Sunday, November 20, 2011

dreams caught (5)

you’re with me, but i don’t know you
i should
and i want to
but i can’t place your name or your face
i don’t recognize your smile or the sound of your voice
but the outline of you i know
the essence of who you are
and what you might represent
these i know
i have lived in this dream before
this dream of you and i talking
speaking of familiar and mundane things
as if you are a part of my everyday 
and i am your most trusted companion
but even as i manage to keep 
up my end of the conversation
i am really only thinking about,
who you are
and why you are here
and where you will go when i awake

Friday, November 11, 2011

the other direction

When the fearless step comes calling
You’ll be ready if you listen
To the voice heard in prayer
To a steady invitation
And though times may be hard
And the week behind was painful
He won't ask us to shoulder
A weight too much to carry
I don’t believe in God. Not in the man-in-the-sky kind of way. I don’t believe in one magnificent power who creates and destroys, who determines our fate, judges our rights and wrongs.  It's the practical side of me (which is most of me, actually) that just can't see any one being, no matter how omniscient and supernatural, being able to effectively manage that many people. It's just too big a task.
What I do believe is that there are forces beyond our capacity to understand; we, as a collective human race, haven’t the brain capability yet.  Perhaps those forces reside within us (as the Buddha taught) or perhaps those forces come in various forms (as with Hinduism). Maybe the Native Americans and Wiccans have it right; God exists in nature itself. I can't prove any of it right or wrong, and, after many years of questioning, I've decided not to care about that anymore.  I've reached an agreement with myself to let whatever exists exist. All I'm committing to is the possibility.
I was introduced to spirituality through yoga, which, incidentally I tried begrudgingly simply because of the rumored spirituality. I wanted no part of it. But, as with most things important to the Self, I ended up having no choice. I went because I wanted the exercise, I kept going because I felt something I had never felt before.
Very soon after my first yoga class, I found myself telling the teacher how much I felt myself changing. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. Very soon after that, I found myself in more intense yoga classes, learning about the Buddha’s teachings and studying mindfulness. And again, I was struck with disbelief at the thoughts in my mind and the words in my mouth. Very soon after that, I found myself in a yoga teacher training. And then another. And now I find myself singing to Krishna and Ganesha everyday, wishing I had learned better how to pray, and wondering if I need to know more fully who or what I should pray to.
I sing to Krishna because I find him inspiring. You could say I kind of have a crush on him. He is wise and patient and honest. In the story of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna lets Arjuna, the troubled warrior he is conversing with, make his own decisions, come to his own conclusions. He simply illuminates the choices, so we can find our own way. Much like Jesus, Krishna offered his own love for God as proof of God’s existence. He, himself, was committed and he offered this commitment as an opportunity for others.  
I sing to Ganesha because he is the remover, and sometimes placer, of obstacles.  His job is to clear the road for us. Or, if the road is the wrong one, he might throw something in the way so we can no longer travel down it. He forces us to stop, re-evaluate, and turn around. Whether or not Ganesha or Krishna exist is not something I care to decide. I merely appreciate the possibility.
Recently, I find myself wondering things like, Why can’t I just catch a break? or When will it be my turn? or How much weight can even the strongest of people carry before it causes lasting injury? I have been wondering if Ganesha is responsible for the newest of my struggles. And, if he is, what is he trying to tell me?  Don’t mistake- I’m not a yogi who is grateful for suffering because it allows for practice. I’m tired from that and am ready to practice in joy. I’m trying to listen, trying to find truth, but, if I am to be truthful, I am quite frustrated with Ganesha’s meddling.  
So, what do we do when the road that seems obstacle free is not the road we want to be on? What do we do when, in our heart, we know we want to be on a different road, but each attempt leaves us derailed in more bold and more obvious ways?
I want so much to be free to exist on the present road, surrender to the obstacles, honor the value of the other direction. But it's hard. This road is not what I dreamed for myself. It's not how I thought my life would be. It’s not what my heart craves. 
It makes me wonder: perhaps the weight that feels too much to carry, is not from the obstacles, but from the fight, my fight, to be on the road I want to be on, instead of the road on which I'm meant to be.

acf 11/2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

a collection

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a book of short teachings (sutra means thread) that, when read together, provide the way of practice for a yogi. I was once told that the Sutras were written for the yogi in ancient times (approx. 2000 years ago) who left society to live and meditate and reach liberation (ending the cycle of rebirth). Today, it is studied even by those of us who want to live in society, but are looking for more meaning in our yoga practice. Some of the sutras are tangible and apply to everyday life, kind of like the Christian Ten Commandments, and some are really wacky and exciting (like attaining the strength of elephants, levitating, or becoming invisible). Book 1, Sutra 14 is one of my favorite and I think everyone, no matter what your "practice" is (prayer, running, painting, taking long walks, loving your family), can relate to. It says: 

 Practice becomes firmly grounded
 when well attended to for a long time,
 without break 
and in all earnestness.  
In one translation of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the translator and commentator, Sri Swami Satchidananda, tells a story from Hindu scriptures. 
There was this great maharishi named Narada, who traveled around to see how earth bound yogi’s were doing. As he was on his way to Heaven for a visit to Lord Shiva, he came across a yoga student who had been meditating for so long, ants had built an anthill around him. 
The Yogi asked Narada where he was going. When Narada told him he was on his way to Heaven to visit Lord Shiva, the Yogi asked him to inquire about how many more lifetimes he would have to spend meditating before becoming liberated. Narada agreed to do this. 
Next, Narada saw another man. This man was not meditating; he was dancing and singing to Krishna with pure joy. He, too, asked Narada to inquire about how many more lifetimes he would have to sing and dance for Krishna before reaching liberation. Narada agreed to do this, also. 
Many years passed before Narada returned. He found the meditating Yogi first and told him Shiva’s reply. Shiva said the Yogi must take four more births before liberation. The Yogi was exasperated! “FOUR MORE”, he exclaimed! “Haven’t I waited long enough?!”
Next, Narada found the singing and dancing man. He told him that Shiva gave him a reply. 
“Do you see that tree there? Can you count the leaves on it?”
“Sure”, said the man. “I have the patience to do that. Shall I do it right away?”
“No”, Narada replied. “Take your time. Lord Shiva said you will have as many births as the number of leaves on that tree”. 
“Oh!”, said the man. “Is that all?! One tree? At least he didn’t say the whole forest!”
Just then, a messenger from Shiva came. Shiva was ready for the man now. 
“You were ready and willing to wait and work and take many more births. If you are ready and willing to do that, why should you have to wait?”
I want to think that Satchidananda tells this story to tell us that, instead of sitting around meditating all the time, we should sing and dance all the time to reach liberation faster.  (This would be SO much more fun!)  But I know this is not what he means. I know he means to tell us that if we are willing to be dedicated and committed to our practice, any practice, we can attain what we desire sooner than we think. 
He says:
If you are that patient, your mind is more settled, and what you do will be more perfect. If you are unsettled and anxious to get the result, you are already disturbed; nothing done with that disturbed mind will have quality. So, it is not only how long you practice, but with what patience, what earnestness and what quality also.
I’ve always been a destination over journey kind of person. More product over process. I’m not one to take a wandering stroll. I need to know that I’ll stop at the cute little cafe 10 blocks away. I’ll sit at my favorite corner table, read a few chapters while I’m there so I can finish this book and get on to the next one. I’ll get a cappuccino and a cookie. And I’ll probably walk there as fast as I can and forget to look around. This is the kind of journey I go on- the kind that I know for sure will end with a cappuccino and cookie. 
I do the same thing with knowledge. I have a dear friend who, when things are challenging me for, always says “it’s all information Amy. That irritation with your colleague? Just information. That broken heart? Just information. Your endless struggle with marichyasana D? Just information.”  Just like the Yogi in the Hindu scripture, I am always left exasperated, thinking OK, great, it’s information. Now, what does it MEAN and what do I DO with it?
When people ask me why I practice yoga, my answer often changes. I vary it based on who is asking. Sometimes I answer that it is about staying healthy. Sometimes I answer that it is about spiritual understanding. Sometimes I answer that it is about grace or beauty or just simple pleasure. But the truth is, I don’t know why.  
With asana, there is no clear destination. No final product. Just when I thought I had gotten bhujapidasana, Barbara told me to put my head on the floor.  Just when I thought I had a totally solid tadasana, a teacher told me to lift my butt off my thighs and “give it a home of its own”. Likewise, just when I thought I’d never be able to hold my headstand, there I was one day, upside down. 
I don’t know exactly why I’ve committed to a yoga practice. I only know that I get on my mat and work as hard as each day will allow me.  I go through each practice, as if counting the leaves on the trees. Collecting moments. Collecting breaths. Collecting information and waiting, patiently and earnestly, for it to make sense.