yoga sutras

Four Favorite Poetry Books

...and one poem.

Yesterday was a day of poetry.

I've been sharing a poem at the beginning and/or end of class on Sunday mornings again recently. Poetry used to be as important to me in class development as the asana, but as happens with the cyclical nature of things, that practice had fallen away for a few years.

It's so lovely to see how people respond to a poem...
The "mmm" murmured after a poem is read.
Coming up after class to ask for the name of the poem.
Wanting to share their favorite poet or poem or line.

It's like we're all a little bit in the closet about poetry, but once we know we're in safe company of fellow lovers, we can pull the tattered paper out of our wallets and compare notes (I carry a few hand-written lines of Rumi, gifted long ago by a friend).

Poetry is delicious medicine that has helped me make sense of life since high school. I have many old poetry collections published by Hallmark that were my grandmother's, one of which is in the Favorite Four below.

 

The second poetry moment yesterday arose out of the online philosophy class I'm teaching. We are exploring Yoga Sutra 2.1 and yesterday the discussion was around Svadhyaya, the practice of Self Study.

There are a couple of notable aspects of Svadhyaya:

  • Foremost, it is the regular practice of self-reflection and personal growth.
  • Drilling down even deeper, we get to the heart by studying ourselves in the context of sacred texts and teachings.
  • Since we are limited in the objectivity we can have with ourselves, it generally is done with a teacher, which could be a study group, a therapist, a mentor or other trusted guide.
  • For the purpose of knowing ourselves more deeply.

Homework ideas for the month included journalling, reading or memorizing poetry, reading other spiritual texts, group discussion, therapy or mentorship. 

All for the purpose of knowing yourself more deeply.

Several people in the group were interested in exploring poetry as a practice. Since it can be hard to know where to start, I offered to share a few of my favorite poetry books.

Here are four favs, with a kitty photo bomb.

poetry books

Poet Healer edited by Chip Spann
Sadly, this book is out of print, but there are a few on Amazon. It was compiled as part of a project through Sutter's Cancer Program. It is my favorite collection of poems and would be my desert island book of poetry.

Red Bird by Mary Oliver
Oliver's poems are nature and simplicity and awe. All of her books are wonderful, I just have a special affection for this one.

Poems of Awakening edited by Betsy Small
Another great compilation of spiritual poetry. From Kabir and Hafiz to Anna Swir and May Sarton, almost every page in my book is dog-eared.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
I've lived on this book like food for periods of my life. This is my grandmother's copy and it lives on my nightstand. Out of use, it falls open to the writings On Love and On Pain, which sound strangely similar. "And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast." (That's On Love!)

 

The other request I received was for the poem from class -- Below Our Strangeness by Mark Nepo. As you know, Mark is a favorite poet and writer of mine. What a lovely poem for our times.

Below Our Strangeness

I've come to believe that we were
all broken from the same nameless
heart, and everything wakes
with a piece of that original heart
aching its way into blossom. This
is why we know each other below
our strangeness, why when we fall, 
we lift each other; or when in pain, 
we hold each other; why sudden
with joy, we dance together. Life
is the many pieces of that great
heart loving itself back together.

~Mark Nepo

 

poetry month

Are you interested in receiving a poem a day?

April is poetry month, and as part of my spiritual practice, I am going to read, sit with and share a poem a day.

Get on the list to be a part of it. <--Click!

Starts April 1st.

Magic (the cat) will be there!

        

yoga philosophy for today

You know the phrase, "You get better at what you practice?"

The follow up to this truth is the real wisdom: "So be careful what you practice."

The spiritual path is hard work, and sometimes it's lonely. 

But we do it because we want to grow and learn and evolve as human beings. We want practical support for the things life throws our way.

We do it together because we need each other's support, encouragement and celebration.

It's essential to have a group and time we can discuss these topics and share stories with people of various ages, backgrounds and life experience. By sharing, we are reminded that we are not alone.

When I put out a feeler to gauge interest in a philosophy "work group," many of you responded!

Topics and texts will vary and we'll do short series style so that it fits into your regular life. This will also be a remote format, using a group video conference, so you can be anywhere and participate. And the sessions will be recorded so you can make up or watch again.

elephants

New Year Philosophy

For our first Yoga Philosophy for Today workgroup, we will explore Yoga Sutra 2.1. The Yoga Sutras are 196 aphorisms compiled by a man named Patanjali around 400 CE. It has become a main text in today's yoga world, with practical yet powerful guidelines for personal growth.

Sutra 2.1 tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah

Especially relevant at the start of the year where our best intentions can create rigidity and pressure -- maybe we let things slide over the holidays due to overwhelm, and then we hit new year's eve and resolve to end all bad habits. Forever.

The Yoga approach is a little different. According to sutra 2.1, it goes like this: 

Commit your attention and action, increase your knowledge and understanding through this awareness, and then surrender.

Specifically...

Commit — Show up with your attention every day, whether it's on the mat, the cushion, in your relationships, to yourself, in the moment. This is discipline. It's the action behind intention. It's also love (courtesy of Mary Oliver, If you love something, you pay attention to it).

Awareness is learning from the information you get, it's honesty and realism, it's reflecting on yourself (your Self). 

Surrender (which can be a loaded word, so you might try yield or release) is letting go of the fruits of your actions. Doing the work (committing attention, action and awareness), then setting it free. Surrender is drenched in compassion.

The cocktail of these three qualities is the practice of Yoga.
It takes effort.
It is not linear. 
It's simple but not easy.
And it is never ever "done."

Awareness, action, surrender.

roses

Series Details

This series is for you if you:

  • love philosophy
  • want practical guidance that relates to today's issues
  • struggle at the beginning of the year
  • desire more support and community in your practice
  • are a serious/curious student of yoga and want to learn more
  • are a teacher and want a deeper understanding of yoga philosophy

This is a three-part online series meeting once a month for three months to explore the brilliant trifecta sutra 2.1 offers.

We will use an online video "classroom," so internet connection and a web-accessible device are required.

We will be able to see each other, interact and ask questions. Like being together, but you can be in your pajamas.

In this series, you will receive:

  • relatable handouts and readings
  • homework - reflection and writing prompts
  • a general overview of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
  • ideas on how to work with each aspect of sutra 2.1
  • another layer of understanding about philosophy (it takes time to integrate these principles)
  • the foundation for a lifelong practice grounded in compassion
  • email support in between calls

Classroom sessions will include:

  • guided exercises and discussions
  • clear and practical interpretations -- philosophy does not have to be complicated!
  • community with like-minded people
  • practicality -- instantly useable principles
  • fun -- it has to be!

Meeting Dates:

February 25, 1-2:30 pm
March 25, 1-2:30 pm
April 22, 1-2:30 pm

Price: $55

Register here.

Come Together

Sharing ideas, lending a hand, offering silent support -- these are the things I've seen over and over that make a difference, make us feel less alone and give strength in the moments of hardship.

Yoga philosophy can be practical, relevant and instantly usable. Join me in discovering more about the Yoga Sutras and the wisdom of sutra 2.1 -- commitment, awareness, surrender.