On 2007

Browsing all posts on 2007

The Not-So-Secret-Secret

I am part of a large, diverse yoga community in downtown New York City. This community is somewhat anchored by two yoga studios – The Shala (Barbara Verrochi and Kristin Leigh) and Ashtanga Yoga New York & Sri Ganesha Temple (Eddie Stern) – and various healers/wellness practitioners/yoga teachers/meditation teachers that are known in this large and loosely defined Sangha or spiritual community. When things percolate-up in the Wellness/Spiritual realm, we tend to hear about them and share them in an interesting, 'viral' fashion. This can be illustrated when Saints or highly regarded teachers come to town, when a certain restaurant deserves a try, when a particular healer should be sought, or when a great new book or film is out. We’re plugged-in as it were. At least it seems like it sometimes.

I heard about 'The Secret' from a friend a few months ago and saw the DVD over at his house at that time. I enjoyed its message – one that’s not particularly new to me – and then after a brief period of excitement and the production of a 'vision board', this slipped-off my radar. Then I heard about 'The Secret' again from my girlfriend who heard about it from another friend at one of the yoga studios where we practice. Then 'The Secret' was featured on Oprah – not once, but twice in one week – and it has spread like wildfire.

Let me be very clear – I am (fortunately or unfortunately) somewhat skeptical. It’s just the way I am. I am a product of a skeptical upbringing and more than a few hard knocks. When I first saw 'The Secret', my skeptical (if not cynical) mind immediately went to work on the slick marketing and the professional motivational speakers that delivered the dialogue of 'The Secret'. I’ve had more than one experience in my so-called spiritual development where the teacher or organization was more concerned with promoting product, packaging, marketing, image, and revenue – than your well-being or personal growth. Sometimes the best intentions create the worst environments and infrastructure – and then the very message becomes grossly tainted simply because the very people that deliver the message are rendered pathetically hypocritical. I tend to shy away from anything that seems to be so readily scooped-up by the masses.

I used to think – no DREAM that one day I would find a teacher that could give me all the answers and unlock some confining and restrictive spiritual mechanism in my heart that was preventing me from living the life of my dreams. The longer that I’m on this so-called spiritual path, the more I’m convinced of the notion of the teacher pointing at the moon. You should look to where the teacher is pointing – not at his finger. That’s all a teacher can do – point you in a particular direction. From there it’s up to you to determine the value of that journey. It always comes back to us. There are no short-cuts or mystical beings that can simply hand us awakening. We are where we are (and who we are) and we must fully surrender to that each and every moment. It is from that place of surrender where we can finally start to operate in a way that is in accordance with divine laws – like the law of attraction.

I have much more work to do than I ever thought I needed to. The noise or chatter in my mind is so great that I find it hard to focus at times. The restlessness in my body makes a meditation practice extremely difficult. My issues of self-worth and self-loathing provide a seemingly never-ending fuel for the fires of therapy. My unconscious, habitual patterns of defensiveness seek to sabotage every relationship in my life – to lovers, family, friends, co-workers, money/abundance, etc.

So, put into diligent, disciplined practice the lessons (and work) of 'The Secret' as well as those that have served you well – like yoga, meditation, prayer, healthy eating, positive associations of all kinds, and complete surrender to this very moment. All are pointers, but ultimately it’s you that has to do the hard work and find your own, unique way.

OM Shantih,


“Celebrity-ism without Merit”

I put the title of this installment in quotes because I heard Lenny Kravitz use it at some point (I think) in reference to Paris Hilton. His words captured a unique phenomenon of our times and our country. Our society has become utterly and completely ‘defined’ by popular culture and its perverse fascination with over-the-top materialism and blatant self-absorption. Just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse yet another, even more incredible example of bad taste and out-of-control vanity is celebrated in the mass media and basically force-fed to us in as many ways and forms as possible.

This is how we as Americans are DIRECTLY perceived in other cultures, in other parts of the world. That’s the double-edged power of satellite television and the Web. Our messages – good and bad – are beamed all over the world for everyone to see and interpret. I dare say that the majority of the messages are of the latter.

When our mass media outlets are almost completely saturated by the type of programming that has come to dominate (reality television/shock-over-quality content/the dumbing-down of America) our culture – it comes as no surprise that we are largely perceived as clueless, Godless, and shallow idiots who are completely devoid of ethics, estimable values, integrity and compassion. And to make matters worse, as the richest country in the world we are by default set apart as an example.

It’s hard not to view these phenomena as a somewhat sinister development – a byproduct of the ‘corporate-ization’ of every aspect of American life. I feel it’s the ‘disconnectedness’ of these large corporations and how they control so many aspects of our life experiences that are to blame to a great degree. Blood-for-oil, global warming, government controlled by special interests/lobbyists, make a buck no matter what the cost or consequences, wag the dog, etc. It’s like these large, multi-national corporations are controlled by a bureaucracy that are able to side-step personal responsibility and accountability by sheer virtue of their anonymity. Safety in numbers. Let me be even more concise: In 'An Inconvenient Truth', Al Gore didn’t specifically name companies or individuals at fault because he lacked backbone, I think it’s because there is a significant layer of protection in the anonymous bureaucracy of large corporations. He just didn’t know a concise, short list of who to point out! It’s easier to broadly blame THEM, than it is to be specific or worse - take a close look at ourselves and our contributions to global problems.

All over the world, we as Americans are hated for good reason – I hate us! And that’s a good a reason as any - but the root cause is a pervasive lack of personal responsibility and accountability - at the highest levels of our society. Change must take place and that change will begin at the opposite end of the social spectrum. It has happened before. It's called revolution. And my prayers are those that express the hope that in this struggle, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's ideals are upheld - not those of the anarchists.

OM Shantih,