Buddhism and the ego

So I'm reading the Bhagavad Gita because it's one of the texts studied during yoga teacher training. And since I intend to pursue training one day, I'm preparing.

The reason that I'm sharing this with you now is that I read some verses last night that finally explained something to me.

You see, I have encountered more than one Buddhist who possesses as enormous ego, fabricates the most fantastic lies, and behaves in ways that are destructive to both themselves and others. I may not be the most studied Buddhist-in-training, but from what I've learned from teachers like Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, the behaviour of the above-mentioned individuals is decidedly un-Buddhist.

Interestingly, both Buddhists in question have cited the concept of "the divine within one's self" as a keystone of their beliefs. In my mind, these persons are basically using Buddhism to justify their own self-centredness.

I just don't t understand how the concepts of Buddhism could co-exist alongside such egotism. And then I came across a passage in the Bhagavad Gita last night (right) that showed me how these individuals were circumventing the paradox.

If I understand this correctly, I do believe that the Buddhists to which I refer read this passage and came to believe that meditation and yoga are expiatory acts that cancel whatever nonsense they provoke in their day-to-day lives.

This seems appalling to me, because (a) they are picking and choosing when to practice Buddhism, and (b) they are isolating which Buddhist precepts they wish to apply. It's like show-and-pony-Buddhism.

Is it me, or is this totally against the purpose and thrust of Buddhism? Help. Anyone?


Looking into other people's houses

One of the great pleasures of living in the Plateau is the ability to walk through quiet, shady streets, where the only movement is the ghostly shadow of trees flickering on the brick houses and the twitch of front curtains as suspicious neighbours press their nose to the front window.

Now that it's colder, I've abandoned my bike and opted for comfortable shoes instead. Walking home from yoga. Strolling to the theatre. Hoofing it to the pharmacy. Whether it's five minutes or 45, whether I'm iPod-equipped or not, I am up to task because as long as I have eyes, I will always be entertained.

Or should I say, as long as y'all keep your curtains slightly parted, I will always be entertained.

When I was in CEGEP and university, I hated taking the bus because a long stretch of the route cut across Westmount. The houses are certainly quite grandiose and sometimes beautiful, but it seemed to me that no one actually lives in Westmount. Other than the glow of a Lalique lamp in the window or the presence of a car in the driveway, you'd be hard pressed most days to find any sign of life in those mansions. It's like all the rich people are safely esconced in the deepest corners of their houses, where poverty and sad things can't reach them.

That's what I love about my neighbourhood - life is right there on the street, honestly represented in all its pecularities. Things I love to get a fleeting glimpse of as I whoosh past your windows:
  • The blue flicker of the TV on walls
  • Piles of books, hastily stacked in corners
  • A nice leather couch
  • A knife abandoned in a jar of peanut butter on the side table
  • A laundry basket on the floor (contents optional)
Anyone else out there want to fess up? Come on - you'll feel better!

PS. Photo brought to you by Esteve Favrel.
For more: http://picasaweb.google.com/estevefavrel


Uniquely Montreal

Heard on the radio this morning:

Weather guy: It will be a chilly day with lots of clouds and maybe a little rain, but nothing serious.

And a shudder of relief passes through the bodies of Montrealers from east to west. We know what "nothing serious" means - it means no snow.


Love song for hockey

The first thing I remember of hockey is my father.

Unlike other Italian dads in the neighbourhood, my pa didn't follow il calcio - soccer, football, or whatever you want to call it. My father watched hockey. Never one for forced enthusiasm, my father wasn't trying to 'fit in' - no, Serafino Palanca truly loved the pace and ardour of hockey. Still does. If you've ever heard his chuckle when some poor rookie pays the price for going into a corner with his head down, it's fairly obvious.

I remember him sitting in front of our basement television, clenched and occasionally exploding verbally at the screen. It was a visceral experience for him - and for anyone else in the room that tried to discuss what was happening on the screen. Funny this is - he's never been a Montreal Canadiens fan - even more not so when I started watching hockey and my love of the Habs became a new thing to tease me about.

"Hai visto come ha perduto le Canadese ieri sera? I Bruins l'hanno fatto mangiare la claque!"*

I decided to try watching this hockey-stuff one random night when I was in the sixth or seventh grade. The Habs were playing the Minnesota Stars, who were remarkable only for their fluo lemon-lime uniforms that lit up the TV screen like fireflies.

It was confusing. I didn't understand much - especially why anyone should get a penalty for passing a puck across two blue lines - doesn't that move the puck faster? But my dad liked it, and I was going to watch it until it made sense.

And then one day it made sense. And soon after that, I started to lose my sense, developing enough pre-game superstitions to put a French-Canadian goalie to shame. I still scream at that TV with an abandon that sees no reason...

But when you love hockey, it's crazy Fatal-Attraction love - there's no other way!

What wasn't there to love about hockey? Even when the Canadiens were losing badly, there was still this sense - as there is with every hockey game - that at any second, that cursed hunk of black rubber would slip between the goalie's pads and make this a whole new game!

I had a Russ Courtnall jersey (partly for his speed, partly for his cute). In 1989, during the finals against the Calgary Flames, we forced our teachers to include the Habs in our morning prayers. Lunchtimes, we picked at our sandwiches and discussed stats and players with passionate detail.

We even wrote naughty poems about our favourite players.**

As the Canadiens get their centennial season rolling, I count myself fortunate to have these hockey-infused memories to enrich my past. And hope to count a few more Stanley Cup parades in the years to come. Go, Habs, go!


*My father also spent 40 years working on construction sites, and thus knows a surprising variety of Quebecois-flavoured swear words that he can slip in at different moments. It's as cute as heck!
**Out of female solidarity, we decided long ago to keep these under lock and key. Don't ask to see them.


Facebook status lines again?

Because you kids keep coming back for more...
  • Jerome is wondering why Toronto needs another hockey team. Doesn't the one suck enough?
  • Jerome didn't know that Toronto had one hockey team.
  • Jerome has an alibi for that night.
  • Jerome went around the world in 12 clicks - thanks GoogleMaps!
  • Jerome has a hankering for a hunk of cheese.
  • Jerome is a little bit country, a little bit rock'n'roll.
  • Jerome is gonna do it.
  • Jerome is wearing his birthday suit. Wanna see it?
  • Jerome needs a drinkie.
Oh, and I think I've figured out why so many people are Googling for status lines. With the new Facebook, friends can now leave comments on your status line. It's another functionality they've added for more interactivity. So the pressure is on to compose something chat-worthy!

Go ahead - push my Analytics through the roof and view more Facebook status lines here.


New Benjy Ferree song!

Don't waste time reading what I have to say, visit Benjy Ferree's MySpace page now to hear the new track Fear.

(And a new album expected for February 2009... Ah, life is sweet!)


The Fourth Canvas by Rana Bose

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Rana Bose's second novel, The Fourth Canvas at Theatre Lachapelle. Let me explain to you why I so freely use the word "pleasure".
  • A musical set by cellist Brigitte Mayes and all-things-strings Prasun Lala. Their interpretation of "Love Hurts" was sensational, but their take on "Such Great Heights" still resounds with me today.
  • A theatrical setting with spotlights, chairs, and artwork by Siraj Chew-Bose.
  • Puff pastry filled with caramelised onions and bacon (I ate it before I knew about the bacon, so sit down vegetarian police!) Thanks Lisa!
  • And two readings by Rana Bose, of course.
I begin reading tonight. Stay tuned for more comments.

And for those of you that missed the festivities last night, Rana will also be reading at Paragraphe Bookstore on November 13 @ 7pm before moving on to Quebec City, Toronto and Calgary.


Tina Fey and Sarah Palin on SNL

Check out more Saturday Night Live clips here. If you want to reach about how NBC innovated with the creation of Hulu, read the Wired article here. To complain that Hulu can only be streamed in the United States? Turn to your pet, spouse, or favourite potted plant.


Classic Powell

My dearest bud, Powell, is known for many things. Her authentic British accent. Her stinky bum. Her terrible memory... especially when it comes to recalling the names of people, places, and things.

Imagine the hilarity this morning, when during our drive to Vermont, Powell said the following:

POW: He was listening to music on his dewberry. (pronounced 'doo-burry')

AP: (knowing full well what she is referring to) His dewberry?

POW: Yes, his dewberry. I can't possibly be expected to remember the technical names of things.

AP: Dewberry?

POW: Yes, with the curly thing on the front.

AP: You mean, his iPod.

POW: Yes, his iPod! His dewberry!



90 Degrees blog

What? You say you want to learn more about the online marketing industry? You're curious about search engine optimization?

Visit the 90 Degrees blog! Yours truly regularly publishes insights about the Web industry.

And, well, if my articles get lots of traffic, I could win stuff. I love stuff.


Knorr's Colourful Soups

Although it's true that most of us can only name freezies by colour, rather than flavour, I find this concept to be far more alarming when it applies to soups.

Soups are promoted as nutritious. Also, they are not marketed to children who admittedly (at a certain age) recognize colours far better than fruit names. So is the new Knorr soup line the ultimate dumbing-down? Is it really so hard to remember the name of soups?

Furthermore, the vague ingredients of each 'colour' are very alarming. Why can't they be more precise in their marketing materials?

Should they be really called floor-sweepings soups? Are these soups the 'hot dogs' of the soup world? I'm going to warm up a Bagel-ful while I think about it....


Haven't found your true love?

It's ok - just follow Emiliana Torrini's example...

And Torrini's new album will transform you, I swear!


Dusting off Anais Nin

Total lack of creativity tonight. I've been hammering away at Chapter Seven, but I feel less like a wordsmith, and more like a plumber. A plumber of punctuation.

So I put down my wrench and (as I've done frequent times before) I went digging for inspiration in the many volumes of my library. Tonight, I pulled out a tome of Anais Nin's diary, opened a random page and... here's the semi-random quote I fell upon:

Without self-knowledge you are not capable of objectivity. Only of rationalization. When you have self-knowledge you know what areas of your judgement are not to be trusted.

Very wise. I expected nothing less of my old friend Anais. But then I pulled out another tome... and another... and had one of those crashing revelations that are inevitable, but surprising nonetheless.

I've outgrown Anais Nin. It's official.

I was approaching 20 years of age when I read the first pages of her diary, and it was an epiphany. Here was a true artist. A richly creative woman who lived fearlessly, passionately. I underlined so many passages, left breathless by the desire to be her. When I read of her death, this woman who spent her life questioning the birth and death of creativity, who spent her days seeking sexual pleasure, who had an incestuous relationship with her father, I was rocked by the irony of her dying from a cancer deep inside her uterus.

Every moment of her life seemed charged with meaning and feeling, and I coveted her ability to give herself so willingly to life. Not the father stuff, obviously, but the other cooler non-incesty parts.

And then...

Having spent 30 minutes tonight rereading the underlined passages, I am a little saddened to announce that I've lost my idealism of Anais Nin. I respect her creativity, I love her spirit, but I see her as a real woman now, possessing frailties and weaknesses, and deep psychological flaws. She was never the perfect, mystic creature that I imagined.

And that's a good thing.

Because it means that I've finally achieved the maturity necessary (as an artist and as a woman) to understand Nin - and other artists, other women - on a level previously not accessible to me.



Palanca in a pickle

Sometimes I am socially retarded when it comes to introducing myself - or other people. At parties, I will often introduce people that have known each other for centuries - and then blank out and forget to introduce the complete strangers.

And whenever I try to correct this problem, I tend to overcompensate (of course). I either find myself being a premature introducer, nervously interrupting a conversation to introduce myself or other people, or (more commonly) I just skip the step altogether.

As a result, there are numerous people in my life - people I see on a regular basis - whose name I do not know, and who probably assume my name is Melissa. Or Amelia. I know enough to ask about their children or their dogs. I know about their aches and pains, and they know about mine. They always comment when I get a haircut. And yet...

With some, this has gone on for years. It's ridiculous. But like so many other things, once a certain window of opportunity has passed, asking, "I'm sorry I never caught your name..." feels ridiculous. Conversations generally spark spontaneously when eyes meet. Saying "hey mister!" or "hello missy" comes in handy when you need to get their attention - or they need to get yours.

It's remarkably easy to see someone once a week for years and never have to use their name.
It doesn't impact the quality of the relationship either.

Inevitably though, one of us will sheepishly crack and names will eventually be disclosed. There is usually a little blushing and nervous laughter. Perhaps a joke or two, "did I forget? hahah!" or "can you believe...?" I'd like to be able to tell you that this no longer happens, but it does.

I'm working on it though.

Until then, if we cross paths on the street, please just introduce yourself first. My little brain will be grateful.


Sarcastic Facebook status lines

Feeling snarky? Want your Facebook friends to know? Enjoy...
  • Pronger is a stone cold fox. Don't hate him...
  • Pronger is too sexy for this shirt. So sexy it hurrrrts.
  • Pronger is lalalaImnotlisteningtoyou!
  • Pronger is cooler than you *sorry*.
  • Pronger couldn't care less what you're doing right now.
  • Pronger doesn't think you're funny.
  • Pronger says, "If you want to know what I'm doing, call me!"
  • Pronger thinks you should be grateful that you're his friend.
  • Pronger eats guys like you for lunch.
  • Pronger feels sorry for your mom.
Here... have some more Facebook status lines...


Two ways to practice yoga

I have discovered that there are two ways to practice yoga - mindfully and single-mindedly.

This observation is hardly revolutionary. What makes it blogworthy is the fact that I finally came to understand the difference during yesterday's practice.

My yoga neighbour was a young woman in her early 20s. She was petite and slim, and thus better able to move into the harder variations of the asanas. Except whenever a pose put her in my direct line of vision, I couldn't help noticing how she forced her body into harder and harder variations by rocking herself further down/forward/back. She never relaxed into the pose.

I'm not even sure she was breathing. It was like a yoga triathlon. I'm trying not to judge her practice, but it definitely made me understand something about mine.

I don't want to approach yoga as if it were Me-Against-My-Body. I'm not doing yoga (primarily) for the physical exertion. I practice yoga to quiet my mind.

My objectives during a yoga practice are two-fold:
  • Stop comparing my performance to that of my fellow yogis
  • Don't force my body to comply. Simply breathe and try to find a little more space if I can.
I'm not saying that I consistently achieve these objectives. But I keep them in mind whenever I do yoga, and strive towards getting closer with each practice.

All that being said, next month I'm doing two 3-hour inversion workshops with Allison Ulan at Ashtanga Yoga Montreal.

Because I want to do something cool. And I don't want to fight my way up every time.


Thanks to Daniel Allen Cox!

For letting Ms. Julie help him launch Shuck last Friday. It was a total love-in.

Photo courtesy of the talented (and adorable) Dallas Curow.


Why I love my job

Taken today during a
lunchtime bike ride on the mountain.



Outside St-Eustache, Quebec
Sign spotted at an ostrich farm yesterday.

Are they serving ostrich meat hot dogs?
If so, why does the ostrich look so happy?
Do they de-feather the ostrich before turning him into a hot dog?
Is there really that great a demand for ostrich meat?
Doesn't this scare the children??

Or do they dress up the ostriches?
What other costumes are available?
Can I see an ostrich dressed up like a clown?

New Facebook status line: Sidney will have the ostrich - with fries on the side.

In Montreal, Quebec.
Seen on the CBC during Coronation Street

I'm sorry... is Borat now working in the Nivea Marketing Department?
Anyone else find Happy Time to be awkward and not-quite-English?

New Facebook status line: Sidney is enjoying some Happy Time in the shower.


On the reading pile this week

Just completed: Wired Magazine, Issue 16.10

Best quotes :

From Weird Al: Forefather of the YouTube Spoof
"But Yankovic isn't just popular. He is also the unlikely forefather of the infectious, hyperlinked, quasi-referential comedy that's become the lingua franca of the Web."

"...whereas Yankovic could once mine such inexhaustible icons as Jackson and Nirvana for laughs, he now has to contend with the likes of Jessica Simpson or Kevin Federline—celebrities who are more or less already self-parodies. Being a music satirist in 2008 is a bit like being a political cartoonist after the Harding administration: too many easy targets, too few sacred idols."


Currently reading: Pardon our monsters, by Andrew Hood

Best quote so far:
"When Carol spoons me
she puts her lips on the nape of my neck, resting there and breathing there. The smell between us is salty and musky. She presses hard into me, her breasts smooshing between my shoulder blades, making little warm spots of sweat, and she winds into me like ivy up a trellis, her legs hooking into mine and her arm snaking under my armpit and over my chest while she strokes my cheek. Her breath smells like stale cigarettes and plaque. And I can't make a snide comment about it. She's dressed down so completely that I can't possibly dress her down any more. Now the panic sets in like a grass stain."


Up next: Bhagavad Gita

This Sanskrit text of 700 verses is essentially the scripture of yoga.


Also, I think I need a digital camera. I keep seeing stuff I want to share - like the soap dispensers and sinks outside public bathrooms in Toronto (so classy!) - but I have no way to transit the images to you. I could just post photos from other sites and blogs, but as I work in the Web industry, I could not in good conscience poach photos. And I'm too lazy to write for permission.