February 21, 2014
February 12, 2014
There is nothing more certain than your death. However, in this time that you are alive, the true certainty is that you are living. While you are still here, you need a death plan. I don’t mean anything that has to do with the material and financial, I mean a spiritual death plan. Although your death is certain, and planning is helpful, it is the antithesis of being present in the now. By planning your experience of death on the inside, alone with yourself now just the way you will have to face death, you can happily leave this living world without loose ends and hoping for more of the life you still wish you had left. This death plan is one that is pointless to try to share with anyone because it is not relatable to anyone else’s unique life and death experience. However, we can all go out content with smiles on our faces if we have a healthy death plan, and this is part of the inclusive experience of yoga, if not one of its crowning characteristics.
I admit, I may be a unique situation. After I explain myself, I may also be nothing special. To put it bluntly, I should already be dead. I could have died many different ways in my short life thus far. Luckily for me, by the age of 23 I understood and accepted death as a very real possibility and felt my mortality way before I hit 30. My most debilitating experience was when I was in the prime of my youth, full of energy and enthusiasm, yet for months steadily began feeling like I had no will to engage in physical activity, woke up not tired but weak, and I felt most of the bones in my body aching as if the marrow itself hurt, but not any of my joints. Due to testing difficulty at the time, no blood tests came back positive for the possible culprit, Lyme infection. I had to go on for weeks longer hoping this would just come to pass because I was young and healthy and strong, but I felt like the world itself was passing me by and just walking was a chore, to say the least. Eventually another test came back with more positive results and I was lucky enough to have standard doxycycline capsules bring me back to the world of the living within three or four days of a two week cycle. It was so bad that I still felt incredibly weird and not normal, but I could tell there was a change, a spark of a tiny hint of a flame that was previously out cold. Nobody could look at me and tell what I was experiencing in my body, the pains I would endure and have to put on an act to fit in with the normal and healthy world of which I used to be a contributing member. I’d say it took me about seven years before I was no longer regularly reminded of the infection through varied unexplainable pains. When I was most ill, a few months into it, I would play a game with myself just to cope with the discomfort, counting how many seconds would go by before I felt another sharp pain anywhere on my body that would stop my mind in its tracks. I would only get as far as counting to four usually, sometimes less.
For some reason, the standard antibiotics worked for me but others are not so lucky. Since I’ve been infected almost twenty years ago, I’ve learned a lot about the bacteria. The Lyme bacteria is a spirochete that burrows into all living tissue, forming what feels like a neural network of whole-body microscopic torture, and it could be different for everyone because of the variables. I could have suddenly died of heart failure or brain damage. My blood tests to this day show antibodies for Lyme, and with an illness whose victims can be treated like they need psychiatric evaluation because doctors don’t believe they are ill at all, confirmation is a good place to start.
I didn’t even know what yoga was at that time, but that small brush with a downward spiral into oblivion helps me to connect with my spiritual death plan during meditation. I know that I can own my death, be in command of my powerful exit from this body, free and strong in a way I could only imagine now while being alive, where my freedom and strength are clearly defined and limited. By drawing upon death, I can aim for a more accomplished life. I’ve seen people on their death beds whining, squirming, and sobbing for more life, admitting where they messed up and could have had ten more glorious years of health, reluctantly facing death with regret in this life. This won’t be me, because I should already be dead.
If you haven’t already, for information and personal stories from people infected with Lyme, go to underourskin.com, or see the documentary Under Our Skin.
December 12, 2013
Like the tattoo on Thomas Edison’s forearm depicting a quincunx pattern that can be left open to interpretation, so too does every moment of our existence tell the tale of either subjugated confinement or an excursive impatience fueled with limitless creation. The only difference may be who is doing the looking, the seeing, the observing, and whether they see a propitiated projection resulting in judgement that can swing easily one way or another, or an unbiased, non-judgmental view. It is precisely for this reason that judgement should begin solely as self judgement, and preferably should also end there. The famous maxim, “If you can’t change the world, turn within and change yourself”, is a simple observance on the futility of using arrogance as a bastion to defend self-centered idealistic views disguised as character markers, imposing them quietly on all who don’t meet a narrowly defined set of criteria, in effect mirroring the already flawed self like a reflective array dispersed across the globe in place of every other living human being, leaving no real people in its place and nothing left to learn or wisdom to gain. In other words, few change the world, yet everyone wants to and is set up to fail miserably with the first attempted step, tripping over one’s own foot, catching the fall with a knee, thrown forward with inertia desperately seeking retaliation from an elbow on the ground, all before a split second later the jaw, teeth, and fleshy facial protrusions all impact with the required force to finally put an end to what seemed at first like a wonderful idea.
The artistic metaphor of judgement of others by mere human beings is most often a flaying, or skinning alive. Whether referring to Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement”, or Rabbi Akiva as discussed in the Talmud, being flayed for publicly teaching Torah, the affiliation between judgement and a most horrendous end is quite clear. Consider what wasteful displays of pseudo philanthropy occur with each person vowing to contribute to changing the world for whatever reason, only to stand concretized in immoveable inflexibility and reticent resistance to change in any way with regard to the deepest, most intimate and defining self. This, it seems, is the human condition, yet we have a choice to do otherwise. It may however feel like a dream in which you are desperately running in slow motion or crawling on all fours through thick particulate sand-like earth, taking altogether too long and going nowhere fast until your loudest inner voice begins to console you about giving up and how quitting and admitting defeat is all right because it’s the only thing left after you’ve suffered for so long, yearning for relief. But this is the misconception; it is not the relief you are searching for. Relief will be attained by moving forward, continuing through the pain until you can smile through it and learn to await and desire it, see it as your trouvaille, and in that you are set free to attain your just rewards, unburdened by what falls away as the imperfect misjudgments of others unnecessarily attached to your shoulders, relieved at last.
Constant change, adaptation to the self judged condition, newer perspectives revealed and customized by the richness of wisdom, the discovery and removal of ballasts and moorings that hold you in one place, these simple notions can free an otherwise caged animal destined to remain so until death.
November 27, 2013
Sound can be sacred. In the presence of noise pollution, the absence of sound is sacred. Both are equally important. The misuse of sound can cheapen the experience of sound in general. Your life has a soundtrack, and it is important.
When you are done planning your life’s daily egotistical considerations with the soundtrack of horrible music made by superficial people who can barely string any sense of comprehension together, it is important to take stock of what your life is really about, and hopefully you have some important music, or some important silence while you do so. You are a sensitive organism designed to set itself to external cosmic events and adapt to the constantly changing environment. When people around us affect our environment and they are living empty or unbalanced lives based on meaningless material priorities leading them on a leash, we can easily be thrown into that vortex of distraction, requiring recalibration of the conscious mind to a state of unadulterated purity. This can be done with the cessation of thought and the careful use of sound.
Sounds of nature that are tens of thousands of yeas old and more are important, helping to reach back into our genetic past that is aware of these sounds on a limbic level of deep subconsciousness. Sounds like wind, rain, the ocean waves crashing, big undeniable sounds. Even in absolute silence we can easily imagine these sounds and have them comfort and aid our inner reflection for undistracted sight.
Although you may not be taking part in it, your human physiology has thousands of generations of genetic coding within you already programmed to unleash the dance that is the music of the universe, waiting to be unlocked. All you have to do is challenge yourself to do what you once thought impossible, or that you in your narrow view of yourself considered incapable of, because most often we are wrong when we say no to accomplishing great feats.
Unleash the power of sound in your inner code.
September 8, 2013
Yoga is the brain eraser. You don’t come in to a session with yourself in order to leave with more. You step in to let go. The reason you are even seeking yoga is because you have too much weighing you down that is making you ill or has made you ill and you now need restoration. If you are holding on and trying to gain and attain more just like you do in other aspects of materialist life, you have not only been wasting your time and energy but you have also only been feeding your ego the whole time, and most unfortunately not been engaged in yoga at all.
It’s not too late to start with proper and immediate results. The mind, not the brain, but the mind, which is where all of your thoughts exist that scheme, plot, plan, desire, lead to dishonest behavior and selfish habits just to show you what it means to be a typical weak human being among all other weak human beings, must be shut down, disconnected, and erased during each session with yourself. What happens when you do that? The body takes over, with its incredible intelligence, and healing and restoration take place.
And now the point of it all. If you’re doing it wrong, doing it while leaving the mind on and plugged in, with no erasing but instead with more accumulation, you will continue to become addicted and attached to yoga with no progress, no further results, for years and for as long as you live. To progress is to erase with each session little by little until the corrupt data is removed, the reason for seeking yoga in the first place is removed, you live each moment of every day with no weight of a corrupt mind corrupting the body, having with each session with yourself stepped away from yoga and stepped closer to yourself until you can finally walk again undivided and whole. Step away from yoga as you step in and see how much deeper you can live with yourself, what you have been missing in life.
April 19, 2013
Somehow years ago I became aware of binaural beats and a vague connection to brain waves. Eventually the concept that meditation, its effects on the brain, the results of those effects in how reality is perceived, and the effects of listening to binaural beats, were similar—or linked in a way to have the same results—came into my general sphere of understanding. Yet, I really didn’t understand it, until now. It’s quite simple actually, so I’d like to explain it.
Since I’ve experienced both ways of getting to the same place, I’ll try to give you both perspectives, and I can say that both work well. I have specific blog entries that deal with how to begin meditating naturally, so I suggest to look there for details on how to do that. Since meditation requires zero outside technology and can be done in a natural environment with only your breath, and your mental focus, it is the clear winner here, and the most rewarding. Binaural beats require a playback device like an iPod and stereo headphones, as well as two working ears, so you’re going to need more than just your physical body as-is, but it is a great way for lazy people that just don’t want to do the work and prefer that others do things for them to suddenly have what looks like a brain that has been meditating. However, non-meditators may not actually be ready for the higher focus of a more synchronous brain and the effects at first could have you feeling like a spoiled child that didn’t get what he or she wanted for Christmas this year. If you fully accept what it means to have a newer, better brain, no matter what you think is happening, and you won’t meditate for whatever reason, strap on those ear buds.
I’ll begin by breaking down brain waves and ranges of operation within broad, understandable definitions. The good news is that brain waves are in a narrow band of low frequencies generally below 40Hz. Beta waves are the black sheep of the list, the ones you want to avoid; Beta waves may be the reason you should start meditating in the first place. From 13Hz to 39Hz, these are called Beta waves, usually associated with active, busy, or anxious thinking and active concentration, arousal, cognition, and or paranoia. However, beginning at 40 Hz and above to the upper limit of brain wave frequency are Gamma waves, associated with higher mental activity, including perception, problem solving, fear, and waking consciousness. Because Gamma waves are above 40Hz, these are not considered meditative ranges. Below 13Hz and down to 7Hz are Alpha waves, the realm of waking relaxation, pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness, REM sleep, and dreaming. From 7Hz to 4Hz are Theta waves, deep meditation and relaxation and NREM sleep brain activity. Below 4Hz is deep dreamless sleep and loss of body awareness, or Delta waves. For more detailed descriptions of these ranges, read this.
Way before I’ve tried binaural beats to stimulate my brain into certain frequency ranges, I’ve meditated with great success and the results were high creativity, constant sense of well-being with rational optimism, more detailed sensory feedback from all of the senses, and a strong desire to continue engaging in daily routines that promote meditation as a start to every day. After the first few weeks of aligning the mind into a flowing whole instead of a polarized two halves, you invariably have no choice but to experience your strong connection to everything around you and how the biggest, most obvious defining characteristic of your being is that you are here now and every millisecond is a celebration of that truth by the excitation of every atom or force field around you, including you. You can, for the first time, realize the existence of what some may term spirituality, and it also explains clearly that those who cannot acknowledge spirituality have not yet meditated successfully. Binaural beats don’t have that effect, and probably won’t get you there alone, but if a deep understanding of the universe without words to describe it is not your goal, you can still be highly creative, focus your mind into greater relaxation, rid yourself of anxiety, and prepare yourself for the richer organic experience. Since I am doing both, the experience is triple rewarding because I have the three experiences of organic meditation, binaural beat meditation, and both, or some may even argue that a fourth option is now open to me, none at all.
The experiential descriptives used in the list above are a good guide on how to meditate: want to put your brain into Theta wave ranges? All you have to do is breathe and still your mind while staying awake, not going into REM, and not dreaming. Some people only need that much information, and I may be one of them. For the rest of you, there is still hope. Binaural beats coax the brain into operating in these ranges through entrainment. The phenomenon called frequency following response allows binaural beats to be played into your two working ears, and the brain has no choice but to listen and to move towards the frequency of the stimulus, which in this case would be the range of the meditative brain wave frequencies. I will be creating and posting meditative sound files in the specified ranges of desired brain activity on the cloud for all readers of this blog to access and enjoy, all tested and approved by me with any detailed notes for the listener that I find noteworthy through my experiences with them. Since these binaural beats will also be dressed up in musical tones and recordings of natural sounds that I myself have captured, they may even be played during your daily practice without distraction.
Update: Here you will find a stream of a 30 minute Theta wave sound file. Be sure to listen with a relaxed focus, either with your eyes closed or in an environment that will not visually distract you. I find that lying on your back before sleep while listening to this Theta wave audio is very effective and allows the mind to easily move into restful REM sleep. An alternative would be to either sit in a comfortable meditative position while listening during the day and breathing with focus, eyes either closed or open focused on a point about 6 inches in front of you so that your surroundings are out of focus, or simply lying down as you would for a short nap but staying awake and aware. It is important to listen for the full thirty minutes without interruption.
You can download this file here to keep on your device without the need for streaming.
April 14, 2013
What I find in general when deciding to add a new entry to this blog is a common impetus: a very simple desire to spread information to those who listen. Most readers probably see the words, take in what they choose, and either get stuck on concepts that apply to their personal lives, and discard the rest from any attempt at comprehension, or the remaining few listen, the people I write for, the individuals I write to.
In many aspects of life, whether job skills, goal management, discipline in any field, I find the same situation when problems and questions arise. I will summarize this recurring lifelong situation that echoes across generations with an analogy that concerns bow technique for cello. There is much distracting misinformation that actually bears almost no importance on bow technique, and anyone that plays a bowed instrument like a violin, viola, or cello will understand and agree with this: how you hold the bow doesn’t matter. However, when one is first learning or problems arise with tone, teachers tend to focus on students using a better hold, if not your best hold. Gregor Piatigorsky, a great cellist, has been reported to have broken his thumb on his bow hand right before a performance, and having no time to go to hospital, performed while holding his bow in a fist. Nobody noticed. People even complimented his tone.
A student may say to a teacher, “when you hold the bow like I do, it still sounds like you. If I hold the bow like you do, it still sounds like me. You must do other things that you haven’t told me.” And so, much of life is all of the things that people do that they haven’t told us. I’m trying to tell you all that I can.
When you take that personal, intuitive journey, pay attention to those small details that nobody tells you that make all the difference and actually have great importance. People will have to tell you something when they are in the position of giving advice or instruction. If the words aren’t simple and common sense, they are more often just rhetoric that becomes the norm, and you’re on your own anyway. Don’t be so quick to feel you need company or instruction. Clear your mind of all the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly clutter, and move ahead with confidence in yourself. Start with anything better than a fist and then listen closely—what you experience then is the only guide you need.
February 6, 2013
Proper movement of the body depends entirely on the manner in which you carry yourself. The feet carry the body and the body directs the feet. –Miyamoto Musashi
From Wikipedia: Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵?, c. 1584 – June 13, 1645), also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was a Japanese swordsman and rōnin. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and the author of The Book of Five Rings (五輪の書 Go Rin No Sho?), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today.
Whether you realize it or not, the world in which we live is a violent place, with vast differences in gradations of violence spread across all society. The more you realize this even in the most peaceful of situations, the easier it is to accept the violence in our lives and live accordingly, not with resistance which causes more violence, but with understanding. Through our individual understanding we can be the diffusers of violence with the purpose of ending it altogether. To give you perspective of the most subtle violence I can now think of, much like the image of Dancing Siva standing on one leg on a dwarf’s back, the world we live in is set up to operate in a way that imposes structural violence onto every waking moment. This is fact, because we live in a world where money is everything if you want to participate, and although millions of people die of starvation and poverty-related circumstances, there are enough resources and technological advances present today on Earth to make sure every single person is taken care of with at least basic needs so that nobody dies. That’s just a start, talking about living and dying, but as we all know there is a large thing called life bookended by birth and death. The dwarf is us humans, and we live our lives laughing and smiling without even knowing the degree to which we are being stomped, yet we carry on with courage. It is no wonder that in the many gradients of violence we face not only psychologically but physically and eventually spiritually, violence toward the human spirit, that we feel we must do something about it. The teachings of yoga deal directly and comprehensively with this basic human need. Because we are all victims of violence, we all need daily care and attention from within to keep the life force as strong and as purposeful as possible.
In this entry I will focus on inversions. Some, but not all individuals will have fear of inversions that will stop them from being done. Others will be fearless, only to be challenged by physical inability at first and little by little the systems of the body will adapt and strengthen enough to hold inversion poses and experience deeper and deeper revelations beyond mere thought and motion, enriching the wisdom of being.
Some of the most subtle poses in which the heart falls below the hips even slightly or for an instant can be classified as inversions while keeping the feet on the ground. Let’s start with a pose that Beryl Bender Birch is known to say has all of yoga contained within it, Downward-Facing Dog Pose, or Adho Mukha Svanasana. It’s considered an arm support pose, and although your arm strength will be challenged, it is helpful to divide your attention among the arms, the legs, and their effects on the spine while breathing deep in the pose. Seeing these three sections of your body working together in this pose is one way not to get lost from the start, and a way to have a eureka! moment even after a long time just going through the motions. I’m willing to bet it is still Beryl’s favorite asana.
With a neutral spine in position, the hip joint is in flexion, along with the glenohumeral joint, or shoulder, while the knees and elbows are in extension. Once these four main points are enacted, there are many subtle biomechanical adjustments for you to focus on with each inhalation and exhalation: an upward rotation and elevation of the scapula, with abduction for beginners and adduction for advanced students; external rotation of the glenohumeral joint; forearm pronation and wrist extension; ankle dorsiflexion, with the possibility of internal rotation of the hip.
Neutral spine alignment begins this pose, meaning deep extensors are working with precision to maintain spinal synergy. In the legs, while hip flexion is the desired result, the hip flexors are not what you want to activate to get you there. Instead, that large inner thigh muscle connecting the femur to the hip, the adductor magnus, internally rotates and moves the femur into position. The shoulder joint flexion is assisted by gravity, meaning the anterior deltoids can relax while the posterior deltoids externally rotate the shoulder joints. The scapulae abduct with upward rotation by activating the serratus anterior, shown along the ribcage in the illustration.
Collapse of the shoulder may feel imminent, but the triceps resist this in activation to extend the elbow. Sun salutations employ repetitive downward-facing dogs, and this can lead to injury if there is overarticulation in the wrists or elbows, or similarly internal rotation of the arm at the shoulder joint, so be sure what you do before you’ve hurt yourself unintentionally. The hands, as in the feet, must maintain their arch. Doing so in the foot is what releases the ankle in dorsiflexion, and the carpi radialis and ulnaris should activate to resist collapse of the hand, thereby integrating the whole arm through intrinsic action.
When breathing, understand that in an inversion the diaphragm is in a position that promotes deep exhalation. With focus on your breathing, your world literally has turned upside down: ordinarily, you are fighting gravity to exhale as your diaphragm is being pulled down toward your hips, while inhaling as deeply as possible is comparatively easier, subconsciously taking in easier than letting go or setting free. In an inversion, the opposite is true. This is your chance to exhale as deeply as possible, releasing and purifying, letting go and giving easier than taking in. Take advantage of these moments, these opportunities to do so, as they are less frequent and you have so much to give, so much to let go.
December 31, 2012
Yoga as a revelation of absolute truth to the individual through personal experience is its greatest attribute, but it doesn’t end there. Most disturbingly, most so-called practitioners don’t even get to the starting line to participate in the race, so to speak. If I had any say in the matter, I would like to change that. This would happen when one is lying prostrate, in full awareness with eyes closed in full relaxation; this only happens when one is no longer there, but everywhere, and everyone, no one person in particular. This happens without thought, so if you are thinking, you’ve failed. This happens in savasana.
One of life’s most important lessons may be the understanding that you are everything that you aren’t. What this means is that through your gifts of consciousness and physical mobility, you are in a very special category of life on this earth with choices of what you can do and not do, and you are responsible for every last one of them. You are not a rock, not a tree, not the wind, yet contained within you are all of these things and more; you are free to move on your own, unlike the rock. You are free to stand up and walk about, unlike the tree, and you are free to stand still in motionlessness, unlike the wind. You can be taken apart, deconstructed, to be like any of these things, and one day you will be. But right now, you are all these things and more.
Remember that you are not you, you are not only the name and face used to identify you in society, you are everything, and your body is a magnificent gift given to you to free the rock and the tree and the wind to do the things they couldn’t do, even within our personal unique limitations. This gift will not last long, it will be gone like the flash of lightning that leaves its mark in an instant and recedes. Our lives can be summed up as lightning in super slow motion, advancing and receding, touching down onto the earth, rising up to the sky. Now go and do what you are meant to do on this earth.
Tomorrow will be the first day of the new year. I will be with roughly ten thousand other people at Coney Island beach in NY to jump into the ocean and float on the water while I contemplate all of the above and more not with my mind, but with my heart. Maybe I’ll see you there.
August 17, 2012
Are you living it? You can say yes, I’m not judging you. Today’s entry is a more intuitive philosophical expression of the only place anyone can find truth in any aspect of life, namely relationships. Having been lucky enough to experience Western yogic venues like Omega Institute, and then summarily compare that experience with the everyday hum-drum droll of back-to-reality in the bustle of New York City, there doesn’t have to be a changing of gears with regard to behavior if the key concept of strong relationships is left intact. When smiley, glowing, cultish, robed people walk around Omega and places like that, they are in a state of unbelievable (to them) bliss, because they feel safe, secure, confident to let their inner expression of ultimate relationship with every matter particle in existence shine from them with no more walls and barriers to protect themselves from possible attack. I’ve felt this, and it was good, but immediately the question I posed to myself was, “Why can’t everyone be like this, everywhere, all the time?”. And that bothered me, a lot.
You won’t catch me walking wide-eyed in slow motion, smiling at people and things as if I was on rave drugs, but you will get a pretty consistent manner of being from me that won’t change. Last night close to midnight I walked by the Starbucks in my neighborhood, and three young women were talking loudly amongst themselves, one of them more than the others. All three were dressed in all black, wearing nylons and short skirts and seductive makeup, dark hair. The one doing most of the talking seemed annoyed at her disappointment in what the night had previously brought her, and as she shifted her weight around and shook her hair every now and again, she caught a glimpse of me approaching from about 30 feet away. I thought, “Oh boy, here we go”. She kept talking but her words were decidedly more distracted, her eyes quickly darting over at me again while trying to keep her conversation going. As I got close, she couldn’t take it anymore and had to stare up and down and right in my face as she said, “Hey now! Where do you think you’re going?”, and I just smiled back and as I kept walking, with a laptop in one hand and a grocery bag in the other, I replied, “home, where else?”, and shook my head a little. Then it occurred to me that this was the same as every stranger feeling comfortable to say hello and smile to every other stranger as if on ecstasy and LSD in the confines of unthreatening and beautiful nature where everyone is wearing sheets for clothes, a sandal or flip flop or Croc or clog, except this is real life in the real world where everything is an attack on your survival. Sure, this girl may have been speaking from her lustful loins, but I like to think that some smaller, more basic part of her had innocent intentions and she just wanted to say “Hi”, expressing her relationship with the world around her, a person who sees the truth.
About two years ago at a casual meeting on the Upper West Side in a small cafe with, among others, Soren Gordhamer about Wisdom 2.0, we discussed the relationship between people like all of us at the cafe at different tables, strangers, and the lack of relationship, the fact that we are essentially closed off from one another although we all decided to come to the same place, generally at the same time, and sit at different, very separate tables. We surmised that technology would eventually change all this, giving us not the free will we have now to come up to one another and start talking, but the option to shut off and not connect to one another in a world where as soon as we enter the cafe, we are all networked instantly.
I’ve been intently reading a book called To Be Human, which I accidentally left on a plane from Narita to Seattle, Washington. Before I go to a bookstore to purchase it and finish reading it, I have hopes that it falls into the right hands and another person has his or her mind blown like mine systematically was with each page. And, since things happen for a reason, another book has come to me called Positively Fifth Street, an equally enthralling book about life, how just about everyone you know is connected by one of the deepest metaphors for living life on this planet in a capitalist society, namely Poker, and more specifically, Texas Hold ‘Em, the agreed upon purest form of the game made popular by Binion’s Horsehoe Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada beginning in 1949.
When I first caught the poker craze about nine years ago watching it on television, I got to know faces and table personalities of people like Texas Dolly Doyle Brunson, Erik Seidel, Jon Juanda, Chris Jesus Ferguson, among others, and this book is from that exact era and explains in greater detail things I had seen only as glimpses on the screen. Although the point of the game is to stay aggressive and end up with all the chips after knocking everyone else out of the game, it can’t be done without understanding subtle concepts like playing the game without needing anything, as Cool Hand Luke famously drawled, “Sometimes nothin’s a pretty cool hand.” Philosopher John Lukas called poker “the game closest to the Western conception of life, where life and thought are recognized as intimately combined, where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or of chance, where men are considered moral agents, and where—at least in the short run—the important thing is not what happens but what people think happens.” Poker is also the choice of pushing the boundaries of game theory in Daphne Koller’s robotics program called Gala, short for “game language”. In Gala’s largest possible application, Daphne hopes one could extrapolate from poker to “an automated game-theoretic analysis of complex real-world situations”, defending ourselves from cunning, no-limit assaults of all kinds.
After reading about 40 more pages of this fascinating account of the 2000 World Series Of Poker, predicated by the story of the murder of Ted Binion, I could have fallen asleep easily, but something was pulling me to stay awake because it was really late already, and if I could hold out just a little longer, I could make it to the gym when it opens at 5 am. I did. I warmed up with about 50 pullups with a weighted vest, 50 pushups on one leg and leaning from side to side, then went to put some life back into my body by starting with one of the most difficult exercises I ever do, dumbbell squats followed by other comparatively easier lifts. I did about 16 sets of different exercises in all, with as much weight as I could handle, and finished with dips to failure. At one point I decided that a forward bend would be a good idea, and I slowly bent at the hips, breathed slowly and evenly as I drew my heart to my thighs, placed my fingers under my toes and held the pose for about ten seconds before I slowly came back up and continued the strength training.
On my way out of the gym, a BRINKS security truck pulled up beside me and someone called my name. It was my uncle, and he was just starting work. We caught up quickly and I told him about a dream I had with him, involving carpentry, woodworking, and he said that wood was a good thing in a dream. I then proceeded to tell him the part of the dream where he held a severed head in front of me and shook it until its jaw and face started to come apart and I had to tell him to stop it or I was going to vomit, but he had no reference for the severed head like he did for the wood.
We parted ways, and I walked home at the top of the morning, feeling incredible. I felt similar to what people feel like playing a rush at the poker tables, also described as “having a horseshoe up my ass”. To quote Lou Reed, who was talking about heroin, “When I’m rushing on my run / and I feel just like Jesus’ son”. Before I get too full of myself, I try to remember my relationship to everyone and everything and how that defines living, exposing the truth, the only truth that can be found in life. Remember that for yourself, and if you’d like, do 5 sun salutations, 2 plows, and one headstand.