Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Breathe... (A Life Worth Breathing...Kind of a Book Review #2)


I think if we take a look deep within ourselves with piercing honesty, we could agree that we carry around a file of our inadequacies with us—a file that contains many reasons to loathe ourselves...
Max Strom

...for me, it’s probably more like a file cabinet...or storage locker full of file cabinets...but point taken...

Breeeeathe...breathe in the aaaaaair...
Pink Floyd

Somebody from this publishing house said she wanted to send me a book to review...called A Life Worth Breathing...by this famous yoga teacher I’d never, at that point, heard of, named Max Strom...to which I replied if it’s for free, it’s for me...though not in so many words...figuring, if all else failed, I could call it a veritable tour de force...seminal...say it belongs on every yogi’s bookshelf...or it’s perfect for the yogi on your Christmas list....

...or, on the other hand, could actually read the thing...which I did...deciding in the process the book was actually worth writing about...meaning both that it was worth reading and I thought of some stuff to say about it that seemed clever...at least to me....found it at times illuminating...other times irritating....then, it’s the lot of the yoga cynic to rarely read anything that doesn’t have at least a 50/50 irritating/illuminating ratio...particularly when the author talks about subjects like...um...let’s see...God...

...but then, in the words of Ancient and Venerable Yoga Cynic Sutra 35:78...it’s always the really irritating stuff that makes ya think...and, big a deal as Max* makes of the metaphysical side of things, the book’s centered...literally and figuratively...at a far more basic level...on the breath...paying close attention to it...when practicing forearm stands or cutting toenails**...following and listening carefully to what such a simple, elemental process can tell about what’s going on inside...where the real action happens...

No matter how many vinyasas we do, no matter how much wheatgrass juice we drink, no matter how many kirtans we attend, we will not have a happy life if we are carrying resentment and hatred inside us...
Max Strom

...how you gon’ win when you ain’t right within?
Lauryn Hill

...as well as in the minute details of our lives...how we treat the people serving us coffee*** likely more revealing than any formal spiritual practice...

...and ya gotta like a guy who, for all the reverence expressed...and there’s a lot...toward celebrated holy people, says he thinks the only truly enlightened person he’s ever met was a homeless girl who didn’t say a word...

...overall, it’s a book that, in retrospect, had a lot more of an effect on me than was apparent while reading...(though...full disclosure...that might’ve been at least partly because I was thinking about what clever stuff was gonna end up in this post)...(seriously, dontcha love that Lauryn Hill quote?)...in the sense that it’s actually gotten me thinking more about the breath and what I can learn from it...the subtle but deeply important signs that, like most people, I put a lot of effort into dulling or ignoring...so that ya could say the book actually made me a bit more conscious of those little things that are really the big things...

...or, y’know, ya could call it a veritable tour de force...



* the guy’s a yoga teacher...so first names all the way...and, like this blog, his book is probably best experienced barefoot...

** or, conceivably, for really, really adept yogis, cutting toenails while doing forearm stands...though, truthfully, Max really doesn't go into that...

*** Max actually disses coffee...repeatedly...but that’s cool****...

**** while perhaps not quite yogic enough to abstain from coffee, I’m exactly yogic enough not to be bothered by the fact that even-more-yogic types often diss it...



*cross posted at Elephant Journal*

15 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

i totally love the Lauryn Hill quote, especially since I actually recognized the song and her music is now playing in my head. haha.

sounds like an interesting book, although I have to agree with you- dissing coffee def puts him on the minus side pour moi. what, pas de café??? NON! (sorry, I have a french ppt to do today.. kinda psychin' myself up! lol)

Bob Weisenberg said...

Hi, Jay.

Thanks for the recommendation and a very entertaining review.

For those who are interested, here's a talk by Max on his website:
http://www.maxstrom.com/site/html/teachings.html

Bob Weisenberg
http://YogaDemystified.com

earthtoholly said...

Love that, drjay...if it’s for free, it’s for me. A while back I reviewed a children's book (funny, as I'm probably the least likely person to have a say on kid stuff), and my first thought was, "Is it free?" I accepted the offer and then kept my fingers crossed as I delicately asked whether or not there was a charge. Free! Yay!

I agree with Bob W. that this was very entertaining, but no surprise there...

And, yes, I love that Lauryn Hill quote!

earthtoholly said...

p.s. Beautiful sky pic and I'm glad you've got plenty of CR photos left...bring 'em on!

Kim said...

It's amazing how often we forget to breathe. Anything we can do to focus on breathing helps.

Bob Weisenberg said...

Hmmm. I wonder if Max would appreciate this highly relevant blog:

"What If Every Breath You Took Was Like Eating a Bite of Chocolate Cake?
http://wp.me/PlUox-fu

Or the followup:

"Please Help: Am I Going Bonkers or Have I Reached Nirvana?"
http://wp.me/PlUox-fw

Jamie said...

As a fellow coffee-scorner, I just might have to give the book a try : )

Melinda said...

A man who found the most enlightening human being to be homeless girl who didn't say a word definitely piques my interest, Jay. Every once in a while, you come across a book that just resonates with you. And often, we seem to come across those messages when we need them most. . .

I'm putting that on my reading lisgt--so the publisher did right to send that book for your review.

Melinda

It's A Yoga Thang said...

I quit coffee once and it caused suffering, horrible suffering. Yoga teaches us not to suffer...know what I'm sayin?

Lots of cool ideas stolen, I mean borrowed, for some upcoming yoga classes taken from this. I'll probably check out the book too. Thanks!

Bob Weisenberg said...

It's a Yoga Thang,

Well the Yoga Sutra says very clearly, you can do all these hard things to achieve freedom or alternatively you can attain them "through the use of herbs..." (4.1). I guess that could be coffee, right, loosely translated?

Bob Weisenberg
YogaDemystified.com

Lydia said...

Absolutely beautiful photo...perfect for a review of a book that is about attention to breathing because I found myself breathing better looking at it.

My massage therapist is an interesting person...never gets massages herself anymore, says she can't afford "trading" hours with other therapists (but I bet she can). She has a compact, strong little body from which comes the power I require to get rid of what is trapped inside my muscles. Years ago she went to a seminar required as CPE by the massage therapy board. When the day was over a little girl, who had been quietly sitting with her mother during the seminar, came over to my MT and handed over her mother's business card, saying: "My mom says you hardly breathe. She can help." It incensed my MT; she raved on an on about it to me in the lobby before my massage. But since then I have been aware that it is true. It's a strange thing that she has such healing hands for me when she doesn't concern herself with her own well-being.

Superfluous Brunette said...

Funny, I was listening to the song Breathe by Pearl Jam, when I noticed this post from you...
Max Strom. I have heard of him as a yoga teacher, but I have not read anything from him but some of the quotes you noted are great. It's so true, it doesn't matter how much we do yoga, read spiritual books and go on spiritual retreats, if we carry around resentments, secretly loathe ourselves .... or as in the words of Lauren Hill "ain't right within" we aren't going to heal, live the life we want.
As for what he says about coffee - bah...I love my Starbucks (you thought I was going to say Tim Horton's because I am Canadian, eh?)

Brenda P. said...

Ah, Pranayama...by far the hardest part of the yoga practice for me. Which seems to suggest it is also the most relevant.

Not letting go of the Bean, tho.

Laura Hegfield said...

I love this little jewel you posted "
...as well as in the minute details of our lives...how we treat the people serving us coffee*** likely more revealing than any formal spiritual practice..." So completely down to earth true! It is the small stuff...the off the mat reality of how we live, love and express compassion to everyone we meet...and recognize when we could have been kinder and work toward that the next time that matters...enlightenment in motion? even if it's only a temporary glimmer...that's what we are here for...IMHO.

And hey, next time I am down Philly way this humble yogini of the heart would love to have a cuppa at the starbucks nearest you (um, with you, of course! I swear, I won't talk about God!)

Anonymous said...

um...are the ellipses...part...of...every one of your blogs...or just because...this is about...yoga? Or are you...just...easily...distracted...