How to Be a Yogi Without Being a Chump

“I try. I try to be a righteous man. I try to give love all over the world. But I’m tired of being used!” – Charles Bradley: Ain’t It a Sin

Such passion that you know came from a hard-earned life.  The Screaming Eagle of Soul passed away just two years ago and way too early.  May he rest in peace.

He continues, “Sometimes this world can do me wrong. Keep to the path, won’t go astray.”  Even after life has beaten him down, industry thieves stole from him, as he tried to make his way as Charles Bradley and not some knock-off of James Brown, he’s still trying to be a righteous man!  Not easy sometimes, in this world.

As he performs this song, you can see the real anguish on his face.  The years of blood, sweat, tears, hard times, tragedy, and taking shit are all pouring out in the lyrics.  He’s trying hard to continue to walk a righteous path, but the frustration is coming to a head.

And then … “If you ain’t gonna do me right … I might just do you in. Ain’t it a sin.”

Yep; there it is.

In an interview with Mojo Magazine, Bradley said, “Everybody was thinking I was being very aggressive, but I was saying ‘don’t do me wrong, I won’t do you wrong. We all gotta make things right.”

Damn straight.

Most of us have an inherent goodness within us and we want to live a peaceful life, giving love and being loved.  But, then there are other humans that seem to go out of their way to make that shit almost impossible.

So, here’s the thing; throwing up an Anjali Mudra (prayer hands) gesture is bullshit, if it doesn’t come from the soul.  Namaste, bitch! Right?  We don’t need to do that.  Peace, forgiveness and seeing past a person’s transgressions is inner strength and understanding. Very yogi-like.  But there are times and people who don’t deserve that and neither does our soul.

There comes a point sometimes, where trying to be a righteous person and being a fool cross paths.  Part of nurturing our soul is keeping it from being a chump.  Our soul is our house.  Mi casa es su casa, but if you kick my door in, you will not be greeted peacefully.

Ain’t it a sin?

We cannot be righteous towards others, if we’re not righteous to ourselves.  Hang on; Mr. Bradley is still singing … “I try to find a certain style, to keep my soul from runnin’ wild.”

Seriously, go to Spotify, iTunes, wherever you get your music and get that song right now.

Namaste.  Sincerely.

I See Human Beings

My apologies.  I know I’m taking a risk here, but I posted this the other day and then I took it down.  I’m torn.  I want to leave the past in the past and so I thought I’d put it out there and let it go, but then I thought, by putting it out there, it regains energy.  I had a great conversation with a wise person, who told me its okay to put it out there, let it go, and be done with it.  So, here it is again.  I will not take it down. Namaste.  

Charles Bukowski once said, “I walked around the block twice, passed 200 people and failed to see a human being.”

The block I grew up on was pretty bad.  I walked around it countless times.  I witnessed and experienced things I shouldn’t have at an early age.  At any age, really.  I greeted the prostitutes on the corner as I walked by, witnessed horrible violence and incredible kindness.  A bloody lifeless body on my sidewalk and a two-year old boy innocently playing with a toy truck.  I went to sleep to the cacophony of gun shots, sirens, the elevated train, people yelling and screaming, and … a dog barking.  You get used it.

I learned street diplomacy in my single digits, got into and out of violent confrontations and maintained a delicate relationship between decent people and the criminal element.

Mentally, physically, and psychologically processing that stuff has its effects.  For so many, the atmosphere becomes them and I completely understand.  The pressure to align with this group or that group, because standing alone is dangerous.  So is aligning with a group.  Catch 22.  What does it mean to be a man?  As a young teenager, successfully navigating that atmosphere was next to impossible.

Due to the surrounding violence, my dad enrolled me in martial arts when I was twelve.  Real martial arts.  Not kiddie karate.  Blood, pain, injury, and a bit of Zen.  I could have gotten three of those on the streets at no cost.  Actually, I did.  Something I asked my dad was … “Can’t we just move, instead?”  But that wasn’t in the cards.

That neighborhood heightened my sense of awareness and information processing speed.  My decision making skills are quick and quite decisive.  I learned to read situations, verbal exchanges, tone, demeanor, mood, movement, and things that just don’t feel right. I don’t recommend it.

And the martial arts?  That militaristic dojo taught me how to embrace the suck, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and focus.  It helped me to see myself.  And because of that, it helped me to see the human beings.

Back to the Bukowski quote.  I saw the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful on that block.  I saw the humans.  All of them.  A person.  A life.  I think that’s what helped me navigate those streets.  I genuinely saw the person and they saw that I saw them and so … they saw me.  Some didn’t, no matter what.  That’s just the way it goes and that relationship got handled differently.

Whatever, whenever, and wherever the block; literal or metaphorical, seeing the human beings helps a lot.  It can hurt sometimes too.  But, the alternative is just going through the motions.  No feeling to it.  No soul.

I know what Bukowski was trying to say and I get it.  Life, atmosphere, circumstances, and shitty people can cause us to lose our faith in fellow humans; jaded, frustrated, guarded, and disheartened.  It happens and we all have our days, but we can’t live there.  That would be a miserable existence.  No joy.  No peace.

I see human beings, but I first had to truly see myself.

Photo by Fredy Martinez on Unsplash 

That Time I Met My Childhood Self

One night, in Yoga Teacher Training, our instructor took us through meditation.  Nothing unusual, but this time, we were to go back and meet our childhood selves as we are right now.  I never thought of doing this before and I thought, “Oh, this will be a fun experiment.”  Maybe, I’d give him a high-five and ask him how school is going; that sort of thing.

But, then I saw him and it hit me in an unexpected way.

There I was; eh … me.  He.  We.  Whatever. When I came up to him, I immediately realized that the high-five thing was a dumb idea.  Neither one of us said anything, but he knew who I was and just looked at me with no judgement.  Just observing me, with a welcoming expression.

And this bothered me, because it was like I wanted him to judge me.  I expected it.  He should, dammit!  I felt unworthy of his acceptance and it made me uncomfortable.  Then it made me sad and I did my best to hold back the tears.  I was among my classmates and they can’t see me like that.  You know?

That kid was awesome.  He was naïve, innocent, and okay.  I felt like I fucked that up and that he should push me or punch me or something!  But nothing. He was cool.

I wanted to give him all the excuses about life, reality, circumstances, and survival.  I felt like I should vomit explanations: The first time I saw my parents have one of those fights where they throw shit; and then … the twentieth time.  All those fights I got into.  That time I saw my first dead body.  I was way too young to see a bullet-riddled bleeding corpse.  That time I got jumped and beaten in the projects.  Oh, and that other time and what I had to do to make it home.  That time my cousin died in his sleep.  That car accident.  That time I had to decide to put my mother in hospice and then have her cremated.  And then my father as well.  Or, that time I had two guns pressed into my skull by bank robbers?  Are you kidding me?!  Fucking bank robbers!

And … you know; a bunch of life, multiplied by decades.  I lost my hair.  His hair.  Sorry kid.

But, he just looked at me with that face.  Like … as if he liked me.

So then, I realized where I am now, which is a pretty damn good place.  It took a lot of work, sacrifice, loss, pain, setbacks, eating ramen noodles, self-responsibility, letting the bad shit go, striving for the good things, loving and being loved, and trying to be a better version of myself this day than I was yesterday, multiplied by decades.  I have a soul to protect.  I’m grateful for that, every day.

He saw me.  For real.  All of it.  And he’s proud of me; eh … himself. Us. Whatever.

Thanks buddy.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Am I Worthy of My Soul?

I was watching an episode of The Story of God with Morgan Freeman recently, and he was talking with a religion scholar about good and evil.  The scholar went on to say that we need the belief of the devil or hell as a deterrent to evil behavior.  As if we need a threat to be a good person.

I have a different philosophy. I don’t follow religion.  I don’t do church.  I do believe we have a soul and this body is just our human form for this experience in the grand scheme of all things.  I don’t know how it works or what happens before or after death.  I simply don’t know.  By the way, no one does.  Having said that, I do believe in the concept of a soul.

Our soul is ours to care for, respect, manage, and grow throughout this universal journey and if I do bad things, that is a dent to my soul.  This is the most valuable thing that is us.  Our soul is us.  If I treat it like a shit pick-up truck, driving it through mud, never cleaning it, broken windshield, not running on all cylinders, bent frame, and blowing out black exhaust, then it is what it is.  Shit.

Nothing wrong with a pick-up truck and it’s quite normal to drive through some mud once in a while.  It’s built for that and in this existence, mud is hard to avoid.  We can’t, nor should we avoid it all.  That would be exhausting, miserable, and quite boring.  But, we must take care of our truck, eh … soul, if it’s going to continue to perform well for, I don’t know; maybe … eternity.  Again, I don’t know.

Some souls are just broken or their connection with the human form was botched from the beginning.  Back in that same episode, Mr. Freeman met with a man, a life-sentence prisoner, who murdered and raped people.  This man said that he should never be freed from prison, because he knows he would do it again.  He said that he has no sense of remorse or empathy like most normal humans do and he knows that.  He knows he’s not right.  His truck is a lemon.

But, for the greater majority of us, our soul, mind, body connection is in proper working form.  However, there are some of us who do bad shit anyway.  I guess they either don’t believe or don’t care about things like heaven and hell.  Who knows?

For me, I don’t need a threat called hell.  I don’t respond well to threats.  Wrong approach with me.  I think this is true for most humans.  I also don’t need the excuse of a devil if I do something wrong.  As a responsible human, my thoughts and actions are mine; demons be dammed.

I don’t need the promise of heaven either; like a carrot hung out in front of me.  I don’t like carrots.  They make my stomach hurt and taste like dirt.

No, I simply respect and love my soul; Atman, as we refer to it in yoga.  I don’t know whomever/whatever created it, but it’s mine and I do my best to keep it clean and in good working order.  So, at least when I say “Namaste”, I feel good about my soul being worthy of greeting yours.

Namaste.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Wabi Sabi

Pure driven snow looks almost perfect, but with one set of footprints, it becomes a story; something more.  The snow is no longer “perfect”, but somehow it’s even better.

The darkness is appreciated for the light.  The good is better, because of a touch of bad.  The blank canvas becomes art with the first splatter of paint.  That scar, dent, wrinkle, hardship, worn and weathered, driven off the lot, dog-eared imperfection illuminates the beauty.

Basically, wabi sabi means it’s perfect, because it’s a little fucked up.

We’ve been through some shit, which can make us more attractive.  Or … less.  Some of us let the scratches become our story, rather than enrich it and that’s a real shame.  Some have gotten hit pretty hard.  Knocked down.  Several times.  And we need to process through that.  Not an easy thing.  But, we can’t get stuck in the sorrow, pain, and scars.

I hear The Doors in the background, “… no time to wallow in the mire.”

Staying in the mire is neglect of the self.  Don’t mistake neglect for imperfection.  It’s simply neglect and there’s no beauty in that.  Care is the opposite of neglect.  If we take care in the face of tribulation and because of it, well … it can be a beautiful thing.  Not in spite of it though.  Spite comes from and fuels anger, resentment, and darkness.  The results of spite are quite different than those of benevolence.

Like Zen, Wabi Sabi encourages us to celebrate the way things are, rather than how they should be.  Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve is not reality.  It’s a miserable fantasyland, because we never allow ourselves to be content in what truly is.

To clarify, being content is not about sitting in the mud and saying “fuck it” with a fake smile on our face.  It’s about being happy in our pursuit.

“Wabi Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” – Richard Powell

Yes … authenticity.  Because beauty is in the imperfections.

Photo by Manish Kumar on Unsplash

I AM

“I am not what I think I am.

I am not what you think I am.

I am what I think you think I am.” – Thomas Cooley.

For our reality to exist, it has to be perceived from the self, through another’s perception of the self. So, for me to be as I am, I am as I think you see me.

There can be no concept of a “Me” or “I”, without others. There’d be no point. The definition of an individual wouldn’t exist if there was only one.  And the perception of others as we perceive them to be, makes us real.

What I think you think I am, influences my way of being to some extent.

“But, I don’t care what they think.”  The fact that we’ve acknowledged that there’s a “they” means they’ve experience us in some way and have formed some kind of opinion or judgement or mentally put us into some category.  And, whether we’d like to admit it or not, it does affect us.

We are social animals and our brains are wired as such.  Our thoughts, actions, reactions, attitude, confidence or lack thereof, happiness, anger, sadness, and even our health can be affected by society’s perception of us, whether it’s conscious or subconscious.

Our parents, relatives, siblings, friends, teachers, strangers, significant other, boss, co-workers, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances have all influenced our persona and character.  It continues throughout life.  Even what we think they think of us, which could be totally wrong, influences us.

We’re so weird.

As Sadhguru said, “The first and foremost success is to not be a slave to anyone’s idea.”  Shed the insecurities and be comfortable with whom we are.  The world wants our true self, not some version of what we think it wants.  What do YOU want?  Be that.  However, this is not a license to be an asshole.

Not every song is a hit and not everyone likes the hit song.  It’s okay.  We don’t coerce people into buying tickets and force them to attend the concert that is us.  No; we play our music for those who want to experience it.  And we’re accepting and comfortable with those who don’t.

At the end of the “day”, we sleep with our own soul.  It’s comforting to know that it is truly ours and not someone’s altered version of whom they think we are or should be.  It’s not absolute and never 100% and that’s a good thing; you know … if we want to interact and relate with other humans, that is.

And, by the way; I am what I think you think I am.  I am no yogi.

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash