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 strengththroughout 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.
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
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….”
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.
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
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?
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?