Friday, August 16, 2013


When trying to decide on a topic for my thesis, I kept returning to the idea of Buddhist Economics. If you're not familiar with this concept it is the idea that we base our economy on the general happiness of the citizens rather than income levels and GDP. If you remember back to September 11, 2001, when the twin towers were hit, President Bush didn't tell us to go home and spend time with our loved ones, he didn't tell us to rest and remember what is really important in life, friends and family (Buddhist Economics), he told us to go shopping. Our President told us to go out and spend money in order to keep the economy going.

GDP is only a recent economic indicator for us. It was invented as a result of the Great Depression. At the time it worked (depending on how you look at it) but now we need something different. GDP created a sense of devaluation to our natural resources. It was with this boom that we as Americans became more wasteful. Instead of having something fixed, we could just throw it in a landfill and buy a new, better version of the same thing. Disposable diapers, plastic cups, plates and silverware, the birth of the fast food restaurant, mono-culture farms the list goes on and on. People working together a little less, and competing against each other a little more... Competition in a sense where athletes start making insane amounts of money, amounts that mean they have to use drugs to be the best in their fields. You want to hit the world record for home runs? Great, there's a drug for that. You want to consistently win the tour de france? oh, we've got a drug for that too!

When we look at what GDP has created in our society, don't you agree it's time for a new measurement of success? Let's stop competing. Let's purchase things that are built to last and that can be repaired when they break. Bake some cookies and take them next door to introduce yourself to your neighbors. Build relationships with old friends and new. Spend more time with your family and less time at work. Patch the holes in your clothes, shop at Goodwill or hold a clothing swap with your friends (two birds in one stone!, great chance to socialize and get some new to you, slightly used clothes).

Since I have returned from India, I have purchased very few things other than groceries...A couple of new swim suits that are more appropriate for leading a Paddleboard Yoga class, some sheets for my Reiki table, and a cowboy hat to protect my face, chest and shoulders in the sun.

Less is more. The more we have the more we have to be attached to. Attachment is a distraction on the path to enlightenment. Only buy what you absolutely need. Sell or trade the rest of it. Try to lose that sense of competition which is ingrained in us as humans.

I am not writing my thesis on this topic as it would have been a huge challenge to find a test group to collect the research from. However, I am trying to adopt Buddhist Economics into my own life and hope that you will consider it as well. As I read other blogs and books I see this topic coming up more and more. I am happy to see this shift in perspective working its way into American culture. Had I known the changes I would make in my own life in the course of this past year and half, I probably could have used my own life as my thesis research, but who knows, maybe I'll write a book about it in the not too distant future.

Currently, I am not making much money. I am following my dreams and living my life exactly the way I want. I don't know each month if I will be able to pay my rent or not. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to ask for an extension on September's rent from my landlord. My student loans are on the way and I can pay it as soon as they get here, but in all honesty, I'm not worried or stressed about this or the outcome it may bring. I am happier than I have ever been, pursuing my passion as a yoga teacher.

I will go the rest of this year without making a purchase other than necessities (no, an ipad is NOT a necessity!)  can you do the same? Can you go a month, or even a week without making an unnecessary purchase?  When was the last time purchasing something truly made you feel better?  Happiness is within, if you haven't figured that out, set down your wallet and sit on a meditation cushion. Spend some time with yourself, remember who you are. Find that inner peace. Bliss.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Full system shut-down, going into introvert mode

People are always surprised when I say I'm an introvert. Introvert doesn't have to mean someone who has no social skills or is socially awkward. Introverts can hold their own in social situations, but only for a limited amount of time, then we need to rest, restore and recharge. Some of us need more alone time than others, and I know I personally need a little less alone time than some of my fellow introverted friends.

After returning from India I took some serious introvert time for myself, some of that was due to jet lag, some of it just to process everything that had happened in the past year. Eventually I felt recharged again and started slowly working my way back out of my shell. Then I went on a rampage and joined a bunch of social groups on and asked my friends to hang out more and had a really great, busy couple of weeks. However, I over did it and now I need to be alone again. I have a lot to process and I only have a couple more weeks before my final class for my master's degree begins. I need me time. Down time.

This is the time where I keep the door to my room shut, I read alot, I might start trying to get a head start on my thesis, but probably not. I'll sleep a lot, short naps throughout the day. I might work on my never ending blanket which I am crocheting, I might paint and make a new vision board focused on my new business, I might start writing a book in hopes it will someday be published, I might learn to play the Ukelele and I might just sit and stare at the wall for a while.

It's nice to be alone once in a while to be able to hear your own thoughts. It's nice to sit still and not feel like you always have to be running to the next event, gathering or whatever it may be. Of course I still need to make money, so you can find me at any of my regular yoga classes, maybe I'll even focus my classes on the beauty of silence in the next couple weeks. Who knows, but whatever I do, I'll be completely happy and comfortable doing it, knowing that when I'm ready to come out again, my friends will be there for me.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India

Where Swami Vivekenanda
achieved enlightenment
When I signed up for my 500 hour teacher training in India, I thought I was going to be staying at an Ashram like I did for my 200 hour in The Bahamas. In The Bahamas I had wished I had been able to stay longer and do some Karma Yoga to let all my new knowledge sink in, but I wasn't able to change my plane ticket. When I found out my 500 hour would not be an Ashram and again no chance to stay on and practice Karma Yoga I decided to find an Ashram where I could do just that.

I decided on the Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala in the south western part of India. I flew from Rishikesh to Kerala rather than taking the train as I was now on my own and the train would have meant two full days and nights of traveling and transferring with all my luggage. No thank you!

Where the 3 Seas meet
I arrived at the Ashram just in time for breakfast. Breakfast was already laid out as I walked into the dining hall. The plates and cups were on the floor in front of bamboo mats. No utensils. Good thing my friend Huda taught me how to eat with my hands in Bangladesh! Seriously, I'm not talking about finger foods here, I'm talking about rice with sauces and gravies, vegetable curries and things that you wouldn't normally consider eating with your hands, it takes skill. There was a cup with some pink colored water in it so I assumed I was supposed to dip my fingers in that to clean/sanitize them before digging in to my food. I also used this cup to dip my fingers after they got covered in slimy food. Nope...I was supposed to drink that water which was infused with Ayurvedic herbs giving it the pink color.

After finishing breakfast I went to find out what my karma yoga duties would be. I was going to be working in the Health Hut, making smoothies, juices and all sorts of snacks for other guests of the Ashram. I was actually excited about my duties. When my shift ended I could make my own snacks. I had to pay for them of course, but I got to make them myself.
Sunrise Satsang at Neyyar Dam

Every Friday at the Ashram is a day off. I arrived on Thursday and you don't have to work on your first day. So I chilled on Thursday and found out about an excursion happening on Friday to the Southern tip of India where the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea all meet. I paid the fee and got up early the next morning to go visit this place where 3 seas meet and visit some temples including the place where Swami Vivikenanda (the first Swami to bring yoga to the west) achieved enlightenment. It ended up being a really long and seemingly unorganized day, so I promised myself on the following Fridays I would just stay at the Ashram and relax.

Around the Ashram
I believe this is Brahma
I wanted to stay at this Ashram as a karma yogi and use up the rest of my visa there. However while still in my training in north India an opportunity arose which required me to come back to Hawaii sooner than I had originally intended and it also required me to start putting together some slides on my computer. So I figured I would return to Hawaii in early May but everywhere I went I could not get internet access to purchase a plane ticket. The Ashram was no different.

Without internet I felt like I couldn't really get anything done that I needed to do. So on the next Friday I went to Varkala with a couple of friends I had made and we spent the day at the beach, eating amazing meals and using internet. I booked a flight back to Hawaii but I also found a room to stay at in Varkala and decided I would go back to the Ashram for a couple more days but then I was going to spend the last 3 weeks of my journey at the beach, where I belong.

As much as I wanted to stay and be a karma yogi in The Bahamas, and I feel I would have also loved doing that in North India with the group of swamis that were teaching us during my training, this Ashram in Kerala had a different vibe to it. The "staff" and "karma yogis" that were there were very negative. The were like yoga nazis. It's not uncommon for Ashram food to make you a little sick while your body is adjusting to it. However, the staff would give you a hard time if you missed any of the events you were supposed to be at, like Satsang or lecture. The initial reaction from them was always a condescending "why aren't you there?" or "You need to be at such and such" without ever checking to see if you were okay. There was just no compassion in it. Myself and friends of mine were all having trouble dealing with the staff. I felt bad because for most of the people there they were on "yoga vacation" which is like a way to come see the ways of an Ashram and how it works and decide if you might want to take your yoga practice deeper. For them, this was a terrible experience. I kept explaining to them that I had been in other Ashram settings and they were amazing, even with the same organization. One big thing that seemed to be missing was the guidance of any swamis. There wasn't a single swami at this Ashram, only Chaitanayas (teachers of yoga) and they had apparently let "power" go to their heads. In the end, I decided I didn't want to be a part of this Ashram and finished my time up at the beach. However, I made a lot of new friends at the Ashram, and two of them decided to head to the beach with me!