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Yoga: 98 Percent Self-Development, 2 Percent Movement

“Your body exists in the past and your mind exists in the future. In yoga, they come together in the present.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

Mind and body are inextricably linked like meaning and purpose. The body is made up of cells, cells are made up of molecules, molecules are made up of atoms, and atoms are fundamentally empty. Quantum physics tells us that electrons blink in and out of existence. What we call the body, then, is fundamental emptiness blinking in and out of existence.

“All matter has been proved to be reducible to energy,” wrote Paramahansa Yogananda in chapter 49 of his book Autobiography of a Yogi. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; only transferred. Interesting. It would make sense then that invisible spirit is invisible energy, transferring in and out of visible form.

Because our problems cannot be solved and must be outgrown (Carl Jung), we must outgrow our problems by changing the thinking that created our problems in the first place (Albert Einstein). We could call this maturity. This includes changing our thinking about our relationship with spirit, or pure consciousness. Yoga’s greatest legacy is to impress upon the world that we are pure, eternal consciousness, and it is this eternal consciousness of which we evolve. You cannot take your investments with you to your graves, try as baby boomers might; all you take with you is the evolution of your soul. If you are aware of imagination and dreaming, why is it so challenging to comprehend an invisible consciousness from which we emanate? We couldn’t experience awareness without consciousness. What self do you think you’re developing?

“But such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants,” said Thomas Paine, “is the liberty of appearing.”

That two percent movement, nonetheless, is important.

Discovering the opiate receptor on the surface of cells in the early 1970s launched the late Dr. Candace Pert’s career as a bona fide bench scientist. The opiate receptor is the cellular binding site for endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters (peptide hormones) that transmit electrical signals within the nervous system to reduce our perception of pain. Pert was an internationally recognized neuroscientist and pharmacologist who published over 250 research articles. She made significant contributions to the emergence of mind-body medicine as a legitimate field of scientific research in the 1980s. During this time, Pert discovered what she coined the “molecules of emotion.” It turns out that every emotion we have has a neurochemical equivalent called a neuropeptide. Every emotion creates a neuropeptide.

Internalizing unresolved trauma causes the body to store neuropeptides in organ tissues, for often decades, until dis-ease manifests. Healing, or the resolution of trauma, frees stored neuropeptides to move through the bloodstream and be metabolized through the body. Science has also discovered that mechanical receptors on the surface of cells are stimulated by movement. In yoga, we call stored neuropeptides from unresolved trauma, or “scarring” in the tissues, samskara. We know that movement frees samskara, meaning that movement helps to resolve neurochemical (that is, emotional) trauma. Movement encourages healing.

Along with healing, exercise boasts numerous other physiological health benefits, including: 1) stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF); 2) sharpens cognition; 3) increases neuroplasticity (connection between brain cells, or the formation of new neural pathways); 4) stimulates neurogenesis (birth of new neurons and brain cells); and, 5) increases the number of mitochondria in cells. V02 Max and strength training, in particular, elicit a higher than average mitochondrial count in cells, which increases the capacity of mitochondria to generate energy. Think high-performance athletes. Mitochondria perform like a team. They are known as the powerhouses of the cell. The brain has the most mitochondria in its cells. Cellular respiration converts oxygen and glucose in the mitochondria to adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the molecule that transports chemical energy within the cells. When practiced responsibly, asana (steady, comfortable positions) generates energy while reducing inflammatory markers in the body. As we age, the capacity of the mitochondria to produce energy slowly decreases. Exercise in general is important because it gets us breathing and oxygenating the cells, while yoga in particular moves energy without increasing inflammation. Yoga, thus, helps the cells to continue generating energy and slows the inflammatory aging process.

In terms of breathing, we take in air predominantly through the nose on the face. The zygomaticus major muscle found in the face on either side of the nose running along each cheekbone—the blush line—is responsible for smiling the mouth. The next time you catch yourself genuinely smiling, notice and track the movement of energy in your body while bi-focusing your awareness on the breath. As mentioned, mechanical movement stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). Functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman said that BDNF is like “miracle-grow for the brain.” Anything that makes you genuinely smile sends BDNF to fertilize the frontal brain, which in turn increases concentration and cognition. Cognition is a fancy word for perceptual, sensory and intuitive (or extrasensory) awareness. The conscious mind. Exercise in general also conditions the body, while yoga stands out in the crowd as a life-affirming activity because it drops our awareness to the mind in the heart.

Speaking of life… Cells move towards signals that affirm life, and away from signals that threaten life. The Biological Imperative implies our ‘drive to survive’ as individuals and as a species. Cells teach us that we are inclined towards love. The mind is like an organ that secretes thoughts (Sally Kempton), while the brain is an organ that secrets chemicals. The brain secretes chemicals in response to thoughts secreted by the mind. Cells move towards love signals and chemicals, and away from fear signals and chemicals. Your cells want your love chemistry as intensely as you do.

“Love is the ultimate nutrient for a living organism,” said developmental biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton. “Love exceeds food.” Love produces all of the growth chemicals humans need to thrive. That is why Paramahansa Yogananda covered Giri Bala, the non-eating saint, in chapter 46 of his book Autobiography of a Yogi. She employed a yogic technique to recharge her body with cosmic energy from ether, sun and air. She didn’t eat but she loved to cook. Read the book. Lipton’s career spans over five decades of applied research, including peer-reviewed bench science, and counting. The field of epigenetics was founded upon his discoveries.

Relevance? With epigenetics, what runs in families is behaviour.

Mirror neurons have been directly observed in primate species, and are essential for imitation—a key element of the learning process. Mirror neurons fire both when an animal acts and observes the same action performed by another. Translation: We mirror the behaviour of others. We call this the “monkey see, monkey do” phenomenon. It turns out Tony Robbins knew what he was talking about when he said, “You become who you hang out with.”

Growing beyond body-as-a-machine model… The path of self-development isn’t necessarily mercenary, but it does require that you understand you are a soul, an eternal being—pure consciousness—inhabiting a temporary physical body. No one is saying anything about a god; “God” is neither singular nor fathomable. All spirituality asks you to do is lighten up and get over yourself. You can lose a job, sure, but you can’t lose a calling. Purpose cannot exist without meaning.

Cosmology suggests a winding down in the cosmic clock that physics can track. Astrophysics, for example, has calculated that the Milky Way galaxy is set to collide with Andromeda galaxy in approximately 7 billion years. The facts, although currently irrelevant, are interesting. Tachyons likewise, from the Greek root meaning “speed,” are hypothetical particles thought to move faster than light. To this day, tachyons remain an intellectual curiosity. Legend, however, speaks of tachyon chambers used in Atlantis to heal people of undesirable imbalances instantly—hundreds of thousands of years ago. The aphorism “out of the blue” comes from physicists’ understanding of the quantum field. We can’t see the quantum field in the same way that we can’t see spirit (or tachyons…), yet quantum mechanics is the most verifiable science on the planet. Quantum physics, in fact, tells us the new origination story: we literally blink in and out of the blue. Matter, visible particles; energy, invisible waves.

Because we can’t calibrate without awareness of political history, Ghandi (leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule) said that the real leader of the movement was the “small, still voice within”—operative word, still. Who’s been telling us not to listen to the small, still voice within?

“That’s what happens when you meditate, that’s what happens when you do yoga, that’s what happens when you become mindful and reflective,” said Marianne Williamson, 2020 US presidential candidate. “You hear the call of the Ages, as it rushes through your veins. The whispers of your ancestors, the whispers of your descendants. The whisper of the heart is the only proper guidance system.”

Personal development is generally not comfortable, but why wait until you are confronted with a life-threatening illness, disease or accident to start being better than who you were yesterday?

On the one hand, intuition is thought by science to operate with pattern-based logic, while on the other hand intuition makes no logical sense. Self-development, to that end, teaches us how to reliably interpret our intuitive hits and impulses. The biggest problem with PTSD, on that note, is that hypervigilance is often mistaken for intuition. If fear (drama, crises, trauma) pushes BDNF to survival centers in the brain, while love pushes BDNF back into the growth (or intuitive/conscious) centers of the brain, it’s imperative that trauma survivors be supported within loving environments—because consciousness heals. Remember, cells move towards signals that affirm life. The health of the cell is also regulated by the cell’s environment, not genes, meaning that health is not typically an expression of genetics; rather, health is predominantly an expression of environment. Only one percent of disease on the planet is related to genetics.

Accordingly, three types of environmental stressors cause dis-ease in the body:

  • Traumatic (physical)
  • Toxic (chemical)
  • Thought (emotional)

First, injury or bodily assault would constitute ‘traumatic stress.’ Second, stress hormones, inflammatory markers, and improperly cultivated food (GMOs) that inflate inflammatory markers would fall under the category of ‘toxic stress.’ And third, ‘thought stress’ would imply the quality of one’s attitude and thinking, meaning one’s outer circumstances indicates the quality of one’s thought patterns. Thought obviously compounds chemical stress, and (like vata dosha in Ayurveda), is the king stressor.

It’s important, however, to understand that not all stress is harmful. Eustress, for example, would be considered appropriate (exercise/yoga), and enhances biology; distress, to the contrary, would encompass the three inappropriate stressors listed above, and diminishes biology. You cannot thrive and survive simultaneously. Survival chemicals inhibit organ function and suppress the immune system.

Fortunately, the qualities of the heart—appreciation, love and compassion—have been found in scientific studies to “relax” DNA strands and enhance immune function. DNA isn’t responsible for genetic expression; it’s responsible for genetic blueprint replication. Mitochondria create the energy necessary to replicate genes, and then the environment within the cell influences how those genes express.

Imagine what would happen if we were collectively encouraged to monitor our thinking and think only life-affirming thoughts. Yogananda said we could wipe out nearly all dis-ease on the planet. Science confirms this thinking.

In Yogi Bhajan’s Five Sutras of the Aquarian Age, he stated that there is a way through every block. Vibrate the cosmos, he said, and the cosmos shall clear the path. I suspect in the latter statement that Yogi Bhajan meant love. Vibrate love. Emanate love. Be who you are. In that space you will rendezvous with opportunities to help and be helped—the fruits of self-development. Truly, self-development is a selfless path.

Nevertheless, if you insist on being selfish, be selfish about feeling good. Esther Hicks said, “Love is the conscious allowing of alignment between me and my inner being,” the small, still voice within. It’s the difference between feeling good and feeling bad. Hicks said our inner being isn’t looking where we’re looking when we’re feeling bad, and that’s why we feel bad. In other words, when our inner beings agree with us, we don’t feel bad. Keeping in mind that you haven’t a clue what you’ll find when the appetites of the soul merge with the force of ego (Caroline Myss). Shame is a call to humble yourself.

Although science hasn’t caught up with the inner being, or the commander in the command center for that matter, it has caught up with (as previously introduced) the molecules of emotion. Neuropeptides created from love chemistry are protective, whereas neuropeptides created from fear chemistry are ultimately destructive. (Think genetic expression.) Oxytocin, for instance, is a cardioprotective peptide hormone and neuropeptide, produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and released by the posterior pituitary gland. Oxytocin plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction and nursing; however, kindness, love, affection, warmth, and appreciation in general have been shown in peer-reviewed science to produce oxytocin. Oxytocin softens and expands artery walls, lowers blood pressure, thins blood, and gently flushes away toxins. Bottom line? We can only produce oxytocin from feeling good!

And you know what feels good? Living life on purpose. How can we live life on purpose, though, if we don’t know who we are?

Even the 54th verse of the Tao Te Ching underscores the importance of self-development. Focus on your craft, which also happens to be your contribution and ties into your purpose. Lao-tzu sums up virtue and selflessness in the following passage:

Generations honour generations endlessly.
Cultivated in the self, virtue is realized;
cultivated in the family, virtue overflows;
cultivated in the community, virtue increases;
cultivated in the state, virtue abounds.

Live as if your parenthetical life makes a difference. That’s meaning. It’s your perception of life that has no meaning. Cleanse that connecting link, as Carlos Castaneda put it. Improve the world by improving yourself. Circumstance dictates dharma; passion powers purpose. What are you passionate about that you can give away? Lao-tzu lived during the warring states period of ancient China approximately 2,500 years ago. His legacy lives on in the Tao Te Ching. The meaning of your life is to give it away.

With virtue in mind, Ramana Maharishi said, “Our own self-realization is the greatest service we can render the world.” So, the next time someone asks, ‘what is the nature of the spiritual path?’

“Three words,” Caroline Myss responded in an interview with the Catholic Reporter. “Tell the truth.”

Exploring the Magical Tree of Yoga

“If we want our Earth to be a safe place to live on, then we have to work with love. It’s a very simple interchange. It’s not even very profound; it’s pure physics.” – Yeva Gladwin

As we begin our exploration of the enchanting Tree of Yoga (or Yoga Tree), it may help to consider that the true purpose of yoga aligns us with love, not religion.

If you want to learn about traditional yoga philosophy, religion and ritualistic practices, visit India. Immerse yourself in Hindu culture in its home territory of India. Visit Rishikesh, the birth place of yoga. Understand that yoga has African roots, while the system of yoga that’s been shared with the world was developed and disseminated by sages, writers and doctors from India—a system that’s been some 5,000 years in the making.

Yoga and sacred dance can be traced back to Atlantis. Sacred movement rituals exist in all cultures decorating our globe.

Renowned Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi said that love ends all arguments, while contemporary global coach and spiritual teacher Robert Holden used yogic terminology to describe love as “the cessation of suffering.” Love ends all suffering, and Yoga was a technology given to humanity to alleviate suffering in our world. What is Yoga? Yoga restrains the modifications of the mind-stuff, according to the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It’s the modifications of the mind-stuff (fear) that is said to cause all suffering. Just as the word “black” describes the absence of colour, the word “fear” describes the absence of love.

The technological aspect of Yoga becomes clear when we begin to work with the body. Working with the mind feels more nebulous, though after a physical yoga practice we tend to feel energized and less strained, while clear thinking is within our grasp. Each time we consciously direct our thoughts, we practice Yoga. Distinctions need only be made when we direct our thoughts in the absence of love.

In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the first sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he writes, “Mere philosophy will not satisfy us. We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.”

Yoga is a mental, physical and spiritual practice, which is why we call Yoga a mind-body-spirit discipline.

Yoga, first and foremost, requires practice. Practice requires discipline. An understanding of the body’s energy system—using the Chakra model—gives us insight into how we can direct our thoughts and actions in the presence of love, paying particular attention to the heart chakra. Chakras are typically thought of as wheels or vortices of energy. Perhaps this could explain why contemporary raja yoga teacher Esther Hicks calls enlightenment The Vortex. Enlightenment, Hicks insists, is temporary. Yoga teaches us methods to expand these temporary states of enlightenment through thought alone, without needing worldly (or material) stimulation. Here’s where Yoga dances a fine line with asceticism, and where an unconventional exposition of the eight wisdom traditions of Yoga comes into play. Loosely, we’re looking at Yoga through the lens of a tree. Relax into this meditation on ideas, and use your imagination to conjure your own interpretations of the material.

Raja Yoga, often referred to as Ashtanga Yoga, denotes the study of the mind and thus forms the roots of our proverbial Yoga Tree. Without The Mind, in essence, nothing could exist. Here we see Yoga converge with Hermetics, which asserts that the universe is mental. The overlap continues on into physics when English physicist, astronomer and mathematician Sir James Jeans noted that, “… the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.” For whatever reason, capitalism (that is, Christian Conservative Commerce) is clinging to outdated Newtonian science and didn’t catch onto that one. Jeans lived from 1877 to 1946. All good scientists know that their work is merely a stepping stone and can be proved wrong or insufficient at any time. The problem isn’t with science; the problem is with ego. Ego is a focusing mechanism. We can focus our resolve through love or fear. Either influences its own kaleidoscope of experiences. Prolonged fear corrupts ego.

In 1930, astronomer, physicist and mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington added the following statement to the discussion: “It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character.”

Raja yoga addresses the physics, or mental character of our universe, and thus underpins the cosmic nature of yoga. Upwards of 200 sutras (or threads of knowledge) go on to explain the workings of the mind as expounded by the great yogic sage Patanjali some 2,500 years ago—with only two of these sutras addressing the physical practice of yoga as we know it in the West today.

Moving upwards, we find Bhakti, Jnana and Karma Yoga in no particular order forming the trunk of our Yoga Tree. Bhakti speaks of our devotion to Love—our connection to what Esther Hicks calls our inner being, and what Louise Hay called her inner ding; the Source, as it were, of Creation. Bhakti yoga connects us to our brilliance within the context of the Great Mystery, and soothes the amnesia we experience upon our birth into this physical reality.

Traditionally Jnana yoga covers the study of sacred scriptures and texts in relation to self-inquiry. In the Aquarian Age, self-inquiry (or self-development) is as nonoptional as exercise, and liberates us (moksha) from the bounds of indoctrination. Jnana yoga sets us free to roam the individual path amidst juicy oneness. Think cooperation.

Paramahansa Yogananda called Yoga the science of self-realization, while contemporary master yoga teacher Anand Mehrotra said, “Yoga is the spiritual heritage of humanity.”

In other words, how we train our minds is both individual and irrelevant. The best any of us can do is share our methods without attachment. Krishnamacharya, for example, influenced yoga and repurposed asana (or the physical practice of yoga) to suit the temperament of the twentieth century, inspiring the likes of Indra Devi, K. Pattabhi Jois, and B.K.S. Iyengar (to name a few methods from which newer methods arise). Anything we call “New Age”—including mantra, chanting or reciting affirmations, and even accessing angelic assistance—would fall under the category of repurposing Jnana yoga with respect to methods. Note that what Yoga calls “weapons of consciousness” are a division of Jnana yoga. I consider angels a weapon of consciousness. Yoga refers to the fairies, or nature angels, as devas. The difference between angelic and devic realms is ego. On the one hand, apparently, angels are pure love consciousness and don’t fall prey to fear. Referencing the khanda, or sword, Love doesn’t discriminate. Fairies, on the other hand, are mischievous and apparently haunt big business moguls in their dreams.

Vedanta (a Hindu philosophy based on the doctrine of the Upanishads) appeared first on the timeline, followed by the more empirical offerings of Patanjali. Patanjali, it’s worth mentioning, is as elusive as Shakespeare.

When we hear the word “karma,” often we think in terms of punishment and reward, but Karma yoga refers to the action and intention (or samkalpa) of heart-centered living—what Esther Hicks would call enlightenment or being in The Vortex. The late, great Dr. Wayne W. Dyer said, “Enlightenment is the quiet acceptance of what is.” In 2004, Dyer published a book titled The Power of Intention. In this book, Dyer reimagined intention as a “force in the universe that allows the act of creation to take place.” The book “explores intention—not as something you do—but as an energy you’re a part of.” Dyer was inspired by the following words in Carlos Castaneda’s book The Power of Silence: “In the universe there is an unmeasurable, indescribable force which sorcerers call intent, and absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is attached to intent by a connecting link.” Sorcerers are concerned not only with understanding and explaining that connecting link, but also with “cleansing the numbing effects brought about” (Castaneda) by living at ordinary levels of consciousness (Dyer). I can’t help but contemplate the inverse hypothesis; imagine instead that love is the invisible energy we’re apart of, whereas intention is the invisible connecting link. I see it as the difference between benevolence and malevolence. When we’re consciously connected to the flow of love, we attune our body instruments to inspired action, what Esther Hicks calls guided action. You cannot abuse your power or inflict unconscious harm upon others when under the influence of extraordinary levels of consciousness—that is, under the influence of love.

Knowing the location of the heart chakra and the science of placing a hand on the heart opens the doorway to a heart-centered life. Placing the hands together in Anjali Mudra (hand gesture of appreciation), harmonizes the right and left hemispheres of the brain, thus establishing mental coherence. Next, placing the connected hands with the thumbs resting on the sternum, or heart chakra, energizes the connection between the neurons in the heart and the neurons in the brain. The Vagus nerve connects the brain to the heart and all other vital organs of the body. When we relax the tongue away from the roof of the mouth and rest it on the floor of the mouth, the hypoglossal nerve in the tongue sends a signal to a nerve plexus at the back of the skull next to the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve then sends a signal to let the heart and all other vital organs know that the body is calm and safe now. This simple exercise consciously relaxes the nervous system. You can’t be angry or afraid and relaxed simultaneously.

Maintaining focus on the breath stills the awareness and distracts the mind so that oxygen can interact with both the brain and the lungs. When we breathe deeply, that oxygen then interacts with the blood in the lower lungs, and the heart then circulates that freshly oxygenated blood throughout the body.

According to physics, each cell in the body is a biological circuit with positive and negative charges (that is, a battery), which indicates polarity. Each cell is a capacitor, a resistor, as well as a transmitter and receiver; each cell absorbs and emits photons of light from the universe; each cell “radio” tunes, so to speak, to wavelengths; each cell has the ability to self-regulate; and to borrow Dr. Deepak Chopra’s words, each cell is a nonlocal point of consciousness having a local experience. Our cells are mere fractals of ourselves. When we distract the mind from mental disturbances by focusing on the breath, we improve cellular communication, meaning that the cells can do their jobs without us mentally interfering with the chemical, electrical and molecular processes of our bodies.

Heart-centered living allows the cells of our bodies to be in their natural states of intelligence, and underscores the importance of mind and body getting along. In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the forty-seventh sutra of Book Two of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he wrote, “the mind ultimately has to obey us because it needs the body’s cooperation in order to get anything.” Karma yoga, thus, is the first on our Tree of Yoga to examine the mind-body-spirit interchange.

Continuing up our Tree of Yoga, we find Tantra Yoga serving as the stem from which all other limbs branch. Often, when we hear the word “tantra,” we think in terms of tantric sex (as in the Kamasutras), but neither refer solely to sex. Tantra yoga embraces sex, as well as all pleasurable sensory experiences, but only in the sense of celebrating life. Tantra refers to what Raja Choudhury calls the “throbbing, vibrating universe of Shiva-Shakti,” and focuses on the Shakti or goddess energy of existence. When broken down, tan means energy while tra indicates expansion. In keeping with the cosmic nature of yoga, Tantra addresses the pulsating/contracting expansion of our universe, and how that pulse lives within us. Two steps forward, one step back.

Long before corroborating evidence existed in astrophysics, ancient yogis envisioned the center of creation as an unmanifested cosmic womb—what we now know today in science as a black hole. Tantra yoga savours life without attaching to sensory experiences. Sensory experiences rise and fall like the Sun amidst the creative pulse of our universe. We feel this creative pulse in our sinuses, our hearts, and our loins. These creative pulses, or rockets of desire as Esther Hicks calls them, launch out of us and into the universe. Consciousness inspires these pulses from deep within our beings, while the universe merely responds. It’s not our job to cling to sensory experiences, but rather to be nourished by the mere thought and feeling of them, and let this psychoemotional nourishment be enough—for now. Step one, you launch the desire; step two, the universe responds. Step two isn’t your job. We don’t experience water by gripping it; we experience water by relaxing and playing within it.

In scientific terms, you can flood the body with growth hormones through thought alone. Experiences delivered back to us are contingent upon our connection to intentional or heart-centered living. Think appreciation. Mind nourishment directly affects our energy and shifts our vibrational frequency upwards. When we increase what Esther Hicks calls our personal vibrational countenance, we attract in life what we desire. We fulfill our dharma, or more accurately, our divine life purpose. It’s not about stuff; it’s about service. Karma.

From here our Tree of Yoga directly addresses the energy of existence with Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini energy is often likened to a serpent rising up the spine—or central Shushumna energy channel that is said to house the chakras in the etheric body—from root (or base of spine) to crown. Envision the caduceus. The energetic lila, dance of Shiva and Shakti, then bursts through the crown where it merges with the cosmic, universal forces of the Great Mystery. This is where we see the spontaneous, ecstatic movement of ultimate receptivity come into play; Spirit as master puppeteer. Operative word, play.

Note here that the caduceus, or Staff of Hermes, is a contemporary symbol in medicine but an ancient symbol in astrology. Think Egypt. Creation (and thus our universe), in Hermetics, is a mind. Hundreds of years ago, doctors used astrology to heal people. Kings used astrology to wage wars. Our ancestors tracked the stars for hundreds of thousands of years.

The Greek word psyche means “soul.” The mind is a soul. All mystical wisdom traditions are founded upon ancient psychological study. Ology means “study.” Before psychology appeared as a scientific study in Germany in 1879, astrology studied the soul. But, from approximately 1231 A.D. to 1826 A.D., we burned the so-called witches during the 600-year Inquisitions, and we had to hide astrology (study of the soul)—which had been operating in the underground occult scene—in modern-day convoluted academia to satisfy the Christians and their brethren the nonspiritual atheists. The more recent genocides of North and South American Indigenous peoples are extensions of the European witch hunts. The joke here is that the nonspiritual, or as I like to call them—Christian Atheists—are unwittingly advancing the agenda of fundamentalist Christian conservatism. We’re talking racism, assimilation, marginalization, classism, colonialism and capitalism here. If your mind can make the leap, we’d call the systemic oppression driven by political and economic ideology, as well as religious and scientific dogma, White Supremacy. Read chapter 5 of Thomas King’s book The Inconvenient Indian for a more thorough yet mouthy investigation of Christianity and Commerce. Here we see sacred activism embedded within Yoga. We could be generous and call it journalism. Caring in this instance requires attuning to the love that flows freely from the heart chakra.

Traditionally there are seven chakras we work with in contemporary yoga:

First – Muladhara/Root (red)
Second – Svadhishthana/Sacral (orange)
Third – Manipura/Solar Plexus (“jewel in the city,” yellow)
Fourth – Anahata/Heart (green, pink)
Fifth – Vishuddha/Throat (sky blue)
Sixth – Ajna/Brow (indigo blue)
Seventh – Sahasrara/Crown (violet, diamond white)

Notice that the colours associated with each chakra match the colours found in the spectrum of light, which is divided into seven colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called “visible light.” Quantum mechanics—the world’s most truthful and empirically verified science—tells us that matter appears as particles with observation, but appears as waves without. Science has known for two hundred years that photons of light display the nature of quantum mechanical phenomena. Electrons, atoms and molecules all show the same behaviour. Refer to Thomas Young’s “double-slit experiment” from 1801, which demonstrated that light and matter can exhibit characteristics of both waves and particles, for more information.

Shamans in Central and South American cultures work with an eighth chakra, which they call the luminous body or luminous energy field. It is this energy field where all mental healing takes place. Yoga and Shamanism, I insist, are cousins. The ancient yogis and shamans were cousins.

Although it would be misleading to state that pranayama breathing techniques fall solely under the realm of Kriya Yoga, the Kriya limb of our Yoga Tree develops the various breathing techniques (like India developed Yoga), then hands them out to the various other branches, including tantra, kundalini, hatha and even nada yoga. Prana refers to life force. Kriya suggests cleansing techniques to balance the chakras, or body’s energy system. I typically count breathing and chanting as part of my daily kriyas, and I even recite affirmations in English (using Louise Hay’s affirmation theory and mirror work principle) to reprogram what Wayne Dyer called the habitual mind. Science now tells us that 95 percent of human behaviour originates from the habitual mind, meaning that 5 percent of our behaviour is conscious. Fortunately, the habitual (or subconscious) mind, can be reprogrammed. Think neuroplasticity.

It’s also worth mentioning here that Paramahansa Yogananda died in 1952 with a perfectly preserved body. He practiced traditional Kriya Yoga daily. Mortuary Director of Forest Lawn Memorial-Park Harry T. Rowe of Los Angeles, California, reported the following:

“The physical appearance of Yogananda on March 27, just before the bronze cover of the casket was put into position, was the same as it had been on March 7. He looked on March 27 as fresh and as unravaged by decay as he had looked on the night of his death [March 7]. On March 27th there was no reason to say that his body had suffered any visible physical disintegration at all. For these reasons we state again that the case of Paramahansa Yogananda is unique in our experience.”

The great yogi demonstrated the value of yoga in life and in death.

Kriyas, or cleansing techniques, can also include the physical practice of postures. Tantra, kundalini and hatha yoga all utilize some variance of asana or movement to generate and direct energy in the physical body. Asana means “comfortable, steady position.” Yoga in general focuses on life-affirming movement (and in the case of tantra, connection) rooted in love.

Which brings us to the final branch of our Yoga Tree: Hatha Yoga. This is the yoga of movement. Hatha means “powerful” in Hindi, whereas it refers to the Sun (ha) and Moon (tha) in Sanskrit—referring to the balancing of masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) qualities in everything, particularly the human body. This is where science meets spirituality; the polarity of Shiva-Shakti. Hatha traditions range from ancient to contemporary (and any combination in between), while intensity levels vary from gentle to vigorous. Fitness-oriented interpretations of yoga generally fall short of balance and subtle energy body training—that is, mindful movement meditation. Yoga in this context has been rebranded and repurposed to a point where it’s not really yoga; at best, it’s strength training. Hatha yoga must be practiced regularly, preferably daily, to gain visceral, long-term benefit. To understand how the body relates to the mind, practice hatha yoga daily.

That said, our exploration of the Yoga Tree is not quite complete.

Making an encore appearance on our Tree of Yoga, we find Nada Yoga represented by the leaves. Here we’ll find meditation, the most esoteric practice of yoga, along with music and sound—which, like meditation, can take us into receptive trance or theta-like, hypnotic states. Children exist in the impressionable theta brain wavelength states for the first seven of their lives.

Notice how the branches of the Yoga Tree overlap with the leaves. To be fair, meditation finds a home in all mystical traditions, with scientific benefits available to anyone who meditates regularly regardless of spiritual or nonspiritual orientation. Meditation increases delta and theta wavelengths in the brain (boosting immunoglobulin production, and thus, the immune system), while decreasing the beta wavelengths responsible for provoking the antagonistic monkey mind that creates virtually all of humanity’s problems.

Yoga in general is a self-development tool, and (like raja yoga), meditation works directly with the mind, or the unseen. Yoga is said to be the Science of the Mind. In terms of thinking, we experience and receive both ordinary and extraordinary thoughts. The extraordinary thoughts, or Siddhis, are the esoteric elements of yoga; invisible, spiritual gifts not readily understood in what Lao-tzu called “the world of the ten thousand things.” In some Indigenous cultures, maturing Shamans must mentor under the tutelage of masters for seventeen years before they are allowed to use their siddhis, or spiritual gifts.

I find it interesting that those who dismiss the invisible reality of the Great Mystery, don’t often consider the invisible nature of thoughts and thinking. Where do thoughts come from? Why do some thoughts scare us, while other thoughts empower us? Once we’ve dealt with fearful, disempowering (albeit informative) thoughts, meditation stills and directs the mind back to its rightful home in the heart. Forty thousand sensory neurites, or brain cells, are found in the human heart. Science confirms that the electromagnetic field of the heart is prodigious compared to the brain, which begs the following sentiment: The most powerful and conceivably cosmic journey anyone will ever take is from the brain to the heart. Note that Yoga distinguishes between ordinary and divine love. Divine love encompasses romantic love, whereas romance is the spice of the universe. Nothing is authentic in the absence of divine love. Take no abuse, of course, but do no harm.

In all fairness, on that note, sociopathic impostures of empaths do run amok in our world, so skepticism and discernment are obviously warranted. Fear is, after all, a biological response. Nonetheless, in the 41st Verse of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu wrote:

A great scholar hears of the Tao
and begins diligent practice.
A middling scholar hears of the Tao
and retains some and loses some.
An inferior scholar hears of the Tao
and roars with ridicule.
Without that laugh, it would not be the Tao.

 So there are constructive sayings on this:
The way of illumination seems dark,
going forward seems like retreat,
the easy way seems hard,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest art seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.

Anything we call “spiritual,” said physicist Nassim Haramein, is the physics we don’t yet understand—the physics of love. Another of Wayne Dyer’s books, You’ll See It When You Believe It, was endorsed by a guru from India, who sought Dyer out after reading it. Our beloved Science is only relatively recently discovering what yogis have known for millennia: Yoga illuminates the physics of love. Beyond appearances, we are all whippersnappers of love.

 

Featured Image by Zoltán Czékmány of Budapest, Hungary. Visit wildmindstudio.com.

The World’s got a fever, and the only prescription is more Dale Chihuly

Arts & Finds (NICHE magazine)

Dale Chihuly is to blown glass what Art Spiegelman is to comics. The medium of glassblowing wouldn’t exist the way it does today without Chihuly, the pivotal figure and go-to historian in the field. Some people ski for fun, but the man who never tires of the possibilities of the blow pipe blows glass. Glasswork is play, and Chihuly is the universe’s play thing.

The world was introduced to Chihuly in 1941, and Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington in 1964. He became mesmerized with glass during a weaving class after weaving glass into a tapestry, and a year later he accidentally blew his first glass bauble in a basement with a blow pipe and melted glass. Chihuly says this must have been an act of fate because glass isn’t that easy to blow your first time. I swear I just heard Christopher Walken demand over a loudspeaker, “More Dale Chihuly, please.”

Chihuly liked blowing glass so much that he enrolled in the Harvey Littleton program at the University of Wisconsin. His studies continued at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he went on to establish its glass program and taught for over a decade. In 1968, Chihuly spent nine months working at the Venini glass factory on the island of Murano in Venice, where he quickly adopted a team approach to blowing glass that remains integral to how he works today. Teams range from six or seven people up to eighteen, and Chihuly prides himself in having more than a hundred of America’s top talent at his disposal.

In 1971, Chihuly founded the Pilchuck School of Glass on a tree farm in Washington State and has led the revolution in the fine art of blown glass since. A car accident in London in 1976 left Chihuly unable to blow glass for six months, but it turned out that Chihuly enjoyed delegation and overseeing as much or more than working at the centre of the action. Because the ideas are Chihuly’s in any given Chihuly project, he began to produce sketches to convey ideas to his team. His sketches are an art unto their own and accurately portray his visions, while the finished product is a reflection of Team Chihuly’s talents and skills. Glass can be free blown or mold blown, but Chihuly says glassblowing is a spontaneous medium if you let it be.

Chihuly’s curled glass tentacles grow as spontaneously out of fire and sand as the curly hairs grow out of his head. Chihuly’s work is undeniably Chihuly, like a stamp in the earth wherever he travels. Working primarily with glass, plastic, water and ice on any scale, Chihuly says it is light that makes these materials spring to life. One time a Chihuly water installation of glass spheres dried up with the pond they were decorating. For a moment I thought the spheres sprung to death until it occurred to me that the glass was gone because people took it. Imagine how much those pieces are worth, and how much those people treasure their free Chihuly art.

First and foremost a colourist, Chihuly explores concepts and colour palettes fully. After his mother’s death, he blew through The Black Series, which came to him like any other series, through visions and memories. Like any other concept, he explored it fully. This work is quite possibly an expression of how Chihuly viewed his mother through his art, the black a reflection of his mourning and the emptiness he felt as a result of her passing.

Often inspired by his own art collections, Chihuly has created more than a dozen well-known series of works, starting with the trade blanket Cylinders and the Navajo Baskets in the 1970s. The Baskets evolved into the Seaforms, and the Seaforms evolved into the Persians. The Venetians are totally different, though, and the Chandeliers evolved out of the hair on his head. Other well-known series include Macchia, Niijima Floats and Fiori. Chihuly is also celebrated for magnificent architectural installations, like the Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem exhibit at the Tower of David, which attracted more than one million visitors. Twelve to fourteen hundred pieces of glass compose many of Chihuly’s sculptural wonders, and installations often take several days to assemble. One can only marvel in the magnitude of works like the Crystal Mountain and Blue Tower in Jerusalem, the Sea of Glass at the Bellagio or Chihuly over Venice.

In 1995, Team Chihuly began to create sculptures at glass factories in Finland, Ireland and Mexico, which were then installed over the canals and piazzas of Venice. If this were my story, I’d call it Installing My Art in Venice: How Cool is that? Many awards and honours have been bestowed upon Chihuly, including eleven doctorate degrees and a prestigious, solo exhibition at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palaise due Louvre in Paris. Chihuly glass has been exhibited in hundreds of museums, galleries and hotels worldwide, and homes are certainly not exempt from gleaning more Dale Chihuly.

There’s something so natural and delicate about Chihuly’s work; sometimes it breathes and sometimes it exists in a world of its own. Whatever it is, it makes us happy. Contemplative, yes, but we must be happy in contemplation to attract anything good in life. Perhaps Chihuly’s art is the secret to The Secret… The world doesn’t need more cow bell, no; the world needs more Dale Chihuly!

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 2.09.04 PM

 

Article originally published in the Spring 2013 edition of NICHE Fashion Magazine (Vol 01, Issue 02). To view the original article and browse NICHE magazine, please click the following link:

The Bikram Yoga Legacy

“What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

For clarity and in the spirit of Sesame Street… Either men are dumb, women deserve to be raped, or, capitalism isn’t working. Which one of these is not like the other?

I’ll give you a hint: you can hump capitalism all you want, but you can’t deny its efficacy. What exactly is capitalism’s desired result? Let’s talk about that.

First, let’s discuss what capitalism requires of us. Reliance on one another, to start; the hidden aspect of financial independence no one seems to think about. Independent wealth, of course, a different ballgame once you’re playing it. The latter of which many of us happen to be aiming for, understandably. To me, independent wealth means that I can live off the interest of my riches for the remainder of my life, whereas financial independence eliminates the need for employment insurance, social assistance or the bank of sugar daddy.

Hopefully we’ve established that you don’t accommodate psychopathy by giving it guns and CEO positions (or placing it in a bureaucracy), but I think considering mass levels of poverty, war, corruption, and exploitation we see crippling life on planet Earth, capitalism is missing the mark of “efficacy.” Who’s willing to deny that psychopaths are governing our world? We claim to be animals and use that as our excuse to pander to a misleading notion of competition, yet we also insist that we are the most intelligent creatures on Earth—creatures who indignantly refuse to cooperate, like cooperation doesn’t hinge upon intelligence.

The brain transmits and receives signals—that is, information. Not one neurosurgeon to date has ever discovered a thought hiding in the brain. Intelligence implies consciousness, yet we’re so jaded by the dogmatism of both religion and science that we deny the implications of dark matter (approximately 96 percent of our universe). Ask yourself… what is the field of intention and how does it operate? Note that ideas occur to you. Who’s moving the checkers on the chess board of life? What’s luck?

Capitalism’s desired result is reliance at the expense of balance, sustainability and the downtrodden. Capitalism (and by extension, competition) implies that the weakest links must die off, while Yoga insists that the most uncooperative links must die off; that is, malignant consciousness must die, or at the very least be integrated and therefore transformed. Read Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Capitalism feeds seamlessly into war culture, while yoga operates on the premise of ahimsa or nonharming; that is, nonviolence towards others. In other words, let nature run its course.

So, if you’re reliant on another human being to hire you and give you a job (or purchase your products and services…), then you’re not totally independent. You’re reliant on your job and generating revenue. The jig is up. Anyone who works has likely made peace with the reality. The problem isn’t so much that we have to work, but that the cost of living continually rises. Because with capitalism, demand (apparently) and reputation—rather than quality—dictate price, and prices continually rise because fallible humans fall prey to greed. Capitalism fosters greed. Greed is a sex chakra imbalance. We see shrinking wages pulling up the rear and wonder why in blue perfect hell anyone would require social assistance. Ten people need jobs, and there are eight jobs available. We bitch that we’re not being paid what we’re worth. Who values loyalty anymore?

On his rise to fame, Bikram Choudhury raised North America tenfold and lost everything. He looted his guru’s yoga sequence, named the liberated version after himself, and then proceeded to make millions. By all accounts, Bikram created his own reality—and this point of contention can piss people off.

The universal Law of Attraction states: You create your own reality.

Capitalism also states: You create your own reality.

The problem with capitalism is that it’s steeped in competition, which consequently elicits panic and greed (keeping fallen conservative ideology in mind). We can’t blame the workhorses willing to do whatever it takes to create their own realities when we’re living within a grander reality, which none of us seem to understand. Likewise, we can’t condemn the misfits willing to improve current conditions so that life is ultimately easier for everybody, yet these are the people we tend to ridicule, assassinate and hate. Indigenous peoples consider the effects of their actions on the next seven generations to come—the antithesis of ‘every man out for himself.’ Shamanism and Yoga are cousins and advocate for living in harmony with nature and the world around us. How do we live in harmony with capitalism? Apathy and delusion. Where did we go wrong? Too many perspectives to agree. We’ll never reach a brighter future focusing on what’s wrong. We’ll simply create more “wrong.” Look at our track record. Likewise, we won’t save our collective ass excusing corruption.

What is your purpose and why are you here on Earth, right now? To participate fully in the current reality, or to improve it? Employing brilliance effectuates both. Genius can exist without love; brilliance cannot. Brilliance is the higher octave of genius.

Capitalism expects us to keep up with inflation, which happens to be totally and completely imaginary. Think about it. Inflation is synonymous with “greed,” and mimics inflammation. You know what inflammation creates? Cancer. We can thank the incestuous rapists in suits—the real terrorists of our world—for perpetuating mass greed and our subsequent addiction to inflation. Please note that economists are not brilliant innovators; they are arbiters of what is. The next time you catch yourself standing up for a rent increase—or price increases of any kind—look in the mirror and know that you are contributing to the preservation of mass corruption. Catch the gold coins, sure. Ride the wave. But for Earth’s sake, stop standing up for greed.

In light of the conversation about energy vampires leaking into the mainstream, it could be argued that Bikram Choudhury is a narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, histrionic, pathological liar. Please refer to the five-part ESPN podcast series broadcast on 30 for 30 Podcasts for more information.

In the meantime, yes, a man who thinks that women would pay millions of dollars for his sperm, because he’s that great, is a narcissist. I have never once looked at that man and thought mmm. So, what does a woman do when she’s 18, and her parents are calling her lazy for not having her shit together, and society is calling her useless?

Bikram Yoga teacher training! Literally, it saved her life.

Granted, an 18-year-old would have to lie to be admitted into the training, since the legal limit is set at 21, and not all woman that young who’ve attended training feel pressed to make ends meet. But, let’s consider for a moment what women are willing to do for a roof over our heads.

First, there’s the age-old phenomenon of trading sex for the security of food and shelter. Next, women sleeping with their bosses to advance their careers. Think Harvey Weinstein. He’s one example. I suspect that the women who slept with Bikram at his trainings fall into one of two categories: 1) the young girls who were dumb and duped; and, 2) the older gals, who knew exactly what they were doing (and didn’t step forward during allegations), who were actually into him. I’m sure there could be some crossover, too. This conversation isn’t about judgment, though; it’s about information. I’ve known enough women who’ve attended Bikram Yoga teacher trainings, who’ve either admired him or scoffed at his sexual delinquency, who minded their own business. Who were these women everybody knew Bikram was sleeping with at trainings when his former wife, Rajashree, wasn’t around? Most of the people I know made it sound like they were women he flew in and were just there. I couldn’t help but picture Geishas. Not one person I know ever mentioned that he was sleeping with underage girls attending his trainings. Not one.

Now, of course a borderline narcissist would blame the victim and feed a woman lines to get her into bed (not taking “no” for an answer). Whether or not Choudhury hijacked his guru’s sequence is another matter. Gurus from India have been sending yogis to America to share the teachings of Yoga since the late 1800s… Swami Vivekananda in 1893 case in point. Taking Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of Yogi into account, perhaps Choudhury’s guru knew exactly what he was doing? Now that the cat’s out of the bag, regardless, we know that Bikram Choudhury is a character-disturbed man. This, of course, could lead to a domino-effect of breakdowns in the community—crises of identity—but self-awareness and introspection are part of Yoga’s greater legacy (not necessarily Bikram Choudhury’s).

Let’s call a truce and say that men aren’t dumb and women don’t deserve to be raped. When Bikram first arrived to the States, it’s been reported that he was a quiet, timid man who didn’t collect an established fee for his yoga classes. He had been teaching celebrities, though, who understandably coaxed him into charging proper rates for his offerings. Then he began running yoga teacher trainings, decked himself out in bling and the accompanying American accoutrements, and the next thing you know we had a cross between a self-proclaimed sheep, pig and dog tainting the minds of all who came into contact with him.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Shifting into an enterprising society, that relies primarily on cooperation (not competition), is our only sensible segue out of a capitalistic society that exploits animals, man power and natural resources; a capitalistic society that relies on greed and is ultimately killing us; a capitalistic society that we are physiologically addicted to. Remember that we haven’t seen political and economic ideologies function effectively anywhere other than theory. We are already living within an enterprising society in which people work and pay taxes. The shift is in thinking, from a competitive to a cooperative mindset. Conservative ideals could actually bloom within a cooperative societal framework (i.e. writers and yoga teachers, for example, wouldn’t be told that what we do for a living isn’t real work). Look to the cooperative science of astrophysics for inspiration. You can’t rubberneck the world’s varying crises—housing, health, opiate, addictions, overdose, and yes, even war (etc.)—and tell me that imaginary inflation isn’t the malevolent ejaculate of corporate and bureaucratic lawlessness. Science tells us that we are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction. Capitalism clearly corrupted a corruptible Choudhury, and capitalism is clearly compromising the future of life on planet Earth.

If anything, we live within an inflationary, greedy culture that renders us all slightly dumb. Dumb as in numb. Who believes in love anymore? Who even knows what love is? I suspect that the biggest cock and bull story the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus told us is that the only constant we can rely on in life is change. The body moves through time; get over it. And sure, you can adapt to a hollow-hearted lifestyle (what else is a successful person supposed to do?), but stop standing up for greed! We can’t exactly rely on change anyways, but we can recalibrate, as well as navigate and anticipate it. The only constant we can rely on in life, however, is Love. You can pinch love off and bump up against people who are pinched off from love, but you can never stop love from flowing. Love flows freely and infinitely beyond the concept of universe.

Consciousness is not damnation; consciousness is love.

Stabilization, and consequently recovery, requires a generous degree of fixity (as well as detoxification) to take root. Stabilization and recovery require love. Brilliance wins amidst the hallucinatory confines of cooperation, and unlocks the gates of serendipitous freedom. Let’s allow natural death, the changing of seasons, and Earth moving along an ecliptic around the Sun to be enough change for us for now. Translation: With the exception of galaxies and stars merging, and planets, solar systems and universes coming to completion, we effect the speed of change, therefore the cost of living doesn’t need to escalate. Stop fighting it, stop complaining about it, and stop going along with it. Notice and acknowledge prices that don’t increase. Appreciate the thankless and neutralizing work of people who float around with their optimistic (and seemingly undereducated) heads in the clouds. Ring your bells and stand your ground.

Cosmic evolution (and thus, exploration), otherwise, is hereditary. Good news for energy vampires. Change is what we do, whereas love is what we are. This means we can slow down, take in the scenery. And, like it or not, Bikram Yoga is proof that energy vampires can share good work in the world. I may not have gotten into yoga without it (it was my bridge), and the heated series helped me shed thirty intolerable pounds. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Bikram Yoga, which refers to the Ghosh lineage standardized beginning sequence of therapeutic postures and breathing exercises as distilled by Bikram Choudhury. Bishnu Ghosh (youngest brother to Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi) was Choudhury’s guru, while Bikram’s Hot Yoga was the original hot yoga. The original hot yoga generated some of the highest paying yoga gigs on the planet, or at least it did initially. Be in it, but not of it—you know?

So, we call it quits on excusing the corruption and unrelenting abuse spawned by capitalism. Certainly, let’s stop standing up for an enterprising world’s twisted sister, because we’re not going take it anymore.

Yoga Sutra 33, Book One, 4.4: Indifference Towards the Wicked

“I respect people who should be committed, and are committed.” – Michelle Visage

Before going any further, let’s clarify that this is a serious topic, and I’m not professionally qualified to psychologically diagnose anybody. I’m not a psychotherapist; I’m a yoga teacher with a certification in assertiveness coaching. Nonetheless, leading women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup claims that what she calls “energy vampires” are an enormous public health problem that has gone undiagnosed and unrecognized until relatively recently. What do we mean when we’re talking about energy vampires? Psychopaths, sociopaths, and Cluster B personality disorders.

Renowned psychologist and expert in the field of personality disturbances Dr. George K. Simon has spent his 40+ year career attempting to figure out what factors affect character development. Family conditioning, upbringing and hardship can affect a person’s personality, sure, but Simon has discovered that indulged and pampered people hurt people, too. In other words, not all hurt people hurt people.

To genuinely understand why people hurt people (physical, emotional and sexual abuse, etc.), we must look at brain imaging. A team of German researchers using modern brain scanning technology studied the brains of 34 individuals, half of whom had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These researchers studied the cerebral cortex—the outermost layer of the brain associated with higher social centers in humans—the part of the brain that regulates self-awareness, self-determination and self-control. The region of the cerebral cortex associated with empathy most notably allows humans to feel both emotionally and logically what others are feeling. Participants with NPD displayed unusual thinness in the region of the cerebral cortex associated with empathy and caring for others—the area of the brain associated with conscience. Interestingly, the degree of empathy missing matched the degree of thinness in the cerebral cortex. Simply put, the degree of empathy lacking is directly related to the malignancy of the narcissism. Functional MRI studies also show marked abnormalities in the cerebral cortex regions of diagnosed psychopaths.

From here it’s important to understand that the great yogi sages didn’t reject the notion that people can be cold, calculating and without conscience. This is why the touring swamis spread yoga around the globe from the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. Notable figures of the movement who travelled to North America include: Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yoganada, Yogi Bhajan, and Swami Satchidananda (to name a few). As far as I’m concerned, the great composite teacher Patanjali addressed energy vampires in presenting the fourth lock and fourth key of Yoga Sutra 33: indifference, or disregard, towards the wicked. Who are the wicked? Psychopaths, sociopaths and Cluster B personalities. The vampire archetype that sucks your energy.

Cluster B personalities are a categorization of personality disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), editions 4 and 5. Cluster B personality disorders include: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Starting from the top… Those with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), or ASPD traits, tend to disregard and violate the rights of others. That said, it’s challenging to talk about society’s laws when the laws don’t apply to rich people.

The following excerpt from a short story by Charles Bukowski entitled “A Couple of Winos,” appearing in his book South of No North (published in 1973), eloquently illustrates the above point:

“Burkhart had fucked us from every angle. But we couldn’t holler law because when you didn’t have any money the law stopped working.”

So often we see formal diagnoses among marginalized populations who can’t hold down jobs. I can’t help but ask, however, what about the people who violate the rights of others who do hold down jobs? In the early days of 2019, for example, the world watched in horror as the Canadian federal government, on behalf of Coastal GasLink and with the approval of the BC government, send in busloads of militarized police to dismantle a wooden blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory and arrest otherwise peaceful Indigenous peoples—wielding feathers, not guns—for protecting their unceded (that is, not owned by the Crown) land and waters.

Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”

Moving along the spectrum, we see borderline personality disorder (BPD), or at the very least BPD traits, acting up when Canadian citizens think that these Indigenous peoples (being forcibly removed from their unceded territories) should be paying for the associated policing costs. It seems to me that brainwashed and undereducated people believe the fairy tale about “handouts.” Why? Because Canada doesn’t currently own its own bank and propaganda is unfortunately convincing.

Vampires manipulate because manipulation works.

“It’s very easy to diagnose a borderline,” said Bob Palumbo, Ph.D. and psychologist with 35 years of experience. “They screw you over, rip you off, commit whatever transgression, and then they blame you for it.”

It’s like being called ungrateful every time you gas up your car.

Author of Dodging Energy Vampires, Dr. Northrup, adds, “Those with borderline personality disorder… operate with what is called intermittent reinforcement—the most difficult kind to deal with. The good men who have been in relationship with borderline women often end up like empty husks by the side of the road.”

Basically, the borderline abuses you by any means necessary until they get their way.

Sound appealing? Read a book called I Hate you, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerald J. Kreisman, MD, and Hal Straus for more information.

Next, histrionic personality disorder (HPD)—annoying and arguably the least abusive of the Cluster B’s—is characterized by excessive attention-seeking and loud, disruptive behaviour. The self-worth of those with HPD depends on the approval of others. Like narcissists, their energy deflates when they’re not the center of attention.

Like narcissists, Cluster B personality disorders can require a tremendous amount of energy to manage (and thus, drain the energy reserves of those around them), because those afflicted tend to lack self-awareness. NPD sufferers experience an exaggerated sense of self-importance, as well as feelings of entitlement. Narcissists are nonreciprocal and selfish in relationships, as well as envious and suspicious toward the motivation of others. Narcissists are driven by a need for excessive praise and attention, which brings us to narcissistic supply: you are the energy vampire’s life blood.

First introduced into psychoanalytic theory by Otto Fenichel in 1938, the term narcissistic supply describes the interpersonal sustenance siphoned from an environment to bolster the energy vampire’s self-esteem. Either love or lashing out will do the trick.

“Vampires will often pick a fight if things are going too smoothly, just to get a hit of energy,” wrote Dr. Northrup in her book, Dodging Energy Vampires.

As stated, brain scans have revealed that brain regions are affected dependent on level of psychopathy. Primary psychopathy indicates a total lack of empathy. No effective treatments currently exist for psychopaths to recover from the imposition. With secondary psychopathy, however, empathy is muted, and determining factors vary. There is some hope that change could be possible, although the learning curve is steep. Dr. Northrup recommends to assume that the vampire won’t change and to extricate yourself from the relationship. In the context of marriage with children or employment, mediate the damage of being stuck between a rock and hard place. An appropriate support group may help.

To understand brain wiring, an over or underactive frontal lobe is associated with difficulty learning from experience, impulse control and poor judgment. The corpus collosum is associated with acting out. The cingulate gyrus is associated with argumentative, vengeful, oppositional behaviour, and addictions. The occipital lobe, with difficulty learning from punishment, little to no empathy, little to no insight, increased impulsivity and irresponsibility (noting the connection to the frontal lobe). The hippocampus regulates (or deregulates) violence and aggression, and can impair the fear response. And finally, the amygdala is associated with an inability to bond, hypersexuality, irritability, as well as impulsivity.

Because reasoning with a character-disturbed person is as fruitless as reasoning with a 4-year-old, character-impaired people need experiential insight instead, which means they must consistently change their behaviour first. Secondary psychopathy must be moved to a different perspective slowly. Behavioural therapy (not usually couch time alone) with low-end character disturbances is what psychologists report results in a different mindset.

Dr. Simon asserts that, although uncommon, change in low-end character disturbances is possible, while Dr. Northrup says don’t hold your breath.

I once heard Marianne Williamson describe the term every day garden variety as “not special.” When Dr. Northrup refers to “every day garden variety vampires,” she’s referring to people with low-end character disturbances—people we know in our interpersonal relationships to have big hearts and mean well, but come bearing a few Cluster B traits. Nothing that can’t be handled by limiting your exposure to these people. Generous narcissistic people, for example (although an oxymoron), do exist.

I recommend watching Dr. George K. Simon in action as he has mastered what he calls the Art of Benign Confrontation, in which the character-impaired person doesn’t sense malice in the questioner’s heart. Think a nonjudgmental and dispassionate, versus a heated, approach. Personally, I struggle to talk about my feelings with people who don’t care about me or my feelings, and I’ve taken to playing the avoidance card. The biggest takeaway from the assertiveness training for me was to recognize what I was dealing with before it could hurt me (or, I suppose, in the event that it did). When you have a mouth that could be considered a registered lethal weapon like me, the last thing you want to do is give an energy vampire an angry hit of energy. Remember, any hit will do; sympathy, rage, resigned or apologetic submissiveness. Energy vampires literally guzzle the life force out of you, which can lead to all manner of consequences for your health.

Stated more abruptly, relationships with Cluster B energy vampires (including psychopaths)—that is, wicked people—can devastate your health. The immune system requires energy to function, yes? If vampires are stressful, and the body can operate in one of two modes (growth or stress) but not simultaneously, then what do you think that chronic, neurochemical stress response from dealing with energy vampires is doing to your body?

So, when we exercise indifference towards these wicked Cluster B energy vampires, they’re not getting a hit of our energy, our energy reserves aren’t being drained, and their behaviour isn’t being enabled.

Several years ago, as an example, I lived with an energy vampire who drank excessively, and I enabled the behaviour by encouraging the drinking—because it seemed to be the only way the person would settle down (and be nice to me). But, hangovers are ugly (a commitment, really), especially when feeding seamlessly into the next drinking binge.

Leaving a relationship is usually the best way to stop enabling substance abusers, as well as energy vampires. Note here that judgment and discernment originate from two different perspectives. With judgment, we label experiences as good or bad. With discernment, however, we’re aware of our preferences; we’ve sifted and we’ve sorted, and although we understand all experiences exist within the buffet of life (desirable and undesirable), we’re now choosing to focus on what we desire. We don’t need to eat everything at a buffet, right? Likewise, we leave toxic relationships once they’ve served a purpose in our lives, because they are ultimately destructive and undesirable.

Bottom line? You choose the parameters of your relationships, including setting boundaries with energy vampires. Read Dodging Energy Vampires by Dr. Christiane Northrup, or In Sheep’s Clothing by Dr. George K. Simon. In fact, read all of Dr. Simon’s books on the subject matter. And then read Yoga Sutra 33 from Book One of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Samadhi Padi or Portion on Contemplation. And then after that read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. See how your mind synthesizes all of that information.

With neuroplasticity, humans have the ability to change neural connections (thoughts, beliefs, behaviours) in our brains based on one caveat: our willingness to change.

Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), said that willingness is the cornerstone of recovery. And the thing that energy vampires notoriously don’t have is a willingness to change. Vampire behaviour is typically egosyntonic, meaning that energy vampires don’t think they need to change.

Dr. Simon asserts that the burden always has to be on the disturbed character, and their willingness to change. Watch out for signs of contrition (genuine remorse), but be honest with yourself if you’re continually falling prey to “breadcrumbs of change”—or as I like to call them, fakethroughs. Breakthroughs, on the one hand, are transcendent, meaning you don’t snap back to old patterns. With fakethroughs (or breadcrumbs of change), on the other hand, the character-disturbed person nearly always snaps back to abusive and manipulative patterns of behaviour. You’re not likely having a breakthrough with the vampire; you’re more likely having a fakethrough. Understand that the character-disturbed person rarely changes, and don’t take it too personally. Instead, focus on your own growth and development.

Statistics claim that 1 in 5 people is affected by some degree of Cluster B personality disorder, while psychopaths represent 1/25th of the population. When you think about it, it’s one of the only statistics that might not be off its rocker.

Yogi Bhajan spoke of universal compassion in the fourth of five sutras he laid out for the Aquarian Age, while Dr. George K. Simon speaks of the art of benign confrontation. Yet Patanjali, father of modern yoga, called for flat out indifference—indifference, in my opinion, the compassionate response. Perhaps this is where we see purpose and destiny converge, and where we as humankind must work as a team.

Fortunately, leading edge scientific discoveries are beginning to conclude what yogis have known for millenia: consciousness is the epiphenomenon of matter. With very few cultures untouched by Cluster B personality traits—including yoga culture—what does this mean for Earth circa 2020?

Marianne Williamson said, “A cell in the body that forgets it’s here to collaborate with other cells is malignant. And that’s what has happened to humanity: we’ve been infected with a malignant consciousness, the thought that ‘it’s all about me.’ Awakening from that delusion is key to healing our world.”

This takes us back to Astrology (know your delusions) and Yoga (master your mind).

And for Earth’s sake, please stop enabling energy vampires.

Girly for Goddess, Goddess for Goodness

I closed the year, once again, watching cheesy romantic Christmas comedies on Netflix—my favourite, of which, may just be Just Friends starring Ryan Reynolds. He always makes me howl.

Okay, Merry Kissmas tops the list of titles, too, but I realized in the middle of watching Just Friends that I had to marry Reynolds. I vaguely remembered him being a fellow Canadian from Vancouver, so I figured I had an in. Shockingly this was the first time it had occurred to me to look up his birthday and lo and behold! He’s married, to Blake Lively no less. It felt like a faint shot to the heart. I can’t compete with her, I thought. She’s gorgeous and rich. I felt disappointed for a solid twenty minutes before settling back into nobody land. Alas! The search continues.

In all fairness, Reynolds is a Scorpio born on the cusp of Libra, so we probably wouldn’t be overly compatible anyway, but… here’s the thing about Blake Lively: she’s a Virgo born on the same day as an old friend I credit for turning me girly.

Before I met, we’ll call her Princess, I remember being in Whitefish, Montana, with my sister at a bar on the strip that my uncle frequented. I want to say the Remington. I had been drinking and there was this gorgeous guy with perfect teeth hitting on me. Meanwhile (if I remember correctly) his friends were holding up a sign behind my back about him shitting himself on the slopes after a hard bail snowboarding—though I didn’t learn that until later. The sign read something like, “You shit your pants.”

We’ll call the guy Barry. To his credit, Barry had the balls to ask me out. I appreciate men who have the balls to ask me out on a proper date, regardless of how I respond. Before going out with Barry, my sister pleaded with me to wear eyeliner. I savour dolling up on occasion, but I tend to reject the societal notion that I have to wear makeup (or straighten my hair) to be presentable. My naked face is my naked face; likewise, my curly hair is my curly hair. I may have been wearing mascara and sparkles the night I met Barry, but I wanted him to know what I looked like without. These are the things men need to know. It’s ideal to date a man who likes looking at your real face.

At Mayfair mall before Christmas, on that note, a young woman with an accent working at a skin care kiosk caught me off guard with samples on my way out of Sephora. While I stood in front of the woman reading the ingredient list, she asked me probably five times enthusiastically, “If you could change one thing about your face, what would you change?”

I don’t know how many times I read “petrolatum” before I finally heard the question. I looked up and stared into her pretty, seemingly vacant face. A pregnant pause ensued.

Actually, now that you ask… I’d come back in my next lifetime with rich, altruistic parents who positively reinforce me, but next time I’d be an Aquarius born on January 19 instead of a Capricorn. We’d live in the tropics and my skin would be bronzed all year round. I’d look like my girl crush, but with thicker, curlier blonde hair and green eyes instead of blue. Of course I would have skinny ankles, too, but now I’m breaking the rules. We’re not even talking about my face anymore.

“Nothing,” I finally answered. “This is my face. I wouldn’t change anything about my face.”

What, was I supposed to ask the seedling if her magic products could tend to an unforeseeable future?

The conversation was funny considering I spent my entire Christmas vacation off work researching retinol creams.

Nonetheless, my response left the young woman speechless. She was too young to recognize I pulled a Samantha Jones on her ass—this after a cashier at Sephora urged me to use the three bottles of Josie Maran argan oil I purchased on points to tame my frizzy mane. Wink, wink. Too bad for me that fuzzy hair went out of style, again. If only I could leave the mall on a Friday without feeling ugly. I use the argan oil to soften my hands and cuticles. Last time I checked, my hair doesn’t respond favourably. I understand that I wouldn’t likely win the model olympics, but I’ve been a hopeless observer obsessed with personal beautification for as long as I can remember. Beauty care is that double-edged sword that does and doesn’t discriminate.

“What’s your accent?” I asked the young woman at the kiosk before parting ways with her and the petrolatum-infested sample of face cream I’d never use.

“Russian,” she responded.

“I love Russian accents,” I said honestly. “I could listen to women with Russian accents talk all day.”

It was the truth. And though her question may have unwittingly diminished me, her silence did not.

***

From NICHE magazine, Inspiration Issue May/June 2013 (Vol. 1, No. 3)
Arts & Finds: Andrea Stajan-Ferkul
by Jill Lang

nicheinspiration

 

Art Therapy for the Soul – Let the Divine Feminine Guide You

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” – Leo Tolstoy

Yes, complete is the delusion of beauty since goodness can never be unnecessary. Superfluous maybe, but true art only exists in the divine. Lest we forget artist as universe’s play thing (not adhering to the bondage of Piscean misconception, of course); the artist is meant to joyfully and uninhibitedly create. Some of us were put here for a reason, you know.

Beauty delights the sight and lifts the soul, which is why we should surround ourselves with beautiful things no matter the circumstance. Canadian fine artist Andrea Stajan-Ferkul believes in the essential beauty of women and understands that women feel better when we’re beautifully dressed. What a woman wears is an extension of herself, art and woman alike an expression of the divine. If you haven’t heard already, the divine feminine is going to save the world, on paintings, in your clothes and all around you. If you haven’t done so already, get acquainted.

While she’s always been creative, Stajan-Ferkul never intended to be a fine artist. She studied illustration and design, and then worked in the fashion advertising industry before shifting her focus to fine art. When everything turned digital, she reassessed her direction in life and stumbled upon emitting a new signal. She let go and trusted in all that is good in the universe, and poof, the universe opened a portal to painting. Fashion just happened to be her niche.

For those of you afraid to leave your 9-5, take heart; in this world, you only struggle as much as you want to. Brilliance exists to be received, fine artists like Stajan-Ferkul exist to receive it. Her work is not exclusive to fashion, though it remains a recurring theme in her subject matter. “The painting subjects intrigue me the same as they do you,” she said. Her works reveal an aesthetic genius that captures heart and bravado all in one breath. She’s that woman, and through her, so are you.

Indeed the dresses on dressforms seem to live and breathe, leaving the viewer to wonder about who wears the dress. Has its woman recently stepped away? Something of her personality or perfume lingers. She’s human, this woman, delicate yet fierce. She represents anyone. You can’t help but envision yourself in the dress…

Stajan-Ferkul believes that beauty exists in contradictions and says it can be found in the powerful aesthetic of glamour, as well as the charm of imperfection. Many of her fashion-centric works reflect this perspective as she explores perception of style and elegance as a whole, and its role in contemporary life.

As a staunch supporter of all that is good in the world, I found it challenging for the longest time to get comfortable with paradox until I discovered judgment surrounding contradictions exists only in duality. Of course the beauty of art is both divine and “unnecessary.” There’s no rat race to get to it. Divine beauty transcends the truth/ego paradigm and cannot be defined in the bounds of black and white. This basically lets us off the hook for being first creative, and second materialistic. We are material beings on a material plane. Let’s take a moment to celebrate via the creation and appreciation of art. Foolish consumerism notwithstanding, obviously we’re ‘allowed’ to collect beautiful treasures. Beauty, after all, is an experience. We’re supposed to treasure experience, right?

Vintage illustrations like Puttin’ on the Ritz and Uptown Girl allow the viewer to experience the wild and hypnotic nature of women, and reflect on an era of glamour when illustrators captured the spirit of the movement. This is what a woman looks like when she feels sexy. This is what she feels like. She remains live yet still as her emotions dance about her on the canvas. Your emotions dance about you. Sit back, relax; she’ll take you someplace good.

The white ballerina-esque dress in Beautiful Mess assumes the beauty of imperfection and is exactly that: a beautiful mess. We begin to understand and embrace the divine order of chaos as we’re swept away in its seductive play. Personally I would like to prance through airport security in this dress.

beautifulmess

Cocktails in Emerald City features a rich, green dress worn by Michaelle Jean (former Governor General of Canada) at a cultural event at Rideau Hall in Quebec where Stajan-Ferkul had the honour of exhibiting her artwork. “While looking radiant in a magnificent emerald green ensemble,” said Stajan-Ferkul, “it was her inner radiance that struck me most, graciously moving the spotlight off herself and onto my paintings.” Imagine floating into a room flush with admirers like a goddess. She has no legs, but damn, that’s a nice dress.

cocktails

Stajan-Ferkul has spent years exploring colour and texture, and mixing traditional art processes with mixed media techniques. In the beginning her paintings were more illustrative, but over the years her focus has turned to fine art. Small works have grown larger and larger, with featured works ranging from 30″x60″ to 36″x40″. Life size pieces can be found setting rooms and holding spaces around the globe.

While art and styles collaborate in their timelessness, her emphasis is always on bringing the emotional and intuitive elements of the theme to the piece. It’s as if each piece is a mirror reflecting back at you your own unique fabulousness, the experience curiously therapeutic. Did Stajan-Ferkul just crawl into your psyche and somehow make you feel good about yourself? Yes, this is exactly what she did, and she brought her pillow bed with her. Fine artist by day, Stajan-Ferkul is a true art therapist by night.

http://www.nichemagazine.ca
http://www.andreastajanferkul.com

Namaste: Regulate Yourself

“The guest is God.” (Ancient Hindu Proverb)

Atithidevo Bhava translated from Sanskrit means, “The manu guest is equivalent to God.” Taken from ancient Hindu scripture, the aphorism has been code of conduct for hospitality in Hindu society since time immemorial.

Often referred to as Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana, the word Namaste in Hindi means, “I bow to the divine in you,” the reason we bow our heads over our hands. Namah in Sanskrit translates to “bow,” “obeisance” or “adoration,” while te in Sanskrit means “to you.”

Alternate translations of the word namaste to consider include: 1) the divine in me recognizes and honours the divine in you; 2) the light in me recognizes and honours the light in you; 3) the light in me recognizes and honours the light in you, while you are free to roam your path—not mine; 4) your shit, not mine (as in: your shit is your shit, my shit is mine).

So… On the one hand we are instructed to treat the other as God, while on the other hand we are instructed to regulate ourselves. Ram Dass said, “Suffering is the sandpaper of our incarnation. It does its job of shaping us.” I feel the same way about metaphorical sandpaper shaping our relationships. Simply by living in servitude to our astrological blueprints, we naturally harmonize with some aspects of some blueprints, while we clash with certain aspects of others. Science would call blueprint harmonization constructive interference, where two vibrational wavelengths enhance each other. Destructive interference, where two vibrational wavelengths cancel each other out, would indicate discordance between blueprints.

Karma Yoga is the primary vehicle of the astrological blueprint. In this definition of the word, karma is synonymous with “service.” We can’t escape karma in these bodies, which are directed by astrological blueprints (contemplate architecture), but we can decide how we express our blueprints—much like we decorate our homes and commercial spaces. We create our realities from four primary vibrational, or universal, expressions: happiness, unhappiness, virtuousness and wickedness. Your astrological blueprint, or natal chart, is a snapshot of the sky (from Earth) at the precise time and location of your birth. Astrological blueprints offer insight into both our strengths (happiness and virtuosity) and weaknesses (unhappiness and wickedness). For purposes of simplification, we could say that our strengths coincide with Light, while our weaknesses coincide with Darkness. Think of the shadowy or dark nature of the blueprint as the default zone when the brain isn’t harmonizing via the Vagus nerve with the heart.

When we place a hand over the sternum in the area of the heart chakra, we stimulate the Vagus nerve, which invites the heart to harmonize its connections with the brain and all other vital organs of the body. Activating the Vagus nerve also signals the Central Nervous System to relax the alerting mechanism found in the reptilian or primal brain. Think fight/flight/freeze (or, fear). Some branches of mysticism believe that humans contain a reptilian brain because we descended from extraterrestrial reptiles. Historical artifacts exist to substantiate but not yet prove the efficacy of ancient, mystical, corroborating theories.

Legends claim that the reptilians are a race of master geneticists who scrambled and limited human DNA a few hundred thousand years ago to tighten control of humans via the moon satellite. According to mythological wisdom traditions spanning the globe, a great galactic war broke out in the cosmos some 364,000 years ago over ownership of the coveted planet Earth. I joke that humans own land, while aliens own planets. The aforementioned reptilian race (also known as the Annunaki) won the war, and there is said to be a nest embedded deep within Earth under present-day Iraq. The Annunaki are also rumoured to be master tunnel builders. For hundreds of thousands of years, the Annunaki’s dark agenda has infected the entire surface of Earth to shepherd us to the current conundrums we face on the planet today. Dating back to October 28, 2011, the veils of control, quarantine or containment began to lift, signaling the end of the Annunaki’s reign. And, as of December 21, 2012 (the end of Mayan calendar), the Annunaki no longer own the sparkling blue jewel tucked away on the outskirts of the universe. That said, the conservatives, I mean the Annunaki, aren’t giving up possession without a fight.

Interestingly science has discovered that an ancient, precise, genetic fusion between two human chromosomes (no. 2 and no. 7) occurred approximately two hundred thousand years ago. Science would argue that intentionality implies purpose, but the fusion of pre-existing DNA cannot be explained by evolution or science, because the fusion happened too fast. The tweaking of two letters of DNA on the Fox P-2 gene on chromosome no. 7, for instance, allow for complex speech, so scientists do not currently suspect foul play. Scientists do, however, know that Neanderthal and human walked Earth together, which means that humans did not descend from Neanderthals. Evidence, in fact, exists that humans actually bred with Neanderthals.

What scientists have termed “junk DNA” is said to be the scrambled DNA from the genetic tweaking approximately 200,000 years ago. Humans were limited from 12 strands to 2 strands of DNA—what we know today as the double helix.

Converging with Yoga as a sister science, astrological blueprint theory (that is, astrology) suggests that we regulate ourselves, and by extension one another through the mirror effect (which requires solitude, silence and introspection), in accordance with our inner urgings—whether others agree with us or not.

In Book One of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Samadhi Padi or Portion on Contemplation, Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Sutra 33 reads, “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”

Satchidananda wrote in his commentary, “Whether you are interested in reaching samadhi or plan to ignore Yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra. … You may not have any great goal in your life, but just try to follow this one Sutra very well and you will see its efficacy.”

In Sutra 33, Patanjali offers four keys to open the four kinds of locks in the world. The four keys—friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard—unlock the four locks: sukha, duhkha, punya and apunya. Sukha refers to happy forces, duhkha to unhappy forces, punya to virtuous forces, and apunya to wicked forces. I’ve replaced the word “people” (which Satchidananda used) with the word “forces.”

Astrological blueprints adeptly explain why different people do things differently. People born under similar sky conditions may be similar in thought inclination and attitudinal demonstration, but circumstance and interdimensional intention play greater roles in shaping behaviour than astrology. Remember that the natal chart is an inescapable yet flexible blueprint secluded to one singular parenthesis in time. Overlap could be argued, but we won’t wander off on that tangent here. Expanding on Patanjali’s work instead, let’s now assume that the four locks correlate with the four main categories of universal expression: happy, unhappy, virtuous and wicked.

Using the friendliness key means that we can be happy for happy people regardless of what kind of day we’re having. Opposite of happiness, we use the compassion key when those around us have vibrated themselves into an undesirable mood. With respect to virtuosity, we celebrate the beauty and accomplishments of others. Both friendliness and delight override jealousy. Tantra Yoga says be the perfect you. This means we delight in people being perfectly imperfectly themselves. Feel inspired, instead of jealous or threatened, by people who have accomplished greats feats of wonderfulness in this life.

To glean more understanding about the wicked lock, acquaint yourself with the work of Dr. George K. Simon Jr. in the field of psychology. He specializes in character disturbances, personality disorders and psychopathy. If you sense any judgments arising towards others with respect to the four locks, whisper silently to yourself, bless your spirit. Navigating the world of light and dark forces requires overriding dark inclinations and being as you as you can be—regardless of external opinions and approval.

I tend to think of the four locks as wavelengths. Consider that your brain is an electromagnetic receiver attuning to available wavelengths in alignment with outgoing signals. Rewiring the brain requires willingness to change. Nothing can change in a state of denial. I see most predominantly that we are either a) in denial of dark forces in general, or that we are b) in denial about the capacity of the dark forces to destroy us.

Let’s look at reality, keeping in mind that there’s a difference between being realistic and accepting the reality.

Banks and bureaucracies crash economies by allowing inflation to exist. Bureaucracies are nonessential authorities within governments mismanaging money (i.e. tax dollars) as well as legislation. Bureaucracies are responsible for perpetuating multitrillion dollar war culture. Bureaucracies pit ordinary citizens against one another via political, cultural and ethnic affiliations as well as geographical boundaries. Conservatives, for example, hate terrorists and recipients of social assistance because conservative political parties spread misinformation about how tax dollars are being managed. If a country like Canada sells weapons to a country like Israel, who then bombs, kills and dislocates Syrians (for example), Canada is then expected to pay war reparations out to Syria as well as bring refugees from Syria into Canada. Refugees are expected to work, and as far as I’m aware, only receive social assistance payments for one year. If you think that’s a total waste of money, you can’t blame the refugees.

Canadian citizens access social services for various reasons, and the overdose and suicide death tolls are directly related to world war culture, budget cuts and social services being frozen. Meanwhile the cost of living continues to increase (hello, inflation), and then somehow military efforts are continuously expanded—in the name of “social welfare.” Tell me again how bureaucracies aren’t weapons of mass destruction?

The war against communism is a war against poor people and the resources of Earth. After learning about the history of twentieth century war world, I’m convinced that “communist” is a catch word to stimulate public uproar like “jobs.” As if war isn’t the most bloody expensive “social program” funded by tax dollars. People either forget or don’t know that the original purpose of income tax revenue was to fund “social programs,” which, when you think about it, was code for war. Newsflash folks: twentieth century war culture lives on, war is the most profitable industry on the planet, and taxpayers are paying for it.

Socialism and supporting people to be independent of other people through genuine social programs are not the same thing. Socialism strips people of their rights. So, I guess then in terms of politics that is how Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are behaving with respect to cannabis legalization in Canada—like socialists. All of them.

Two hundred Canadians dying daily of drug overdoses isn’t simply tragic; in the face of housing and opiate crises, these deaths are the result of an insidious systemic genocide called Capitalism. Rent and cost of living increases are unethical in the wake of housing crises. The government doing nothing to halt and reverse the climbing costs of everyday living is genocide.

In her book, Family of Light, Barbara Marciniak wrote, “Knowing takes courage. … It can be weightless, and yet the densest and heaviest energy you would ever hold or pass through. Many turn their backs on knowing, and some run the other way. Some have no idea… not the foggiest clue to the experience…”

Apathy towards corruption is renounced knowing, cognitive sloth and willful ignorance. Apathy is the root cause of genocide. Conservatives want people dead because dead people don’t drain resources. The sense of entrapment at the bottom, however, is an illusion because we could and all do eventually “die.” Personally, I’d rather live because the last thing I want to do is watch, from the bleachers, people pretend to care for five seconds that I died. What can I do in an astral body from the bleachers in a physical reality anyways, other than broadcast my feelings and thoughts?

Suicide is tapping out. The idea that he could tap out at any time comforted Hunter S. Thompson throughout his outrageously spectacular life. Thompson tapped out at age 67. Anthony Bourdain (a Cancer, like Thompson), tapped out at age 62. Chris Cornell, also a Cancer, was 52. The list could go on. We can’t control the choices others make for themselves, no, but we can promote flourishing (rather than floundering) environments for people to live and thrive within. If you’re a staunch conservative, stop pretending you care that people commit suicide—or even contract illness for that matter. Cancer is a capitalism gene. Voting conservative in elections perpetuates mass illness. I feel the same way about staunch conservatives that I feel about staunch feminists and staunch vegans. To be fair, it’s challenging to argue with feminists given the current climate of jobs and weather warfare, but not everyone boasts the immune system of a thoroughbred like competitive vegans. It’s like they’re influenced by capitalism or something.

Extreme imbalance on either end of the spectrum isn’t solving anything. Love without light creates chaos. We require the information of intelligence (light) to order love. Extreme imbalance only causes further division. We must instead cooperate and merge our 8 billion minds to walk the middle way. That said, it’s time we as global communities collapse crown control and transmute contemporary politics from lead to gold.

When we realize what we’re dealing with here, there’s no point in being mean to it. That lesson took me a long time to learn. Notice where indifference and compassion differ: they open different locks. Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 33 doesn’t mention anything about these keys being interchangeable. Remembering Yogi Bhajan’s fourth Sutra of the Aquarian Age, though, I tend to consider indifference an act of compassion.

Brain cells called neurocardiocytes compose sixty percent of the heart. The electromagnetic field of the heart is larger than the electromagnetic field of the brain. Remember we place a hand on the heart to harmonize the heart with the brain. Without activating the 40,000 sensory neurites (that is, brain cells) in the heart, genius may flourish temporarily in a nanosecond of Time, but is ultimately destructive. JFK spoke of the Dark Forces of Science in reference to man-made Armageddon. In 1650, Francis Bacon proclaimed that the mission of modern science was to obtain knowledge that could be used to dominate and control nature. Darwin’s unintentional modus operandi “survival of the fittest” translated to “survival of the upper class”—or rather, unnatural selection. Darwin actually said “strongest,” not fittest. Unnatural selection has not surprisingly proliferated war.

Not only is legalizing the mechanistic treatment of humans and animals destructive, it’s psychopathic. I don’t know what to make of human beings who think we are militants and machines. I can’t help but think that these people have been so deeply indoctrinated in colonialism that they aren’t thinking for themselves. It is said, by the way, that the Annunaki introduced colonialism to the world.

In 1930, astronomer, physicist and mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington said, “It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character.”

“Mental” and “character” weigh equal importance in that statement.

Astronomer, physicist and mathematician Sir James Jeans (1877-1946) added the following sentiment: “… the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.”

To round out the discussion, German physicist and founding father of quantum mechanics Max Planck said, “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

Both astrology and yoga, which are sister sciences, teach us how to be honest with ourselves about ourselves without taking the information we discover too personally. Astrology is the science of the stars, while yoga is the science of the mind. The mind is a soul, and your astrology chart is the blueprint for your soul to operate within during this lifetime. This is the regulation that namaste is referring to. Know yourself, and, as this fundamental principle of Yoga suggests, regulate yourself, too.

The questions to answer then become… Who are the “wicked”? And… What indeed does “disregard toward the wicked” mean?

The Secret Business of Yoga Teachers

“The last thing we need are our very own caregivers making us feel fearful, because fear suppresses the immune system. It doesn’t matter what courses of treatment—whether they’re alternative or conventional—the real issue is how you feel about those treatments. Those treatments and the people administering them need to make you feel strong and empowered and hopeful.” – Anita Moorjani

Although not widely recognized by insurance benefits, yoga is indeed a treatment—and not merely yoga “therapy”; all asana traditions can be therapeutic to some body. Asana, in Sanskrit, means “comfortable, steady position.” Often called poses, postures or movement, asana can be static (still) or dynamic (moving).

There are as many specializations within asana tradition as there are postural variations; probably infinite. As a result, yoga teachers are often expected to be Jack’s or Jill’s of all the physical yoga trades, like it’s possible or reasonable to be all things to all people at once.

Obviously, we want our yoga teachers to know basic, classical yoga poses. I wouldn’t argue that learning therapeutic techniques builds a strong foundation either. You’ll never hear a therapeutic yoga teacher accusing someone of being afraid to push it in backbends. That’s the kind of nonsense teachers learn from Bikram Choudhury. Training aside, it’s paramount (in my opinion) that yoga teachers have our own home practices. That is how we learn the subtleties of movements and cues in the biz; the secret kindling for those of us who create our own sequences. With multiple approaches to postures and movements, however, I’m not done.

Let’s start with reality and capitalism. The average yoga teacher in 2018 earns approximately $40-$50 per class—the exact same amount we were earning ten years ago. I’m inclined to call it a stipend. If yoga teacher wages caught up with inflation, experienced yoga teachers would be earning $80-$100 per class—minimum.

To break it down, the average full-time yoga teacher in Vancouver, BC, teaches approximately 24 classes per week. For the sake of simplification, one yoga class equals the energy equivalent of four hours of quantifiable work. We’re talking intellectual, emotional, and physical output here. So those yoga teachers in Vancouver teaching 24 classes per week? They’re working the energy equivalent of 96 hours per week. That doesn’t include creating sequences or playlists, tending to their own practices, or anything other than teaching and running around to teach.

In Japan, men dropping dead because they’re working 80+ hour weeks is called Karōshi. I’m not entirely sure how yoga teachers are expected to keep up with capitalism like everyone else on stagnant wages, but can we agree that 40 hours constitutes a reasonable work week?

Within a reasonable model, then, the average yoga teacher earning $40-$50 per class and teaching 10 classes per week, is earning approximately $19,600-$24,500 per year (assuming up to 3 weeks in classes are cancelled each year for holidays and extraneous circumstances). That yoga teacher does not receive a pension; no dental, prescription or paramedical coverage; and no vacation, bereavement or sick days.

That yoga teacher is then expected to pay: nearly $3,600 in taxes; triple premiums for car, home and teaching insurance; car maintenance and gas (teaching at multiple locations throughout a city full-time is not reasonable or even in many cases doable without a car); phone bill, internet bill, electricity bill; and then roughly $1,072 per month and rising if we live alone in a market value rental. Without a sugar daddy, we’re already in the negative, and we haven’t even eaten yet—let alone appropriately attired ourselves.

Is leaving your day job really worth becoming a yoga teacher, you ask? Talk about rolling with the punches.

It’s not a wonder my dad wanted me to first secure a golf scholarship to some prestigious university in the States, and when that plan failed, he promoted nursing school. If I were a nurse, no one would ever tell me that what I did for a living wasn’t real work, and a man would notice the intrinsic dowry and ask me to be his wife. The problem was I had no interest in cleaning up vomit or wiping bums, or tending to people in that way. I’m not a crisis angel.

I care more about investing in the frontend of health, rather than the backend. Even on my deathbed, I got my ass down on that mat. That said, nurses do and always will provide essential services.

Instead of nursing school, I studied English lit and writing. When I worked my first and only corporate job in the two years following convocation, I remember watching the life being sucked out of my coworkers who weren’t nourished by their jobs. They were connected to the dysfunctional community within the working environment to varying degrees, but the number of people whose health was failing them—including my own—alarmed me. I knew in my twenties that I couldn’t continue working jobs, whether I liked the work or not (as in the case of writing for newspapers), that killed me.

Within a year of leaving university, I decided to embark upon my first yoga teacher training. Nearly a decade later, I’ve learned that yoga teachers rarely receive raises and teach for less than we’re worth because we love our work. Some of us legitimately have bills to pay, too. Nonetheless… If qualified, quality, passionate, experienced yoga teachers were paid what we’re worth, 5 classes per week would be akin to earning $40,000 per year, while 10 classes per week would equate to $80,000 annually. Liveable wages. No social assistance necessary. We could swap salaries with the military. Or the bureaucracy! And pump out courtesies galore.

Hey, the military (i.e. government) pays for professional development. Prioritizing frontend healthcare and decolonializing Canada could save taxpayers millions—if not billions—of dollars in down time expenses.

Pipe dreams aside, cultivating a home yoga practice, along with creating sequences for classes, takes time. Professional development costs money. Please review what you pay for your yoga classes, and note what your yoga teacher isn’t being compensated monetarily for.

Courtesies often mistaken for responsibilities include: playing music/creating playlists, massage, ambience/lighting (which is the responsibility of the studio), delivering props and rolling out mats, etc. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to show up early or hang around after class. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to provide your class with extra props. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to be a custodian or a receptionist. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid for invoicing, administration or scheduling. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to sit on the phone with anyone discussing business. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid for anything other than being qualified, and then showing up and holding a safe space for people to explore their own yoga practices. Yet, exercise is as nonoptional as brushing your teeth—nonnegotiable if you want to live an optimally healthy life. Physical anything requires maintenance, right?

A lot of what we’re seeing in contemporary, popular, transient culture is yoga merging with fitness. Bikram’s Hot Yoga is the most classical and infamous example. Ironically, too, we’re running him out of the cage and still acting like him, and nobody even knows it.

Truth be told, I worked out in gyms for eight years, bouncing in and out of yoga classes for the final two before quitting the gym cold turkey. Bikram was my aerobic bridge. Fitness clearly isn’t wrong (you are, after all, responsible for following the inclinations of your own inner urgings), but I moved away from fitness mentality and methods because I didn’t find the discipline effective or mindful. It didn’t make me a more conscientious person in my ordinary life. Fitness also didn’t do anything flattering or therapeutic for my body.

Thinking about all those years of physiotherapists, dumbbells and fitness machines not teaching me a thing about conditioning my core makes me want to yell, could somebody please give me a dick! I needed a sandbag.

I gave Marie Windsor Pilates a try, too, before finally abandoning the gym. For those unaware, Joseph Pilates was a German physical trainer known for inventing the Pilates method of physical fitness. Operative word, “fitness.” Windsor and Stott are to Pilates what Moksha is to Bikram: Spinoffs.

I did actually also complete an 8-week mentorship with a Pilates instructor during my advanced therapeutic yoga training, along with a 20-hour certification in tensegrity core yoga—which incorporates movements inspired by Pilates. But, I don’t specialize in Pilates per se for a reason. Pilates leaves out the breath, subtle energy and feet. You can’t address core stabilization without addressing the feet. That said, I can’t service everybody. Sharing the stage with yoga and fitness instructors alike doesn’t feel like competition where I work anyways; it feels like sharing.

If we’re injuring ourselves in yoga, one of three things is likely happening: 1) improper alignment/form; 2) insufficient core cultivation; 3) inappropriate poses/sequencing/pacing—all with an overlying awareness of vibration and mood, as in, your foul moods (along with a lack of mindfulness and presence within movement and postures) can lead you to hurting yourself.

A quiet, insidious fact those unaware might not consider, however, is that yoga studios typically treat yoga teachers like we’re completely and totally dispensable. Hello, capitalism? I’ve largely avoided studios since a high-impact motor vehicle accident (MVA) in 2012 as a result. I couldn’t keep up with the mat race.

As an aside, time will tell if the therapeutic yoga community will stand up for the industry as a whole or remain out for themselves. I opted out of grandfathering myself into a “Yoga Therapist” designation, because I couldn’t prioritize paying for reoccurring membership fees—including a reoccurring licensing fee—every one to three years. Who was this licensing body that required me to fill out 150 hours of forms, completely negating years of direct yet unrecorded experience working with clients, including myself? I guess no one told the affluential people that even physiotherapists are ignored with respect to insurance claims. Lawyers and insurance adjusters only listen to doctors. If the doctor’s not on board, then the yoga therapist is hooped. All those forms filled out for literally nothing. If you do end up in court, the opposing lawyer will pit you against your client anyways. Do these important regulators really think that yoga “therapists” will jump ahead of physio and massage in the major league? I’d hate to see anyone fall off their high horse, but doubtful.

I’d claim Thai yoga massage if it were an option, but let’s stop enabling the disordered personalities behind academia and its demon spawn colonialism. Yoga doesn’t stand for that. No yogi, except for the cunning imposters who profit from membership dues, wants to deal with a ‘College of Yoga Therapists.’

Yoga teaches us to regulate ourselves. If we’re not regulating ourselves, then we’re not being yogis. As yogis and yoga teachers, it’s our responsibility to continue sharing this wisdom with the world. This means we stop catering to and placating psychopathy, which humanity often finds regulating us in positions of so-called authority. The Yoga Alliance (for example), often misrepresented as an international governing body, is a registry operating within the United States. Any accredited yoga teacher in the world can register with the US Yoga Alliance for an annual fee, but membership benefits (including cheaper liability insurance) are exclusive to members residing within the United States only. When we’re talking about “accreditation,” we’re talking in most cases about yoga teacher trainings (i.e. schools) meeting minimum standards set by the US Yoga Alliance. Neither the Yoga Alliance nor yoga studios understandably want to lose income generated from membership dues. Yoga schools rely on aspiring yoga teachers to sign up for their trainings. Regardless of experience and qualifications, running teacher trainings and workshops is how yoga teachers and studios (in theory) bust out of poverty. Capitalism ultimately necessitates the catch-22 of hoop-jumping, yet psychopaths expertly fit themselves into criteria. Not even the law can regulate deceit and denial. Who argues with the domino effect of psychopathy when it’s paying the bills?

As yoga teachers, we don’t need insurance adjusters, lawyers, registrars and colleges regulating us; that would be asking impoverished wages to feed bureaucracy.

The student-teacher relationship is far more critical than a yoga teacher’s professional affiliations and titles. Let it be known that not one yoga “therapist” helped me (other than myself) following a 180-kilometer, high impact MVA, not that we can take our good looks on paper to our graves. Trauma-sensitivity requires experience and education. Certifications alone do not make a yoga teacher trauma sensitive. Instead of treating yoga like a paramedical benefit, the government subsidizing all accredited yoga teachers and studios—allowing clients to choose the teachers they rehab and study with—would be a smarter move.

Thankfully I was smart enough to train with an accredited yoga school, but I speak on matters of rehabilitation from experience. Within a year of that MVA, for example, I was forced to deconstruct what I had learned about safe and therapeutic yoga practices. Not only did much of what I’d been taught not apply to my particular injuries, but certain therapeutic applications actually aggravated my injuries. Because I prioritize balancing discipline and pleasure with sustainability, I’ve come to rely on a combination of deep core stabilization, fascia-releasing techniques, as well as classical yoga asana and Vinyasa traditions to rehab and strengthen my body. Part of what I’m dealing with is learning how to manage and live with multiple disabilities. Fortunately, I’m well-trained in honouring my body.

Within most yoga teacher trainings currently on the market, though, yoga teachers aren’t learning the individual nature of safe sequencing, the difference between verbal and physical adjustments, or that battery and assault charges could be the end result of touching students without consent. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF stretching) is generally taught in college and university kinesiology classes, not yoga teacher trainings.

Instead of regulating teachers, perhaps it would be more effective to regulate yoga schools churning out teachers like we’re disposable cups of Starbucks coffee.

Interestingly it was Moksha “yogis” who informed me back somewhere between 2010 and 2011 that offering physical adjustments is what makes people good yoga teachers. When I first started teaching yoga, I received compliments on the one hand for offering originally styled yoga classes that left people feeling complete, while I received complaints on the other hand about the pacing of my classes—as in, they were too slow and unchallenging—predominantly from Moksha and other large-chain studios, which wasn’t entirely accurate or fair. Not one Bikram lineage studio ever bitched to me about my classes. For whatever reason, it didn’t occur to Moksha et al. studios that temporarily slowing down a class might be the most responsible strategy to get to know the bodies in it. If I’m expected to teach multilevel classes, then accommodating everyone who attends those classes is my responsibility.

Somehow, though, the insurance industry is brainwashing studio owners into thinking that teachers are a liability if we don’t carry our own insurance (which, of course, costs us money while saving studios money), yet those same studio owners aren’t encouraging their teachers (or giving us the time) to get to know the bodies in our classes—acrobatic classes notwithstanding. Yoga teachers are cut from studio schedules after four to eight months if we’re not delivering full classes, yet the people struggling to keep pace in those classes aren’t encouraged to engage in private yoga lessons—and they’re certainly not being accommodated in larger, multilevel classes.

I bounced in and out of yoga classes for two years from 2005 to 2007 because the yoga teachers teaching those seemingly unstructured, “multilevel” classes didn’t acknowledge me. I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t understand how sitting out and simply watching half or more of a yoga class was good for me—why I couldn’t ax dumbbells and fitness machines.

Private yoga lessons are underrated because few people want to pay extra for a yoga teacher’s time, and are shocked that a yoga teacher would consider charging money for it.  Either that, or studio owners are stifling the competition, I mean, their teachers. Or, governments are sucking up tax dollars to pay for militaries and bureaucracies of mass destruction. Imagine, if 4 to 10 private yoga lessons were mandatory for struggling bodies to continue attending group yoga classes—funded, of course, by citizens’ tax dollars. Less people would struggle in group classes, and more people would regularly attend.

Which brings me to pay structures. Did you know that many yoga teachers are roped into pay agreements where they’re paid by the head instead of a flat rate per class? This pay structure can be favourable for yogalebrities and well-known, experienced teachers who’ve spent 25+ years building their followings. Packing 50 or more bodies in a room is lucrative for those teachers. But the majority of yoga teachers pressed into accepting those pay terms to simply do what they love for a living (i.e. leading exercise and relaxation classes) are walking away with sometimes as little $8, or $3.75—or even zero dollars per class if no one shows. Talk about cheapening a trade. It’s like writers accepting bylines for less than 10 cents per word.

Not me. If you hire me, you pay me for my time, not the number of bodies who show up to my yoga classes. I am not a salesman and reject the expectation. If a class is cancelled after my alarm rings or I show up and no one shows, I still bill for that class. I am a yoga teacher serving the people yoga. I’m also a professional expected to participate in capitalism. Interestingly avoiding yoga studios has helped me to feel more valued in my line of work. For nearly six years, I’ve taught predominantly in private office spaces—same groups week in and week out, same smiling faces.

Now of course I love the quintessential nature of studios, and I have always exercised creative control in my classes regardless of criticism. I figure, however, if the public is informed about how yoga teachers are paid (and subsequently treated), then perhaps studios and teachers will start receiving subsidization and tax breaks, and people might put a lid on unreasonable expectations. Check unreasonable expectations at the door, and allow your yoga teachers the time and space to express ourselves intuitively and individually, while also honouring your own preferences. Understand that yoga teachers are as entitled to individual expression as anyone.

Few if any people who attend my classes these days complain. I’m constantly watching bodies and faces for feedback, as well as sensing energy in the room. I encourage requests, regularly abandon plans, and often work individually with people on their form and technique after classes. I’m generous with my time, energy and attention. I care about creating community (sangha) and safe, welcoming spaces—which to cultivate, in my experience, requires years rather than months.

That’s not to say teaching yoga doesn’t challenge me. Quite the contrary; teaching live, multilevel classes is the biggest challenge a yoga instructor faces, along with what I specialize in: packing ninety minutes of yoga into 40 and 45-minutes classes.

Regardless of class length, I encourage people who attend my classes to stretch at home in conjunction with other activities, and to cultivate their own home practices. I delight in stories of class attendees incorporating what they learn from me at home. I’m not concerned about becoming obsolete, though, because people are drawn to community and camaraderie. Not all who attend live, group yoga classes are interested in establishing a home routine. It’s not a requirement. Life is meant to be sustainable. Besides, you have more access to instruction and attention from a yoga teacher during live classes, which is why I’m not concerned about online boutique studios popping up either. Yoga classes aren’t going extinct.

That said, I’ve discovered that I’m not a yoga teacher who can lead advanced, acrobatic classes; I haven’t reached that level (krama) in my own practice. I can, however, assist those whose practices lean in that direction, and I can help those wanting to advance their practices build strong foundations. I consider myself a bridge between beginner and intermediate asana, my own asana practice falling in the categories of advanced beginner to early intermediate. I see it as my job to know what’s out there and to understand what other teachers are teaching.

Nevertheless, it took me eight years of teaching to realize that I’m not interested in being a Jill of all styles or techniques. I practice and teach an anti-inflammatory yet athletic style of core-focused, classical yoga. On the one end of my background, you’ll find my teaching rooted in a therapeutic approach; at the other end of the polarity you’ll find Bikram influencing me; while walking the middle path you’ll find me merging with the cosmic pulse of Vinyasa.

When we’re successfully able to adjust to a low (or even flat) taxation system, we could leave the going rate for yoga classes where they’ve been for at least a decade ($50/class). Then yoga teachers wouldn’t require raises necessarily, but if studios did well and weren’t being raped in taxes and overhead, teachers could plausibly rely on Christmas bonuses at the end of each year, which would be amazing, and would vary depending on each studio’s success.

Otherwise teachers, own your styles! Don’t be afraid to refer clients out, and don’t let the competition fool you into conforming. If you don’t have your own style, don’t pretend you do. Perhaps your personality alone is your winning contribution, yet you follow in the footsteps of others. For other yoga teachers, it will be their mechanical knowledge of the body where they shine their boots. They know nothing of roots, evolution or subtle energy, but they understand body mechanics and perhaps even physiology—the personal trainers of yoga teachers, typically a transferable role; not the only course, but a viable pathway for those not interested in understanding eternity and the universe.

Caring about people who can’t do anything for me makes me happy. What about you?

“When I see things change for the better because someone’s voice has been heard, that’s the ultimate reward.” – Sandy Miller

People live fantastical lives. Look at Quincy Jones. Other than continually compromising his health overworking and a few failed attempts at marriage, everything he’s touched professionally has turned to gold. The man has lived nothing short of a prolific life.

I think what’s happening on planet Earth right now is people are confusing the word “agree” with the word “cooperate.” People don’t know what words mean and how to apply them anymore.

Like labels, we think we can slap a word on someone and expect our assessments to improve our quality of life. A big bargain to swallow in my own attempt to make sense of psychopathy and its impacts on Earth and humanity.

In the grand scheme of eternity, we may not in the immediate future understand how our actions affect ourselves or others. Such a karmic conversation poses a slippery slope since we haven’t reached a collective agreement about what “karma” means. I think politics originally may have attempted to alleviate the burdens of disagreement, but these thoughts might be generous.

I suppose we’ll have to figure out a way to psychologically trick the work horses into competing for integrity. Imagine that. We understand how our decisions affect others and somehow still manage to live completely satisfying, privileged lives.

I’ve been asked why I care so much about Indigenous people. Eleven years ago when I wrote the following article for the Campbell River Mirror, although I struggled psycho-emotionally, I still very much lived a pampered, privileged life. Sandy Miller taught me the need to slow down in the company of Indigenous people. Slow down. Assess your thoughts before passing words through your lips.

Why do I care so much about Indigenous people? I’ve experienced social assistance. I know what it’s like to be downtrodden enough to need it and stripped of my dignity for needing it. I know what it’s like to be generous with my time, energy and resources on the one hand, while being called a “freeloader” and “tax burden” for simply needing help and being left for dead on the other. I know what it’s like to be a grownup with clipped wings living in the midst of corruption, I mean, capitalism. I know what it’s like to be denied access to necessary healthcare because I couldn’t afford it, and I know what it’s like to live with the consequences.

As a white person, however, I don’t know what it’s like to have my family and culture raped, pillaged and murdered, or what it’s like to be subject to an Indian Act.

Now, let’s pause for a moment and bust the myth that all Indigenous people (save for the cats who work in petroleum) live off social assistance and so-called handouts for a living. Most of the Indigenous people I have the privilege to call friend work more than me, earn more money than me, and pay more income taxes than me. According to a study conducted by the Toronto Dominion Bank of Canada and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business in 2011, Indigenous people were net contributors to the Canadian economy by 11 billion dollars. Google “TD and the Aboriginal Market.” If that’s not contributing to a “healthy” economy, I don’t know what is.

Meanwhile, not only is the notion of “healthy competition” an oxymoron, it’s indoctrination. Healthy competition can’t exist without integrity, meaning you won’t find greed in a healthy atmosphere. Without integrity, nothing or no one is healthy. Integrity is the elixir of evolution and provides a fertile breeding ground for progress.

I’ve heard people say things like “lean hard in challenging times,” but what if your friends, family and fellow taxpayers call you a drain in challenging times? Furthermore, what is your definition of “challenging times”?

What if you don’t have anyone to lean on as a result of remote access barriers? What if you just lost your leg because you didn’t have access to a trust fund, sugar daddy, or healthcare coverage to prevent the necessity of losing your leg in the first place? What if you were taken from your parents? What if your children were taken from you?

If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these questions based on experience, then you are privileged. Fear activates cortisol, while anger activates the production of adrenaline in the body. The activation of both stress hormones within the body shunts blood from the organs to the limbs. We call this the fight-flight-freeze response. Cortisol feeds viruses, not yet known or shared by science. You know those mystery autoimmune illnesses everyone seems to suffer from these days? Viruses. Cortisol. Fear. (For more information, see the work of Anthony William.) What is causing the fear? Governments mismanaging money. Unfair taxation systems. Rising costs of living. Prejudice. Despair. Division. Imagine, living in a hospital because you can’t afford a place to live, and you just lost your leg because you couldn’t afford appropriate healthcare to manage your condition. If that was your white grandpa, would you call him a tax burden and tell him to get a job?

Habitual thinking patterns form grooves in the brain, created by neurons firing and subsequently wiring together. Under chronically stressful circumstances where a person experiences next to zero relief from stress hormones depleting the kidneys, adrenals and other organs, that toxic cortisol continually flushing through the system eats away insulation protecting the nerves. Uninsulated nerves (hypersensitivity) along with a chronic playback loop of horrifying experiences (habitual thinking patterns) is what medical psychology calls post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Untreated PTSD can create a range of undesirable health consequences, depending on a person’s environment and genes. Keeping in mind that chronic stress activates 99 percent of dormant genetic dis-ease potentiality—meaning that approximately 99 percent of the time, environment determines genetic expression.

I can’t help but think back to high school in Alberta, when we young and ignorant teenagers would trespass out in what we called the boons and party on private property. Owners of the various properties—stoners, boners, acid flats (to name a few)—called the cops on us regularly, but not one time did any of us mostly white kids ever take a bullet to the head for trespassing on another person’s property. We just kept trespassing and partying and getting away.

A number of times the farmer who owned stoners (one of our favoured party locales), even dragged a big, black, dead, stinking cow out to where we’d place the fire pit, hoping that the stench of dead, rotting cow would deter our persistently, unlawful misconduct. Nope. The boys we partied with had trucks and dragged the dead cow away.

Yet, in the case of Colten Boushie versus Gerald Stanley, not only was it completely illegal for Boushie to trespass on Stanley’s property, but it was also completely legal for Stanley to kill Boushie for trespassing. So I guess then that the moral of the story is that trespassing on another person’s land is pardonable only if you’re a white person.

The cerebral cortex is the region of the brain that registers empathy and compassion, but not in psychopaths and heavily narcissistic people. That is basically what our conundrum on planet Earth comes down to: reorganizing psychopathy.

Trees don’t grow from the leaves down. Likewise, the roots of reconciliation must be planted from the citizens and grow upwards.

Harold King obviously wasn’t enthusiastic about a young, white co-op reporter sitting at his bedside snapping photos. Sandy Miller taught me to allow Indigenous people to gather their thoughts, something I implore myself to work at—allowing people to gather their thoughts. Not everyone’s thoughts rifle out of their mouths like mine. I didn’t have any friends up island, so after meeting Harold King near the beginning of the co-op, I would visit him on my down time from the paper and bring him fresh canned salmon from my roommate. He liked fresh salmon. That made us both momentarily happy. I didn’t expect him to like me or give me anything in return. Those visits were about soothing him.

Strong Medicine
Campbell River Mirror
Friday, May 11, 2007
by Jill Lang

Harold King smiled once during his brief meeting with Aboriginal Liaison Nurse Sandy Miller, just outside the hospital doors. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders—face lit like a proud, adoring father—but only for a moment.

Miller is VIHA’s Aboriginal liaison nurse in Campbell River, and her efforts in the past three years have earned her the trust of Aboriginal people like King, as well as the respect of fellow health care workers. Her goal? Bring voice to First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.

“When I first met Sandy, I didn’t think too much of her because she was white,” says King, adding it took him two years to warm up to her.

In that time, Miller helped King find a podiatrist for his feet and reconnected him with management for diabetes. King lost part of his leg seven months ago and has been living in the hospital ever since, because he can’t find a place to live.

As an Aboriginal liaison nurse, Miller works with peoples’ strengths to lift their spirits, because a strong spirit, she says, is the medicine that helps them heal. But, her career didn’t start out this way.

Miller grew up in rural Ontario, then relocated to Australia after nursing in Canada just under 10 years.

Before the move, Miller worked in an intensive care unit in the U.S. to gain American nursing accreditation, after which she emigrated to Australia in 1993 on a one-year working visa.

“The moment my visa went up, I knew I had the freedom to go wherever I wanted to,” she says. “I got scooped up by the Australian Catholic university in ’94 and lectured in the biophysical sciences and the philosophy of nursing.”

From there Miller transferred to Grifith university in North Brisbane, where she taught and finished her bachelor of nursing.

Instead of renewing her contract in 1998, though, Miller went sailing through the Solomon Islands, Philippines and Micronesia. Her passion for Aboriginal health sparked during this adventure, so she abandoned teaching university and her high-powered medical career to explore a field that would one day bring her back to Canada.

“There were whole civilizations that had never seen an immunization or hypodermic needle, or a bandaid,” says Miller. “And they were perfectly healthy.”

“There were whole civilizations that had never seen an immunization or hypodermic needle, or bandaid, and they were perfectly healthy.”

Miller worked in Aboriginal health in the Australian outback for three years before migrating back to Canada with her husband Tim Miller.

“I plucked [Tim] out of the desert in Australia and said we’d only go back to Canada for six months to show him B.C.,” says Miller. “That was six years ago and we’re still here.”

The pair first settled in New Westminster in the lower Mainland in 2001, but Miller wasn’t content living an urban lifestyle. A couple years later, they ferried over to Vancouver Island and rode their motorcycles up, up, up until they found Campbell River.

“I knew it was home,” she said. “There’s something magic here.”

Mountains and seas with seals bobbing up and down in the waters swept Miller up.

“I’ll never forget this,” says Miller, “it was 10 to 4 that Friday, and we rock in wearing our motorcycle gear… and [we] ask to see the director of nursing.

“My husband is also a nurse, so we sit down and say we’d like to have jobs—I do Aboriginal health and my husband does emergency. She pretty much hired us right there saying we’d fit in well with the community.”

A fitting statement considering Miller is now VIHA’s Aboriginal Health Liaison, and her husband the North Island emergency department’s educator.

The Millers officially planted their feet here in 2004, and haven’t looked back. As Aboriginal Liaison Nurse, Miller helps bring two cultures together so that Aboriginal or First Nations people can more easily receive health care.

Say for instance, a person needs surgery. Pre-op clinics are almost always necessary, so a patient would have to travel to Campbell River from their home in a remote village like Kyuquot. There is much information to absorb from paperwork and handouts alone, and sometimes there is a discrepancy between the surgeon’s recommendation and the prescription label.

Patients will either call Miller and ask for help, or do nothing because they don’t know assistance is available to them.

“These access barriers to surgeries are how people got sick in the first place,” says Miller.

“These access barriers to surgeries are how people got sick in the first place.”

People who live in rural or remote communities like Kyuquot or Kingcom only have access to doctors once every two weeks, she says.

Child-raising is usually done by the elders, because mom’s are off studying or working.

The child’s health is always put first, so for the providers in these isolated regions, the implications of seeking health care are daunting.

“[The elders] need to be knocking on death’s door before they even consider seeing a doctor,” says Miller. “If we remove that person—the glue that holds the family and the community together—there’s a big void and it’s really stressful on the home.”

Miller is responsible for ensuring a positive hospital experience for the patient, providing access to the family and linking the patient up to community supports (i.e. a health care and medical supplies) upon discharge. This, she says, is the strongest part of her job.

A big part of her job is educating hospital staff in cultural competence.

“This happens when you know how you and your actions impact another person from a different culture,” she says. “We need to be sensitive to Aboriginal needs.”

Her efforts haven’t gone unappreciated.

Last year, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth people in Kyuquot adopted Miller, a tremendous honour for which she received a celebration of life feast.

“These two beautiful elders adopted me and gave me an Indian name,” she says. “I vowed that I would always honour my place in their family as their daughter.

“Being with the elders is my favourite part of this job.

“They’re the silent leaders, they keep everyone and everything together and they’re so wise because they share their teachings.”

Miller says her boss Darlene McGougan is a true visionary for Aboriginal health, and thinks celebrating National Nurses Week (May 7 to 12) and National Aboriginal Nurses Day (May 13) is a good opportunity to recognize nurses for more than what they do.

The position of liaison nurse demands love, courage and strength—all qualities of which Miller emanates naturally, adding to her spirited charm.

“When I see things change for the better because someone’s voice has been heard,” Miller said, “that’s the ultimate reward.”

The Early Days of an Unsuspecting Arts Writer

I spent the last weekend of August 2018 doubling up on weddings. Across from me at wedding numero 1 sat an old friend from writing school, gushing about our time in classes together and praising me as an integral component of her warm memories of writing school. Her guts weren’t splitting open to write like mine (she said, though I’m impressed that she remembered that about me), and her memories of writing school wouldn’t be complete without me. I guess all that bitching I did to my invisible friends as of late about nobody liking (or remembering) me elicited a response from the universe. How delightfully surprised I was to find myself in the company of an admirer—who knew and remembered me as a writer.

If I have my facts straight, which I might not, this is the second official profile I had ever written of an artist (for money—$12/hour, I believe). When I applied to Homes & Living Magazine in 2011 and landed a job as an arts writer with my very own arts columns, this didn’t make the portfolio. I think I may have been so stressed out about being broke that I didn’t even remember that I had profiled artists, though I don’t recall applying for an arts-specific writing gig. Without giving her away, words can’t describe how awesome that editor was to me. Thanks to her vision and generosity, I can say I have arts columns under my belt. Profiling artists could be positive constructive escapism for me.

I remember three things most predominantly about interviewing the well-known Kwakwaka’wakw artist Mark Henderson: 1) He’s ridiculously good looking; 2) I’m a teeth person, and he had perfect teeth; and 3) Hanging out with him felt like a huge hug. I wanted him to be my adoptive father, though I kept that request to myself (I think).

Mark was a Taurus, and passed away in 2016 at the age of 63. In his obituary it mentions that he often mused that we are here for a good time, not a long time. What an honour and privilege it was to cross paths, however brief, with this great man.


A body of Work

by Jill Lang

“I would say that art runs in my blood,” Mark Henderson says, then chuckles. A warm smile shows off his [perfect] teeth. “But I’ve created my own style.”

Henderson works in the carving shop with the red roof on Spit Road.

When I caught up with him recently, he was working on the last few pieces for his art exhibit at the Museum at Campbell River.

The museum has worked with the Henderson family since 1958. A totem pole stands outside the museum crafted by Henderson’s father, Sam Henderson, and his brother Bill’s work is featured in the main exhibit.

“We purchased 15 of Mark’s prints over the years, and through two corporate sponsors, we were able to buy one of each of his images that he’s ever done,” says Leisa Davis, executive director of the museum.

Now the museum houses 61 original images from 1977 to 2000.

“We’re the only institution to have this whole body of Mark’s work,” says Davis. “So we thought it would be exciting, not only for the community, but also in Mark’s honour, to show this complete set of his works as a learning experience.”

The museum opened the exhibit titled, The Visions of Mark Henderson: A Kwakwaka’wakw World View, to the public Sat., May 19 with a dance ceremony.

While many of his brothers turned to carving like his father, Henderson’s preference for two-dimensional art became apparent early on. Much of Henderson’s work falls within the traditional realm of ceremonial and social importance—two-dimensional designs painted to house fronts, canoes, drums and dance screens. Henderson says he probably wouldn’t be painting today if not for his father.

“I was fortunate to be in a family involved in culture, like dances and songs,” says Henderson. “Watching the potlatch ceremony inspired me to do some of the designs I’ve done.”

Henderson’s First Nation, the Kwakwaka’wakw people, use the potlatch ceremony to give meaning to their existence by observing themselves in relation to the Sky World, Sea World, Mortal World and Spirit World. Masks are worn to interpret dances and rituals, as songs and oration carry legends and mythology to future generations.

At age 11, Henderson became interested in painting and design after spending previous years helping his father paint poles and listening to stories. In addition to the potlatch, some of Henderson’s prints are based on his father’s stories.

“Without those stories,” he says, “there’d be no prints.”

Henderson studied art books and West Coast artists like Henry Speck and Willy Siwid from the Alert Bay area, but he attributes most of his learning to his father.

Henderson’s adaptation of Indigenous art has earned him recognition as an accomplished artist locally, nationally and internationally. Since 1979, his impressive body of work has been featured in exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Quintana’s Gallery of Native and Western Art in Portland, Ore.

“I’ve done several shows down in Portland,” Henderson says. “But preparing for these shows is a lot of work, because you have to produce originals, like make new pieces for each show.”

It didn’t take him long to prepare for this exhibit, though. In addition to the prints acquired over the years, collectors from Vancouver and Victoria loaned the museum pieces, and Campbell Riverites lent work created during Henderson’s youth.

Henderson says his work starts out with a “vision,” then materializes onto matte paper as a sketch. From the sketch, he produces original artwork.

The extensive collection represents 23 years of Henderson’s career. Among the many notable prints to browse, is one where two separate images of salmon facing each other hold special meaning to Henderson.

“My dad gave me the crest of the wolf, but I already had this salmon,” he says, pointing to his arm. “If you have twins, they automatically get the salmon crest. I had a twin, but he died when he was 18 months old.”

A wolf is tattooed to the outside of Henderson’s right forearm while a salmon spans the outside of his left. Traditionally, the wolf crest symbolizes a tribe’s great teacher, a strong individualistic urge and a strong sense of family.

“Three generations of Henderson’s have been artists in the community and we think that’s significant,” says Davis, curator at the Campbell River Museum. “Mark is of particular interest because he is one of the few who does two-dimensional paper and paintings.”

Henderson’s exhibit runs until Sept. 20, and Davis hopes school groups will come in June and September.

She expects the high-tourist season will help draw members from the community and visitors of Campbell River to the museum.

“Campbell River should be proud of the artists it has in the community and Mark is definitely high up there,” says Davis. “We hope that his legacy can continue for many years.”

*Original article appeared in the Campbell River Mirror on May 25, 2007.