His body is a golden string your body’s hanging from: Leonard Cohen and the disgraced guru

an excerpt from Cohen Koan, first published on yogaforsmartpeople in May of 2013 — thank you Tracey.


I believe that you heard your master sing while I lay sick in bed. In the late 90s I opened a magazine and saw a picture of Leonard Cohen sitting beside his teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi, both of them zen blank-and-stern in brown-black robes, bone-white rings at their left breasts. In recent years I had lost track of his biography, and had no idea that I was mirroring it, thirty-five years his junior. I cut the picture out and put it on my altar next to a picture of myself with my very own crazy Buddhist teacher – Geshe Michael Roach. Cohen’s zen uniform had a kind of continuity with his grey-blue suits, and perhaps the gabardine his father had worn in the Canadian Army, or the racks of suits Cohen would have seen hanging in his father’s haberdashery. Renunciation and militarism for him have always seemed cut from the same cloth, en vogue. Continue reading “His body is a golden string your body’s hanging from: Leonard Cohen and the disgraced guru”

śruti and smṛti: intertextu-orality, phenomenology, and the so-ham behind the swan

(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.)

Continue reading “śruti and smṛti: intertextu-orality, phenomenology, and the so-ham behind the swan”

Negotiating the anxiety of influence (threads of yoga ephemera)

An excluded section from threads of yoga.

There is a Oedipal subplot to this book that I would like to make transparent. It’s been fuelled by a subconscious drive: by definition, I won’t be able to tell the whole story. But I think I have some idea of how I’ve loved and hated Patañjali, how I’ve wanted to steal his fire, strip his book down for parts and bury him – but then, still dream of him in my bones. I’m at least partially aware of how this desire is but one shade of my general feeling within the grip of history and language. Continue reading “Negotiating the anxiety of influence (threads of yoga ephemera)”

A few pages from an abandoned novel, circa 2003

Sunday morning, this beautiful empty winter in Wisonsin Dells. Neon vacancy signs in front of a hundred 50s motels go pastel in the crystalline sun. A few old pickups outnumbered by leased minivans prowl the parkway towards church or a sleepy buffet of powdered eggs and maple-flavored corn syrup. Matchbox-flimsy roller coasters cut cubist arcs against the frigid blue, icicles glinting from the cross-ties. The outdoor water parks are barren but for their enormous cartoon sculptures grinning down at summer’s absent children, and across drained blue pools like bedpans of molded plastic, kidney or pear-shaped, the twigs and leaves and beer cans gathered around the drains in frozen halos of inconsequence. Transports hum on the interstate behind the Wal-mart and Home Depot at the town limits. There is everything to buy, but spending begins again in spring, in preparation for Memorial Day, which should be called something else. Continue reading “A few pages from an abandoned novel, circa 2003”

Mic Check: how the Occupy movement is creating empathy through communication

Of the countless intersubjective graces unfolding in Zuccotti Park and around the Occupy world, the “human microphone” is recapturing something as old as human learning. This is something sacred: a repurposing of voice, ear, and content that may serve no less than the re-membering of a more coherent human consciousness. Continue reading “Mic Check: how the Occupy movement is creating empathy through communication”

notes on bhakti: up the down staircase

The power of the ‘divine’/’human’ dream is that each perspective beckons the other. The micro is not broad enough, and the macro is too distant. The mind seeks pleasure in the transitional zone between the two, its pleasure deepening as its focus widens or narrows in a surge of learning. Becoming god is ecstatic, being god is not. Becoming man is entastic, being man is not. It is not enough to see that the categories of human and divine are dependent and intrinsic. The categories seduce only where they meet. The child does not play on the slide by resting at either the top or the bottom. Continue reading “notes on bhakti: up the down staircase”

translating translating patanjali

some notes to help visualize an open loom, to weave new sutras

(this post is my apocrypha to the threads of yoga, which scott and I have published on the yoga 2.0 site)


What does it mean that the central text of modern yoga tells practitioners that it is good to be disgusted with their bodies (2:40)? What does it mean for us to hear and read that our personal ethics can remotely control the behaviour of others (2:35)? What does it mean for us to hear and read that the world of things exists only as a play for human consciousness (2:21), and that this world is materially destroyed for the person who enters a deep swoon (2:22)? What does it mean for us to hear and read that devotion to Isvara is the path to human healing (2:45)? Continue reading “translating translating patanjali”

waking up remembering proust waking up

Dreaming of an origin to existence: rising to wakefulness from sleep. A fetus to the new day invites a parade of revelations: a point, a moving point, a length, laterality, longitude. A muscle opens as its antagonist contracts, the seam of the eyelids flutters, forms glint, warmth down here, cold air on the upper shoulder.

The first thought, a tiny wind, is mental vocalese, a series of long vowels opened into through mm or nn, to mimic the breath and the chiff of sensory doors opening. What is the sound of the eyes recognizing form? What is the colour of an ambient breeze? Continue reading “waking up remembering proust waking up”

opening mantras

It’s only right to invoke one’s sources of inspiration and support. Before classes or meeting with clients, I chant the following prayers in Sanskrit. My translations are both eccentric and rhapsodic, and are meant to convey the personal feeling that has accrued (up to the moment of this posting – it will surely continue to evolve) over years of recitation and contemplation. Direct written translations are inherently misleading. They are the fossils of song. Continue reading “opening mantras”