Yoga Sutra 1.1: atha yoga anushasanam. Now the practice of yoga begins.
Yoga, quite literally, is a path. It’s a culmination, or compilation, of the different pieces of a practice: movement, breath, study, concentration, contemplation, stillness, restraint, observation, meditation, presence, authenticity…
This practice wends its way through my life, showing up at different levels, in different ways, each and every day. Some days, I’m cultivating iccha, where the heart seeks to understand this turbulent and harrowing world in which we live, drawing the willingness to allow what might come. Other days, I’m learning; utilising jnanaenergy, gleaning whatever wisdom I can from books/from others/from the natural world, that helps me sometimes just get out of bed in the morning. Other days, the light bulbs flash: I discover a missing piece of a puzzle; some explanation for that thing that’s been tugging at my subconscious. There are the kriya days, where 1+2=37, because I feel I can do anything I’ve got the will and knowledge to accomplish, and I’ve put the pieces together to take action. Other days, that action is merely a walk around the block to clear my head of the numbing self-deprecating thoughts.
It’s International Day of Yoga. It’s the summer solstice. And so I continue on this path of yoga, making way for a citta vrtti-less* morning, a bright sun slicing through the cotton-puffed sky at the beginning of its arc across the longest day, saluting my endeavours as I salute its.
*Yoga Sutra 1.2: yogas citta vrtti nirodhah; yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind-stuffs.
I posted this request on Facebook tonight. I thought I’d spread to the outer InterWebs and see what pans out…
>>Dear Facebook Friend(s),
I’ve known many of you since I’ve had friends, the real kind… I’ve known some of you for only months or maybe just a few years. So I thought I’d give this social network thing a chance to do what it’s intended to. I’m going out on a bit of a limb here to ask you all for your help.
Those of you who have known me for a while, know I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always thought I’d do this. And I have: I’ve written a thing. And as strange as it feels to articulate, this thing is actually a book with chapters and 275 or so pages and a glossary. Some of you have even read early versions (thank you!); I’m encouraged.
So here’s what I’m hoping the Magic of Facebook can help me with: I need a literary agent. I need a publisher. I need some high-profile endorsements.
What I’m asking is this: do you have someone I can talk to in the publishing industry? Do you have a friend who is an agent? Do you have a friend/colleague/family member who might be the right kind of person (well-known human, celeb, influencer, famous smarty-pants, Oprah?) to read my book proposal or the whole thing if they’re so inclined and write something favorable about it? I promise you I’d be eternally grateful for a connection, a lead, a small leg up. I also promise that it does not suck. And I’m really good at knowing when my own words suck.
So…The working title is The Art of Being (Human). I’ve been studying yoga and yogic philosophy for the past 10 years. I’m not a teacher (by choice), but a student who has gotten through some really tough stuff with the aid of my yoga practice. It’s not a book about yoga, per se. It’s about applying this wisdom that has been around for thousands of years to the things we face every day. I went through a divorce, I lost a job, I got through grad school, I stopped relying on other people to determine my personal worth. I met a guy. I went to India. I opened my eyes to the present like I’ve never done before.
The Art of Being (Human) is about creating a Practice. It’s about how to be vulnerable. It’s about how to create stability amidst chaos. It’s about picking your battles and fighting personal demons. It’s about patience and balance and action and timing. In it, I intermingled references to mythology, philosophy, literature, fiction, film and tales from everyday life. It’s narrative non-fiction with philosophical themes and teachings braided throughout, via travelogues, memoirs and a love(ish) story.
It’s yoga, but not just for yogis. It’s for my friend going through a divorce, and for my friend coping with depression, and for another coming back from addiction and another one not being taken seriously at his job and another friend who lost her husband. And for one whose parent is suffering from mid-stage Alzheimer’s. Also, they’ve got teenagers, so now there’s that. We’re at this age, Friends, where this shit is real and it’s happening to us, whether we like it or not.
I wrote this book because there are some simple practices that saved me, and in these crazy times I think we need to go back to the basics.
Again, I’m asking for help. Will you introduce me to someone who can get me farther along the path to making this book a reality?
Thank you so much for reading this. Your encouragement is appreciated, whether or not you know Oprah.
CLICK HERE to read some of my non-travel writing on Medium.
I had brekkie with my dear friend and Teacher after class this morning. We talked about the fall from sanity in this country, the challenge we have in being human in this “less-than” world we walk through every day. We talked about the inequalities woven into the very framework of our very privileged Western lives. We lamented a feeling of restlessness and helplessness and still a desire to do something or create Something. That. Matters.
This morning in class, we chanted an invocation to Shiva, the destroyer; the Hindu deity who invites us to break through what doesn’t serve to make way for what may come… It’s ironic that in a room full of privileged white folk (privileged to be able to afford the class, the clothes, the transport, the freedom of time, the luxury of freedom), the chant and the message still resonates. Louder with some and softer with others, je suppose.
So as we Westerners quest to reach those lofty heights we’re supposed to, we pursue control and domination, we marginalize that which makes us feel less large, buy things to make us feel wealthier, and somewhere in the process we stop being objective. Ego drives need and we fail to notice the smaller magical moments along the way, checking instead for likes and followers; celebrating status.
The practice reminds us students to be present and observant and objective – about ourselves, about the greater world and about our impact on it. The invocation reminds me that there is this grand connection between our individual selves and that which is out of our control, and there is a fine line to walk in order to balance between the two. That the natural world maybe owns us as much as we feel entitled to owning it. That we can draw upon our internal fire (tejas) when we need it. That the Universe teaches us lessons each day, more so when we’re paying attention. The natural world can only be. And that being human(e) is at the core of everything that’s important.
These ancient words help me come back to a simpler place where humanity matters. Material stuff and status and ego, not so much. This morning’s practice helped me consider that in the blaring absurdity of today’s headlines and talking heads that the more credence and attention we give them, the more they become the norm. Though I’d like to, I won’t hide under a rock until this election is over – the blowback might well be worse than its genesis – and deliberate ignorance is more likely the cause than the solution. Much of what has been cannot be un-said.
Whether or not the Sanskrit words resonate, I hope we can agree it will take a strong and very observant, very present army of humans to right the balance of decency on this small chunk of the planet.
I’ll go to sleep tonight with this chant resonating, invoking in dreams those things that might destroy the evil brewing in the real world.