I am happy to be a teacher on faculty for a very special program called The JIM - Joy in Moving, organized by Jessica Marasa, and featuring fascinators offering the very best from their respective fields. The JIM is three weeks of mindful movement classes, dance, somatics, and more at the beautiful Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, and is offered as a very accessible membership that allows you to take any or all classes that capture your interest. This is going to be a really special program! I encourage you to check out the website and I invite you to join us to explore more joy in moving, and perhaps expand your horizons a bit with some wonderful, inspiring and kind hearted people.
I will be teaching Gentle Yoga on Thursday, June 29 from 6:30-8pm as part of this three week intensive program.
For more information and to participate, please visit https://thejim.org/
Make a nesting now, a place to which
the birds can come...
a prayerful palm holding the blackbird's egg
and be the one, looking out from this place
who warms interior forms into light.
Feel the way the cliff at your back
gives shelter to your outward view
and then bring in from those horizons
all discordant elements that seek a home.
Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry...
apprentice yourself to yourself,
begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.
See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch now, how it weathers you...
admonishes you with each falling leaf,
to be courageous, to be something
that has come through, to be the last thing
you want to see before you leave the world.
Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.
Ghost then, to where others
in this place have come before...
become the source that makes
the river flow, and then the sea
beyond. Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember.
- David Whyte, excerpt from "Coleman's Bed"
from River Flow: New & Selected Poems
Wishing you all peace and courage at each ending and new beginning.
I send my love to you.
Image: Jerry Uelsmann
This is my current prayer and intention. I am happy to share it with you, and hope it may support your own path of love and awareness.
I am nature. Just as I endeavor to be nonviolent toward the trees and the flowers and the animals, I will not be violent toward myself.
My kindness and love of nature must include myself. Otherwise, it is incomplete, and untrue. And I will suffer in that feeling of incompleteness.
Just as I pay loving attention to each whisker on a cat, each petal on a flower, I shine my awareness on the thoughts in my mind, the words on my lips, the actions of my hands. I look at them with loving eyes, and nurture them with kindness, gratitude, and pre-forgiveness, always.
Just as I love the towering trees and the rushing brook, and rejoice in their beauty, I extend reverence and appreciation for myself and my gifts.
My care touches each moment, right now, with the full faith of Wholeness. I am nature, in all its mystery, goodness and fierceness. My love is complete when my love of "everything" also includes all of me.
Look, it’s spring. And last year’s loose dust has turned
into this soft willingness. The wind-flowers have come
up trembling, slowly the brackens are up-lifting their
curvaceous and pale bodies. The thrushes have come
home, none less than filled with mystery, sorrow,...
happiness, music, ambition.
And I am walking out into all of this with nowhere to
go and no task undertaken but to turn the pages of
this beautiful world over and over, in the world of my mind.
Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you
A Settlement by Mary Oliver
All around the world, there are things to be sad about this month. Over the course of human history, we've experienced violence and hatred, sadness and grief. There are also many, many people that are doing good, and demonstrating acts of kindness both small and grand. The images this week of volunteers helping refugees out of boats in Greece and in the streets of Berlin nearly made my heart burst in gratitude and admiration. Too, the kindness people share to each other in my day to day commute, between friends and strangers, and pets shine bright in these short and sometimes grey days. And you, I bet you have shared your light with someone too. Thank you.
Many spiritual teachers from different cultural and religious backgrounds agree that peace begins inside our hearts. This is our work, and this is my prayer: May we all continue to practice kindness and nurture true acceptance within ourselves, and from that place of wholeness may we embrace all of humanity with hearts as big as the world.
Here's a beautiful poem called "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye. I hope you'll enjoy.
Before you know what kindness really is...
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like a salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
I've been sharing this poem in class lately. David Whyte is one of my favorite poets. He talks about this poem as an invitation to pay attention in a deeper way. Here's a great explanation and reading by the poet himself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq2NfrNt9EU Have a listen --- I love what he says: "There is no area of competency you can enter that will keep you safe from the disappearances of life."
Everything is Waiting for You
by David Whyte
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone.
As if life were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions.
To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings.
Surely, even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus,
crowding out your solo voice
You must note the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things to come,
the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness
and ease into the conversation.
The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink,
the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness
and seen the good in you at last.
All the birds and creatures of the world
are unutterably themselves.
Everything is waiting for you.
As the days draw shorter and darker, and it gets colder here in the Windy City, you may find yourself becoming more isolated from others.
I invite you to remember your nature, and "your place in the family of things."
Please enjoy this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver:
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I've shared this quote in class several times over the past couple months, and received feedback that it's really hit home (pun intended) for a lot of students. I'm happy to share it with you here.
No matter how old we get or where we are, each of us at one time or another feels that twinge - that longing for home - the feeling that something is missing or lost. Sometimes we try to fill that emptiness or discomfort with other people, or activities, or food or drink or [insert your thing here].
Is it possible to decide, to choose, to be whole? To rest into and trust that you are lacking nothing in mind, body and spirit. To soften into that wholeness like a sweet, familiar song from long ago.
A student recently asked for recommendations on what to read to learn more about yoga and yoga philosophy. Here's a short list that includes some essentials and some other books that I've found truly helpful in my practice and teaching. There are more - but this is a good place to start! Enjoy!
Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Bihar School of Yoga, Saraswati.
The Art of Pranayama, B.K.S. Iyengar
Light on Yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar
Atlas of Human Anatomy, Frank Netter
Living Your Yoga. Judith LaSater
Yoga for Wellness. Gary Kraftsow
Yoga for Pain Relief. Kelly McGonigal
Also, I'm highly anticipating the release of this book by my teacher, Tias Little: Yoga of the Subtle Body: A Guide to the Physical and Energetic Anatomy of Yoga.
I had a great exchange with a student today that seemed worth sharing. A new beginner student came to class today, whom we will call Joe. He came in with a friend that has been practicing for a long time. Both were a pleasure to work with - very sincere in their openness to learn. After class we chatted a bit:
Friend: Katie, do you have any advice for Joe?
Me: Well, Joe got lots of general and some personal instructions, though I'm sure those won't all be integrated in just one class! It will take some more frequent exposure and practice.
Joe: Yeah, it was good! But I kept having to look around every once and a while to make sure I was doing it right.
Me: Hmm. Did my words and instructions make sense to you? Were they understandable?
Joe: (paused) Yes, I think so. I was just unsure of myself. I wasn't sure if I was doing it right.
Me: You know, sometimes I will say the same thing three different ways because everybody hears differently. And I can see right away if my words are making sense -- but if they don't you can just give me a look ;)-- But, really, I think you've just answered the question. Yoga is really all about Listening. So we turn off the radio, the tv, the phone, outside voices, mind chatter, and ego stuff and we get really quiet. And then, maybe we can we hear our heart. The challenge for people that have been practicing asana for a long time is that they have an overlay of previously constructed dialog and expectations that can really challenge being present and fully experiencing. You have the advantage of freshness!
So for you, and pretty much anybody, the work is practicing being present, building your awareness, and learning to trust that you are hearing correctly. Then you do your best to incorporate it, or make wise choices based on that understanding. And it builds from there. You start to really listen to your body, to your breath, to your intuition, and to your spirit. You can get to a place where you can go deep into your experience and truly trust yourself. Does that makes sense? Does that sound too out there?"
Joe: "No, I think that sounds cool." :)
Katie: "OK cool!!"
Cheers to deep listening!