Don’t throw me a bone

I must admit, my tolerance for stupidity in the federal government has grown enormously over the last few years. Or maybe I’ve just learned to shake my head when I hear stories, and then keep doing what I can. However, every once in a while a story comes along that jaw-droppingly ridiculous my limits of tolerance are challenged.

This time, it’s the proposed $100 rebate for high gas prices. Who does the Senate think they represent? Sure, I can put that $100 to good use. I have bills to pay, clothes to buy, gas to pump. Hey, that alone will be enough to buy gas for three weeks or so.

And then it’s gone.

Senators, if you think the federal government’s budget can handle a one-time payout of $100 to every tax-paying household, why not take that $billion or so and invest it in renewable energy sources? If you want to “cut dependence on foreign oil” (such as the oil we get from Mexico and Canada, our two _largest suppliers_ of oil), then cut dependence on oil. You can either pitch those $billions into a program which will eat it up (and have it wind up into the pockets of the bankers or oil execs), or put it into a program that will offer savings for years to come.

Think about it.

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Vacation, yoga, allergies oh my!

People following my entries last week know that I was planning on attending four yoga classes last week, including one on Friday morning at 6 am. I’m happy to say that I made all four, and I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful experience, and I have been pretty good about keeping up a home practice.

I was on vacation at Oconee state park in SC on Saturday and Sunday, and I did yoga by the lake early in the morning. It’s a wonderful experience to do Warrior III hanging out with the cabin’s guardian goose while watching the morning fog drift across the lake. Not much like it. Basic yoga poses also help me overcome some of the stiffness from driving for long periods of time, as well.

When I started coming back, I came down with what I thought was terrible allergies. I was frustrated because I usually don’t get them, but tried the non-drowsy, non-drying Sudafed (r). I found out that it’s also a non-working Sudafed (r). I tried Claritin (r) for the first time as well, and that seemed to do the trick without knocking me on my can.

But then I showed tell-tale signs of a viral infection, so maybe I had a cold instead of allergies (or just a very mild allergy).

At any rate, work’s been busier than usual, and, in fact, here at 10:15 at night, I’m taking a break from it. Time to get back.

Being yourself is cool!

While I won’t use this advice for the same reasons these chaps do, the lesson for everyone is that people _like_ it when you act like yourself.

Defeat snatched out of the jaws of victory: study conclusions and media reporting

Ok, so this post has been hanging out in my draft queue for over a month. It’s time to send it on, even if it is still unpolished.

Few things bother me more than seeing a flawed study interpretation disseminated widely (usually due to sloppiness, sometimes due to trying to “prove” a point).

An “editorial”:http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2006/jun2006_awsi_01.htm?sourcecode=MCC02E&source=INFEML_MCC02E&key=website written for “??Life Extension??”:http://www.lef.org, which was recently was brought to my attention, discusses the media reporting of several recent studies that seemed to be show that certain dietary supplements are worthless. However, the article points out that in many cases, the text of the publication doesn’t match the headline. (The editorial also criticizes some features of these studies, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to comment on whether glucosamine sulfate is the superior form of the supplement, for example.)

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Prerequisites for success in yoga, and the yoga marathon

According to the ??Hatha Yoga Pradipika?? (16):

bq. Success depends on a cheerful disposition, perseverance, courage, self−knowledge, unshakable faith in the word of the guru, and the avoidance of all [superfluous] company.

I’ve started reading the ??HYP(Hatha Yoga Pradipika)?? with commentary. It’s quite an eye-opener. For one thing, it names the poses different from the modern, Iyengar-based naming system. For example, Kurmasana is really Tarasana (or maybe what we call “Omega Pose”), where you sit on the floor with your feet together and bring your head to your feet. So I can do Kurmasana 🙂 (Background: modern Kurmasana, meaning “tortoise pose,” involves placing your chest on the ground between your legs and placing your legs over your shoulders. I cannot do this pose.)

Of course, there’s the admonition to do the preparation for hatha yoga, which is the _yamas_ and _niyamas_ that Patañjali spoke about in the ??Yoga Sutras??. And there are specific instructions for how to set up a space, right down to a daily application of cow dung. (The commenter says you can probably get away with skipping the cow dung.)

So this brings me to an interesting point. In the West, at least in the Bible Belt, we are taught to venerate the ??Bible?? as infallible and literal. Carrying this attitude over to a reading of the classical yoga texts clearly isn’t going to work out very well, for not everyone has or need easy access to a fresh daily application of cow dung to their tranquil yoga space. So the question is what do we take metaphorically and what do we take literally? Most explanations I’ve seen of the classical stories involving the Hindu deities are metaphors. For example, there was a legendary war between the gods and the demons, and Brahma, interceding on behalf of the gods, asked Vishnu what to do. Vishnu’s response was that the gods make peace with the demons. (There’s more to the story, but this will do to illustrate my point.)

Literally, it’s just a story. Metaphorically, (and taken as a parable) it has immediate application to spiritual growth — making peace and harmony between our bodies or even our darker human tendencies and our divine aspirations. Our whole person has to work in harmony, even if it involves the darker parts of ourselves that we’d rather see fade away.

At any rate, I definitely had time to practice the first four prerequisites for success in yoga (cheerful disposition, perseverance, courage, self−knowledge). For today, after having had my butt kicked in advanced Anusara last night, did 3 hours tonight. The first 1.5 hours was much like last night, but the last 1.5 hours was a lot easier. It was very nice to go back to basics after pushing my edge with a couple of intense, advanced practices. I did manage, even if briefly, _visvamitrasana_. I nailed _astavakrasana_, though I opted out of jumping into the pose from down dog (there’s that self-knowledge). Both of these are examples of courage, after I bombed the poses (with a little sadness, and a little mirth) last night. I even tried the handstand transition to _chaturanga dandasana_ and nailed that, even though I had to use a wall to steady myself.

However, I drove right up to my edge, and I had to realize I was there and back off until I was just beyond my comfort zone and could sustain a 3-hour practice. I might have pushed myself too hard a couple of times. We did 5 — 5! — _urdhva dhanurasanas_ (or wheel) poses tonight; I managed 4 and wisely sat one out. I did two ab-busting exercises tonight, but had to tone the second one way down because I was just too tired. Even while I was doing the hard stuff, or backed off, I smiled and enjoyed the practice. I’ve learned a lot about myself this week through 4.5 hours of practice, a lot of which involved learning what I’ve de-emphasized lately in favor of other practices. And I’ve definately perservered, at least in this short term. I’ve also perservered in the long term, because I keep coming back to this practice even when other responsibilities don’t permit as full a yoga practice as I’d like. (This week is certainly anomalous in that respect.)

Tonight, I went back to the basics. Set the foundation. Work the legs. Pulse outward in the pose. Check the foundation again. Pulse outward. I was glad to go back to a basic practice after going through the more fancy poses. I was tired (and had to work with steadiness through breath), but open. I found this very helpful.

I guess there’s a couple of others that the ??Pradipika?? mentions that I haven’t touched on. Behind unshakeable faith in the guru there is a lot of years of testing and making sure the guru and the student are a good match. (At least this is supposed to be how it works.) The skepticism is done up front, and then once the skepticism is satisfied the student is free to have this unshakeable faith. Of course, in the West, we don’t have easy access to a guru. We have yoga teachers which are very good but probably have not undergone the mystical transformations that mark the path to enlightenment. So we really do miss that aspect of study and devotion and, since our thinking in the West really glorifies skepticism and it’s darker cousin paranoid mistrust, we find devotion to a guru a strange concept. On the other hand, I think it should be clear from a survey of a variety of the classical texts that a guru is very helpful, but not required, for enlightenment. (Tantra practitioners probably disagree with me on this.)

The other is avoiding superfluous company. This is always wise if we can manage it. There are simply some people who affirm who we are, and some whose presence detracts from it. We should minimize contact with these people, and seek company with life-affirming people. (This doesn’t mean people who always cheer you on. Sometimes life-affirming people may challenge you and make you struggle.) This is a topic that probably deserves a lot more of my attention.

Ok, let’s see if I can make it this Friday at 6am.

The health-reporting fog starts to lift

In the past, I’ve complained mightily about the reporting of healthcare news, especially the interpretation of clinical trials. I suggested one way to alleviate this is to make the articles that are the subject of press releases public. Well, this website has another angle of attack. Health News Review has reviewers monitor the popular press for health care stories, and they will review them on the site. Their rating system is transparent and posted on the site. They also say which media outlets they routinely monitor, though they do take user suggestions.

Good luck to them. We need this.

(h/t “insider”:http://pharmagossip.blogspot.com/)

Labyrinthine reflections

I always thought of labyrinths as a Zen Buddhist tool, but Christians in NC are taking advantage of them as well.