Fascination

What happens when we invite the body and heart to join our heads in the making of a poem?

Diane Bader, a student in Meditation, Movement and Verse, began “Fascination” in class on September 19. These are the steps we followed that morning.

  • Seated in chairs, we started with a simple meditation
  • We brought  awareness to the breath’s movement in the body
  • We released holding in the upper back and chest to make space in the heart center
  • We read Grace Paley’s Autumn and discussed the poem’s two parts
  • We responded to the prompt: Write about a tree while holding a memory in mind. Repeat and extend the poem.
  • Share. (The best part!)
  • Savasana (The next best part!)
  • At home, revise with attention to using the space on the page and providing a meaningful title

Fascination

Outside, the maple

has become a

variegated symbol

of autumn.

I invite its

brilliant tangerine,

vermilion, emerald,

saffron-colored leaves

  into my heart.

 

Wind rustles,

 rattles the leaves.

Paper-thin, they

  begin their cascade

        down to earth.

Outside, the maple

 has become a

  variegated symbol

of autumn.

I invite its

brilliant tangerine,

vermilion, emerald,

  saffron-colored leaves

 into my heart.

Wind rustles,

rattles the leaves.

  Paper-thin, they

begin their cascade

  down to earth.

One morning

  I am amazed

    as naked umber

      branches sparkle – –

blanketed in

  hoarfrost.

I make a dash

  for my camera,

    endeavor to capture

this ephemeral

  moment.

– Diane Bader, September 30, 2014

Note: Poem used with permission of the poet.

Only love for all

 

“Violence is lack of love–without enmity no act of violence can occur. Only love can unite society and make it cohesive. A Yogi has no hatred in the heart, but only love for all. Violence is the outcome of fear, selfishness, anger, and lack of confidence. Non-violence is respect for others; it is a state of mind.” – Geeta Iyengar

Ambient sound meditation

Here’s an ambient sound meditation (about 7 minutes) based on instructions in The Practice of Nada Yoga by Baird Hersey. While camping recently, the meditation helped me transition to being outside in nature, clearing my ears and brain of the jangles of urban life and whoosh of high highway speeds so I could settle into sounds of a quieter place, into the pace of a breathing body.

One possibility is to try the meditation right now, becoming familiar with it to try again another time, perhaps in an open space. Please enjoy.

Meditation, Movement and Verse Tomorrow

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree

Yeats’s poem takes us to a bee-loud glade in a few lyric lines. It also takes us within, within the moment of reading, to “the deep heart’s core.” In Sacramento or nearby? Join me at Meditation, Movement and Verse Friday morning  and feel your way into the poem through breath and movement. Then write a poem of your own.

All levels. Bring a journal and pen as well as your curiosity, mind and heart.

 

The human connection

The emotional connection for yoga service is the human connection. Sharing yoga is another way of saying “I love you” to total strangers. We’re using our bodies to find that common ground and language of love, and nothing is lost in translation.

Photo by Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan.
Photo by Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan.

I hear “I love you back” with every breath I’ve shared with these students. So by the end of class, something is different. We’re no longer strangers. We see that despite any differences, we’re just the same. We’re all just one decision, or just one situation from being one another.

– Jasmine Chehrazi,  founder of the Yoga District collective and Yoga Activist

 

Day Poems workshop this Saturday 9/27

This Saturday, Day Poems: The Art of Noticing at American River Conservancy in Coloma, California.

Learn how to:

  • write poems as tools of observation
  • connect  with the immediate world
  • inhabit the moment
  • integrate the socio-political with the personal
  • develop a poetry practice

Register here. Hope to see you there.

Small group; good conversation.

 

Beyond the mat’s parameters

War’s on my mind. I’ve been reading the newspapers this weekend.

Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” has also been on my mind. The poem contains the essence of what it means to hold simultaneously the awareness that the world is full of both suffering and beauty. This ability to hold contradiction fuels poets and fires up yogis.

Since it includes elements of despair, I deliberated over reciting Dover Beach to my yoga students. When sharing poems I tend  toward themes of possibility like Rita Dove’s Geometry, or humor like Auden’s The More Loving One, or awareness like Joy Harjo’s Perhaps the World End Here. “Dover Beach” wouldn’t quit, though, accompanying me on my walk to teach at the studio. When class started, I pushed thoughts of the poem down like a floating ball into water and spoke instead of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, how he seeks clarity within the chaos of battle in order to choose a reasoned course of action. 

For the next 80 minutes, we sat with the stream of our breath, explored how the arms create outlines of the shapes our bodies make, built up heat with the flow of modified sun salutations. I asked them to approach half-moon pose as a moving breath meditation, descending down and out into the unknown as the forward arm finds the waiting ground, with a long exhalation and the pause that follows. Tadasana served as a neutral place where we could rest into the tides of breathing.

As a student, I relish savasana. As a teacher, I do, too. It’s a privilege to gaze at students resting into the ground who have trustingly entered into a composition of poses they could not have predicted, stepping again and again into the unknown. The twitches and quivers of their settling bodies are like contented shivers of horses alive in the sun.

Photo By Joan Cristescu
Photo By Joan Cristescu

The practice of asana is just that–practice. By challenging ourselves physically and mentally within the parameters of  a rubber mat we learn to accept limitations and tease possibilities. Knowing ourselves, accepting our bodies and emotions does strengthen us. And then? The Yoga is taking what we discover inside the studio out into the world. Meeting unpredictability and the discomfort–as well as joy–of real life  with as much integrity and grace as we can muster. In the end, I shared the poem, including its final stanza,

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 

followed by a wish for peace, within and without. It’s not enough to practice yoga to feel good, we have to energetically share goodness–however that’s defined by the individual (hope? love? charity? kindness? patience?)  in any way we can.

Wait and communicate

Leaving the dog park with Tucker the other morning, a woman who was entering held the gate open for me. Tucker was unleashed and I told him, “Wait” so I could clip the leash to his collar.

The woman looked at her dog, my dog then me and said, “They don’t know that word do they?”

I replied, “He does.” And he does.

When Tucker came to us from the shelter four years ago he was quite confused about how to cooperate with urban family life. He ran away, slipping through the fence or out the door, touring the streets (so neighbors reported!). Of course I took off after him each time futilely calling, “Tucker! Tucker!” as I pursued him barefoot, in pajamas, whatever state his escapade found me.

One memorable day he sat by the fence in a calmer mood and waited for me to leash him. Thus began the instruction of the “Wait” command. It’s the word he knows best and it has saved his doggie skin from conflicts with cars, people and other animals. It also makes him a pleasure to bring on a leash-free trail. He stops in his tracks with “Wait.”

I just had to learn a command that made sense to him and label it with the right word. Isn’t that the essence of communication–finding that field to meet on, as Rumi says, “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing”?

Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927) believes music will one day be the primary and purest form of communication.

As a poet, yoga teacher and animal friend, I place my faith in metaphor and gesture. I agree with the mystic, though, that:

“What one begins to realize as the first experience of one’s spiritual development is that one begins to feel in communication with living beings, not only with human beings, but with animals, with birds, with trees, with plants. It is not an old tale that the saints used to speak with the trees and plants. You can speak with them today if you are in communication. It was not only the ancient times that were blessed; the blessing which was of old is there today….No privilege was ever limited to a period of the world’s history. Man has the same privilege today, if he will realize that he is privileged. When he himself closes his heart, when he allows himself to be covered by the life within and without, no doubt he becomes exclusive, no doubt he becomes cut away from this whole manifestation which is one whole and is not divided. It is man himself who divides himself; if not, life is undivided, indivisible.