Some thoughts on mapmaking: A cameleopard made me write this post!

Thanks to my lovely subscriber, kissingthecockroach, for her inspiration!

She read a previous post, The 12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening, and commented that she had problems with #9, A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

You know what? I also have problems with this one. That got me thinking.

I make mental maps of other people. Since I can’t be them, I try to understand them. I want to put myself in their shoes, to see the world through their eyes, to understand what makes them tick. And I can’t do that entirely, although I have found this effort worthwhile because it helped me develop my compassion for others’ experiences of life.

I notice someone do or say something that’s puzzling to me, and I become aware there’s a hole in my map of them, or an error that needs to be corrected.

My mind comes up with an explanation: “Oh, they said that because they were feeling insecure.” Sometimes I ask myself, after observing some very puzzling new behavior, “What probably happened to them that would explain that behavior?” (I’ve gotten clairvoyant hits on another’s experience that made me wish I had never been curious.)

I imagine that other people do the same with me. In fact, I believe it’s very difficult for human beings not to do this with each other. People are weird sometimes—strange, puzzling, nonsensical, difficult. Map-making, or interpreting the actions of others, is a major hobby for a lot of people. We like explanations, reasons, causality. We like to peg people, typecast them, make them fit our maps.

It’s a good practice to keep your map loose, ready to be redrawn at any time. You can take it for granted that any map has holes in it, and shortcuts and inaccuracies. Else it wouldn’t be a map, it would actually be the person, impossible to carry around in your head.

People are infinitely more alive and complex than anyone’s map could ever depict. Actually, people are infinitely more alive and complex than their own maps of themselves depict, much less those of others.

Also, time is an illusion, a useful convention we’ve devised. There is no past or future, only the present. Does the past explain the present, which explains the future? Maybe it works in reverse. Who can really say? We make these maps to create a consensual reality, and it falls way short of the real thing.

Who really knows why anyone does anything? The simplest explanation I know of is to attribute it all to chi, life force, moving vital energy. That’s how their chi flows in the present moment. Perceive it with wonder.

The most playful way of understanding the puzzles of living with others is to make like the medieval mapmakers and fill in the blank spots with images of beasts such as sea monsters, unicorns, and cameleopards.

In case you were wondering, here’s what a cameleopard looks like:

It makes me smile so much that just for the pure experience of more joy, when I don’t understand someone (or myself), instead of heavily puzzling on the reasons for their (my) behavior, I’m just going to attribute it to a cameleopard. Yes, a cameleopard made them (me) do it!

Doesn’t that feel lighter?

Now yoga creates sex scandals!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!

Ha ha, now the same New York Times writer so focused on how yoga is injuring and killing people has written a new article in which he says that yoga fans the sexual flames, with its roots in Tantric sex cults!!!

William J. Broad writes:

Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

How does he get away with saying that yoga produces “so many” philanderers? I don’t see any data. It’s certainly not as if the majority of philanderers are yogis. A handful of anecdotal examples does not prove his case.

Um, I believe fundamental and evangelical churches have produced way more philanderers per capita than yoga has. Not to mention the U.S. government — from the presidency on down! But I guess those are old headlines. And I don’t have any data either. Does anyone have data on philandering?

And…doesn’t philandering usually end up creating uproars that leave people shocked and distraught no matter what field they occur in?

William J. Broad is riding the Anusara/John Friend scandal to capitalize on the popularity of yoga and sell more of his books. If the New York Times called him “practitioner of make-a-buck sensational journalism whose claim to scientific credibility is undermined every time he confuses causation with correlation” instead of “senior science writer,” well, that would seem to be more accurate.

I cannot wait to read what the awesome Leslie Kaminoff has to say about this article! I will post it here when he puts up another video. Leslie has been a great counterpoint to William J. Broad, with way more credibility in the yoga world, and a voice of reason, common sense, and insight among the recent uproars about yoga. Leslie, write a book! See my recent post of his video about his yoga teacher Desikachar, son of the founder of modern yoga.

My take on it? Yoga improves health, and being healthy means being alive, vibrant, and responsive. That can certainly translate to sexy! Who isn’t attracted to people with those qualities?

And, a lot of activities improve health and libido, not just yoga. Running, biking, swimming, playing basketball, dancing zumba, and many, many more.

I also believe that yoga does more than just improve health — the asanas unblock meridians, allowing life-force energy (chiprana) to flow more freely throughout the body.

Ask anyone who’s had regular acupuncture for years if it’s improved their health, energy levels, and life force/vibrancy/libido, and they will tell you it has made a big difference. Same deal, no yoga.

And, over time and without needles, yoga does the same thing. And not just yoga. Gymnastics, acrobatics, acro-yoga, Pilates, martial arts, tai chi, chi gong, and several types of dance place the body in unusual postures or movements that increase flexibility, build strength and endurance, and require focused awareness. They train the bodymind to be healthier, to function better. Of course that affects sexuality. Health and sexuality are intimate partners.

This has been known for a long time.

Broad totally did not mention that one of the yamas (ethical guidelines) in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is brahmacharya, or nonexcess.

In the commentaries on the sutras, brahmacharya is applied specifically to sexual behavior and refers to chastity or even celibacy among advanced spiritual aspirants. Brahmacharya means refraining from sex except in committed relationships, and in that context, engaging in sex in moderation to develop a true spiritual partnership.

The yamas are required reading and discussion in yoga teacher training. And to put that in context, we live in America, which is a hypersexual culture. The porn industry is huge, and sex sells.

I imagine that the majority of people with a serious yoga practice do not misbehave sexually. Those who do, well, it’s more about power or addiction or lack of healthy role models than it is about the yoga.

Broad does share information about science’s interest in yoga and sex. I am not surprised by any of it. He’s fixated on yoga and sex; I’d like to see similar studies on martial arts and sex, and on yoga and the bonding hormone oxytocin.

And by the way, meditation (aka doing nothing) can promote sexual arousal. So can simply relaxing.

In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.

So yoga enhances sex. No surprise there, and what’s wrong with that, as long as people are conscious about behaving responsibly with it? Yoga also enhances health, fitness, longevity, equanimity, awareness, and compassion. No data, just my experience.

See Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here to read the full article.