Category Archives: inspire

Extraordinary circumstances

My son, the artist

Graphic: logo of the Washington Project for the ArtsMy son, Matthew, has been selected to show his pho­tos in the Wash­ing­ton Project for the Arts‘s Options 09 exhibit, the 13th install­ment of the bien­nial show. He was one of the 250 artists that the WPA eval­u­ated this year, end­ing up as one of the final 13 who will show. He’s the only one who does not have for­mal art train­ing (a Mas­ters in Fine Arts) so it’s his tal­ent that’s get­ting him in there. For the first time, he will be dis­play­ing his pho­tos in the for­mat that he orig­i­nally envi­sioned them (larger prints, spar­ing no expense):

As a tra­di­tion, OPTIONS is a sur­vey of the bright­est and most tal­ented emerg­ing artists in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, Mary­land, and Vir­ginia regions and offers vis­i­bil­ity for artists who do not have gallery rep­re­sen­ta­tion. WPA orig­i­nally devel­oped the bien­nial series in 1981 with leg­endary artist Gene Davis and Wash­ing­ton Review Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Mary Swift as cura­tors of the first WPA OPTIONS showcase.

This year, WPA is for­tu­nate to have Anne Collins Goodyear, Assis­tant Cura­tor of Prints and Draw­ings at the National Por­trait Gallery, Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion, curate the exhibition.

The exhibit opens today at the Con­ner Con­tem­po­rary Art, 1358 Florida Ave, NE,2nd Floor, Washington,DC, and will last through Octo­ber 31.

Need­less to say, this is a big break­through for him, and we’re very, very proud of him. See his web­site.

The exhibit got a review in the Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Week­end sup­ple­ment: “Other sur­prises: the sheer amount of paint­ing. Work by John­son, Mullins, Kim Man­fredi and Polly Townsend may give hope to those who have heard rumors of its demise, and the short­age of great pho­tog­ra­phy. True, Ren, Matthew Smith and Matthew Wead all con­tribute inter­est­ing pho­to­graphic works. But where are the others?”

My fam­ily has been in an extended debate about what the last enig­matic line means?

Upgrading for yoga photos

Nikon D40 with stan­dard kit lens AF-​​S DX 18-​​55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II
This file is licensed under the Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion Share­Alike 2.5 License

I gave in to an impulse and bought a Nikon D40 SLR cam­era this week­end at Cir­cuit City (liq­ui­da­tion sale, so a full $100 off its retail price). After using my son’s cam­era, I amazed by the major improve­ment in qual­ity of the pho­tographs over my Canon P&S (Point and Shoot) cam­era. Because tak­ing pic­tures of yoga is like a sports shoot since there’s a lot of move­ment involved and it almost always takes place inside dimly lit stu­dios, I saw obvi­ous need for an SLR cam­era if I was going to be seri­ous about cap­ture the moment, and now com­pro­mis­ing to get a half-​​assed shot. I chose the DX because it was the most inex­pen­sive, entry-​​level model of the Nikon brand, and I can bor­row lenses and flash from my son to give me a lit­tle more flex­i­bil­ity on a short budget.

I don’t expet to be as good as govindakai’s pho­to­stream or even Alan Lit­tle, but it is just a major plus for web devel­op­ment and blog­ging. I was influ­enced to get the D40 (aside from my son’s own pref­er­ences) because Ken Rock­well rec­om­mended it even over the more advanced Nikon and Canon mod­els.

Listening with your whole body

In the TED con­fer­ence of 2007, Scot­tish per­cus­sion­ist and com­poser Eve­lyn Glen­nie spoke on how to lis­ten to music with your whole body, a strik­ing insight from some­one who has been deaf since the age of 12. But I was even more moved by her presentation’s reper­cus­sions for yoga. After all, we are all try­ing to lis­ten with our bod­ies, both to the sub­tle ener­gies that flow through our core and to the world around us that rever­ber­ates with pulsations.

More info at and her bio page, or check out her own web­site.

PS: Since putting up this blog entry, I’ve down­loaded some of her con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal music and find it really provoca­tive and multi-​​layered. Lately, I’ve suf­fered from a rather con­ven­tional choices of clas­si­cal music (Mozart, Bach, Tele­man, etc.), but I’ve found a way of door­way into a more mod­ern style. She’s had music com­posed just for her, which is a high compliment.

Be touched by son

Since I am allow­ing other peo­ple to have a voice on the blog today, I am also going to link to Video on Raul Midon plays “Every­body” and “Peace on Earth”, a song­writer, musi­cian, and singer with a soul­ful voice for his com­plex, stir­ring lyrics.

You can watch a sec­ond video, “All the Answers” and “Tem­ber­erana”. His per­sonal web­site and MySpace.

Stop what you’re doing and sample a unique vision

I just got through watch­ing this video from the TED con­fer­ence in Mon­ter­rey, Cal­i­for­nia, Feb­ru­ary 28. Dr. Jill Bolte Tay­lor, a neuro-​​anatomist, recently gave an chat about her life-​​altering expe­ri­ence of a brain stroke. This emo­tion­ally charged story is going to spread like wild­fire because it cap­tures a vital life story and mar­ries it to both sci­ence and spir­i­tual insight. I’m still reel­ing from my first view­ing so just don’t mind me and set aside 18 min­utes to be astounded.

Her web­site also con­tains a link to her self-​​published book, My Stroke of Insight through I got on to this because the New York Times fea­tured it on the Well blog.

TED is heavy-​​weight con­fer­ence that deals in thinkers of great ideas and doers of impres­sive deeds — and good story tellers. TED stands for Tech­nol­ogy, Enter­tain­ment, Design. It’s worth exploring.

Through the third eye…

A month ago, I was trav­el­ing in Colom­bia and spend­ing evenings alone in my hotel room in a kind of per­sonal retreat (no tele­vi­sion, no alco­hol, no dis­trac­tions). I was doing pranayama, yoga and med­i­ta­tion, as well as read­ing and jour­nal­ing. In med­i­ta­tion, I’ve often found it hard to focus so I’ve used tech­niques like a mantra or my breath as my tar­get of atten­tion. In med­i­ta­tion classes, I tried other tech­nique, like focus­ing on my third eye (the point between the brows, asso­ci­ated with the anja chakra and enlight­en­ment). I was told to focus on the bridge of my nose (with eyes shut) and then move up to the third eye. It’s still a tough task for me because it’s an imag­i­nary exer­cise. I’ve never seen my third eye.

That evening in Santa Marta, I found myself befud­dled as I tried to focus my atten­tion on a sin­gle point. I asked myself whether it might be more fea­si­ble to focus my eyes on some­thing more mean­ing­ful. What could I focus on that would instill a deep sense of well­be­ing and still­ness? Well, the object could be look­ing into the eyes of a loved one, I said to myself. But rather than refer­ring to my wife or kids, I tried to raise the prac­tice to another level: the Beloved. I set­tled into this men­tal stance and felt a groundswell of emo­tion. I then real­ized that the Beloved was like a mir­ror and I was look­ing into a pair of eyes — my own. This sud­den stroke of wis­dom hit me with a vis­ceral truth in my core.

This event sealed a year in which my inten­tion was self-​​acceptance as a nec­es­sary step in my per­sonal devel­op­ment. It is so hard for me to accept and love myself with­out con­di­tions or expec­ta­tions. My work with yoga has been to come to terms with my phys­i­cal body while with med­i­ta­tion and self-​​inquiry I’ve tried to tackle other realms.

East-​​West Convergence

At the work­shop this past week­end, Beryl Ben­der Birch drew a pic­ture that caught my imag­i­na­tion. Back in the days of the Palace of Mysore when the trio of future gurus of clas­si­cal yoga (T.K.V. Desikachar, B.K.S. Iyen­gar and Pat­tabhi Jois) were study­ing under Kris­na­macharya, the father of hatha yoga (it’s his 1938 video to the right), the Maharaja of Mysore was also patron to West­ern gym­nas­tics that was brought to India by the British colo­nial regime. The two groups of stu­dents stood at oppo­site sites of the court­yard that served as class­room, copy­ing tech­niques from each other. She said that a lot of the sequenc­ing of vinyasa come from that cul­tural cross-​​pollination. It struck me as ironic that the East-​​West con­ver­gence influ­enced the for­ma­tion of clas­sic yoga. And today you’re get­ting another round of con­ver­gence as yoga meshes with Amer­i­can (and other West­ern) culture.

You can see a his­toric video of Iyen­gar from the same period.


Alan Lit­tle tagged me and then for­got to tell me, and I did not check out his blog until two days later — so I’ve already blown the eight-​​hour dead­line. The premise is that I have write about eight ran­dom facts about me. Here goes:

  1. I did the pre-​​production coor­di­na­tion in Peru (gov­ern­ment liai­son, media con­tacts, cus­toms clear­ances) for Shirley McClain’s bio-​​pic “Out on a Limb” and then failed to charge Hol­ly­wood rates for the work I did — boy, was I dumb!
  2. I was invited twice to spend extended week­ends with my wife, all expenses paid, at Arthur Hai­ley‘s home in Nas­sau, Bahamas because he wanted me to read drafts of his novel about a journalist’s adven­ture in Peru, The Evening News.
  3. I don’t write long hand, but print as if I was still in ele­men­tary school. I’ve done this since high school when I was bored with tak­ing notes in his­tory class and decided to add a degree of dif­fi­culty to the task.
  4. I was the char­ac­ter Potzo in “Wait­ing for Godot” by Samuel Beck­ett in my senior year of col­lege. The actor who was going to play Potzo backed out and I was the under­study. I was skinny so I padded out with blan­kets and tow­els, wore abun­dant makeup and a plas­tic skull cap so that I could be bald. Dur­ing the play, I per­spired so much that water poured out from under my fake nose in the mid­dle of my dia­logue. My friends told me that my act­ing was bril­liant — but since no one could rec­og­nize me under all the makeup and cos­tume, I did not get any cred on campus.
  5. I sang a capella in the madri­gal singers of my high school. Now I can barely carry a tune.
  6. When I was in col­lege, I used to per­form mime, picked up from watch­ing a street mime in Lima, Peru.
  7. My favorite nov­el­ist when I was an ado­les­cent was Robert Heinlein.
  8. I tried to sell Bibles and ref­er­ence books door-​​to-​​door in South Car­olina in the sum­mer after my fresh­man year. It was sheer tor­ture and I gave up after six weeks — I was stubborn.

Here are the rules for the next generation:

  1. Each player starts with 8 ran­dom facts/​habits about themselves.
  2. Peo­ple who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 ran­dom things, and post these rules.
  3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 peo­ple and include their names. Don’t for­get to leave them a com­ment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
  4. If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most pre­cious goals for at least two more lifetimes.

I am tagging:

  1. Stephanie
  2. Raj Waghray
  3. I’m even worse than Alan; I can’t come up with any­one else off the top of my head or skim­ming through my e-​​mail. I guess my cir­cle of friends and acquain­tances don’t have blogs that allow them to respond to being tagged.

Blessings, small and large

While shav­ing (beard and scalp) this morn­ing, I real­ized that it had not always been so easy. For the past 10 years, at least, I have cut my own hair, basi­cally buzz-​​cutting my hair to the small­est set­ting on the elec­tric hair clip­per. This year, I have gone even fur­ther and applied an elec­tric razor to give me the bil­liard ball look. It used to be that I could never get my right hand to reach the left side of my head; I’d have to switch the clip­per or razor to my left hand. I noticed this morn­ing that I don’t have to make the switch any­more, unless my right arm becomes fatigued from the awk­ward posi­tion. I attribute this improved range to my yoga prac­tice — what else could it be. All my time spent in downward-​​facing dog has served a purpose.

I went for the shaved head look as a ges­ture in sup­port of my brother, Richard, who was under­go­ing treat­ment for lung can­cer and los­ing his hair invol­un­tar­ily. After an oper­a­tion, chemother­apy and radi­a­tion treat­ment, his doc­tors have declared the can­cer in remis­sion, allow­ing him to look for­ward to some sem­blance of nor­malcy in his life. I don’t know if I am going to stop shav­ing my head. I kinda like it — a Bud­dha look that goes with my increased empha­sis on mindfulness.

Pale blue dot

I chanced upon this video mon­tage and it really struck home. I need to remem­ber its mes­sage. It’s inspired by Carl Sagan, one of my intel­lec­tual men­tors from a dis­tance, and the Hub­ble space telescope.

YouTube link