In the name of…

It had been my observation that, we, humans, when we want to claim something that cannot be otherwise justified or proved, tend to recruit to our aid, just about anyone and anything. It’s a curious, although not unpredictable, trait. In the name of love people inflict pain, conquer and kill. From Helen of Troy to the dismemberment of John Wayne Bobbitt, trojan-horsehistory is filled with so called crimes of passion. Some countries even allowed that by law, either due to religious dogma (most notably Sharia law related to infidelity,) inequality related to women’s rights, or by culture tolerance, as was the case with the Napoleon Code in France. But can violence and love be mentioned in the same breath? Isn’t love-driven passion a romanticized expression for simple jealousy and a need to own? Avoiding the ugliness of this reality, the person whose feeling get hurt, announces “in the name of love!” and goes on to carry out a crime.

Of course, love is but one of many such causes. For Country is another favorite call. We rise to wage war in the name of patriotism; the fools that we are. How often have corrupt political leaders pulled their nation to war out of personal gain? Whether it was to directly profit, or to distract the masses from the incompetence of its officials, loyal citizens paid with their lives; all in the name of country. And no, this is not to say that a country doesn’t have the right to defend itself.

godAnd then there is God, likely the ultimate of all causes. How easy it is to evoke the One for, well, just about anything. We create God in our image (not the other way around,) and thus we can mold him into whatever cause that best serves us. After all, if there was indeed only one rightful religion to claim God on its side, things would have been settled a long time ago. By the way, my sincere apologies if I offend anyone; I do not believe in God in the religious sense. I do believe, by choice which is what belief is all about, in a concept that can be called God, but for me the Divine is the way of the universe, both in forms visible and concealed. But I am digressing. The existence of the almighty aside, under the one name such large crimes were committed that no God in his rightful mind would have ever allowed it, let alone forgave the wrongdoers for their deeds, and more so, under His name.

So what is it with the need to evoke names and causes? Why can’t a lover simply tell the beloved, I love you and your behavior makes me feel hurt. Why do we, in the name of love, pull a knife, a gun, a wooden horse? Maybe we act that way when we can reason no longer and still wish to find a justification. So poor is the condition of our mind, mine included, that it resort to the irrational, infantile manner of action.

And now, in the name of keeping this post’s length manageable, I will end it here. See? That was easy…

Learned from: a reflection about how a guru I followed years ago, manipulate his followers into serving him, disguising it as a service for the divine.

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Why I meditate

A friend recently made a comment about her meditation practice. That prompt me to think about why do I meditate. Some meditate to reach enlightenment, others do it to calm the mind. There are those who adopt the practice for improved health, such as to lower their blood pressure, and the ones who do it to ignite their creative mind. And then there are those focus on universal causes such as World Peace, eliminating hunger, and the list goes on. But why do I meditate?

When I started the practice, many years ago, I didn’t really have much of a clue what the heck I was doing, but I aimed at a simple enough goal: reaching enlightenment… Intrigued by tales of a silvery light and eternal bliss, I desired that experience, and while I would occasionally glimpse into nothingness, a touch of Ananda, it was not yet “it”, or at least not the “it” I thought it should be. Then, several years ago, I finally had a chance to experience the so-called enlightenment; the full-blown package, the light, the nothingness, the whole nine yards. I recall how, at the peak of the experience, I found myself wondering (side comment: yes, that’s right, a little-known fact is that within enlightenment, besides the nothingness and bliss, there is still consciousness). So, as I was saying, I found myself wondering: now that I’ve reached “it”, what’s next? After all, I cannot stay seated here forever, enwrapped in bliss. Life goes on; where all this fits in? And then a voice; call it the cosmic consciousness, the medicine, or whatever you wish, replied, “That’s right. You can check enlightenment off your list of things to experience and move on. But how about trying to experience life, with its hurdles and challenges, as a form of meditation. And as meditation, every moment is bliss even if without the lightshow.” To be perfectly honest, the voice likely didn’t use those exact words, but that was the gist of it. Can I, I wondered, really do it? That is, take moments that are unpleasant and turn them into meditation? It is, I fully admit, a huge challenge, and had been for me work-in-progress ever since. But all this still doesn’t answer the basic question asked above, which is, why do I meditate?

The answer for me is multifaceted. I do this because my mind is often a whirlpool right from the early hours of the morning; often not slowing much at night, when thoughts take the shape of dreams. I found that if I can take a little time, as short as ten minutes, before starting the unabashed daily race, sit my butt on a pillow, or just on the edge of a chair, or even standing in a stable Qigong make-like-a-tree pose, close my eyes and focus on my breath and/or other elements my meditation practice entails, the mud, as Lao Tzu was quoted saying, starts to settle, and the water becomes clear. The problem is, of course, that the mornings I am most pressed for time and cannot fathom myself carving meditation time, are the days I need meditation most. Thus, ten minutes is my minimum, although if I can, I try for twenty min or even half an hour.

With regards to goals, I wanted to point out that while it is important to make the time and commit to the practice, the process is more important than the endgame. What I mean to say is that while I may spend time with my eyes close, and my mind wrestling the bars of its cage, frustration growing at the inability to achieve calm, it is all part of the process. What I have learned is that if I let myself be discouraged by the lack of peace of mind, I miss the point. Furthermore, my meditation habit adopts a destructive pattern; the more frustrated I will be at my restlessness, the harder it will be for me for the relax. Thus, I now embrace my state of being whatever it is; calm? Great! Restless? That’s just as fine. What I discovered is that regardless of my mindset, dedicating time to meditate already changes the rest of my day. The point is that if I take time to meditate, regardless of any immediate calm effect, somehow things go a little smoother on days that I meditate versus days I do not. Also, the process of letting go of troubling thoughts becomes easier and faster. It all comes from this practice. It is no magic; much like working our leg muscles for running a marathon, meditation works out brain patterns that form in-shape mental health.

I also meditate for creativity, though that seems to be just a byproduct of my sittings, whether I intend it or not. With clarity of mind comes fresh ideas, including the underlying thoughts behind many of this blog posts.

Learned from: my friend’s comment and… a little meditation

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Posted in Life, Meditation, Mind-Body, Yoga and Tai Chi | 2 Comments

You remind of…

Passing my 50th birthday a couple of years back, I recently realized that I reached a point in my life, where almost anyone I meet reminds me of someone else I already met… The resemblance may be by appearance, tone of voice, or demeanor.

20-yearsWhile this may sound cute, it can be a hindrance on multiple facets. First, it creates within me a sense of confusion – do I really know you from somewhere, or is the notion simply an echo of another person? Furthermore, the sense of have I met you before? may clutter my judgement. If the original imprint — that is, the impression left with me from the person whom I confuse the current one with, is negative, I may be more critical of the new individual. On the flip side, if the impression was positive, I may find myself all too trusting. This led to consider gut feeling.

Gut feeling, I suspect, is partially based on subconscious memories of past experiences. Having some training in the ancient Taoist art of facial reading (Mien Shiang,) I know that although each person is unique, facial features disclose similar traits of character in different individuals. Thus, there is a reason why we remember a faces in connection with the experience we associate with that person. Still, I would like to believe that I give every individual I meet an equal opportunity, and confusing a newly encountered human with some echo of the past create challenge to that belief.

It made me think that maybe there is a sort of advantage for some memory loss at an advanced age; at least from the perspective of ghosts of past lives. Now, if I can only remember where I put my keys, that would be a little more helpful…

Learned from: meeting several people over the past few days who remind me other individuals from the past

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Yoga for Humans

Visiting Wilmington, North Carolina, I wore my NC Yogi T-shirt to a yoga class I decided to attended. The back of the shirt carries my slogan: Yoga for Humans.

RD_logo_tshirt33_Page_bThe class instructor, noticing my shirt, mentioned that she recently read about Yoga for Humans. I should mention here that I did not tell her, when I checked in for the class, that I am an instructor with my own brand (NC Yogi.) As a rule of thumb, when I attend classes of other instructors who do not know me, I usually keep a low profile so they don’t feel somehow intimidated – a common occurrence when another professional is present. I also do not wish to be treated different than any other participant. When I go to classes by others, I go as a participant to enjoy the class and that’s that.

At any rate, I doubt this instructor read about my slogan anywhere. It is more likely that she confused it with something that has a similar ring e.g. Yoga for Humanity, although Googling the Yoga for Humans just now, I found others who use it to. It guess it’s difficult to be original… The instructor asked me if Yoga for Humans is from New York City, to which I answered that I am not sure, but that I encountered in around Raleigh, NC. Yes, I was a bit evasive, but I didn’t outright lie. Luckily she dropped the topic and move on, but it prompt me to write post and lay out my motivation for the slogan.

In all honesty, it was part joke, part a protest. While I am all for various paths and types of Yoga, so that people can pick whichever style that works for them, I also feel that some have gone a bit too far. Between Doga (yoga for dogs,) and Naked Yoga (which started, as much as I know, in San Francisco, with classes aimed mainly at the gay community, possibly, although without admitting to it, as a way to pick up dates,) Yoga is no longer about connecting the individual soul and the divine. And that is, after all, what the word Yoga, Union, means. Thus with the slogan Yoga for Humans I was poking fun at what is going on in the yoga world these days; protesting, if that is a better word, the circus that Yoga had become.

My other motivation was encouragement. Yoga also became a practice featured on magazine covers in the form of beautiful flexible and well-tuned women, holding positions that most of us, mortals, cannot aspire to. I wanted to state that I teach a style of obtainable yoga that any person, of any age, shape and body type, can practice. In short, Yoga for Humans.

Learned from: pondering a question by another yoga instructor

 

Learned from: pondering a question by another yoga instructor

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What’s in a name?

I was given the name Ronen. My parents named me based on a suggestion from one of my aunts. They simply liked the sound of it. Ronen means cheerful in Hebrew.ronen Not exactly cheerful though, as there is no English word that precisely carries its meaning; maybe gale. Ronen is the verb for the root Ron, which means in Hebrew a cheerful song. Thus Ronen means to sing out of cheer; of joy. And while I am agreeable with that description when it comes to myself, singing voice is one talent I was not granted. But that’s okay, I can live with it given some of my other skills.
Until arriving in the USA, back in 1989, I was not aware that my name, albeit misspelled, may have other meanings in other languages. As it turned out, people in the USA often write my name as Ronin, confusing it with the Japanese term for masterless warrior; a samurai without a lord. That, actually, would not be too far from my truth. My nature is of a warrior, and I answer to no masters (expect for my wife, and that too, not often enough according to her.)

Others spell my name in the Irish way as Ronan which means baby seal. As an avid scuba diver, that is not a bad fit either! Another popular Anglicized form of the Gaelic Ruadhán name that mine is confused with, is Rowan. If to believe the internet, it means little red-haired one, and while the hairy part may apply, mine is not quite red. Then there is Roman, which has its distant origins dating back to the Roman Empire and the Latin language. It comes from the Latin word “romanus”, which means “of Rome”. In this initial sense, the title “Roman” means “a citizen of the Roman Empire”, a man of Roman (or Byzantine) culture, Latin or Greek. As Israel was once part of that empire, I guess that’s correct.

Onan, another common pronunciation confusion of Ronen, is not a name I am aware is being used. Yet, some still spell my mine that way when not hearing the R. Putting aside the sorry biblical affair with which this name is associated (Genesis 38:1:  “wasted his seed on the ground”) Onan is taken from the Hebrew root of ‘on or ‘awn, which means vigor. By the way, is it possible that this is where the English word On may have originated?… But ‘on may also mean sorrow in Hebrew. And yes, some days are days of vigor, others of sorrow. Finally, there is Ryan, another fine Irish name occasionally confused with mine, which may mean ‘decedent’ of a king or even ‘little king’.

A late addition to this blog post is the name Rene. I get that a lot too. Turns out that René means born again, or reborn in French. This, as far as I can tell, is unrelated to the Christian Born-again movement, but rather it is a common first name in both French-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries. Wikipedia further informs us that it is derived from the Latin name Renatus. René is for the name form for boys and Renée is for girls. The name is no longer a popular in the USA — it reached its peaks in popularity in 1969 and 1983, when it ranked 256th. But since 1983 its popularity has been continuously in decline and it ranked 772nd in 2013. As it fades into history maybe so will be the confusion with my name, though I doubt it. Born again… hmmm… And I was so hoping to break the karmic cycle of rebirth this time around…

My name had been misspelled, mispronounced, and butchered more times than I care to remember. Luckily I really do not give this much weight. Still, why not have some linguistic fun?

Learned from: Googling the meanings of my many name variations

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A Bumpy Ride

The other day I placed an item at the backseat of my car. I did that just as I was leaving my office. The car in the driveway was, as one may expect from a parked vehicle, stationary. What I did not take into account was the fact that when I’ll be driving, I’ll likely be making some sharp turns, in which case the item at the backseat may not stay in place. Physics, you know.

Moment later, driving, sure enough, I heard that item, which, luckily was not fragile, bounce all over the place. Duh…

This minor, harmless incident, made me realize something. It occurred to me that I do this more often than I realize; that I make assumptions regarding life that are incorrect. I occasionally assume that things will stay as they are; stationary, and based on that, I make plans. But life often takes us on a bumpy ride, and without the right preparations, those items that make our existence, may shift and move all over the place, leaving us puzzled if not injured.

Yet, I know; this begs the question – how can I be prepared for every possible unexpected event the universe has in store for me? I bet that the universe itself doesn’t plan these surprises that much in advance.

Life is not a game of chess. Too many factors and moves to calculate, and even if one takes all they can imagine into account, being so prepared may drain the fun of the day.

It is a fine line; walking between being prepared, and allowing for spontaneity.
I don’t think there is a definite answer for this. The actions each of us take, depends on an accumulation of personality; some are more impulsive while others are more analytical, but it also depends on our individual life experience. When one gets burned one too many times due to lack of preparation, attitude may shift. On the flip side of that coin, when one spent lots of time preparing for multiple possibilities, and then life surprised us with an option we didn’t anticipate, we may say: screw all these preparations, next time I am going impromptu.

As for myself, I do like to prepare several options ahead of time, leave early for a meeting in case of unanticipated traffic or a missed turn. But then again, more often than not, I find myself placing an item at the backseat of my car and expecting it to stay there during a bumpy ride.

Learned from: my car’s backseat

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What is Wisdom

Wisdom is a word used to describe… what? Someone whose advice we will be more likely to adhere to? As in the idiom old and wise? Does old age automatically indicate wisdom? What is wisdom made of?

Those questions and more, passed through my mind as I was headed to a meeting with a prospect client the other day. The person I was about to see, received my proposal a few days earlier, and was hesitant about proceeding. She told me over an email that as my prices were somewhat higher than those of the competition, she may not be able to afford my services. How can I justify my fees, I thought. Well, for one, I have been a professional in my field for well over twenty years. Many of my local competitors are kids, barely out of college, in comparison with me. Unlike them, when I sit with a client, my advice carries substantial weight; a measure of wisdom. That is when the question popped up – what is wisdom?

It occurred to me that wisdom is more than age. It is also more than my smarts, and it is not only my experience. Being older means I had a chance to experience more in life. Being intelligent means that one is able to discern what works and what not; maybe even more likely to show creativity, generate ideas and flower different perspectives. Thus, if the letter W would stand for Wisdom, I for Intelligence, and E for Experience, W = I + E. Experience without intelligence may not amount to much, as one may repeat the same mistakes time and again; walk a path that leads to no place new. Intelligence without experience may mean being smart, but remaining an empty vessel. The accumulation of past mistakes and successes, and the intellectual capacity to observe patterns, connect the dots, and draw unbiased conclusions; that’s wisdom, and that’s priceless. This, I determined, is my added value, and that is why I can charge a little more.

Learned from: thoughts about what is my value to my clients in comparison with my competitors

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