Monday, May 16, 2011

One Wild and Precious Life

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

We have been working all week  in the Immersion with some of the guiding precepts from The Bhagavad Gita. In particular, we have been talking a lot about dharma. In fact, we titled the week "Bringing Dharma to Life".  Dharma, as many of you know, means duty, obligation or one's purpose in life. It can also mean The Teaching or the Deepest Principles that guide The Way. It translates literally to mean "that which sustains and upholds."

So, the idea is that when we have a sense of our dharma, of our purpose, of our deepest promise and obligation, and we are committed to it, it becomes a guiding light in life, a means of support, and something that sustains and upholds us. Dharma does not necessarily mean vocation and it may or may not yield a financial payoff and some may even argue that knowing and doing your dharma may not even make you happy in a conventional sense at all.

For instance, I remember my spiritual teacher always saying that his personality wanted to have a small bookstore where he could stay in relative solitude enjoying his introspective nature throughout his days. That was his personality's vision for a perfect life. It turns out his dharma had a much larger purpose in mind and my introverted guru spent 30 years living directly with his students and traveling all over the globe giving teachings about his master, Yogi Ramsuratkumar. And while I think this made him Happy as he loved Yogi Ramsuratkumar in the deepest way possible and wanted to serve him, it might not have made his personality that "happy" on a lot of days.

It's an interesting edge to walk, I think, this consideration of being happy. There really are so many levels to consider. I think Anusara Yoga has a lot of those interesting considerations because so much of "what we are doing" as Anusara Yogis is written in very broad strokes so as to be as inclusive as possible. But when we really begin to pull on the thread of it all- like in Immersions for 6 days straight-  questioning the meaning of these broad strokes can take us through some interesting terrain that full of texture, nuance and paradoxes that might not be apparent when we first hear the vision.  

For instance, why do we practice Ansuara Yoga? 

Okay, Immersion graduates, repeat after me- Chit. Ananda: To know the truth of who we are and to live from that knowledge. Okay great, I think to myself, that sounds benign enough. On  some days, it is even inspiring and it is certainly worthwhile. Sign me up, I think. I want to do that yoga!

But when I get down to it, if I really want to do yoga for those reasons, I begin to realize that "knowing myself" has a lot of layers and I start to ask even more questions. Are we talking about knowing where my toe is in space, relative to my leg and relative to the form of a pose? Yes.  Are we talking about knowing what I want, need, prefer and desire? Yes.  Are we talking about knowing my boundaries, my dislikes, my limits and my aversions? Yes, that, too.  Are we talking about knowing how beautiful, generous, awake and radiant I am? Yes, exactly that. Are we talking about knowing my shortcomings fully? Certainly. Are we talking about knowing my dark places of insecurity, doubt, greed and ruthlessness? Yes, that too, is included in the journey. Are we talking about knowing the subtle dimensions of my psychic self? Yes.  Are we eventually talking about knowing myself at the level of the soul and beyond where I am aware that I am awareness itself? Sure. That is, after all, the game we are playing. 

And we haven't even begun to talk about what it really means to live joyfully from that knowledge. For instance,  joyful expression exists on a continuum from sensory gratification to the deepest sacrificial acts that ask people to endure immense hardship in the name of a worthy love. 

So I think dharma may be a bit like that sometimes. Sure, we might luck out and have a personality that is aligned with our dharma but then again we might not. Lee always said that when you enter The Work, there are no guarantees about how you will be used! We might actually be called into spheres of service that does not satisfy the wants and desires of our ego at all. 

But we might also find that we learn deeper meanings about the word happiness and we might  gain deeper understanding about what is truly  joyful and fulfilling. And for many people along the way, the pathway of Chit-Ananda has its fair share painful recognition involved and it takes us to some frightening places of vulnerability where trust is gained in small and yet profound increments as we learn to explore our inner life  in community. The ananda is not always "happy" in a conventional sense as much as it is happy because of its authenticity. I got to witness a lot of that work this last week in the Immersion me and Darren taught.

Yes, we had great students who did some cool poses and who learned to get their arm bones back in chatauranga. (for the most part!!) But what stands out to me about this group was the courageous self-inquiry they were willing to do and the authenticity and vulnerablity they brought to the task of expressing themselves and clarifying their Heart's vision for their one wild and precious life.

Because, really, it is that. It is a wild and precious life and we can live it in the deep end or we can live it in the shallow end and either will be consistent with "knowing ourselves and acting from that knowledge." This path is true and real at every level and each level is a perfect opportunity for reflection. But for those who are called consistently- or even occasionally- to the deep end of the pool, I salute you and what it takes to learn to be there because its not easy.  (And don't get me wrong, I am all for coming to the surface where cute clothes, great meals and funny movies proliferate. All in favor of that for sure.) 

But honestly, the food for me is in the depths. As the group today took savasana and rested to the angelic sounds of Browin Rhodes chanting, I was crying with gratitude that my path brought me to this yoga and this yoga brought these people to me and me to them because the work does truly sustain and uphold me.

Thanks for sharing the journey.


Anonymous said...

You're a treasure. Thank you for sharing yourself. You're beloved in the shallow and the deep ends.

Stacey said...

Beauty and truth...thanks, Christina, for your courage to share. said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I appreciate reading your insights! Love, Meredith

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing all your beautiful insight~ and reminding us that it is through the journey of swimming into the depths that we preserve our wildness + freedom! xo

Nancy said...

15 years ago I taped this poem to my bathroom mirror and this the thrid time today, it has come up for me - I believe I am being reminded. Melanie and I ordered your book and so looking forward to reading. Thank you for your generosity of heart.

Barefootlotuss said...

I love the new picture on your blog. . .

christy nones said...

some very real and wonderful musings christina. love you and love the contents of your head and heart. just taught a whole weekend in ireland about surfing the surface waves of our experience yet always doing that in a way that is anchored to the depths of our ocean of consciousness. so lovely to feel resonance with you from so far away. i LOVE you girl and am upheld and sustained by this dharmic friendship we share.