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In to Africa

In to Africa

Our evolutionary origins lie in Africa. We share 98% of our DNA with chimps. A peak experience and political story about a chimp in Africa.

BY G. PASCAL ZACHARY — There’s a collective code that asks Christians to be their brother’s keeper.  Buddhists go a step deeper, and embrace a first principle that we are not distinct entities at all but plot-points along a continuum of being called consciousness.

Well, I’m Jewish. And I’m a secular one at that. So a code that I go to is Darwin’s intersection with DNA.

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Serenity in a blizzard

Serenity in a blizzard

How I survived a near-death road trip with my hillbilly Zen Master

BY AUGUST TURAK – I was 21 years old. And for the first and only time in my life, I was sure I was about to die. I was in the passenger seat of my 1963 day-glo green Ford Econoline van with a bubble-shaped skylight on the roof and a madman behind the wheel – a West Virginia hillbilly who happened to be my Zen Master. We had been on our way out West when he’d gotten news that his son was in trouble back in Wheeling, and now he was barreling home with me in tow to do what he could.

The trip had started out two days before on an almost comical note. On a cold dark morning at 5:30, his usual starting time, I was coming up his front steps to pick him up. My van was parked across the street and according to his careful instructions, was full of enough tools, extra tires, and spare parts to rebuild it on the fly if necessary. And because of the Arab oil embargo that year, it was stocked with fifteen gallons of spare gasoline in three five-gallon cans.

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When pain afflicts the enlightened

When pain afflicts the enlightened

The ‘real’ Secret: Physical illness doesn’t discriminate. A person with a healthy spirit is not immune to bodily harm — but is well equipped to gain something sacred from the journey.

DAVID RICKEY: A friend and spiritual mentor recently told me that he had brain cancer. The shock was especially strong because his brain, or more accurately his brilliance, was what I most admired in him. Of all the cancers this one seemed especially unfair.

Since receiving the news I have started pondering the suffering we human beings experience. For my friend, I imagined the suffering would likely be twofold. First, there would be physical suffering, which was already starting in the form of headaches and the nausea. But secondly, and perhaps more difficult to handle, would be the mental and emotional pain of losing the ability to think and process his experiences along the journey. He was already having difficulty remembering simple things and finishing sentences.

I once read that a man asked his spiritual teacher, “Is death real or an illusion?” After a long pause, the master replied, “Death is a very real illusion.” While I hope we are not looking at death here, the suffering of our body and of our mental life is, on one level, a very real illusion. Our body and thoughts are not who we really are. Attachment – or identifying with our body or thoughts – is what leads to suffering. While I believe this is true, here is the bigger illusion: the idea that spiritual enlightenment will prevent suffering in the body or in life.

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“Swami Ji” and falling in love for the first time, in the true sense of the verb

The holy man I met, “Swami Ji”, has no organization, TV show, or book. His name simply means “great teacher.”

BY SMADAR DE LANGE — How would you describe the experience of falling in love? For me, meeting with Swami Ji (personal name: Krishnamurti) was like falling in love. I fell in love with love itself, and this love had no limitations of being channeled into one person only.

What are we looking for when we are going to meet those who are labeled as spiritual teachers? Do we look for an end for our sufferings?

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Ayurvedic resort

The ultimate spa getaway

Forget the Deepak Chopra Center in southern California. This is an ayurvedic resort!

In the picture is worth a thousand words department, Renee Tavares sent this image from Kerala, India, where the San Francisco, CA yogini is enjoying ayurvedic treatments. Namaste.

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When in Rome: My Thanksgiving Pilgrimage

“At that moment, language, distance and time were transcended. Where the sacred brings the past and present together is the point at which each experienced traveler knows that any one of us is open to meeting the next person.”

BY KOHL GLAU — When traveling abroad, I strive not to be just another tourist, either on the inside or the outside. But what else could one possibly be? Stepping foot into another country, by definition, implicitly means you’re a five-year-old again: open to meeting all good people, open to unanticipated ideas, fresh ways of life, speaking a new mother tongue — and like, blending in as much as possible.

So why go through all this trouble as an adult? To paraphrase the great Harold Bloom, we can never meet enough people, and we learn something new about ourselves when we learn something original from another. If this is also the merit of reading great literature, doesn’t the same hold true of travel?

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Learning Iyengar yoga at the source: My adventure in Pune, India

“I spent a month at B.K.S. Iyengar’s yoga retreat, and my body has openings that were never there before”

BY RENEE TAVARES — We’re wrapping it up here, only two more classes with the best yoga teacher I’ve experienced, Geetaji Iyengar, the daughter of B.K.S. I feel my body has openings that weren’t there and wouldn’t be there unless I had been here. Since body, mind and spirit are connected, I am trusting there are openings in the latter two

I have been practicing in the Iyengar yoga studio next to all my colleagues. Geetaji and Guruji (B.K.S.’s honorific, which literally means “great teacher”) are always there, as well as their Indian students who we can observe receiving teaching from Guruji himself. That’s me, in the picture below, bowing to B.K.S. Iyengar.

A very few lucky westerners have spontaneously received some personal instruction from Guruji by strategically positioning themselves right in front of him.

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Meetings with Remarkable Men: B.K.S. Iyengar

My life-long dream was to meet the greatest yoga teacher in the world. I’m living it this month at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India

BY RENEE TAVARES — I guess you could say that B.K.S. Iyengar is my “personal god,” not that I believe in a god as an individual. But in my world, he’s about as close as you get.

I started doing yoga in my twenties, and taught my daughter, now an instructor in her own right, when she was a young child.

I continued to practice and study through the next decades, and B.K.S. Iyengar was a guiding light. The single figure who made hatha yoga accessible to the West, he even gets profiled in this day and age, at 89, in Vanity Fair magazine.

I saved up weeks of vacation, and some life-savings, to spend the month of October at his school in Pune, India. I dish from my journal . . .

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Tree on the diving board

Face to face with my inner pain

This is the second in a series, Finding happiness in all the right places, by a young female seeker

BEING THERE: EMMA — My decision-making mechanism wasn’t cooperating when I was weighing whether or not to go on this retreat. It was a constant back and forth — I need to buckle down and work, but I’m depressed and not productive, but I’ll feel better if I’m productive, but I can’t even get up before noon because I don’t care, but I need the money, but this trip will be good for me, but maybe I’m just escaping, but the retreat is me facing myself rather than just a distraction.

Eventually, I packed, even as I oscillated between worrying that I was running from my problems and loving the spontaneity of it all. I used to travel constantly — crazy and wild spontaneous trips — and living in Austin I had settled down with all its benefits and drawbacks. I even wrote a poem, senior year of college, called “My trips, my drugs”

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A mind-body portrait of depression

This is the first in a series, Finding happiness in all the right places, by a young female seeker

BY EMMA — I didn’t understand the numbness, the lack of desire to eat, my entire body feeling warm, almost feverish and noticeably weak, unexplainable/explainable bruises on my body . . . the void where motivation used to be, the constant tears at any phone calls, feeling as if I was in a dull dream. I told my friends I was confused, I didn’t understand what was going on with me. Maybe I was sick, this didn’t make sense to me. My thoughts were healthy, my emotions disastrous: What was I not facing?

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