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The Philosophy of Opening Locks (& Measuring Internal Movement) April 26, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)


“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it A) extremely comforting that we’re so close, and B) like Chinese water torture that we’re so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection… I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.”


– Playwright John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation


“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” or “Bacon’s Law” is based on the “six degrees of separation” theorem and the idea that Kevin Bacon has made so many movies he is the very essence of connectivity. (Although at least one study has shown Samuel L. Jackson is even more connected than Kevin Bacon, but that’s another story for another day.)

Simply stated, the ideas together indicate that by way of a series of (virtual or metaphorical) handshakes anyone (yourself included) is more closely connected to Kevin Bacon (or Samuel L. Jackson) than you might think. It’s a fun trivia game, something you can do when cabin or quarantine fever kicks in. It’s also a little surreal when you consider it in the context of your own life and realize how small the world is, and how connected you are to people you have never met and will never meet. (For example, during most of my lifetime – even as a kid – I have always been one to two handshakes away from the President of the United States, at least from Ronald Reagan forward.)

There is a similar idea related to the internet and Wikepedia. According to the “Getting to Philosophy” game, if you click on the first link in the main portion of a Wikepedia article, and continue clicking on the first link in subsequent articles, you will inevitably land on the “Philosophy” page. Sometimes it only takes seven clicks, sometimes it takes 14. Although, in all fairness, there are times when the fifth or sixth article contains two conjoined links in the first sentence and since the second link is “philosophy” you have to keep going all the way around red Robin’s barn. Bottom line, no matter where begin we always end up in philosophy.

“Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.”


– Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher


Most of you have heard or seen me state that the physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) is part of an 8-limbed philosophy. But what does that mean and why does that matter?

The word philosophy comes to us from Greek, by way of Latin, Old French, and Middle English, from a word that means “love of wisdom.” It is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, thought, reality, and existence. It provides a way to think about and understand the world, the universe, and everything. As stated in Wikepedia, it “is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” The most basic question being, “Why?” which spirals out as:

  • Who/What are you?
  • Why do you exist?
  • Where does the world come from? / Why does the world exist?

The philosophy of yoga addresses all of these questions, and the follow-up questions (like, “Why do we/I/other people do the things we/I/they do?” and “How do I find balance in my life/relationships/pose?”). Yoga addresses philosophical questions even when someone only practices the physical practice, because, ultimately, the physical practice is a container in which we can consider these questions.

At least, that’s one way to look at the practice.

“It’s a gift*; it’s like there’s a moment in which the thing is ready to let you see it. In India, this is called darshan. Darshan means getting a view, and if the clouds blow away, as they did once for me, and you get a view of the Himalayas from the foothills, an Indian person would say, ‘Ah, the Himalayas are giving you their darshana’; they’re letting you have their view. This comfortable, really deep way of getting a sense of something takes time. It doesn’t show itself to you right away. It isn’t even necessary to know the names of things the way a botanist would. It’s more important to be aware of the ‘suchness’ of the thing; it’s a reality. It’s also a source of a certain kind of inspiration for creativity. I see it in the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.”

– Poet Gary Snyder on Indian philosophy


Consider, however, that the philosophy of yoga is one of six major Indian philosophies or darśana in Sanskrit, which means “point of view” or “ways to see.” As I referenced yesterday’s blog post and mentioned in yesterday’s class, one of the other six philosophies is Sankhya, which is the one most closely related to Yoga. Sankhya is the oldest Indian philosophy and focuses on the way in which one thinks/reasons and understands purusha (“pure consciousness”) and prakriti (unmanifested, primordial “matter”), and how everything and everyone manifests/exists as a result of these two elements combining with the forces of three “energies” (gunas) inherent in matter.

Yoga and Sankhya are so closely related that a philosophical question arises at all times: (Once you are aware of yourself, doing whatever you are doing) are you practicing yoga or sankhya? And is there a non-subjective way to measure, qualify, or quantify the degree to which you are doing one versus the other? For that matter, is there a non-subjective way to measure the interior movements of the heart and how practicing can shake us to our core?

“We would have been happy if we could have assigned just three categories, large, medium, and small; the point is, we wanted to avoid personal judgments. It actually turned out to be quite a finely tuned scale.”


– Charles Richter, seismologist and physicist (born today in 1900), on the scale he developed with Beno Gutenberg


Born today in 1889, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” If you’re interested in using your body to answer that age old DJ Shadow question (“What does your soul look like?”), please join me today (Sunday, April 26th) at 2:30 PM, for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom. Some of the new Zoom security protocols have definitely kicking in; so, please use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems. Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Can you knock my socks off when you Kiss My Asana?

The 7th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days.

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to tell 7 stories in 7 days and raise $600 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels.

To give you some ideas about how you can spend this week, consider that in past years my KMA offerings have included donation-based classes and (sometimes) daily postings. Check out one of my previous offerings dated April 26th (or thereabouts):

30 Poses in 30 Days (scroll down to see April 26th)

A Musical Preview (scroll down to see March 26th)

A 5-Minute Practice

5 Questions Answered by Yogis

Answers to Yogis Questions


* Psst…Ella’s story was my first KMA 2020 offering and her pose is Tadasana / Samasthiti (Mountain Pose / Equal Standing) as if you are offering a gift. Today’s story is the story philosophy and connectivity via a little bit of the histories of Charles Richter and Ludwig Wittgenstein. So far I only have one yogi submitted story, which means I need 4 more. Please tell me your story!

You can also check out yesterday’s all-humanity, Kick-Off gathering featuring insights from MBS founder Matthew Sanford, conversation with MBS students, and a mind-body practice for all. If you’re not familiar with MBS, this will give you a glimpse into the work, the people, and the humanity of the adaptive yoga program which I am helping to raise $50K of essential support.