Is the title of the Wall Street Journal article reviewing the book, The Great Oom by Robert Love (Viking) that chronicles the early history of yoga in the United States. Today there are 20 million practitioners of yoga, but at the turn of the century it was virtually unheard of in the United States until the flamboyant and enterprising Pierre Bernard met an Indian guru and started teaching and promoting the practices. Unlike its mainstream acceptance today, yoga was first viewed with suspicion, as Love describes, “Yoga was labeled a criminal fraud and an abomination against the purity of American women.” We’ve come a long way over the past 100 years. My hometown of Burlington Vermont sports a dizzying and wonderful array of Yoga Studies, and your town probably does as well. If not standalone studios then your local gym or YMCA will be offering classes. You can practice yoga that is gentle and contemplative or as athletic as any workout you’ve ever had, perhaps in a studio that is 100 degrees.
Long before the “Yoga Industrial Complex” evolved to include the vast array of teaching studios, conferences, books, magazines, clothing, and celebrity followers, I was practicing yoga. I started in Boston in 1983 and took classes with Master Bo-In Lee and studied in the Siddha Yoga tradition (where I later went to India to further my studies). Yoga is a daily part of my life and how I start my day. I engage with yoga for flexibility and to connect mind with body and all of that with the present moment. Yoga is mindfulness in motion and I teach a slowed down version of mindful yoga in my workshops. Yoga asanas support my sitting meditation practice and thousands of years ago this was the principle application of yoga — preparing the body for meditation. Of course, the Buddha was a yogi, and all of us who walk the mindful path are yogis too. “Om”
Burlington Area Yoga Opportunities:
Vermont Center for Yoga & Therapy
Bow Down Yoga
Evolution Physical Therapy and Yoga
Bikram Yoga Burlington
Living Yoga Studio
Burlington Yoga Conference
Copper Crane Yoga
Tiger Woods, the man, the image, and the scandal, demonstrate the three poisons the Buddha cautioned us about: Greed, delusion, and hatred. Woods returned from a 5 month competitive golf hiatus to the Masters and placed in a tie for 4th. Not bad considering, right? You wouldn’t know it from his post-round interview. No acknowledgement of that accomplishment on deriding himself for not having played better. His response seemed to defy gravity — the way we expect objects to behave — when we drop them they fall to the ground. This man will not fall to the ground, will not be humbled, will not come to ground in humility (think humus). This seems to be a continuation of pride, a form of delusion. Once about 1/2 billion dollars into his earning career he talked about needing to earn more money to secure the financial future for his family. Really? Woods apparently started to believe in his image, the image that earned him $100 million dollars a year in endorsement revenue. This image had a reality of its own and operated by its own set of rules. Greed or desire is plain enough to see in his sexual seeking with the backdrop of ever mounting endorsement revenue. Delusion or ignorance is plain enough to see in his misapprehension of the consequences of his actions and his belief that TW was a real entity and not a process engaged in an inter-connected world with others, with everyone: his family, his friends, his sponsors, the PGA Tour and the golfing public and everyone else interested in prurient scandal (I think that pretty much covers everyone). Hatred or aversion is plain enough to see in his contempt for being a normal human being. He created his own set of rules and designed his life to support these rules. Even in his public apology this contempt was evident. He chose to make his plea in the midst of the tournament sponsored by his former endorser, Accenture. Many players and the press considered his timing inappropriate and calculated as a message to Accenture. He then exerted control over who was in attendance and no questions were allowed. He needs to become a human being but he has yet to do so. A recent Golf Magazine article captures the tragic irony that appears to be Tiger Woods, “Here he was apologizing for playing by his own rules while playing by his own rules; then telling us, in painstakingly enunciated words, that his words don’t really matter.” Woods has re-avowed his Buddhist roots and he have to start with looking at these three poisons and how they still rule his life. I was struck by the condescending, petulant, and solipsistic response to placing 4th at the Masters. Where was the, “Wow, it was great to be out here” … “I feel so thankful to have had the opportunity to play this great event, to receive the support of the fans” … “Well I didn’t win as I set out to do, but I made a good showing.” After all, the world was watching and we’re not idiots.
The Heart of the Universe: Exploring the Heart Sutra, by Mu Soeng. This thin volume from fellow Wisdom author and resident scholar at the Barre Institute for Buddhist Studies is thick in wisdom. As the title suggests it explores the Heart Sutra, placing it in context and then line-by-line commentary. It also uses the Heart Sutra as the platform for a clear and compelling account of Buddhist psychology, philosophy, and wisdom. Fans of the Heart Sutra will find the commentary fascinating and provocative. People unfamiliar to the Heart Sutra will be amazed at the parallels between the Buddha’s insights 2500 years ago and the findings of 20th century quantum physics. While not offered as self-help, this scholarly treatise offers such help to the astute reader. It goes to the core of the Buddha’s teaching, his fundamental insight regarding the nature of self and reality. Mu Soeng says, “To see oneself truly and authentically, as an event — an ever changing process — rather than a thing-in-itself, is the greatest act of re-imaging.” The metaphor we use to understand what it means to be a self makes all the difference. If the metaphor is a solid thing than we are vulnerable to dukkha (suffering, dissatisfaction). If the metaphor is a process there are no edges in which to create dukkha and therefore no suffering or pervasive dissatisfaction in life.
When we relate to self as a solid entity, we understand this moment or a segment of our lives in terms of a past moment. This past moment, or more accurately, our memory of this past moment has been selected and is therefore incomplete, it is also biased by beliefs, rules, and preconceptions. In this way, the previous moment serves as a metaphor for the future moment. The past distortion gets propagated into the future thereby interfering with our ability to experience this moment with more clarity as a “new” experience. We miss the opportunity to experience this moment unladen with the burden of past experience and its concepts, beliefs, and rules.
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Tiger Wood has announced his return to golf for the 2010 Masters. Few stories have garnered as much attention and jaw dropping voyeurism as this sexual scandal. Indeed, Tiger’s return to golf in the Master’s will be “will be the biggest media event, other than the Obama inauguration, in the past 10 or 15 years.” says CBS boss, Sean McManus.The most recent episode of South Park in its typical brilliant fashion highlights many of the issues at hand. How did they choose to represent the Tiger Woods Scandal? The episode begins with a scene between Tiger and Elin wherein she is chasing him with a golf club. The scene plays into the rumors that she assaulted him and that led to his fleeing the home and crashing his Escalade. The creative turn here and incisive social commentary is that the scene we are seeing comes from a video game being played by Cartmann and Stan. The episode then turns to the issue of sexual addiction and Kyle and Kenny are identified by the CDC as showing risk factors for developing sexual addiction. The tongue-in-cheek joke is to suggest that some degree of sexual preoccupation is abnormal, when of course it is not. Tiger’s fall from grace was more poignant because he led such a private life and gave little of himself to the media or, indeed, to his fellow players on the Tour.
In Tiger’s mea culpa he cited his Buddhist faith as a means to his salvation. He said, “People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years … Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security … “It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.” The Dalai Lama, previously clueless to the phenomenon known as Tiger Woods, commentated that Tiger’s Buddhist faith would provide, “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.” Well said, Your Holiness, and Tiger too. Now what? I wonder how he will play now that he is not looking outside of himself for security. How will his golf game be now that he will be, presumably, less identified with his identity as “Tiger Woods” and less invested in propping up this image. In principle, he could play better! That’s a scary prospect for every player on the PGA Tour. What if all these fornicating actually detracted from his game? What if his obsessive preoccupation with sex impaired his ability to concentrate and play his best game. How many major championships would he have now? Again, it will be interesting to see what unfolds as he moves forward. While I hope that he can restrain his behavior, without a dedication to meditation he won’t have the inner discipline to accomplish his goals. He may still chase every mental impulse and pursue unrestrained fantasies. His outer disciplines if accompanied by the inner discipline of Mind FITness will certainly help him to realize his maximum potential as a golfer and as a human being.