25 is the new 18. And this picture is hilarious. via BBC News: Is 25 the New Cut-Off Point for Adulthood?

We used to think that the brain was fully developed by very early teenagerhood and we now realise that the brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-twenties or even early thirties. There’s a lot more information and evidence to suggest that actually brain development in various forms goes on throughout the life span.

25 is the new 18. And this picture is hilarious. 

via BBC News: Is 25 the New Cut-Off Point for Adulthood?

We used to think that the brain was fully developed by very early teenagerhood and we now realise that the brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-twenties or even early thirties. There’s a lot more information and evidence to suggest that actually brain development in various forms goes on throughout the life span.

We live in a highly controlled society. There is no real freedom of thought. There is freedom of choice between ten different brands of washing-up powder, or ten different washing machines, or a hundred different cars, but real choices about our life we don’t have any freedom at all. The information that’s bombarded at us every day by the media, by politicians, we know in our hearts is all lies. But what’s the truth, you know? We are living in a society of sophisticated mind-control.
American Psychosis | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

PLEASE REBLOG.

I know it’s still Christmas, and we all should be thinking positive, being happy, and stuffing our faces and stomachs to the brim.  But when ready, please read the article linked. And think how we each have made an impact on the world, and how we have been framing our minds around our personal and social environments.  Then, begin to think how we can prepare ourselves for the coming year/s, and what changes we need to make in our own lives. 

This is a crucial point in American, no - World, history.  We can’t continue ignoring the problems as they surmount.  And change always begins with the individual. 

It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt…

…And this is also the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. It is the nationwide celebration of image over substance, of illusion over truth. 

via humangalaxy

Artist Statement, draft 2

I aim to create work that investigates the concept of self and its manifestations and permutations when presented in personal, inter-relational, and larger social contexts.  I approach this inquiry through careful use of materials in multiple media - ranging from photography, performance, video, and site-specific installation.  Working in an interdisciplinary method allows the work to be accessible and engaging to audiences on multiple levels.

My art projects are inherently personal and revelatory. By sharing my own experiences and explorations of the self, I seek to serve as a catalyst for others in their own self-inquiry. Doing so, I share in their journeys, and in the human condition as a whole. 

Ugliness as a Reality

thefuckwouldisaywhatfor:

Good looking people get paid more, do less jail time and have more sex than ugly people, and beautiful people get all that but even more so, and if you try to say ugly people don’t exist because ‘everyone is beautiful’ I’d ask you to take it up with Sartre (were he not dead), who not only believed in ugliness as a definite trait but attributed much of his philosophy to his own lazy-eyed, freakshow face and near midget status yet still managed to date feminist icon and all-around social theory genius (and sometime lesbian pedophile) Simone de Beauvoir for years and years and years, not to mention blow minds on the daily, even now, 30 odd years after his death. 

There are worse things in the world than being ugly, and most of the great minds of every generation got their thinking and writing done because they weren’t beautiful enough to waste their nights having meaningless sex with other gorgeous layabouts. Very few, if any, renowned scientists or philosophers were beautiful. 

All people are somewhat interesting, and most of us have rich and varied intellectual lives or great stores of compassion or other attributes that, once discovered, can make us very wonderful and occasionally beautiful to those who know us, but some people are just plain beautiful, physically, in the fucking face, and that is neither a good nor a bad thing (although studies show it’s usually good for them). It’s just a fact.

(More to read when you click the link above)

I’ve been having this conversation with someone recently, and it’s gotten me thinking about what it means to be beautiful, attractive, or ugly.  We can all say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and perhaps this is true in the deepest, truest extent.  But here’s my theory, which I was explaining to a friend last night:

We create our own worlds, and we create this one too.  Our minds and selves are universes trapped in physical form. Where does a thought go when you forget it, but somewhere in the wide black space of your own existence?

But we have also all corroborated on creating this physical manifestation of a world we live in.  The rules of physics exist because someone thought it, and we have all since agreed upon its reality.  This goes for everything, even beauty.  There are standards of beauty, which may change from generation to generation, but the concept of it remains the same. And it is why, as linked text mentions, beautiful people receive more privilege.  They fit certain standards to which we ourselves have subscribed.

So what happens when you don’t fit these standards of beauty? I would consider myself a fine example for this. I’m short, bald, and I am not an owner of six-pack abs.  I do not fit the criteria for what the Western world considers as objectively beautiful  - and here we can also agree that different cultures have different standards as well.  But in this increasingly globalized world, the Western standards seem to be winning out. However, I’ve learned to love myself regardless. I’ve learned to cultivate other qualities that make me a good, interesting, and perhaps somewhat attractive person.

Something that used to frustrate me as a gay man is how shallow of a culture “the Gays” seem.  It always comes down to looks and to another degree, race. Years ago, while browsing through Craigslist personals, or on Adam4Adam, I would lose count of how many times I would read “no fems, fatties or Asians” or something to that degree.  Do you know how demoralizing that is? Of course you can brush it away and simply say, “Wow, what an asshole.” But it doesn’t erase the fact of its existence. To be told that you are unwanted cuts to deep degrees, and makes you question yourself, no matter how much you’ve built yourself up.  The ego will take a fall. 

So is there a solution to this? Depends on what the problem is.  For me, the issue was that I felt like a powerful, beautiful, interesting person inside, only limited by this body I was born in. What I’ve done is try to stay true to myself, find people who are willing to corroborate with me in creating a world in which our inner selves speak more to our beauty as humans than how we fit certain criteria, forced upon us by the masses, and to which we, as I’ve mentioned, have subscribed, as well. Unsubscribe! Write your own standards of beauty.  Live your own reality. When you can believe in your own truth, it translates to how you operate in the larger sphere, and people take notice. I’m living this philosophy daily. 

An excerpt of Malia Jensen’s Salty.

Fear and Loathing on the Yoga Mat

Last weekend, I took two workshops with Anton Mackey, a talented gymnast-turned-yoga teacher.  The focus of the first was “Arm balances and lifts,” and the second “Handstands.”  I signed up hoping that Anton would give us all his knowledge, and in no time, we would all be floating on our palms, slicing the air with our legs in perfect posture. 

I crouched there on my mat, preparing for a variation on Bakasana (Crane/Crow), a pose I’ve only recently learned to execute (for about two seconds).  As I placed my knees into my armpits, they immediately slid with the sweat – we were in a heated room, after all.  I kept trying to balance by shifting my weight forward, sure that I would fall flat on my face.  I looked around and saw people floating, gliding through the poses and taking advanced variations; appearing truly like the cranes we were imitating.  I feared I would fall.  I feared that I was not good enough to be taking this workshop.  I feared that I was a sham as a yoga practitioner, much less a teacher.

However, Anton kept encouraging us to try, and try, and try again.  “Do not be afraid to fall,” he would say.  “The floor is not that far.”  True, very true indeed, since the floor was about half an inch off my face as I kept slipping. “Pull the knees in from your core, hollow out the lower back,” he instructed.  I kept attempting to the point of near-frustration.  I know I have a lot of Pitta (fire+water element) in me, and this was only aggravating and pushing me farther towards combustion.

And then I stopped.  I sat and rolled my shoulders back, relaxed my neck one way, then the other.  I breathed slowly and deeply.  Then, I tried again.  I still did not get the posture, but this time, I was at least much more mindful of my movements.  I told myself, this is where I am right now, and this is perfect.  Nothing, no one else, outside of my mat matters.  I am exactly where I need to be.

Towards the end of class, Anton gave us the analogy of a baby who must first learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, before he or she can run (or do handstands).  I am still new to this.  I have been practicing for only two years, and I have my whole lifetime to learn, to improve.  I do not need to rush to become the next best thing since split mung beans.  I just have to trust in my intention to practice to the best of my ability, and enjoy the exploration.  Isn’t that what life is, after all? A journey to be explored? Too often we rush ourselves and forget the most basic of all actions, to simply breathe.  And to connect with the ground, which, luckily, is never too far.


Fear of Change (Part 2 of a series)

Of all the things we are afraid of, the most prominent, it seems is the fear of change itself.  We seem to be hard-wired to prefer pattern over spontaneity.  A lack of change means security, safety, assurance that things will go on as they have.  We are only willing to change if doing so would be less painful than staying in the current situation.  This is why we stay in jobs we hate, because it still beats being out in the streets.  We would rather suffer a little, thinking, perhaps it builds character.

I’ve always embraced change.  I enjoy trying new things and taking risk.  I like life-changing events and momentous decisions.  Perhaps it stems from my upbringing.  From a young age, I moved around so frequently that by the age of 10 I had already lived in 7 different households, and spoke 3 languages..  As you see, there are benefits and drawbacks to being raised this way.  On one hand, I had a wealth of experiences and met many different people.  On the other hand, it was difficult to form lasting relationships.  This has carried on to my adult life, aided by the fact that I worked for the US Navy, and also moved frequently.

This past summer, I experienced many life changes.  I left the military, traveled through Central America and Mexico and went to yoga teacher training.  I’ve also since moved to Chicago to begin art school. I feel as if I’ve wiped my life clean, and began again at the base with yoga, meditation, and the quest for self-realization through art. 

 I’ve given up all the comforts and security of the military life - a steady paycheck, free healthcare and dental, travel opportunities.  And for what? A nebulous career as an artist and a yoga teacher, hustling my way through the world.  Why did I do it? Because I was afraid to stay in any longer.  I was afraid that I would never realize my potential by remaining in the military.  And as wonderful as it was feeling secure in my job, I always felt as if I had no autonomy, as if my life belonged to someone else.  And so it wasn’t the fear of change that gripped me, but rather the opposite.  The fear of pattern, of no change.  

A friend once told me, “I wish I was as brave as you.”  This friend had been on many tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.  She has seen many horrors in her life and has persevered with a happy constitution intact.  She is a badass in my eyes.  And yet she called me brave.   Humbled by this, I told her that I didn’t see myself as being brave, but rather doing whatever is necessary for me to find my happiness.  I believe that this should not take courage, but be borne of pure necessity to realize yourself.  Because when it comes down to it, this is my biggest fear: that I’ll never know myself and what I’m capable of doing.

Fear (Part 1 of a series)

I’m currently reading The Art of Non-Comformity by Chris Guillebeau.  It’s a fascinating read, full of great ideas and concepts I think about much too often.  At times, it almost feels as if I’m reading my own journal.  One of the chapters in the book is the importance of conquering fear.

We all have fears and insecurities, and I believe they are there for a reason.  In yogic philosophy, they are called “samskaras” or past imprints that we carry, such as bad habits or thought patterns.  Like these samskaras, fear manifests to be challenged or reinforced.  During my yoga teacher training at Mt. Madonna Center, I learned to deal with whatever emotions or memories that sprung up.  They come to the surface of the mind and we have to realize that we wield the power to do with them what we desire.  

When a thought of insecurity enters the mind we can do one of two things.  The first option is to say “Yes, that is true, I am a very bad/ugly/fat/uninteresting person.  This reinforces the negative samskara to be able to repeat more often.  The ego likes pattern, after all.  Unfortunately, it does not discriminate between “good self-image” thoughts, and destructive ones.  All it wants is reaffirmation of its existence and emotional power.  

The other course of action to take is to obliterate this samskara.  Rather than give in to the negative mindset, it’s important to change one’s frame of mind to a more positive, strong mindset.  When it applies to fear, one must try to conquer it.  This is the same basis under which people “cure” themselves of their phobias, by confronting their fears slowly and repeatedly.

Guillebeau writes, “fear begins with an undefined worry, a voice in the back of your head that says you’re not good enough, you won’t succeed with anything big or significatnt, and you might as well give up and stop trying to stand out.”  What do we do when we hear this voice? Rather than following or agreeing with these thoughts, instead tell yourself, “NO, I will not stand for this. I am more than this.  I am better than this.  I can do this.”

(stay tuned for more on “Fear”)

Day of Silence

Words that slipped out today, when I intended to be silent:
"Fuck."
"Sorry."
"Thank you, Kamalesh" 
"Sure."
"Fuck."
"Whoah."

—- 

I’m currently up in the mountains of California doing a monthlong intensive Yoga Teacher Training Course.  We are studying classical Ashtanga Yoga (8 Limbs Yoga), as written by the sage, Patanjali.  This is not the K. Pathabi Jois school of Ashtanga.  Just FYI.

One of the practices (that help on the road towards illumination or superconsciousness), brought up in class the other day is called Tapas.  Not delicious Spanish tapas,  unfortunately, but the concept of “austerity.”  And one of the ways to practice austerity is to be silent.

I won’t get into the why’s, or exactly what shutting up is supposed to do, but I did it today, and it has been an interesting experience.  

I noticed how much easier it is to listen to others completely, with no interruption from my own mind.  I have no need to butt in my own opinions, so I am free to listen and contemplate.  If something important needs to be said, I have a pen and paper.

I noticed how very little is actually essential to say, and how much can get across just from the intent of saying it.  The body finds a way to get the point across.

I instructed a few classmates how to properly get into a few yoga postures without words.  Instead, we mirrored one another, and words like “keep the weight equal on both sides,” or “rest the pelvis in a neutral position” became simple small demonstrations.  The point was made even quicker than through words.

In a larger group, the conversation moves as quickly as our collective minds.  Topics go from one to the other so quickly that it is difficult to catch up with writing.  I had to choose and time my words carefully.

Looking at my notebook early on, I noticed that some of what I was writing kept beginning in “I.” As soon as I realized this, I turned outwards and asked more questions, inviting answers, rather than expounding on my own experiences.  

—-

If you’ve never tried spending the day in silence, it’s an interesting thing to try.  You may learn quite a bit about your surroundings, the people around you, and even better, yourself.

Works in Progress: Recuerdos Desechados (Discarded Memories)

In Spanish, the verb “deshacer” can mean many things: to discard, dispose, destruct, to take apart, defragment, or break down, to recreate, rearrange, re-compartmentalize.  With this project, I am attempting to do all of these with my old unwanted Polaroids - those I take and think are “meh” or “ok” and am willing to part with, throw away so easily.  

Unwanted Polaroids or instant photos are something like our own thought process. Thoughts and images that we do not want to think about at the moment are often pushed aside, down into the subconscious level.  Some psychologic theories believe that it is during our dreams that these memories or thoughts come out, when our brain sorts through the mess and re-arranges everything to allow us to move on to the next day.  

Recuerdos Desechados is my way of sorting through these failed images, as well as the old memories that are attached to them.  I have come up with various processes to break down, tear apart, and rearrange these images in another form to completely obliterate their former purpose and to create a new one.  

——-
Recuerdos Desechados is an ongoing project and will be a part of my first art exhibit, Memento Momento, a humble exposition at La Calabaza Mecánica, a bar in downtown Rota, a small fishing village in southern Spain.  

The inauguration for Memento Momento will be on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm, Central European Time.

Gawker: Want to Memorize Something? Take a Nap.

A GREAT EXCUSE TO NAP! When your boss catches you knocked out on your desk after a whole weekend of partying, now you can say you’re not asleep, but retaining information!

From Gawker.com:

Why? Research indicates that when memory is first recorded in the brain—in the hippocampus, to be specific—it’s still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially if the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping, it seems, pushes memories to the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” preventing them from being “overwritten.”

What annoys me is that the moment we say homosexuality the first image that comes up is of two bodies in bed. Why don’t we think of, for instance, two men or two women chatting in a coffee shop or watching TV together?…Even people who are homo-empathic look upon homosexuals as hapless victims of circumstances. I think it is an absolutely wrong notion, which leads homosexuals to believe that they are so. I think they are extremely privileged the way they are. The problem lies with how society looks at them; and not with them. Society can’t accept people who are not normative
‎Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.