Summer, I love you.

A season is by no means a significant amount of time. Three months, four if you’re lucky (and it’s summer). Give or take a hundred days, not even a third of a year. And at this point in my life, years are beginning to lose their luster for grandiose blocks of time, as they fly off the calendar as fast as months did in middle school. Yet, a season was plenty of time to change my entire life.

This summer was one for the books—and by this I mean quite literally one full of books. It was also a summer of airports, as I flew across country, across countries and into interstellar dimensions. This summer was also one for community, where I was welcomed into the arms of different tribes across the world. This summer was about leaving improvement behind and accepting perfection as it is. This summer was the beginning of my life.

And so was yesterday. And this morning. And probably tomorrow.

If the summer was one thing, it was a realization of lightness. This lightness was not something I carried pre-May.

Before heading into summer my life was one dictated by restriction, practice, guilt and imperfection. Routine and rhythm were things that held me together. I was bound to my practice as much as I was to the surface of the Earth.  I withheld pleasure for piety, in hopes of one day reaching an ultimate goal. I even caught myself feeling guilty shades of superiority over others adopting less “conscious” lives. The one measure of the perceived success of my pre-2012-summer lifestyle was that I felt like I was in control.

Boy was I wrong. This summer started out like the twisted ending of one of those psychological horror movies that somehow convince you (the viewer) that you’re the one killing all the people in the film. Everything I thought I had under control was flipped upside-down. It was shocking at first, but much less difficult than it had been in its previous incarnations (for these realizations have occurred before in lesser degrees of intensity). The main objective was to reset my spiritual ego.

What is a spiritual ego? Well if I had ended my blog post with “This summer was the beginning of my life,” you would have got an extreme does of Yogi Ego. Basically, for me, my egoistic self is searching for one thing: control. It wants to be in charge. Whenever I think I have figured out life, that is when I’ve let my ego take control. This summer was a gentle slap in the face that told me life was much less than I was making it out to be—this being an extremely positive, relieving, and loving thing.

Life is for experience! This summer’s oeuvre was a reassuring mantra that everything is equally as important as everything else. This means that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing and so is everybody else. This liberating realization was the posture that broke this yogi’s head open. And I surrendered my thoughts, preoccupations and fears to the universe willingly.

We spend so much time trying to be something else that we forget to honor who it is we are. In the complicated maze of desire, we lose sight of achievement. We focus on a future that never comes, preparing, practicing and pondering what might be. We never get there because it is an illusion. There is no where to go.

And for some the illusion is perfect. This article is not to say that one way of life is any better than the other. It is only the recount my own realization. At this point in time my current state of consciousness is perfect as was my state in May, last October and when I was five. All stages, outlooks and understandings are perfect. It is not the shape, context, or content of the state that matters, but the progression through them. Change exacts experience, which adds to the richness of life.

As I find time in between my coursework, I will gladly share with you the specifics of my summer. But until then revel in the awesomely emancipating idea that you are already there. In fact, there is no where else you could possibly be.

Much love.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I am a vegan. With that said. I love sushi.

Well guess its more fitting to say that I loved sushi and now I am just extremely nostalgic for it.

Although I choose not to eat sushi, I have a deep respect for its art. Born out of balance, intuition, and dedication to perfection, sushi is truly a form of beauty unlike any other. Deeply embedded in the humble roots of Japanese culture, virtues of simplicity and respect are eloquently emphasized.  Tradition in technique, flavor and commitment are the tenants of authentic sushi. In many ways, the art of sushi mimics the art of mindfulness, the path to enlightenment. It is the embodiment of yoga.

Not this sushi.

Understanding these ethics is one thing, finding them is another. Today’s sushi market is diluted with flare, excitement, and distraction. Overdone decor and layered sauces disguise impurity and mask flavor. Taste comes secondary to experience, when instead it should be ushering the evening’s encounter. Now sushi can be bought in grocery stores, on conveyor belts, floating around on miniature wooden boats, and even in vending machines. Looking around today, it would seem sushi has lost its origins. And since my days of searching for the holy grail of sushi are over, I have been even harder pressed to believe that it still exists.  That was until I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

This Magnolia Pictures film gives an in depth look into the life of greatest sushi chef alive: 85 year-old Jiro Ono.  Owner of Sukyabashi Jiro, a modest 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station.  Despite its meek appearance, it has earned a 3-star Michelin review (the first restaurant of its kind to garner such prestige). The documentary focuses on the story of Jiro’s life, which for 75 years has been dedicated to sushi. Executed in immaculate fashion, the cinematography is on par with the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series.

Old man Jiro

Aside from the details of the movie, encompassed in the film was the art of sushi. Jiro opens the documentary with a quote, his personal virtue: “Absolute simplicity is purity.” This small sentence encapsulates every action of Jiro’s life, even beyond the kitchen. In his routine of austerity, he has developed a craft of supreme quality.  Going beyond his kitchen, he has reached a level of sublime peace within his life. Although Jiro is stern and is by no means an enlightened Zen master, he has attained a level of sustained happiness, a calmness that exudes his being and is very transparent on screen.

His life is a replication of his work. In fact, the two are inseparable. “You have to fall in love with your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill,” Jiro is his work. In this fashion he has become the love for his work. His love is displayed in his sushi, in his reputation, and in his kitchen.

Love = Work = Happiness. The ultimate (earthly) union.

This concept is applicable to any trade. But not every trade can mimic the meditative nature of sushi. Jiro eloquently describes sushi as the union of fish and rice. The yoga of two worlds: the earth and sea. True success is created by honoring the balance between the two. In terms of flavor, this is understood through patience, execution, and tradition in technique. In preparation, this is defined by consistency and ethic. In taste it is described as umami.

In the West, umami is understood as a meat flavor or feel. Often times it is described as the flavor of the shiitake mushroom. This linear definition butchers the Japanese connotation. In the film Jiro’s son explains the true nature of umami as a balance. In regards to food, it is the proper combination of flavors, texture, and product that creates umami. However, umami is not restricted to food; it is also the feeling of drinking a good beer. Nor is it restricted to the kitchen; it is also the feeling of a warm bath. Umami is a feeling of perfect balance. In yoga, we call this the neutral mind.

Simplicity and balance.

Sushi is the culinary cultivation of the yogic mind. It uses fish and rice as its medium, its product, but the entire production is a dance, a ballet, an opus. In fact the score of the documentary was entirely composed of classical music, the perfect combination of flow and execution. True sushi is an art that transcends the limitations of duality. It inherently seeks to create union, yoga with opposing elements, sharing it with those who consume its delicacies. The sushi chef embodies these virtues and seeks to share it with his customers.

For those willing to be a part of it, true sushi is indeed a delicious path to enlightenment.

The Glove that Fits the Hand

“The true crime is that you will not admit you are god.” ~ Alan Watts

A couple posts ago I linked you guys to an Alan Watts youtube video entitled Suffering for Enlightenment.  At the time I wanted only to post the video with a few short questions.  I wanted to let the information sink in, for it had a tremendous impact on how I view things.  A lot of what he verbalized rests inside of me, dormant and hidden.  I’ve only had a few experiences where I have come face to face with the dilemma he speaks of and the video was the first time I heard it outside of myself. What he had to say was simple.

The idea that we are all pretending not to be god is the capstone of life.

It's all about patterns

Back in my younger days, I used to experiment with altered states of reality.  Well in all truthfulness, I am still experiencing altered states of reality but through yoga and meditation.  However, back in my youth I was obviously not using such sustainable enterprises as I do today.  A lot of my journeys were basically informational overload.  With constant bombardments of raw data, I had a light-speed glimpse of what life was all about.  From what I could coherently piece together, life was a charade.  It was play of dynamic possibilities in an otherwise static existence.

Experience was the game and it was a game we played as humans.

What I took away from my experiences was the notion that I was part of a greater whole. This whole was everything that could possibly exist. In my time afloat, I learned that I could reach degrees of realization of just how complete—or for that matter separated—I truly was.  This is also an echo of my spiritual practice today. Through meditation and yoga, I experience different levels of connectivity.  Albeit for shorter durations and with much more dedication, I am able to experience certain levels of awareness.

Between these vastly different experiences, there has always existed a common thread, almost like a tiny voice.  One that has been spoken over its entire existence. It speaks softly and steadily but goes unnoticed. It carries a message worth all the conquests of man, yet its simplicity is blazingly self-evident. It is the secret of the universe.

What was that?

It reminds us of the unthinkable crime we continuously commit.

This intuitive feeling will continue speaking until you listen to it. It will never change its simple message: the idea that you are god.

This loaded statement has already scared off half of my readers.  One half flees to the anti-Christian bench while the other to the psyche-ward offensive.  But before you start calling me crazy, take a moment to see this statement with new eyes.

Use the eye between your eyes, your mind's eye.

We are god. Well what is god? For starters, it is not God.  This capitalized version I will coin the Catholic/Christian/Muslim/Jewish/etc. religious figure.  By now, we understand there is no man in the clouds watching over our every move, waiting to send us into the depths of hell to suffer for eternity.  What I mean by god is better explained through ground-breaking frontier science than it is by modern religion (although this is not to discredit religious origins, as in their purest forms they understood what god truly was).  When I speak of god, I mean energy.  And by energy I mean everything that exists, seen and unseen.

With this viewpoint, it is easier to understand that we are all be god.  Think of a ripple.  As it expands through a pond, it bounces off of rocks, misshapen edges, protruding reeds, and also itself.  Each of these ripples came from the same source, but they have taken on many different, complex forms.  Eventually, they will all return to the stillness from which they came.

This is what we are.  We are ripples of physical energy that have been shot out into the universe.  We bounce around, creating this and thinking that.  One day we will return to stillness, and then again we will form.  It is an energetic pattern of creation.

The common thread between all of this is that we are pretending not to know who we really are.

Here is a great analogy from a documentary I saw: We have designed a theme park. It has huge roller coasters, amazing games, and tons of fun activities.  As the creators of the park, we know every aspect of every attraction.  All the curves, all the surprises, all the outcomes.  We’ve made a wonderful place, but we want to experience it.  If we go on the rides with all of our knowledge, we will certainly not be a fulfilled.  In order to truly experience our creation, we must forget that we created it and begin anew; from a blank canvas.  We decide to do something about this. We are now children who enter the park for the first time.  Not knowing anything about the park, nor our role in its creation, we can experience the park to the fullest extent of its offerings.

This is our experience on Earth.  We have chosen to forget we are god so that we may experience life unadulterated and raw.

Facets of the same feature

I have had this picture in my head lately. It is a hand—the hand of god—that has put on the glove of life.  Each finger has become a person and everyone is talking to each other.  They all introduce themselves and say nice pleasantries, unknowing that they are all fingers of the same hand.  This is our life.  It is our comedy; our play.