The wise and graced selfishness of altruism

- by Daniel Aaron

My friend and fellow astrologer asked me how my book on yoga would be any different than the myriad yoga book smorgasbord out there already. I had an innate feeling of it. Certainly I know that there is much I want to share that is different from what others are saying. It took a moment for the awareness to crystalize. Then:

That’s it, I thought. Indeed that is what I want to share more than anything else. The wise and graced selfishness of altruism.

There’s an intersection near my house. Keep in mind I live in Bali so intersections are funnier than usual places. Aside from being in Bali where the law is already a grey area, this intersection has the challenge that one of the four paths – it’s constellated much like a regular cross – is significantly smaller than the rest. As such, it’s unclear whether it’s opposing (main) artery feeds into it (the smaller road) or onto the main T road.

Here’s a map.

ambenganThat the center of the intersection sprouts a huge, forty meter statue of Arjuna, whose story we’ll return to.

Here’s what happens often: I’m coming from the small road. It happens to have an obstructed view on either side of it, so I can’t really see the intersection, nor the crossing road, until I’m actually entering the intersection. Often enough I am the first one in line. so when the light changes, which we would think signals that it’s my turn to go, and I start into the road, I find that there is still a vehicle (or two, or three) crossing the intersection before I can go.

Sometimes I get annoyed. They are still there because they left from their place after the light had changed. In essence (I know this because I have done it too) they thought to themselves that even though the light changed signaling for them to wait for the next round, they could get away with crossing anyway. In fact, they could. At the expense of me waiting for them.

All that would not be a big deal, of course. And, in fact, is not a big deal. However, what happens then – to me and to a lot of people like me – is that then I end up feeling like I was cheated or am owed. So soon enough I do just what they did. And I feel justified in it. It wouldn’t occur to me, nor is it likely to them, that they are doing anything ‘wrong’ or unfair or even ‘inconsiderate.’


We’re raised into  world of ‘take care of yourself.’ Most of us anyway.
What does this have to do with yoga? More importantly, what does it have to do with you?

Here’s the thing: yoga is a process of recovering our essential self. We get into yoga for various reasons, though we might be able to boil them all down to: “I want to be happy.”

So much of what we learned is “take care of yourself.” One has to go out and get what one wants. We make our own success. Selfishness is rewarded and lauded – in business and beyond.

I love Ani Difranco’s line “The world owes us nothing, we owe each other the world.”

As I write all that I’m suddenly afraid that it will come across as preaching. Or worse as boring dribble. Certainly when I was a kid and my mother suggested to me that I contribute to our household, raking the leaves or washing the dishes was the last thing I wanted to do. Eyes rolled in my head.

“It’s not a one way street,” she said repeatedly. My eyes rolled and rolled. I did as little as I thought I could in order to keep her off my back.

Of course now I know that she was right about it not being a one way street. And I’m sure she’s smiling as I am trying to teach my children the same lesson. I wonder if it’s any different for me than it was for her…

On the one hand she was trying to get me to wash the dishes because it was just fair. It was just her and I in the house. She paid for everything. She bought the food. Indeed it really was about the least I could do. Plus she worked full time and was tired by the end of the day. Geez, the more I recall it the more embarrassed and selfish I feel. I was.

Daniel’s Yoga Book (the beginning)

- by Daniel Aaron

I love words. I love yoga. This leads me to the following words:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”  —W.H. Murray.

The last lines again:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Words always mean something different for different people. And though we always bring our own stories and meaning to words, every writer has the opportunity to contribute something to every reader.

From the age of 8 that quotation was posted near my desk.

I recall it now as i launch into writing a book on yoga. The idea’s been brewing in me for years and the time is finally ripe. I’ve talked about my take on the evolution of yoga, the ways we can make use of it, the possibilities it holds for our lives.

I am committed (no more hesitancy).

I am also hereby enlisting providence to move too in the form of you – readers, yogis, fellow awakeners – to guide me with your feedback, response and questioning. Let me know what makes sense to you and what doesn’t. Even better, let me know what serves you, what makes a difference in your life.

There are, of course, many topics that I already know are important for me to touch upon: vinyasa, ahimsa and satya, work/play, challenge/ease, seriousness/silliness. I’ve got perspective on food and eating, motivation, learning, teaching, ethics and alignment. I love illuminating yoga through modern film and I’m eager to share about the Karate Kid, Hitch, Yes Men and The Green Mile.

While there is much that can be said, in the end words are always inadequate. This is the writer’s ultimate challenge. Yet while the truth can never be said, we persist in the hopes that in the right circumstances, with openness and readiness, with sincerity, humility and a dose of practicality on the part of the speaker, every now and then the truth may be heard.

What’s up? What’s down? What works and what doesn’t? Tell me straight.

I’ll do my best to tell you straight.

I’ll let it roll in any direction at all right now. Let’s see together where it goes. With some luck, and a bit of elbow grease, we’ll have a  book by the end of this year.

Off we go.

Kimiko, the Massage Ninja

As the marketing manager at Radiantly Alive I enjoy the fact that my desk overlooks a beautiful Bali jungle and I get to work barefoot! Not many other marketers in the world can say that. However, like many of us, I have a desk job that requires computer work for long periods of my day, which can sometimes lead to pesky neck pain.

kimiko What to do? Call Kimiko! If you haven’t heard her name already, Kimiko is our resident massage therapist. I’m even hesitant to use that title for her, as she is so much more than someone who massages. In a recent conversation with Kimiko, learned that she never planned to do body work, but from a young age as a child, friends and family quickly identified her innate gift of the healing touch and urged her to take it up as a profession. But Kimiko resisted as she had dreams of traveling the world as a jet-set CEO of a major company. But Kimiko’s gift just wouldn’t let her go and she naturally fell into the profession of healing massage, much to our benefit.

Kimiko is a petite and spunky Japanese woman, often sporting a pair of her signature wildly patterned leggings. Although she dances around like a mosquito, her energy is very calming and grounded. But don’t be fooled by her pint-sized stature and gentle demeanor. There is incredible power hiding beneath the surface, as I would quickly come to discover.

She takes my hand in a most nurturing and inviting way and guides me to the treatment room. Immediately, a look of empathy washes over her face as she can feel the pain plaguing me. I undress and lay down on the table, completely unsure of what to expect. The first thing Kimiko does is carefully hover her hands just above my abdomen. She looks at me with concern and I know why. My stomach has been rumbling for the past few days. She places her hands on my abdomen and gently massages, moving some things around as if rearranging the furniture in a room to allow for a better flow of energy. The rumbling subsides.

Intuitive MassageIt was quickly evident that this was not going to be your typical Bali massage, where they divide your body up into sections and mechanically work their way around until everything has been rubbed down. Kimiko works in a precise and targeted manner, working where she feels needs the most help. Her tiny, yet oh-so-powerful fingers manage to reach right under the skin to grip onto the problematic fascia holding onto my ligaments for dear life. She’s like a ninja that lurks cat-like until ready to strike and is able to attack in such a focused and potent way – quickly and with skill. Oh yes, there is pain. But such sweet, sweet pain that you know will provide incredible relief once the few seconds of discomfort are over. She finds a tendon on my foot that apparently needed quite a bit of attention. Wow. I will never forget the existence of this tendon again.

The ninja goes back to gentleness as she has me turn onto my stomach. I lay there, curious to see what would come next. A beautiful fragrance that smelled of a mix of herbs and grapefruit filled the room. Although I could not see what she was doing, I felt the approaching warmth just before a hot herbal compress was placed along my troubled areas. A most pleasurable release from the heat application was felt by my neck, shoulders and down through my ribs. Kimiko had just prepared these areas of my body for the coup de grace. She goes to work like a surgeon, her tiny fingers going deep in between my ribs and underneath my shoulder blades, pulling apart fascia that had been so tightly bound together that it would take the jaws of life to get them to let go. Or a few sessions with Kimiko. As she worked, I breathe deeply and we find a rhythm of breath and pressure and I work to tolerate as much of this medicine as I can. But Kimiko, with her ninja intuition, senses my limits and knows exactly when to back off and when it was ok to push a little harder. She feels a person and gives only what they need and what they can handle.

And just as the sweet, sweet pain began to become less sweet, her motions transform into a beautifully flowing massage over my skin, erasing any prior discomfort from memory and causing me to melt into the bed. I let out my deepest breath yet, releasing even more tension, stress and anything else that I was holding onto.

The session ends (this part is always so sad) with me on my back and Kimiko cradling my neck with the utmost care as she provides mild traction to create space between my vertebrae. Her ninja fingers move through my hair and kindly massage my scalp, leaving me on the edge of a blissful sleep.

And the ninja silently vanishes from the room, leaving me to slowly return to reality, refreshed and with renewed mobility.

To book a session with Kimiko, schedule at reception or purchase online.

This post was contributed by Claudia Eslahpazir, Marketing Manager at Radiantly Alive