yoga (and I completely admit to being a Yoga zealot), and readings in the Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Pagan and Sikh traditions. These traditions have left me feeling that I am free to explore my spiritual nature and I have taken aspects from each, as well as the western cannon of Philosophy and Psychology, to form the present day working document of my beliefs. Certainly, I have given thought to the teachings of Christianity and Islam as well, however, I found their rigidity, vagueness, demands of obedience and leaps of faith to be too much for what I can accept from where I stand. There are wonderful teachings of peace and ideas of how to lead a spiritual life in Islam and Christianity, but the dogmatic nature of these faiths simply are not for me. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” This is how I see life - a subjective journey where change remains the only constant and, ultimately, all the elements for inner peace and internal chaos co-exist. It is how these elements arrange and manifest in the moment, and how we handle their manifestation that creates our reality and state of being. Nietzsche also wrote: “I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome.” While not intending to be elitist, I do believe in making life a journey of transformation, but understand that this may not look the same in the mind's of others. And so I try to live by the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
So, yes, all faiths allow one to seek a spiritual path through a belief system, senses of morality and sense of the divine; some with more guidance and restrictions than others.Bringing us to the ultimate part of all this - moving from the thought and action to the existence of things like a supreme conscious universal being- (G)god(s) and souls/spirits.
There is energy that runs through all things on the planet - Science shows us this: electrical synapses and currents in the brain cause us to experience everything that we experience. Movement is energy and, in order to posses energy to move, we eat, draw from the sun, etc., and we exert that energy back into other things which our exertions, music, sexual intercourse and pregnancy, body heat, etc. Energy is stimulated when we sing or chant "Om" - resinating vibrations throughout our system, knocking the gunk out of our internal structure and forcing vibrations strong enough to shatter glass and ripple water. Rocks, water - all things possess energy and conduct it. Energy runs through all things.
In the Yogic traditions, they have called this prana or kundalini, and Yogis seek to manipulate the control of these things through the body (you may have heard of the Seven Chakras or Five Koshas) and to link them back out into the universe. There's something to be said about energy and how it may be manipulated to a noticeable effect. Certainly after doing a few moments of deep pranayama (big belly breaths) breathing with my Elementary and Middle-school students in the past, even they could pick up on the noticeable drop in the classroom's energy levels from stressed and hyper to serene. During Yoga and meditation, even a first time practitioner can notice a significant change in their bodies on an energy and, oftentimes, emotional level, and this can become the pursuit of one's life's meaning. Again, the co-existence of internal bliss and chaos are elements seeded within us all and of the nature of being fleeting. Thus, we may work to master our energy, however impermanence is the nature of all in life - we may experience orgasms beyond dreams and suffering that presses us to the brink of suicide - but both sensations, which are massive energetic manifestations, will not last forever.
Our mind is a chemical soup mixed with organic solids that, through the synapse, create all that we experience. The five senses, the cue for your heart to beat, all of those things are electrical signals. What alludes me in my sense of the divinity of this force lies in this energy's intelligence or potential consciousness beyond the self. We shed and gain new energy all of the time. Ultimately, there is a unification of thought and self maintained throughout all of this in life in our consciousness. The question is, when the brain dies with the body, does this prana, kundalini, life force, holy spirit or whetever you chose to lable it, disperse or remain largely intact, either moving into the cells of something newly created or mixing with other universal elements (god?) and continue an eternity of manifestation and altering form?
Then there is breath. Breath, of course, sustains life. Pranayama, Kapalabhati and Ujjayi are just three types of Yoga breathing in Yoga that, when practiced, have immediate affects on the body. Likewise there is mindfulness meditation through Buddhism and prayer in general in other faiths.The breath connects us to our selves and to one another. We all breathe the same air, and, odds are, the air that is in your lungs now, keeping you alive, consists of the breath of billions of others, past and present. Perhaps you have a few respiratory drops of Gandhi, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Hitler or Mother Theresa in you right now. I worked for years in a maximum security prison and shudder to think of the negativity I must have ingested, but I've also been in proximity to many incredible people, so I'm hoping it all balances out karmic-ally. When we breath in, that O2 enters our blood stream and circulates around our entire body, nurturing each cell, cleaning out cellular byproducts and then releases them with an exhalation out into the universe. So, you can see, that even Science shows that we are connected on a very deep level - penetrated down to the life of every cell in our body.The same principles, of course, include that which we eat and drink as well.
So, between the breath, and synaptic/electric charge that unites all things, the question remains as to the intellectual nature of this universal life force. This world/universe is an incredibly complex creation which, in my opinion, will never truly be explained in terms to how things came into being. I shy away from the notions of intelligent design, thinking more in the area of pure miraculous evolution and adaptations. I see our human selves to be creature capable of limitless potential and think a large part of that promise can be found through Yoga and working with Prana and Kundalini (enter, Feddy's "Superman"). This is a difficult sell as many do not understand Yoga, holding limited interpretations based on modern Yoga trends and magazines which seem to be more about work-outs, fashion and the odd feel good phrase (hey - I stated clearly that I'm a Yoga Zealot!), and, you are right: simply stretching ain't gonna bring the light. Yoga, for those interested in following this point up for their own interest, is truly a way of life (but not necessarily the way for all) and, is not just about a 1 hour class of stretching and breathing on a Yoga mat, followed by a Caramel Macchiato at the local Starbucks while cloaked in the latest of the Lululemon line. That can all be great and lead to happiness. It's just not what Yoga is about - nor is Yoga about Moksha Hot Yoga Inc., Birkram trying to copyright asanas and treating Yogi's like Gurmukh as a celebrity (went to two seesions this week with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, and, while I'm very interested in pursuing Kundilini Yoga much further, I was sickened by the whole rock-star billing of the night. Not to insult Gurmukh's teachings as she has given much to Yoga and I'm certain she has her merits, but I thought her presentation was well below the standards I would expect from a seasoned guru of her stature. Again though, loved the practice)... and I personally love Starbucks - tall Americano...MMMMmmm!
Yoga consists of Eight limbs (written by Mara Carrico):
NiyamaNiyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
One can not deny that human beings have made significant progress over the ages. We live in a world where we can fly, transplant organs and cure disease, access information in a matter of seconds and have such marvels and wonders as indoor plumbing, refrigerators, duct tape and so on. It is certainly an age of conveniences, technological advancements and wonder.
Perhaps the most incredible part about many of life's daily "givens" is how unimaginable they were not a very long time ago. In my 43 years I've witnessed the video phones dreamed up on The Jetsons become a reality through Skype. Don Adam's character on Get Smart has seen the concept of the portable shoe phone become today's Androids and iPhones with apps to bend the brain in wonder! Can you imagine a world without such things? It would be difficult. Yet, I remember living in a time when these things were the works of Science Fiction.
Is it not incredible how such recent developments have become habituated and have formed the nucleus of present day society, particularly in the areas of communication? How is it that such ways of life, with such a brief time in contemplation and diversion from the "norm", have become accepted, while ideas of human rights and freedoms, which are ideas that have existed for thousands of years, have still not be adopted by the world at large? We accept technology as it can make life easier and many things convenient. Would not peace and equality not afford us a greater convenience - a life without fear, hate, etc.? We have put the Internet and cell phones into every corner of the world, but continue to oppress and discriminate. We invest more in war than education and healthcare. The oppression of women, child labour, executions of homosexuals in countries like Iran, exploitation and "killing in the name of" under the veil of religions of love re-play their tragic tale over and over again. Our communities are changing in ways that are leaving many feeling empty - where qualitative interaction is being replaced by less substantial sound bites and tweets. Where is our progress in the area that matters the most - our communities, civilisation and our selves?
Our world is changing and my existence is one so brief that I am in no place to state whether things are getting better or worse. I am simply posing the question and making an observation; seeking my own sense of this progress.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
The Age of Aquarius is supposed to commence on November 11th, 2011 - an age of a more completed enlightenment, breaking free of the wheels set in motion by the Industrial Revolution and authoritarian rule, while striving for a more holistic and emotional based way of living. It is a lovely notion, but, unfortunately, my faith in such a global revolution is non-existent. Across Canada today and around the world, thousands rallied in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, demanding a cessation to the corporate domination of governments and absolute rule. Perhaps it is cynical to point out that much of this counter-corporate movement has been coordinated through the use of iPhones, Androids and a plethora of things sold to us by the dragon they wish to slay.
Things will change - this is one of the only certainties in life. But just as the uprisings in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Libya and the like are under the banner of freedom and democracy, we know that the likelihood of success is limited as the people in those countries lack the educational and social foundations for such a revolution to be a success. A gradual transition and global support is the only path to realising such dreams, and this will always be shaded by the ulterior motives of... well... the corporations and the governments that they are in cahoots with.
The same principles apply to this anti-corporate movement made popular now in the West. Sadly, I believe that many people protesting today were motivated by the desire to be part of a movement made fashionable by the media and celebrities. It is like the armies of Yogis you see walking through the streets with their mats rolled up and decked out from head to toe in Lululemon garb - the magazines full of advice on how to "simply be" and "simply live" alongside elaborate Yoga holiday destinations, overpriced supplements and fashions which cost an arm and leg (i.e. a correction in this month's Yoga Journal stated that so-and so's dress cost $495 - OUTRAGEOUS! Yoga simplicity Inc. to the nines!!!!). That is not Yoga, it is fashion and watered down physicality. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it's getting people moving, and it might send the odd person down the real path of Yoga, but THAT is not Yoga. I do not intend to sound negative or preachy here, but I feel like this must be a point clearly made - a bit like telling someone that yes, that looks like a stick, but it's really a crocodile!
If people truly want to end the corporate domination of all things, then it needs to come from one's changing of personal consumption habits. The fact is we have a choice, most of the time, of what we will buy or not buy. Accompanied this fact is another: corporations make money through what people buy and the contracts they make with governments that, in the West, we supposedly elect. This latter part is, logistically, the most difficult, though most people will find the immediacy of the former, myself included, to be the most taxing.
We live in a disposable culture of virtual this and that and perpetual upgrades. I love my iPod and the fact that I can carry most of the music I own on a small device. I love the fact that there are computers that allow for people to email and post their thoughts. And while the world laments the passing of Apple's Steve Job's and can not deny his brilliance and how much his products have changed our lives, he is a prime example of how certain corporations have made us their bitches. Look at the line-ups when the next new iPad or iPhone comes out. It seems to be a very costly routine every 6 months to year. Are they truly that much better and that necessary? I have owned a computer - PC - since about 1996. My basic use over that time has been email, the Internet, word processing and Powerpoint. Recently, I can add YouTube, e-books and iTunes to my list. Overall, while graphics, ease and speed have improved vastly over the past 15 years or so, does the perpetual upgrading of machines truly represent this progress? Personally, I don't think so. Yet, like it or not, every 4 or 5 years, one's machine becomes dated because of the technologies, and we need to fork out for another. That is painful as a family, but a killer when you reflect on the businesses, schools and other services all forced to upgrade. Again, does the bang match the bucks spent?
As for the political side of things... well, simply look around. In my country there is not leadership and low voter turnout. In the US, Obama gave us hope and the rest blocked any progress or success he might have achieved, flouting their Tea Party and suggesting that a total moron like Sarah Palin is the way of the future as walking in the the whole Creationist mentality toward the Rapture - something that does not sound quite so warm and fuzzy as the Age of Aquarius!
In the end, despite our lust for fireworks and a good rhythm sounding strong from the drum, this will result only in shattered glass, leaving us to pick up the shards. The true revolution will be one of subtle personal decisions in our day to day lives. We have become a culture, in the West, that no longer know of any other way than our present manner of living. To change, we need to gradually make modifications on how we do things, prioritise accordingly, and hopefully realise that organic relationships trump the materialism and attempts to purchase pleasure and happiness. Perhaps the Age of Aquarius will slowly manifest as week seek a deeper state of being and try to understand our selves and our place/purpose. It is a taxing undertaking and, in our present state of convenience, will dissuade the majority from proceeding down this particular path. In the end, however, life is your journey to take. The corporations can never own that, though they masquerade as they might. In this - our selves - lies our emancipation and peace; the ultimate revolution.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
...Read on, this is not as cheesy as it sounds!
The one week intensive part of my 200 hour Yoga Teacher certification programme wraps up (no pun intended) tomorrow. I've thoroughly enjoyed this week, despite all my apprehensions prior to starting. There are noticable changes that I am finding in myself, which a week in such an environment with others will cause. In the evenings, I do not know if I'm mentally exhausted, or merely experiencing myself minus the normal anxious energy that keeps me running. Could this be relaxation that I'm experiencing? It's strange, and I'm not certain how much I like it. With my wife and daughter being over in England for a family wedding, I feel as though I've undertaken some form of monastic retreat, being with my Yoga classmates during the day, and then being at home alone in the evenings with only my two dogs and cat for company. I have not really spoken to anyone outside of this for the past week, save for the odd email, Facebook stuff and a couple of phone calls. I feel a strong sense of detachment and a slight heaviness.
With tomorrow's conclusion (though we will still meet as a class once per month for the weekends through January to complete our 200 hours), I feel quite sad. Going each day, and the routine established has been most pleasant. I feel as though I've really connected with many people in my class, and have a genuine fondness for every one of them; very strange for me as more often than not, I usually do not feel like I connect well in larger groups. The sense one feels at the end of a holiday or a summer camp is what I am feeling; in a way, it is very much a feeling of loss. But, in the end, such emotions only stress the necessity to enjoy every moment of your life and to appreciate those that you are with as nothing does stay the same. I certainly felt that when I bid adieu to my colleagues at my old school this June, as I move on to my new position. I feel fortunate to have known and to know many of the wonderful people that I do.
As reflected in previous entries that I have made on this site, it took me a long time to register for this course. I never do very well with joining things, for a variety of reasons. Do I wish that I had done this sooner? Definitely not, as it would have been a completely different experience and with a completely different group. I think that I will always look back at this group of people much like I do on folks with whom I have experienced a lot with: university, basic training in the Navy, Correctional Officer training, etc. Intensity forges bonds much like high temperatures forges formidable steel. To continue with this imagery, this experience has made me "strike while the iron is hot"....
... To preface this, let me say that I am not a very graceful man. I was a lineman when I played Football, a forward when I played Rugby and a shield man on the tactical team in the prison. It would be an overstatement of my grace to say that I was as eloquent as a bison humping a camel on a frozen pond after an oil spill. The only dancing I have ever truly embraced was slam-dancing back in my Punk Rock days of the mid 1980's. Get the picture?
I have resolved to try to take life a little less seriously and see if I can not lessen the intensity that stress and anxiety take on me. This is the first part. Secondly, I have quite an open fetish for Bollywood films. I know, Bollywood films are longer than a Cricket test match matineed with a German Opera festivals over the tea breaks. They are very, very silly. They possess everything: romance, action, humour, political statements and spirituality in each one. Some are so bad that they are great - like "The Sound of Music" (a film I love) on steroids! The best part of Bollywood is, most definitely, the singing and dancing.
So, in a moment of the Yoga version of Dutch courage, I registered for a six week, one hour Bollywood dance class at the studio where I am taking my Yoga. I've joked about this for a while with others, but never had the opportunity to be there in the spot where dance classes were being offered, and having the teacher encouraging me to do this (it is a bit like getting drunk and a tattoo without really thinking about it I suppose in several ways... or when a colleague of mine convinced me to have my back waxed - she must have really hated me!). So, I thought about it. Then I put it on Facebook that I was thinking about it. After the response of many of my friends, there was pretty much no turning back. I figure after playing my guitar and singing in front of others both on my own and as part of my old Celt-punk band, PLAID FLAG - areas where I am not rich or abundant in talents - that I would have to find the next "high" of insane things for me to do in public. I am already feeling the mortification of it all (in fact, we've danced a few times in my Yoga class and I am so awkward and brutal that I cringe thinking of it). Needless to say, the "Masochist" in the title of this blog is most applicable, yes? Oh yes! Certainly living up to the mantra on my leg tattoo (which was very well thought out before committing to it): "Life is a daring adventure or nothing".
I also hope to learn to play the tabla over the winter when my broken finger is healed... though this will be a far less humiliating and much safer undertaking (appropriate word as I die of stage fright!). New things are good, and, sometimes, you need to truly exceed your comfort zone... in my opinion, anyway.
That is essentially where life finds me on this warm summer's evening. Life goes on and I feel fortunate for what I have experienced. Life is good. That's all I've got.