Category Archives: Philosophy

Really Straight Forward Diet Advice Part 1: Meat or no meat?

When making choices about your diet you need to know what it is you want. Lose weight? Build muscle? Respect the Earth and the animals? Nurture your spiritual sense of being? By any of these choices also be clear that you want to be vibrant and healthy! In this series of articles I’m going to avoid talking about those often gimmicky diet theories that try to pigeon hole everyone and just appeal to common sense and how we feel about eating, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Question 1…Meat or no meat?

Metabolism

Let’s start with what is probably the largest issue for some people. Should humans eat meat? Well, in our theorized “known” time on planet earth, a large proportion of our ancestors depended on meat in their diet for survival. While we do have digestive tracts that resemble those of other herbivores the digestive systems of many people have seemed to evolved to be equally efficient at metabolizing nutrition and energy from meat. In one of my favorite books, The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity, Daniel P. Ried says about 50% of humans have a balanced digestive system that can adapt equally well to “vegetarian” or “carnivorous” diets. The other 50% is split between those who are better at one or the other.  You can check where you fall by eating a whole chicken or very large quantity of protein with a light salad and if you are energetic and mentally alert feeling afterwards, than most likely you metabolize meat/proteins well.  Carnivorous types burn sugar and carbohydrates rapidly, to the the point of agitation, overstimulation and sugar crashes, so should eat very little of these foods. Vegetarian types burn slowly and will be challenged to digest meat efficiently. The speed at which we move food through the body is also very important. Meat, compared to other foods, even for “carnivorous” types, does take longer to digest and thus has greater potential for decomposing before the body can absorb it’s nutrients. This makes it especially important to eat food in proper combinations that don’t hinder digestion. Protein foods combine best with vegetables and combine poorly with starchy carbohydrates. For some info on that you can check my previous post My Yoga Diet for Internal Hygiene and High Prana

The Earth and the Farm

Let’s just look at the obvious points. Virtually all foods, seem to be more nutritious and healthier for us when they are allowed to grow in a natural way. If it’s non-GMO and organic plants on the farm those veggies aren’t going to notice a big difference. In fact, if they could, they might consider how sweet of a spot they landed out in nature and with such a good and mysterious caretaker.(Actually, if you’ve ever read the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan you would learn of his speculation that the plants evolved with the intention for us to eat them and thus protect and propagate them.)  Now when we look at the case for animals on the farm I think the worst thing right off the bat is the over crowded conditions in which many of them are raised. This makes them prone to illness, unless they are given antibiotics. Also many of them are fed a mono diet of the wrong food! Animals that live in the wild forage and eat all kinds of things and there meat is much more nutritious. Finally, there is the very large amount of resources used for a relatively small return of real food, especially with raising the larger animals like cow. Compared to producing vegetables and fruits the livestock industry is amazingly destructive and wasteful to Earth’s environments and ecosystems. Basically I would recommend that if your going to eat meat, find a wild source or quality farm you can trust doesn’t use unnatural practices.

Lightness of Being

Ayurveda divides all experiential forms into three qualities, trigunas. They are, in my own English interpretation, stagnation, stimulation, and equanimity. Basically everything exist in one of these three qualities or combination of, and the foods we eat can have one of these affects upon us. Meat is always considered in ayurveda to be tamasic, what causes stagnation. Dead, cooked. I wonder what they think about sashimi? In subtle energy terms you are adding the vibrational residue of whatever your food “experienced”. In terms of animals, man, a lot of them don’t have a good time, at all. The negative feelings experienced by the animals may be taken on into your subtle body. Many people claim meditation to be easier or more clear minded when they are not eating meat. Sattvic, the equinimity foods,  are fresh fruits and vegetables, organic milk, ghee to name the basics. If you want to eat meat combine it with sattvic foods, for more sattvic than tamasic networth. For example, eat a large salad or steamed veggies with a small portion of meat.

So, what if you are a born proteinivore but your ethics have you vegetarian? What if you’re a man and worried about soy and estrogen?

It’s not too much harder to still get lots of high protein meals as a vegetarian. Perhaps if you are travelling and don’t do your own cooking it could be a challenge here and there. Especially if you’re not a tofu eater. Here are some key foods.

Leafy Greens

Kale    Spinach    Brocolli    Watercress    Collard Greens   etc.

Legumes

Learn to make your own Dhal, a delicious indian food made from lentils, hummus from chick peas, vegetarian chili with kidney beans, or cook any kind of beans and blend with zucchini and spices to make dips for veggies.

Nuts

Almonds    Walnuts    Cashews    Pistachios    Pecans    Macadamias

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The Five Yama of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga

The five moral ethics of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga are the absolute foundation of yoga practice for people from all walks of life. Why? Because when you adhere to them your mind is a guilt free, easy going place that is ready to really focus on being and creating, two main qualities of nature. The concepts are simple and familiar and the more you practice them the more clearly the connection between behavior, beliefs, and experience stands out.

The 5 Yama

1. Ahimsa – Non-Violence

We could actually call it a day right after this one. It pretty much covers everything. Violence doesn’t work for spiritual development in three ways as I see it. First, violence is traumatic for humans as animals, and as psyches. The fear generated by it causes our energy to recoil into a dense form for self preservation, which can be considered the ego. This can happen to both parties involved. Then there is the guilt which can come, trapping us in past memories which feed belief structures that negate our being through association to the event. If that doesn’t happen, we trick ourselves into becoming “normalized” to violence and essentially numbing ourselves in our hearts. Certainly not helpful for becoming more compassionate and feeling how everything is connected. By the way, many of these Sanskrit words, when starting with an “a”, denote the opposite meaning of the following word. For example… “Himsa = violence” “Ahimsa = non-violence” Practice ahimsa with others and with your self in both your actions and mind. I think most of you reading are probably pretty peaceful outwardly but may, like I, have occasional mental slip ups. A good trick to remember is when you do something that could be considered “harmful” if your being waaay to anal, I mean like, thinking you didn’t take care of yourself well enough… just forgive yourself and practice ahimsa in your mind. No sense in beating yourself up when you can be becoming more resolute in your peacefulness right now! Another method is “Do and think nice things, or don’t do and think any things at all.” Those who practice Ahimsa at a high degree carry an influence of peacefulness around them, seemingly disarming all bad energies they encounter.

2. Satya – Upholding Truth

I once read that young children telling lies indicated a high level of intelligence. It does in a sense. There is much mental power in being able to creatively construe non-facts to manipulate others. However it falls far shy of a greater intelligence in observing the phenomenal truth of reality and tailoring yourself to sit peacefully with it and still exercise being a creative agent of the universe. That is the greatest kind of intelligence in my book; generating pure creativity out of your experience of the truth. When you practice upholding the truth in what you say, the things you do, keeping the commitments you make, or being honest about your own sensations you feel much more connected with your reality. You also don’t have some web of mess to keep hidden. Those who practice asteya to a high degree become creative agents, generating truth to be witnessed in new forms and helping those around us see ourselves.

3. Asteya – No Stealing

Stealing sets us up for a few nasty possible self identifications. The first is that we don’t have something we need and that the best way to get it is at someone else’ loss. Like violence it also sets us up for a forked road with neither choice leading to a good outcome. We can either become consumed with guilt over what we did or desensitize ourselves to the suffering of others, closing off again. We have to recognize that sympathy is an innate human skill, and when we don’t allow ourselves to feel that we are actually creating a subtle tendency to diminish ourselves. What makes stealing, stealing? Someone else’s loss. If you are using their available material without actually taking it from them(our digital age) and making something genuinely new, then this is inspired creativity and the universe smiles upon it.

4. Aparigraha – No Acquisitiveness

Most of us don’t need so much. Not really. Keeping a small and humble lot of possessions helps us to remain free of being overly attached to something that will not last. Aparigraha is also about overcoming the belief that you need “x” to be happy or more fulfilled. This one is to be practiced with attitude more than anything. Focus on the belief that you have everything you need, and that everything you acquire is for giving to others. 🙂

5. Brahmacharya – Taming Energies

So my translation on this one is a little atypical.(hey, the “a” made the opposite in an English word too!) The literal translation is something like “walking with God” or “the path of unity consciousness”. To be on such a plane of awareness to walk in that space requires a great deal of energy and devotion. So, brahmacharya is all about controlling and conducting your energies so you are always moving towards the divine. Some traditionalists insist this means abstaining from sex, indulgent behaviors and emotions, and so on, so that we may reserve energy for our spiritual practices and avoid the attachments and roller coaster ride of it all. Personally, I view the appropriate practice of brahmacharya to be highly, HIGHLY individualized in nature. Regarding sex for instance, I believe in a more Taoist philosophy, that practicing sexual prowess for most of our lives in an honest and supporting relationship aids spiritual development as well. Of course there may be a time or “attainment” in which you need no other relationship than the one you have with the divine…you’ll know what feels right. 🙂


Namaste.

George Anthony

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Practice – Streaming awareness in our modern physical Yoga culture

That Present Feeling…

What makes yoga practice, yoga practice?It is the consistency of streaming your awareness to a simple aspect of your existence.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just that it is simple. What is streaming awareness? Take a deep breath in and just experience it, let all else fade away. Feel the space you change in your lungs, the movements through your body, and the immediate changes in your physiology. That’s it. Now, breath out slowly and feel the relaxation and release, the quiet mind. It’s a continuous flowing experience,  and most importantly, your perspective becomes centered and calm. This is why people practice Yoga, to touch in with the spiritual home. But it doesn’t have to be breathing. That just happens to be a really easy way. It’s just about streaming awareness.

The breath is this simple and profound magic door to understand this kind of awareness. You can enter this state without any particular technique but most people find they need time with the techniques first to tune in with it. The breath works so well.  However, if your mind is agitated the stream might slip and skip around into different experiences. So what do we do? Well…I think I know what you first thought was Yoga, and indeed it is.

Making an Exercise a Yoga Practice

It’s such a genius idea really. If you move consciously your awareness gets “anchored” in the body and keeping that stream becomes easy. You’re breath and you’re body are so close, intertwined, so do it while breathing consciously to feel their relationship and get tuned in spiritually.This is how you let your mind rest and drop off the unnecessary clutter.

Those that bash on teachers that make yoga classes like a fitness regime or ego show, and all the other problems that cropped up with the globalization and subsequent modernization of Yoga should really start being pro-active entities that make sure everyone who attends yoga classes  like ones in the picture above or teaches yoga remember the following ideas!

Tips for classes in the Physical Yoga culture

1.     The practice is streaming awareness. The most simple way to do this is continuously observe the sensations of your breath and body. If you’re having thoughts or internal chatter and judgements you’re not practicing!

2.     If you’re a teacher, don’t over complicate things! You can lead people into lots of interesting experiences beyond breath and body but remember…it’s streaming awareness, contiguous. Link from the breath to where you want to take them or even use metaphors that describe the body in different ways for a fresh experience, like a new rivulet entering the growing stream. Keep everything connected.

3.     Once you get familiar with the feeling of streaming awareness you’ll be able to notice and sustain it easily. Again, conscious breathing is always an easy way back to it but even more simply, find yourself being the observer of your life, not the actor. Then you are always just watching the show. 🙂

Namaste

~George Anthony

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What is Karma? How does it work and where did it come from?

Karma is an ancient Sanskrit word that literally means action. Within the backdrop of Vedantic and buddhist philosophy, and the growing momentum of us humans to experience the workings of the universe and our own spirituality, it has more connotations.  It often comes with the understanding that actions have results, not only to the external environment but also in human tendencies to create significance and beliefs from experiences. This is what shapes each ones’ own sense of  identity, or in a yoga perspective, separateness.

Technically this affect of action, or karma, is called sanskara, the impressions that influence future actions.

I believe existence started as spiritual consciousness and evolved to matter, and then eventually to what I might call “manifest consciousness” or life. This fits with the story that many people call the fall of humans, a fall from a state in which we were beyond physical bodies and unbound by the “laws” of time and space, knowing love and oneness.  Looking at this “fall” in terms of a chakra perspective of consciousness, your spirit descended down to this “Earth” plane to be able to play with more intricate forms and create new knowledge. When the knowledge that comprises you, your vibrational signature, becomes seminal to the evolution of spiritual consciousness, it goes back up through the chakra and makes enlightenment, an awakening in spiritual consciousness, something that was laying latent until your human soul popped it’s head it and said, “Hey! Wake up with me!”. Suddenly you’re breaking fast in a new dimension you can’t yet explain, nor have need to. You leave the body for awhile. Maybe you come back to this body, maybe another. Human beings represent the newest frontier in which the original consciousness can explore and study the interactions of it’s ever more subtle yet stimulating creations. You can see it in every facet of our interests; our sexual energy, emotional bonds, the hurtling speed of our intellectual and technological advancement…All of this is to make smaller actions, more refinement, and to see that while we may become disillusioned in a new complexity,  love still operates there. No matter how many ways you cut up it, everything still wants to be it, connected, and accepted. All of our karmic traces, or sanskaras would appear to be the trickle down affect of pure and complete oneness becoming twoness, then threeness, and then…Ohhh how far are we now? That’s a deeep rabbit hole. Karma is the process of the universe in multiplicity and the evolution of the human soul.

So then, do we have any options or is it just some unfathomable math equation playing out? Of course, we have choice. I feel it anyway. Human choice is always about how much we open ourselves to what is really going on, and whether we create belief in it’s relevance to our identity. The sanskara pulls similar experiences back to us, like feedback or an echo from the karma as a kind of check test. Do you still identify this way? When the manifest consciousness can recognize itself through the superficial experience of identifying, the sanskara is reduced or removed. This is one of the affects of meditation. You spend a time not identifying and some of your perceptual tendencies becomes reduced or removed. You become less committed to ego created roles and more dedicated to love and self-less, universal purpose.

Kinda like this…

The common misconception about karma is that the things you do will be the things that happen to you. While this may be the case, it is much more accurate to say it is the inner experience you create that will come back to you. This explains some of the perceived incongruity between peoples’ actions and their life experiences.

A common pondering about karma is pure bewilderment at how many perceptual tendencies we have, the complexity of their relationships, and the span of their cycles. I can only suggest have awe and gratitude for the amazing degree to which our “oneness” has made you unique, capable of the greatest of love, and adorned us with the grandness of the cosmos.

The stars are really here with us…

Whether we make good or bad karma, it still keeps us from evolving spiritually unless we are learning to look through and see that actions do not touch the true core of being.  That being said, I would like to believe that the world of form and action has a propensity towards the positive spectrum, as it is not only alluringly beautiful, but has a lightness which allows us to see through to that original being of infinite peace and love.

We can all act as karma reducers for each other.  When we receive one another’s actions without judgement, without critically self interested re-action, we can dissipate some of the sanskaras by making a space for the other to see themselves and without reinforcing their identifying processes. If we keep swapping these actions with this attitude we reduce karma and increase knowledge as well.

….a quote…

“One who is able to see inaction in action and action in inaction-he is the intelligent among men. He is a yogi while engaged in every kind of work. Others will see him engaged in activity but he will see himself as not doing any karma.”– Chapter 4, Verse 18. Bhagavad Gita

Namaste

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Pranic Balance and Sushumna Nadi

The most straight forward way to develop energetic balance and spiritual awareness is by our most essential energy. That energy is most easily regulated by the breath and it’s balance in the left and right sides of the body. You may have often heard the differences described of the two hemispheres of the brain, or considered what it might mean being left or right handed, extroverted or introverted. The qualities of energy in each side of the physio-logical action of breathing are unique and influence our attitudes and behaviors. We can also work backwards from behaviors that influence which side of the breath is predominant. For a little background info look up Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna nadis here.

Before we continue I think I should state that the following practices in today’s post are more effective when we utilize an expanded area on the interior surface of the lungs. This is done by a healthy and vigorous asana practice, deep breathing in forward folds, backbends, twists, and finally side bends as these asana lead to an understanding of side breathing and breath balance.

The body has internal pressures from how we “hold” ourselves. By the actions of the abdominal sheath, diaphragm, spinal extension, and intercostal muscles we develop a unique pattern of muscular activity that creates a “breath map” of how much and where our lungs can expand and contract. Many of these “breath maps” are habitual, working from influences in biochemical rhythms, mental activity, and even conscious intention. This causes the breath to work in cycles of left and right dominance. At times the breath may also be experienced as equally open in both sides. This is the ideal condition for evolution of awareness and accessing Sushumna nadi, if you believe in that kind of stuff. And if you don’t, it feels… awesome, so please, try this out.

Watch your breathing for the next few days. Notice when there is breath dominance and when it is equal on both sides. Note how you “hold” your body and observe your emotional states for the differences in experience. When the breath is equal on both sides you might feel inwardly receptive and ready to receive life’s lessons, but also, an excitement is there right under the surface, ready to spark spontaneously with the world and the people in it. It’s like feeling energized with gratitude for everyone and everything + breath and peace right? 😀

If you’ve witnessed breath is mostly on one side more than the other, consider how it relates to your temperament. Have you or can you see yourself described as introvert or extrovert? By conscious effort and special practices you can move towards balance. If you feel introverted work on right side breathing. If you feel extroverted, work on left. To develop balanced breathing its important to understand these two aspects of yourself relative to the other.

As I stated before, side bending can help bring balance to breathing. It does this by giving practice stretching and relaxing the intercostal muscles of the ribcage. Stretching is the best way to find tough spots, where muscles may be holding tension. Side stretching is also one of the best ways to develop lung capacity and to vitalize and exfoliate deeper tissue. Some of the best poses for this are…

Parvritta Janu Sirsasana

Standing side Bend

 

Another technique for working with breath flow i.e., Ida and Pingala nadis, is by use of the yoga danda. The body has a natural reaction when it feels breath may be hindered on one side of the body. By placing the Yoga Danda under the armpit, breath will begin to open more on the other side. You can usually feel the same thing when you lay down on one side long enough, a trick I learned as a child with frequent sinus congestion. Cool, right? So the ancient Yogi’s used this stick in meditation and pranayama practices to explore and balance the energies of breathing. Asana will also achieve this result to an extent but I wouldn’t try doing long meditation or pranayama in the pose below, Yoga Dandasana.

 

 

Use of Yoga Danda

Yoga Dandasana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a way to classify these two main energies… Left side(Ida) is internalized mental energies. Right side(Pingala) is dynamic, catalyzing energies. And balanced(Sushumna) is spiritual energy and harmony awareness.

The resonance of balanced Ida-Pingala in the body-mind complex creates a higher vibrational frequency. The result is often portrayed as the ascent of Kundalini energy rising up the central channel, Sushumna. To me, this phenomenon is a natural part of who we are, but exists in a dimension beyond our normal senses. To develop the balance to feel and develop Sushumna, there is also the alternate nostril breathing practice, called Nadi Shodhana. In the most basic version one simply breathes in through one side, out through the other, and then repeats starting from the opposite side. This has a calming and balancing affect on the nervous system. When Ida and Pingala are equally active you can begin using more advanced pranayama techiniques to coax sushumna kundalini experience into consciousness. Or is it that you begin to bring consciousness into another dimension? There are truly no bounds to being.

Vibrationally yours,

George

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Peeling off your Layers

Let’s remember Yoga is a system of techniques and information we use for physical and spiritual liberation and is designed to be accessible. Some aspects of it then will be generalizations, in fact, all forms all generalizations, but helpful for pointing us in the correct direction. It is the duty then, and blessing of each individual practitioner to translate the language of Yoga systems into their own practice. Experiences of “what happens” when we practice should be completely unique.

Traditional Yoga Vedanta describes five main “layers” of the human being which make up our experience. Each successive layer supersedes the previous in terms of intricacy and subtlety and also works on a larger scale, encompassing all of the qualities of the layer before it. These layers in Yoga are called the Koshas.

Let’s look at the outer most Kosha, the body, Annamaya Kosha. All the Koshas use the word maya in the name, meaning illusion. That is this kosha is the appearance of a seemingly food made body. This kosha is composed of all physically observable structure. It is worked on primarily by physical activities, eating, Asana, and resting posture. The refinement of these physical activities leads to an awareness of the underlying movement of energy through the body. This is electrical, kinesthetic, vibratory energy in the…

Pranamaya Kosha or energy apparent body. Developing greater sensitivity to the movement of energy by internal stimulation or lack of it refines this kosha. Pranamaya Kosha happens in the nervous system, the breath, and the magnetic field generated by heavy metals flowing through the blood. Breathing techniques and energetic practices such as visualization and concentration work on this kosha. When this refinement results in a high degree of organization, a paradigm shift comes in our understanding of the mind in the…

Manomaya Kosha is the the first Kosha that divulges a sense of ego. It creates individualized concepts and feelings through the emotions and the five sensory organs. By developing steadiness in the movements of the mind the next level of experience is accessed in the form of…

Vajnanamaya Kosha is the development of an awareness that has realized the different aspects of mind and can see them and the superficial koshas as the tools of divine consciousness, used for gaining knowledge. This level of identification is like a still point in the mind which observes all other internal identifications and modifies them for seeing their underlying truth.

Anandamaya Kosha is the bliss apparent body. It is like a reflection of divine awareness in the form of the individual. It becomes identified with when the Vajnanamaya kosha has aligned all the components of the four other koshas into a configuration that sees through ego and turns all experience into the bliss of being a part of the continuing birth of the universe in the ever present moment. This is the last layer, a localized phenomenon of the grandeur of the Universe.

Stepping into the true Self, assimilates all superficial experiences into a new context, and a new process for experiencing, awakened beyond the focal point of the body. Each of us has a different internal program to unlock our individual evolution and all the keys we need are right along the way inside of ourselves.

Always yours,

George

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Reaching towards the novel

Open your eyes wide and take a deep breath. Something new is rising to the surface of your experience. It breaks older and smaller concepts. The structure of your relationship with life encompasses a bigger picture and the truth of yourself emerges into greater clarity. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced it your whole life becoming the person that, through our friendship or mutual interest in Yoga, is sitting here reading this now.

Yesterday at Yoga Elements I watched two senior Yoga teachers working together. One was in the position of the student.  During the half an hour that I observed they worked on only two Asana. Virasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana. It’d be normal to think that the student, having 20+ years of practicing and teaching Yoga, would have experienced all these poses have to offer. However, with genuine encouragement by speech and touch, and the repeated suggestions guiding his actions through the structure of the body, he was lead into the pose with the completely amazed look on his face of an undefinable experience and remarked, “I don’t know how to explain what just happened.” An excited smile then flashed across his face. I was immediately reminded of when I started practicing Yoga. It was a time of frequent and intensely new sensations and often unexpected revelations about life. I recall many nights in bed, before sleep, and practicing Paschimotannasana with my toes energetically spreading wide, curiously reaching towards something new yet undeniably myself.

It is the movement outward that gives relevance to who and what we are. Each experience influences the direction of our continuing growth and thus our available subsequent experiences. We are never finished with this process. We continue to grow in more refined ways as we age. Even beyond our individual bodies it is happening. We all influence each others’ attention and help steer the growth of humanity at large, indefinitely. Yoga offers models for exploring these relationships that bring the clearest insight about the nature of where it all comes from. We are only limited by our imagination. We can be thwarted only by the foolhardy belief that we have already “gone all the way”  or by developing without an sense of balance. Like a fractal, life is infinitely complex.

I am often times drawn towards the growth of trees as the perfect metaphor. The leaves and branches reach through the open air for the sunlight, the symbol of awareness, and the roots dig deep down, fusing into the ground and stability. The newest growth is at the fringe. It is the finest, the most alive, the most subtle, just on the edge of  awareness, and bringing ever greater sense of balance. The truth of our nature is even more beautifully grandiose. The world of experience is a great array of lights through which we move as a flowing cascade of consciousness generators. We realize the expansive nature of ourselves when we grow in the experiences that bring fresh insights and the enthusiasm to live.

Sincerely and always yours,

George

P.S.   Those two great teachers….Marc Woolford & Adrian Cox

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