Friday, May 25, 2012

I’ve just returned from six weeks in California, helping with end of life care for my 96-year old mom. I flew out expecting to stay one week. Life (and near-death) however, had other plans. Although much of my time was spent care-giving, I was able to edit some talks for this blog. You’ll find the first of those below. One of these days the demands of family dharma will abate and I’ll return to regular blogging. In the meantime, my posts will continue haphazard, with little semblance of rational order.

The last two posts referenced December 5th’s class on Patanjali Book II, 43-45. I’m now jumping ahead to II, 54-55. These are the final sutras of Book II and describe the practice of pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses.

When consciousness interiorizes by uncoupling from external objects,
the senses do likewise; this is called withdrawal of the senses.
Then the senses reside utterly in the service of realization.

This talk, given at class on January 30, focused on pratyahara and mindfulness. It’s rather freewheeling in its intensity with some hilarious moments. Below the sound clip you’ll find text of the Mary Oliver poems I read that night. The talk runs 29 minutes.

This first poem is a gorgeous exclamation of the senses in service of realization; the second, a darker telling of those moments when the senses run rampant over connection to the Self:

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

The arrowhead,
which I found beside the river,
was glittering and pointed.
I picked it up, and said,
“Now, it’s mine.”
I thought of showing it to friends.
I thought of putting it—such an imposing trinket—
in a little box, on my desk.
Halfway home, past the cut fields,
the old ghost
stood under the hickories.
“I would rather drink the wind,” he said,
“I would rather eat mud and die
than steal as you steal,
than lie as you lie.”