By day, I am drawn to poetry and songs because they speak to the unspoken. They can change one’s life in a heartbeat. That’s why dictators ban poetry; it is dangerous. It can tip us into a new life, refresh our views, replace our assumptions.
Here is Mary Oliver:
"I do not know exactly what a prayer is.I do not know how to pay attention, how tofall downinto the grass,how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all the day. Tell me what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me what is it that you plan to do with your one wild precious life?”
And that is the nub of our daily accounting to ourselves. What are we doing and what are we planning to do? Fortunately, we have guidelines for behaviour toward ourselves and others from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The code of conduct he gifted yogis with resembles that of the great religious and spiritual teachings of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. And Patanjali ensured that we examine our spiritual progress by practising svadyaha or self study.
Since we expect, as yogis, to take responsibility for our thoughts, words and deeds, we might refine our self examination to include three questions.
Who am I?
Where am I?
What am I supposed to do right now?*
Who am I? refers not only to the nature of our Self or ground of being, but also to the emotional temperature at the moment of enquiry. How am I feeling? Am I stuck or free? When we insert that moment of pause and observation, we are present to our thoughts and feelings.
Where am I? points to either the specific location we occupy or the more general place we hold in a bigger picture at work or elsewhere in our life’s orbit. For example, we might be struggling in relationship or anticipating a problem that is not actually present. So practising skillful observation and empathy will help to redirect our actions.
What am I supposed to do right now? Is the nub of the direction to act. If I know how I am feeling and what emotions I am bringing and I understand where I stand in the situation, I have a good chance of taking appropriate action.
Dreams are the heart’s calling to be with the unbounded. Skillful examination of dreams and outflowing behaviour links us to refreshment and right actions.
Happy Days and Dreamy Nights!
*(Thanks to Sally Kempton for the elegant simplicity of this framework www.sallykempton.com).
Kelly Murphy is owner of Bend Over Backwards Yoga Studio in Nanaimo.