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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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Interview with Keith Hennessy about “Turbulence”

Keith Hennessy, interviewed by Sean Feit on 3/7/13 for UCD PFS newsletter. (A shortened version of this conversation is in our 2013 department newsletter. Here is the full conversation with minimal edits.) Sean Feit: What do you consider the main conceptual frame for Turbulence? Keith Hennessy: I try to stay away from any kind of central frame. I wanted it …

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Kosha and khandha, a hypothesis.

Recently, while studying a couple early Tantric texts (the Shiva Sutras and the Heart of Recognition), I found myself thinking about energy and consciousness, which the texts say are the two most fundamental aspects of reality. Feeling into these, and reflecting on various places they appear in the yoga tradition, I thought about the early list of the Five Sheaths …

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notes toward vinyasa as a meditation practice

Vinyasa yoga, where we flow between poses (asana) synchronizing movement with breath, is sometimes described as a “moving meditation”, and many people are drawn to the physical practice of yoga partly because they find that flowing through a vinyasa class is an easier way to relax and quiet the mind than traditional sitting meditation. I think this is one of …

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