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“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,

~b

Yogash Chita Vritti Nirodha

This is the Samadhi Pada (Chapter or Book 1), sutra #2 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It appropriately follows the first, "Atha Yoganushasanam" - which basically means "And now, the science of yoga..."

This sutra (#1;2 - Yogash Chita Vritti Nirodha) has taken on numerous meanings for me. It has many different levels of understanding - as does ALL of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These aren't straightforward lessons, oh no, these are the multicolored, multilayered gems that grow with us as we grow. Never standing still. Never one dimensional.

"Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind" is one interpretation. And as I get older and my practice(s) deepen, I am always brought back to this sutra.

My mind betrays me at every turn, at every opportunity. I am either living in the delusion of the past or in the fantasy of the future. I am ALWAYS it seems, living in some construct of my mind's own making. Living in a story of my own creation. And these never-ending stories have become a prison of which I am becoming more-and-more aware.

As within, so it is without.

I've been listening to Rage Against the Machine at work these last couple of days. This puts me in the 'fighting mood' as it were. Not to be taken literally of course. More so, it makes me look at the world we live in and feel the incredible frustration, disappointment and anger that this EXTREMELY powerful band was able to capture and convey through their music. I wish they were still around. We as a society need the kind of 'kick in our complacency' that these guys were able to deliver. Where have their like gone?

Then I read an interview article this morning with Tias Little about how he has completely embodied the teachings of yoga and expresses them throughout every aspect of his life. He is a brilliant teacher and has a simple, but powerful message. Don't do yoga, allow yoga to do you. Of course I speak of the yogic lifestyle - not just the asana/Hatha Yoga practice. The life of mindful contemplation of the present moment is the freedom we seek from the prison of our own frenetic minds. When we embody the lessons of yoga - we connect not only on the level of the micro - but also on that of the macro. I will admit that my own meditation practice (and I use that word rather loosely), is haphazard at best. The practice of asana comes much more easily to me. I am learning to 'quiet' myself a little more each year. The Mysore Ashtanga practice has helped me with this to a great degree. If it weren't for this 'quiet time', on an almost daily basis, I would have to say that I probably wouldn't be in the 'place' where I could even conceive of writing this blog - much less attempt its subject matter - namely myself under a microscope. Public therapy.

Quiet down. Get out of your own mind - out of your own way. You are NOT your thoughts. Associate with 'higher vibratory energies' - activities, friends, work, food, media, etc.

"Does this path have a heart?" and "To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life" (Carlos Casteneda).

You (Barry) MUST lead a disciplined life. If I don't, I am lost.

Much love and peace to you all - everyone - everywhere.

OM Shantih,

~b

Be ever mindful of your thoughts!

I recently worked (again) with the 'teacher plant' salvia divinorum. This is a very powerful psychoactive entheogen that I approach with a high degree of reverence and respect. It's traditional use is by the indigenous curanderos (healers) of the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico. Without going into a long discourse on the nature of teacher plants and what we can learn from them, let me just say that the lessons imparted during a SD session are unlike anything you may encounter in the 'real world'. First, the 'real world' is but one of many and the true nature of it is that of energy and consciousness. I'll leave it at that. Many intrepid explorers and healers have preceded me on this type of journey - going back thousand-upon-thousands of years. Of note are the likes of Aldous Huxley, Carlos Castaneda, Terrence McKenna, Ram Das (Richard Alpert), Timothy Leary, Daniel Siebert and a host of contemporary notables - typical found in the community of alternative medicine, the study indigenous peoples healing/spiritual practices, and the study of the nature of consciousness and our physical world/reality. Unfortunately this type of study requires one being somewhat discreet as the negative connotations of 'drug use' are pervasive and negatively impact the responsible use of entheogens by respectful adults simply asking the fundamental questions of human existence and experience -"Who/what am I?", "Where do I come from and where am I going?", "How do I heal myself, others, the planet?", "How do I serve the greater good and how do I live to my highest potential?", "Can I talk to you God, do you hear me, and can I (please) hear you?".

The great masters and teachers do not require the assistance of a teacher plant such as SD to divine the answers to these (simple to them) questions. But there are very few 'enlightened' masters in the world and they are not readily accessible! So, the consummate searcher/explorer that I am requires a radical (but practical) approach. This is NOT a recreational pursuit or pastime. The teacher plant will NOT tolerate being treated with such disrespect. As it stands, I am terrified of its use. But the very core of my being is even more terrified of NOT using it and remaining ignorant of the wisdom it can impart. Let this be a warning to you.

During this last session, it became startlingly apparent that we 'construct' our perceptive reality by the thoughts we choose to think. This may sound a little vague or worse, smack of a typically overused pseudo-spiritual platitude, but the experience was that of 'real-time' construction of reality (see Terrence McKenna's reference to machine elves) according to the 'direction' of my thoughts. We can choose to think in negative/cynical/pessimistic terms, or we can make the choice to think optimistically and remain positive in our daily outlook. The choice is ours to make and I now have a new-found respect for the much misunderstood notion of "the power of positive thinking"! This practice isn't easy in our complex and sometimes harsh world. So, I think our task is to find what is important (positive) and to strip away that which is negative. We are definitely influenced by the company we keep, the media we choose to consume, the foods we eat, the practices/past-times we pursue, etc. Ska Maria la Pastora (SD) is telling us to be mindful of our habitual patterns of thought and to make a conscious effort to focus on the 'sweet' as opposed to the 'bitter'. We co-create our reality, but we alone create our life experience and it's trajectory. That journey can be full of beauty, peace and compassion, but we must make the choice to pursue and live beauty, peace and compassion. You won't find it by constantly associating with (and consuming) violence, malice, pain, suffering, ugliness, vanity, greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, etc.

OM Shantih,

~b

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