100 Days of Yoga, Day 24

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September 14, 2012 by blogmasterjdeam

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

The part that chokes me up about this poem is the line ” … and you felt the old tug at your ankles.  “Mend my life!” each voice cried.”  It touches me because for so many of us, that tug at our ankles is a very real part of this life.  Some of us can’t  drop everything, everybody and head out on our journey.  We need to figure out a way to make our journeys work with all of our obligations in the backseat of our cars.

In India, life is broken up into sections.  It is set up so that we are first completely dependent beings, then students, then house holders (the time when you make a living, have a family, build your nest egg, ) and then at about the age of 60, you spend the rest of your life “practicing to merge with the Divine.”   The word Yoga, in Sanskrit, mean Union.

Here is how William J. D. Duran describes this phase:

VIII. Samadhi (Union with the Divine)

       The final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi. Samadhi means “to bring together, to merge.” In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness. During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged.

       Thus, samadhi refers to union or true Yoga. There is an ending to the separation that is created by the “I” and “mine” of our illusory perceptions of reality. The mind does not distinguish between self and non-self, or between the object contemplated and the process of contemplation. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of consciousness, truth and unutterable joy.

       The achievement of samadhi is a difficult task. For this reason the Yoga Sutra suggests the practice of asanas and pranayama as preparation for dharana, because these influence mental activities and create space in the crowded schedule of the mind. Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and samadhi can follow.

       These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.xviii

This is the journey about which Mary Oliver writes.  In theory, you come to a point in your life where everything else is simply nonsense.  You recognize that the most important thing we do is the final transition.  And that we must to this job better than any job we’ve ever done.  Everyone, everyone, everyone  deserves a good death.  Yoga allows us to practice, to prepare, to be ready for whatever comes next.

We leave the ocean as drops of water.  We fall to the rivers, the lakes, or we evaporate into rain, but we all return to the ocean.  Dropping this body is a sacred act.  In our country we hide death behind doors.  We keep children from the knowledge of it.  Doctors make death a kind of failure.  We hide our elderly in homes, brushing aside any guilt we may feel.  After all, we are very busy people, doing very busy things and thinking those very busy things are important.

What I want to express to each of us, especially myself, is the importance of the journey we are on, baggage and all.  In order to make this journey, many of us will need to bring our obligations with us.  We’ll need to nurture them and make that nurturing part of our journey.  We will need to learn to love everyone, including ourselves, as if we are the most precious thing ever created.  Yoga gives us the tools with which to do that.

We don’t need to wait until we are in the final chapter of our lives to begin the journey.  We start from where we are, at this very moment.  We incorporate as part of our journey all the shame, the fear, the pain, the sadness we have endured.  We do so because without that part of us we are not us.  The hardships we’ve known give us texture.  They make us whole and rich in ways money could never buy.  We hold the most difficult parts of life to our hearts so that we can keep our hearts open in the face of whatever life has in store for us.  We take this tapestry of our lives and weave into it compassion, so that we may hold every being in our hearts.  EVERY being, not just the ones we like.

In the final analysis, I think we’ll see, we all had work to do.  We don’t get to judge another being’s karma.  No matter how horrible it may seem to us, it is their work.  Just like your work is your work.  Who are we to say someone’s work has less, or more, meaning than our own.  We must have compassion for all or for none.  We don’t get to pick and choose. We are all on our own journeys.  We are all of value, no more, no less, than any other being.


As many of you already know, I have been handing out bumper stickers with this “slogan” for many years.  Can you imagine getting upset with the driver in front of you after reading that on their bumper?

Pranayama:  Again today, alternate nasal breathing.  Fall is in the air.  Today was the last day to harvest our tomatoes.  Tonight will be the first freeze here in the north country.  I love the fall.  To me it represents this particular time of my journey.

Asana:  I am drawn to repeat the practice from Wednesday night’s yoga class with Joan: We warmed up and then did this wonderful thing called self massage.  We tapped our bodies all over with our fingers or fists.  We yelled loudly at the injustices of life.  We did a mountain pose, Warrior I and Warrior III.  We did two wonderful, tension releasing twists; stretched our hamstrings and calves with the strap, before going into Sivasana.  I learned my Warrior III was quite out of balance.  I am very happy about that — it explains a lot!

With great compassion, love, and kindness for you all, Chris



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