Conrad Blog - Conrad Men's

Meditation As Rebellion
by Alex McAfee

I am a sinner. I am a sinner because I sit still, I try not to multi-task, I try to pay attention to the conversation I’m having with the person in front of me. I also meditate. This is my rebellion. I sin against the church of the busy. 

Remember just hanging out with your friends at a coffee shop or on the back of a pickup, just talking, and not taking selfies or any of that shit? Remember the days where you were ok with just living life, rather than documenting the minutia of your meals or workouts or morning coffee? Back then the things you did capture meant something: graduations, holidays, marriages, births, and deaths. The internet is how my head used to be before meditation: memories of trivial things, to-do lists, the last song I heard, people I needed to talk to, celebrity gossip, gossip framed as important news, etc, etc, etc. It was the trivial shit that just kept my mind busy, and by keeping it busy, it kept me from paying attention. Not paying attention is for the worker bees, the drones pushing buttons and pulling levers.  

I find it hilarious that we have actually come to a point as a society where we need to pay people to teach us to sit still. Are you proud of your guru? Are you enlightened yet?

I have a few gurus, a few teachers, and I’m not sure I’m enlighten, but I did lighten the fuck up, and in the process somehow became more aware than I would have liked, or was comfortable with. 

Before my arrival at meditation, I had done things, accomplished things, been places, taken the substances that blast you into another dimension, and because of this, I thought I knew things. But I didn’t, I knew nothing, my life before waking up was like watching TV or playing a video game with a character acting as my avatar. This is what happened when I took the red pill and danced my way down the rabbit hole, and I did it without drugs - I did it with meditation.

Shit is about to get esoteric, so just a heads up. 

I used to climb mountains to find out what I was made of, now I sit still. What I am made of and what I perceive to be made of are two very different things. I perceive the things I think I want to be, and that my family, friends, and society want me to be; but in the end, I am what I am, it is what it is, and that is that. Meditation helps me see this. This is truth. I was Alex before I was named Alex, I was something before Alex. So who am I now, and who am I with money, without money, with a wife or without a wife, with a job, without a job… with either/or all these things I am still me. There is the truth in me, of who I am at this very moment, without the external perceptions acting as my own internal perceptions of who I am, based on the relative things surrounding me, rather than the true me that is. This can be very uncomfortable.

Seeing yourself in the truest way is something I often avoided, and I assume most people try to do the same. For a long time I looked to play the roll of who I was supposed to be. Now, I sit around Los Angeles and look at the people playing the roll of the actor, the roll of the barista, the roll of the tortured artist, the roll of the surfer bro. These people are often playing out who they think that roll should be, rather than who they really are – their True Selves.

Being your true self is painful. Telling the truth is hard and uncomfortable. Being honest and humble about your strengths and shortcomings is crushing, even more so if it is a limitation on your dreams. At the extreme it would be the delusion of a 5-foot tall man growing up believing he would play professional basketball, and then being spiritually crushed by the realization that it was all just a fantasy. What about all the hard work he put in? What about all that emotional and spiritual energy he put into developing his persona around that dream? Without the dream who is he? In my opinion he is who he was before his dream of being a basketball pro existed, and he is who he was while he was living in that delusion - he is himself no matter where he is.     

In climbing mountains I did find myself, it’s like meditation in that way - waking up long before the sunrise, stomping up the crisp frozen earth as the alpenglow comes up like the curtain call, exhausted but excited and breathing heavy, the altitude forcing you to concentrate on the breath like the poses of a yoga class. Hours into it you are exhausted and still must focus, letting thoughts drop away so you can focus at the task at hand with no thought, as your life does literally depend on it. Later and later the day gets and your body breaks down more, but you still need to move, you need to let go of the fear or you will be stuck in it, and you have likely let go of the worries that await you on the ground, as they seem rather trivial at a time like this. This is life stripped down to the present moment. As you make each move you concentrate not on the top of the mountain, or the moves you have already made for the last few hours, but of the moves you’re making right now, as thinking of the future or the past doesn’t really matter right now, because right now is right now.

Right now is all that there really is, and this is where meditation brings me, it brings me back to where I already was.

Beginner’s mind is often talked about in meditation as having the openness to see things for the first time again. When you strip down your expectations there is the ability to see things as new and fresh without the distortion of your lens of experience, and your biased paradigms. In the world of addiction and alcoholism, you often have to hit bottom to give up. This is true in many other areas of life – you have to get a divorce, have someone die, or lose a job to hit a bottom low enough for you to have the humility to admit you don’t know what to do next, but within that humility, you have the ability to see with the fresh eyes of a beginner’s perspective.

What if you could choose to have beginner’s eyes and a beginner’s mind all the time?

This is where meditation helps me, when I sit, I feel my thoughts and emotions drop, the channel changes, and I feel like a blank palette again. When I have this, I can see the truth in things: it is what it is, I am what I am, and that is that. I become aware of how to make decisions because I am looking at the data sets with an unbiased opinion, rather than an expectation of a dream or paradigm as I wish them to be.  

This is what it is to just hang out again within my own mind, with myself, watching the thoughts and emotions float by. When I meditate it takes me to the place of a beginner’s mind without hitting a bottom, but the bottom itself is the blank state of the pause within myself. The ability to pause instead of reacting, for me, is like a boxer who can move around his opponent and get in three extra punches without his opponent even seeing it. Really, it’s having the luxury to take those three extra punches, but choosing not to if I wish. Meditation for me is both performance enhancing, but spiritually enhancing as well, as I might even have the pause and insight to win before I get in the ring in the first place, or the removal of the desire to even move towards the ring, and in the end to see the ring as quiet silly in the first place, though it might be interesting if I decided to go take a look. For me, that’s where the performance enhancement comes in, the pause, instead of the reaction, of having to beat my thoughts into submission by my unconscious actions. Would you want to go through life in a blackout drunk, and living the life with the results that come from that blackout living? That’s what life was like for me without meditation, whether I was drinking or not. My life was a series or reactions, rather than decisions. I lacked the ability to pause and decide.   

Now that I have the ability to pause and decide, even that seems silly, it’s like watching a game show on LSD. So I just sit here, watching and enjoying, living this moment, buying the ticket and taking the ride I choose, or not.

Meet The Natives Community

There is a place for us conscious professionals, the us being those that still live in this world as householders (as opposed to monks). Us being the few that have woken up from some sort of long dream in the Matrix, and are now aware, but we are still us. We are also professionals, and professionals in the land of meditation, healing, and the other emerging modalities that are actually being validated by science, and validated by the marketplace as something that people desire, are willing to pay for, and actually believe in. Some of us are hippies, some of us are just a little bit hippy and a little bit city, while others are stockbrokers with dreamcatchers above their cubicles.

Whoever you are in this woke economy, there is now a place for you, beyond LinkedIn and Google Plus, a place called Natives - The Global Network of Conscious Professionals.

I was recently invite by Natives Founder Ray Ray Hughes to join. In her own words: 

"I had moved from my home town of Sydney to LA where I had been on my own personal journey to holistic health for about 6 years. I left a very vast, cohesive community of healers, facilitators and practitioners. I had a go to them for everything from body work to plant medicine. I found myself traveling around the world and looking for the same quality of professional but frustrated, because there was no easy way to find or vet them. That's why I created Natives. We are living in an age where the conscious, freelancer economy is exponentially expanding, and there is no platform that is bringing a measuring stick to this new age industry."

"We are now growing rapidly all over the world! We are revolutionizing how conscious professionals & businesses connect, collaborate & commercialize. We are committed to enhancing education and knowledge about alternative medicine, complimentary treatments & the conscious lifestyle."

Below you will find a selection of some of the other conscious men working as professionals in everything from Reiki to Tea Ceremonies.

Ten Conscious Professional Men on Natives

marco

Marco Antonio - Los Angeles

Marco Antonio is a certified Yoga Instructor & Lululemon Ambassador with a background as a former international competitor in break dancing and mixed martial arts. Born & bred as a Los Angeles native, he embodies the aura of the city through his creative vibrations. Appealing to a stronger male presence & beginners, Marco Antonio’s ability to relate allows his students to feel comfortable and build a stronger practice from his light hearted approach. He has a unique style of simplifying advanced yoga poses through his athletic foundation of break dancing & martial arts.

Marco created Salamat Yoga as a gateway to influence new demographics through immersive experiences of gratitude & mindful movements. Through his extensive network, he has hosted events in collaboration with LA’s most influential creatives spaces including Ace Hotel, Urban Outfitters, & Platform. He has also hosted corporate team building workshops for distinguished brands such as Lululemon & Tender Greens.

evan

Evan Daily - Jackson Hole, WY

Evan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Soul Centered Professional Master Coach. He has extensive training and degrees in Spiritual Psychology and over 25 years experience in working with men.

Evan is passionate about working with folks who are committed to living more loving, conscious, vibrant and meaningful lives with grace, ease, joy and beauty. Working with Evan requires an adventurous spirit - to be comfortable with an uncertain future, to follow your true path through previously unknown territory that at times may be daunting or frightening or breathtaking but in all ways and at all times is filled with awe, wonder and Spirit. The adventure starts with a spark of longing, curiosity and action — to discover, own and embrace unfamiliar and all too often unloved parts of yourself in order to create a new, more highly integrated, whole and holy awakened person. If your willing to be guided by your imagination of whats possible, not your limits, Evan is the trusted ally you want at your back to explore and test what’s possible on the adventure of your life.

Jeremy Brown - Los Angeles

Jeremy is a mentor, tutor, and healer currently living in Los Angeles. A Native New Yorker, he attended SUNY New Paltz where he not only received a BA in Theater Arts, but also founded a church with six other students. Serving as a Student Minister for 4 years, gaining a Minor Degree in Psychology, and working with The Actor’s Institute’s Mastery Class for years laid the foundation of Jeremy’s understanding of how to guide people through and understand their unique healing processes.

For the past 20 years, Jeremy has merged the lessons he learns as a spiritual leader and healer with his continued studies and understanding of Energy Healing, Intuitive Readings, and Life Coaching. Most recently, Jeremy has become a certified Akashic Records Reader and Master Level Reiki Practitioner.

Andres Salcedo - Venice Beach, CA

Born in the magical land of Colombia, Andres has been practicing Yoga for nearly 30 years, besides traveling and studying intensively in India, Andres is an accomplished yoga teacher, retreat facilitator and Kirtan leader worldwide based in Los Angeles, CA. Andres is the founder of Power Soul Yoga a dynamic, soulful and well rounded approach into the science of Yoga. His teaching style promotes equanimity traveling through the principles of Yoga as a therapy, empowering students to trust their own experience with sensitivity and intimacy, merging the ancient and sacred with the contemporary. Power Soul Yoga emphasizes on the most natural tools for the enhancement of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects.

Richard Nyari - China Town, NY 

Richard Nyari was born in Helsinki, Finland. When he was twelve years old his family moved to Budapest, Hungary. The shift of cultures and atmospheres in Richard's youth created a sense of wonder and thirst for education and experiences that continues to this day.

While searching for his place in the world, he completed his Undergraduate Degree in Political Science at McDaniel College in Budapest. After working different jobs, he started exploring his interest in healing. He studied massage therapy in depth, but found that it was just the beginning of his calling to help others. An intuition guided him to the practice of Chinese Medicine. Richard chose to move to New York City in 2007 to study at one of the top schools in the country.

He graduated in 2011 from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, with dual Masters Degrees in Acupuncture and Herbology. Richard is a Licensed Acupuncturist both in New York and New Jersey. He is also certified by the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine).

Post-college he practiced at various private facilities and clinics, as well as a spa. His intuitive experience brought him to the Veteran's Hospital where he treated numerous patients. There he developed a special passion for healing and alleviating pain, be it from physical injuries or emotional trauma.

Sunil Kalwani - Los Angeles, CA

I've developed my own modality of Energy healing. More than any of that though, I have a unique ability to speak spiritual truths in a way that most applies and feels relevant to who is listening to it. I make spirituality approachable for people who don't identify with being spiritual. Talks, one-on-one, or lectures tend to be the best way to show this. I also have a keen ability to track the non-physical (emotions, attention, awareness, energy), which allows me to advise and help people navigate difficult situations. I've integrated that skillset with my technical abilities to show people how those same tools can be applied to the business world as well.

I sit at the intersection of a multitude of lifestyles, with expertise in storytelling and the arts, digital experiences and technology, philosophy and research, along with business development and project management. But, despite all the skills I spent endless hours refining, and all the accomplishments I busted my ass off to achieve, something inside was off--I wasn't happy and I didn't know why. And so I asked myself, "where is happiness?", which took my on the road to self-acceptance. Little did I know, as I started to identify less with what I do, I discovered who I am. My spiritual path was the same as all spiritual paths--a journey back home, to Self. Once I realized that initial road lead me back to the beginning, albeit with an entirely new perspective, I sat. And sunk deeper and deeper into knowing myself. I'm still sitting, and after all that sitting with myself, I can tell you, I still know nothing. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

David Sauvage - New York, NY

David Sauvage is a highly sensitive empath. An empath is someone who literally feels someone else’s feelings. For most empaths, these feelings are fleeting and random, but not for David. On command, he empties himself of his own feelings and tunes directly into you. Your feelings express themselves through David’s physical body. Then he articulates what is going on with you and guides you on your path. He literally shares the experience of being you with care and compassion. Then he guides you to self-acceptance and integration. He is a sort of emotional alchemist, a genius of feelings.

After spending time with David, you will feel more like yourself. Calmer, centered, and anchored in the belief that whoever you are and whatever you’re dealing with is necessary and even beautiful. You will have a profound experience of being seen, a newfound understanding of your blindspots, and the permission to feel all of your feelings. 

David has has done readings all over the world at private events and hotel openings, in popups and art galleries, and in the middle of Times Square. Now he is launching a show in virtual reality. He loves speaking about empathy and how to develop a healthy relationship with your emotions.

Justin Brown - Parkdale, VIC

I'm working on a platform that brings people together to learn and connect around ideas. I believe the best ideas to create change come from the margins and grassroots of society, from employees on the production line and from citizens participating in the political process. I'm here to help enable this and create a world where power is decentralized and brought back to the people.

Adam Yasmin - Los Angeles

I've been a student of Gongfu Tea since 2009, a member of Global Tea Hut since 2012, and a User Experience Designer since 2015.

I'm building a bridge and filling the gap between tech and mindfulness through traditional tea ceremony here in Los Angeles.

Edward Ormandy - West Hollywood, CA

Born and raised in the UK, I am a certified Advanced Level Reiki Practitioner based in the West Hollywood area. I pride myself on being extremely positive and have a huge passion for health, fitness and general wellbeing. Growing up with my father, who was a Reiki Master, I witnessed from a very young age so many of the positive impacts Reiki had on the people whom my father worked with. Watching my father master his craft, a craft that allows one to help others, was the most inspiring and driving force for me in becoming a Reiki practitioner myself. 

I can clearly recall receiving my first Reiki treatment. It was an extremely vibrant, relaxing and an overall healing experience. I knew even then that I had found an exceptional gift within myself and wanted to learn more about it. The more I learned and experienced Reiki the more it has become my true vocation and passion in life.

My goal is to help people through the healing power of Reiki by assisting them on their Journey to better health, happiness and wellbeing.

I am currently working with some of the leading medical practices and holistic wellness centers in the Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica area. Additionally, I work with private clients both on location at their residences and/or offices as well as at my home on a referral basis. 

A Five Minute Meditation with John Wineland - Russian Breathwork Technique

Menswork expert John Wineland sits down with Conrad at his Santa Monica studio to lead us through a five minute meditation using a Russian Breathwork technique. Learn how to do the meditation by watching the video, or attending one of John's online or in-person courses on Embodied Menswork. Learn more on his site here: JohnWineland.com

Click Here for a longer discussion on Masculine Leadership with John. 

yoga relationship

Practicing yoga has many benefits. Better health, less stress and a better posture are only a few of them. If you are a yoga junkie like me, you know them all. But this article is not about the scientifically proven benefits of yoga.

There are already enough resources that discuss how amazing yoga is for your health. No, this article is different. I want to invite you to look at yoga from another perspective. I want you to think about what practicing yoga can do for your relationship.

Maybe you are single and you dream about finding the right partner. Maybe you just fell in love with someone and you pray every night that it’ll work out. Or maybe you are married for over a decade and you somehow miss the passion and love from the first two years.

It doesn’t matter where you are at in life. Yoga has the power to make you a better partner. I know this from my own experience. Please allow me to share them with you, so that you can also become a better human being and a better partner through the power of yoga… 

Less Stress, Less Arguments

Most arguments between couples are attributable to stress. Whenever I was stressed, my relationship suffered. The connection was obvious.

Just imagine…

You come home from work. You are feeling stressed and your head hurts. You just want to take a relaxing bath and forget all the things that happened in the office. You open the door to the living room and what do you see? Your husband and his best friend are watching football. They are screaming and laughing. They have a great time.  

What about you? You are so stressed that you start an argument with your husband about how reckless he is. Deep down you know that it’s not his fault, but you are so stressed that you can’t control yourself anymore. The next morning you apologize for your behavior. You know that stress was the real cause of the argument.

Two days after the argument you decide to go to a yoga lesson. This was the last time that you had such an unnecessary argument with your husband.

Improving Your Physical Health Improves Your Relationship

Do you feel tired? Do you have problems to get out of bed?

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I had problems to get out of bed and I’m only 27. My back pain is a genetic gift from my father. It’s terrible. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed, and believe me when I say that the pain doesn’t get better after sitting in front of a laptop for hours.

Did my physical condition affect my relationship? Of course!

I didn’t have the energy to go on exciting dates. Whenever my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to travel somewhere, I wanted to hide under my blanket. I don’t say that everything changed after one yoga session, but practicing yoga deliberately and consistently allowed me to get rid of my pain and to enjoy my life and my relationship again.

You Become a Mindful Listener

I have to admit it. Yoga is not the only practice that helped me to become a better partner. I also used meditation to improve my relationship. The combination of yoga and meditation eventually helped me to become a mindful listener.

I became more relaxed, more focused and my ability to feel and think what my partner feels and thinks increased exponentially. I felt as if I had super powers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my girlfriend and I always listen to what she says. But in case you are a woman, you know how men tend to listen. This changed once I practiced yoga. Now I listen and understand. No more misunderstandings, no more worries.

You Let Go of Negative Emotions 

Yoga helped me to become a happier person and to let go of negative emotions. It also helped me to get rid of the one negative emotion that is known for destroying relationships and marriages: jealousy!

Everyone who has ever loved someone knows that jealousy is your biggest enemy. It’s a fear that terrorizes you without prior warning. It’s an emotion that makes you cry without a reason. Thanks to yoga I don’t feel jealous anymore. I know, it sounds crazy, but I let go of this negative emotion and replaced it with happiness and the feeling that I am enough. You can do the same.

Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Can Not Only End Your Relationship   

For me, the most beautiful thing in the world is when my girlfriend tells me that she loves me. It makes me happy. It makes me feel at peace.

Whenever she says the three magical words to me, I think about how grateful I am for having her. But I also think about something else. I think about our future and I pray that we’ll share many unforgettable moments with each other.

I guess you want the same. You also want to live a long and happy life with the person you love. The question is: What are you doing for it?

Look, practicing yoga didn’t just change my physical and mental health. It also made me a lot more self-conscious. It inspired me to change my diet and my habits. Now that I live healthier I know that enjoying a long and happy life with the woman of my dreams is more possible than ever before.

  

Author’s bio:

Alberto G. Guitron

Alberto is a writer for BookYogaRetreats.com. He is a committed yoga practitioner equally passionate about blue ink and inversion yoga poses. Experienced in journalism and sportscasting.

John Wineland sits down with Conrad Men's to talk about men's meditation, masculine leadership, polarity, intimacy, and other aspects of embodied men's practices.

Click Here for a Guided Meditation with John.

Bio: Known for his groundbreaking work with men, John travels world-wide teaching his vision of embodied men's work and deep relational practice. In 2014, he founded The New Men’s Work Project, which has attracted men from around the world looking to develop as leaders in their relationships and communities. The Project is committed to the staggering goal of creating 1000 men's groups world-wide in the next ten years and has already supported trainings and groups throughout Europe and the U.S. John's clients include entrepreneurs, leading thinkers in the world of personal development and entertainment, Ted speakers and creative leaders in Hollywood.

John has studied and assisted with some of the world's leading spiritual, tantric and relational teachers; and he brings this multi-faceted approach, which is both energetic and highly practical, to his workshops and experiential coaching sessions. John's embodiment driven teaching draws from not only over 30 years experience of his own Buddhist meditative practice, but from the deep lineages of Vajrayana, Tantra, and Kundalini yoga; as well as the Taoist traditions of Iron Shirt Qi-Gong, to create a profound experience for men and women longing to express their deepest desires with open, fierce and loving hearts.

John is a frequent contributor to The Good Men Project, writing on spiritual and relational masculine practice; and has been featured on Elephant Journal and Love TV. This year, John's first book, The Art of Masculine Leadership will be offered by Make a Difference Press in late October. He will also be traveling throughout Europe and the U.S. leading workshops on embodied men's work and sexual intimacy.

Place to Meditate Los Angeles

Great Places to Meditate in Los Angeles by Nick Lilach

Los Angeles has become a hub for all things progressive. We’re the home of veganism, sustainable energy, hipsters, kale, yoga, spirituality and meditation. Most would call us crazy, but to us Angelinos this the norm. With a drastically changing political landscape and stress on the rise, there’s no better time for us to connect with our spiritual side through meditation. Whether it’s in the privacy and comfort of our living rooms or a local meditation studio, Los Angeles provides many options.

Below is a list of great places in Los Angeles to meditate ranging from local studios, state parks, mediation sanctuaries and online courses.

Unplug Meditation

Unplug Los Anges

Unplug is one of Los Angeles’s hottest meditation studios. As a lifelong meditation enthusiast, Suze Yalof Schwartz (a former fashion editor and "makeover guru" who's worked at Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Glamour Magazine ) founded Unplug after noticing a gap in the meditation market. Located on Wilshire Blvd and Centinela Ave, Unplug offers a variety of meditation courses. Varying from your standard 30-minute silent meditation to the more unconventional hour long breathwork, which pairs common breathing practices with popular music such as Coldplay. If you’re looking for a great way to end your day, I highly recommend their Unplug Awakening class led by Peter Opperman. Also, I recommend any classes led John Sahakian and Steve Ross. I promise you’ll leave feeling relaxed and enlightened.

 

The Den

The Den Meditation Los Angeles

The Den is one of Los Angeles’s swankier studios and is situated perfectly right off La Brea and 4th Street near The Grove. As a relative newcomer to the world of meditation, I really appreciated The Den’s feng shui aesthetic. When you enter their studio you truly feel as if you’re entering a yogi safe haven. If you have 30 minutes to spare during your work day, try out The Den’s Lunchtime Detox course led by Eben Oroz to help relieve the stress.

 

Lake Shrine

Lake Shrine Meditation Los Angeles

This open-air shrine for all religions is one of Los Angeles’s most peaceful offerings. Located directly off the PCH in the Pacific Palisades; the Lake Shrine has become a staple for meditation enthusiasts. With a rich/unique history dating back to the early 1920’s, the Lake Shrine has transformed from a movie studio to meditation sanctuary. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, the Lake Shrine opened its gates to the public on August 20th, 1950. This is an absolute must visit for all yoga/meditation enthusiasts and makes for a beautiful daytime retreat. 

 

Agape

Agape Meditation Los Angeles

Too busy to get to a class or too anxious to enjoy the comfort of your own home? Don’t worry, we got you covered too. Agape is a leading international spiritual center in Los Angeles offering meditation courses and weekly services. If you’re a Sunday morning early bird, tune into Agape’s The Way of Meditation led by Reverend Michael Beckwith. This 30-minute class is offered for free every Sunday at 6:30am and is a great way to start your day.

 

Japanese Garden (Kenneth Hahn State Park)

Japanese Garden (Kenneth Hahn State Park) Meditation Los Angeles
Feeling adventurous? Want to get both a mental and physical workout? Then look no further than Kenneth Hahn State Park’s Japanese Garden. Located in Baldwin Hills, this unexpected getaway is worth the 2.5-mile hike. Once completing your relatively easy excursion you will reach a meditation paradise complete with koi ponds, Japanese style bridges and a calming creek. Prepare to get lost in the soothing sounds of nature while feeling equally accomplished after an awesome hike. 

 

Ceremony Meditation

Ceremony Meditation Los Angeles
Located in the heart of Venice on Rose Ave. there couldn’t be a more perfect match; Ceremony is a quintessential mediation studio. Playing off Venice’s beach vibes, Ceremony has a beautiful sand garden located on their deck for private meditation, however all classes are offered indoor. Another selling point of Ceremony is their rather convenient schedule. Whereas The Den and Unplug mostly offer evening classes, Ceremony offers classes practically every hour and can accommodate almost anyone’s schedule. I recommend the Return to Calm class led by Aruna Shields, it’s a perfect way to end the day.  

 

Against The Stream

Noah Levine, the Founding Teacher of Against The Stream has become a favorite among people in recovery. With studios located in both Hollywood and Santa Monica, Against The Stream offers a variety of classes and workshops. Try out their Wake Up Call class which is held every Friday at 7am, it’s a great way to start the day!

Honorable Mentions:

SGI

Shambhala Meditation Center 

The Idea of Nobility

January 20, 2017

0 comments

I’ve been reading and absorbing a lot of information lately on the idea of the gentleman, grace, and nobility. Most of the thoughts here are a mixture of many luminaries, who I cite below with some of the quotes that have influenced me the most. There have been many, many bottoms in my life - both emotionally and economically - where I’ve been stripped to nothing in both regards. In those instances, I was often left only with myself and my thoughts, along with the time on my hands to think about those situations and circumstances. The more I read and observe on these topics, the more I’m able to reflect and process the past. Hopefully this will be helpful in you doing the same.

The idea of the gentleman is that beyond fine clothes and expensive things. It is the thought of a refined man in himself. To be stripped of all his material things, he would still be a gentle man, a refined man, a noble man. Not noble in the sense of an aristocrat who merely has a title, and is therefor thought to be infallible even though he be may be a thug, dunce, or buffoon; but in the sense of a truly noble man in nature. This nature being that of someone who is kind, cares for his fellow humans, takes pride in the way he acts, talks, and associates—this is a man of discernment. 

A discerning man uses his time on this earth wisely. He enjoys the finer things because he knows that there is more value in an investment into something that will last. He knows how to eat food that will nourish and full-fill him rather than just masking a passing hunger. He knows how to talk his way though a confrontation by finding common ground by finding a win-win for all parties involved, and in doing this, he creates harmony.

It is said that it is easier to act your way into right thinking, than think your way into right acting. If you are in a fine suit rather than rags, you are more likely to stand up tall, and believe in yourself. If you are around a beautiful environment, you are likely to be in a better mood, and be more productive. If you are surrounded by others with good manners, intelligence, and kindness; you too will be more likely to reflect these traits in your actions, or at least start acting your way towards these virtues. This is the idea of discernment by osmosis. It is also said that you are the byproduct of the 5 people you spend the most time around. If you are discerning, you might want to spend your time around those more discerning than yourself, as you might learn something. This might be something that you choose, rather live in default next to the people in your immediate proximity. You may choose to do this no matter what your station in life, or the balance of your bank account. It doesn’t take any money to talk well, or act kindly, or enjoy the beauty of the nature around you—these are all things that just are, and are choices that you can choose to make.

I think about this often.

I think of how can I be a better human? How can I be noble? How can I have more grace?

I reflect on my actions and try to have an awareness of what I will do today, and at the end of the day I review the actions and situations and look at how I dealt with things. Many days while doing this, I start to notice things I can improve upon. Other days I am content with the passing of the day and my actions in it. This is my own awareness, and I also try to be kind to myself, and only strive to be better and not be perfect, though I do strive to be an example. 

For much of my life I’ve wanted to sit in the back and hide, to do my work in solitude and later show it as finished. I didn’t want to lead or even be noticed, in fear that I might be a target of ridicule, conflict, or envy. I wanted to be small. This is quite amusing as I think of it, as I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall, and for me to disappear into the background of a room is very difficult.

The older I get the more I’ve had to lead and speak up, had to be an example and the one to make decisions. It’s gotten easier with practice, but it’s not something I’ve naturally had, at least in my own perspective of the matter. But for some reason people believe in me more than I believe in myself, and they want to follow me. They want me to make a decision, and be the guide.

It’s also true with my parents as they are getting older. I often say you know when you are an adult when you start worrying about your parents as much as they worry about you. This has been true for me for some years now, though my mother might protest that she worries more, as I tend to be a bit of an optimist by nature.

In all of this, from being who I need to be to lead, to being who I need to be for myself and others, I often hope that I can be better than I was before this moment or the last, and that with or without possessions, or a title, or status, I can still be noble. I can still be kind, and just, and discerning. I can look for the grace in situations and myself. I can take pride in my clothes, home, and surround in a way that I respect them and the harmony they create around me and in my own projection onto this world. I can stand up and be seen and lead knowing that I’m doing what I think is right in my heart and head, without the worry of either being chopped off.

I can be noble, no matter what.

Alex McAfee

Venice Beach, CA

January 2017

 

Quotes and Inspirations:

 

Viktor E. Frankl, From Man’s Search for Meaning

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

 

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism 

“If you pour a cup of tea, you are aware of extending your arm and touching your hand to the teapot, lifting it and pouring the water. Finally the water touches your teacup and fills it, and you stop pouring and put the teapot down precisely, as in the Japanese tea ceremony. You become aware that each precise movement has dignity. We have long forgotten that activities can be simple and precise. Every act of our lives can contain simplicity and precision and can thus have tremendous beauty and dignity.” 

 

Bill Wilson, from Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism: The Australian Experience, Commemorat


“You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.”

 

Yogi Bhajan

“The purpose of life is to watch and experience living. To enjoy living every moment of it. And to live in environments, which are calm, quiet, slow, sophisticated, elegant. Just to be. Whether you are naked or you have a golden robe on you, that doesn’t make any difference. The ideal purpose of your life is that you are grateful - great and full - that you are alive, and you enjoy it.” 

 

Photo: Adam Secore

Unlimited Possibilities vs Limited Beliefs

Limiting Beliefs - Stop Trying So Hard

Tired of going through the same insane loop of groundhog day with the different versions of the same situation? The problem is you, and what you think you know. It's time to stop living in your limiting beliefs by seeing them for what they are. Below is a meditation on limiting beliefs, and what dumb luck really is.   

Narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness are both ideas attached to someone’s literally narrow viewpoint, which is often linked to their lack of vision/information, tied to their own expectation to a situation, based on past experiences and cultural references to those around them.

This narrow viewpoint (a small hole in the wall, if you will) furthers an idea held onto by your own ego, in it’s need to be right, and for you to be right about an idea you think to be true and yours (an actual extension of your identity), because you thought you came up with it… when in fact, you are just going off of information experienced and processed through the filters of your existence and experience up the point in your life so far.  

Being able to tap into the infinite, or even being open to it, will give you more and more possibilities. Being open to a new experience, or new possibility, is the first step. Realizing you know just such a fraction of the million, billions, trillions of data points around you will start to give way the opportunities beyond your own limiting beliefs.

If you have the belief that you are right, you will work to prove that the belief is right to others, and yourself, even if that belief is wrong. If you think 2 + 2 = 5, you will work futilely to prove it is true, even though 2 + 2 = 4, whether you want it to be or not.

If you are open to a new belief, a new way to look at a problem, or to maybe even have the openness to consider there was no problem to solve in the first place, then you are again open to infinite possibilities – or at the very least, you might be open beyond the very few possibilities for a solution that you would have been able to come up with on your own. 

So how to you start to tap into the infinite possibilities all around you?

You have to let go of what you think you know (your limiting beliefs) and the telescope you look at them through (your filters) . If fact, you have to be open to the possibility that everything that you think you know, might be wrong. You have to even come to believe that everything you know is wrong in order to stop falling back into trying to make the world and yourself think you know the answer to things. You have to stop maintaining this delusion that 2 + 2 = 5, when you yourself might even have a feeling that 2 + 2 might not equal 5, but you haven't had the courage to admit it, even to yourself.

So how do you get there? How do you un-program this idea that you know things (your limiting beliefs that are limited by you)? How do you move beyond your egoic threshold?

Most people require proof that they don’t know things, or they need proof that other people know more things than they do, and so hold the other person’s beliefs in higher regard than their own. This itself would be a good step in the direction of at least admitting that you don’t know everything, and another person might at least know some things that you don’t.

Another way to do this is to fail miserably. You could try to prove that 2 + 2 = 5 to a bunch of people, only to have them laugh in your face. You could try this multiple times until you actually go to the point to consider that you’ve got it all wrong, and you could try proving that 2 + 2 = 5 to a few other groups of people until it sinks it that you are wrong, totally wrong. If you were wrong about this, what else could you be wrong about?

How do you like them apples? 

meditations on limiting beliefs and the infinite

Being Human After Being Humbled.

After either of these options of finding your path to humility, you are now able to be open to the infinite possibilities that actually exist and are happening around you all the time, beyond the realm of your human comprehension (or at the very least, your ego’s bias). Once you are open to the infinite possibilities, they can just jump out at you, mystically appearing like a magic trick. When was the last time you were in a hurry and had to find your car keys, your phone, or your glasses. You run around the house screaming to yourself, “I can’t believe I can’t find my glasses,” when that itself is the problem – you ARE believing that you can’t find your glasses, you are thinking about that belief, and you are proving that belief to yourself. The irony is, you are probably wearing your glasses, and looking through them to try to find them. I’ve actually run around my house looking for my phone, while talking on the phone I’m looking for, and telling the person on the other end of the line that I can’t find my phone! Now, when was the last time you were NOT in a hurry, and didn’t have any trouble finding your glasses? Odds are, there wasn’t any problem finding your glasses when you could take your time and your body didn’t enter into an adrenaline-crazed survival tornado.

I’m lucky enough to be a mellow person with a general calmness about me. If I would say I had a super power, it would be the ability to stay calm in a storm, and even calm down the energy in the people (and even pets) around me. If you don’t have this innate sense of calm, you might want to hit up some meditation or yoga, and maintain a regular practice (it’s called a practice, not a cure, because you have to do it regularly, best to get in the habit/practice).

Even with this innate calm, I have the limiting belief that if I work at something hard enough, or try enough times, that I can accomplish most things. This again, is my own belief that I can’t find my glasses, even though I’m looking really, really hard for them. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…Or maybe not. 

I’m sure everyone reading this knows someone that hasn’t ever had to tried hard for anything. You probably have a friend or someone you know that constantly has things fall in their lap! Is this dumb luck? Is there such a thing as luck? You have a 50/50 chance of choosing between door number one for $1m, or door number two for a year’s supply of potatoes, right? It’s just the odds you might say (Aren’t odds, odd?). What happens when you stop trying?

Now I’m not saying that you should stop trying. I’m suggesting that if you stop trying your way, you might be surprised that your odds go up (odd right?). This all circles back to the idea that my ideas are limited and referred to in our culture as being short-sighted or narrow-minded, IE: limited. While I might think there is only the 50/50 chance for choosing between door number 1, or door number 2, I might not even realize that door number 3 is sitting wide open right behind me, and there was a brand new Ferrari with $10m cash sitting on the front seat. I couldn’t even see door number 3 because I was so focused on the other 2 doors.

Don’t you want a Ferrari and $10m? Don’t you want things to fall into your lap? All you need to do is stop tying so hard, stop trying to do things your way, and the possibilities are endless.   

Searching for the next big thrill is human. We have a thirst to say “I did this, I beat this.” The great explorers knew this feeling standing on top of giant mountains, knowing they conquered it. Now we look not to conquer but to know how the experience of the adventure changed us. Below are five treks that will nourish your quest for adventure.

One of the best trekking destinations in Morocco is undoubtedly The Toubkal Circuit. Best tackled in the summer, it winds through forests, deep gorges and remote villages. Located 65km south of Marrakesh, Mount Toubkal is the highest point of the High Atlas Mountains at 4,167m. Plan for two weeks to traverse the circuit and an extra few days if you plan to climb Mount Toubkal.

At 17,590 feet, Nepal's Mount Everest Base Camp is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the world. Ancient monasteries, colorful Sherpa villages and Sir Edmund Hillary's Khumjung School are just some of the sites you'll take in. Unsurpassed mountain scenery literally takes your breath away during this two-week adventure.

The Eastern Himalaya is home to one of the most difficult hikes in Bhutan, the infamous Snowman Trek. You must use a tour company, but the payoff is worth it. The small villages, Buddhist monasteries and pristine forests compete with stunning mountain scenery. September and October is prime time to tackle this month-long trip.

Made famous during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s, The Chilkoot Trail is a shorter trek of about 33 miles only requiring 4-5 days. From Dyea, Alaska the historic trail proceeds up and over the scenic mountains through an international border pass into British Columbia.

Peru's Inca Trail is understandably South America's most famous trek, rated by many as one of the top 5 in the world. This 33km Inca trail extends from the Sacred Valley up to Machu Picchu, “The Lost City of the Incas”. Views of high cloud forests and snowy mountains compete with mystical ruins. The 4 day basic trek climbs three high passes and traverses through tunnels and jungles.


Photojournalist William Kaner takes us on a journey of discovery, documenting the annual peyote pilgrimage of the Wixarrica Huichol, and tells of their battle with the mining company that threatens their sacred land.  

I travel often. My job is something in between a documenter of disappearing cultures as well as a travel editor for a men’s magazine in New York. The two aren’t as at odds as you would think. I only found out about the Wirikuta after meeting a Mexican journalist on the coast of Uruguay. He told me of a culture over 7000 years old that uses peyote and makes an incredible, almost unbelievable pilgrimage every year crossing the country of Mexico. The entire time they fast, collect and consume peyote. I found the idea immediately romantic and filled with adventure. To cross the desert and live with an indigenous culture - the only indigenous culture in Mexico to successfully escape the Spanish conquistadors and Catholic conversions. But in the end, Irving Penn and many others have already covered this topic and what does the world need with one more portrait of a native? It is what he told me next that hooked me. The journalist explained that a Canadian mining company had acquired the rights to the lands that the Wirikuta gather peyote in and are going to begin open-pit mining, destroying all the peyote in search of their own sacred object to their culture - silver. What followed was the last thing I needed to hear before I immediately booked my ticket to meet him in Mexico. Nobody had photographed them before.

So here I am. In Mexico driving through Narco lands trying to meet up with the Wirikuta who are in need of help to explain their side of the struggle to keep their lands unharmed. We drive hours out of the way from Narco checkpoints and cities that are known as hot beds for violence. We never drive at night. We are heading 12,000 feet into the Sierra and there isn’t exactly a “road’ that can just get you there.

We often forget that for thousands and thousands of years there were cultures living independently. Each one represents an example of how a community of humans can live. There is no one correct way. As we push the American version of this on the world more and more of these cultures are disappearing. But we are just one example of how to live. And it isn’t right or wrong. Every culture has positive and negative aspects. What I have tried to do here and always am striving for, is to simply document other examples of how communities can live, so if we hit a time when we need to make a dramatic change in our own culture, we have the resources to look back on and see other examples and take what we can to better our own future. 

 

william kaner photographer

About William: Born in a suburb of Seattle, Washington, William Kaner studied print journalism before going to the Middle East to finish his education. Infatuated with the landscape and political climate of the region, Kaner began a long freelance career before abandoning his life in the west to begin an itinerant life. Traveling with little more than the medium and large-format gear he shoots with, he began collecting images of cultures around the world. In 2009 he made New York City his home base and began making music videos as well as documentary and feature films. However, remaining faithful to the still medium of film photography, Kaner joined At Large Magazine as their travel editor and  continues to travel the world shooting foreign cultures.

1 2 3 Next »