Serenity Prayer

“Within this practice we orient our attitudes towards the discernment (swadhyaya) to distinguish the things we can change (tapah) from the things we cannot change (isvara pranidhana).”

Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Al-Anon Literature

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Wild Geese

 

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

Fear

I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved,

to be loved, to beloved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t take you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eye, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart
But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid
of dying.

Joy Harjo

The Masters Touch

Retreat into your soul to find a soul retreating from you. Of lost causes and put on moments there is little to say. Less time we have now that a day is past, and less past for our idle lives. Spent are the moments that with carelessness would have fallen out of the hole in our pocket. And well used are the candle drippings that might have gone to the floor if not for the tin plate on the table.

How goes your search for someone who is covered deep in the darkness of the bright snow? Communicate less with yourself so as to give more time to those who communicate more with themselves. Discover the vastness of a pinhead when you find the total self of another. Prattle on of yourself but when it is your turn, listen so as to find a new topic, a refreshing subject. Ah, the facets of a subject. Retreat to a soul for its good not yours.

20121208-151955.jpg

Excerpt from a book my father made in high school, around 1971. It’s hand written in pencil, in a script far more legible than any I’ve ever seen come from his hand.

Remembering the Self: Svadhyaya

 One day this winter as I was starting to teach a beginning yoga class, a first-time student spoke up from the back of the room asking, “By the way, what is yoga?” A thousand thoughts flooded my mind; how could I answer truthfully and succinctly? Thankfully the answer came almost spontaneously from my heart: “Yoga is the study of the Self”. This is actually the definition of another of the niyamas, svadhyaya.  The word ‘svadhyaya” can be broken up into three smaller words. “Sva” means one’s Self, meaning the soul, the atman, or the Higher Self. “Dhy” is related to the word “dhyana” which means meditation. And “ya” is an activating suffix. Thus svadhyaya means “actively meditating on or studying the nature of the Self”. I like to define svadhyaya slightly differently as “remembering to be aware”. 

     All of us have moments when we perceive ourselves and the world around us with clarity. But svadhyaya is more than just mental clarity. It is the deep acknowledgment of the oneness of Self with all that is. In other words, to practice svadhyaya is to begin to dissolve the illusion of separateness we feel from ourselves, those around us, and our world. To practice svadhyaya is to find God in the person standing in front of us at this very moment. 

     I read an interesting story lately about a Zen monk who was giving his first talk to a small group of beginning American Zen students. The monk spoke very little English and the students spoke no Japanese. The monk gave his presentation simply by standing in front of each student; he would not talk, smile, move or in any way avoid deep contact with the student. Some students were moved to tears. This deep acknowledgment of the God-sense or Self within us all is at the heart of svadhyaya. 

     Scientists continue to discover the powerful connections of energy that exist on all levels of the Universe. And these connections are not only between cells in the body, but between widely distanced events which only a few years ago would be considered separate. (These discoveries are part of the field of study called Chaos Theory) . I remember studying biology in college and was struck by our unit on ecology. Biologists were beginning to teach the “new” concept of the interrelatedness of all living things, i.e. ecology.  Interestingly, in all eras and in all cultures spiritual teachers have taught the “ecology of the spirit”, i.e., the connection of each of us with the whole. This connection exists; the practice of svadhyaya is whatever reminds us of that connection.

    Svadhyaya could be reading this article, practicing postures, studying scriptures or singing from the heart. Practices which help one experience the interwoven fabric of reality are svadhyaya. 

From Practicing the Presence of God: Living the Niyamas of Patanjali

By Judith Hanson Lasater

The Journey

 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Wild Geese
 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
 
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver