Jonathan Foust

January 31, 2009

Happy for No Reason, Part VI

Filed under: Humor, Video — jonathanfoust @ 2:54 pm

This is one of my own creation.  My brother Matthew with his eldest daughter, Sarah.


January 28, 2009

Happy for No Reason, V.I

Filed under: Nature, Photography — jonathanfoust @ 8:35 am


Snowed in with the dogs

Snowed in with the dogs today

January 26, 2009

Meditation in Motion

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 7:49 pm
A Great Time of Year to Be Inside

A great time of year to be inside.

I’m just back from nine days at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health where I led a retreat and training for the Advanced Yoga Teacher Training program on the topic of meditation.  

What a treat to be with such deep, authentic and caring people.  We balanced our time between understanding more challenging postures and techniques for assisting, but the overall theme was about meditation.  Each morning we chanted prayers in the Kripalu tradition and explored various doorways into meditation ranging from sense-based practices as breath, slow motion movement, walking and scanning to approaches such as mantra and metta.

While my first take on spiritual practice was through meditation, I found the embodied practice of yoga to be grounding and balancing.

The two work together beautifully, though there are traps in both.   A yoga practice unto itself can reinforce the idea that we need to do something to improve our experience.  All the techniques can lead us to believe that we can subtly (or not so subtly) manipulate our way to feeling better and better inside.  A meditation practice alone, if not connected with the wisdom of the body, can lead to a sense of disengagement and delusion.

I celebrate the blending of yoga and meditation and am thrilled to have shared nine days with fellow teachers exploring how we can offer this to a suffering world.

A fellow teacher who has been teaching meditation for over 30 years said that each time he ends a retreat he feels like he just barely has his fingernails in the iceberg.  It’s daunting to take on even the idea of teaching meditation.

One thing I tend to repeat, ad nauseum perhaps, is my definition of a teacher.  “A teacher is one who shares the radiance of her own discovery.’  When we share what we’re most lit up about, the result is not so much teaching as a transmission of energy and inspiration.  

Jack Kornfield was asked his advice on being the best teacher one can be.  His response:  “Be Yourself.”  

Now there’s a lifetime inquiry.

Practice Teaching Slow Motion Meditation

Teaching Slow Motion 'Prana' Meditation

January 15, 2009

The Immeasurable Capacity of the Heart

Filed under: Nature, Video — jonathanfoust @ 11:42 am


Going with the Flow

Filed under: Nature, Observations, Photography — jonathanfoust @ 9:47 am

18 degrees this morning.  Today I’m driving up to Western Mass.  Tonight it’s going to be -8 in the Berkshire Mountains.  And snowing.  

Another adventure.  I feel a little bit like this Coot heading down river this morning.

Is the way around it or through it?

Is the way around it or through it?

January 11, 2009

Aspiration and Vows

Filed under: Dharma, Photography — jonathanfoust @ 10:42 pm

To what do you aspire?  If you had to declare the overall intention for your life, what would it be?

After many years living with a poverty vow and a simplicity vow I’ve since have been somewhat vow-phobic.  I’ve  held as an ideal the Sufis, who reportedly would take a vow of renunciation — then renounce that vow!

When Tara and I decided to get married she remarked that we needed to work on our vows.  This put me in a bit of a tight spot.  We talked a bit and realized pretty quickly our wedding was the perfect event to take the Bodhisattva vow.  The iteration we chose was this:

“May whatever arises serve the awakening of heart and mind and be of benefit to all beings.”

A few times in our relationship I’ve found myself reactive and grumpy, pulling back from Tara and I’ve remembered (after a while) my vow.  Something melts inside and I find myself more open to what is here and now.

Exchanging Vows

Exchanging Vows

January 9, 2009

Wise Speech

Filed under: Dharma — jonathanfoust @ 7:28 am

“What you can’t communicate controls you.”

That little adage has stuck with me ever since I first heard it in the Forum tranings I did a couple decades ago.

The Buddha taught a lot about the right use of speech.  In the monastic communities there were more rules about speech than there were about purifying the mind.  Five guidelines are helpful to keep in mind:

  1. Be friendly
  2. Be gentle
  3. Tell the truth
  4. Be aware of who is listening
  5. Be aware of your timing

I’ve noticed the first two suggestions don’t necessarily jive with the third.  It’s challenging to be friendly and gentle and at the same time, to tell the truth.  

This is where speech becomes a practice.

Way, way back when the ashram I was living in melted down, the cozy scene I thought I was for the rest of my life fell apart.  I had to leave.  I had to get a job.  I had very, very little money.

I was terrified.  A friend and I got into Network Marketing.  I sold Blue Green Algae and telephone service.

Network marketing is also called ‘relationship marketing.’  You enroll your friends and acquaintances into what you are offering, either as consumers or as fellow distributors.

My focus was intense.  I went at it with a combination of enthusiasm and fear.  No one was outside of my list of prospects and my shyness dissolved in the face of the possibility of a source of income that ‘worked while I slept’, the idea of working and making money with my friends and a gnawing fear of failure.

I made some money.  I actually did well.  But I tired of the constant pushing and never-ending anxiety.  The success I had paled to the people who had ‘gotten in earlier’ and I was driven by an unquenchable sense of anxiety and competition.

A few weeks ago I got a voicemail from my network marketing friend.   I had been his ‘sponsor’ in the blue green algae business and he’d been mine in the telephone business.  I hadn’t heard from him in a long time and called him right back.

Things were great, he said.  Never better.  After we’d both dropped the networking marketing thing (he went on with it for another ten years and then the telecommunications industry went into total meltdown) he’d gone into real estate and sales and did really well.  But that was the past and now he’d found another product, which he loved, and did I want to hear about it?

I realized then that I was being prospected.  He told me about a company that had a great longevity product. After he gave me the pitch, with a little tension building inside,  I told him I wasn’t interested.  We talked about our practices and he told me about how he’d found a path that fed him on a very deep level and how we has now enjoying his spiritual practice and telling people about this product that helped boost their health.

We wished each other well, hung up and haven’t talked since.

I knew I was on his prospect list and he was marking names off, seeing who he could enroll into his team.  When I didn’t hear back from him after our call, I realized I felt hurt. 

This morning I woke up at 4:45 from a dream about my friend.  I realized I was pissed – and I hadn’t told him.

This was ripe material for meditation, so I sat on the edge of my bed and closed my eyes.  Irritation.  Hurt.  Being seen as a prospect – someone to cross off a list and then move on to the next.

Then I thought about all the people I’d contacted in the name of ‘our shared financial independence.’  The people I’d strong-armed into joining up.  The people I’d used whatever charisma I had to recruit them into my venture.

I felt deeply sorry for all the ways I hadn’t really seen who I was talking to.  

I had a fair bit of fun doing network marketing.  I was a good sponsor.  I followed up.  I inspired.  I coached.  But I also leaned too heavy.  I wasn’t always kind.  I didn’t always tell the truth. 

I’m ready to talk to my friend now.

Adrienne Rich says:

An honorable human relationship, that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word love, is a process of deepening the truths we can tell each other.  It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

A powerful model for communication for communicating clearly and with mindfulness is Non-Violent Communication.  I’ve had some training in it and want to do more.  I highly recommend looking into it.  You can look at the book by Marshall Rosenburg here, find more on events locally here and download a quick summary (pdf file) from my website here.

Whenever we speak the truth without putting anyone out of our heart, we are peacemakers and expand our capacity for intimacy.  

A worthy endeavor.

January 4, 2009

Yeah, Baby. Yoga is for SEX

Filed under: Dharma, Health — jonathanfoust @ 2:19 pm


From the yogic perspective halos are sexual energy transformed

From the yogic perspective, halos are sexual energy transformed

Yoga improves your sex life!   I guess that’s not surprising news, but it’s pretty funny from my perspective.

A major element of my yoga practice (albeit in an ashram setting) was a committed and sustained practice intimately linked with a vow of celibacy.  

The teachings of yoga in it’s more esoteric form are to move the energy UP and IN rather than DOWN and OUT.  My celibacy vow lasted 6.5 years before I “got off the elevator”.  And it was a ride.

I’m deeply grateful for those years of conscious restraint.  When I moved into the ashram at 25 I was pretty focused on (and addicted to) relationships.  Whenever I met anyone, I could not help but be caught in the basic scan of “do-able and not do-able.”  Celibacy for a 25-year old sounded like cruel and unusual punishment, but I was transformed by the practice.  Women who I would have pursued and been intimate with – but with whom I would not have had the emotional maturity to sustain anything – became best friends.

Over time I realized I had more intimacy in my life than ever. 

In the ashram women and men were segregated.  We did a lot of touch and massage among the brothers.   (I eventually got to understand how challenging, confusing and difficult this was for the gay brothers in the community.)  Massage was a wonderful way to connect, show support and was integrated with our very embodied practice of yoga.

The guru (Yogi Amrit Desai) noticed this and declared a ‘touch fast.’  “No more touching or massage,” he said.  This struck me as particularly cruel and unusual.  He went on to say, “When you are with someone and find yourself wanting to express your love or affection in a habitual way, try moving it up.  Try to express yourself instead through the tone of your voice or through your eyes.”

I took on this practice and it was deeply transforming.  I realized I could be with anyone and never hold back my heart.

When my vow was up I eventually explored sexuality again from a fresh and renewed place inside.

Georg Feurstein, one of the most respected voices of yoga in the west, talks about the reductionism of yoga.  This incredibly complex and sophisticated system for transformation and awakening has been reduced to tight hamstrings in a YMCA.

And so it turns out a yoga practice enhances one’s performance.  This seems a most logical and natural manifestation, but here it is, courtesy of CNN. (thanks, Don, for the tip!)

Yogis have better sex, study finds

Eastern enlightenment proved to be sexually beneficial for men and women