svādhyāya pravacane ca

I have been studying some verses from the Taittiriya Upanishad with my teacher, Marcia Solomon.  Each week we chant a few lines, call response, to verify pronunciation, and then look at the meaning. I was struck when we came to I.17 at the repetition of svādhyāyapravacane ca: it is repeated no less than 13 times!

This must be important.

Svādhyāya translates as “self-study” and might be interpreted as “independent study” or “a study of the self” – or both. Pravacane  is “instructing / teaching”. (Ca = “and”)

In my retirement from the profession of teaching in the secondary school system I find myself with time to pursue independent study of topics related to the path of yoga: āsana, Sanskrit, vedic chanting, anatomy… and I have noted a tendency to become quite involved in these pursuits, to the point that I find myself sometimes in danger of forgetting to share the fruits of my investigations with others.

Enter pravacane

Teaching is the perfect complement to independent study. Teaching is not just an option – it is a responsibility. Teaching connects us with the world. We all play the roles of both student and teacher as the context in which we find ourselves shifts.

The sacred connection fostered in the exchange between teacher and student is what allows us to evolve and connect with our higher nature.

Hari Om.

upanishad

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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