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Hatha Yoga Sadhana: The Subtle Dance

Physical movement with the goal of cultivating energy is one of the most dynamic and creative types of liberation practice. It has been part of both Buddhist and Hindu-lineage contemplative work since the earliest centuries of Yoga and asceticism as formal paths in South Asian spiritual life. The Sanskrit word sadhana traditionally refers to a formal sequence of practices, like the …

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Traces of a past life

[Putting the last few words and videos I have from my brightest years as a performance artist here. How tremendously far away they, this I, feel. Making it a “post” instead of a “page,” date-stamped, scroll-lost, faded even more. I almost just left it off the new site entirely, but this is better. A little midnight prayer as the new …

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Yama and Mara: Hindu and Buddhist personifications of Death, a hypothesis

Both Buddhism and Hinduism personify Death in the form of a deity. The two traditions’ imagination around this figure naturally has many overlaps, but I’m suddenly thinking about some that I can’t find any reference to in the scholarly literature. The correspondence is about the role of Death as Teacher, as appearing in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad, and the role of Māra …

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I have seen the yogi and he is us: Patañjali and the consolations of ambiguity

One of the marks of a great text seems to be that it can be deeply important to wildly different people from cultures separated from each other by vast distances of time and space. A theater company in Kolkata establishes a reputation for cutting social realism by putting on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, while a British director in France hubristically (and with some success) attempts to stage the entire Mahabharata. A Japanese director who traces his lineage …

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Devotion and doubt: race, religion, and postmodern kirtan

After a long day of sessions, feeling with clients/students through the morass of feelings and confusions that seem to be the near-universal experience of being human around here, I light a dry leaf of white sage, shake off the fire, and walk slowly around the practice room both clearing the air and honoring the images and statues that live there. …

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Saffron-washing part 2: Response to Thich Nhat Hanh

Several folks have posted this Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) interview to me, after my recent dip into the Google-Mindfulness-Buddhism-Capitalism debate following the Wisdom 2.0 protest. There’s a good debate about it on Be Scofield’s Facebook wall, and a smaller one on mine after this post, and I don’t need to repeat many of the elements of the discussion in those …

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Mindfulness the Google Way: well-intentioned saffron-washing?

For the last few years there’s been a growing uproar in San Francisco rooted in dismay and anger over ballooning rents, historically high eviction rates, and other markers of the intense gentrification that has been happening for 15 years or so — if I choose the tech boom of the 90s as a convenient recent historical marker. The recent acceleration …

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I let a song go out of my heart: an ear worm gets me thinking about karma

This morning, walking up the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley, through the crisp fall air, I heard a fragment of melody, whistled, in the distance. I only heard a handful of notes, but recognized it as the distinctive dorian mode hook in “Eleanor Rigby” — the part where the words are “…picks up the rice in the church…”. It …

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