Essays and reportage
Daniel's work seeks to balance critique with creative solutions.
His latest writing investigates yoga and meditation academically. His Master's thesis on the teaching of mindfulness in schools suggested combining it with activist training and critical thinking skills.
Previously, Daniel worked as a foreign correspondent. He was a bureau chief at Reuters, and has reported from Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. He also covered the Balkans for the New York Times, until its war propaganda put him off. He later wrote a book about why he resigned to run a music festival.
As you may be aware, the best-known text about yoga philosophy has little to say about modern yoga. But what if someone told you that Patanjali's sutras weren't even a practice guide, because they only existed to be chanted by priests? This is what happened on a recent course with Michel Angot, the latest charismatic teacher to use the Yoga Sutra to promote other ideas: in his case, the importance of Brahmins and their role in oral transmission of sacred teachings.
Modern yoga seems synonymous with postures, yet very few of them are described in ancient texts. So where did they come from and what are they for? And how does one practice authentically? Try sitting and holding an arm above your head for several decades. That's the essence of original yoga in ascetic traditions. This got combined in the medieval era with esoteric techniques from Tantric sects. Modern styles are a hybrid of exercise, wellness and threads from the distant past...
Mindfulness adapts Buddhist meditation to everyday life. It seems effective at managing depression and anxiety, and is taught in schools to boost resilience and grades. Whilst it can help to share techniques to cope with stress, this limits the scope for transformation. A fixation on self gets reinforced, which serves a brutal market system. However, if mindfulness in schools were to cultivate "moral and civic virtues," as British MPs suggest it should, it could foster compassionate "pro-social" action.
Buddhists have engaged with science since Christian missionaries called them backward. Inspired by Western scholars, who saw in "human Buddhism" a psychology "of incontestable value", 19th century modernisers rebranded Buddhism as a science of the mind. In the latest cross-cultural fusion, Tibetan Buddhist meditators are being studied by scientists in the lab, but scans of their brains have yet to yield major breakthroughs. Insights from practice can't be measured on a screen.
Even 10 years after the invasion of Iraq, few journalists talk about a crime. They might rue the "catastrophe", "horror" and "obscenity" of a war that killed hundreds of thousands of those it was meant to be helping. The timid still passively say "mistakes" were made. They list "failures", "setbacks" and "lessons" for "the West", but not the case to be made against those who launched the war. Instead of challenging people in power, most reporters assist them - and then claim to oppose what turns out badly.
What Barack Obama might have said to deserve the Nobel Prize: we're closing all overseas bases, ending the world's biggest arms trade, and spending the savings on weaning America off fossil fuels. As this censored speech explained: "No longer will we need foreign outposts to protect resources, or the shipping lanes and pipelines that ferry them. We can leave that work to regional powers, and resume our rightful place in our own backyard." If Obama really channeled Martin Luther King, he might have wound up getting shot.