Thursday, May 01, 2008

Student Video Project 3

You may have noticed that a few times a year we do a video featuring the real stars at Yoga Garden, our wonderful students.

The videos all revolve around a simple question. The first one was, "Why Do You Like Yoga?"

The second one was, "What's Your Favorite Pose?"

And, I'm proud to announce the question for our third student video...

"What Pose Is Giving You Trouble?"

We'll be making this video for the whole month of May, so think about your answers, and when you've chosen your troublesome pose, we'll be shooting the mini videos after class!

I'm still thinking about mine. It might be Pasasana...

or Firefly...
Let's have fun with this video!


Yoga Garden

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Secret Project Unveiled!!

Hi everyone, I've been tinkering away in the dead of night on this, and it's finally ready for the public!

I've finally got my own homepage. Everyone check it out, leave some comments. I'll still be posting on What's Sprouting monthly, but the new site will be less formal and updated more often.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why I'm Voting for Barack Obama

This is my first and I promise it will be my last foray into politics on this blog. Politics is a black hole of partisan opinion, misleading rhetoric, distortions of truth, and outright lies.

Below is me and my absentee ballot for the Presidential Primaries.
I voted for Barack Obama and here's my reasoning.

Before we get to directly to Obama, let me first share why I am a Democrat. Of the two parties in American politics (I wish there were more) Democrats tend to have a more interdependent worldview. Interdependence is a Buddhist concept that means nothing in this world exists independently of anything else. Everything is connected and constantly interacting. Say, for example, I steal 10 dollars from your wallet, and you don't notice. It may appear that I've gotten off cleanly and that my action has had no impact aside from letting me have a good lunch that day. But suppose, not having as much money as you thought you did, you don't tip your new waiter well at your lunch and he has negative feelings for you which he carries over to his next customer, who thinks the service is lousy and tells all her friends not to go to the new restaurant which closes down 6 months later due to lack of business. Of course this is a rather trite and trumped up example, but it serves its illustrative purpose well enough. (And doesn't take into account all the internal reverberations you will feel from stealing money from your friend)

All the things we do emminate outwards in impossibly complex ripples, and all the things that happen to us are the result of a distant action sometime in the past.

This is not only scientifically true but it has the advantage of having an inbuilt civic code. Eventually my actions and the actions of my country will come back to me in some way or another. So yes, I can sanction polluting the environment and messing with other countries governments for a personal gain, but it's not hard to see how sooner or later those choices will affect me and those I love in a negative way as well.

Interdependence is unfathomable. We have no idea what will happen even despite our good intentions. That's why we need to make choices that tread softly on the Earth and our neighbors, rather than blazing ahead with a misguided sense of what is right and wrong. I'm not afraid of high taxes or of helping people in my society who are worse off than me. And as it turns out, Denmark, with one of the highest tax rates in the world, also ranks as the happiest country on Earth. This week 60 minutes has a great story about the reason why Denmark is so happy and America isn't doing so well.

So that's why I'm going with the Democrats. Now, why I'm not voting for Hillary Clinton.

  • America does not need dynasties. I find it mind boggling that more people aren't asking what is wrong with America that we have had just two families in the White House for 20 years. (not including Bush seniors 8 years as Vice President) I am 28 years old which means that for my entire politically aware life I have been looking at a Bush or Clinton behind a podium with the Presidential Seal. It's a shame that with such a dynamic and intelligent population we can't get past these two families.

  • Is Hillary really empowering for women? I respect and esteem women and think they make great leaders (women too have a better sense of interdependence). I'm sure Hillary Clinton was a great corporate lawyer before, but it's clear that the only reason she has gotten to where she is now is based on who she married rather than her own accomplishments. This seems to me the antithesis of feminism. I would much rather see our first female president (and it will happen) be someone like Nancy Pelosi or even Condoleeza Rice who has won the post on her own merits.

  • Hillary Clinton has had her chance. A few months ago when Hillary teared up at the luncheon and told us all that she kept going because she just cares so much, I had a few moments of sympathy and fondness for her. But then a voice inside my head said, "Wait a minute, this person had the ear of the single most influential man in the world for 8 years. She's been in the highest seats of power and has had her opportunity to change her country. She's had more power than you ever will." My sympathy for her quickly vanished.
  • Bill Clinton gives me the creeps. No, not because of Monica Lewinsky. Because of the way he acted in South Carolina. For a few days the curtain was parted and we could all see the man for what he is, a politician who will do anything to win. His false attacks and marginalization of Obama as another "Jesse Jackson" left a bad taste in my mouth which won't go away. Like Bush, 8 years of Bill Clinton was enough for me, I'm all full up.

Up until now this post has been all negatives. But that is just a small part of why Obama has my vote. Here's the happiest thing. I'm going to lay out why I like Obama and I don't have to apologize for things he's done, do any mental wriggling to be at peace with his positions, or convince myself that he's the right person for the job. I just honestly support him.

  • Obama isn't straight out of the 60's. Before Obama became a serious contender, way back in the summer of 07, he made a statement that really got my attention. He said, “I didn’t come of age in the ’60s. I’m not invested in them.” He went on to explain that the Baby Boomers have been having the same fight since the Vietnam era. The Hippies vs. the Establishment. As Andrew Sullivan from The Atlantic put it much better than I ever could:

"At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.

The traces of our long journey to this juncture can be found all around us. Its most obvious manifestation is political rhetoric. The high temperature—Bill O’Reilly’s nightly screeds against anti-Americans on one channel, Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” on the other;’s “General Betray Us” on the one side, Ann Coulter’s Treason on the other; Michael Moore’s accusation of treason at the core of the Iraq War, Sean Hannity’s assertion of treason in the opposition to it—is particularly striking when you examine the generally minor policy choices on the table. Something deeper and more powerful than the actual decisions we face is driving the tone of the debate." (For the full article click here)

Before I heard Obama's comments on the 60's divide I didn't have a clear understanding about what so turned me off about American politics. As soon as I heard him say that a lightbulb went off in my head that illuminated so much. These people are still arguing about something that happened more than 40 years ago. I was born in 1979 and I don't care who went, who didn't go, who supported and who dodged the draft for a terrible war that we didn't even have any business starting. I don't care. What I do care about are the issues facing us today, a sensible foreign policy, alternative fuels, healthcare, and sustainable growth. This isn't to say that the 60's era politicians like McCain and Clinton don't care about these things either, but they are hampered in their vision by these old, bitter divisions which have shaped their lives.

  • Obama lived abroad. A few months ago, when asked about his foreign policy experience, Barack Obama said:

"Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia."

The next day Hillary Clinton mocked this answer, saying "Voters will have to judge if living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face.’’

This response deeply unnerved me as it could only be said by someone who has never lived abroad. Living in a foreign country for long periods of time (sorry, a semester in England doesn't count) is a deeply changing experience. It teaches you that the way you interact with the world is not due solely to your own personality but to your culture, your upbringing, and even your language. (interdependence again) Knowing this about yourself, that you approach a situation not just as "Jane" but "English speaking Jane from East Coast America middle class" will forever alter your worldview. It allows you to respect that other people might not see things like you. It gives you skills for compromise and also informs you of when compromise is impossible due to too great a cultural gap. Does it matter that Obama was a young child when he lived in Indonesia? Not at all, the lesson from living abroad is like riding a bike, it's a part of you that you never lose. Clinton's answer is far too characteristic of the self-centered, narrow perspective of the ugly American.

Fareed Zacharia, who has more degrees than I have fingers, wrote very eloquently about this in Newsweek, excerpted here. Please read it if you have the time!

  • The dude can talk. I have been continually amazed at George W. Bush's poor public speaking. I mean, you are the President of the United States. Being able to think on your feet or deliver a good speech should not be optional qualities. If you're trying to be an actor, a certain amount of handsomeness is required. If you're unattractive, that's ok, but maybe acting isn't the best field for you. We have no qualms with this reasoning and I don't see why we shouldn't hold our leaders to similar standards of public speaking. Being President means speaking a lot. And no one does it better than Obama.

  • Obama snorted cocaine. One of the most depressing aspects of American politics is how our electorate insists its leaders pretend they are perfect beings. And then when they show a crack and act like a regular old human, with addictions, lusts, and skeletons in the closet, we cast them out with disgust. None of us could live up to the ideal of the Puritan American leader. What I respect much more is someone who has had their problems and actually worked through them. And isn't ashamed of it. Plus, you gain compassion for people in the same circumstance and are less likely to get on a high horse about anything. I deeply distrust someone who has never done anything bad in their life. There's just something unnatural about that, something pent up and explosive. Doing bad stuff (I would rather say unskillful), and then coming back from that line is where we find our humanity.

So, that's all I'll ever say about politics. I just figured if there ever was a point to say it, now, when things are being decided, is that time. Thanks for reading, and sorry for all the non-Americans who don't give a damn about our crazy political system! : )


Yoga Garden

Monday, January 21, 2008


This month I've made it my priority to finally get on top of all my old receipts which for the past year I've just been throwing in a big plastic box every few days when my wallet gets too full of them. For tax reasons I have to keep track of each and every purchase, and put it into a spreadsheet. But I've just been throwing them in the box.

So tax season is coming up and I decided once and for all to break my bad habit* of not cataloging my receipts in a timely manner. So I've invested in a whole new system of files and folders and gotten the entire 2008 year ready to go, and it's working marvelously so far. But I also wanted to put the past behind me and finally enter all those old receipts.

So, I spent an entire day organizing and another whole day putting the receipts into Excel. This amount of time (nearly 16 hours) spent closely analyzing stuff I bought more than a year ago really taught me a lot about myself and my spending habits. So many times I wondered why I had bought some stupid thing and even more times I couldn't help imagining how much extra money I would have today if I had only skipped a few of those mochas or snacks from the convenience store.But what was most revealing was that some months in particular had a lot more receipts for junk food, pizza delivery, and cheap restaurants. It took me a while to figure out the pattern, but finally I put it together. It was during times of emotional stress that those receipts for junk food and eating out really shot up. And the good months when everything was going well had me buying a lot of healthy food from the supermarket and vegetable seller. The irony is of course that when you're under a lot of pressure your body is already going through the wringer, (see my post on How Stress Affects the Body) and the last thing it needs is fatty, nutritionless junk going in it. Also, if there was ever a time to slow down and quietly prepare a home-cooked meal, it would be when you are stressing out.

The funny thing is, I thought that I was pretty in control of myself during those tough stressful times. After all, my job is teaching people how to handle stress and take care of themselves. And if you had asked me during those hard months if I was "stressing out" I would have been like "nah, it's hard right now but I'm dealing with it well." The receipts however, tell a different story.

So the next time you're feeling the pressures we all go through in the course of our lives, stop for a minute and try to imagine yourself looking back at the situation a year or two out. What choices would you be proud you had made? And which ones would you slap yourself on the forehead about? It's a pretty sure bet that one good one would be to make a small space in the day to enjoy the rhythms of chopping, the smell of fresh ingredients, and the satisfaction of actually thinking about what you but in your body, with a home-cooked meal.

Yoga Garden

*I've found this site called Joe's Goals really, really helpful in getting me to stick to my resolutions this year. What I've found is that when I fail to change a habit, it's not because I'm actively deciding not to do it, just that I forget about it because it's not, well, a habit. This site makes it so that you see your goals and are reminded of your commitment often throughout the day, and that's usually enough to get me to do it. I've added my Joe's Goals graph on the blog so you can check in and see how I'm doing over there on the right side!