Busy March: Vaxes and Taxes

Hi all! I am pleased to announce that I have taken the first part of the Moderna vaccine in February and am slated to finish my second shot later this month. My wife and mother-in-law have already took the full two doses of the Pfizer version with no issues. Using this post to dispel disinformation I am hearing from some members in the wellness community.

A large myth is that once you get the vaccine, you no longer have to wear a mask in public. The vaccine helps you build antibodies so if you do get the virus, you will not get as sick as if you didn’t get the vaccine. The worst case scenario is that you get the vaccine, you get COVID-19 and don’t have symptoms. Then you walk around without a mask thinking you are okay, and spread the virus. Early in the pandemic, the golden rule is to assume that you are the carrier and take all precautions to prevent others from getting it.

Another source of disinformation is people who don’t look at a complete picture of data and cherry pick adverse reaction rates of the vaccine. Yes, the vaccine has side effects. I was tired for most of the day after taking it and my arm was sore for about a day. Everyone will experience different side effects. Vaccinated people are taking a dose of similar proteins of to that of COVID in their body. Of course they are going to feel a bit off until their body builds antibodies. However, there is a significantly low adverse reaction level for people who get the vaccine. If you have at risk health conditions, you will probably not be able to take the vaccine until your health conditions improve.

That being said, it is encouraging that millions have already been vaccinated and supply is increasing. In Hawai’i we are seeing a very low infection rate as it went below one percent and we are getting about 50 new cases per day with a state population of about one million.

Because of COVID-19, I didn’t earn much money last year from yoga teaching. As blessings are sometimes mixed, the upshot is that my taxes will be much more simple this year. If all goes well, I will have them done by the end of the month. As I have not earned money teaching yoga, my practice has somehow been “enriched” with daily mantras. They are a true miracle!

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Revisiting Mantra as a practice

About four years ago, I wrote a post on how to start a personal mantra practice. I noticed the date of the blog post, and it was right before a lot of things radically changed in my life: my mother and stepfather moved away, America got very strange with Trumpism, my father-in-law just passed away a few months prior. I wrote about how the pranava, or AUM (OM) can “dissolve” one completely, unless tempered with the assistance another deity. In many ways, after I started my mantra practice, my reality “dissolved” right before my very eyes.

Four years on, my practice has changed quite radically. I am not apt to do asana as much if at all. Almost as if that part of my practice has “dissolved.” The one constant is that I have a mantra practice. Every night I listen and chant silently. The practice has not only helped me cope with the Trump years, and has increased my sense of resiliency. Mantra feels like it is beyond prayers. When one prays, one is apt to ask for personal favors from the divine. Mantras align you with the vibration of the divine, and allow you to realize all you need is within, and you have far more than you can ever realize in this lifetime.

Mantras fall into the most of yoga’s categories, like Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), Nada yoga (the yoga of sound), and Laya yoga (the yoga of absorption). On a broader level, it could be Karma yoga (yoga of action) and even Hatha yoga (as it can work with chakra sound forms). A few years ago when I started, I simply used “LAM” which activates the Muladhara (root chakra).

I am not trying to proselytize here, as everyone is different and will have different results from this practice. I am simply stating that mantras feel like they are working for me at this point in my practice. They are transcendent of all the physical aside from the ability to listen and speak.

Gandhi once said: “One must be completely absorbed in whatever mantra one selects. The mantra becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal.” It was a mantra that gave him peace and inner power to face adversity and the greatest of challenges with equanimity.

I cannot tell you how many times in the past four years how many times I’ve faced my personal fears and was at my lowest emotional points, how much mantras have given me strength to face them and emerge victoriously.

If you want to start your own practice, I would recommend just setting time aside to listen to the Ganesh Mantra: Om Gam Ganapataye Namah. Here is a nice version of this chant. Ganesh, always comes first, as he is the breaker of obstacles. Even if one just uses this mantra, it is sufficient. I feel after a long practice with this mantra, others will reveal themselves to you as needed.

Many blessings on your practice.

Hope is on the way

Hi all! We are well into the throes of 2021 with some good things in the air. It doesn’t take much to remember what we were all doing a year ago about this time. We were probably at our job, maybe in an office, maybe in a studio, going to restaurants and public places without a second thought. Maybe we heard some rumblings at this time about the Corona Virus in Italy, but it wasn’t in our collective psyche.

Today is different. If we still have our job, we are either doing it from home or have to put on some PPE just to get through the day. Now most of us know someone who has had COVID, and sadly many know someone who has died from it.

The disinformation campaign continues on FB feeds. We all seem to have a family member or old high school buddy pushing conspiracy theories about the vaccine and downplaying the effects of the virus. As Anthony Fauci said, “we don’t know everything about this virus.” In a recent training, I learned that COVID’s attack on the olfactory nerve may lead to neurlogical complications. But again as Fauci said, we don’t know everything about the virus.

Luckily, the vaccine is being rolled out. My mother-in-law was one of the first wave of people in Hawai’i to get one. Since she has received the Pfizer version of the vaccine, she said she has no side effects. Her arm was sore after the first day, but that’s it. She due for her second shot next month.

When you hear disinformation about the virus, it is best not amplify it. If you disagree with someone, do so on a private chat or text. That way people reading the thread in your conversation aren’t fed untruths which are propagated by those who spread the disinformation.

On a somewhat sad note, I have decided to allow my IYNAUS certification to lapse as I don’t anticipate teaching this year. This is partly due to the reality of safety and partly due to my ongoing challenges as a caregiver and full time employee. I am still practicing, but am taking time for myself to get through this horrible period.

May you all be safe.

2021 can’t get here fast enough

I know it is just December, but what a crazy year it’s been! I thought I would be the first to usher in the first of the “out with old, in with the new” of 2020 blog posts. As we have a month left in this somewhat universally dreadful year, I would like to reflect on a meditation that has helped me in the past few years to cope with the last few years. It comes from Robert Adams, who was said to have studied with Ramana Maharshi:

Look at the second you are in. Is there something annoying you in that second? There is no time to be affected by this because you are living in the second. There is absolutely nothing happening in that second. Take that second and expand it. Now expand it to infinity.

It’s easy for me to share, but I wish I had followed this advice as I have admitted that I let the stress of this year get the better of me at times. I am grateful for my wife, family and friends who have helped me get through it. I am also grateful that I still have my health and practice, however much they have changed.

Grieving everything

At the beginning of this pandemic in mid-March, our lives as we knew them got thrown into the spin cycle. Suddenly we couldn’t go to the store normally, we couldn’t eat in restaurants, we couldn’t attend family functions without risk. We as a world have somewhat adapted to my newly-hated catch-phrase “the new normal.” An ambiguous term that means one week you can go to the park, the next week it is closed and what ever other amalgamation our local governments cook up to mix public safety with businesses allowed to eke out rent.

My office director gave us all a friendly email and linked an article from the Harvard Business Review called “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” It gave me a useful term to add to my vocabulary: “anticipatory grief.” In short, you know some really bad shit is going to happen, just where when and to what extreme. And as a kicker, how much it will affect you and your family.

Six months into this pandemic, the bad shit continues to roll in. We are stuck in our homes with very few options aside from supply runs and a run to the park if it is deemed legal. My wife and I took our dogs out and there is a “one person” per activity limit. Just as we pulled in to the parking lot with our two dogs, a policeman rolled right up to us and just parked. He was watching what we were going to do. Dutifully, my wife got out of the car got one dog and walked about 50 feet, before I got out of the car and walked “individually,” like we were two strangers that got out of the same car. After a while he left and we were confused like scofflaws with guilt being caught after lifting a candy bar from 7-11.

I understand why we have to do this. Watching super-spreader events like college parties and MAGA rallies boil my blood even more than the oppression of having dog walking supervision from the local PD. It is the super spreaders who make so we have to do this. People tossing science aside because of their “rights” with little regard of who they may spread the virus to and who will later die as a result. Just with the same disregard of setting off a wildfire because of a gender reveal.

As I am writing this, I realize it is more just venting on my part. The reality is that this situation is causing communities and families to crumble apart before our very eyes. It will take enormous strength for us to pull through and make our “new normal” feel normal again.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.

A call to action

Hi all! I know it’s been a while. Just wanted to share a few of my thoughts our our upcoming US election.

America is in trouble. When Trump was elected on a November evening in 2016, I went for a walk around the block when it was evident that he would win. My neighbor was screaming at her TV about the horrors of what Trump can potentially do to this country.

Four years on, her screams were valid. As I am writing we have 180,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, a jobless rate mirroring that of the Great Depression, and widespread racial tensions and hatred.

On a personal level, I have not been able to teach a live yoga class since March, and because of the widespread virus in Hawai’i, cannot engage in normal activities like hiking, going to dinner at a restaurant, or taking my dogs to the park.

Usually, a US president does not affect its citizens on a daily personal level. In the past, we would get annoyed at a proposed policy or position on an issue and an email to your congressperson would be the most politically active you would get.

Now you don’t have to only worry about catching a virus, you have to worry about being shot by either police or vigilantes with guns, especially if you are a person of color. Unless you are in the top tier economically, your taxes have increased substantially. Forget public yoga classes until there is a vaccine, and Facebook is ensuring that groups who oppose vaccinations are spreading disinformation with more efficacy than the experts. I have seen family members say they will refuse to get vaccinated because Bill Gates will insert a satanic microchip in you. This is seen as fact in many facebook circles.

We still have hope. Here is a list of things you can do:

  1. Register to vote. The GOP has made it harder to vote by kneecaping the US Postal Service and destroying sorting equipment. If you have the option to vote in an official election drop box, do so. In Hawai’i we are able to track if your ballot has been counted. Here is a website to see if you are registered.
  2. Mail your completed ballot within 24 hours of receiving it. Nothing is worse than seeing your unfilled ballot the day after the election and seeing the candidate you opposed give a victory speech.
  3. Get your family and friends to vote, especially if they just came of age in this election cycle. Vote as a family at the dinner table. Discuss the candidates and the issues. Voting as a 3-5 person block is much more powerful.
  4. Follow candidates on social media. They will give updates of challenges they are having. Even retweeting or liking will expand visibility of your candidate.
  5. Recognize bias and propaganda. Russia was successful in manipulating millions of Americans and sowing discord in 2016, and will be using the same tactics in this election. Just recently, Fox news hosts praised a 17 year old for murdering protestors.
  6. Learn to take a break when needed. If you need log off for a few days because the election is causing anxiety, it is healthy.

Those are just a few off the top of my head, please add more in the comments. I don’t expect that all of my followers will agree, and normally I have stayed away from politics. However, as a student of history I’ve always wondered how someone like Hilter could come into power and sow such destruction in such a short period of time. It was because people were silently complicit. VOTE!

Tales of barter-sharing in the middle of this epidemic

How are you all doing? During these rough times there are always silver linings. One for me is how I am connecting with neighbors and friends (done from a safe distance of course). I would like to coin the term “barter-sharing” or sharing what you have with someone unconditionally. This usually prompts them to return the favor.

My brother-in-law gave us a four pound Wahoo filet from the fish market at the pier. Because of the epidemic, fishermen have been suffering because all of the restaurants are closed. This was a wonderful windfall, but our family of three could not possibly consume all this fish before it goes bad. Fresh “Ono” as it is called in Hawai’i is such a wonderful treat. My wife suggested we give half away to someone. We found the contact number of a friend/neighbor who we usually see at the dog park. Since the quarantine we have lost touch. She has a sizable family since her daughter had to return back home from college due to the outbreak. We texted her and drove by and handed a bag of the fish thought the window–keeping our distance.

The next day she texted that she and her daughters made a batch of homemade bagels and challah bread (see above picture). Likewise she dropped it off curbside. It was delicious!

As restaurants are struggling in Hawai’i they are still permitted to do takeout orders. My wife and I went to our nearby favorite restaurant to give them business. The business owner was lamenting that she is almost out of paper towels because the department of health forbids restaurants from reusing the same cloth towel. My wife and I had a small surplus of paper towels because of our caregiving needs. We didn’t give it a second thought and brought a few rolls to the business owner. Her face had so much relief and gratefulness that it was a gift to us outright.

Lastly, we had to move all of our office computer hardware from work to our home office this past week. A coworker who is more tech-savvy than I helped me figure out how to set up software for the home office. She went out of her way to assist me in doing this, so I gave her a jar of homemade okra pickles (from my garden).

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I’m sure there are many more stories like this out there. Please share them in the comments below. In our panic buying frenzy, I’m sure all of us have a surplus of something that would probably help someone else. This is a time to showcase your cooking/baking talents, or specialized knowledge and give selflessly to people if you have the means. For those who are in need, don’t be afraid to ask and you’ll find many people who are more than happy to give and share with you. Many blessings and be safe during this time.

 

 

Shopping for doomsday: Coronavirus edition

Hope all of you are well. As these are trying times, it is best to use what we learned in yoga class to get though this hullabaloo. Remember those times in class, after a strenuous asana, you felt a sense of relief. Try to recapture that moment as much as you can during this time if at least in your mind.

Do your part to “flatten the curve.” If you are not familiar with that term, it refers to the statistical curve of people who are infected and need medical help due to COVID-19. If we can delay or prolong its onset, we will not overwhelm our medical facilities to the extent we have seen in Italy. Here is a very well illustrated explanation my wife found for me. Good advice is to act as if you already have the virus (even though you don’t) and are trying to minimize transmission. Also rely on legitimate sources for news about this virus. Some good sources are:

Centers for Desease Control https://www.cdc.gov

World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Canada Public Health Service https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

That being said, it is probably not a good idea to go to group yoga classes until the curve flattens. These are extremely trying times for Iyengar studios throughout the world, as student attendance is a major source of income. Try to see if your studio is offering online classes and support them. My mentoring teachers are putting together some videos if you want to practice along with them. There are also plenty of resources on my blog for home practice.

Looking at the larger picture, one of the aims of yoga is for us to stop our mind stuff from overtaking us. As we see widespread panic and people hoarding at the grocery store, we have to ask ourselves if this is really necessary. Get what you need for you and your family and minimize your risks of spreading this virus. Stay safe and blessings to you all.