Words of Wisdom: Black Elk

Monday, June 28, 2010

"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us." ~ Black Elk

Travel Journals: On the Way to Yellowstone

Friday, June 11, 2010
Journal Date: June 8th, 2010

The great Western voyage has begun! Currently en route to St. Louis from Nashville. Spent the last 24 hours visiting with my dad, Uncle Ted, and Aunt Janet in Nashville. Some highlights & ruminations:

~ Ted & Janet's house is filled with all the things that Jaime & I say we would buy if we actually had money: Turkish rugs, Japanese tea sets, old instruments, artwork from around the world from all of their travels, and my personal favorite, a Buddhist temple bell from Burma that produces (in my opinion) the very sound of enlightenment. Of all the people I know with money, they have by far done some of the coolest shit with their money... including taking me to Turkey with them & their 3 sons back when I was in high school. Lots of love & gratitude to them for their generosity and givings us a roof over our heads for the night.

~ Wandered around downtown Nashville last night w/ Jaime, then received an official tour from my dad this morning. The town took a while to grow on me, just not being the being used to the cowboy hats and country music vibe, but there are definitely some cool parts of Nashville. We took a little tour of the Ryman Theater, whose stage was graced by many of the old school country legends like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. You could feel a lot of history in the place.

~ Interesting aspect of traveling so far has been establishing new routines and setting aside some moments of the day for quiet and meditation. As much as I love adventure and new experiences, I know I also need a certain amount of quiet time each day, which is sometimes hard to come by when traveling. It's even harder to make time for even a small yoga practice or meditation session. So I'm adapting my practice in some interesting ways, turning my morning shower into a sadhana, taking deep breathes and clearing my mind. Traveling itself, however, is such a profound practice itself of learning to let things flow, be present in the moment, and not get caught up in the momentary worries and frustrations that travel inevitably brings.

We'll be passing through Boulder and plan to stay for a few days, so I'm hoping to catch some good yoga classes there. I think our bodies will really need it after all this car travel. That's about all for now. Passing through Kentucky right now and should be in St. Louis in a few hours.

Journal Date: June 10th, 2010

Driving through the immense landscapes of rural Kansas, as farmland stretches out as far as the eye can see. And seeming contradictions: fields of giant white wind-power generators and countless signs on the roadside about Jesus & abortion. It's a fascinating backdrop, however, for the book I'm reading right now: Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. The book is an in-depth exploration of the politics, economy, and ecology of our food. Kansas, along with Iowa and its corn fields, is really ground zero of our modern day food & farming system. A sign we passed on our way through reminded us: 1 Kansas Farmer Feeds 128 People + YOU! So much of the food I haven eaten in my lifetime has its origin in these heartland fields, yet this is the very first time I have seen it with my own two eyes.

It' all interesting food for thought on the new writing project I'm contemplating right now and which I haven't really written about until now. I have this idea called the "Ji-Ji-Mu-Ge Project". Ji-ji-mu-ge is a Zen term which literally means thing-thing-no-barrier, or "Between two things there is no barrier or wall." It is an ancient vision of life's interdependence that has spiritual as well as political and ecological consequences.

The reason I feel inspired to explore this concept of ji-ji-mu-ge is that I believe that we live in deeply disconnected times - both personally and globally. Whether one is talking about food, spirituality, politics, relationships, or just about anything in life, the problems and solutions usually revolve around how connected we are. I'm envisioning a writing & living project over the next year or so where I explore our disconnection (as well as the avenues to reconnection) to our naturally interdependent and interconnected world. This is also the basic philosophy behind One World Dharma (beginning as a blog but hopefully one day expanding into a non-profit). The vision of One World Dharma is reconnecting to our natural selves and the natural world through meditative practices, natural & simple living, creativity, and service. I'm envisioning this whole upcoming year as a time for dreaming big dreams and focusing myself on bringing into reality these callings I feel to reconnect to nature and spiritual truth.

That's all for now. About 3 more hours until we reach Boulder. We'll be staying there for 2 nights and I'm really expecting to have a blast there.


Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"What we vividly imagine,
ardently desire,
and enthusiastically act upon
must inevitably come to pass."
~ Collin P. Sisson

Green Tea & Zazen: More Haiku

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Steam rises off the tea,
aromas of jasmine and flowers -
my morning meditation.

Sitting in the doorsill,
the trees wave hello to me -
the white clouds wink blue.

In no hurry,
I pass my pipe
to the Moon.

Rubbing his belly,
the cat makes biscuits in the sky -
he clearly sees the point!

Room full of God,
a vision of the Heavenly light -
all in this buzzing moment.

Through the holes of the net
I used to try to catch myself -
I learned to love.

An old blanket hangs
upon the creaky wooden bench -
the garden Buddha just laughs.

Pen across paper -
this is my meditation,
my poetic peace.

The trees sway as one
as the breeze rustles through -
what a wiggly world!
(for Alan Watts)

The Half-Dipper
Alan Watts ~ Zen Bones

A Taste of Zen

Monday, May 10, 2010

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.
~ Ryōkan

At the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water.
~ Basho

Aloeswood and a flame,
Green tea and a cup,
Water and the sound of a shakuhachi -
Where did I disappear to?
~ Matthew Foley

A Love Like That

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Poem: Rainbow

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My dear,
how I wish I could pluck
from your troubled mind
all the doubts and fears that
haunt you so.

If I could,
I would take you by the hand
and seek out a rainbow to show you.
Without saying a word,
we could simply breathe together,
we could simply be together.

If I could,
I would walk with you
to every last mountaintop,
and let you sit until all the chaos
had settled within your heart,
so that you could again stand
and see this world with the eyes
of a newborn baby.

My dear,
how I wish you could
do the same for me,
showing me, again and again,
that all my cages were built
with my own two hands,
and the key is in my own pocket,
waiting for me to unlock the door.

~ Matthew Foley

The Heart of Yoga: A Young Yogi’s Perspective

As I’ve begun my journey as a new yoga teacher over the past year, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the essence or heart of yoga. What is it exactly about yoga that makes me passionate both as a student and now a teacher?

It’s difficult of course to talk about the heart of yoga, since yoga means many different things to many different people. One of the most noticeable aspects of the modern-day yoga community here in the States is the incredible diversity of reasons why people come to a yoga class. If you were to conduct a poll of people entering any given yoga studio and ask “Why did you come today?”, I think you would be amazed at the variety of responses.

Some are coming simply for a good workout. Some are coming for a personal oasis during the day – a chance to get away from the job, the to do list, the day-to-day grind. Some are coming to recover from injuries and wounds, both physical and psychological. And some come seeking the more spiritual aspects of the yoga tradition – to discover their true selves and perhaps find a little bliss along the way.

I think it’s quite a positive thing that many people are coming to a yoga practice from so many different perspectives. I think it actually speaks to (if you will excuse the pun) the flexibility of yoga in meeting a wide-range of needs of the modern person. Not bad for a tradition that’s been around for several millennia.

As I go into this question of the heart of a yoga practice, I realize that I can only really speak for myself and from my own experiences along the path. I am also a firm believer in the maxim “One Truth, Many Paths” - that there is a multitude of ways to express the same perennial truth. I realize that my words are, at best , mere fingers pointing at the moon.

Even though I can only speak of the heart of my yoga practice, I still think these thoughts may be helpful to someone at the beginning of their yoga path or someone interested in seeing things from a different perspective.

So, I come to this question: when I am teaching a yoga class to a group of students, what am I really trying to get across, what am I really hoping to share with them?

The heart of what I hope to cultivate in a yoga class – whether as teacher or student – is essentially an inner experience. It isn’t so important to me that I or anyone else perfects any one particular posture. I don’t think there is anything magical about an asana in and of itself – as if doing a perfect Virabhadrasana II is the mysterious ticket to everlasting nirvana. I think some people were born to do the uber-flexible advanced postures of yoga – but many of us aren’t.

I’m also not particularly interested in advancing a particular belief system. I think yoga’s current appeal in the West in terms of spiritual matters is that it offers a way of relating to spirituality – of connecting to the sacred, to the divine, to God – that isn’t about believing one particular way or subscribing to a specific dogma.

I believe yoga’s true gift (though it obviously doesn’t belong exclusively to yoga) is an inner experience of transformed awareness. In other words, yoga provides a radically new way of feeling our connection to the world and a transformed way of experiencing ourselves.

As we relax, expand, and open both the body and mind throughout the course of a yoga class, we clear a space within ourselves that is ordinarily cluttered by all the anxieties, fears, tensions, and doubts of our fast-paced lives. Within this cleared, open space, something else, something deeper, something more profound finally has the chance to speak.

If we are bold enough to listen, we find that it is our true selves – a self not exclusively rooted, however, to the narrow confines of me and mine, my story and my wants. This open, expanded self doesn’t necessarily reject what we feel we need and want in life, but it puts it all in a fresh, expanded perspective. I personally don’t subscribe to the notion that a spiritual practice is meant to help us transcend our earthly existence, as if there is something wrong with being a living, breathing human being on planet earth. In fact, my experience has been that a yoga practice helps us reconnect to the splendor of just being who we are, in a gorgeously interdependent world of plants, animals, sunshine, mountains, and all the wonders of life.

This newfound connection to life, brought about by the transformation of our consciousness, offers not just a solution to our modern sense of alienation and dissatisfaction, but also offers a blueprint for relating in a more ethical and responsible way to our fellow human beings and our ecological environment.

At this point, you may be asking: isn’t this a tall order for an hour-long asana class, often scheduled between one student’s business meeting and another’s commute to pick the kids up from school? Well, in my opinion, the heart of yoga doesn’t reside within the walls of any one yoga studio, nor does it always involve a yoga mat. Yoga is a transformative way of living one’s life, right here and now, whether you are attempting a headstand or folding the laundry, whether in deep meditation or looking into the eyes of your loved one.

I hope these thoughts bring some new inspiration and insight to your practice, whether you are just beginning or have been at it for many, many years. Yoga can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, so I share this not to convince you of the “right” way to do yoga, but to hopefully inspire you to find the heart of your yoga practice.

~ Matthew Foley