Before class Saturday morning I was listening to a podcast with Pádraig Ó Tuama, a poet, theologian and healer living in Ireland. His talk was moving and spoke to many things I had been contemplating about how to come into relationship and conversation during hard times. He has a beautiful presence and profound wisdom and I highly recommend giving it a listen. Near the end eh shared a poem that made me really stand up and listen, in fact, I listened to it several times. While his lens is Catholicism, everything he was speaking to spoke to my practice and why I practice. I shared it in class and several folks felt the same way, so here I am sharing it with you. Enjoy...
"Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder. I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I recognise and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day. I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. / Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. / Hello."
This year was another powerful and renewing time at Doe Bay Resort for my annual New Year's Retreat. As we set intentions for the weekend, I started our weekend with a quote by Debbie Ford: "It's ironic that to find the courage to lead an authentic life, you will have to go into the dark rooms of your most inauthentic self. You have to confront the very parts of yourself that you fear most to find what you have been looking for, because the mechanism that drives you to conceal your darkness is the same mechanism that has you hide your light. What you've been hiding from can actually give you what you've been trying hard to achieve."
The weekend followed with these inspiring and powerful poems by Mary Oliver:
Yesterday on the way to teach my benefit class for Thanksgiving Day I saw not one, not two, but three rainbows over the course of about 5 minutes. It was breathtaking, it was awe inspiring and it also reminded me how much I had lost touch with every day wonder and joy. These past two years have felt overwhelming at best as we navigate all the challenges of our social and political systems. Instead of taking moments in the day to see joy, I'm often focusing my energy on what is broken. It made me take the gratitude I practice on Thanksgiving all the more seriously. Its not to say I won't stop paying attention and I won't stop fighting injustices I see in the world, but it is recognizing that I need to spend more time practicing gratitude around the every day miracles and wonders happening in my life around me. It was a powerful reminder and one I was so grateful to receive.
Having just returned from the Sleeping Lady Fall Yoga Retreat, I find myself reflecting with gratitude on the gifts I took away from that weekend. Beyond the beauty of community, nature and time for retreat was the very real need to refill my well. I'd found myself running on empty and found much needed nourishment in the spaciousness and quietude of my time away.
As part of the weekend I shared three of my favorite. poems from Danna Faulds' book Go In and In. Enjoy!
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.
Fear and love seldom
stand, shoulder to shoulder;
Its rare to laugh and
lie in the same breath.
But strength and weakness,
failure and success,
faith and desolation –
they are different ends
of a single stick.
To pick one up
is to receive both poles –
stark contrasts contribute
to a knowledge of the whole.
What is life but growing
wide and deep, so
open from weeping
that opposites, ambiguity,
and a thousand shade
of gray can co-exist
There is healing in the laying on of hands;
in the letting go of fear, in asking for help,
in silence, celebration, prayer. There is
healing in speaking the truth and in keeping
still, in seeking sunlight and not shunning
struggle. Laughter and the affirmation of
wholeness hold their owwn healing. When
the soul dances, when the day begins in
delight, when love grows and cannot be
contained, when life flows from moment
to moment, healing happens in the space
between thoughts, and the breath before
the first sung note. Healing is a birthright
and a grace. When we dare to be open to
the unknown, when we extend ourselves
in caring, when we welcome in the vast
expanse of life, healing comes from the
heart, and blossoms from the inside out.
Recent events in the Seattle yoga community have created a huge and much needed dialogue about race, privilege and yoga in the Western world. In my opinion this dialogue is long over due, and what we are all learning is that it is uncomfortable to talk about and we're all sitting in it together. My hope is that as we all sit with the discomfort of recognizing the inherent privilege and power dynamics in the westernized yoga we practice, we start to break those down, one incident at a time.
Here are some things we can thing about moving forward as we start to claim or own actions and their impact within our yoga community and beyond:
The fifth chakra resides in the the region of the throat and as such, has to do with communication. Communication isn't just about conversation with others, but also the conversation we have with ourselves. Accessing the energy of the fifth chakra gives us the capacity to know and speak our own truths. The biggest part of speaking our own truth is listening first to our own deepest desires. Find inspiration in this poem by David Whyte.
The fourth chakra resides in the heart center. This is our energetic heart, not our physical heart and has to do with love, compassion and our ability to extend these energies not only to those around us, but also to ourselves. Sometimes, self love is the hardest expression of love for us to connect to. This poem by David Whyte may help you find this ability to connect to love for yourself on your journey.
Opening up the energy of the 3rd chakra, we welcome in the big energy and heat of fire. Fire is potent and transformative and can connect us to our ambitions and our will. It can drive us forward. Too much of this energy can lead to burn out and anger. We can temper the energy of the 3rd chakra by connecting to its solar aspects and rather than connecting to the heat and power of the sun at high noon, we might instead think of the sun at sunrise, slowly and gradually warming as the energy builds. Connect to this energy with a poem by Mary Oliver.
The element of the second chakra is water. The energy of the second chakra is wrapped up in our sexuality and creativity. In conjunction with the energy of water we welcome in the adaptability and changeability that the movement of water brings. But we also tap into the freedom of water. Water wears away at anything that tries to hold it, overflowing or eroding to break through. Connect with this energy in the second chakra with this poem by Mary Oliver.
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!