Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Practice report, and some neither-here-nor-there musings and observations

Did full primary and second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana this morning. "Chickened out" of the leg-behind-head postures again :-)

Decided to make this a slower practice today, because there were so many thoughts swimming through my Monkey Mind. Decided to try practicing what Eddie Stern told Claudia: Five counts on the inhale, five on the exhale. It took a bit of work in the beginning, especially in the standing sequence (Monkey Mind kept going: "Come on! Haven't you stayed long enough in this posture? Don't you want to get to the exciting postures of Primary and Second series?"), but once I tell my body that it's staying there for those five long breaths, no matter what, the Monkey Mind realizes it has nowhere to go, and gradually shuts up.

During my practice, one thought came to me. From my blog posts of the last few days (you know what I'm talking about, I'm not going to stir everything up again here), I learnt one interesting truth: In this country, any issue that is worth thinking about/potentially life-changing is a divisive one. Abortion, capital punishment, education, fat acceptance (you name it). Why? I don't know. Maybe it is the nature of the people of this country (sorry, I know it is probably politically incorrect to speak like this, but I believe in telling-shit-like-it-is...). Maybe, in yogic terms, it is because all the parties who are involved in these issues have deep samskaric grooves in their lives, and these samskaras manifest themselves in our speech and actions. If this is true, then something else also becomes obvious: If deep and entrenched disagreements arise because of samskaric factors, then resorting to rational argument and scientific proof can have at best limited effect in bringing about change for the better in this world (whatever "better" means to you).

Of course, this does not mean that I will give up my telling-shit-like-it-is style of blogging; if anything, you can look forward to more of this style in the near future! But I also recognize that for true change to occur, we must try to really understand why people say what they say, not just the logical or scientific reasons for their utterances. In other words, we need to understand the existential/emotional motivations that drive people to say the things they do and hold the positions they do. As some wise person once said, "What's the use of being right if you are not happy?" This is something I am still very much working on.

On a lighter note, I thought I'd share something that happened on my way to campus today. On the bus today (my girlfriend and I share one car; she takes the car, and I take the bus), I sat beside this older gentleman. We started chatting about how beastly the weather is (it's presently -9 degrees fahrenheit, -29 with windchill). As we got to my stop, and I got up to leave, he said, "Don't study too hard and burn your brains out, young man!' I was quite amused (and frankly, flattered!), and didn't bother to correct him and tell him that I was faculty, not student. In fact, this happens to me so much that I don't even bother to correct people anymore. I get things like this when I talk to random people in coffee-shops ("Oh, what are you majoring in?") and in all kinds of random places. It's a little bit more awkward when this happens in professional settings. For example, on one of my first days at work at my previous university in Milwaukee, this grad student came up  to me and asked me if I was a new grad student! I had to tell her rather sheepishly (Why sheepishly? Hmm.. I don't know) that I was the new Visiting Assistant Professor. And then it was her turn to get sheepish, as she fumbled for an apology...

As I said, I don't get offended by people thinking I am a student. If anything, I am actually a little amused and flattered (I mean, I'm turning 35 soon, and I apparently can pass off as somebody in his twenties :-)). But nevertheless, I sometimes wonder why people think I am a student. Well, I have a few possible theories:

(1) The obvious one (I think): I look younger than I actually am (Yay!). Maybe I should post my picture on this blog, and then you can decide if this is true.

(2) People in this part of the country (the upper midwest) don't meet many Asians, and so they have difficulty telling how old an Asian is when they see one. 

(3) The way I dress: I dress appropriately, but I don't walk around in a suit and tie, or anything that makes me look "professional". But this can't be it: Most professors here don't wear suits or ties on most days either, and they don't get mistaken as students (at least not to my knowledge).

(4) I don't look "distinguished" enough: There's probably not very much I can do about this, if this is the reason. I sometimes think that I might look more "distinguished" if I grow a big beard and a big belly (but then my practice will go to shit... no more binding in Mari D or Pasasana. So no, I won't go there...).\

(5) I have a small build: Again, there's not very much I can do in this department. Maybe investing in a pair of elevator shoes might help, but probably not by much.

Well, enough musings for now. Got to get ready for class (at least my students don't mistake me for a student :-))    


  1. I have a good friend who's American Chinese (parents are Chinese Chinese) who is exactly my age and he looks like a child while I look, well, 47. Ha! So yes, you have a genetic boost in that department! Enjoy it.

  2. I love that you tackle the sticky topics Nobel! Keep it up!

  3. ...and the scary thing is, my fellow liberals seem to be out rednecking the rednecks at times, quite vitriolic on some of these issues, what happened to calm, reasoned reflection, everyone seems so certain of their positions and viewpoints. Perhaps you should post it again after that glorious speech of Obama's and see if there's any difference in the nature of the response, nice test case perhaps.
    When I started studying philosophy a wise lecturer, sadly no longer with us, told me that the only things/issues/questions worth philosophising about were those you were most sure you knew the answer to.
    Great blog by the way

  4. Keep your 'telling-like-it-is' approach Nobel, it's refreshing! What you said about the US' reaction to controversial topics reminds me of this post (http://fierceoblivion.blogspot.com/2011/01/high-speed-wobbles.html) that your friend Cathrine blogged about. Everyone's too focused on their own agendas and little worlds that they forget to look out of their cocoons. I think it's not US-specific, it's happening across Europe and Australia too.

    I get carded ALL the time and am often asked what I'm majoring in at Stanford, lol. It annoyed me at first, but as I grow older, I'm enjoying it more. Nothing quite like being 31 and mistaken for a 25 year old hee hee :)

    By the way, this is Danielle commenting with my blog URL. Have had this on-again, off-again yoga blog that's part brain dump, part rant, part practice report....

  5. Loo, thanks! I will definitely enjoy the genetic boost while I still have it :-)

    Thanks Christine! I just read your very thoughtful most recent blog post. I'm going to think more about what you say.

  6. Yes, Grimmly, I agree with the importance of calm, reasoned reflection, especially on issues that we feel most passionate and sure about. The thing is, I'm quite sure that my post (and definitely most of the comments on it) was posted after Obama's speech. And yes, I think that departed lecturer is right.

  7. savasanaaddict/Danielle, it is interesting that this phenomenon is not US-specific. Hmm, maybe it is humankind-specific! :-)

    It's very interesting (and nice) that you have the same kinds of experiences that I have. So this rules out #2 as a possible explanation, if people in California do the same thing.

    I looked at your blog briefly just now. Looks very interesting! I'll read more later.

  8. Hi Nobel! It's an Asian thing. We generally tend to look younger than we are. People keep thinking I'm 25 when I'm about to turn 34 in March. I have no issue with this now, but when I was 25 and working, it was quite a thing with work in a professional setting. People didn't take me seriously (plus dresscode in advertising is super casual too)... I guess not until I "showed them" through my work itself. It's not a bad problem to have at all! Wait till you're 60, you'll enjoy it. ;p

  9. Hi Skipetty, yes, I hear you on the people-not-taking-you-seriously-because-you-look-younger thing. But I agree that it's still good to look younger, generally speaking :-)

    Saw the pictures Claudia posted of you and Inside Owl on Claudia's blog. You guys look so good! Someday, someday I'm coming to Mysore...

  10. Nobel, i agree with Skippetty, first, the asians tend to look younger, secondly, having small frame also make people look young forever, third, ur ashtanga practice minus 10 yrs off ur age. hahahha


  11. "still good to look younger. . .” Hum . . . she said, bringing up another controversial issue! I think it may be good to look healthy, but "young?" Why young? When Daisy P said ashtanga practice takes 10 years off your age, I think that means one's body is fit and trim, which may look "younger" in some senses, but actually, it is just healthy. Know what I mean? Maybe we should take this outside, Nobel, tee, hee to my blog. . .

  12. Daisy P and Cathrine, I suppose that if I have to choose, I would rather look (and be) healthy than look young. But being the philistine that I am, I'll take looking young if I can have it without sacrificing looking (and being) healthy :-) And this is my personal preference; I don't think anybody should find it controversial :-)

  13. Dear Nobel
    It's been my observation or opinion that Asians typically don't show their age much. So you're lucky you'll look youngish always.

  14. Thanks Arturo. I'll like to be able to say that I don't care whether I look young or old, but as I said in my reply to Cathrine and Daisy P, I'm too much of a Philistine to be able to transcend this! So I hope that you are right that I will look youngish always. Actually, if I may be permitted to say this, you look really good for somebody who's 53 (or is it 54?).