For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.– Audre Lorde
Christopher Wallis asked me to respond to his eloquent piece on gurus-gone-bad, and how to stay away from them. I’m happy to do just that with this short post.
(Positional statement: I’m writing here as a non-Indian yoga practitioner who has interacted with echoes of the Indian guru-shishya system that have been borrowed, adapted, appropriated, or manipulated during the globalization phase of yoga.) Continue reading “Laying Down the Guru’s Tools, for a While – A Response to Christopher Wallis”
4.5/5 stars: Highly recommended. One bump, and some questions about framing.
Inner Traditions | 544 pages | ISBN 9781620555675 | August 4, 2016
Remember that old Indian fable of the rajah who blindfolds his pundits, asks them to grab onto different parts of an elephant, and then report on what the object is?
The guy grabbing the leg announces that the elephant is a pillar. The one touching the ear says it’s definitely a woven basket. The pundit touching the head is convinced it’s a big clay pot. The rajah compliments each confident answer, and then reveals what they’ve missed.
It’s an apt metaphor for the recent explosion of modern yoga research in English. So many pundits, so many hands on the elephant. But who’s the rajah in this parable? Continue reading “Elliott Goldberg Rides the Elephant: An In-Depth Review of The Path of Modern Yoga”
- It used to be that the unexamined life was not worth living. Now, the unexamined life is killing the planet. Staying mindful of our collective condition will keep things on point and our heads out of the stars.
- Yoga philosophy today is meeting a world of neoliberal values and catastrophic climate change. It needs teeth.
- Never assume that there will be agreement as to what “yoga” is, “philosophy” is, or what “yoga philosophy” is. Continue reading “20 Suggestions for Doing Yoga Philosophy Today”
Well first of all, as with Ayurveda, I don’t really teach. How could I? What – do I know something? Not really. Even less as I get older. But I have gathered a ragged bouquet of question techniques that range from musings to proddings to provocation. Gentleness is key, because the discussion has to explore and penetrate belief, which is sometimes all a person thinks they have in defense against despair. Musings are good icebreakers for where we are frozen; provocations require familiarity and trust. Continue reading “How I Teach Yoga Philosophy”
Cameron Shayne’s usage of the “I am not my body” meme to rationalize his anti-social ethics was far less interesting – to me at least – than what happened when I attacked the meme itself. My basic position is that the metaphysical claim “I am not my body” is not only unsupported by the phenomenological sciences by which we actually live our lives, it can provide delusional cover for our vestigial asceticism, blind us to the privileges accrued by living bodies based upon appearance, origin, class, or gender, and promote the very dissociation from materiality that leads directly to our environmental crises.
Merely presenting this argument opened me to charges, from writer and teacher Chris Courtney among others, that I didn’t understand the fundamentals of yoga, that I was rejecting yoga in general, that I have no right to facilitate discussion in yoga philosophy, that I was being “overly-intellectual”, and that my lack of lineage disqualifies me from staking out a position. The message of my detractors is clear: let’s assess Shayne’s inner life and attack his behaviors, but not look closely at the metaphysical claims that support him: because, well, we rely on those claims ourselves, and anyone who doesn’t is off the yoga island.
I have an online tormentor. He started with an email accusing me of bullshitting my way through yoga philosophy. He said I was leading gullible people astray with flashy but hollow intellectualism. His rudeness was refreshing: he made me feel a little less lonely with the central question of my professional and emotional life: am I actually bullshitting? How can I know? I’m pretty sure I’m not lying, which according to Harry Frankfurt in On Bullshit (Princeton, 2005), would imply conscious manipulation of my readers. But honestly: do I say and write things mainly to impress others, as Frankfurt defines bullshitting, regardless of whether they are true? Continue reading “On Bullshitting and Spiritual Claims”
It’s become clear in an era of lightning-fast interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange that the transparency of one’s sources can be a grounding factor in understanding why and how one does yoga philosophy. Inspired by discussions on this blog and others, I’m experimenting with creating a record of my religious and academic influences. I think the stories of how we come to yoga are an essential part of the yoga we wind up finding. This entry, which describes some of the impact and lessons of my Catholic childhood, is the first of maybe five parts. The others will follow the chronology as it happened: university influences, years in Buddhism, years in a kundalini cult, years of quieter study — alone, and with quiet mentors — and how these experiences seemed to roll together into an eclectic practice of yoga and the vedic arts, and occasionally being an adult. Continue reading “Transparency Papers: introduction, and growing up Catholic (part one)”
(This post is a draft of a section from the introduction to a work-in-progress called Yoga Philosophy Digest: three core texts for students, in which I’ll be trying to present the most helpful reading and contemplative strategies for students who wish to navigate theBhagavad Gītā, the Yoga Sūtra-s, and the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. Any and all feedback is appreciated.)
Between the academic rock and the traditionalist hard place: finding the open source for yoga philosophy today
(This post is a draft of a section from the introduction to a work-in-progress called Yoga Philosophy Digest: three core texts for students, in which I’ll be trying to present the most helpful reading and contemplative strategies for students who wish to navigate the Bhagavad Gītā, the Yoga Sūtra-s, and the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. Any and all feedback is appreciated.) Continue reading “Between the academic rock and the traditionalist hard place: finding the open source for yoga philosophy today”