Thursday, November 29, 2007

I recently finished reading "Indian Summer: The Secret End of An Empire." The book documents the end of British rule in India and the scramble to construct new power structures. The focus of the book is on the major political figures during the time.

The primary British figure is Dickie Mountbatten, the heart-centered but aloof quasi-royal viceroy who distracts himself with ceremonial pomp in the face of handing independence to 400 million people of warring tribes. Then there is his wife Edwina, a highly driven woman whose inability to connect deeply with any one man drives her to chase one affair after another in search of satisfaction. She finally finds it in Jawaharlal Nehru, a Kashmiri Pandit intellectual educated in England who just so happens to be the Indian prime minister . The love triangle of Dickie, Edwina, and Jawaharlal are three primary players in bringing stability to an inherently disastrou situation.

Other players include Muhammed Ali Jinnah, a secular Muslim who is one of the first to invoke political Islam as a tool to prevent a Hindu dominated state. And then there is Gandhi, a brilliant and often insensible leader whose satyagraha (nonviolent civil disobedience) played a major factor in convincing England to leave. He was so revered that he could make Muslims and Hindus stop fighting by refusing to eat until violence ended.

The book illuminates the fascinating interpersonal relationships that played a role in the creation of India and Pakistan.

What the book did not explain was the impetus behind the massive violence in the Punjab. The At the time the Punjab was comprised of pockets of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims living amongst each other. These groups lived amongst each other. A cartographer was given pen and paper and told to create a border between India and the Muslim Pakistan. Pakistani Muslims attacked Hindus fleeing for India. Sikhs and Hindus butchered Muslims. Trains full of refugees were set on fire.

What I found especially shocking was the violence perpetrated by the Sikhs. Sikh jethas reportedly rode from village to village using their kirpans, ceremonial daggers that signify cutting through negativity, to butcher entire communities.

The partition and the subsequent violence illustrates the ability of the Piscean man to snap at a moments notice. Communities that have had good relations for years can be whipped up into genocidal frenzies at a moment's notice. The twentieth century saw it happen in Germany, Rwanda, and the Yugoslavian states. It is currently happening in Iraq.

I am left perplexed as to the root of this violence. I can only conclude that it results from holding a space of fear. And I pray that it is a remnant of the Piscean age.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sadhana For The Adventurer

A consistent sadhana is at the core of the Kundalini yoga experience. Change occurs when one follows a daily regimen of yoga and meditation. The consistency chips away subconscious and physical blocks. Keep the sadhana strong and the universe will take care of the rest.


A daily practice is certainly feasible when one has a set schedule and location. Awaking before dawn to do yoga is practical if one has an apartment and a nine to five job. But what happens to the traveling yogi? What becomes of sadhana if one is at a 14,000 foot campsite in the midst of a howling storm?


I experimented with “sadhana on the road” while on a three month backpacking trip to South America last year. I traveled by bus through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. Most of my time was spent in the remote Andean highlands where the elevation ranged from 10,000 up to 16,500 feet.


Maintaining my discipline was a challenge. I began the trip during the eighth month of a daily regimen of 31 minutes of Sat Kriya. This asana entails sitting in rock pose (with the buttocks on the heels), clasping the arms above the head with the arms straight, and pointing the index finger towards the sky. “Sat” is chanted as the navel point contracts, and “nam” as it relaxes. “Sat Nam” means “our identity is truth.” Some of the countless benefits of Sat Kriya include balanced sexual energy, a strong nervous system, and smooth digestion.


I flew into the nearly 11,000 foot former Incan capital of Cuzco, Peru from sea level. I awoke the following morning to a splitting headache and a complete lack of appetite. Two weeks later I found myself in La Paz, Bolivia with a case of dysentery. Fever and a weak stomach made the idea of Sat Kriya most unappealing. The symptoms lasted for several days in both cases.


I contemplated taking a break from the practice during both of these illnesses. Yet every morning I brought myself onto my heels, clasped my hands above my head, and began pumping the navel along with the mantra “Sat Nam.” The kriya circulated healing prana through the body. It strengthened my worn out digestive system. The repetition of mantra brought peace to my being.


Another challenge was keeping up in the outdoors. My primary reason for visiting South America was trekking in the Andes and the Amazon. I did not know how my sadhana would fit into a mountain man lifestyle, but I was determined that it would. One afternoon I found myself camped under a 14,000 foot pass in the Cordillera Real range of the Andes in western Bolivia. A hail and snow storm blew in as I was in my tent meditating. For a moment my ego jokingly pondered whether I had developed some siddhi that enabled me to call in a storm. The wind was bending the tent poles on my head.


I ate dinner with a friend and our indigenous guides before scoping out a spot for Sat Kriya. My hands shivered in the night air. I periodically opened my eyes to glimpse the lights of isolated villages amidst jagged shadows of the Andes silhouetted by the moon.


That trip took me up and over the Andes and into the Amazon Basin. The freezing ice storms of the Andean highlands gave way to the world’s largest forest. My heart raced during Sat Kriya as my mind interpreted unknown sounds as prowling jaguars.


Fitting in Sat Kriya became part of the adventure. Finding a way to meditate amidst mountain gales, damp jungles, and interminable bus rides was an adventure in itself.


As I have grown in my practice, Sat Kriya has become sustenance. It has become less of something that I do, and more an aspect of my identity. When I was sick it brought healing. When I was exhausted and overwhelmed it brought strength.


Sadhana is not an impediment to the traveler. Rather, it is a companion that nourishes the journey.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The air on Los Angeles was burning. The sky is still reddish grey with smoke and chemical particultes that infiltrated our lungs. On Sunday I stood on the Venice piers watching the Malibu fire climbing up a ridge.

The fires and the Santa Ana winds set the air on fire. Walking outside felt like stepping into a stove. My sinus ached and bled from each chemical infused breath. We are being warned to avoid outside activity into next week.

Such is life in the land of earthquakes and fire...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finishing the AT



On August 28, 2003 I completed the 2,169 mile Appalachian Trail. I began the trip in September of 2003, hiking approximately 500 miles from Spring Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. I went to school for a semester, and returned to finish the remainder. During the last leg I usually hiked at least 25 miles a day. My brother was getting married August 30, and school had begun on the 27th.

I awoke at 5 am at the base of Katahdin. About 10 other hikers and I scrambled up the granite boulders of Katahdin. During the trip my daydreams had been filled with thoughts of standing upon Katahdin at the trip's completion. As I scrambled above the treeline, a storm had enveloped the mountain. The 30 mile an hour gusts gave the hail a horizontal trajectory.

I reached Thoreau spring, a mile from the summit, and came to grips with the fact that my summit moment would be accompanied by a hail storm. I was overcome with tears, and began the final push to the summit. The wind roared in my ears, drowning out all but thoughts. 100 yards from the summit one particular gust tore the cloud cover from the mountain, revealing the craggy summit that was the Northern Terminus.

The above picture captures my life's greatest moment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Story And Its Relation To The Yogi

What is the origin of our creative pulse? What are we seeking to accomplish when we write? In the past I thought of writing as a dialectic, a way of placing unresolved issues on the table for the purpose of putting me at ease. I could find a middle ground in a mind shaken by competitive emotions and compulsions.

Over the past two years I have taken to the yoga path. Rather seeing the world from a polemical point of view, the yogi sees the union of all. Struggle ceases as everything is accepted. Also, the yogi views the mind as a tool rather than the core of the true self.

So where does story fit into this? If the story is about reconciling our disparate emotions, what does one write about when one is in ecstacy with themselves and all of creation? The Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture that presents the formula for escaping from our problematic take on our existence, has seemingly little logical structure or story. It is present a few core teachings that largely lack the elaborate cultural coding of other scriptures.

Perhaps the story is unique to the Kali Yuga, the time of separation between man and God. When the people of the earth realize that they are taken care of by the creator, will there be a need for a fictional dialectic to aid in explaining our surroundings and reason for being here?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Creativity of the Immobile

What does one write about when one settles in a routine? I ask myself this question as I find myself in the ninth month of office life. My writing is voluminous when I travel. Some aspect of the journey, of the experience of the new, elicits new thoughts and a need to record them.

But here in LA I remain immobile. I work five days a week at a nondescript office job. Three weeknights are filled with yoga class. Two and a half hours every morning are dedicated to yoga. While I am content, few startling or exciting thoughts enter my mind.

My travels have been the main source of my inspiration, and as I approach a year since having left the country, I must find other sources.

Friday, September 21, 2007

One Last Hurrah From the Aquarian Way

Where are we going Walt Whitman? Our country has gridlocked itself in a civil war. Four and a half years after we invaded Iraq, we have one hundred and thirty thousand troops in the country at a cost of three hundred million dollars a day. The 2008 budget will alot 200 billion for the war, at over half a billion a day. The war has lasted longer than the Civil War and our involvement in Vietnam. We could have funded universal health care many times over with what we have spent on this war.

The administration is declaring the situation improved, citing once tumultuous neighborhoods in Anbar and Baghdad to be improved. The new found quiet of these neighborhoods is the result of ethnic cleansing.

We are sitting in the middle of a civil war that seems destined to continue until there is a massive population relocation or a change of heart. Iraqi politicians seem incapable of bringing peace. As American soldiers die, they go on vacation rather than create a solution to bring a solution that would hasten our departure.

Iraq was nothing more than a flimsy colonial drawing with a strong man holding things together. A vacuum was created, with violence reigning until a new power emerges. And our guy Maliki seems incapable of being that entity. Radical Chia cleric Muktada al Sadr is a stronger figure, as he already controls much of the health infrastructure.

Not only does a three state partition seem inevitable, but infighting within the new entitites is also a very real possibility. Currently three Shia militias are fighting amongst each other in the Southern coastal area of Basra.

Leaving Iraq could initiate bloodshed. But the same people who said that the Iraqis would greet us in the streets are warning against genocide. Should we still be listening to them? Perhaps retreating and rebuilding our reputation from scratch is our only way to progress.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Life in Venice Beach

Across the street there are 6 cop cars parked back to back, blocking an alley. One cop went running back to his car for a moment, wearing a face mask indicative of a siege.

Venice retains its rough edge amidst the endless affluence of West Los Angeles. Once known as "the slum by the sea," Venice saw gang warfare for decades. The Shoreline Crips and the Venice Trece were the ruling parties. No one without a death wish ventured onto the boardwalk at night.

The eighties saw the Hollywood area reach capacity. With the film industry growing, people continued to move to LA in search of work. Santa Monica was the first beach town to be revitalized. Venice followed, as fresh money renovated the former slums. Crack houses were renovated into million dollar homes. Drab streets were filled with freshly landscaped palms and birds of paradise.

I live in the last frontier of Venice. Drug dealers spend the afternoons on a corner four blocks away. Police helicopters periodically circle the area in pursuit of some drug dealer or gangster. Gangs still periodically war for control of certain blocks. I have woken up to find blacked out drunk homeless people sleeping on my doorstep. A colony of seeming drug addicts living in dilapidated trailers has parked itself on the opposite corner. They frequent the Big Lots and 99 Cent Store along with the working class Mexican and black families.

It is rumored that Whole Foods is buying the aforementioned shopping center. And perhaps the arrival of the ever expanding bourgoise temple will transform the last remanants of "the slum by the sea" into the territory of the hip entertainment crowd.

Perhaps I am getting older and losing my love of grit, but the beautifciation of the area does not seem like a bad thing.

SDS

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Office Life

My office supplies two things in the kitchen. Coffee, and painkillers. 4 big boxes of 4 different brands of pain killers. There is no fruit, no snacks, nothing to nourish one's day. Stimulants to keep one moving against the natural tendency to run from feeding data into a machine all day. Pain killers to numb the aches from staring into a throbbing neon radiation machine all day long.

There is an obvious disconnect in many employees here. People walk down the halls with their heads down, providing no acknowledgemnt of the passing person. I have been here since January. Is it possible that people pass each other every day for years, never acknowledging their unknown colleauge with even a small smile?

I am happy that my life goals will not include this anonymous office life of neverending purgatorial projects.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"This stillness to which all returns, this is reality, and soul and sanity have no -more meaning here than a gust of snow; such transcience and insignifance are exalting, terrifying, all at once, like the sudden discovery, in meditation, of one's own transparence. Snow mountains, more than sea or sky, serve as a mirror to one's own true being, utterly still, utterly clear, a void, an Emptiness with out life or sound that carries in Itself all life, all sound. Yet as long as I remain an "I" who is conscious of the void and stands apart from it, there will remain a snow mist on the mirror." - Peter Matthiesson, from "The Snow Leopard."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Where I Am Now, How I Got Here, And How I Can Move Forward

The past weeks have seen me negotiating this reality in haze. I was walking tall and proud, doing Sat Kriya for 62 minutes, manifesting beauty. And then I slowly crashed, tumbling into a nether realm of muddled thoughts, angry moods.

I guess this is what St. John of the Cross refers to as “the dark night of the soul.” For much of my meditation career, mystical apparitions have danced across my eyelids. And now much of that has stopped, and I am faced with the task of being an overwhelmed security guard in charge of protecting the void. Subconscious thoughts overwhelm my capacity to keep them out, and I am stuck.

But this is a stage that many encounter on the quest, the dark night of the soul. The confetti stops flying, and the practices that once presented us with joy become another drudgery task.

So I ask my teacher what to do. The answer is to stop operating on an emotional basis. Feelings come and go, and in reality we have little control over them. Continue to walk the path even when everything around has gone pitch black. Sometimes I made my most miles on the Appalachian Trail while it was rainy. When there were no views to stop and marvel at, I could push through.

It is at this point where experience comes to a dead end that faith comes into play. The teachings say that the dark night of the soul is a transitory faze a final march through the swamp before the light is reached.

Having already begun this journey, I am faced with two choices. Continue on in faith and grace, or sink into sludge. The answer seems self-evident.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I am in the tail end of a two month creative block. Conversations and writing are labored.

Perhaps my five months working in a windowless office doing glorified data entry sparked it. The phosphorescent cave dulled my drive. My interests away from the experiential world and its intricacies to conversations about NBA basketball and Lindsay Lohan's latest legal trouble.

My most creativity peaks while traveling, hiking up Andean peaks with my mouth filled with coca leaves and learning indigenous phrases from my guides. Seeing the world, the energy of moving, fuel me.

The question is how to remain grounded in an income producing reality while spending several months a year traveling.

SDS

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

News From The Sporting World

Michael Vick, the quarterback from the Atlanta Falcons, is being investigated for holding dog fights at his house in Chesepeake, VA. There is a national uproar over the issue, and it is likely that the Falcons will cut him.

I find it interesting that people are outraged over dogfights, while they are eating the flesh of animals that were tortured every moment of their incarnation. But eating meat is acceptable because of the systematic routinization of it. I think of Hannah Arendt's discussion of "the banality of evil" in her account of Adolf Eichmann's trial. Eichmann performed the bureaucratic work of arranging the transportation of European Jews to concentraion camps. The Moussaud found him in Buenos Aires and brought him to Israel for trial. To his last day he could not see his mistake, as he was physically removed from the acts of violence.

We are conditioned to ignore the negativity of some undeniably negative acts, while we explode in the face of what we have not been conditioned to accept.

Thursday, May 3, 2007



Apologies to all for the two week stretch without a post. No muse was flowing.

The picture from the April 18 post is in the Cordillera Real, a range of 21,000 foot peaks in the Central Andes of Bolivia. The provide a boundary between the 12,000 foot Andean plateau and the Amazon forest. The latter is the world's largest forest, encompassing 2 million square miles of tropical rain forest in 9 countries. Visit while you can: it is being burned at an alarming rate to make room for cattle.

I found myself in South America in the late summer/fall of 2006. I initially spent a week in southern Peru. The landscape and history are stunning, but the ancient cities and ruins were swarming with fanny pack tourists on 10 day package tours. So I jumped the border into South America's most indigenous and rugged nation, Bolivia.

After reading reports of a 3 day hike to a sixteen thousand foot glacier lake, I had to do it. My initial departure date was postponed, as it took a week to recover from a bought of dysentary. In the meantime I met Mike Lewis, a fellow Virginian and soon to be travel mate, roomate, and best friend. I convinced him to make the trip with me.

After finding a guide service, we stocked up on quiona, pasta, tomato sauce, oatmeal, avocado, cheese, bread, and chocolate. We departed with two indigenous Aymara guides, who speak Spanish as a second language. Mike and I carried a daypack, as a horse and the guides distributed most of our equipment.

We began in a lightly forested valley, with flocks of squacking flocks of parrots dusting the sky with emeralds. The trail meandered trails through small villages and farming plots before reaching high grasslands. The peaks of Illampu and Jackhouma towered above, cloaked in glaciers.

We finished the day camped a lake that the guides said was enchanted. Some whacky Dutch claimed an alien race had left signs in the lake, and dwelled in a kingdom under the mountains. We camped there two nights. As I did yoga both nights, I felt strange energies looking at me.

We arose early the next morning, and hiked off into the rocky ethers. For 5 hours we ascended over scrabbly rock, filling our water bottles with glacial melt. The oxygen decrease became evident. I drunkenly stumbled over boulders, my body not used to altitudes higher than the highest peaks of the continental US.

The trail ended at the Laguna Glacial, a 16,500 foot glacier lake. A glacier is in a col separating and Illampu and Jackhouma. It feeds into the lake, with pieces of the glacier calving off and cannonballing into the milky water. The lack of oxygen clarified the air, illuminating Lake Titcaca's distant gleam. An Andean falcon stood on a boulder 20 meters away.

Seizing the oppurtunity, I replaced my Incan stocking hat with a turban, and began remembering past lives meditating in the mountain ethers. Mike grabbed a camera, and caught a few photos.

After a lunch of cheese, avocado, and tomatoes, we began our descent to our base camp. We camped another night, where I stayed up until one in the morning reading a novel about Madam Lynch of Paraguay.

The next day we arrived back in town. What a trip.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reliving Past Lives in the Andes


Here I am meditating at 16,650 in the Bolivian Andes last September. Above me are Jankouma and Illampu, 21,000 foot peaks. On one side the Andes drop precipitously into the Amazon basin. To the other stretches the Andean altiplano, the world's second highest and largest plateau (second to Tibet). My dear friend Mike Lewis (Nirbhao Singh) took this picture.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Worry

The longer that I am on the spiritual path, the more it becomes evident that engaging in fear is draining and unproductive. The moment I allow a negative thought to enter my head, I watch my productivity and relations with others diminish. It rips open a hole for any and all neuroses to enter. I know it, but it still comes out even when I am conscious of it.

I grew up with fear. My grandmother lived with my family until my tenth birthday. The woman’s hard life had become a Petri dish of fear. I was constantly reminded to stay right next to my family when in public. If I wondered off, one of the numerous child abductees in the vicinity would grab me and torture me. As a child my brother left me in the car for a minute. I flew into hysterics, convinced of my eminent slavery.

My fears conformed to new situations. I became constantly scared of the imagined wrath of my Catholic school teachers. I was physically shaking on my way to 1st grade, horrified of being assigned to the Sister Camilla and her full habit. When I was in 6th grade, I was convinced of abductors entering the house. I carried a baseball bat when left in the house by myself at night. At night my ears would search the house for the sound of intruders slowly opening windows and removing televisions.

In high school I fretted about not fitting into the social scene. In college I worried about grades and how they would affect my future.

And now I worry about money, about achieving enough to sustain myself in Los Angeles. In the past my level of worry was just as potent, with different reasons.

Fear is a habit, a leech that adapts itself to whatever situation is at hand. This unwanted emotion is unfounded. Imagine if part of me insisted that the sky was blood red, when everything in me told me it was blue. I would view that rogue element as ridiculous, and would be sure to discard it.

Fear has been so ingrained in me, and much of the populace, that it does not come out with one washing. We must work on it, slowly chipping away at the fa├žade of the beast until it reaches a point of dissolution.

Meditation is our cleansing tool, patience our foundation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

LA's Boiling Point

Much of Los Angeles are suffering. The Whole Foods Market across from my place of employment seems to be the center of it. Located at 3rd and Fairfax, where mid-Wilshire and West Hollywood come together, the grocery store is filled with employees on lunch break and scrambling shoppers. The wealthy Beverly Hills/Hollywood Hills set is here, as well as the West Hollywood struggling actor crowd. The homeless populations is especially unwelcome here, leading to numerous confrontations. The homeless have decimated their projection and positive outlook. When you think everyone is out to screw you, than people will be out to screw you.

In Los Angeles nothing is enough. If you are making a million dollars a year, you look across to the mansion in the Hills whose owner makes $50 million year. Having a vehicle that works is not paramount. If you are driving anything less than a shining BMW or Mercedes, you must not be making it. Home ownership is restricted to the wealthy, leaving most of the population biting their fingernails over rents that have doubled in the past decade.

These are intense statements, and one might ask where I get off making these judgments. The faces in the market give everyone away. Mouths curl and tighten, holding in the screams of frustration. Even those who have "made it" cannot let go their addiction to stress.

And it is addiction, a mere habit. We are accustomed to believing that stress is our natural state. This lie is the ultimate prank played on the Western World. This facade of false worries began with a simple belief that God had abandoned us, and that we had to worry about every facet of life. From that ballooned the great mental prison.

Los Angeles hit a point of unbearable stress before many other places, and thus it has opened to new ways of viewing reality. Having hit bottom earlier than most, it is the center for meditative practices to lead us out of the void.

SDS

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nationalism for the Universalists?

Over the past few days I have been researching the movement for a separate Sikh state in the Punjab. Before presenting my opinion, I would like to say that there is no denying the numerous hardships the Sikhs have faced. Their land was carved up during the partition. Those on the Pakistani side endured the violent resettlement of 1949. The Indian government has taken the region's water while giving little in return. When the discontentment spawned separatist paramilitaries, the Indian government reacted by bringing martial law to the Punjab and attacking the holiest spot on earth for Sikhs, the Golden Temple. When Indira Gandhi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards in response to the attack, a systematic slaughter of Sikhs took place in Dehli.

I spent some time reading the separatist website www.khalistan.com. The articles I perused seemed rooted in fear. According to the authors, the only way the Sikhs can thrive is to establish an independent nation. Israel was given as the example of a state thriving from its religious identity. Should the Sikhs emulate a state entwined in a massive civil war with little end in sight?

A former Sikh political leader was oft quoted as saying that no one can be a Sikh if he is not in favor of the independent state. This is reminiscent of Catholic bishops refusing communion to pro-choice politicians. Should doctrinal religious rules define political preferences?

I understand the Sikh path as a recognition that there is one God, and that all are brothers on the path to experiencing God. It was founded in the recognition of human dignity and brotherhood in the faces of the regimented caste system and Islamic sharia. A Sikh is a soldier of God, emanating hope and delivering justice when all else is faltering. Injustices have occurred, but the religion should not be transformed into a reactionary movement against said atrocities.

In a world shrinking daily through instant media and McDonalds in every country, coexistence is the sole solution to disaster.
No state can exist that defines itself on exclusion.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Here in Los Angeles we are on track to experience Southern California's driest winter on record. I can recall only a day or two where we received any precipitation more thant drizzle. One week ago we saw a glimpse of summer, with temperatures reaching the high eighties. Then the marine layer arrived, bringing June Gloom to March. When the marine layer arrived a month early last year, "May Grey," became the name of Southern California's month long cloud purgatory.

Stay tuned as the world's weather shifts ever so slightly. Seeing that we have built our society around a fixed weather pattern, things shall be interesting...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Mega Millions multi-state lotto hit $ 390 million last week. As I walked by a Lotto window last week, 10 people waited in line to buy tickets. Faces betrayed a deep anxiety, desperately hoping that the one dollar investment would solve all of their worries.

Or would it?

Imagine winning a sum of cash in the tens or hundreds of millions. Would you be able to relax, to just sit back and enjoy your newfound wealth? Perhaps initially, but having such a fortune requires great generosity. In the past people would have few preconceptions when meeting you. Now everyone is coming to you for your resources, looking past your essence to see what you can provide.

One must be strong to hold such wealth. Judging from the faces of the people in line, they would not be suited to handle hundreds of millions. It would merely change the nature of their neuroses.

The desire of worldly wealth is a distraction from the real problem. People are not in touch with their souls, and think that their identity is their mind. The subconscious is constantly bombarding their conscious, filling it with worries that they are constantly on the verge of failing, of being a street person.. They possess no technology to reach through subconscious sludge to touch the soul. Thus, lives are lived where fear is the predominant emotion.

A higher force is taking care of all us in ways far more subtle than a $ 390 million jackpot.

SDS

Friday, March 9, 2007

"Once a man worries, he clings to anything out of desperation; and once he clings he is bound to get exhausted or to exhuast whomever or whatever he is clinging to. A warrior-hunter, on the other hand, knows he will lure game into his traps over and over again, so he doesn't worry. To worry is to become accessible, unwittingly accessible." - Don Juan, from Carlos Castaneda's "Journey to Ixtlan."

Monday, March 5, 2007

According to New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersch, who broke both the Mylai and Abu Ghraib stories, the United States is countering Iran's growing influence by tacitly supporting fundamentalist Sunni movements throughout the region. In essence, the US went into Iraq to defeat Al Qaeda and unexpectedly met an Iran who was seeking regional hegemony. The US has responded by supporting the Sunnis against the Shiite Iranians. It would seem that past failures would keep our leaders from making these same mistakes.This backfired when the US supported the Afghani muhajadeen against the Soviets. Notable muhajadeen veterans make up the backbone of anti-US terror groups, most notably Osama bin Laden. We also substantially strengthened Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran.

It seems like we are running in circles, fighting perpetual wars for a ever distant peace.

This imperialistic model worked well two thousand years ago. We are moving out of a space where force is the medium used to acquire power. Watching these blunders unfold in the middle east is like watching a tyrannosaurus rex feed right before the comet hit the earth.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Brokaw's Greatest Generation

After seeing Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" last weekend, I started thinking about America's recollection of WWII. Peter Brokaw popularized the idea of the WWII generation as the "greatest generation." While I certainly do not want to diminish their sacrifice, I think there is some merit in exploring how perceptions of this time.

The positions in the war were easier to define. There was no mistaking the enemies: militaristic fascist governments with imperial aspirations. The Germans were willing to use genocidal means to achieve empire status.

The roles have become more fluid, and it is difficult to assign the "good" and "bad" labels. Piscean categorizations are loosing potency. We have entered new territory, and people long for a time when they could wrap their brains around what was happening. Is our affection for the "greatest generation" a nostalgia for a time when all our information was delivered from a handful of sources, when we could trust that our leaders would boldly lead us into conflicts against clearly defined enemies?

The future is bringing different challenges. May we respect the past generation while not longing for the simplicity of the past.

Saturday, February 24, 2007



A French backpacker took the above picture. I was on the Isla del Sol, an island in the 12,500 foot Lake Titicaca. The Incans believed that creation began on the island. In the distance is Nevado Illampu, a 21,000 foot citadel standing on the northern edge of Cordillera Real.

Photos and the Moment

Why do we bring cameras on trips? We love to share your experience; we want to hold tangible evidence of the voyage; we need visual reminders of adventure when a lifestyle of commuting and cubicles becomes route. A bad day at the office? Open up the photo book and remember that we will always have Casablanca.

But the process of capturing the moment can result in a total loss of being there. Last September I took a three tour in the remote southwest corner of Bolivia. We navigated through the world's largest salt plains, the world's dryest desert, 15,500 geysers, and pink flamingos feeding in red and green lakes. Vicunas (wild llamas) dotted the treeless scape. The landscape was surreal, as the lack of oxygen enabled the views to stretch for miles.

I traveled in a jeep with a guide and five fellow travelers. An older French Canadian couple, a thirtysomething French couple, and a young Catalonian. Everyone came with cameras in hand. As we came upon each extraordinary vista, the jeep would stop for a photo oppurtunity. The men of each couple would shoot before looking, eagerly filling up their expansive memory cards with momentos. By the morning of the final day, each couple had more than 500 pictures. For the exception of the herds of vicunas, the vistas were not going anywhere.

With the onset of digital photography. we can afford to shoot mistakes. If one shoots a hundred shots, at least one will turn up right.

In this way photography can be a refusal of the moment. The moment is not something separate from ourselves, something that must be caught as it flees. Time is endless, it is the only thing we can be sure that will never run out. We can structure our lives to convince ourselves that we are short on it, but this is only an illusion.

Jordy, the Catalonian, waited for his oppurtunity. He walked around, breathing into the scene before setting up his shots. Funny enough, he is a professional photographer. His shots came only after careful observation, as opposed to indiscriminate firing. And perhaps that is why he is successful with what he does.

The moment is there for the taking. The best photography is a merger with the moment, as opposed to an outsider's observation of it. Let the camera be a tool for merging with the inner.

SDS

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Moving Class Divides: Either Way You Divide It, You Wait

My car has been in the shop for the past few days. I have substituted my car for the bus while negotiating the gridlock. A massive fault line exists between those who take public transportation and those who drive.

Public transport can be an equalizer in New York City. The upper middle class sit alongside the city's dispossessed. New York's compact bundle has spilled out over several thousands of square miles in Los Angeles. Cars become status beacons. Bentleys and Ferraris are a daily sight, and seemingly every third car is a Mercedes or a BMW. The moving masses shut themselves in the roving castles, bluetooth headsets ensuring no awareness of other people or other even fellow traffic.

Below the lowliest of vehicles is the bus. A majority of riders belong to ethnic minorities (though I am not sure if you can call Latinos a minority in a city where they make up 52%). Blank, anxious ridden stares cover the faces of most riders. If you don't have a car in LA, you are not necessarily making ends meet.

Los Angeles's massive transient population use the bus. Last night our bus was stopped after a blacked out homeless man began screaming to the bus driver that she did not know where she was going and that we were all fucked. We filed out of the bus, and waited next to the 405's roar for a police officer to cart him away. A look of crushed humiliation filled him as he used his little remaining effort to remove himself from the bus. A fellow homeless man made a ruckus about how he was homeless, but did not treat others that way. His play for sympathy and stories of how he had been cheated out of a fortune playing with Ray Charles brought some attention: an recovered homeless women gave him 8 dollars which he promised not to use for booze.

Some buses are clean, but others are cramped graffiti ridden roving dungeons.

However, riding the bus gives you an outsiders look at the rush hour traffic sludge. At least I can read a book and not worry about slamming into that person either chatting to etheric voices or into their blue tooth.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sometimes my time in Los Angeles feels like a dream. My childhood was in the shadows of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson's plantations. The past hangs thick in the humid air. The Appalachian mountains, the world's oldest range, is cloaked in vegetation reminiscent of the Amazon's depths. The old boys of the hollows seem to have grown with the mountains from their inception

I had a core feeling of roots, of beloning on this ancient land

And then came Los Angeles, a virtually history-less post-urban apocolypse of eleven million people all seemingly in their cars at rush hour. The dry desert inhalation shows no relation to its sticky green counterpart in the south. Small towns are so non-existent that they are recreated as shopping centers of glitz. Old Appalachian folk contrast with fashioned up aspiring stars and the armies of mentally ill homeless.

I now find myself wearing turbans and medieval white dresses in contrast to camouflage hats and khakis of yore. It is said that the electro-magnetic field is particularly heavy in the south, and it is virtually non-existent in LA.

I sometimes feel like I may wake up, arriving back in Charlottesville Virginia in late April as the flowers are blooming and the school is gearing up for party season. This time in California, of yogic discipline in the nightmare of Moloch, is not bad, but it is not home. Perhaps the work I have done has unhinged me from my attachment to that area, but it remains imbedded in my soul.

SDS

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Here in LA We All Talk to the Voices

Los Angeles pulls the creative and the crazy towards it. Glance towards the hills and gaze in awe at the marble mansions of the movie moguls, those whose visualized impulses are the entertainment for the world. Hoardes come to LA with dreams of looking down at the city from their Hollywood Hills villa after having chiseled their notch into the collective psyche.

The mentally ill of America arrive at an equally staggering rate. If I were a vagrant inclined to sleep on the street, a land of beaches and mild winter temperatures would seem the logical choice.

The line between starry eyed aspiring actors and street people is not always clear. Both share a common trait: talking in public to voices only they can here.

Wireless headpieces have become the safe way to talk on a cellphone while going about business. Perhaps I am the only one, but everyone appears to walking around addressing the voices in their head. I was raised to see someone talking loudly to themselves as crazy. When the faux hawked, Van Dutch hoody hipster picking up his Kombucha at Whole Foods addresses silent voices, I cannot help but to question whether they are healthy in the head.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Farewell to an old teacher

November, 2005
In my early twenties, my intuition kept telling me that the standard east coast doctor/banker/lawyer path was not for me. I was initially reluctant to listen. When I began my search for a truth beyond society's predominant paradigm, I searched for teachers to guide my way. When I was twenty I was introduced to a guide who was famed for helping people break out of their molds.

The teacher had earned a certain degree of fame over time. The message was simple: shut the reason down and access worlds of experience unbeknownst to the analytical mind. It had guided the indigenous peoples of the Americas for
millenia, opening minds to the hidden wisdom of the jungle and desert. Its knowledge remained confined to indigenous peoples until the mid-twentieth century. Beginning in the 1950's it worked with burgeoning counter-culture revolution in their rejection of perpetual war and search for love.

The teacher's tactics were harsh at times. The method was to intoxicate the system in order to shut down the mind's consistent survivalist instincts. When these faculties shut down, whole worlds within the mind and earth came pouring forth into the individual's senses. While the rewards can be great, the nervous system is put under tremendous strain in induce this state. People suffered terrible delusions and waking nightmares in such a condition. On the other hand, the revelations were beautiful. One takes a risk to access an immense beauty.

Initially I dabbled in this guru's teachings. Once or twice a year I engaged in its tough love. Sometimes the light of infinity shown forth, and sometimes the dragons of my subconscious manifested in their full potency. During these times I came to the foot of the teacher in social situations. It was more entertainment than exploration.

During the last half of my twenty-forth year, I became more devoted to my guru. I went on a pilgrammage to his feet in Costa Rica as he traveled with a gypsy band of Brazilian disciples. Beforehand I had purified my body through cleansing, my mind through meditation.

In the midst of a delicate ritual, it radiated the pure beauty of existence. The demons that lurk in my subconscious were helpless in the face of such a force. The guru did not only tell me, it made me experience the truth. I saw my body as a vessel in which an immense energy current flowed. I experienced the cycle of death and life as merely operating systems through which we experience the truth. This cycle could not harm those who do not subscribe to its supremacy. Judgment, dialectics, and thinking in polarities disappeared.

I just was.

As the ceremony wound to a close around dawn, I was willing to dedicate myself to the teacher and the message. I was shown the truth without any interference from lurking survival instincts. How could I not follow this new master?

I moved from Central America to the desert mountains of Southern California, and continued following this mysterious teacher. I sought him out whenever I got the oppurtunity. Each time the universe unfolded itself. The visual patterns that had ruled my experience of the universe unraveled, and all seemed to move in a flow of energy. Plants and animals began to communicate with me, and all became peace. I saw myself as a prophet of the earth, searching for a way to demonstrate the truth to those enamored with these lies.

While I was not studying at the foot of the teacher, my life was hectic. I consumed a decent quantity of alcohol most nights, several cups of coffee during the day. My lack of plans for the future ate away at me. My experiences with the teacher kept them at bay while I was at its feet, but soon as he departed I filled myself with fear. My nervous system was already strained, and I could not feel the level at which the teacher's syrum was harming me.

Right before I turned twenty-five, my life came crashing down on me. Many people in my life had not believed in the infinite truth, and thus cloaked themselves in mental instability and sorrow. My girlfriend seemed at the time to be the one exception. As time went on, our presence in each other's life restrained our inner selves. We were too caught up in our relationship to realize it. Her knowledge of this fact manifested, and ended the relationship in a crushing way. My life and all certainties came crashing down in the course of one afternoon.

I quickly saw that I need the power and discipline of another teacher or else I would sink deeper into a confusion resulting from a dirty-bombed nervous system. I packed my bags and drove to New Mexico in search of a new master. took off for I New Mexico to study under the new teacher.

Rather than poisoning the mind out of its survival orientation, the new guru taught a discipline of physical motion and quieting the mind to coax the demons to sleep. The body was built up in the process, the nervous system and liver
rebuilt. Discipline, a word that in the past conjured up a life devoid of God given pleasures, became a key to liberation. Thomas Merton referred to it as the four walls of newfound freedom. Joy was attained through a stable clarity rather than intoxication.

The other day I paid a visit to the old teacher. I climbed a mountain and bowed my head at its feet. I lay down and began to sing Amazonian songs of the divine ecstacy. As the intoxication came on, my system, unused to toxins, reacted with
sluggishness. The experience manifested the visceral sense of beauty, but something remained not right. I was accustomed to lightness, and now I was feeling weighted to the world. As I descended the mountain and drove back to Los Angeles, my body struggled to regain its previous clarity in the face ofthe poisoning.

People and things appear at different points in one's life for a reason. What once worked at one point does not necessarily work later. The ability to discern when something is no longer right is a skill that I have struggled to attain. I have grasped on to experiences long after the vibrancy had past. Change has been melancholy rather than exciting prospect for me. I work on the ability to discern what is helpful from what keeps me mired.

The old teacher has completed its role for now. Under its guidance, I devoted myself to shedding the ghosts that haunted myself. During a time where I was unable to still myself to let the light through, it struck at the nervous system's survival techniques. It led me to the foot of my current guru, a higher being. When I returned, the old teacher's message to me was that it had played its part its part for now.

May my old teacher continue to pull victims out of the jaws of despair, and show them, however briefly, of the bliss of this existence. It opened the world for me, and may it continue doing for others. It was useful to me in breaking through the structures of the old world, but could not provide me with the tools to construct a new one.

Friday, January 19, 2007

LA: Our Dear Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

Helicopters have circled me in the past few hours. The first one was monitoring some police activity on a corner as I walked out of work in West Hollywood. 10 miles away and two hours later another police helicopter was beaming its searchlight in search of some troublemaker

The everpresent police and news helicopters contribute to LA's Terminator-esque, post-nuclear armegeddon feel. Helicopters zoom by as the humans fight a losing battle against the Machine army. The vertical order of Manhattan's skyscape has spilled into an 11,000 square mile basin of urban/suburban seizue. The suburbs are impregnated within the city, and no one can accurately tell you where Los Angeles ends. I would venture to say that it spreads east 10 miles before Palm Springs. If Camp Pendleton were not there, the LA and San Diego metropolitan areas would have merged into one.

Concrete arteries are spill over with steel during rush hours. Rush hour seems to take up most of the day, as 2 pm marks the beginning of the afternoon gridlock. The city seizes into virtual paralyzation, with commutes that take significant chunks of one's life.

Having come from the east coast, I am used to building codes that ensure development maintains a colonial, columned brick house aesthetic. Anything goes in LA. Strip malls and shopping centers are the kings, with urban high rise randomly clustered across the skyline. Due to the conspicuous absence of homey pedestrian streets, some wise developer built a widely successful shopping center in this model, with a trolley car and all.

Those with money display it in a gaudy glory. $300,000 Ferraris and Bentleys are daily sights in West LA. In a town where a two bedroom on a fifth of an acre will cost you $750,000, 20 bedroom marble mansions dot the hills in the hills.

A twenty minute from what is perhaps the world's densest concentration of wealth will take you to the territory of raging gang wars and drive by shootings. LA mayor Villaragosa recently asked for federal intervention in stopping the uncontrollable gang violence. In several areas Latino gangs are shooting all blacks, including children, on sight.

So here we have it. The world's richest, most creative, gang banging, gridlocked post apolocalyptic wonderworld. Welcome home.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Quotes of the Day

In an interview with CBS the other day, President Bush said "Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude."

He also said Saddam "was a significant source of instability." I would go out on a limb and say the civil war groups is far more divisive than Saddam's brutal strongman period.

He also spoke of himself as the "educator in chief."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

More Troops?

The swagger is gone. In his Wednesday night speech, President Bush showed little of his characteristic bravado. He must have partially awoken to the fact that the war effort is going disastrously. He looked like a scared child who has done something silly against all practical advice, and is looking for a parent to step in and make everything all right.

Will this troop increase work? 20,000 is nothing. Many suggested that at least 200,000 troops were needed to secure the country in the spring of 2003. The actual troop numbers were far less, allowing the insurgents to take hold.

And then there was the de-Baathification and the disbanding of Saddam's Iraqi army. In order to hold a government position in Saddam's Iraq, they needed to join his Baath party. Since every qualified teacher was part of his Baath party, the country was made devoid of qualified teachers. The army is disbanded, releasing many angry males who onto the street with no profession and numerous guns.

Almost four years into the war, the insurgency is fimly entrenched. Throwing an additional 20,000 troops on top of the 130,000 already there is a drop in the bucket.

If the "surge" fails, the US will look even weaker...

This conflict may have no military or diplomatic solution anymore...

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Thoughts on Bolivia



The above picture is Nevado Illimani, a 21,000 plus foot peak that stands watch over Bolivia's capital, La Paz.

One often hears Bolivia described as the Tibet of the Americas. While similar to Tibet in its wind blown, high plateau landscape, the attitudes of the respective peoples towards their conquest have been polar opposites. The Dalai Llama’s acceptance of his country’s fate is in stark contrast to the seething anger of Bolivia’s indigenous.

The majority of the population dwell on the 10,000-13,000 foot altiplano. The Andes are at their widest on this jaundiced, oxygen starved plateau. It is flanked to the West by a double phalanx of volcanic ranges and the Atacama desert. The latter has the notorious distinction of being the driest place on earth. It is fifty times drier than Death Valley. Some spots have not received a drop of rain in forty years. A 2003 study suggested that the land was as lifeless as Mars.

To the east of the altiplano are a series of ranges rising and falling into humid lowlands. To the north, Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real combine to prevent any intermingling between the altiplano and the Amazon basin. The Mediterranean blue Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable waterway at 12,500 feet above sea level. Indigenous tribes dwell on islands constructed out of reeds and fish for giant lake trout from Viking-esque reed boats. Incan legend holds that the Island of the Sun is where Con Tiqui created the earth.

The granite, glacial massifs of the Cordillera Real erupt from the earth to the north and east of Lake Titicaca. Many of these behemoths tower over twenty-one thousand feet. The range drops precipitously into the Amazon rain forest, hurtling into that abyss of green.

62% of the country identifies itself as indigenous. The percentage is much higher in the altiplano, where the Aymara and Quechua speaking peoples have preserved enormous swaths of their culture against the conquest.

The Aymara speakers are descended from warlike tribes centered near Lake Titicaca. Eighty years before the conquest an Incan spread the empire north to the current Colombian/Ecuadorian border and south into northern Argentina and Chile. A series of emperors were known as the Incans, and the speakers of the Quechua language became known under the name of their ruler. Quechua speakers came to live in Bolivia when Incans colonized their new possessions.

With the arrival of the Spaniards, the indigenous were forced into a semi-feudal system. Conquistadors were given labor rights, and labor drafts sent them into the bowels of mines for weeks at a time.

Uprisings against the Europeans began during the conquest and continue to this day. In 1780 an indigenous army under Tupac Katari captured the area between Lake Titicaca and La Paz. An eight-month siege ensued. Approximately half the population starved or died fighting. The rebellion occurred shortly after a similar siege of Cuzco by Tupac Amaru. Deceased rapper Tupac Shakur renamed himself in honor of the anti-European forces.

This anger, this sense of having been cheated for the last five hundred years, is an overwhelming trait in the Bolivian people. As opposed to tropical neighbors who live in a paradise of mangos and fish, the majority of Bolivians were born on a barren, thin air plateau where only potatoes and quinoa willingly grow. The past five hundred years saw their rich and intricate culture assaulted by a force seeking to create a European style feudalism in America.

Evo Morales, a forty-seven year old full blooded Aymara and leader of the coca growers union, was elected President in December of 2005. Known simply as “Evo,”he was the son of a poor llama herder on the altiplano. Four of his seven siblings died as children. In one popular story he and his father were traveling across the altiplano. Buses would go by and the occupants would throw orange or banana peels out the window. The young Evo would eat the bits of flesh remaining on the peels. He himself that one day he would be ride on such a bus and eat exotic fruit.

Coca production became lucrative in the 1970’s with the rise in popularity of cocaine. Evo’s father heard of a gold rush in the Chapare region, and relocated his family there. The chewing of coca has been an integral part of Andean culture for centuries.

The Spaniards accepted it when they saw that it substantially increased the productivity of their workers. When the leaves are placed in the mouth and mixed with a base, a mild stimulant effect occurs. It alleviates hunger and the crushing effects of living at glacier level.

While hiking the Andes and the Amazon, my guides insisted I offered a few leaves to Pachamama, the goddess of the earth, before stuffing a handful in my mouth.

I found the coca leaf to be a much more gentle stimulant than coffee, Argentine yerba mate, or even green tea. The coca leaf does not produce the roller coaster ride of elation and despondency I experience with coffee. Rather, it is a sustained energy that relieves the draining effects of altitude.

The drug also happens to be the raw ingredient for cocaine. The leaf is chopped up and the active chemical concentrated using an assortment of wonderfully healthy substances such as gasoline and acetone. One would think that diced up organic spinach treated with the same chemicals would also produce a noxious substance.

As international demand for cocaine grew in the 1980’s, Bolivia became a major supplier of the raw leaf and some refined cocaine. A global crash in the world mineral market devastated the state owned mines. The government brought balance by privatizing mines and laying off 20,000 employees. Many of the newly unemployed headed to the Chapare, a non-traditional coca region, to join in the coca leaf bonanza.

With the arrival of crack, cocaine was no longer a hip yuppie drug. The US government expanded its anti-drug campaign past its own borders, aiming to destroy cocaine at its biological source. The DEA supplied training and equipment in the burning of fields. Such eradication campaigns were met with rage. Though the most of the coca produced in the Chapare was destined for refinement, the farmers did not seem to care where their harvest went. They insisted that if cocaine was a US problem, it should be dealt with inside the US.

I think the solution is to eradicate the demand for cocaine in the US. This will not be accomplished through strict penalties. We need to let people know that they can be happy without pumping themselves full of drugs. There is obviously a void that needs to be filled. Let people know that they are unique creatures of God here to give something that no one else can give. Only then will this hellacious stalemate resulting in death and poverty throughout the Americas stop.

Evo began his leadership career by organizing union soccer games, and catapulted through the ranks from there. He emerged as a relatively unknown presidential candidate in 2002. US ambassador Manuel Rocha warned the Bolivian people that electing a cocalero leader would risk continued US funding. Evo’s popularity immediately soared, evidencing the anger against the perceived colonial monster.

He lost the 2002 election, but remained a leading figure in "Black October" of 2003 when President Sanchez de Lozada when the army killed dozens of proestors in El Alto, a slum of La Paz. He was elected in a landslide in January, 2006

One of his inaugural ceremonies took place at the ancient city of Tiwanaku. He appeared before the largely indigenous crowd dressed in a red poncho with a staff in hand. Adorned in necklaces of coca leaves and flowers, and donning a checkered emperor hat, he was inaugurated by indigenous priests. He declared that five hundred years of conquest were over.

Upon assuming office, he cut the presidential pay by 57%. He shuns the traditional suit and tie look for sweaters decorated with Andean animals. Evo has attempted to create a government of regular people as opposed to professional politicians. The consul in Barcelona is a former soccer player; the ambassador to France a popular singer. The head of the Senate is a school teacher in the countryside.

His first target was the vast oil and gas fields of Bolivia. For years transnational companies made hefty profits while the people saw little improvement in their quality of life. Leftist leader Oscar Olivera summed up the people’s rage: “As a result of corporate globalization, we Bolivians…have been stripped of our material inheritance and natural resources….The transnationals have stolen our….hydrocarbons…and our land.”

In May of 2006, Evo announced that the companies would have six months to sell at least fifty-one percent of their ownership to the Bolivian government at a set price or they would leave. In the months leading up to the October deadline things did not look promising for the Bolivian government. The companies were putting on their best poker faces over their threats to leave. If they indeed leave, Bolivia would be abandoned as a lower tier third world country with no real ability to extract or export its resources. And without extraction, the country would be destined for dire poverty.

At the last minute the companies renegotiated the deals. As oil and gas are in high demand in this world economy, other companies would have stepped in. It was a twenty-first century nationalization, using market oriented competition threats rather than Castro-esque land seizures.

A second target was the US driven campaign against the coca leaf. Acting on the premise that coca is not cocaine, Evo has moved to stop cocaine traffic while maintaining a space for coca production. He appointed a small time coca farmer and mayor in the Chapare as the vice-minister of coca. Evo ordered the halt to forced eradication programs several months into his presidency, instead promoting voluntary eradication and allowing campesinos to cultivate one third of an acre.

A third goal is land reform. Evo promised redistribution of large, unused tracks of land for the poorest. The measure passed in November. There is talk of landowners hiring private militias to keep out potential squatting campesinos. This ominously resembles the beginnings of Colombia’s interminable civil war, as Colombia’s paramilitaries formed to protect landowners from left-wing guerillas.

This final issue may bring about a civil war between the wealthier lowland provinces and the poor Andean ones. The talk of secession is commonplace. The lowlands, which contain the vast majority of oil and gas, do not feel responsible for the altiplano poverty.

Evo promised rapid change, and the people have little patience for traditional snail’s pace moves. In my two months in the country, it seemed that fewer people supported him. The threat of civil war loomed, and it was unclear how the nationalization would pan out. People on the fence began to question his ability to accomplish his goals without tearing the country in two.

Sunday, January 7, 2007



Camped out in the Bolivian Andes

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Submission

The idea of submission is rotten in the minds of many Westerners. We are free, and anything that can be construed as a rule or limitation is anathema. The 1960’s free love/drug culture promoted William Blake’s idea that “The Road of Excess Leads to the Path of Wisdom.”

This move towards “unmitigated freedom” was understandable. Organized religion had spent thousands of years focusing on rules for rules sake rather than rules as guidelines for the betterment of humanity. Moreover, the ability to interpret and make new rules created a class of people who used rules as a pretext to power.

The 1960’s generation threw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Sexual and drug excesses created a wounded generation. The worst cases seem to inhabit the streets of Venice Beach, my place of residence.

This subject has come up as I am rereading parts of Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost.” Satan arrives in hell in the beginning of book four, and mourns his downfall. He realizes he can return to his former place. But that would involve, “submission, and that word disdain forbids me.” Rather than submit, he dives into an existential void. “Farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost; Evil be thou my good.”

Submission is a four letter word in our culture. If it the word is examined closer, its real meaning can shine forth. The Sikh scripture is full of exclamations of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, being a slave and a servant to God. This is a recognition that man’s analytical mind is not capable of creating paradise. The mind is necessary, but its perfection is not the ultimate end.

Nanak is forever a slave to the supreme energy. He did not negotiate with it, did not construct it in ways that made him feel superior to it. He acknowledged its supreme power, and became a pure channel of it.

To a large degree yoga is about submitting. Holding an uncomfortable posture for a long time requires letting go. Holding your arm up at a 60 degree angle for 62 minutes is tough to accomplish if you imagine that you are the doer. At one point you must submit to a higher power, and from that point the task will be much easier.

Bio

I am a 26 year old political and adventure oriented yogi. I was raised in Washington, DC, son of two Ivy League intellectuals with a penchant for leftist Catholic activism. I grew up in the Capital Hill culture. I went from accompanying my father to his office as a toddler to interning during high school and collegiate summers.

I attended the University of Virginia, graduating in 2004. I was a regular, law school destined fraternity brother. After my third year of college, I took a semester and a summer to complete the 2,170 mile Appalachian Trail, spanning from Georgia to Maine. The trip detoured me from the standard post-grad professional path. Upon graduating from college I moved to a Caribbean Island off the coast of Nicaragua. In the course of the next ten months I studied Spanish in the highlands of Guatemala, trekked up 14,000 foot volcanoes, hiked through thick coastal rain forests, attended Sandinista election rallies, and cooked at a yoga retreat center in Costa Rica.

I returned to the United States, and moved to Southern California. Some drastic personal developments happened in my life, and I was forced to realize that the operating systems I had been using were obsolete for where myself and the world were heading.

Kundalini Yoga found me soon after my return. It is a science aimed at strengthening the nervous and glandular systems for the purpose of remaining strong.

The world is going through a major period of change. Anyone whose eyes are even partially open can witness that something is happening. Ancient scriptures of many cultures (Mayans, Christians, Yogis) anticipate a time of great change at the turn of the millenium. The world population has increased six fold in the past hundred years, and previous barriers between people and cultures have fallen. The way that we have negotiated reality no longer works. We are moving away from a time/space where violence is the predominant force.

Metaphorically speaking, we are moving from DOS to Mac OS/X. Humanity needs an upgrade to stay relevant in this chaotic time.

God, universal energy force, etc…. has created each individual with a purpose and will take care of us. A businessman is not sent on a trip without the company picking up the tab. At some point each one of us became convinced that we were not special, and that we had been abandoned. We have created egos that have spun out of control, focusing on protecting ourselves financially in 40 years rather than trusting in the moment.

We do nothing, God is the doer. The key is to work on clearing neuroses and the habits that form them. The clearer we are, the better God can work through us.

I have recently returned from three months in South America, meditating at 16,000 glacial lakes, trekking up and over the Andes into the Amazon, and writing all day in Buenos Aires cafes.

I reside in Venice Beach, California, working on my writing.