Monthly Archives: January 2015

teaching yoga

backbend birds

“My goal as a teacher is to inspire a passion for practice. The practice itself, done consistently and accurately, is the real teacher.”

Tim Miller

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leading mindfully

Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard’s been easy to spot in the cavernous Davos convention center this week, thanks to flowing robes of red and yellow fabric complemented by an Apple iPad.

Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard’s been easy to spot in the cavernous Davos convention center this week, thanks to flowing robes of red and yellow fabric complemented by an Apple iPad.

DAVOS, Switzerland  – For 10 minutes at the World Economic Forum here on Wednesday afternoon, a conference room jammed with more than 100 high-powered delegates was entirely silent.

The rare interlude of equanimity came during a panel called Leading Mindfully, a discussion of how meditation was impacting the workplace.

And with a mix of breathing instructions, management theory and personal reflection, the session provided a stark counterpoint to the frenzied discussions about geopolitical instability, currency fluctuations and climate change in nearby rooms.

“This is a very unusual event at the World Economic Forum, and it’s diagnostic of something much larger that is happening,” said Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who helped popularize mindfulness meditation in recent decades. “What was once considered a radical, lunatic, fringe thing has been incorporated into medicine, science, academics and more.”

In Davos, meditation has been on the agenda for each of the last few years. But this year, there was more interest than ever, according to Mr. Kabat-Zinn. An upcoming panel at the event will explore how meditation changes the brain, and this year, Mr. Kabat-Zinn is leading popular meditation sessions each day at 8 a.m.

“A few years ago no one showed up,” he said.

Led by Mr. Kabat-Zinn, the stretch of silence was intended to get delegates out of their heads, and instead notice what was happening around them.

“The first thing we notice when we practice mindfulness is how mindless we are,” said Mr. Kabat-Zinn, defining mindfulness as “paying attention, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

The serenity was occasionally broken by the voices of other delegates in the halls, buzzing about contemporaneous panels including “The Geo-Economics of Energy” or “China’s Impact as a Global Investor.”

And the silence was too awkward for restless participants. Several people left during the meditation session, while others checked their phones.

When it was finished, Mr. Kabat-Zinn asked participants to raise their hand if their minds had wandered. Everyone in the audience raised their hands, including Matthieu Ricard, a Frenchman who has ordained as a Tibetan monk and been called “the happiest man in the world.”

Much of the discussion centered on how meditation might help executives perform better. “The main business case for mindfulness is that if you’re more focused on the job, you’ll become a better leader,” Mr. George said.

It was perhaps an unusual theme for the power brokers at the event. But many on the panel and in the audience professed that meditation gave them a competitive advantage. And the burgeoning interest in meditation at the event mirrors a broader societal shift, in which yoga, mindfulness and meditation are becoming part of the mainstream.

Attendees at the session included executives, academics and politicians from around the globe.

And at least one financier was taking the message to heart. Paul Meehan, who manages Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Bain & Company, the management consulting firm, has been practicing yoga for five years and attended the session.

“This is one of the most impactful sessions I’ve been to,” he said.

Excerpts fron International New York Times article, Amid the Chattering of the Global Elite, a Silent Interlude By DAVID GELLES


handstanding with dice


solar year vs lunar year

Hindu_calendar_1871-72

Hindu Calendar 1871-72

Ancient people had two reliable ways of measuring time—the length of a day and the length of a lunar cycle.  Figuring out the length of the solar year was more complicated and required close observation of natural events, such as the cycling of the seasons and the movement of the stars in the heavens.  A lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, and twelve lunar months equals 354 days—approximating, but not equaling the length of a solar year, which is 365 days.  The seers of ancient Egypt are credited with first accurately figuring out how long it takes the Earth to orbit around the Sun.  They did this by observing the movements of the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (currently visible in the eastern sky a couple of hours after sunset—down and to the left from Orion’s Belt).  In first century BC Rome it was discovered that the existing Lunar Calendar was three months off in relation to the seasons.  This was due to the eleven-day discrepancy between the Lunar and Solar Calendars that had been playing out over time.  On the advice of Sosigenes, a learned astronomer from Alexandria, Caesar added 90 days to the year 46 BC and started a new calendar on January 1st 45 BC.  Sosigenes tells Caesar that the length of a year is actually 365 days 6 hours, and advises him to add a “leap year” every fourth year.  We have been using this same calendar ever since.  The ancient Romans developed a custom of setting aside the period of 11 days at the end of the year, which constitutes the difference between a Lunar Year and a Solar Year, and designating it as a period of holiday, when time stood still and people feasted, celebrated, and partied, and absolutely no work got done.  This time period corresponds roughly to the Winter Solstice through New Year’s Day.  It makes sense to devote our time at the end of the year to celebration rather than to work.  At the Winter Solstice we have the least amount of Solar Energy to warm us and invigorate us, and many people suffer from SAD—seasonal affective disorder.  During Christmas we spend time with our family and many emotions are evoked.  The year has been long and we have worked very hard living our lives, because being a human being is not an easy thing.  Certainly there were some things we could have done better during the course of the year, but we are imperfect beings, after all.  The important thing is that we learned something during the year that will make us wiser and more compassionate and loving as we continue forward into 2015.  The living of a year is something like a yoga practice, with all the different asanas serving as metaphors for all the different situations we encountered.  Some of those asanas were better than others, but it was all sadhana, and sadhana is always worthwhile.  In reference to keeping our sadhana in the proper perspective, Patanjali says:  Abhyasa vairaghyabhyam tannirodah—“By practicing diligently, with devotion and no interruption over a long period of time, and with nonattachment to any particular outcome, we will have peace of mind.”

December 30th Post from Tim Miller’s Blog Tuesdays with Timji