Vrksasana + Cid Corman

Attempting steadiness invites exploration of, as the poet writes, “what this is.” Each of us always amidst waverings, grand and minute.

The stars are there not

to remind us but to let

us know what this is.

 

There is no end and

never was a beginning—so

here we are—amidst.

 

Nothing ends with you—

every leaf on the ground

remembering root.

 

Cid Corman

Note: previously published in Finding the Way Home (White Pine Press, 2010);  permission of Dennis Maloney

Pair with: vrksasana

Speak: The poem is three sentences. Look for the phrasing within the lines and the sentences. Also, what about those dashes? What do the dashes hold?

Consider: Is it possible to live day-to-day smoothing the ragged edges of beginnings and endings?

Poetry + Yoga = ?

The best part about teaching is learning. Though a workshop may have the same title in Davis, Sacramento or Scottsdale, the experience is as unique as the gathering of people. Who comes shapes what happens.

As my students walked the meeting room last Friday exchanging with each other the Day Poems that they had just written, I saw an invisible web forming strand-by-strand across the circle. Noticing, engaging, creating and speaking link each participant to immediate experience of the natural world, one another and an historical juncture.  I realized making and sharing poems is one way of being an emotional creature in a technological society.

 

Yoga is another way. Creative asana, moving as you feel moved, reminds us of physicality. That we are creatures. Poems allow us to communicate with others the emotions that arise. Two qualities used to distinguish a “pet” from an “animal” are that the creature is brought into the house and is named. Movement seems to set emotions in motion. Recognizing an emotion, which happens through the general practice of paying attention, we can invite it into the house of our notebooks, name it and tame it, whether it be sadness, joy and anything in between.

Poetry + Yoga = Emotional Creature.

Day Poem Rhythm

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
– from The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Healing Garden of fruit, fountains and aromatic herbs at Scottsdale’s Franciscan Renewal Center has a sturdy swing. Walking, then swinging within hours of boarding a plane, riding in it and landing in a new geography proved a way to acclimate. I’m here to share Day Poems at a gathering of poets, teachers, artists, therapists, and the generally curious. One of my students equated a Day Poem to a window with which to frame the world. Looking out this metaphorical window each day aligns us with the rhythm of the natural world, the sociopolitical world and our internal tides. It’s about the practice of noticing and engaging.
Swinging in Arizona, I remembered another swing in Oregon, where a Day Poem occurred.

The wind in the trees, the sea, the birds

Listen. Try to hear not only the exhausting racket of the city round you but more subtle sounds – the wind in the trees, the sea, the birds….If you cannot get to the country or the beach, go to a park where there is something to be heard other than traffic and loud voices. Best of all try, however difficult, to go occasionally to some place where you can be alone and listen to silence, for real silence is not just the negative absence of sounds; it is a living, positive entity; and in learning to listen to and love this living silence you may presently begin to hear something of your own essential self.

– from “Yoga Over Forty”, by Nancy Phelan and Michael Volin

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Calif. Photo by Matt Weiser.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Calif. Photo by Matt Weiser.

Julia Vinograd

Happiness

Happiness always feels like a mistake.

It rarely happens when planned for.

On “happy occasions” everyone’s too nervous

and too sure something will go wrong.

A burp. A cough. A blown tire.

Birthdays. Even weddings can’t be enjoyed

until they’re over. Happiness is more

like going thru the morning’s bills

and finding a draft notice to the war in heaven

and a box with a pair of wings inside.

The whole thing disappears at a touch,

it was a wrong address

but those alien feathers felt so warm.

You look at your hand

not even aware you’re smiling.

Or the way the light falls sometimes

till you’re afraid someone will come

take away your eyes,

you’re not supposed to see this.

Or singing loudly off key, half crying

and totally drunk in a bar

loving everyone for about a minute and a half.

There’s a fight later in an attempt to prove

you’re still human when the happiness is gone.

It only works as a distraction.

Winning and love and money are very good

but they’re part of our world

and we can claim to understand them.

Happiness is dust

left over from the original creation,

dancing dust unchanged by time.

It blows in our faces for no reason

and for no reason, blows away.

 

Julia Vinograd

 

Note: Poem previously published in Lonely Machines (Zeitgeist Press, 1992); used by permission of the poet

Pair with: smiling

Speak: Notice the poet’s tone. How would you describe it?

Consider: Where and when has the “dancing dust” of happiness surprised you?

 

Earth Day Asana

We have spring clouds in Sacramento today. The breeze is fresh and cool.

The oak cast enough shade to make pulling weeds from the pebble patio in the backyard gratifying, a time for cogitation. A trip with the weed-filled pail to the green waste bin turned into a stretch break, then an impromptu asana practice. Barefoot on the rocks, I followed my body into standing poses: mountain, downward facing dog, warrior II, reverse warrior, extended side angle, pyramid, triangle, and a gentle standing backbend face-up to blue sky. My bare feet awakened to the uneven surface. When soles and toes protested in discomfort, I shifted a bit until flesh found ease on stone. Some forward bends, a wide-legged forward bend. Then down to the dust for reclining big-toe pose and a lazy bent-knee twist. The learned structures of the named poses became mere outlines to inspire what may. A seated forward bend on uneven surface held surprises.

Reclined bound-angle pose turned into a cloud meditation. Overhead, a grayish white mass resembled a giant jellyfish. As it drifted in the ocean of sky I breathed along with its slow rhythm. It’s a lovely feeling to be sandwiched between welkin and land, inhaling into the front body the light of April afternoon, exhaling to pull the earth’s steadiness through the back body. The flash of every passing bird sparkles like joy and their songs speak gratitude.

Informal movement in the present moment beside flowers being bent by wind. A celebration of being alive.

Two favorite cloud poems: Rossetti’s and Wordsworth’s.

Upavistha Konasana + Jeanine Stevens

The courage to prolong the moment that may be required in Upavistha Konasana can be found by accepting the energy from the ground and all around. As the poet does, opening her eyes wide to seeing.

 

Moonshadow

 

Shadows sink this evening

into pearl white hydrangeas.

Fern’s spiny clumps

poke pinpoints at the sky,

ivory cosmos melds

into the red brick wall

where purple fig hugs coolness.

A well-known peace contents me.

 

I open all the windows,

climb the stairs

to my attic room,

stand in the whitish gleam,

lean against the clipped ceiling,

then step onto the wooden deck

face the still lawn and garden below.

Evening dew saturates

curling maple leaves.

Everything inspires me!

 

The milky way unzips itself,

flashes like a silvery

fish-scale vortex—

vertigo—I steady my hand

on the railing, wet mushrooms

break the earth, release

a meaty odor. I remember

the words I wrote last night, but keep

my pen still. I want to prolong

this much darkness, a chance

placement, melding moon shadows,

and the crisp outline of stars

I may never see

quite this way again.

 

– Jeanine Stevens

Note: Poem previously published in Eclipse (Rattlesnake Press, 2008); used by permission of the poet

Pair with: Upavistha Konasana

Speak: Notice the speaker’s conviction conveyed through the steadiness of the lines.

Consider: When do you choose to “keep [your] pen still” and not speak or write, purely notice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sukhasana + Lalla

 

 

Where did I come from, and how?

Where am I going?

Will I know the road?

 

This life is empty breath.

If I can hear one clear truth,

I’ll be fortunate.

 

– Lalla, translated by Coleman Barks

Note: Poem previously published in Naked Song (Maypop, 1992); used by permission of  Coleman Barks

Speak: Notice how the questions stack one upon another and then…space with a stanza break before the statements begin.

Consider: What truths are you fortunate to know?

Companion Poem

Everyone needs at least one companion poem. This poem functions like a good friend, letting you feel whatever you’re feeling. Several times a year, I turn to Ernesto Trejo’s Today I’ll Sit Still.

The poem can be found in What Have You Lost? edited by Naomi Shihab Nye.  (Some choose Shihab Nye’s Kindness as a companion poem. Some reread When You are Old by William Butler Yeats. There are myriad poems waiting to be taken to heart.)