Monday, October 11, 2010

OM: Adding Your Voice to the Family of Things



Om is a word which is derived by joining the first vowel in the Sanskrit alphabet with the last consonant. Om acts like bookends for everything that could be said with language. By chanting Om, we essentially add our voice to the larger voice of everything else that is. Our yoga practice is, in part, a conversation between us and the world around us. It is one way of invoking a divine presence, the creator of all things. The keeper of the symbol OM is the elephant God, Ganesh. Often, you'll see the symbol OM inscribed on the palm of Ganesh.


When we chant OM as a group at the beginning of yoga practice, we join our voices together and thereby yoke or bind ourselves together, as one modern yoga scholar, Douglas Brooks, says, like solders going into battle, bound together in order to serve and protect each other.
I like the idea of adding my voice to your powerful presence. I also like adding my voice to the mighty voice of everything else that is. I feel it allows me to participate whole-heartedly in this marvelous, paradoxical, and mysterious game of life.

Mary Oliver really understood this when in her poem, Wild Geese, she says:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

She points to the fact that you don't have to do anything special to be of value. You "only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." You just have to be. All parts of us, even despair are beautiful aspects of the landscape, just like the rain, the sun, the prairies and deep trees. Nature, specifically geese as they call to us as they fly over head, reminds us that we too belong in the big family of things. And more than that, nature offers itself to our imagination, to our remembrance of belonging.

The next time you hear the geese fly over head, their call "harsh and exciting," call back to them, " Om."

I'll meet you in class. We are bound together like migrating geese on our way back home.

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