Winter poem

after two cloud-filled weeks, a day of sun
Black Pine Boughs with Snow (barefoot photos)

Life is beautiful. There’s treasure in every moment —treasure you may overlook unless you are aware of the impermanence of everything. Steve Ross

a red tail floats above

then slides into white-crusted firs

beyond field’s glare

something must have moved

just past creaky sumac husks

ribs of two deer lie together in snow

their heads buried beneath a drift

trampled all around by fox       mice

crows      dogs

and me

wind lashes my face raw

it’s so cold everything glitters

Bhakti Yoga, Heart Opening to the Beloved

carolyn and priscilla lasecki kieber

Death reminds me that there is really only one way to live. From the heart of love.

Returned last night from burying Mom in North Carolina. A devoted Catholic, Priscilla Lasecki Kieber embodied the heart of bhakti yoga.

Whether she was sitting on the beach, enjoying the beauty of the rolling oceanic waves, preparing cake for a crowd of company, or volunteering in a community group, I’ve always admired the way she lived beyond the fray of “talk.” From a steady and patient center, she infused her relationships with the steady gift of herself.

Her home was was filled with Madonna icons and crucifixes ~ symbols of the objects of her love. She seemed happiest when she was in church, whether at daily Mass or evening novenas. A blessed string of rosary beads were never far away from her praying hands. If she missed a Sunday service, she was heart-broken. How soon would she return to the abode of her Beloved?

Her devotion to the Divine gave her a steady stream of wisdom and strength throughout her 87 years.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church window, Amherst NY

Friends sent me poems of comfort this morning. Here is a short stanza from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

Only when you drink from the river of

Silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain

Top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your

Limbs, then you shall truly dance.

In death, as in her long life, Mom is surely dancing with her Beloved. It is through taking small steps and opening our hearts, one kind word at a time, and refraining from one little meanness after another, that we can join her in this Blissful Tango.

Mom would have loved this video of Henri Nouwen’s sermon on THE BELOVED.

READ MORE: a lovely blog post on a bhakti workshop by one of my fav German yoginis, Lilylotuswillow:

Yoga Ethics 5, APARIGRAHA, noncovetousness

Form and Meaning Arises (carolyn grady photo)

One who perseveres on the path of noncovetousness gains deep understanding of the meaning of life. (trans. B. Bouanchaud)

I DO pray for aparigraha to blossom in my life like a spiritual flower showering me with the clarity and buoyancy of a saint. This yama, suggests I relinquish that which I hold onto. I need to lessen my grip. It’s a manner of looking at the world, myself, my relationships, and of course, my STUFF.

This late December season which holds my birthday as well as the Christmas potlatch does tend to stoke the fire of WANTING. This wanting always throws me off a bit because I’m usually  contented with life and feel the need to GET RID of stuff in life-simplifying gestures.

As I grow older, less becomes critically important for me to own/do.  The years teach me what I can do without.  When Mike’s grandmother was in her nineties, she used to tell us “less is best.”  The year we lived in a small apartment in Bombay taught the whole family how little we could live on/with—and still have a happy life. It was a blessing that I didn’t always appreciate. After I returned to the States,my life in India took on a special radiance that I slowly realized came from simplicity and a lessening of the grip STUFF has on me. This awareness also grew from a growing sense of the riches present in my life, a sense of overflowing abundance.

Nischala Joy Devi ( The Secret Power of Yoga) discusses Aparigraha in terms of “awareness of abundance, and fulfillment.”  By meditating on abundance, noncovetousness naturally disappears. When practicing lovingkindness or metta meditation, I add abundance to the fourth line of the mantra: May I live in ease and abundance. It’s part of the process of evolving away from my poverty mentality.

A poem from my collection Barefoot & Upside Down:

the crumbling bark café

beneath an overcast sky

I lean against a tamarack

and spy the red-shouldered

hawk’s eyes on me

there is nowhere to hide

from her keen sight

we both keep still and watch and breathe

eventually her mate circles and cries

I feel so big and my body

growing earthen

overhead the clouds fly like planes

two red-breasted nuthatches in a dead jack pine

poke their beaks in decaying wood

it’s lunch at the crumbling bark café

I imbibe the tender wind

the moist air

splash in the ditch singing in overflow mode

wonder if I’ll see the garter snakes this year

a ball of glorious reptilian copulation

surprised me once before

seeking the specials du jour

I find a young sapsucker

tapping holes on a cottonwood bole

a chestnut-sided warbler intently feeding

in the old sap wells where insects

swarm to sugar

and a female oriole

so sophisticated  in yellow and black

explores hole to hole along a horizontal ring

slipping her slit tongue again and again

my belly growls

why do I never have enough?


Bernard Bouanchaud takes us deep into the heart of this Yama: ” When the mind no longer worries about acquiring and keeping goods, we understand where we come from, where we are, and where we are going. We discover the meaning of existence….”

fall dandelion haiku

I am tackling the NANOWRIMO challenge this month, so blog posting has taken a back seat, I am sorry to say to my loyal readers and friends. However, what a great time to begin a haiku-post tradition expanding Laughing Yogini’s Poetry tradition? 

There is a great tradition of linking haiku and meditation, particularly zen practice ~ look for a post on that topic AFTER November. Photo coming to this page soon.

In the meanwhile, I recommend you check out Mahala’s Friday Flowers. How I could ever have the audacity to post any of my flower pics after seeing her incredible PHOTOGRAPHIC  MEDITATIONS is something I may figure out in the next life.



single dandelion

chilly autumn morning breaks

monotonous green



Unstopped poem

from the collection, BAREFOOT & UPSIDE DOWN:

This place spreads

Without intellect,

Or sincerity.

Trees bust boundaries with the sky;

In the valley, wildflowers dangle

Everywhere, simple animals skitter.

Visual harmonies break,

Create a palette of incongruous

And unknown mores.

The sky keeps

Claiming sight as it drifts.

Nothing is still.

Nothing tells me

Anything of truth or untruth.

I have no sense if the clouds are clouds;

If a storm is approaching or departing;

If I’m in the aftermath of a bizarre

Spree of nature or if I am nature

with arms of reaching tree limbs

and shiny dark petals for eyes.

So, this is what I do

I spread my arms

And twirl.

Eyeing clouds, like butterflies, flitting

I collapse on spongy ground

My guts begin to split

And liquid laughter pours

From a cold and rushing spring.


Dangling Sunny Seeds (barefoot photos)

Awakening Saint Carolyn poem

from BAREFOOT & UPSIDE DOWN, poems by carolyn kieber grady:

Awakening Saint Carolyn

Born during a Buffalo snowstorm in ‘54

They still call me their Christmas Carol

On a Jersey estuary I caught crabs in coffee cans and learned how to bail

We wore plaid pleated skirts white blouses blue jackets

and drank wine beneath the front steps of school

The landscape of my childhood still fills me with dreams

When the charismatics sang I am the Resurrection and the Life

I floated somewhere near heaven

Six of us crammed into a rowboat during the flood of Polly’s Pond

and the Shrewsbury River—it was the only way home

On half-days of school I’d organize hitchhiking races and concoct personas

I built playhouses complete with gardens of iris and daisies

While I fed p atients lunch in Bayview Nursing Home the TV droned Watergate

Sometimes I listen to birdsong when I should be reading

During the Cuban Missile crisis I was timed walking home

I skipped school to go to art galleries and hang in Central Park—

Washington Square guitars still strum in my head

I don’t know anyone who died in Viet Nam though rock n’ roll and napalm still twist in my mind

I worried my breasts would burn while nude sunbath ing—when my wallet was stolen— I ran the tolls all the way h ome

Once I almost mistook Dylan Thomas for God

I fell in love with a wise quiet man who taught me patience and who mends my heart

India grew r a mpant as a bittersweet vine in my life while teaching in Mumbai—I can’t shake it off—

During chu rch processions I sang as if I could save the world

I am learning to be unafraid of my visions

I swiped Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason out of my father’s library

and read through the night

For too long I wore his hands around my neck like a necklace

It was the Summer of Love— my eighth grade class trip canceled due to riots

I am phobic of lightning but am usually unafraid of people

We fell in love over peanut butter sandwiches and picking apples

Please don’t ask me to drive— I failed my test seven times

I never went to Woodstock though I learned all of the songs

I skipped school to go to the New York Public Library to research

uses of metaphor in Moby Dick to surprise our English teacher— who had escaped the

draft by teaching in Mater Dei—he called me a wiseacre

They called me “mother” when I held their hands in prayer group after school

I spoke in tongues

I went to every school dance though I grew tired of Springsteen’s band

Being flipped around in the stormy Atlantic I lost my sense of “up” —and never really learned how to surf

I try to answer the cardinals in their own tongue

I practice being upside down and breathing

Three times I ran away from home and was arrested once

As a Child of God undercover in the Pine Barrens my job was to hide the stove—they called me Sherebaya—I cooked what was begged or foraged

There was a riot in the Bergen County Correctional Center—

I wasn’t really sure what to do

I had repeated nightmares of the world ending:

often I saw the drawbridge opening with me dangling off the edge

Sunning on a beach in Maine when the police came —

an APB pictured me “wanted”

Three felonies charged—it was impossible to remain innocent

The man on the moon seemed so very far away

On the morning of my wedding I ran three miles— I don’t run anymore

Dysplasia usually turns cancerous in ten years—so far I’ve had do many surgeries and wonder how much is left for them to cut

In the folk group my favorite song was Glory To God

Like the Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet, I hear voices— this is his form

My patron saint is the healer, Charles Borromeo—there is no Saint Carolyn

Suffering from overexposure on Algonquin Peak, being chased by a rhino in

Nepal, and being held at gunpoint were the scariest times of my life

Sometimes the boundaries fade and I am certain we are the same—

one being with many bodies

I still spend most of my life dreaming

though I am trying to awaken

this very moment.


truth and beauty, are they all I need to know?

Dariel Woltz in Niralamba Sarvangasana

Thinking about how beauty and truth intersect. . . . .It’s a classic. Yoga poses are inherently visually striking when performed well. One of the rewards of teaching yoga is to catch a student in a pose that is BEAUTIFUL for him or her. Sometimes I must just stand back and clap in appreciation.

I’ll inevitably say “Now, THAT’S your pose!”

We all have this capacity for holding truth within us. Yoga teaches us to have a BEAUTIFUL life as well as a TRUTHFUL life.

Please spend some time WATCHING your teachers and your classmates as they practice/perform their poses. Let the BEAUTY and the TRUTH of the asana invade you and imprint upon you like your fav song lyrics. You know — the ones you hear and then can’t get out of your head! Asana can imprint upon you in just that way, if you invite it.

A few years ago, I was creating and conducting workshops on poems influenced by artwork, trying to inspire folks to marry the two fields in unusual and insightful ways. There are many poems now that use artwork as inspiration or that include their words in visual representations. There are entire collections wherein poets have used the visual arts for their MUSE just as there have been art shows focusing on WORD ART.

Here’s a poem I wrote a couple of years ago on the subject of truth and beauty. Thinking about Keat, of course — and please do listen to his poem read out loud using the link below my poem.


The sun rises

Every breath breathes

The heart drums

Legs lengthen

Eyes shudder

Truth is a bed in crumpled linen

A pillow limp from cranial weight

An open book flat upon the floor—

another page unread

Light flicks through dust motes and glistens

A cloud undulates in the bathroom

The towel damp on the rack

A night of nothingness dissolves

On the floor forgotten pajamas

Naked the day opens

Beauty is a bowl spoon and cup

ready on the wooden table

A coffeepot humming its routine

The mouth moistens

while sunshine pours

its sweet sauce through the shades


Do spend a meditative moment or two listening to a Fabulous rendition of Keat’s classic, Ode on a Grecian Urn. You won’t be sorry, promise!


I’m still trying to figure out ways to make these blog awards meaningful to you, my readers. I will gladly entertain your thoughts on the subject. In the meanwhile, I’m following BlissChick’s lead – using them as a chance to highlight some of the blogs I’ve been reading and enjoying lately. These particular blogs have a BEAUTIFUL look to them as well as content-rich posts.

CULINARY BAZAAR – makes food look so good, my belly starts to growl just reading the recipes

YOGA, the MIND and CULTURE – a sister on the yoga journey with artwork that really highlights her posts and makes them even more arresting

CHANGETHERAPY – a blogger who covers a lot of territory on her blog and I find her posts enriching as well as beautiful beyond the surface. Hint: Take a peek at some of her Wordless Wednesday posts; I love them.

YOGA for CYNICS – an outrageous attitude that is uplifting without trying, or even wanting to be – has a knack for beautiful images too though I think he collects them from around the web

BUDDAOFHOLLYWOOD – a tender one with a flair for creating zen stories just when you need them!

Do you think that Truth is beauty and Beauty is Truth…do you think that THAT is all you need to know?

Breath poem

Wilmington NC Foxglove (carolyn)

every single breath

moist inside

and without time

every single part of every breath

musky the inhalation,

a pause

where is my mind?

the exhalation egregious

sultry or smooth, silken or salty,

another pause – maybe – or not




who taught me to breathe?

this in breath comes faster,

no pause

sighing out breath

was there a first breath?

releasing all that’s past, begin breathing out,

whose heart feels or weeps?

fresh and fecund, begin to breathe in,

where does breath arise?

does wind return?


I have no memory of breathing

what is this air?

this needlesharp inbreath,

this outbreath clogging my throat –

who is breathing?

curled mushroom -cape carteret NC (carolyn)

Practicing Gratitude, Head Balance

HURRICANE IKE hit and the gang in Houston remains without power. Dinners have become very interesting. And the nights are long. A great time for meditation! By the way, Laughing Yogini’s server is wrapped in plastic in a bathroom until power returns. If you have left a comment, it won’t be approved until nutopia is back on line. Try re-submitting to the yogini at laughingyogini dot com and I’ll see what I can do from here. Lots of lovingkindness meditations going out to those whose lives have been shattered by the storm.

We all have an opportunity to practice gratitude – name 5 aspects of your life that you are grateful for. Can be anything …here are a couple of mine: the smell of my shampoo, the delicious cup of coffee I enjoyed this morning, the sweetness of the breeze upon the skin of my face, being able to tie my shoes, a very cool student who smiled at me this morning. Do this every day, either in meditation or in your journal, and the practice will go far towards alleviating sadness and depression – those “I feel so sorry for myself” moments that come upon us even in the best of times.

chair head balance

My own many years-long struggle with head balance surfaced in a dream. Yogis need to constantly work against the inevitable frustration that comes from self-imposed goals and standards. I work at letting the frustration become the guru! Sitting in my heart, the frustration offers a lesson of acceptance, very tangibly. Surrendering into self-acceptance, my asana begins to take off. And if it doesn’t soar in a way that LOOKS better, it most certainly FEELS better, enabling access to the particular energy flow of the asana.


Dream of a Perfect Head Balance

In the screened sunroom of this dream,

your long white hair and fierce sapphire eyes

shone like far-away stars. I was teaching you

how to stand on your head—

separation from your wife had left you

a quagmire of guilt, a swamp of suffering.

Night surrounded the room as it usually does

in my dreams, but we worked in a circle of light.

Kneeling in the middle of the reed rug

I explained how to press your ulnar points,

how to lift through the shoulders, how to reach

through the balls of the toes.

Though I have yet to do this in my life,

I demonstrated a perfect sirsasana

without any wall for support.

You nodded, attentive to every detail.

I assured you regular practice of head balance

would discipline your mind, broaden your spirit,

and warned heart trouble was a contraindication.


Then there are those poses that, well, you really can barely make an attempt. For me, those are the arm balances. I set up my props, and psyche myself by visualizing myself in the pose, and blam…the lift-off does not happen. At that point, it’s either a flop into frustration OR I can choose to enjoy the ride. In this case, the ride doesn’t go very far, but hey, it was fun falling on my face a few times. Afterwards, as I curl into Child Pose, the seeds of gratitude for even being able to attempt such the inversion, germinate, filling me with light. Laughing at how silly I must have looked trying fuels the spirit of exploration that’s so important for a healthy yoga practice. It breaks the chains of competition in class too because every student is trying to challenge individual, personal edges.

How do you deal with frustration in your daily practice or in group classes? Do your frustrations surface in your dreams? Have you written about them?

Have you found any satisfaction from practicing gratitude?

How does this relate to contentment …to peace…to compassion…in your life?