Ram Dass “Loving Kindness” Maui Satsang and Kirtan

If you find yourself on or near Maui on August 25th come to the Ram Dass public satsang at the Makawao Union Church. I’m so honored to be leading the kirtan for this event. It will be a joy to share this practice with you and for our beloved Ram Dass.

The Meta Institute’s founder Frank Ostaseski will be joining Ram Dass as they will co lead an afternoon of dharma talks, meditation and reflections.

All of the details are below on the flyer.

Jai Sri Ram!

-zl (ramana)

Loving Kindness Satsang with Ram Dass, Frank Ostaseski and Zach Leary (Ramana)
Loving Kindness Satsang with Ram Dass, Frank Ostaseski and Zach Leary (Ramana)

Day 1

Chapter 1: The War Within
Yoga teacher: Stephanie Phelan at Maha Yoga

Today is Day 1 of an 18 day yoga immersion that I’m setting out on. The twist is that I’m doing one asana class a day for each chapter of The Bhagavad Gita. Eighteen classes for eighteen chapters. About mid way through the day (today) it occurred to me to go forth on this little experiment. So this is not something that is pre meditated or that I’ve put much thought into. However, a number of things fell into place today that makes this feel like it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

One, I’ve really been feeling the need to re-engage into my asana practice. It’s been sporadic lately and I feel a little disconnected from my body so that I’d like to remedy that. For as long as I’ve been practicing asana I’m not very good at it. I realize that just because there are some things that I can’t do physically, even after all this time, it doesn’t make me any less of a yogi but it does create a personal chasm in my own personal practice that I’d someday like to fill. Second, I started rereading the Gita this morning as I do a couple of times a year and the thought occurred to why not combine the two activities. The Gita is my core manual for a spiritual life and if one looks closer perhaps there could be some correlations between the wisdom that Krishna speaks and ones personal struggles (and triumphs) when engaging on a mini immersion like 18 days of consecutive yoga.

Additionally, it’s an interesting undertaking because the Gita has nothing to do with asana and asana has very little do with the Gita. I’m an expert on neither which also creates an interesting opportunity to reveal little nuggets of clarity that haven’t appeared to me before. Blogging about this will be a self indulgent mess at times but maybe through that mess a discipline will arise that will force me to put pen to paper thus holding me accountable to finishing all 18 days in a row. I’m lazy so this may be the perfect way to work through that!

In Chapter 1 the stage is set for the battle that our protagonist, Arjuna, must undergo. Arjuna must engage in a fierce battle against his own family members to restore control and dignity to the kingdom that is rightly his and his brothers. Their evil blind uncle Dhritarashtra is one the other side mobilizing his armies to take down Arjuna and his brothers on the battle field. Right as the battle is about to begin Arjuna sees the internal conflict and begins to question everything about the nature of life, war, virtues, purpose, God and so much more. The good news that Arjuna’s charioteer and most trusted spiritual advisor also happens to be the supreme personality of God himself, Krishna. So while in peril Arjuna has the right guy around to ask questions to. The answer to these questions come from Krishna in the chariot on the battle field and is “The Song of God.”

In Chapter 1 the core metaphor of battle and war is set. In many orthodox Hindu traditions the war element is taken quite literally under the understanding that while war is inherently evil it is also the dharma of a certain class to fight just wars. However, in the mystic traditions of ancient India the war is a metaphor for the wars and battles that we must all fight on any given day. The great sages, saints and rishis of ancient India are mystics and this is the point of view that I relate with and will discuss. It’s a very important distinction and what that must be clarified.

The war within my own mind on whether or not I have the ability, discipline and wherewithal to accomplish a modest task like 18 days in a row of yoga is potent and there is no better manual than the Gita to reflect on my progress. The war within my own mind has also been very juicy lately. Not in a self doubting torturous way but in more of a reflective way that is forcing me to look at my journey with more sensitivity to the things that I really want.

Day 1 of Yoga was good. No struggle. Good flow. Onward. 7 am class tomorrow morning.

SOPA vs. The Mash Up Generation

A piece ran in Slate the other day that proclaimed passing SOPA would lead to an economic and social disaster. Click here to read that post.

It’s a fantastic look at how the socia-economic sensibilities have changed considerably in the last decade and the movement of copyright infringement has helped to shape this brave new world. I disagree with the overly simplistic view that states that the entertainment industries revenue has not been offset from online piracy. It is a fact that the record sales are down 60% in the last decade. One might argue that’s a good thing – the scam of charging $18 for a full length record that’s only 20% good was akin to forcing you to go into Disneyland with only 2 or 3 of the rides working. Now, the consumer can choose to buy as much or as little of an album as they want. And there is direct proof that if the whole album is good, people will buy it. Quality rises to the top and people respond. Refer to Adelle or Mumford and Sons for evidence of that. Of course there’s another, somewhat more complicated, side. In today’s media savvy world there’s a whole generation that simply types in “Mediafire Mumford and Sons” into Google to acquire new music. Easy. Two or three clicks and it’s done.

Some experts say the psychological subtly that a music file is only a few megabytes and is so easily shared (stolen) that it really doesn’t amount to stealing in the first place. It’s just sharing your stuff with your friends. It’s the same as viewing a non authorized video on YouTube or borrowing a book like the Slate piece talks about. Most people under 25 would say this is true, digital music feels intangible thus it doesn’t hold any concrete place in the material world. It’s just a file that can be passed on over and over again. The thought doesn’t even occur to most kids that effort and money went into producing said file and thus it does actually hold monetary value. All true but I think it goes deeper than that.

If we look back at the previous few decades they all have a very concrete stamp on how they can be defined. The 60’s were a time of social unrest and revolution, the 70s were groovy and had disco, the 80s were the MTV generation and the 90s had grunge and the birth of the web. Each era can be very succinctly defined. Can the same be said of the 2000’s? Sort of but not really.

The 2000s saw the rise of the iPod, Facebook and YouTube. Those are certainly three pilars that this generation can be proud of and no doubt forever changed the way we live. However, take a look at the core value that each one of those three products has to offer. The iPod allows you to store tons of the aforementioned intangible digital files of music that inherently encourages you to just plug your iPod into a friends computer and go wild taking whatever you want. Facebook is a tool that has changed the way we communicate and stay in touch but it’s also largely a forum for people to share other peoples content that they love without thinking about it. How many times a week do I see a rare Pink Floyd clip posted over and over again? Lots. And then there’s YouTube – the mothership of them all. YouTube has essentially created a cultural conversation that is based on the mash-up. People taking others peoples work and slicing it up into new work. It’s a blender of cultural vernacular, music, iconic images, acting without any SAG card and all around power to the people creativity. That’s what the 2000’s was – it was the decade for mashing-up and sharing stuff that moves us. It’s defined this generation.

The 1990’s gave rise to this anarchic uncontrollable giant of the World Wide Web. It, accidentally, became the last free dimension where there is no police force and is completely egalitarian. SOPA would add a layer to this that is so contrary to it’s DNA that it would disrupt what can not be disrupted. Additionally, to me more importantly, it would change the cultural conversation that made the 2000s (and now the 2010’s) so great. Our favorite viral videos would be subject to government regulation. Blogs could not freely publish half of what they do. Girl Talk could not make his genius albums and most of all the kids could not simply share the stuff they love and make into their own cultural statement. SOPA would start a war with an entire generation that has made mash-ups and the appropriation of content into a unique voice all their own.

I understand that the entertainment business is scared of lost revenue and needs to react to that somehow. I don’t have a point of view on that. But I do know that the music business, particularly the musicians, are going to go through a radical shift in their place in society. A friend of mine and I often talk about how modern society will hold a place for the professional musician from here on out. We think that todays musician will go back to their roots of how it used to be. I don’t mean how it used to be in the 1950s. I mean how it used to be in the 1890s. The musician will once again become the village bard that expresses our core emotions simply because they have no choice. They will once again become the story tellers who are passing on myths of the generation simply because their dharma calls for it. Very few will now do it for the seductive draw of money and fame. Surely there will still be a few of those but mostly todays musician will contribute into the modern tech laden social mash-up because it’s a damn good thing to do. The economic model how to make it as a musician still needs some things answered but the sentiment of this modern world of free roaming content will be a good thing in the long run.