The man of yoga who is able to overcome, here on earth, the turmoil of desire and anger- that man is truly happy.
I’m currently in preparation for a month-long yoga teacher training which will take place in September in Montreal. As pre-work, incoming students have been assigned a comprehensive list of readings to finish prior to the first day of instruction. Yesterday, over a cup of very very strong coffee, I dedicated myself to 2 hours with The Bhagavad Gita.
In the following excerpt, Krishna expounds on a topic I’ve previously explored in the context of habit and consumption– the alienation of the self through material accumulation— and forms an argument for the causal implication of ‘sense objects’ in impeding spiritual transcendence. Piecing together Krishna’s advice, I understand the argument as follows:
When the mind constantly runs after the wandering senses, it drives away wisdom, like the wind blowing a ship off course.
But the man who is self controlled, who meets the objects of the senses with neither craving or aversion, will attain serenity at last.
Abandoning all desires, acting without craving, free from all thoughts of “I” and “mine,” that man finds utter peace.
Nothing in the world can purify as powerfully as wisdom; practiced in yoga you will find this wisdom within yourself. Continue reading
While sifting through portfolios today I came across French Design studio Zim & Zou’s cover art for the 104th issue of Icon Magazine. Inspired by 3D Food Printer technology, perhaps the very model described in this CNN Money article, the artists’ take on ‘The Future of Food’ perfectly equates the imagined nutritional value of the content with its form.
Each morning the day lies like a fresh shirt on our bed; this incomparably fine, incomparably tightly woven fabric of pure prediction fits us perfectly. The happiness of the next twenty-four hours depends on our ability, on waking, to pick it up. -Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings, 1978
I usually attend yoga every morning at 6:00am. There’s a cool stillness in the early morning air. And in this frenetic city of Los Angeles, I relish my silent block-and-a-half walk down the road to Moksha. The streets are completely deserted. Overhead, the many air conditioners perched on window ledges in 3rd and 4th story apartments hum softly. On the corner, Lenin contemplates being balanced upon. I figure myself a lonely sojourner, making my pilgrimage to the temple as a singular offering to the new day.
By the time I emerge from class at 7:30, La Brea is brimming with traffic. Greeted by the honking horns of aggressive early morning commuters, I’m still wrapped in peace from savasana and blissfully unaware of what transpires on the walk back home. Continue reading
Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate. -Victor Lebrow, Economist 1955, as quoted by Legosi
Recently, I’ve become increasingly aware of my spending habits as well as the spending habits of those around me. I’m more aware than I was, say, before I left full-time employment. Purchases mean a lot more to me now and so do my decisions about how I invest my money.
Today I read a four part series on EcoSalon about the psychology of marketing in the fashion industry. The author, who goes by the pseudonym Louise Legosi, offers a sweeping review of the sociological, ecological, and economic implications of increased consumerism world-wide. She argues that calculated marketing strategies aimed at creating demand for high-end luxury goods have encouraged the kind of conspicuous consumption that fuels unsustainable manufacturing practices. Legosi suggests consumer spending is largely motivated by the urge to adopt the trappings associated with the desired object while simultaneously subverting unwanted personal attributes. Legosi and I are in agreement that in all of this, the central question begging to be asked is: “What are we hiding?” Continue reading
Listening to the classic Ellington/Coltrane track ‘In a Sentimental Mood,’ I’m gearing up for a particularly productive day. I woke up this morning incensed by the mess in my house. I’ve found that cleaning is just the thing to take my mind off Alex’s absence (flown to Korea without me). It’s meditative in a way and it frees up my headspace for those kinds of transcendental journeys that one only achieves while elbow deep in a sink full of dishes.
Thoughts of space and intergalactic travel drift through my consciousness. I’m reminded of two artists whose work I viewed earlier in the week. Their strange, other-worldly images have commandeered my imagination and we are communicating now on a subatomic level.
“Hot yoga?” I mumble to the man who, even now, is becoming one with a block of water. “I am Sisyphus,” he replies. His is a terrific suspension, it makes me uncomfortable to think of it.
Drifting on, through the cosmos I am Zeitguised. It’s all neons in plaids and navajo and I want so badly for it to be real. How satisfying it would be to run my fingers over those microscopic grooves; or, perhaps if writ large as a landscape, to lose myself amongst the ridges. It looks tangible enough but alas, I am merely lost in the figment of another artist’s imagination.
My fingers find the familiar grooves of the handle of a spoon but my mind is still orbiting somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.
Lonely Planet’s description of Insadong as “a gastronomic centre of excellence” is spot on.
The outside of this restaurant is so unassuming that I didn’t even think to snap a photo, nor do I now remember its name. As we walk up the cobblestoned pathway to the entrance, Lisa and I try to determine if they’re even open. We knock gently and then carefully pry open the weathered door to find a small Korean woman talking loudly into a cordless phone. I am thoroughly overwhelmed by the smell of fish. Words cannot adequately express how overwhelmed I am. To me, the scent is so offensive that I desperately contemplate running out the door. But Lisa is already removing her boots and the woman on the phone is beckoning us into a small dining room. I reluctantly follow suit, tugging off my boots and placing them on the shelf to my left. I side-step the kitchen and walk past large jars of pickled root and cabbage before finding my place on the floor at the low table across from Lisa. We are the only diners present.
Lisa explains that the restaurant must have once been a modest residential home, a hanok as it were, and she gestures towards the pickling pots as evidence of its humble composition. A thin paper wall separates the dining area from the kitchen where two cooks quarrel loudly with an angry child. The walls facing outside are made from packed mud and straw. They are burnt-orange in color but have been partly whitewashed on three sides of the room. The floor beneath me begins to warm pleasantly and I learn that this is the work of the ondol, or heating system; the ingenious segmentation of the foundation below. Burning piles of wood can be inserted into these spaces to selectively heat the desired areas of the house above.
Our host is still on the phone, pacing back and forth in front of our table, engrossed in conversation. She puts the receiver to her shoulder long enough to take Lisa’s order and then disappears into the kitchen. Lisa is graciously merciful when she orders for the both of us. I know she’s partial to the raw octopus and pickled crab of her countrymen but when I’m around she eats conservatively for my sake.
Neither of us anticipated what subsequently emerges from the kitchen. Piled high on so many platters, every manner of sea creature and pickled bit imaginable. The variety is astonishing, an assortment that Lisa will later refer to as “hardcore”. Twenty-one components presented individually on pearly white saucers. Lisa digs in but I’m distracted by a pungent odor to my right. It is the embodiment of the nebulous smell I encountered upon entering the restaurant. I follow my nose to the offending dish. It’s wet and shiny: a bulbous pile of raw squid, laced with seaweed and sitting in a pool of filmy sauce. I urgently beg Lisa to swap plates with me and she eagerly obliges, relocating the squid to her side of the table.
Now, breathing a bit easier, I relinquish myself to the meal. I begin, cautiously at first, to sample some of the more innocuous-looking options around the rim of the table. I start with the beef patty and am pleasantly surprised. Nothing scary about it, just delicious ground meat grilled to perfection with a spicy dipping sauce. Emboldened, I begin to circle my way into the center of the table. I encounter salty red kimchi, cubes of green acorn jelly, fried veggie pancakes, salty black seaweed and pickled red algae. There’s a boiling bowl of miso soup afloat with giant chunks of white tofu and wilted greens. I help myself generously to a large serving and then pause to have some rice.
The road gets trickier now. I have to ask Lisa to explain the remaining dishes and they are as daunting as I suspect. I approach the first: raw octopus tentacles soaked in salty brine. I breathe, commit, and then proceed. Success! Next is spicy crab. I use my teeth to break through the hard shell and suck out the meat from inside the thorax. Boom. Moving right along I reach the fried whole fish. Lisa shows me how to remove the connecting vein that borders the dorsal fin, exposing the meat inside which I then pull out using my chopsticks. There is reason to pause here. This dish is fantastic. It is crispy and sweet and it melts in my mouth.
I’m thoroughly satisfied and I decide to quit while I’m ahead. I leave the nefarious squid for Lisa to enjoy and gulp down some water. I also sip my green tea to help, I hope, aid my digestion. I feel as though I’ve just completed a monumental task like saving the princess or finishing a lengthy crossword puzzle. Upon exiting, the frigid clean air is my reward.
Alex and I are sitting barside in the hotel lobby, sipping matching double espresso martinis. I pose the question: “If you could hang out with any three people alive today who would they be?” I ask because I’m curious. I figure that between us, at least one answer will overlap and I figure it will probably be Blake Griffin. I tell him so but he glances quizzically at me and takes a long sip from his glass.
“I’d like to work with Christopher Nolan,” he says, ” and I don’t want to meet him until we are collaborating on a feature film together.” Alex’s ambition is showing and, as is so often the case, attempts to define the terms of our conversation. I clarify, “What I mean is, if you could, like chill with someone you admire, do anything with them for let’s say a whole day, who would it be and what would you do?” I give him an example of one of mine to get us on the right track: Anthony Bourdain, food god. I explain at length the culinary escapade I’ve been piecing together in my mind for the past year and a half. The sumptuous food and drink and conversation about food and drink in some exotic locale. I think Morocco is a good candidate. Tony: recounting his exploits over a tall glass of malt beer, Me: eating with my fingers, convincing him to be my best friend. “You know,” I say to Alex, “that sort of thing babe.”
He gets the Blake comment now and but we’re not quite there yet. “I don’t really get off on meeting famous people,” he says, “what would you even do if you had a day with Blake Griffin?” That’s an easy one. Obviously make him watch all of my favorite funny movies, shoot some hoops and eat fried chicken. “Okay, okay,” he says, nodding his head and scratching his beard thoughtfully. Alex thinks for a moment more in silence.
I turn my head to the bar and watch a Korean businessman in suit and tie swirl his glass of whiskey and down it in one sip. The attentive bartender registers his subtle nod and replaces the empty with a new glass. Otherwise the bar is ours, save for the silent eye of the attendant behind us. I had forgotten she was there.
I return my attention to Alex. He’s gazing over the city, enjoying the last of his drink. I can tell that his mind is elsewhere now, perhaps ruminating on the set list he received from Gil the night before. I reach for his hand. He smiles and looks at me, “that’s a really fun question babe, I need to think about it some more.” And so we make like the Korean businessman and finish the night with whiskey; together, high above the city just he and me.