Gratitude

Gratitude is trending.

This is a very good thing.

As I look around, I have so many things that one would naturally call blessings, to be deeply thankful for: a loving family, health, a cozy home…

But there are also, and more importantly, the difficulties that life presents. These are even greater blessings because they provide the impetus and opportunity for growth. An injury that temporarily blocks energy, opens up a much deeper understanding of natural alignment and energy flow. Illness or bereavement connects us more deeply to others who are also learning to deal with these challenges.

So, Holy Mystery, thank you for the obvious blessings, but especially for the blessings-in-disguise…

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3 2 1

the trinity of leaves clinging to the winter oak is down by one

three implies two

your presence implies –

 

I contract into

a ball of fear

around your

temporary

absence

 

love

is surrender

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white

snow erases

with forgetful white

it is the opposite of what I am doing now: filling in a blank space with words

it invites me

to release what is not needed

to descend, like sap, into the deep dreams of earth

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3 leaves left

The leaves are left. They haven’t left. Yet.

Their leaving is highly likely though – when the winds blow strongly and the snows come.

…one day, there will be no leaves left…

Will they leave together, or one by one? Will I be witness to their leaving, or just notice one day that they have left?

If a leaf leaves and no one sees it go, has it really left?

(Of course it has! I mean, it’s not there anymore, is it?)

(I hate that question. It pretends to be philosophical but it’s just highly egotistical. As if the leavings of the universe depend upon me witnessing them.)

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Yoga Chick in the Box!

“Huh?”

When I heard the guard shout out those words to the ladies in the dorm at the Ottawa Regional Detention Centre a few weeks ago, it took me a minute to realize that I was the “yoga chick” and the small programs room where I was waiting was “the box”. In a few minutes, “the box” came alive with that night’s participants for 45 minutes of yoga and meditation.

I am one of several volunteers with Freeing the Human Spirit, a volunteer-based organization  (currently under the aegis of the John Howard Society) started by Sister Elaine MacInnes . This impressive woman is both a Catholic nun and a Zen Roshi. Over the years, she has inspired many volunteers to bring the teachings of yoga and meditation inside prison walls.

Last night was damp and cold: a typical November evening in my part of the world. Before driving out to the OCDC I was thinking that it might be nicer just to cocoon for the evening with a hot drink and a book. But it was “my night” so on I went.

There was one woman who came to take part in the program. This allowed for a more personal exchange as we practiced some simple asana and sat quietly in meditation together. Small details about her life emerged during our time together “in the box”- her complex family life growing up – a 3 1/2 year old son who was obviously the light of her life…

It broke open my heart and I could see, for a moment, that she and I were (to borrow a phrase from Sister Elaine) “light sitting in light”.

I felt very blessed.

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Tapas

“So now, could you sight read this sutra for me?”

The letters of the Devanagari swim cryptically in front of me on the page. With no transliteration in sight! Nothing to do but to jump in and, painfully slowly,

– sound – it – out –

I had no idea, when I signed on to study Sanskrit with my teacher, that it would be this hard! Hey, I thought, I have a second language already. I get this language acquisition thing! I guess I was forgetting that my second language (French) was acquired when I was a lot younger than my now 57 years.

When I expressed just what a monumental effort sight-reading that sutra was to my teacher, she had one word for me:

…tapas…!

I have decided that this venture is exceptionally good for me. It takes me way out of my comfort zone. It makes me sweat (considerably). It brings me back to the experience of being a rank beginner. I have developed a new appreciation for the students who come to my āsana classes never having taken a yoga class before…

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to conjugating some 4th class verbs in the present tense…

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Hilltop Śrāddha

Hilltop Manor is the long-term care facility where my dear mother is now living. Each visit to Hilltop seems to pry open my heartmind just a little bit more. Some ascetics climb mountains… I visit mom at Hilltop.

Today the personal care workers were short-staffed. One beleaguered worker was running from one mess to the next, trying to clean up the shit that happens when there just aren’t enough workers to go around.

When I use the word shit, I mean that quite literally.

My mom’s roommate is unable to get herself to the bathroom without considerable help. The one available worker flew by saying that she couldn’t help her just then – she had two other messes to clean up. Mom’s roommate muttered that she would have a third by the time she finally got back to her. Her prediction was accurate.

The worker finally arrived, and calmly and compassionately took charge of the situation. As the unmistakable odour filled the room, I thought that this is how helplessness smells. While waiting, Gisèle had philosophically observed that you start life off in diapers and you end up the same way.

We are born dependent upon others for our survival. We graduate, for a time, to the illusion of independence. And eventually the reality of our situation rudely fills our nostrils.

Life challenges me to embrace this reality. Śrāddha. Faith. Faith that each one of us has a role to play in the Divine Matrix, channeling compassion… And when it is my turn, I too will fall back into this Matrix of compassionate support.

Hari Om.IMG_0096