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Happiness in the Here and Now - 10 Principles that Turn Every Practice into Yoga Practice

Written by Philip Walter on Jul 25 at 2:35 pm.

Editor’s Note - The translations referenced in this post are from Godfrey Devereux. I feel his translation is more practical than some of the others out there. If these differ from your previous exposure, please take them for what they are - interpretations.

photo credit: bitshaker

Alright, first things first - yoga is not all mirrored rooms packed with sweaty Gumbies stretching and oming. In truth everything you do can be yoga practice … if you approach it with the right intentions. Yoga is all about getting to the point, cutting through the fluff, and seeing things for what they are. At the root of any yoga practice is that inalienable human right to pursue happiness - happiness in the form a life lived free from the blame and guilt that arise from the pesky human ego.

Think about it. Most of our lives are spent running ourselves ragged trying desperately to calm our neurotic egos, satisfy the often unrealistic expectations of others, and convince ourselves we have things under control. This business of always trying to stay one step ahead of the curve, separates us tragically from the absolutely stunning beauty of the moment.

These ego games we use to define what’s mine and what’s yours are useful in many ways, but they fall short of providing us true joy and lasting happiness. We know there is something else, something beyond the roles we’ve learned to play in our everyday lives. Sites like this one, integralnaked.org, zenhabits.net, and many others are a testament to this realization. It is this pursuit of genuine happiness that underlies all authentic yoga practice. It is nothing more than a great cosmic sigh of relief, which erupts naturally as we embrace and explore that Something Else.

So how exactly do we turn every practice into this graceful sigh of relief? Well, I believe we can learn a bit here from the father of yoga himself, Patanjali. His Yogasutras lay out an eight-limbed path (Ashtanga Yoga) to what we might call enlightenment, and enlightenment’s really just a fancy word for peace - everlasting, joyous, ecstatic peace. This peace can only be found through the cultivation of proper perspective. One could also say enlightenment itself is nothing more than proper perspective.

Patanjali’s yoga is framed and informed by the first two limbs, called yama and niyama. These are basically attitudes or orientations that naturally set the stage for yoga practice. They are each comprised of 5 principles. These 10 principles together lay the foundation upon which yoga builds its house. Without them, all we have is some exotic stretching, odd chanting, and weird breathing techniques. I assure you, if you take these principles to heart and begin to infuse them with your daily activities, you will soon start to see the yoga coming out in everything you do.

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Play the Building, for What It’s Worth - Your NPR Driveway Moment of the Week

Written by Philip Walter on Jul 17 at 12:10 pm.

photo credit: weegeebored

I’ve decided to start a new feature here at BrickhouseBodymind.com. It’s called, “Your NPR Driveway Moment of the Week.” I find myself stuck in my car at all sorts of places, rapt by some story on NPR. We have a running joke at our house about the fact at least once a day I start a conversation with, “I was listening to NPR today, and …” So anyway, this is my way of sharing these great stories with you, and hopefully spurring some conversation in the process.

What is your life worth?

Did you know the EPA values your life at $6.9 million?  It’s kind of a creepy thing to imagine, isn’t it - some number crunchers in some sterile building in Washington, DC putting a monetary value on your life.  Who are they to say what my life is worth?

Still, $6.9 million is a lot.  I’ll be lucky to make that much money in my entire lifetime.  So what makes me worth so much?  Productivity?  Tax revenue?  Home ownership?  My sexy smile?  Nope … we’re talking cost benefit analyses … and basically what I’m willing to pay to reduce my risk of death.

This story on last Friday’s All Things Considered is all about risk.  The first interesting thing about this is the correlation between risk and compensation.  Think about The Deadliest Catch here and you’ll get the idea.  We expect to be paid more for greater risk, and this implies some monetary value to life.  The second interesting point is that the statistical value of a life is down 11% from 5 years ago.  Yikes!  This could be saying we’re more accepting of risk now than we used to be. I’m not sure if that’s true, but the whole thing seems a bit icky to me. Then again, most of what goes on in Washington these days seems icky to me.

David Byrne is a badass!

Have you ever heard of anyone playing a building?  Well, leave it to Talking Heads great David Byrne to make it happen.  Check out the story here.  He refuses to play this thing concert-style, because he doesn’t want there to be any airs about it.  Shear populist genius!

Enlightenment Vocabulary Revisited

Written by Philip Walter on Jul 4 at 7:52 am.

Photo courtesy of
Binary Half

This is a lengthy response to a comment from one of my readers, Duff. His comment was to my recent post about creating a new vocabulary of enlightenment, and my response simply became too long to post as another comment. Here is the original comment:

Flow is certainly related to enlightenment, but I’m not sure that it is equivalent to it. Flow as defined by MC Flow is a high-energy state where the exterior demands of the environment perfectly match the abilities of the person in it. I wrestle with how to integrate this understanding with low-energy states where there are little-to-no exterior demands at all, for example when sitting in meditation.
There is also a conception of equanimity regardless of state that I find an important piece of the puzzle. Since all states, including flow states and other spiritual experiences are temporary (subject to impermanence), they cannot be the ultimate aim, for all temporary experience has an unsatisfactoriness to it. In addition, one can develop craving for such states and aversion to “ordinary” states such as doing one’s taxes, or going to work in the morning. I think you are seeing this when you talk about not being interested in ascendancy or transcendency.
But then what is enlightenment? A spiritual attitude of equanimity with all things? And the dialogue goes on….

First, thanks for your thoughtful comment, Duff. Do keep them coming. As for my response, I’m not really familiar with MC Flow, though I sampled a bit of her music and found is quite compelling. My understanding of flow comes from another MC – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (try saying that 5 times fast!), and my own experience. Flow, from Mihaly’s book, is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” That seems to apply to a large number of low-energy experiences. I can’t help but think of many a yogi expensing the high cost of isolation for the sheer sake of meditation.

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Developing A Post-Modern Vocabulary of Enlightenment

Written by Philip Walter on Jun 21 at 4:58 pm.

Photo courtesy of
416style

For those of you keeping score at home, it has been a bit over two weeks since the last post. One post a week was my goal when I started this blog 6 months or so ago, and up until now I have surprisingly been able to keep that pace. Now, however, work has begun in earnest on my book, I’m in training for a Prasara yoga instructor certification at the end of the month, and I’m working with my cameraman Robert to develop a 6-part Brickhouse Bodymind TV series chronicling his transformation from stressed-out, pot-bellied twenty-something to peaceful, hard-bodied heartthrob using the Brickhouse Bodymind Blueprint as it will be laid out in the book.

In the mean time, the amount of posts will probably diminish a bit, but rest assured that if you maintain your subscription, you’ll be among the first to be privy to the exciting new content coming later this summer. In an effort to keep some content flowing, I came up with the following post. It is an adaptation of a thread I started on the Tao Bums forum today in conjunction with some stuff I’ve been developing for my book. Hopefully y’all will get something out of it. As always, I encourage anyone to comment below if you have thoughts.

I believe we in the post-modern age, particularly those of us in the Western world, have done a wonderful job of compiling and translating ancient and foreign ideas about this thing called enlightenment. This is fantastic, but I fear that a largely borrowed vocabulary lacks enough relevance in the post-modern world to be as effective as it was all those centuries ago. These terms are more likely to make enlightenment seem like some distant thing than part of our fundamental nature. Let me be clear that I know the value of these ancient systems, and that I myself practice some of them, and am influenced by them. My purpose here is not to poo-poo these traditions but to frame their conceptual foundations in terms more familiar to those of us who have survived the Technological Revolution.

The terminology I’m talking about would be integral - both comprehensive and balanced - comprehensive in that it would take into account pre-modern, modern and post-modern sources alike, and balanced in that it would not leave behind any aspect of the individual (mind, body, spirit being the three major aspects).

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Dream Analysis and Audience Participation

Written by Philip Walter on Jun 5 at 10:11 am.

Photo courtesy of
Amy Walter

Anyone who owns a dog knows the amusement to be had when one of them takes off on a slumbering romp through dream-land. Even just five minutes watching their paws flutter in a sideways “jog-in-place” and their lips flap and furl in an attempt to pursue some imaginary squirrel beats the hell out of a whole night of American Idol. I find myself wondering what forest he’s sprinting through, what stream she’s swimming across, or what mailbox he’s pissing on.

Last week I was reminded of all this while listening to this story on NPR’s All Things Considered. The basic gist was that college students everywhere are awakened in the middle of the night by dreams of failing their last final and being unable to graduate, or of tripping on their way across the stage at their graduation ceremony, or of arriving at the show naked altogether.

This sort of dream, according to the story, seems to be stress-induced, triggered by anxiety surrounding the event of graduation, an event looked forward to and toiled over for many years. But these dreams don’t just pop up in the midst of the experience. They can show up years and years later. The theory behind this is that college in general and graduation specifically can be very stressful, so when we encounter stressful situations later in life, and our brains try to sort those situations out, our dreaming selves return to the images of college and graduation in an archetypal way.

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