You Are Like the Sun

You are like the sun and I am a sleeper;

Your light pours into my life

no matter what I am dreaming, and

day after day, in such a reliable way,

you dispel the darkness.

Your light doesn’t say, “Look at me!”

But makes it possible for me to see

what’s all around me:

beauty and decay are not opposite forces

or something to either be sought after or shielded from;

but like the sun who makes all things visible

you show me what it is like to be awake.

Two Snakes, Two Dogs

Getting onto the floor to lie on my belly is difficult after ten years of anger towards yoga and a knee replacement. But I am not angry anymore and I want to bring yoga back into my life.

To be clear, though, even though I stopped doing Hatha Yoga because I was angry (and I was angry because I had practiced since the age of twelve and then still got sick with an autoimmune disease) I never gave up chanting and one form of meditation or another.

It’s time to roll out the mat again. My ten plus year old rage against the machine is over. But my poor body has been put through hell.

Tons and tons of medications, surgeries and an eating disorder have left me less than nimble.

A yoga teacher once said that what we gain in yoga we never lose. She said we may have to pull the benefits out of the closet and brush them off if we stop using them, but they never go away, not the core value of each pose anyway.

So I have committed to start a routine because that is what I miss the most about yoga. I miss getting up every morning and rolling out my mat which I call the Field of Kuru after the place where Arjuna stood, perplexed by the prospect of battle and then enlightened by his charioteer, Krishna. Every morning I stood in mountain pose to begin the series of poses and worked my through no matter what.

I’m ready to stand on the mat again, but not ready for battle. I don’t have to be so arduous for the Great Bright Light to shine; I just need to show up.

Satichananda said that it is better to read one book on yoga and really understand it than it is to read volumes and not absorb the message. I think the same goes for poses.

I get skittish when I think about doing every pose I used to do in one session, so skittish, in fact, that I won’t even begin, I won’t even try.

So I had a conversation with myself and agreed to do two cobra poses and two down-dog poses. One dog for getting to the floor and one dog to get off the floor to move on and two snakes in between to feel the charge in the core of my being. I am motivated by my muscle memory of how good it felt to stretch and how easy it was to hold poses after I got the hang of them. I am approaching the mat with a totally different attitude. Instead of feeling like I have to fight for or earn the light, I am just eager to be there in the stillness. I don’t have to claim victory of light over darkness; I only need to appreciate the divine light that is already shining, right in the middle of all the muck. I don’t want to accrue light for myself, because my self sort of dissolves as I enter into the light.

I have all the resolve I need today, but tomorrow is another day and there is no guarantee that I will do what I want or what I think I want right now.

What if I do not set a goal? What if instead I invite myself to remember this feeling that I have right now, this overwhelming love for that which I seek in all this seeking for enlightenment. What if I exercise my ability to trust that love is already present and trust that love will lead me to do whatever I need to do. What if I simply hold this good intention in my heart as I inhale and exhale and trust that even if I can’t control everything that happens, including whether or not my body is healthy enough to do an asana practice, I can still breathe and be aware of the moment in the moment, no matter what the moment looks like.

The Beginning

There are 108 beads on one string, a handmade mala that I use for prayer and meditation. It is not made in the traditional way with the big bead and tassel to mark the beginning and end; it is just a string of jasper beads. The only way I can tell if I am at the beginning or end is to feel the rough spot where the string is tied together. No matter how I try to cut and tie the ends together there is always a little rough spot.

When I start to chant, I start at the rough spot and when I get around to it again I know it’s time to stop. In between I can explore the mantra, get to know it, get lost in it or find myself at a new understanding of some aspect of my life.

Today I was aware of the rough spot and realized that very often when I am at a rough spot in my life I am either beginning or ending something. Somehow, just knowing that makes it seem less dramatic.

When I begin my meditation I know I am beginning and I know how difficult it can be to make myself sit still; the rough spot on the mala helps me shake off distractions and focus. The next time I feel the familiar roughness it is a welcomed event; it means I am finished for now and I can assimilate what has just transpired.

I wonder if I can look at the flow of living in the same way. I wonder if when I experience hardship I can ask myself what is it that is beginning or what has come to an end.

When I pick up my mala I feel a reverence for the meditation that follows and when I put it down I know that I will eventually come back to it, again and again and that every time I pray and meditate I am changed in subtle but significant ways.

I want to try to remember this while I am living day to day so that when I get to the rough spots I can stop and honor what is just beginning and what has come full cycle. Maybe then I can be more appreciative of all that comes between the beginning and end; I can grasp that the part of me that is aware of the changes is also the part of me that is beyond beginnings and impervious to the end of a cycle, the part of me that simply knows that I am curiously alive and ready to grow. Maybe then I can be the instrument that sings I AM whether I am in the flow or at a rough spot, that I am more that the cyclical rhythm of change. I am the one who holds the beads.

Connect Me

I had to go offline for a few weeks, not because I was fasting or anything noble. I just moved and it took an expanse of time to get connected again.

Also, I moved to a place where the trees talk to one another throughout the day and into the night. Sometimes they speak with so much heart that is scares me a little; there is a palpable level of quiet in this neighborhood that feels like something I enter into to as I would walk into another world with a different set of rules for how to behave. The quiet welcomes me and it has become something that I respect, something that protects and nurtures me. I wouldn’t dare disturb the peace, not if I can help it.

I missed being online and connecting with the friends I’ve made all over the world. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to give up the search engines that enable me to explore both micro and macro worlds of infinitely curious phenomenon. But I pray that I spend time every single day listening to the trees and I hope they’ll know how much I love them. I hope that when I communicate with friends, they will hear what I hear and fall in love with wherever they are.

– Robin Wall Kimmerer said it better than I can when she wrote about coming back to our true nature in Braiding Sweetgrass. She said:

“I come here to listen, to nestle in the curve of the roots in a soft hollow of pine needles, to lean my bones against the column of white pine, to turn off the voices in my head until I can hear the voices outside it: the shhh of wind in needles, water trickling over rock, nuthatch tapping, chipmunks digging, beechnut falling, mosquito in my ear and something more–something that is not me, for which we have no language, the wordless being of others in which we are never alone. After the drumbeat of my mother’s heart, this was my first language.”