One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

One Art

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

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On impulse and passion –

Recently, someone close to me called me impulsive.  This was shocking to me and disrupted my understanding of who I am. To be impulsive is to be someone who doesn’t think, who starts running before they know where they are going. To be impulsive is to lack direction. An impulsive person is someone who paints their bedroom bright red on a Wednesday evening because they saw a beautiful red bedroom on Pinterest, drove by Home Depot on the way home and decided to pop in and get some paint. I draw rooms to scale and cut out paper outlines of furniture before I rearrange my living spaces. I make sure that my bed is not in line with any doors or facing any mirrors lest I disrupt the feng shui that I am not sure if I even believe in–changing the color of my room is a major life decision.  I couldn’t be impulsive.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the world can be seen and understood in different ways. On a basic level, I understand that the world looks and feels different based upon factors that as human beings we can and cannot control. I have had enough life experiences to know what generally makes me happy and what generally makes me sad and I try to surround myself with what makes me happy and do my best to not engage with what I know will make me intensely angry or deeply sad. When I feel joy, I dance, when I feel deep sadness, I often cannot help but weep.

I have always thought that human beings react to the world based upon how they experience the world. To feel things deeply is to engage and react wholeheartedly. This doesn’t mean that I feel ecstatic and dance around when I see a beautiful shade of red, I understand that the world isn’t always beautiful and I don’t weep when I see a dead animal on the side of the road, I understand that life can be very hard and certain things are unavoidable.  But there are certain feelings that to me, are deep feelings and when something affects me at the very center of my being and I know that I am feeling it at the center of my being, I have always thought that I have two choices –  to trust whatever it is that lies at the very center of my being and react wholeheartedly to how I feel, or to ignore those feelings and hope that they go away soon. I have generally found that when I push the feelings away I feel like I am in pain and imprisoning myself so I typically end up going with option one.

However, this might be the very definition of an impulsive person.   I am realizing that maybe the very center of my being is something beyond whatever it is that experiences feelings and emotions. Prior to this realization, not openly responding to strong emotions and still feeling them meant putting the very center of my being through the heavy wash cycle on the washing machine.

But I am finding that there might be something else. There is something that doesn’t have to react. There might be something that can empathize with how the heavy wash cycle feels, but is still solid and comfortable. There is something that can experience loss but still be completely whole. There is something that can see sadness and still be at peace. There is something that can feel intense happiness but be steady. Maybe there is something that can give of itself entirely and experience life fully but remain unchanged. I hope not to lose my passion, but I am beginning to like this new friend I have found in me.

Facts & understanding:

teach |tēCH|verb ( past and past participle taught |tôt| ) [ with obj. and infinitive or clause ] show or explain to (someone) how to do something: she taught him to read | he taught me how to ride a bike.• [ with obj. ] give information about or instruction in (a subject or skill): he came one day each week to teach painting | [ with two objs. ] : she teaches me French.• [ no obj. ] give such instruction professionally: she teaches at the local high school.• [ with obj. ] encourage someone to accept (something) as a fact or principle: the philosophy teaches self-control.• cause (someone) to learn or understand something by example or experience: she’d been taught that it paid to be passive | my upbringing taught me never to be disrespectful to elders.

The problem with facts and with proof is that without direct experience, proof can never be concrete. Proof is subjective.  It is also a silly word when you look at it.

My practice as both a student and an instructor has taught me that we can never objectively know the truth of what another being feels. As far as I know, there is no way to replicate another beings complete experience of sight, sound, smell, touch, hearing, thoughts exactly.

The yoga practice has taught me that even my own experiences can never be replicated. I can move through the same motions everyday, I can be still in the same position every single day for the same amount of time and will never feel exactly the same as I have before.

Therefore, we cannot tell each other how to feel.  We cannot truthfully tell each other that we know exactly how they feel. But there is an understanding and a kindness that happens when we acknowledge this lack of “truth” or inability to replicate. By acknowledging this we can learn to let go and accept things as they are, knowing that our only truth is the experience that happens before we have time to create words describe it.  In this truth we are all the same.

Thank you.

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Today is the 4th anniversary of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s passing. He provided me with a good reminder today.

“Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.” Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Let go of expectation.

“Practice and all is coming.”

Yoga Niyamas: What my students have taught me.

I don’t have any kids, but I have been feeling lately how I imagine a mother must feel as she watches her children make the same mistakes as she did–mistakes that you have to make, that you learn from, but mistakes that she wishes she could have had warned of nonetheless.

The more that I teach, the more that I am able to watch my students’ practice progress daily. The progress of a dedicated student, whether a new or seasoned practitioner, never ceases to amaze me. But as I watch this process unfold, time and again it becomes incredibly clear that yoga powerfully impacts and transforms not only the physical body, but even for the student who practices yoga only for the physical benefits, the mind and the spirit will undoubtedly transform as well.

The true core of yoga is in the niyamas, which are often defined as “internal contracts.” But what I have found is that these are not contracts at all. If one practices just the physical practice of yoga regularly, these five “contracts” are absorbed internally. It seems like a daunting task to undertake, to consciously embody and understand saucha, santosha, tapas, svādhyāya, and Ishvarapranidhana but I see students incorporate these internal qualities more fully everyday, simply by coming to their mats.

The physical postures create saucha. The practice feels good, and we find that it feels even better when we keep our bodies clean by eating well and staying away from toxins–we learn that it is no fun to practice hungover and the yoga practice is more fun than a night of drinking. The practice itself cleans our bodies as we sweat, and clears our minds, cleaning our thoughts.

As the practice of santosha is insinuated into our bodies and minds, our minds become more pure because we begin to feel happy with ourselves.  We no longer need to criticize, or think hurtful things about others. Santosha, or complete contentment seems to occur when we keep finding that each goal that we perceived to be an “end” or a “win” turns out to be not an end, but a new beginning, like the edge of the ocean as it meets the horizon. When we work hard and we don’t win, we find we can and we must go further.  We still feel good. We must be okay. Everything must have been okay before, too.

As we find santosha, we realize that all this time, even just in our physical practice on our mats, we could have stopped trying to be “better,” could have focused less on future goals and more on the present moment. I have pushed myself to do things that didn’t feel good because I was afraid to speak up when something hurt, or was worried that others would think I was weak, or not “advanced” enough. I realize now that in actuality, no one else cared or thought anything about what I was doing. This realization is SO freeing, so beautiful to watch, and gives the practitioner a new sense of courage. Santosha, or complete contentment, leads to tapas, or the ability to build heat, to build true desire, confidence, courage, the ability to physically intensify without weakening internally. Tapas is often defined as “heat” but it is not the heat of a firecracker, but the heat of a slow-burning flame that if tended to, never goes out.

As we discover santosha, and as we find tapas, we cannot help but to have a deeper sense of curiosity about ourselves. We begin the practice of svādhyāya, or self-study. Finding the courage to look within without judgement, undoubtedly we find depths and possibilities in ourselves that are deeper than we ever imagined. Ishvarapranidhana — we realize that anything is possible.

Religion and blame: a reality check.

As the news storms in, as Facebook feeds create whispers that evolve into rumors and allegations that imitate high school hallways, as strangers connect and pictures fly across screens that look like scenes from the latest action movies, it can begin to feel like the world is falling apart. One of the saddest things that I have seen today is how quickly blame is placed on religious groups and how quickly negative feelings are directed towards innocent people.

Religion can be beautiful, it can bring hope, it can give strength, and true faith is always powerful. Whether or not a religion is right or wrong, whether or not it was created through a connection with the divine, religion is spread, transformed, and taught by people. And just like a song sung by one person will sound differently than the same song sung by another, teachings from any religion will resonate differently from person to person. The exchange of knowledge and thought can move quickly and the strength of words and teachings is easily taken out of context and misused.

While it would take decades and maybe lifetimes to be an expert on even the top six religions in the world today, there is one thing that I know for sure–they all teach compassion, they all teach love, they all teach forgiveness, and they all hope for peace.

“O’ my child, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you would like good to be done to you. Regard bad for yourself whatever you regard bad for others. Accept that (treatment) from others which you would like others to accept from you… Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you.”

– Nahj al-Balagha (Muslim Poet, cousin of Muhammad)

“…and you should forgive And overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And Allah is The Merciful Forgiving.”

– Qur’an (Surah 24, “The Light,” v. 22) 

“Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.

– Sutta Nipata 705 (Buddhism)

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.”

– Brihaspati, Mahabharata  (Hinduism)

“Whom should I despise, since the Lord made us all.”

– p.1237, Var Sarang, Guru Granth Sahib (Sikhism)

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.”

– Leviticus 19:34  (Judaism)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

– Luke 6:27 (Christianity)

Try not to let the human desire to organize and find patterns through similarities and differences overcome the human ability to find truth through compassion.