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Yoga and the Elements

Thursday morning I went to yoga class in Los Gatos, and the teacher, Jan Hutchins, was talking about styles of breathing. He said “Breathe in Mountain, breathe out Solidity. Let the solidity of the mountain fill the cracks in your body where pain can seep in.” He also suggested “Breathe in Space, breathe out Freedom.”

And I was thinking these were good models for hylozoic thought modes. You could do a five element version (including the Chinese fifth element: wood).

Earth====Strength, solidity, groundedness. calm.
Air====Freedom, looseness, non-attachment, driftiness.
Fire====Alertness, intelligence, glow.
Water====Flow, grace, wiggliness.
Wood====Growth, liveness, expansion, socialization.

Thinking in terms of telepathic contact with living objects, this gives me a feeling about how it feels to be in touch with the five elements. What if even here, on our world objects really are conscious, drawing their memories from the One Mind?

I always like class with Jan, he’s a hip and funny guy who often coaxes me into a deep meditative zone. Today, at the end, I was seeing the most beautiful spreading patch of blue with my eyes closed.

The yoga room is mirrored on one wall, and Jan often asks questions of the class at large, and often as not nobody answers. So today he says “Sometimes I imagine I’m under observation in a psychiatric hospital, and those are one-way mirrors with doctors on the other side, and there aren’t really any students here at all, I’m only hallucinating them, and the doctors are watching this crazy guy who thinks he’s teaching a yoga class.”

I had a hallucination like that in 1965, I was a college student, and an upperclassman had given me a couple of peyote cactus buds he’d gotten by mail-order from a Texas garden supply company. I’d eaten the buds and puked them up, and I was over at some friends’ house, and I imagined their kitchen was amphitheater-like classroom full of students, and that I was giving a lecture on Special Relativity—a subject about which I then knew almost nothing. It was a precognitive hallucination, for in 1977 I was in fact a professor lecturing on the mathematics of Special Relativity in an amphitheater-like classroom at SUNY Geneseo. The wisdom of the spiny bud.

Near the end of Jan’s class, I was tired, and so was the guy next to me, we were off in the furthest corner of the yoga room, and we were slacking, lying on our mats instead of doing yet another pose, and Jan walks over and says, “What are you guys—the hoods? Lying low in the back of the classroom?” And he pokes me. I was delighted. In high-school I always feared and admired the hoods—and at Swarthmore I more or less was a hood—at least relative to my gentle, intellectual classmates. Actually I don’t think anyone uses “hood” in the sense of juvenile delinquent anymore. But Jan’s nearly as old as me.

I was out at Four Mile Beach in Cruz again on Saturday, I started a new painting of this tower (I think twenty years ago it was a natural bridge), as seen from a nice little spot in the bluffs. It was paradise to be there, communing with the five elements, and I felt like I was getting a good picture going—although when I got home and looked at the daubs I’d actually made, it was sort of shocking how rudimentary they were. I’ll just have to go back!

7 Responses to “Yoga and the Elements”

  1. Alex Says:

    “What if even here, on our world objects really are conscious” – I’ve just been listening to the Ry Cooder album Paradise and Lunch and it has 2 great tracks which made me think of you…
    One is “If Walls Could Talk”
    and the other is “Jesus on the Mainline”
    You should check them out if you don’t have them already.

    Also Sly Stone has a great track called “If This Room Could Talk” on his A Whole New Thing album.

  2. Gamma Says:

    what can i say i mean type – i remember when i made some contact with something perhaps almost supreme – it was like the force for want of a better bird not like a chicken – in the garden the other evening the sky was clear & i immediately noticed the belt – what about Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jew Boys “They don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore” – hope all is good

  3. Kelson Says:

    Is there such a thing as micro epiphanies? I think I may have just had one reading your entry here. Perhaps epihany is too strong, I’m not sure, but whatever it may be, it is resonating with something. I’ve heard of the 5 elements before, but for some reason, It never occured to me until just now that the wood could certainly be living, in the biological sense and not just driftwood or a bundle of fire wood drying in the yard.

    I have no idea why the connection wasn’t there, and I was suddenly rather bothered that the idea of these elements that I had in my head was of a lifeless sort of caricature and not a living system as demonstrated by a tree: wood frame, water flowing inside it, air moving around it, fire from the sun powering the process and metal in semiconductors allowing me to jot this note down about it. As if “Wood====Growth, liveness, expansion, socialization.” had taken on a life of it’s own. Almost viral.

    And now things are slightly different. I hope it lasts.

  4. Tudgedelta Says:

    This post triggered a synthesis of many thoughts that have been swirling around my head:

    *Yoga as union (and the fact that those two words share a common, Indo-European root word ancestor)
    *Elemental magic (the Chinese system adds the “Wood” element; in Western systems, “Spirit” is sometimes referred to as the 5th element)
    *Manatou – the Native American concept that everything has a consciousness, even machines, and communication is possible between any and all manatous.

    In some explanations I’ve read of manatou, all constituent parts have manatous as well, so our cells, and all the molecules, atoms, quarks, etc. have manatous. I imagine that sub-atomic manatous join (also a word-cousin of Yoga) to create larger scale objects that have a manatou – more than the sum of the parts. I think of the elements combining, communicating.

    This all got me to wondering: if a machine were created to have consciousness (and it passed all the “tests”), would that machine also have a manatou, that was distinct from the created consciousness? Would the created consciousness also have a manatou? Do objects in our imagination have manatous? Does this question have a manatou?

  5. Ian Says:

    dig this, released yesterday or so in paperback outa MIT:
    “The Elements Of Computing Systems”

    read the preface pdf !!

    “Once upon a time, every computer specialist had a gestalt understanding of how computers worked. The overall interactions between hardware, software, compilers and the operating system were simple and transparent enough to produce a coherent picture of the computer’s operations.

    “We believe that the best way to understand how computers work is to build one from scratch. With that in mind, we came up with the following concept. Let’s specify a simple but sufficiently powerful computer system, and have the students build its hardware platform and software hierarchy from the ground up, starting with nothing more than elementary logic gates. And while we are at it, let’s do it right. We are saying this because building a general-purpose computer from first principles is a huge undertaking. Therefore, we identified a unique educational opportunity to not only build the thing, but also illustrate, in a hands-on fashion, how to effectively plan and manage large-scale hardware and software development projects. In addition, we sought to demonstrate the ability to construct, through recursive ascent and human reasoning, fantastically complex and useful systems from nothing more than a few primitive building blocks.”

    “if it passes all the tests” !?
    (( the book has 200 tests along its 12 chapter path!
    (( the 13th step is a doozie! (you will have built an editor and mini-OS)
    (( to recap, you end up with a working system, full circle, engine-like,
    (( bootstrapped by two basic lookup table definitions, like for the number 1…
    (( incredible-good.

  6. Salvador Hutchins Says:

    Jan is my cousin.
    Jan you are more family than you ever realized. I wish that I had not wasted it so, as you have too. Rest in this peace my brother: I love you man and so does the rest of your long lost family does. We are only an arms lengths away. This will bring you more peace and serenity than youv’e ever experienced man. We need you and we love you! Your time and my time has come be it late in life. I really wish I knew you better cousin! We’ve both missed out. Time is ticking on by my brother. I love you with the love of GOD! I don’t want to connect in the next life as much as I do in this one. Please come home and we’ll put a ring on your finger and a purple cloak on your back.
    I love you man and have the deepest regards and respect for you.

    Love forever,

    Your cousin Salvador HUTCHINS.

    PS: Someone please forward this to my beloved cousin!

  7. Stela Says:

    interesting entry, thank you!
    reading your blog now…

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