Poetry of Maya Angelou
In honor of Maya Angelou, we centered our practice around the following two poems today.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
MayThe free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
by Maya AngelI note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.
Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.
The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.
I've sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I've seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.
I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I've not seen any two
who really were the same.
Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.
We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” Pablo Picasso
The creation of sound, the destruction of silence. Sound has to emerge from silence and stillness. Webster defines healing as "to make sound". Sound is used in many variations as a form of healing.
"The person of science says that sound comes from the spine, diaphragm, abdomen and lungs… the mystic says that sound comes from the soul, the heart and the mind. Before its incarnation the soul is sound. It is for this reason that we love sound” Hazrat Inayat Khan
But I want to talk about the stillness.
"The sounds that are used in a healing session induce a shift in consciousness that helps the clients to get unstuck from their belief in disease or misfortune. Actually, it is not the sounds; it is the no-tone in between tones that has a healing effect. It is the silence that takes clients back to their pure state of being. Silence; this is not the absence of sound. Silence is the distant residue of sound ...true healing comes through silence. " (tuberose.com)
I love silence. Given the choice, I will almost always choose silence over music in the car and quiet versus noise, like TV, in the house. I will not mention whom, but "someone" was snoring last night. I took my pillow and blanket downstairs to lay on the couch and was in awe of the loudness of the silence. I spent many moments listening to the quiet and becoming absorbed by its vastness.
Silence is the space between the sound. It's the space between the inhale and the exhale. When I practice retention breath work, I like those quiet places best; they seem to connect directly to a part of my soul that can only be accessed through stillness.
Silence, on the mat, is consciously reconciling with the stillness of the poses. The movement is in the transition but can you be comfortable with then holding still?
I don't think many people are comfortable with silence. They always attempt to fill it with speech or thought so they can shut out their mind chatter. That's one reason many find meditation difficult...either an unfamiliarity with stillness or the noise their mind creates because they cannot access stillness.
“I don't think..." then you shouldn't talk, said the Hatter.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
At my son's baseball game Saturday morning, it suddenly occurred to me that I had tuned out all the chatter around me and all I was conscious of hearing was the slap of the ball against a glove or a bat. I felt the sun and the breeze and that was it. All that existed in the moment was sun, wind, a baseball and me. It was beautiful. Of course, upon realizing this, it was also gone, but how many chance upon those realizations? Don't be afraid of silence.
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
I knew just a few paragraphs into the foreward of this book that what I was about to read would be life changing. This is a must read!!!
The premise is the mind can heal the physical body. There are so many studies given and examples of people who miraculously healed themselves, including the author; they all did so by visualizing the healing taking place. The power of the subconscious mind is unbelievable. This idea parallels Pavlov's conditioning of dogs. His study taught dogs to associate receiving food when they heard a bell. Eventually, they physically salivated when they heard the bell and know food was present; their mental associations literally altered their physical reactions. Why can't we do that as well to encourage healing?
This book explains through documentation, studies and science why the answer is we can.
To do this, you have to learn to be in the present moment. Your subconscious will know when you wander off and it will, too. You have to refuse to be a part of the body's drama; do not dwell in the pain or the illness or your perceived "limitations". Staying in the present moment means staying with the concept of healing.
If this is a new concept for you, think about why vision boards work. A vision board gives you a tangible focus of the dreams and goals and things you would like to manifest in your life. They work because the mind is focused on already having those things. The mind can be just as focused on you being healthy before you actually are.
People in this book physically cured themselves of MS, a shattered spine, migraines, cancers...all with the power of the mind. And there are examples of how people shut their bodies down and died because of an illness they were told they had when they actually did not.
If you are suffering from any ailment, you have to read this and dedicate your mind to your healing. The question isn't what have you got to lose; the question is are you willing to live?
Stop to Question Everything
The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers by Mary Oliver
Who can guess the luna's sadness who lives so
briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone
longing to be ground down, to be part again of
something livelier? Who can imagine in what
heaviness the rivers remember their original
Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile
time with them. And I suggest them to you also,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that you bow to the earth as
you feel how it actually is, that we- so clever, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained- are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.
This poem is about questioning; not necessarily to find out answers but to stay curious about the moment you are currently in! I passed around the following questions in today's class that I got off thoughtquestions.com. As you ponder them remember to ask yourself if your answer is true. If it doesn't feel true, it's possible your ego jumped in with that answer. If it feels true, the answer most likely came from your heart.
HOW OLD WOULD YOU BE IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW HOW OLD YOU WERE?
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT ALWAYS LEAVES YOU WANTING MORE?
IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET A MESSAGE OUT TO A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
IS IT POSSIBLE TO LIE WITHOUT SAYING A WORD?
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IF YOU KNEW NOBODY WOULD JUDGE YOU?
HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING LATELY WORTH REMEMBERING?
DO YOU ASK ENOUGH QUESTIONS OR DO YOU SETTLE FOR WHAT YOU KNOW?
WHEN IT IS ALL SAID AND DONE, WILL YOU HAVE SAID MORE THAN YOU HAVE DONE?
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TRIED SOMETHING NEW?
IF YOU HAD A FRIEND WHO SPOKE TO YOU IN THE SAME WAY THAT YOU SOMETIMES SPEAK TO YOURSELF, HOW LONG WOULD THAT PERSON BE YOUR FRIEND?
IF YOU HAD TO TEACH SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD YOU TEACH?
WHAT IS ONE OPPORTUNITY YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW THAT YOU HAVEN'T TAKEN?
IF YOU COULD SPEND ONE WHOLE YEAR DOING ANYTHING YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY?
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT BEING ALONE?
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY AS A CHILD?
WHO DO YOU LOVE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?
WHICH ACTIVITIES MAKE YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME?
IF YOU COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING?
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO FORGET ABOUT SOMEDAY?
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU ARE TIRED OF SEEING ON TV?
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU LEARNED THAT BLEW YOUR MIND?
WHAT IS ONE PROBLEM YOU ARE THANKFUL YOU DO NOT HAVE?
WHAT MAKES A FRIEND UNFORGETTABLE?
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU AVOID?
WHAT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING YOU HAVE SEEN TODAY?
IF YOU COULD WRITE A NOTE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
WHAT IS ONE THING EVERY COUPLE SHOULD STOP DOING TO EACHOTHER?
Bottom of Form
Remember- questioning is not about the answer. It is about being present and allowing the mind freedom to explore without being controlled by the ego's answers.
“Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” ― Euripides
(PS. The mantra we chanted in class today was Om Mani Padme Hum)
"Infinite Love and Gratitude"
I have been using a mantra for the past few weeks that I wanted to share with you because it has made such a difference for me. It is not in Sanskrit so relax! This one is easy to remember, it's in English and it is only four words long (if you count the word and!). This mantra is borrowed from Darren Weissman who has become well known on his Hay House talk show for saying this mantra over and over again and having his callers repeat it back often as well. So, here it is...Infinite love and gratitude. Yep, that is it! Infinite love and gratitude.
I have been constantly repeating this mantra in my head, sometimes aloud...okay many times aloud in a sing-song rap kind of way (when no one is home!). When something is bothering me in the pit of stomach..Infinite love and gratitude. What I have found through this mantra's repetition is that it doesn't remove what is bothering me; it removes my emotional attachment to hanging onto it. Therefore, the pit in the stomach feeling goes away.
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
When I am driving along and I see something I find amazing, like a hawk soaring overhead...Infinite love and gratitude. I am thanking the Universe for this beautiful citing. On the one warm day we had here...Infinite love and gratitude!
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
― Meister Eckhart
Gratitude, I am finding more and more, is really quite powerful. I think the Universe is appreciative of you being appreciative so it sends gratitude right back to you in ways you cannot imagine.
I had two cortisone shots in my foot yesterday and when I woke up and tentatively placed my foot on the earth, it felt better than it has in years! Infinite love and gratitude!!!
Darren Weissman says, The journey of your spirit is to reconnect with the power of Infinite Love & Gratitude. Love is the universal power that propels life, fueling your will and enabling you to face and overcome challenges. Gratitude empowers you to go through life without judgment. You see the value of any experience (even situations once perceived as “bad”) as an opportunity, rather than being a victim of circumstance."
I think Steve Maraboli (Life, the Truth, and Being Free) sums this theme up well:
“Just an observation: it is impossible to be both grateful and depressed. Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. And even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons, if even small ones, to get up.”
A Definition of Beauty
Diane Keaton was on Dr. Oz a few days ago. She was talking about how important it is to recognize beauty. Ironically, she also spoke about her challenges with bulimia. To suffer from an eating disorder, one would have a distorted sense of beauty, would they not? Regardless, the definition she gave Dr. Oz about her idea of beauty was, to me, worthy of hitting pause and grabbing a piece of paper.
She said, "I think beauty is a feeling. I hate that people put beauty on a pedestal and try to remove it from the ordinary experience of life. It's from moment to moment- like me noticing your eyes. If you say you only like yellow flowers and that's it, you are kind of done with beauty. It's all encompassing."
I love the part where she says people try 'to remove it from the ordinary experience of life.' I did an entire theme yesterday on how much I like dandelions. Are they not beautiful just because they don't have a cost attached to them like roses? Are celebrities deemed beautiful because they are famous? Celebrities are put on a beauty pedestal yet, I stand in front of a room of beautiful yogis and their beauty is outside and in.
Diane talks about beauty being moment to moment. Are you present enough to notice the amazing things around you; the amazing people around you? Would you notice the color of someone's eyes? Would you see the dandelions as beautiful rather than a nuisance? Do you notice the clouds, hear the birds, taste the rain?
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." Confucius
Pause a moment and make a list of things you find beautiful. And when you think you are done, add ten more.
Jodi Hills writes, "I want to see the beauty in all. Possibly even me." That's sad, right? For someone not to know their inner beauty. Let me come back to that in a moment. When Diane says if you only like one color of flower you are done with beauty, isn't she reminding us not to judge? Don't judge the red flowers and the orange flowers and the blue just because you seem to prefer the yellow; see the beauty in all of them. So if you can relate to Jodi Hills' statement on any level, I would point out that judging yourself, limiting your own view of your amazingness, is really harsh.
Jodi Hills has another quote that I think would make a great mantra:
"Today will be what it is. I will be who I am . And there will be beauty in both."
Yes, I Love Dandelions
I have always loved passing by fields of dandelions; their butter yellow petals declaring independence from the green leaves, stems, grass. To me, dandelions are the ultimate sign that winter can be formally termed a memory. Why these cheery and steadfast flowers have been targeted as a homeowner's enemy is uncertain. It is said that dandelions offer more healthy attributes than broccoli and more "antibiotic" properties than an apple a day. The roots are edible as well and make a potent tea that along with being good for you is said to bring out the psychic abilities of a person if the tea is placed by their bed at night.
I remember once doing a yoga theme about how much I love seagulls. And a friend said, Ugh, I can't stand seagulls! We all see things differently. I am sure many of you reading this are wondering how anyone can like dandelions while I wonder how can you not.
“I was a dandelion puff...Some saw the beauty in me and stooped quietly to admire my innocence. Others saw the potential of what I could do for them, so they uprooted me, seeking to shape me around their needs. They blew at my head, scattering my hair from the roots, changing me to suit them. Yet still others saw me as something that was unworthy and needed to be erased.” ― Nicole Bailey-Williams
Yoga poses, named after sages and animals and aspects of nature, symbolically help teach the yogi to take on the characteristics of the poses' name. In Warrior, can we be strong, steadfast and grounded while also being calm and malleable? In Chair pose, can we still reach high when life attempts to pull us down? There is not a dandelion pose that I am aware of but, if there were, here is what the lesson would be...
Are you adaptable to change?
See, some people try to dig their heels in when the winds of change come along. 'If I just stand strong enough, maybe it will pass me by and then I can relax back into comfort mode.' Did you know that dandelions will alter, if you will, the height their stem stands depending on their surroundings? Have you ever noticed that dandelions growing in a yard stay low to the ground; rather than growing up, they will actually allow their stem to grow horizontally. In a field of longer grass, the same dandelions will grow as straight up as it can.
Are you adaptable to your environment?
Did you know that dandelions are nature's barometer? The white flower heads will close up completely before a rainfall to protect the delicate seeds, the heart of the flower. It will not reopen until the threat of rain has passed.
Are you as adaptable to protecting the seeds of your heart?
And...did you know that the yellow dandelion closes up at night to reopen in the morning? Even the dandelion sets time aside for quiet, for rest, for inner reflection, perhaps?
“It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.” - Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-1887
In the yoga sutras it says we are effulgent like the sun.
Your Temple Door
What connotations arise in your mind when you hear the word 'temple'? Many religions create some type of temple for prayer or in homage to deities. But taking the religious context away, the definition of a temple would be a structure built for spiritual activity. The last part of the poem "Today" by Mary Oliver depicts stillness as being like a temple door. Since stillness comes from within, that means to me that this temple door is also within each one of us. If the temple door is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, how do we hop onto the rainbow path that leads us there? How do we find the path of stillness inside and learn to sit back and follow it?
Note I said follow the path; I purposely did not say lead yourself down the path. Leading means you have control, that you are manipulating yourself in some way. Following means you are receptive, open and willing to surrender. Are you?
Meditation is a means to finding stillness. In meditation, we learn to surrender to the process not try to lead it. If you attempt to lead yourself, it is your ego mind that grabs your hand and says great, let's go! The ego mind will attempt to distract you with thoughts so that even though you seem to move forward quite a distance in your mind, the stillness is left farther and farther behind.
The way Mary Oliver writes this, I create a vision in my mind of a path leading my mind down to depths of quiet and peace, an oasis of silence. When I learn to track this path easily, I eventually am rewarded with the sight of a temple door in front of me. Observe the details of your door when you get there. What is it made of? Is it elaborate or rustic? How does it open? Does it open for you? And on the other side of the door, as you softly move through, your reward for your time well spent in learning to silence everything. Everything except your inner voice. The words you hear now in this place are the treasure. They come from a place so deep inside you that most people do not know how to access them, have forgotten or simply are not interested in putting forth the effort. But do put forth the effort, just do.
"Today" by Mary Oliver
Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple."
An Inspirational Pole Vaulter
Don't you just love when you hear an inspirational story on the news? One that makes you stop and really listen even though you thought you were listening before? This morning there was a story about a 16 year old girl named Charlotte Brown who recently made it to the state championships as a pole vaulter. The inspirational factor that she calls non-relevant is that she is legally blind.
“I think a disability is something that stops you or limits you from being able to do the things that you want to do,” Charlotte said. “This story isn’t about me. It’s about all people that struggle with something. I think everyone struggles with something in life. This was my something.”
Where she could once make out light and dark and run next to a lighter colored turf to make out the runway, Charlotte no longer even has that ability.
I understand why she calls her blindness non-relevant; it does not define her or her abilities. But the reason I would say it is relevant has nothing to do with her. Her blindness is relevant to us, to the people that see her as an inspiration. The relevance is in her not seeing her blindness as an obstacle. We need that insight because it pushes us; it reminds us of what other people go through on a daily basis. I have had a week of physical obstacles and, while I try to repeat positive affirmations in my head as much as I can, I can easily see how someone could get brought way down by their situation. Seeing Charlotte's story this morning reminded me that if she can blindly jump 12' 6" into the sky by placing the end of a pole in a specific area on the ground, I think I can handle my own issues.
Her father mentioned a conversation he had with her when she competed for the first time in 8th grade...
"Can you see the box where you plant the pole?" he asked.
"No, Dad," Charlotte replied.
"Can you see the bar you have to get over?" he wondered.
"Uh, no," Charlotte said.
"How about when you get over the bar, can you see the pit where you land?" he asked.
"Nope," she said.
"I was like, 'Well, I have concerns." "And she was like, 'Great, now get out of the way.'"
Obstacles are funny things. To me, just one of those factors would have been enough, but I don't have the desire to attempt to shove myself off the ground. Is it possible that the amount of desire one has for something determines, to some degree, the size of their "obstacles? It is definitely a mind-set and a heart-set. We have got to stay on top of keeping our head in a positive frame of mind. Reminders, mantras and stories like Charlotte's can help. Without them and without a strong sense of will like she has, it is way too easy to fall into victim mode and stay there. Because, trust me, there's a lot of company in victim mode!
In the news story, they mentioned that once Charlotte had asked her dad if he could have any wish, what would it be? And he said I would give you my eyes. In an instant, she responded, I don't need them. She said, "Dad, if you're 12, 13 feet in the air and falling through the sky and something goes wrong, good vision will not help you."
As you might expect, Charlotte's other senses, have kicked in to help her out. Here are some examples listed in the news story:
-She can hear a phone ringing in someone's pocket from across a gym. I can't hear mine half the time when it is in my purse!
-She knows when her coach is approaching by the sound his warm-up pants make when he walks from across the football field.
-"She can hear the revolver turning inside the piston before it fires"
-The beepers she uses on the track are such a high frequency that only she can hear them.
-"Her sense of hearing is just scary," her father said. "This fall at a football game my son was playing in, we were all in the bleachers and there were bugs flying around the lights. Two rows in front of Charlotte was her grandmother and she said, 'Nanny, there's a bug on your back.' We asked, 'How did you know that?' and she said, 'I could hear it land.'"
-In sixth grade, she played basketball by memorizing the court and counting the steps. But her sense of touch kicked in as she could feel the painted lines beneath her shoes.
-Her sense of smell heightened as well; "She can go to the soft-drink aisle at the store and pick out her favorite flavor of Gatorade by smelling it through the plastic."
Charlotte said, "while I suppose I can say it sucks not knowing what's going to happen with my vision, if I can't control and change what happens, I might as well adapt with a smile on my face."
All I can think of after reading that is Dr. Darren Weissman's famous saying, "Infinite love and gratitude."
How to Plant Your Garden Poem
The following is the poem I used in today' class in talking about how to recognize what your heart's desires truly are...
How to Plant Your Garden
First, you come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses
For the garden of your daily living,
Plant three rows of peas:
1. Peace of mind
2. Peace of heart
3. Peace of soul
Plant four rows of squash:
1. Squash gossip
2. Squash indifference
3. Squash grumbling
4. Squash selfishness
Plant four rows of lettuce:
1. Let us be faithful
2. Let us be kind
3. Let us be patient
4. Let us love one another
No garden is without turnips:
1. Turn up for meetings
2. Turn up for service
3. Turn up to help one another
To conclude our garden we must have thyme:
1. Time for each other
2. Time for family
3. Time for friends
Water freely with patience and cultivate with love.
There is much fruit in your garden because you reap what you sow.
– Author Unknown