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Great Inspiration

Saw this as an email signature from an email on a list serve I follow and had to share:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Samtosha (and the “Founding Fathers”)

I am subbing Fusion Flow tonight up at Willow Street. Natalie, for whom – am subbing, has been teaching the yamas and niyamas this session. She asked me to cover “samtosha” tonight.

In contemplating this principle of practice again (it is high on my contemplation list), I thought of the what was drafted by the “Founding Fathers.” We are not guaranteed the right to happiness, but the right and freedom to pursue it.

That leaves open the question of what is happiness and whether and how to pursue it. It contains, I think, a hidden agreement that to keep the right open to all that happiness cannot be realized by the acquisition of external power and things that will prevent others from having the same freedom.

When I get caught up in our current societal vision of what we are supposed to have or be, a reminder that “samtosha” — contentment — doesn’t just happen, but is a practice, always regrounds me. I choose to come back to a space of gratitude, and my my whole self eases. I return to a place that serves me and enhances my own freedom to find happiness, while bringing me to a place that is aligned with that freedom growing for what and whom I touch.

Tomorrow Will Be a Great Day for Indoor Gardening! (Yoga for Gardeners Reminder)

It’s still March, and we’re in the middle of one big and fabulous rainstorm.  Tomorrow (Saturday) might not be a great day for getting out into the garden (unless you like wading in mud), but it will be an absolutely fantastic day to do yoga with an intention of readying body, mind, and spirit for the garden and to get in tune with all that is growing and has the potential to grow inside and out.  Come join me for Yoga for Gardeners at Willow Street Takoma Park and help support the Youth Garden at the National Arboretum.

New Spinach (and Udyamo Bhairava)

The fifth sutra in Abhinavagupta’s Siva Sutras, is “udyamo bhairava” — the great upsurge of consciousness.  When we are open and aware, we can witness this upsurge, the very pulsing of life energy in all that is in and around us, from the springing up of thought in our minds to the burgeoning of spring.  The more we practice and live attentively, the more we will see the joy in this upwelling.

When I go out into the garden on the early spring days to see what needs to be cut back, what is volunteering, and what is coming up from fall plantings, I approach with great openness.  When we plant in the fall, we do not know with any certainty what kind of winter we will have.  Although the long-range forecast was for colder than normal with precipitation near normal (which translates into more than average snow), who could have expected three mammoth snow storms?

I plant with hope and some expectation, but am ready for the loss of some perennials, the failure of some seeds to germinate, and the unexpected pleasure of experiments working or welcome volunteers.  This steady planting without specific expectation, with openness to discovery, with joy and attention to the miraculousness of what rises up in the spring, is a very tangible example of what I read in the yoga philosophy.  It is how I, I believe, we most optimally would approach asana and meditation, as well as all aspects of our daily being.

Below:  new spinach coming up in a container from seeds I planted around Thanksgiving from an expiring packet.

Sauca (Another Perspective)

My friend and Willow Street colleague Natalie Miller taught a lovely class on Monday night, using sauca as her theme.  She said that she had recently read a book that described the yamas as things we do to be better persons, but that the niyamas were precepts for our spiritual practice to lead us better on the path.  In that sense, she suggested, sauca is about clarity or purity of intention.

What I love about contemplating and practicing with these concepts is that they are so pregnant with meaning; they have so much to offer wherever we are in our life and on our individual path of spirit exploration.  The more we contemplate and visit and practice and discuss, the more we will discover both about the meaning of the concept and about ourselves.

Heard on the Elevator (and intention for change)

The elevator I rode to my fifth floor office this morning was very full.  Several of the people in the elevator were wearing visitor badges.  As I walked on, I heard a woman say to a colleague, “…if you get a good one, they can do amazing things.  I had a frozen shoulder, and it was just incredible the change from the physical therapist.  I highly recommend [don’t remember the name].”  Her colleague, who evidently had extremely limited range of motion and a limp from something with his hip, said, “that would be great, but I don’t have time for something like physical therapy.”  They got off (slowly) on a lower floor, leaving me and someone I know who works on my floor.

“He obviously does not want to heal or change if he doesn’t have time for physical therapy for something that is debilitating,” I said.  “He would vehemently deny it, if you told him that,” replied my co-worker.  The reality is that if we want to change or heal or grow, we have to make an intention and then stick with it.  Whether it is healing an injury through therapeutic yoga and/or physical therapy or a more internal shift sought through yoga, we must be steady and committed to our intention.

Gardening When It’s Not Quite Time (and Sauca)

The first of Patanjali’s niyamas (part of the ethical precepts that are precursors to the practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation) is sauca — purity or cleanliness.  The practice of sauca includes in it a literal exhortation to be physically clean.  I think it also carries with it a sense of order, a cleaning out of physical, mental, and emotional clutter, so that we have more clarity.  When we find more clarity, we can be more in the flow with the inexorable sequence of time and space.

Experiencing how we fit into the pulsation of time and space is one of the exquisite joys of gardening.  This time of year, avid gardeners are eager to get int the garden, and it is tempting to get started to soon, to start new things without cleaning out the old.  When we are more experienced (and know better the optimal sequencing of starting the garden with the shifting of the seasons), we also know that we might have gotten a few days in the 50s F, but it is still winter.

Emphasizing the practice of sauca now will serve the whole gardening season.  When it is still cold, but the heart yearns for the garden, is the time to be planning, reorganizing, and cleaning to get ready for the days when it will stay warm enough for growing outside a cold frame or protected area.  As I use a lot of containers, now is the time for me to see what containers need repairs, removal of perennials that did not make it through the winter, and new soil.  It is the time to prune what is better pruned now than in the fall.  This is not just trashing everything, but seeing what should be preserved, what should be repaired, what should be cleaned, and what should be discarded or given away.  It is cleaning out what gets in the way of an optimal flow of energy to experience the greatest effulgence of nature.  By practicing the cleaning and clearing out phase with intention and enthusiasm, I am present with the garden and also in sequence with the light and the temperature.  In this way, just as I am when I practice these principles on the mat, I get the bliss of yoga.

Yoga for Gardeners (a little more detail and a request for questions)

At the Yoga for Gardeners Workshop, I will be ordering the workshop into (1) yoga to prepare for a session in the garden; (2) yoga pauses to do intermittently while gardening; and (3) yoga post-gardening.  I’m off to enjoy the bright sunny day, to volunteer at The Lantern, and to take care of a neighbor’s cat, but I’m really enjoying getting ready for the workshop.

Feel free to send me question, as a comment to this post, and I will do my best to incorporate what you want to know into the workshop and/or the blog.

Please remember that I will be giving a portion of my profits to support the Youth Garden at the National Arboretum.  Even if you cannot come next Saturday, do please consider supporting one of your local, teaching gardens.