What Cisneros knows

So much wisdom is packed into A House of My Own, I found myself texting quotes to friends as I read along.

Thank you, Sandra Cisneros.

 I don’t know anything, but I know this: whatever is done with love, in the name of others, without self-gain, whatever is done with the heart on behalf of someone or something, be it a child, animal, vegetable, rock, person, cloud, whatever work we make with complete humility, will always come out beautifully, and something more valuable than fame or money will come. This I know.

 

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, “The Artist’s Studio”

keep catch of the ballad

Grace can lie in a smooth, well-coordinated motion, or in a humble and tolerant attitude. More often than not, the two go hand in hand….Grace has nothing to do with looks or sophistication, and everything to do with compassion and courage.

More from pages dog-eared while reading The Art of Grace:

Grace is an act of transformation, making an ordinary moment extraordinary.

Sarah Kaufman’s statements reminded me of Pablo Neruda, how his poems touch upon aspects of grace. As for many, he was one of the first poets with whom I fell in love.

The fifth stanza of “Sabor,” translated by Ben Belitt and found in Five Decades: Poems 1925-1970, makes you wonder how much is contained in a moment, a thing, a word.

The inner guitar that is I, keeps the catch of a ballad,

spare and sonorous, abiding, immobile,

like a punctual nutriment, like smoke in the air:

force in response, the volatile power in the oil:

an incorruptible bird keeps watch on my head:

an unvarying angel inhabits my sword.

One more from Kaufman,

Think of grace as the artisitic, empathetic side of an embodied language that humans have been speaking through time.

The Art of Grace lists tips for moving well through life. I’ve adapted them for Yoga Stanza:

1. Slow down (as bell hooks advises).
2. Listen to and respect yourself and others (as Bruce Springsteen does).
3. Scoot over. Make room for others (everywhere).
4. Bring ease to others. See them. Help them.
5. Bring ease to yourself. Accept compliments. Love fearlessly.
6. Let go, emotionally and materially. Simplify.
7. Take care of the body with movement.
8. Pay attention (like Joy Williams).
9. Be generous (as Leza Lowitz guides).
10. Enjoy (poems and everything else…in moderation!)

 

Pets: Small World, Big Love

My pets have taught me about kindness. Kindness and its cousin, love.

In graduate studies for psychology, I learned from Professor Michahelles that showing a child that you understand he loves you is as necessary as showing the child he’s loved by you.

I think this is because children, like animals, inherently expect affection to be a colloquy.

They unlearn this expectation through living.  That’s not a bad thing. Experience includes suffering and joy. (Sit with each of the words in your upturned palms and feel how they balance the scale of life.)

Loving is an action; it sets forth a purpose. It gives meaning. Children, and animals, so skillful at engaging with the now, thrive on being received. They need to know we know they love us.

How do we do this? With children, accepting what they have to offer is key. As a school teacher, I was handed dented playing cards, ribbon bits, smudged poems, and other tokens and, wonderfully, hugs and smiles.

The moment something is offered provides a potential for connection.

The mind thinks, “I’m busy. I don’t really want a pencil stub.” The wiser heart, however, pipes up, “How courageous is this child to extend her hand.” Then, aloud, “Thank you.” In a flash it happens. As adults we must be ready to glimpse it, to, as Georgia O’Keeffe urges, see.

We receive the love of animals by honoring their needs for safety, food, play, learning and comfort. By providing for them we acknowledge their single-pointed focus on us, how they wait for us, watch our faces and gestures for cues, acquaint themselves with our language, and make us feel necessary. As Vint Varga writes, animals provide an opportunity to connect with the less intellectualized side of ourselves. That side matters, too.

Isn’t love in this small-big world ultimately about paying attention

My Little Bird this week published my article on how to pay attention to pets, particularly apartment pets. I dedicate it to my roommate, Tucker, the terrier mix, trained in love by our dog friend, Molly, and to Sasha, the first doggie.

 

From My Diary, July 1914

Amid the world’s insistent troubles, and any of your daily own, may you find in July 2015 some moments of beauty, kindness, goodness, love, joy and light.

From My Diary, July 1914

Leaves
Murmuring by myriads in the shimmering trees.
Lives
Wakening with wonder in the Pyrenees.
Birds
Cheerily chirping in the early day.
Bards
Singing of summer scything thro’ the hay.
Bees
Shaking the heavy dews from bloom and frond.
Boys
Bursting the surface of the ebony pond.
Flashes
Of swimmers carving thro’ the sparkling cold.
Fleshes
Gleaming with wetness to the morning gold.
A mead
Bordered about with warbling water brooks.
A maid
Laughing the love-laugh with me; proud of her looks.
The heat
Throbbing between the upland and the peak.
Her heart
Quivering with passion to my pressed cheek.
Braiding
Of floating flames across the mountain brow.
Brooding
Of stillness; and a sighing of the bough.
Stirs
Of leaflets in the gloom; soft petal-showers;
Stars
Expanding with the starr’d nocturnal flowers.

– Wilfred Owen

Interconnection is love

J. Ruth Gendler took the words right out of my mouth. From Notes on the Need for Beauty.

For years I have experimented with the way qualities move through the body, positive and negative. Fear moving through the body becomes terror in the chest, anxiety in the mind, panic in the skin along the calves. Joy moves up the spine and lights up the whole face from within. Harmony in the bones becomes serenity in the heart, radiance in the forehead. Feel the front in front of the back, feel the back in back of the front. Feel the currents and pulses, crosscurrents and spirals, dances of solidity, resistance and fluidity. Trust the needs and hungers of these strong, vulnerable body beings.

What on earth could be more important than knowing our own bodies, recognizing our bodies as part of nature? As we appreciate more fully the gifts of our own lives, we appreciate more deeply the beauty of all the animal and plant life we live among. The exchange of life force every time we eat, we breathe, we converse, we dance, we make love. What could be more beautiful than to know and celebrate the intricacies of interconnection? Every heartbeat massages the lungs; every breath massages the heart.

To whom or what, and how, are you interconnected? Love.

Courage of loving

There is something powerful about allowing one’s heart to be so open that other beings can sense it….Many yoga postures give us the opportunity to release fear from our hearts….When fear exerts its grip, it can be an overpowering force that keeps us closed and therefore separated from the brilliant opportunities to connect that constantly surround us….Fear lives in us as tension, and asana postures are designed to release tension from our bodies. The absence of tension is the absence of fear. And the absence of fear signifies the presence of joy, love, and open-heartedness.

Myths of the Asanas, Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij

Gusty winds may exist

A poem found this week among old notes. Rereading it, reworking it, I remember pulling off the road to jot the initial draft down following a visit to Abiquiu, New Mexico. Great spaces for cloud gazing, letting in and letting go.

(Dear Reader: Always carry a small notebook, in case!)

Gusty Winds May Exist

The way a cloud casts a shadow
over hills of pinon pine calls to mind

times we are apart. Love wants to-
getherness. River sea.

I cannot appease my heart but wait with it.
Love, no love–

fate sits by the ash tree. Clouds drift away
or dissolve: by and by all is light.

– Alexa Mergen

An instrument of connection

Why do we love flowers? Is it because they open fully to what may be?  These r
Why do we love flowers? Is it because they open fully to what may be? These rambunctious roses are part of Sacramento’s late March profusion. Photo by Matt Weiser

“Yoga is not ultimately about wrapping our legs around our neck or arching back into beautiful back bends.  It is about using the body as an instrument to fully realize and stay connected to our own inner joy, love, and compassion. Yoga is about opening our hearts with love and compassion to others who suffer in innumerable ways. Yoga is not about touching our toes. It is about tenderly touching the hearts of the people around us.” – Miriam Austin in Cool Yoga Tricks