Author Archives: Atma

Atma’s LA Voting Guide – 2012

A virtue driven analysis of election day options

What goes into choosing sides? To begin with it is important to acknowledge the need for opposing views. Debate and discourse on matters of societal importance are important. Deliberation provides the opportunity to strengthen good ideas and exposes weakness and flaws in the logic of bad ones. A robust exchange between philosophies that are left, right, and center is also a prophylactic to fascism and totalitarianism.

With that in mind how might one go about deciding what side they are on?

  • Should we side with those who have the most passion? Perhaps not since passion could be attributed to good acting and not necessarily wise counsel.
  • Should we go with what feels right? This is probably a bad idea since it assumes that our cultural conditioning, and the state of our nervous system (source of emotions) are the best arbitrators of political science. They are not and history has proven this (think National Socialist Workers Party, or Cultural Revolution).
  • Should we rely, as the cliché states, on the courage of our conviction? The problem with that is life is so complex and changes so quickly. This fast pace of changing life usually out paces the rate at which personal convictions can change.When we fall behind intellectually we are left with the irrational ideology of ‘believing in what I believe’; a very poor substitute for clear thinking.

In order to rise above all this we must in the words of William James, be dedicated to the obstinate pursuit of clear thinking. This is a multifaceted practice. It requires courage (which involves being comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing). Courage or fearlessness will allow you to question your assumptions. Assumption questioning is the super-human feat that breaks down barriers, spurs innovation, expands consciousness and empowers both the individual and the collective to succeed.

In evaluating the politicians and propositions I will combine face reading, game theory, and historical antecedents. Face reading is a means of arriving at a psychological diagnosis based on the way a subject has reacted and interacted emotionally with his or her environment.  Game theory is a method of studying strategic decision-making. Historical antecedents are a review of what has happened before in similar situations or with similar people. In this way I hope to build on psychological, logical and philosophical evidence.This is how I have attempted to evaluate the options facing my fellow Los Angelenos.

In addition to this I have used virtue as a standard for valuing the merit of an idea. This is not a black and white process. It is more like a hierarchy of ideas. Some ideas are better than others. So if you agree that compassion is a better idea than selfishness, honesty is a better idea than deception, and courage is a better idea than anxiety, you will most likely appreciate my suggestions. To put it another way, “It is the thinking person’s job to be on the side of the exploited.”

Atma’s Voting Guide –

United States President – ?!
In this case I cannot offer a suggestion between Barack and Romney. After evaluating them both against all standards of virtue they both fall way short of being likely to bring this country to its full potential and secure the rights  of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.  Although between the two Mr. Romney scored lower on most aspects of virtue (particularly in sincerity and compassion). Obama also failed on a number of points (he shouldn’t have killed innocent kids or diminished the rights of US citizens). Although he is the lesser of two evils, I cannot vote for him in good conscience.  Because I reside in California I can have the luxury of a protest vote (most likely will go to the Green or Peace and Freedom). For people living in swing states I understand they may not feel comfortable with that option. But California will certainly go blue.

U.S Senate – DIANNE FEINSTEIN
I’m not a huge fan, but her opponent is a flawed, inexperienced candidate with a very muddled thinking process.

Proposition 30 (taxes for education)  – YES
Whether this one passes or 38 passes the majority wins – it means more money for education

Proposition 31 (more power for bureaucrats) – NO
This one is a poor idea to increase government authority without insuring the best interests of all.

Proposition 32 (curbs political spending) – NO
This is too little-too late in the fight over business spending on politics. First we must undo the effect of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ disaster and then work our way down. This is simply an anti-union effort.

Proposition 33 C(car insurance discount) – NO
The car insurance industry scam. This is a most disingenuous plan to reform car insurance. It could also add a financial burden to young drivers, poor drivers, and new drivers.

Proposition 34 (death penalty) – YES
In a utopian society the death penalty could be a karmically justified. In these United States it is an instrument of injustice aimed at the poor, and the dark-skinned. California should drop it.

Proposition 35 (anti-human trafficking) – YES
Kind of hard to say no to this. I did take a look at the proposition and it is very poorly written and worded. Laws like this can become a slippery soap. But still… hard to say no.

Proposition 36 (fix the 3 strikes law) – YES
This was long over due. We do not want to live in a state where a person could be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a piece of pizza (it happened).

Proposition 37 – YES
My friends would all be upset if I said no to this. But I read the proposition and it is very poorly written, and will not fully accomplish what everyone promoting it is hoping for. Still, who wants to be on the same side as Monsanto.

Proposition 38 (higher taxes) – YES
Similar to prop 30, the money goes to schools, while this will not solve our educational and economic problems in California, it won’t make them worse. (If both props pass the one with the most votes goes forward, not both of them.)

Proposition 39  (the Amazon tax) – YES
This makes national companies that do business in CA pay up for the right. We deserve the money and it may help the local economy.

Proposition 40 (redistricting)  – YES
The issue was settled by the state supreme court, but you can still vote yes and send the message that a voter-approved citizens commission was a good idea.

US House District 33 – HENRY WAXMAN

Los Angeles County District Attorney – JACKIE LACEY
She is so much better a person than Alan Jackson.

LA County Measure A (county assessor) – NO
Let’s keep it democratic.

LA County Measure B (condoms for porn stars) – YES
If nothing else just to mess with an industry that degrades women and nurtures pedophillia

LA County Measure J (better metro/subways) – YES
The caveat here is that we also need a bill to ensure that bus riders would not be negatively affected by this bill

So there you have it. I am not doing this because you are not smart enough to figure it out for yourself. I am doing it because I thought you might like the benefit of my 25 years of analyzing politics, media, and policy making.(And maybe you were too lazy to do all the research 😉  next year start out earlier O,o)

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On Raising Kids – an east-west view

A Perspective On Child Care Blending Eastern Philosophy and Western Science

Emotions make the environment 

I’d like to share with you what yoga psychology has to say about child rearing. It turns out that it is aligned with much of what western psychology has to say on the subject.  The foundational idea is that the early years (0-4) are like a continued gestation period with a brain that is only ¼ developed at birth but will triple in mass by age 4. Consequently, the environment must provide the necessary emotional support to allow the child’s nervous system to develop. Everything in the environment has the potential to imprint on the child. Whatever fears, anxieties and frustrations are present in you or other members of the child’s environmental community will become part of the child’s emotional experience.

Therefore, it is not enough to just feel and display love and support to the child, you have to manage the entire emotional ecology surrounding your child.That is a very tall order and requires planning and practice. What follows is a list of issues to consider in this process.

In Utero

According to the Vedic Model the time in utero is primarily stressful. The quarters are cramped and even frightening. Increasingly Western science is proving that the experience in utero can have a lasting impact on the baby. The first order of importance is the mother’s emotions.

The more balanced her nervous system the better. Getting stuck in either a stimulated state (angry, frustrated, nervous, anxious, fearful, keyed up…) or a depressed (parasympathetic) state (sad, lonely, depressed, fatigued…) can create an in utero environment that inhibits healthy development of the foetus. The more time the mother spends in a stable, content mood the better.

Learning to manage emotions is key to this process. It is important that emotional management be honest and not based on any type of repression as that will result in a disruptive influence on the child. Repressed emotions leak or spill out in an unhealthy manner and the baby feels what the mother feels, whether she is willing acknowledge it or not. You can’t lie to an embryo.

The next most important factor is diet. The goal is to share a diet in the mode of goodness (Sanskrit – sattvic). A sattvic diet is plant-based with limited amounts of refined simple carbs (white flour, white rice, white sugar.)  The ideal is to consume whole foods, complex carbs (whole grains, legumes, vegetables certain fruits), health fats (avocado, nuts, flax..). This type of balance of complex carbs and fats will provide sufficient protein.  Eating regularly (smaller amounts more often is better as it prevents hunger or over eating related mood swings.) Additionally, it is important to pay attention to the emotional state in which food is prepared and ingested. Be sure to check with a holistic-prenatal nutritionist for additional advice specific to your needs.

The next element to control for is the mother’s voice. Reading out loud or speaking out loud to the gestating baby is very valuable. While the sounds the mother hears are important to the extent that they influence the mother’s mood they do not directly impact the baby. What the mother speaks (or sings) on the other hand is the most perceptible sound the embryo will experience. So skip the headphones attached to the belly and instead pick a book and read out loud. As for choosing Dr. Seuss versus Shakespeare or Rumi, it is not going to matter to the baby as much as the mood it puts the mother in. So choose subject matter (or songs) that provides a positive effect on your mood. (Mantra chanting is an excellent pastime for mother and womb inhabitant),

0-2 years

Attunement is the emotional dance of reciprocation. This is all about being emotionally available without bringing your own needs or expectations to the process. Your child must feel that you are always emotionally present on their terms. If they are happy, then you are present with matching joy. If they are aloof or distracted you are patient. If they are grumpy or colicky you are present without demands or frustration, simply demonstrating support. This is very challenging, as it requires you to be emotionally engaged without being drawn into the child’s moods.

1 -3 years

In the early years, it is important to not admonish them with anger. Nonetheless, correction is crucial because it is for their benefit. Consequently, it should be done with emotions ranging from aloof-detachment to loving-engagement, but not with anger, fear or frustration. This is another reason emotional management is such an important skill for parents. The trick is to understand that emotions are both spontaneous and mechanical. In other words, if the anger and frustration you feel is spontaneous you can’t always stop it before it erupts. You can, however, choose to experience the frustration internally and display a different more constructive emotion externally.

This is a little like rubbing your belly and patting your head. It is hard at first but with practice you can learn to take responsibility for your frustration and anger by feeling it and acknowledging its presence in your body and then choosing to smile inwardly into the challenge. Then you can decide to experience and express a more productive emotion for the benefit of the child. I repeat my warning from earlier, this must not be just an act of repression. You must be honest with yourself about the frustration you feel, and that is not easy. It is a practice that requires courage. But in practicing the courage needed to feel difficult emotions on the inside, you model an important virtue for your child.

1-18 years

Do not feed them dead animals. Science is clear humans do not require meat to flourish. Omnivores are not carnivores. We can eat meat if we have to but we are not meant to. Children who are never given meat will not develop physiological dependencies on it. One of the great gifts of modern culture is that we don’t need to eat meat any more. It is a healthier, environmentally sound, humane choice.  Additionally, it instills a greater degree of empathy and virtue in those who do not choose to participate in snuffing out a life for their own sense gratification. The path to finding  deep happiness is difficult when we are bringing unhappiness to other sentient beings.

2-5 years

Don’t reward them emotionally for what they produce; reward them for simply being. Let them feel important because they exist, not because they must do something to earn your love.

5-10 years

After the age of five they should learn self-discipline and pranayama. Self discipline is based on learning to do what the body and mind do not want to do. This is a great art to teach. It cannot proceed too slowly as the principle will not be learned, or too fast as the child might be harmed. Rewards have to be used lightly because the real benefit of self-discipline is in having it for its own sake rather than as a result of external rewards and outcomes. This helps teach the important principle of being focused on their actions rather than their outcomes.

Pranayama provides the ability to manage their emotional experience of life. They must learn and become experienced at controlling their own nervous system. This technique alone will improve the quality of their lives. In order to teach them pranayama you must first be experienced and proficient at it. This is not difficult but it does require practice. Your personal practice can be a simple as controlled counted breath.

Allow them to make mistakes in an environment you manage. Create opportunities for them to create and fail. Learn to apply the principle of controlled chaos in allowing them to learn the decision making process. You do this by giving them chances to make choices and allowing them to experience the consequences.

Teaching kids to be simultaneously present and detached

They are not the roles that culture and society impose upon them. The question and the goal is how do you get them from identifying too deeply with these roles? How do you teach them that all the world is a stage and we are just players? And, how do you teach this without risking that they become sociopaths? One clue is that the difference between the sociopath and the enlightened being is intention. This brings the focus to the development of character and virtuous intentions. The additional challenge here is how to develop real character without simply superimposing a superficial notion upon those kids smart enough to simply mimic it for the sake of getting rewarded?

For them to be secure in who they are they have to be ok with the insecurity of not knowing who they are because that is the human condition. Anything else is just reinforcement of the ego, which is the source of prolonged suffering. So focus on the development of virtue and character.

Father’s role

The father’s role should not be overlooked in all this. If the mother provides more nurturing and support than the father, their identity and gender awareness may be impaired. It is just as important that the father practice attunement, emotional management, and the ability to be lovingly present without expectations.

Catch-22

So here’s the catch – if you consider the full range of your responsibilities and the magnitude of what can go wrong in the raising of your kid you can reasonably expect to be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. At the very least the weight of your responsibility will be stressful. Persistent parental stress has been shown to be a predictor of developmental disruption for children. So the more you worry about raising your child the more you put her or him at risk. What to do?

Embrace the impossibility of life…life is not a game you win; it is an event you experience, either positively or negatively.  Life becomes more positive when you emphasize experiencing life over understanding life and self-forgetting over self-love. The key to being an experiencer of life and an in the moment self-forgetter is in your willingness to embrace and appreciate the mystery, the paradox, and the impossibility of life.

Consider the paradox that children represent: for all the joy and hope associated with the birth of your child you have simultaneously condemned a human being to pain, disease, and a non-commutable death sentence. These are the inevitable realities of human life. Do you reflect on these facts? Have you enshrined these truths along with the dreams and well wishes you have for your child? Can you allow the good will you have for your child to coexist with the reality that despite your best efforts you cannot control the way your child will turn out?

You might choose to ignore the negative side of raising a child but that would be unwise. Resisting or ignoring the darker aspects requires a type of emotional repression. You would have to be unwilling to be present and to experience reality. This impoverishes you as a human and leads to unconscious stress; a stress that will impact your child’s development.  The challenging and all-important solution is to choose to live in the impossible paradoxes created by life. You can if you wish choose to feel everything. This gives you tolerance and resilience. This gives you the ability to be present. This allows life to flow around you in all its mystery and variance. It doesn’t make the unpleasant or difficult moments of life disappear but it makes you a stronger more balanced person and you will be modeling this to your child.

So you must live with the catch-22; raising a child is stressful and stress must be minimized when raising a child. The more you learn to enjoy and have a positive emotional experience of the challenges of raising a kid the better the environment you will create for them.

Have fun loving 🙂

New Fall TV (Hate, Date, or Mate)

Hate –

The Playbook Club

Imagine a cool new TV show just like Madmen, but without good writing, and really weak direction, and no great art direction, and mediocre, strained acting, and presto… you have The Playboy Club.

The Playboy Club might be the lamest piece of TV drama programming that NBC has puked up to date. It is so cliché and tired it is a challenge to generate words for it that aren’t equally cliché and tired. This is a truly uninspiring bit of misogyny. It does serve to remind us of how in many ways the media age managed to co-opt the women’s liberation movement and turn the agitating domestic servants into objects of pleasure all while granting the illusion that this would somehow make women freer. In the 1960’s the male dominated establishment, said to the progressively pushy fairer sex, “Sure you can take a bigger, more visible role in the affairs of the world; would you mind trying this mini skirt on?” And so the 60’s ushered in the women’s new found power to compete economically with men as long as they used their bodies to do it. And hurray, now we have a show to celebrate that Faustian victory. Avoid this show like a date with a drunken life insurance agent.

Unforgettable (seems a bit forgettable)

I don’t really hate this show but I also wouldn’t date it. I am an easy target for procedurals where the star has special acuity-think Monk, Psyche, Lie to Me. Yet this show seems like such a retread, with little promise, maybe it gets better with time but I would be unwilling to give it the time.  The supporting cast of characters is flat, the art direction is uninspired… and so I pass.

The Secret Circle

Really why do I even take the time to watch anything the CW puts out? (Maybe because with the show Nikita they eeked one out.) The Secret Circle continues CW’s strong tradition that “if we program for the sixteen and under we don’t have to put any thought into the writing.” This show though was worse than simply unimaginative; it also seemed at times to border on child pornography. It’s a bit disturbing, not because it is a moralistic issue, but because it just such a bad idea. It takes an extraordinary level of talent to turn pedophilia into literature (think Nabokov) and these writers aren’t even in the same universe. What you are left with is the idea that you can simply attract views by depicting tantalizing teenage sexpots. That is the very definition of prurient pandering. Sigh…

Date –

Up All Night

This new comedy is like 7UP: Light, fizzy, and a little too sweet, but still, if you’re thirsty it might be refreshing.  I don’t think it can compete with comedies like Raising Hope or 30 Rock, but it is a funny look at being new parents and has Maya Rudolph as a comedic gold mine. Not much else to say, check it out if you have the time, no foul if you miss it though.


Ringer

The new Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle is a thriller based on an evil twin sister plot. And I don’t hate it. (Could CW come up with a second show I sort of like?) Watching the pilot was like a first date that you feel isn’t going to work out at first but by the end of the night you are surprised and you are willing to go on a second date, at least to see where things go. This show is fraught with pitfalls and could spin out quickly but I’m hoping (improbably) that the writers have a good story up their sleeves. Let’s wait and see…

Mate –

Prime Suspect

Maria Bello is a superlative actress and she might be in the best new police procedural in a long time (at least since Homicide.) The first episode hooked me with good writing, and well-developed characters all around. I also loved the stressed out art direction, and slightly manic lighting. If you can nail the roles and avoid tripping on the story you are half way there. Prime suspect is definitely half way there. To go all the way they will need to work hard to uncover police stories that matter. No easy task in this overdone genre. But one possibility is to go very deeply and meaningfully into what it means to stand up for justice in a world where injustice seems almost predestined. How does she compete not just as a woman in a man’s world but as a conscious being in an entropic material world?

I recommend this show just to enjoy the craft displayed by Maria on the now not so small screen in your living room.

Let me know which shows you will hate, date, or mate.

Why I am joining the Tea Party

I have had enough of trying to think and talk about what needs to be done. Now it is time to go with what I feel (frustrated). I have been a liberal lefty for a long time, and I’m tired of not getting any traction. It might be nice to see things get done for once. Maybe it is time to let the poor fend for themselves. After all,  if they had just worked harder they would be further ahead. Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry will create clear lines between the haves and the have-nots. But maybe that will make life easier, and I certainly won’t have to worry about what side I am on. I am tall, white and male; the trifecta of blessed in America.

With more deregulation and less government interference the odds of my getting ahead in America go up. Should I be penalized because somebody else was born poor and black, or in the wrong country? And I know it makes no economic sense but demonizing illegal immigrants is going to improve pride in America because at least we are standing up for our rights. If we let a bunch of busboys and gardeners have their way we lose sight of what make America great: we are a nation of rules and rule followers. Without rules we will have chaos, with rules we can focus on what is important, getting ahead and getting laid. Yes I said that. Let’s be honest getting some is the American Dream.

I for one am willing to put up with a little more inequality, if you can’t cut it and turn violent, well that’s what the prison system is for. A system, by the way, that should be privatized, so that American entrepreneurs can turn the sweat of those who couldn’t cut it into a healthy profit. Profits create jobs for those who deserve them.

Maybe it is time to give a world that is anti-intellectual, anti-art, and pro-patriotic a chance. Then we can focus on family values and for families without healthcare and housing we can all chip in and bring back volunteerism. We can take care of our own – just like the olden days; we don’t need a government telling us what to do. And we can stop worrying about the myth of climate change. There is nothing in wrong with the environment that can’t be fixed by free enterprise. Industry isn’t going to ruin its own back yard.

Join me in this growing political movement where the objections of the left can be overcome by believing in what we believe. In this new world order the courage of our convictions is all that matters. We are not alone we have FOX news on our side and many members of congress. But our great hope is the weak-willed liberals.  They are lazy and apathetic. They are not organized and have no sustainable new movement to carry them forward. They lack a clear voice, leadership, and a commitment to make their goals and values clear to the majority of Americans.

That’s why I am joining the tea party: less thought, more vitriol. It just feels right.

Sincerely,

Bobby Smile

Proud American

September 11, 2011

Thor – the extended trailer, and Source Code – an ill named, ill conceived, illustration of why time travel movies suck

Thor

What should have been a really cool chapter in the Marvel comix/movie build up to the Avengers was a dreary exercise best described as a perfunctory pronouncement. It was less of a movie and more of an extended trailer.

Filmed and directed with great flourish, a powerful sound track, and beautiful actors, who were all sitting around waiting for a cohesive story to come along and give some meaning to their existence. Alas it did not.  To make matters worse, of all the interesting enemies that Thor has battled over the last 50 years the frost giants might have been the least interesting and least plausible. This is because according to the Vedic theory of film criticism, mythological personalities have resonance with humans because at some level our sub-conscious recognizes that these are not made up ideas but rather reflections of something that actually exists in dimensions now sealed off to us.

We may not have an abundance of evidence for the existence of mythological beings, but we do have enough to consider it as a hypothesis. It can hardly be a coincidence that all cultural cosmologies share an amazing number of attributes among their descriptions of mythological beings. It is a bit too facile and poor scholarship to simply relegate this phenomenon off to shared subconscious archetypes.  As open-eyed scientific observers we should consider the possibility that other life form yet undiscovered by everyday science may exist. According to the Vedic model demigods, fairies, ogres, angels, demons and all manner of extra-human being are real.

But frost giants do not have a place in the pantheon of potentially real persona. They are a dumb concoction of the marvel writing team of Stan Lee and his brother. The Norse mythology does describe the jotunn or giant and demon races, similar to descriptions in Vedic texts. But frost giants were simple a very weak substitution.  Though these were some of the first villains described in the original comic, the film makers took so many liberties with the origins story they could easily have made the frost giant into real giants with more reasonable powers.

The story would also have been better if it had clung to the aspect of the original story that made it such a valuable comic in the silver age of the 60’s (I remember finding a forgotten trunk in a storage shed in the early ‘70’s, filled with many of the original Thor comics and loving every minute of reading their musty smelling pages.) In the original story Odin banishes Thor to earth where he becomes Donald Blake medical student and lives as an ordinary mortal. Eventually he reconnects with his hammer and for a time lives with a dual identity. The film makers decided to jettison all this in favor of a parade of special effects and muscle flexing. The result is a film that is all form and little content.

Rating: 5/10

Recommendation: if you are, like me, a fan of the Marvel Comic world and you are counting the days to the release of the Avengers movie, you pretty much have to see it. Everyone else, stay home and watch something else.

 ——————-

Source Code

It was a bomb 😦

Source Code was a film filled with potential. It had an intriguing theme, that when we die enough of our mental energy persists in the three-dimensional realm that if you could capture it or contain it you could mine it to explore the experiences and sensory input of those last moments (eight minutes according to the filmmakers). But sadly the filmmakers took that potentially interesting concept and rammed it into a bad Hollywood action romance. A world where our hero is repeatedly experiencing eight minutes of somebody’s last moments alive before being blown to bits by an anti-government atheist. A sort of Ground Hog’s day that descends into hyper incredulousness because in this person’s eight minute memory the internet works, you  can call people the memory keeper didn’t know (like the hero’s father) and you can go places that they never went; even get off the train and run around a train station that clearly wasn’t  in memory. But let’s say we give them all that. Let’s be a bit flexible and give these befuddled writers some leeway. Unfortunately they will return the favor by resorting to one of the weakest and worst cinematic devices known to filmkind: time travel.

The reason time travel is such a crummy ploy, at least according to a Vedic theory, is that traveling back in time is impossible. According to both physics and Vedic rules time is one directional. And nothing can reverse events transpired in the past. In the Vedic view time is an incarnation of God known as Kala. Hence the famous verse, “Time I am, the great destroyer of worlds.”

It has always felt to me as though the plethora of time travel themed movies share an almost pathological evidence of God Envy. It is the bitter longing of the religious atheist to fantasize about the ability to bend or reverse time. It is even understandable. But as a plot device it remains a creative intransigence. A time travel plot is that most immoral act of writing: it lacks imagination.

Rating: 3/10

Recommendation: not worth the price of a movie ticket at the theaters and not worth the time of an intelligent working person on DVD or Netflix.

-30-

Obama does Osama

This is why I didn’t vote for Obama and why Hollywood scripts should not guide foreign policy

First two personal assertions:

1)      Barack Obama is not the pathetic and intellectually incurious enabler of criminal doctrine that his predecessor G.W. Bush was. And he is certainly not the dark and Machiavellian spook that Bush senior was.  Cleary Obama is more affable and intellectually competent than GW.

Consequently, I prefer him over Bush the way I prefer a cautious panther to a rabid hyena. In other words, I find Obama potentially dangerous, albeit more reserved. After all in voting record and substantive policy practices Obama is not widely different from his predecessors. And he is arguably not bucking the status quo and putting us on a more humane and compassionate path.

2)      Neither this article nor any of my convictions have a disparaging attitude against soldiers who risk their lives to protect the lives of the innocent. It has always been my hope to use my research and work in industrial psychology and stress management to support and improve the way in which the warrior class is trained up. A class I believe will always be needed even in the best of times. But there are rules to war  and the way we abide by them defines us as people.

That said I can make the unpopular suggestion that the raid against Osama Bin Laden is nothing to cheer about. Yes, he was a bad man. Yes he deserved to be punished for exploiting religion to justify violence and murder. But there is a reason why we don’t approve of other governments illegally assassinating unpopular personalities. It is because contrary to the hormonally stimulating depictions in many Hollywood films, we as Americans (at least an overwhelming majority of us) do NOT believe in the doctrine that might makes right.  We want to be the land of the free, not the home of the Stasi or the KGB.

Each time we surrender to the emotionally appealing but ethically destructive lure of the ‘might makes right’ mentality, we take a step on to a slippery slope that ends in the destruction of the humane and uplifting fabric that if not in practice at least in principle has always been our defining value as country.

The concept that might makes right is central to any totalitarian regime and anathema to the land of they who would be free. It is the foundation of all racist movements and almost always leads to oppression and then genocide.

What makes us strong and free is our ability to be just and fair by resisting the emotionally easy displays of violence as a means to solve our problems. Destroying your enemies is understandable.  Destroying your enemies without becoming them is venerable.   This is why we win when we put off revenge for justice, and overcome rage with wisdom.

Remember we were the country that put off Stalin’s show trials and Churchill’s summary executions and brought the perpetrators of the Nazi regime to stand relatively bona fide trial in the city of Nuremberg. We set an important standard in that era, we were not afraid to be better than our enemies.

When we rally around the simplistic devices of a Hollywood action film as a means for assuaging our political fears we do not become stronger, braver or freer. Instead we are diminished; reduced to cowering animals that lash out at what they fear. Courage requires compassion or else it becomes just a subterfuge for despotism. This is why assassinating Osama was wrong and capturing him would have been the far more American thing to do.

As a people we should remember that (at least) philosophically we have always championed the opposite of might makes right. We are Americans and we have a duty to be the best example of all the important virtues; courage, kindness, and wisdom.

As Abe Lincoln said, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it”

Welcome to the new home for my personal blog

Welcome to my personal blog (as opposed to my professional blog.)

This blog will consist of writing and video work that I am doing around the idea of connecting Yoga and Vedic philosophy to everyday life in the western world. So you will see a variety of essays, media reviews, social commentary, video blogs and even some questions & answers (if you have any!). The goal is to offer you tools and encouragement for becoming a Modern Yogi and sharing the Modern Yogi lifestyle with others. You may ask what it is a Modern Yogi? Well..

A Modern Yogi is someone who:

– believes in the power of virtue (Dharma) to shift consciousness.

– thinks the happiness you seek will be found in the happiness you create for others.

– feels acts of kindness and courage triumph over self-preservation.

– knows that what we do is more important than what we think.

– is not into short cuts, but is definitely into efficiency.

– is not the body, not the mind, and not any of the roles we play.

– is a Spirit-Soul who knows everything here is play and the art of service.

Another exciting aspect of the blog is “Ask the Yogi”. These will be my answers to your questions. Some will be posted as written blogs and some as video, while some will be answered in the Akashic field (just kidding). Seriously though, I can’t guarantee I will get to every question, but I will do my best.

You can submit questions by email to atma@modernyogi.com or you can use the submission form.

While I do not make any promise to be regular, I will add things from time to time. So, please use the subscribe function. That way you won’t miss a thing:-D

Really hope you like the new site and I am looking forward to your feedback

Atma

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Final Message (for now…)

[UPDATE: This was the last post I put up on the Modern Yogi site. Since then it has been shuttered and the domain name put up for sale. It was the end of an experiment to create a social community. I will continue to blog intermittently and will be using Atma Blog as my personal home page.]

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“Don’t believe the hype, it’s a sequel.

As an equal, can I get this through to you?”

~Public enemy- 1988

You all mean a great deal to me. And even though this is a kind of good-bye I am excited to share that I am moving on. I will be stepping away from Modern Yogi.com and switching gears. Starting in January I will be working full-time for The Atman Group. A business management firm founded by me and dedicated to using a blend of Eastern and Western sciences to create higher-functioning more conscious organizations.

As the year and the clock winds down on the Modern Yogi project the question becomes what is the most important message to leave all of you with? After deep thought I have chosen this…

We are not all one.

That is the most important idea for your consideration. This simple and powerful idea has what you need to continue to change your life and to create deeper healthier relationship with everyone and everything you hold dear.

‘We are not all one’ is not a rejection of our connectivity. It is, rather, a joyful embrace of our mysterious nature. In many ways the essence of the Modern Yogi message is that paradoxical notion of oneness and difference.

It is a paradox because the mind cannot conceive it. How can we be one and separate at the same time? Yet it is the fact that we cannot conceive it that makes it so wonderful. Like a Zen koan the notion takes us outside of ourselves. Meditating on the possibility of simultaneous oneness and difference we are placed on the precipice of mystical unknowing. This is the unbearable beginning of bliss.

Extending this notion logically, we are also not God. Once again the rejection of dogma carries the seed of rapture. To meditate on the possibility-as inconceivable as it is for the mind-that we are simultaneously one with and different from God, is to bring us to the edge of egoic destruction. But what a wonderful place to be!

Here is the beginning of humility. Humility is the guarantor of contentment, spiritual growth, and happy healthy relations. Humility, the all important precursor to greatness, is torn asunder by thoughts of being all one. For where is the ability to bow and to serve, or even the need, if we are all one?

When you step away from the enchanting but deadly allure of certainty that comes from dogmatic assertions like ‘we are all one’, or ‘I am God’, you enter the realm of true magic and mystery. When you live in mystery you are dancing with paradox. And paradox is another name for God’s breath.

Make a decision to relish in the inconceivable, to bathe in mystery, and turn away from the soul dampening notion of ‘we’re all one’, ‘it is all mind’ and so on. Let these dogmatic notions fall away and be remembered for what they are, cheap and tawdry novelties from a new age carnival in its last days.

The goal of yoga, bhakti, and any renaissance of spirit is to celebrate. But to get the full measure of celebration we must do it as the many, swept-up in the One. The One spirit of love and eternality that runs through all of us, that connects us and yet remains beautifully separate from us. It is these wondrous distinctions that give us something to celebrate. The spiritually erotic and mind bending tension of being simultaneously one and different is the field where we all meet to dance, sing, and love. So let us meet there in this coming year. Let’s celebrate together, again and again, rejoicing in the fact that we are both one with and different from God and each other. That is the yogic concept of unity in diversity.

Your servant with love,

Atma

Face Reading from Left to Right [COMMENTARY]

Boxer vs. Fiorina & Brown vs. Whitman

Studies in the Devil You Know and the Devil You Don’t Want to Know

Barbara Boxer is the like the smart mom on the block who really cares about others but doesn’t actually trust or believe in anyone. This creates a dangerous internal duplicity that is not unlike someone who lovingly pats you on the head after you fall while muttering, “I knew you couldn’t do it”. As a politician she is a strong spokesperson for the less fortunate without actually having the strength of heart to do something for them because she doesn’t believe they deserve it or thinks they will just mess up any advantage they are given. This makes it unlikely that she will ever back any real fundamental change in society. She is not a bad person per se, she is just not a great person either.

Carly Fiorina reminds me of an alien entity that would care for her progeny until she felt they were no longer essential and then she would eat them. She is a person of affable demeanor, but most unpleasant character. It is hard to feel positive about her because she has such a dark disposition. Sadly she is one of those people who believe the end justifies the means. She is not empathically capable of understanding the full extent and implications of decisions she makes. This is a good quality in a ruthless dictator but not so good in a trusted civil servant.

Jerry Brown is like the wimpy kid who always wanted to get respect and became expert at conforming to the zeitgeist in pursuit of popularity. This is one reason he has been so successful in winning elections in the past. Unfortunately he does not have the strength, or courage to do what is needed to bring a nation-state like California back to full healthy functionality. He is like a TV show version of an expiring politician scrambling for the last hurrah that has always avoided him because he has lived a life of form over content. Like Senator Boxer he is also not a bad person, but he is certainly no civic hero.

Meg Whitman is such an off the charts negative person it is hard to know where to begin. She has many of the indicators on her face of person with antisocial personality disorder. She could be the poster child for the Nuovo School of Fascism. It is perfectly understandable why she would make an excellent CEO. Most corporations are essentially institutionalized forms of authoritarian, totalitarian states that have little interest in pluralism, egalitarianism, or rationalism; making Meg Whitman an ideal candidate to run such a state. It might not, however, be such a good idea to put her in charge of a republic that still has democratic ideals. It’s very poor thinking to assume that what makes a good C.E.O would translate into a functional civil servant. Ms. Whitman is the antithesis of what a political leader should be.

To learn more about face reading visit, ‘How to Read Faces’.

Inception has Nolan & DiCaprio Dreaming of an Oscar…

Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.
~Edgar Cayce

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight), Inception made for a good time at the movies. Inception is a film about a world where science makes it possible to enter in to another person’s mind through dreams. This allows unscrupulous types, like the Leo DiCaprio character to go into a person’s mind and steal valuable information, in a process called ‘extraction’. The story in the film however, focuses on the supposedly much more difficult concept of going into someone’s mind and implanting an idea. This is called, ‘inception’.

So Leo gathers together a top notch team for this ‘inception’ endeavor, making the film an ensemble piece that was pulled off on the strength of decent writing and a talented cast. Ellen Page (from Juno) was the bright spot in the group.

Think of Inception as having the excitement of a heist film but in a psychologically unstable and surreal environment, a sort of Bourne meets M. C. Escher. It was original, intelligent, visually interesting, and had an excellent score. Most importantly, it was fun.

So what is the Vedic take on this?

Dreaming is sometimes described by yogis as being more real than the waking stage of life, but it is still part of the material world.

The general Vedic view of dreaming is that it is one of the four states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, sleeping, and turiya. We are all familiar with the first three as they make up the sum total of our experience of life. The fourth state, however, is almost completely unknown to us. In fact, it does not even have a direct translation into English. Turiya simply means the fourth state of consciousness which is accessible to accomplished yogis and mystics.

Turiya is also the playground of Bhakti yogis as they are constantly meditating upon the Divine, who by definition is always in turiya. Hence the goal of the modern yogi is to meditate on the divine as much as possible so that he/she can begin to play in that magical realm of the fourth state.

In general Gurus do not stress the importance of dreams as they are primarily just symptoms of your unconscious combined with your overall karma. The great sage Narada once told King Prachinabarhisat: “Sometimes we suddenly experience in dreams something never yet seen or heard of in the present body. My dear king, a living being develops all kinds of thoughts and images because of his previous body. Take this from me as certain. One cannot concoct anything mentally without having perceived it before.” (4th canto, Bhagavat Purana) Here we also see a connection to the theme of the movie that an idea once planted at the deepest levels will persist for a very long time.

It is interesting to note that some Gurus have said that in the lives of a spiritually determined person, karma can be worked out and dealt with in the dream state. This is said to be a natural byproduct of those who are pursuing spiritual awareness in the waking state. And almost all Gurus state that they have the ability to work on their students while the student sleeps. In my own life I can distinctly recall dreams with visitations from at least three different Gurus that I consider examples of direct aid and supervision.

In the Tibetan system of yoga you have the concept of lucid dreaming or ‘dream yoga”. This is an appealing concept to many people. They think, “wouldn’t it be great to control the dream state and do what I want!” This sad thought misses the main point of yogic philosophy: this entire material experience and all three of its states is a dream. We are already lucid dreaming in the so-called waking state.

If we do things without awareness of the absolute (divine nature) that underpins the reality we experience in the waking, dreaming, sleep states we are lucid dreaming (i.e. most of us.) If we are present to the transcendent even while performing the mundane we are stepping in to the fourth state of consciousness.

The point of yoga is to wake up from the dream that is material life, as the Bengali philosopher Bhaktivinode Takur once wrote, “Wake up, sleeping souls! Wake up, sleeping souls! You have slept so long on the lap of the sorceress Maya.”

The movie hints at an important question, how do you wake up from a dream that even death can’t end?

I liked that they used sound as one of the triggers to pull the operatives out of the dream state, as sound is clearly one of the keys to waking up the sleep soul. In fact in its etymology the word Guru means to cause to sound or to raise an alarm. The real trick in the yogic tradition is to die consciously with the mind focused on something spiritual. The movie doesn’t go that far but it raises the specter of how an idea at its core is a very resilient thing, and it can shape one’s destiny. This why in yoga philosophy so much effort is put into planting a spiritual idea at the deepest part of our being; so that we might wake up from this dream state upon death.

Rating: 7.5/10

Recommendation: an engaging and thought provoking distraction, worthy of a bag of buttered popcorn

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