Monday, February 21, 2011
I'm thinking of that big part of our yoga practice, our souls. What is that, anyway? This week, as I was practicing yoga, I felt it again for the millionth time. That big, big, part which is right there, which is everything but which is the part that I can't really put a name to. It's not Scott. It's bigger.
And I guess this is what people have been trying to point to since there have been people. We all have such a grand language for it. Such a crisis over it. We go to war over it. We put each other in hell for it. Something that isn't a question. Something that's right there. I can reach out and touch it. And sometimes, I feel that you can too-- yours, yes but mine, too. As I'm teaching and I can see you getting into your groove, I see you breathing, I see the focus. Then I see it when things click, lights go on behind your eyes and I see you think to yourself, "There it is!"
And if you're like me, you get it and before you know it, it slips between your fingers and suddenly you're looking all over for it again, under the couch, behind the dresser, because you thought you knew what it was and what it looked like but now you're not so sure any more.
Then it seems to find you because it was there all the time, or you were there and you and it are all the same thing.
Pretty soon, I guess we get so comfortable with it--it's like Peter Pan stitching his shadow onto the sole of his shoe--it doesn't go away anymore. Maybe Patantaji, the ancient guru/yoga scholar who wrote the yoga sutras about finding that big part of yourself called Samadhi, maybe his first given name was Peter Pan until he was reborn with the truth that his sole is always there, right at his feet, and it was then that he was bestowed the honorable name, Patanjali. He learned and teaches that it is by singular concentration that we simply open our eyes to it. We learn to see again.
This is what our practice is about. This is why it's a practice, yes, because it is slippery. And because it feels really, really, good every time we make that discovery, and even the journey leading up to it.
One of my guru teachers is poet Mary Oliver. She's a teacher whom I've never met but who has taught me so much by her simple and astounding words, written after she has paid acute attention to this amazing heaven, the world around us. She wrote (in much fewer words than I, mind you) something about this practice of searching for the soul. Enjoy.
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape--
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something--
for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer's head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long--
and I thought: the soul
might be like this--
so hard, so necessary--
yet almost nothing.
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn't see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don't we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts--
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
the pale-pink morning light.
I hope to see you in class.