The Student as an Empty Cup

I was convicted by the words of Swami Satchidananda in The Living Gita: The Complete Bhavagad Gita-A Commentary for Modern Readers, for my journey forward as a student:

“When you go to a teacher saying, “I know a little bit, can you add a little more?” or, “I know, but can you verify it?” you are just going there to check your capabilities, not to learn anything new. If you want to learn, go empty and open. “I’m an empty cup; please pour in all you can.” If you go with a cup already full, even if the teacher pours something good, where will it go? It’s not that he or she is miserly; the teacher would like to pour, but it will overflow and go to waste. So empty your cup.”

~Swami Satchidananda, The Living Gita: The Complete Bhavagad Gita-A Commentary for Modern Readers

I soaked in knowledge quickly as a child, and did well on tests, and I became very proud of my knowledge. But as the years passed, I found myself often head-to-head, particularly with athletic coaches, who found me very frustrating to try to coach. I would never do exactly what they asked of me unless it passed through all my filters first and made perfect sense. This would require lots of questions and logic before I felt convinced about the action. But I realize now that it was really just my weakness in wanting to feel that I accomplished something on my own. You see, if you already have most of the knowledge, and someone else adds a little bit, you can still feel most of the pride for the end result, wheras if you let someone direct you, you forfeit your egotistical pride.

I know this is probably something I will always struggle with, but I am grateful for Gurudev having shed some light on the path to becoming a better student and truth-seeker.

Healthy and Educated

Tessla Coil Fight

“We’ve seen that when people are healthy and educated, they prosper.”

~Laura Bush, in a speech to the National Press Club today, about her recent visit to Western Africa

It’s interesting how these little truths will slip out of your mouth, and cause you stop and reflect inward. Though we do not have the dire healthcare and education needs of West Africa, these two basic keys to prosperity are steadily on decline in OUR great country. It’s interesting, that given the opportunities and freedoms in this country to acquire wealth, that Americans have chosen to hoarde their wealth rather than share it. (This is not a put-down for wealthy people, it is just numerically accurate that the rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer).

The recent documentary, “Sicko,” by Michael Moore, left me in an outrage. I actually kicked and punched things on the way out of the theater (not hard enough to do any damage, of course!), I was so angry at the system America has chosen for itself. Ridiculous costs of medical treatment for the uninsured, ridiculous premiums for insurance, and ridiculous treatment of patients by the money-hungry insurance companies.

Why do we allow a system like healthcare to be run for-profit? A for-profit system must show gains in profit year-after-year-after-year. We don’t want to keep people sick, or charge people higher rates for health care, or sell them drugs they don’t need, or reject valid insurance claims just to save insurance companies money. But what other ways can the healthcare system continue to make profits? It makes me furious that people consider not seeing a doctor, dentist, etc. when they need to, simply because they can’t afford to do so. Why are we making insurance companies rich instead of making people healthy?

It just so happens that my favorite people to massage are nurses and teachers. Why? Because I feel they are both overworked and undervalued in this country. Because healthcare and education really ARE the keys to prosperity, and though we keep telling the rest of the world this, we still haven’t figured out how to do it right in this country. Hundreds of thousands of high-potential high school graduates won’t go to college this fall–because they can’t take the risk of the debt incurred by the education!

I personally graduated college with the highest-earning bachelor’s degree possible for that time (Chemical Engineering), so that I could at least pay off my college debt in a few years after graduating, even if I didn’t like the job. But guess what? Now I’m going back to school again because after making the money, and feeling financially secure, I did not love what I was doing. And even my teachers told me to “study something smart, don’t become a teacher.” And even my beloved college English professor scoffed at my choice to change majors to English because “you can’t make any money with that degree.”

Well, folks, money isn’t the answer. We have money, we have freedom, yet more and more Americans are NOT prospering. I wonder why. We are a young country, and we will take a while to get it right, but we must take action on our failing healthcare and education systems.

“We’ve seen that when people are healthy and educated, they prosper.”

“The evolution is coming…a revolution has begun.” ~R-Evolve, 30 Seconds to Mars

Coming Back to God

04 School Crosses and Birds

“So it was that sex drove me to the Bible. The new emerging sexual consciousness and the passing of ancient stereotypes challenged the authority of Scripture, raised profound questions about the authenticity of biblical insights, and created for me and for many others a crisis of faith.”

~Bishop John Shelby Spong, in his book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture

He cites the bad and antiquated treatment of women and homosexuals, when the Bible is taken literally:


  • “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.” 1 Cor. 11:7-9
  • “the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law ssays. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” 1 Cor. 14:34, 35


  • Fundamentalists often use the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and other condemnations of homosexuals in the New Testament to justify their political and moral stances on homosexuality.
  • The bishop notes the emerging science that homosexuality has genetic components, and that the idea of male/female as black/white is challenged by the variety observed from effeminate men to women with baritone voices and athletic skills to rival men.
  • I add hermaphrodites and trans-gender folks to that sexual continuum. Are they committing a sin when one organ is removed, and they choose to copulate with someone of the same sex? Most fundamentalists will show some leniency and mercy in these cases, but if you were born looking and feeling like a man, then you better have sex with women, or you’ll go to hell.

“A person born with both ovary and testicular tissue, this could be 2 seperate gonads ( one of each) or a combination of both in one (an ovotestes). The genitalia can vary from completely male or female, to a combination of both or even ambiguous looking. The chromosome (karotype) compliment can be XX (female), XY (male), XX/XY (mosiac) or even XO (extremely rare). Those XX with female genitalia are raised female ( some have even given birth). Those XY with male genitalia are raised male ( a few have fathered children). The children born XX/XY or XO (with genitalia male or female are raised in the sex they look most like) ,Those born with ambiguous genitalia have many medical tests for the doctors to determine which sex they should be assigned. Doctors then recommend early surgery to make the child look physically like the sex assigned to them.”

~The Hermaphrodite Education and Listening Post

Bishop Spong also cites how fundamentalists justified slavery using passages taken literally from Genesis. I can identify with his response to this:

“It did not occur to those quoting this Scripture to raise questions about what kind of God was assumed in this verse, or whether or not they could worship such a God. Since they could not identify themselves with those who were the victims of this cruelty, the God to whom they ascribed this victimizing power did not appear to them to be seriously compromised.”

What yoga has taught me is about coming back to God. Because I felt the God of the fundamentalist Bible was not a God I wanted to worship, I abandoned God completely. Bishop Spong says what I am beginning to feel:

“I write as a Christian who loves the church. I am not a hostile critic who stands outside religion desiring to make fun of it. I am not a Marxist who believes that religion is the opiate of the people. I am not a Madalyn Murray O’Hair who believes that God should be expunged from public life. I am a bishop in the Anglican (Episcopal) church who was raised as a biblical fundamentalist and who, when I left that fundamentalism, did not leave my love of the Bible or my desire to serve God through the church.”

And he makes a convocation at the end of the book for those that feel the same:

“It is rather the recognition that we have no more than one generation left, in my opinion, before the dying embers of the values that were based on Bible reading and biblical view of life will be cold. There is still time for those embers to be fanned into bright, contagious flames once more. If we do not succeed in this last opportunity, the ignorance of mainline Christians will increase and the absurdity of fundamentalist Christians will reach a new crescendo. The result will be a revulsion that will accelerate the total secularization of the life of this society, putting an end completely to the religious traditions of our past. That process will move us beyond the reach of a revival. One can revive that which is dormant. One cannot revive that which has ceased to be. That requires a new creation.”

And he urges us not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Fear of Greatness

Believe in Yourself

“We fear our highest possibilities (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities…”

Abraham H. Maslow, psychologist extraordinaire

Doing the Small Things Well

It’s a gorgeous evening in the city. The clouds are rolling in from the ocean, passing over me here in Dolores Park. It’s just after yoga and I happened upon this group of people waiting to watch some films on a screen set up in the park. Looking around at all the groups of people gathered on this beautiful, breezy evening, everyone is happy and smiling. It’s almost eerie how happy everyone is. Balls are being tossed to dog companions, frisbees are being thrown back and forth, and soccer balls kicked between friends, as the sun sinks in the sky and the breeze picks up.

Today’s thought is about doing something small well. I heard an interview with a famous Egyptologist & Archaeologist (sp?) on the radio, and he shared that when he first announced his profession to a woman he was dating, that she laughed at him. At that time, archaeology was not a reputable profession. But he ended up being one of the most respected professionals in the world, and his advice was, whatever you are doing, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, do it well, and success will come to you. On his journey, he first thought he wanted to be a lawyer, because they were considered successful, but found that he hated studying law. He eventually found his love, and poured his heart into it.

Back to Yoga

Yosemite 029

While I was in Montana, I had a lot of time to reflect on what to do next with my life. On Monday night, I went down to the Leaf & Bean for a soothing chai drink and some open-mic performances & poetry (I even read 3 of my poems, just for fun!). A warm espresso drink to go, then I took a walk down the streets of Bozeman to find a bar to hang out at for a while. It was actually really nice just to sit at the Rockin’ R, sip my double Amaretto sour and analyze recent events and think about the future. After that drink, I headed down the street to the nice new wine bar for a glass of red (ironically, a Californian Pinot Noir!). I had some small chit-chat with the bartenders at each bar, but the real benefit to me was allowing the alcohol to slow my thoughts enough for me to order them somewhat.

“I hope you find what you are looking for,” was the closing statement from the last bartender. And by the end of the trip, I had thought and researched enough to decide the next course of action for me was yoga teacher training and going back to school in January 2008. I found a wonderful yoga institute in the city, whose website, philosophy and energy seem to jive very well with me. I started attending classes there on Sunday, and I plan to go 3-4 times a week for the next 4 weeks, and hope to be admitted into the teacher training that starts mid-August.

My second day there (yesterday), I bought a book written by their founding yoga master, Swami Satchidananda. See my Favorite Books section for a link to his book, To Know Your Self. It has already made my list of favorite books! I am about 3/4 done with it, and I have found it to be the most truthful book on religion/philosophy that I have associated with. It has the simplicity and beauty of Khalil Gibran’s masterpiece, the Prophet, and many points of ponderance. It is the kind of book I hope to compile one day far down the road, when my understanding of existence is more solidified. Something of a gem you could leave to your children, and children’s children.

Looking back I realize that if I had been keeping up with my Yoga practice all along, I may have not found myself in the suffering I endured in the last month or so, and I wouldn’t have had to resort to running away from my problems and using alcohol to help clear my mind. I had been so busy working, eating, sleeping, and not taking time to reflect, meditate, or take care of my body, so I did not handle the challenges I faced very well. I blamed others for my suffering (boyfriend especially, among others) and missed several opportunities to rise above my difficult situations because I had allowed my mind to become chaotic, and neglected my health.

But now, with renewed dedication to becoming a better person, I feel hopeful about the future and much less worried. I’ve even decided to jump on the vegetarian train for a while. I’ve been watching that Discovery Channel Show about the guy that skydives into remote wilderness areas and shows you how to survive. Last night I watched him find a dead frozen sheep in the Icelandic tundra and cut a legbone off to eat (and the eyeball too!). It was interesting to learn that you can’t eat raw meat because our stomachs don’t digest it well…which is the reason we cook our game and domestic animal meals (he ended up boiling the sheep leg in a natural hot springs).

My yoga book postulated that herbivores are less aggressive and more peaceful when compared to meat eaters, that you can see this by going to a zoo. That herbivores have flat teeth and carnivores have pointed teeth and claws for tearing flesh, so that we are closer anatomically to herbivores. So I think it is an option worth exploring, and I’m going to observe the effects on my body and mind. I do think it’s an interesting point that if you had to kill all the meat you eat yourself, you probably wouldn’t eat so much. My young nephew was very concerned the first time he went fishing and had to kill the fish. He didn’t like the idea at all. I admit I thought to myself, great, he’s going to be one of those over-sensitive sissies.

But maybe there is that reluctance to kill another beautiful creature in all of us, and if we must sacrifice lives of plants and animals to sustain ourselves, and we are not in SURVIVAL mode, why not choose to cause less suffering by taking the abundant fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and dairy products, rather than killing something with a nervous system and capacity for pain? So, I thought I’d never say it, but I’m going vegetarian for a while. Not crazy fanatic vegan or strict vegetarian, but making an effort to sustain myself more responsibly.


Sunshine in the Rocks

It would be interesting to study the effects of repressive discrimination on a person’s personality. I’ve noticed this in gay men and other groups of minorities, and have only had a taste of it myself. For example, my last roommate was aware that my parents did not approve of his lifestyle and that underneath the pleasantries, they considered him an unrepentant sinner. In response, he tried to ‘win’ them over by being polite, kind, and generous, and by censoring any homo-or sex/gender-related humor. However, it was killing him inside to not be accepted for who he was and to have the burden of the reputation of his ‘people’ on every move.

Minorities often feel they have to be on their best behavior to fight commonly-held negative group stereotypes. For example, if we are believed to be lazy, we will work twice as hard as you to distinguish ourselves, and god forbid you slip up or you will be dismissed as that lazy ‘_______’.

When I visited Pakistan, I got a taste of the pressure of a minority. I couldn’t be modest or traditional enough to ever fully have the respect of the natives. Like it was Halloween, I pretended to be modest and covered my arms, legs, and head. But to know that I could never wear a bathing suit to a beach or wear the shorter, cooler clothes I was accustomed to was quite annoying toward the end. To make up for my ‘shortcomings,’ I was on my best behavior at all times, so as not to have Americans judged more negatively.

In all three cases, it may come down to how hard one has to work to earn the respect of others in their environment. Everyone has to conform somewhat to local social norms, but what a struggle some people go through when they are a minority.

Meandering Journey

All Rivers lead to the Ocean

My high school coach/guidance counselor’s words would turn out to be prophetic: It may take Christina a while to find her niche in life; I can see her with multiple degrees.

When you feel totally clueless about the next step to take in life, what do you do? I’m thinking it may be time to go back to school, and/or do some traveling.

My horoscope in Vanity Fair magazine has been dead-on for as long as I’ve been reading it, maybe about 5 or 6 years at least. Call it self-fulfilling, or what you will, but there was only one time where it didn’t fit my situation at all–a pretty good track record. They are usually not negative, but the last one said something about someone else ruining your dream for you, and I knew it would likely be my dream of settling down and starting a family soon. My relationship is just too complicated for that, and I’m feeling more and more that I haven’t found the right partner for that dream.

So onto the next dream.

When I think back to my childhood for direction, I recall my classmates often remarking that I would be the President of the USA someday. It’s funny how something like that sticks with you. Some people get told they should be a model, or a comedian, or a mommy, but I think because I was always the top student in the small schools I attended in the Midwest, my peers thought an over-acheiver would make a good President.

The fact that George W Bush has been in power for two terms gives me some confidence I, or just about anyone of reasonable intelligence for that matter, could run this great country. But seriously, that job would be a daunting undertaking, assuming grave personal risk, and huge responsibility, and you’d be a fool to assume you could do it easily.

But I do have an interest in government, law, psychology, leadership, foreign affairs, and ethics, so who knows? I may be able to contribute to the shaping and direction of this country eventually, in some capacity. I wouldn’t mind leaving a stamp in history as one that helped steer the little human colony of America in the most noble direction possible. To somehow promote and distill the best of human potential into every decision made at the representative level, forsaking the traps of power, bribery, and half-truths so rampant in today’s politics. To make government as lean and efficient as possible, so that it is not so vulnerable to be stretched and warped by so many individuals and special interest groups at so many levels. And to help define our place in the world, not as shotgun imperialist, but as a uniting and defending force with other world colonies that share our core values.

But for now, I’ll just continue to seek and learn whatever I can until I am compelled to a certain path.

Time for another step in my meandering journey.