Your favorite Confluence moment?

On Tuesday, Tim Miller shared his favorite moments from this year’s Confluence — plus his one disappointment.

Eventually (I’m a bit slow), that got me thinking about what was my favorite moment from this really remarkable gathering of not only the senior Western Ashtanga students, but of all the rest of us, too.

Was it my great backbend adjustment/assist during the Sunday Mysore? Was it that whole practice? (Surely not!)

It might even have been the music on Saturday night, which as Tim noted too few people enjoyed. Or the Ganesha puja.

Upon some reflection, and given “where my head’s at” following our trip to India, I’m going to go with any and all the times Eddie Stern talked about Vedic thinking and tradition. So much of it was great, but listening to him is what continues to reverberate.

Now, it’s your turn. But first, a quick comment: I’m like you. There are a bunch of websites I frequent where commenting is allowed and encouraged, but I never do. It’s comfortable, and safer, just “to lurk.”

Given that 50 or so people– maybe more — over the Confluence weekend said something to either Bobbie or me about the blog, we know you’re out there reading. So here’s a chance to finally post a comment.

What was your highlight from the Confluence? Was there a low moment, ala Tim’s? And does anyone want to start the drumbeat for the next one’s happening on the East Coast?

Posted by Steve

Are you free?

We’ve got plenty of notes, but not plenty of time.

We’re heading off to our final Mysore practice, we have to get packed up (and, we think, checked out mid-way through this final Confluence day) and so we are a bit rushed.

Thus, a quick highlight from the Saturday panel of the senior teachers on the eight limbs of yoga.

We’ll turn to Eddie Stern, who wound an intricate and web-like description of the principles that lie behind the yamas and niyamas. It was a fundamentally Vedic offering, moving from the atomic to the breadth of the cosmos. (It was, as I look back, one end of a continuum here at the Confluence; Naren’s wonderful kirtan last night was at the other.)

In the Vedic tradition (and with all these talks, I’m doing him about 1% of the justice he deserves), the closest word they have to what we translate as “spiritual” means “moving toward your inner being.” And one has to have a clear understanding of what and how you’re moving forward or toward that goal — thus we have our maps and systems (eight limbs of yoga, five breaths in a pose, etc.) — in order to start on the path. It isn’t willy-nilly. (That’s me, Eddie never put it that way.)

In the Vedic tradition, the nature of this inner being is freedom. It is pure consciousness, pure truth and pure bliss. (These align up to our physical body, energy/mental body and bliss body.)

Freedom is not how we see it in the West: As being able to do whatever you want, when you want. That sort of false freedom is bogged down in attraction and attachment. After all, when you are free to do whatever you want, what do you do?

You drink. You party. You neglect your duties. You keep living in the maya. (Eddie later talked through karma and kriya. We’ll get to that, I’m sure.)

But you aren’t free. You’re still caught up in all your stuff. You’re still trapped.

Posted by Steve

Blog highlight: A Vedic perspective on Ashtanga’s 1% theory

Note: While we are in India, we intend to post new items if we have the Internet access. In the meantime, to keep our mojo going, we’re running some of our most popular posts. This post ran a year ago — in other words, it’s been a year since the whole “how yoga can wreck your body” kerfuffle! Time does fly.


In one of the first books I’m reading in preparation for our December Yatra, I ran across a very clear and straight-forward description of the Vedic perspective on “the nature of the ultimate” that struck me as perhaps something that would add a little to the well-known formula: Ashtanga is 99% practice, 1% theory.

We typically interpret that saying of Guruji (or any of its similar ratios — 97/3 or 95/5) as meaning that practice deserves the overwhelming majority of our attention. “Do your practice and all is coming,” right?

I’m sure it is because the practice comes so painfully that I’m always looking for a way to emphasize the mental side of Ashtanga as much as possible. So, I’ll admit I might be grasping at straws here, but…

According to Alain Danielou in the omni-present “The Myths and Gods of India,” Indian philosophers conceive of an infinite, undifferentiated space underlying all perceptible forms. What we see and perceive is part of the illusion of the division of this space. Here’s a “traditional example” he cites:

Space within a pitcher is not really separated from the space outside. It was not distinct before the pitcher was made; it will not be distinct once the pitcher is broken and is not therefore really distinct while the pitcher exists.

Danielou goes on the explain this: “All the divisions of space into atoms and heavenly spheres are mere appearances. The space within the atom can be as immense as that within a solar system, and there can be no limit to the number of possible worlds contained in another.”

First off, I should note that Indian philosophers seemed to have grasped the fundamentals of quantum physics pretty well.

I’m also reminded of a high school physics test. You put two people at opposite sides of a room (in this case it was a classroom). Then you have them move half the distance closer to each other. Then you have them do it again. And again. And again.

The point? They would come infinitesimally close to each other but never actually touch. An infinite number of “half the space” always remains.

Now, to the 1%. Here’s my thinking: “The space within the 1% can be as immense as that within the 99%.”

That formulation maybe begins to upend our emphasis and focus on practice, especially a very militant one. (A separate question, of the same vein, might be: What do we mean by “practice”? Is our reading part of our practice? What off the mat activity may be part of yours?)

Now, my intent here is not to dismiss Guruji’s formula. And I don’t intend to follow it any differently than I have. It is just a reminder, to me at least, of our habits and preconceptions and the, perhaps, rigid thinking that we can fall into at times.

How you see and approach things depends on your perception. And, perhaps, your practice.

Posted by Steve

Tim Miller: Of senior moments and ‘Oh Shiva!’

We have an apologetic Tim Miller this week.

It turns out, his description last week of the lunar eclipse included some math errors, which changed the meaning of the events high above us.

Go to Tim’s blog to get things set right, like, right now. Here’s a snippet:

When I realized my mistake I said, “Oh Shiva!” Everything I had said in relation to the Moon in Anuradha would be happening on Sunday rather than Monday (except for the eclipse, of course). Usually I’m pretty good at math—good enough to help my daughter with her fourth grade homework, anyway—but in this case I had a “senior moment.” The eclipse in Jyeshta means something totally different, of course.

I’m serious. You’ll have to go to his blog to get all the details.

Tim got his post up a little earlier than normal; I suspect it was because he talks about Tuesday evening’s Venus transit. (Did you see it?)

Tim goes to his own source for Vedic astrology to describe what the transit means for us: Marga Laube, a Vedic astrologer based in Ashland, Oregon. Here’s what he passes on:

Marga says that it will facilitate a shift in our understanding of Value– we will arrive at a new understanding of the cost of our attachment to “stuff”, and a heightened appreciation of those things that really make our heart sing.

Tim also notes that Saturday night, from 7 to 9 p.m., the Ashtanga Yoga Center is holding a kirtan with Naren Schreiner who specializes in the “Yoga of Music.” If you’re down in the area, check it out. Bobbie and I are checking our calendars… not sure if we can get there.

Posted by Steve

Wednesday with Timji: Jupiter turns retrograde

Here’s your weekly link to Tim Miller’s blog post, once again at Facebook, so I hope that doesn’t limit you.

Link is here.

And a tasty little morsel:

The specific effect of Jupiter on each individual can be assessed by looking at what astrological house it currently occupies in your chart and how it aspects your other planets.  In the Vedic system Jupiter currently resides in the nakshatra called Bharani (the bearers).  The symbol of this nakshatra is the vulva and the presiding deity is Yama, the god of death, who is also known as the King of Dharma.   The symbolism of the womb indicates changes that occur within, suggesting personal breakthroughs that are often preceded by struggles and must be nurtured by self-discipline and perseverance.

Go read it all.

Posted by Steve