Why another newsletter?

Quite simply, I wish to be a helpful neuron in our global brain which is struggling mightily to get through its adolescence without self-destructing.

I happen to synapse with many different areas of inquiry, most of all yoga, Buddhism, science and technology.

I don’t and can’t offer any definitive Answers, but like a neuron, I can do my small part to integrate all the signals I’m receiving and pass along my own quirky interpretation of what’s going on and what we might do about it. There’s no point in taking in more information if I can’t pass it along in a useful way.

So what’s it about then?

I was enthralled by both science and Eastern wisdom traditions as a teenager. I tried to pursue science when I got to college, but found it too disembodied. I found my way to yoga as a counterweight to my hyperdeveloped intellect, first as my own practice and since 2005 as a teacher. I have taught many thousands of hours of yoga since then.

All along, I have continued to read widely in many scientific fields, seeking connections with what I was experiencing in my yoga practice. But there is a deep tension in our present world between science and experience. In our present world, science is so dominant that we give it the authority to explain even when it denies what is most immediate: our everyday, direct experience. Thus, most people would hold as a fundamental truth the scientific account of matter as collections of atomic particles, while treating what is given in their felt experience, with all of its richness, as less profound and true. Yet when we relax into the bodily well-being of a sunny day or the tension of running to catch a bus, such accounts of space/matter fade into the background as abstract and secondary .

I think one of the reasons we moderns are drawn to practices like yoga is that they remind us of how profound and revelatory our lived experience can be. Then we feel delighted when research "confirms" what yoga has said all along and the New York Times writes about it.  I am not so interested in this kind of science.

What excites me is the potential for scientific discovery to enrich and affirm our lived experience, both on and off the yoga mat.  For example, Indian cosmology differentiates five elements that compose all living things - earth, water, fire, air and space.  Science came up with a different number, but it does agree we are composed of smaller “non-human” element. Then it gives us a story (always subject to revision) of how our earthen bodies and quicksilver minds came to be.

…our grandmother star gathers herself into being with a vast net of curved spacetime… in her death she gives rise to the heavy metals such as gold… the dust eventually regathers into our Sun and planets... plate tectonics churning minerals to the surface... rain erodes rock into the primeval oceans... these stellar metals become catalysts for cellular metabolism...

As Joni Mitchell sang in 1970, "We are star dust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon." Yet how many of us have integrated this remarkable knowledge?  As long as it remains "scientific fact", it remains inert.  But I believe that the contemplative space and rich experiential palette of yoga (and related somatic arts) is an ideal medium for steeping in this knowledge, so it can permeate our lived experience and not just remain in our mental database.

I find this rewarding in itself, but I would argue it is also vital for our species survival that we viscerally remember our enmeshment with the livingworld - so we stop treating it as an external “resource” that is ours to use as we please.

My weekly classes at my yoga studio aspire to this integration, science and yoga philosophy with inquiry-oriented yoga practices. I’m hybrid on Zoom for now and record all my classes, so you can practice with me any time you like.

I am also curious to explore how science can give meaning and wonder to what we do in modern yoga.  Rather than trying to assume (or appropriate?) the mythologies of India, what happens if we situate our practice in the Great Story of the Cosmos?  

We are bundles of matter and energy that have woken up to our own situation. Astounding!

We are children of the Earth who have realized that we are actively destroying the basis of our lives, yet we can’t see to stop. How tragic and strange!

What does it mean to move, breathe and meditate inside these perspectives?

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I hope to write something once or twice a month, as well as polish and resend older writing from past newsletters and blogs. I’m experimenting with audio versions of my essays and perhaps an audio-first interview format.

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