yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Going With The Flow

A yoga teacher once shared with my class a Zen koan that I was reminded of yesterday while out walking in the woods with my husband Serafino. We hiked on a trail that follows a pretty river, a stream really. The river had natural dams forming placid ponds and small areas of gentle rapids with the soothing bubbling sound that immediately puts you in a relaxation. A koan is a story illustrating a concept that is accessible through intuition instead of intellect.

I sat on the bank of this stream yesterday and watched the water flowing around a large smooth stone. In the koan, we are the stone which is solid, immovable, strong and unending, allowing the water to flow past us, allowing it to go by without attachment or hindrance. We are also the flowing water which is light, fluid, effortless, and when encountering the stone, we simply continue on our way, flowing past and around the stone, unaffected and neutral. So, in the stream of life we are both the stone and the flowing water.

In my recent readings, particularly on the site, I have been struck by how the contrasts of life are not to be negated or avoided, but can be consciously brought into balance. These contrasts, these yin-yang "opposites," such as male and female, darkness and light, good and evil, need each other to exist. We might strive not only to balance these opposites within us, but to seek a third way, a way to neither negate one or the other, but to incorporate both and in essence create a new, or third way of being. We can be as strong as a stone which yields to the flow of life, as well as go with the flow when we hit obstacles. And go even further, a third option which is to be both at all times. I believe that being both the stone and the flowing water, being both the good and bad, dark and light, male and female, we will come to understand each other.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Coming Home

What a wonderful weekend I had at my high school reunion in Ithaca, New York! I'm still processing the many faces, hugs, conversations, ideas and energy which washed over me. Not only did I attend the reunion events, but I also reunited with a number of family members, some of whom were in town to reconnect for the same reasons. I didn't realize how important it was for me to reconnect with my family, with my classmates, and with my hometown. My soul feels grounded and that is what is so gratifying and pleasantly unexpected.

My graduating class (Ithaca High School Class of 1975) had nearly 700 students, yet only a fraction (50 or so??) attended this reunion which spanned 4 days. I want to thank them all for being brave and present for this effort. Everyone looked terrific: Happy, healthy, comfortable with him or herself. I'm so impressed with how far some people traveled in order to reconnect, and how far they have traveled in life experiences. Even though I haven't seen my fellow classmates in many years, we became instant friends over the past few days and now I really miss them. We have in common shared experiences of growing up in the same town, in the same schools, with each other. That puts a special spin on our relationships to each other. We are all under each others' skins. In today's world where it's difficult to connect with others, how nice to have had the opportunity to be reminded of the true bonds between people.

And Ithaca, beautiful Ithaca. I hadn't been back since my last reunion in 2005 and was wondering if I was exaggerating in my mind how incredible Ithaca is. It was tugging at my heart for the past few years and I was curious to see if I would feel excited about being back there. Oh yes, absolutely, and in fact, I want to live there again! The weather was perfect, and everything was idyllic. The geology is so ancient, prehistoric, with endless exposed sheer cliffs of shale, gorges, creeks, hills, ledges and waterfalls – not to mention Cayuga Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes – glacier age relics which invite one to be outside in nature more than where I live now (crowded and frenzied metro NY area). The town is the same (pretty much) as it's always been and I feel at home there with its hippie-ish, natural vibe. I'm grateful to have seen, touched, danced and laughed along with so many courageous classmates and experienced the landscape of a very vibrant city where I grew up and long to be again. In that spirit, I want to share with the IHS Class of '75, and all my "Peace & Health" friends, this traditional poem from Ithaka, Greece (with shades of Odysseus' voyage):

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclops and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclops and the fierce Poseidon
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds.
Buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can.
Visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years,
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithaca means.