Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.

~ Kenneth Rexroth ~

(One Hundred Poems from the Chinese)

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“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Japanese proverb

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Kim’s Simply Delectable Pumpkin Pie

Kim Schwartz, resident swami and director of the High Desert Yoga Teacher Training Program, also happens to bake a delicious pumpkin pie.  Kim uses fresh organic ingredients and substitutes maple syrup and maple sugar for white sugar, ghee for butter and yogurt for evaporated milk.  For a truly scrumptious and nutritious pie, use a vine ripened organic local pie pumpkin.

Enjoy your pie while gazing at the bright blue New Mexico autumn sky.   Happy Equinox and Bon Appetit!

Ingredients: 

2 & 2/3 cups ww pastry flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup ghee

1/2 cup cold water

2 cups baked and mashed pie pumpkin  (bake whole pumpkin at 350 F for approx. 60 min.)

1 cup diluted whole milk yogurt with the cream on top (how much it is diluted is up to you)

1 Tbls. maple syrup (B grade)

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup maple sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Crust

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

2. Prepare pie crust by mixing together the flour and salt. Cut ghee into flour, add one tablespoon water to mixture at a time. Mix dough and repeat until dough is moist enough to hold together.

3. With lightly floured hands shape dough into a ball. On a lightly floured board roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. With a sharp knife, cut dough 1 & 1/2 inch larger than the upside down 8 to 9 inch pie pan. Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer it right side up on to the pie pan. Unroll, ease dough into the bottom of the pie pan.

Filling

4. In a large bowl with mixer speed on medium, beat pumpkin with yogurt, eggs, maple syrup, maple sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix well.

5. Pour into crust.

6. Bake 40 minutes or until when a knife is inserted 1″ from the edge it comes out clean.

Share and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Namaste!

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Yoga and Poetry: An Interview with Supriti

♥contributed by HDY teacher Jude Rowe

Supriti, one of High Desert Yoga’s senior yoga teachers and one of the longest practicing yoga teachers in Albuquerque, is known and loved for the way she weaves poetry into yoga.  Supriti is quite humble about her gifts, but she holds a wealth of knowledge about yoga and poetry.  A few weeks ago, I encouraged Supriti to sit down and talk about her love of poetry and yoga.   Here’s some of what she had to say:

J: Why Poetry?

S: Because it speaks to me. It speaks to me in a precious way like prayer does. There’s something about it that’s very personal, that’s very immediate, that’s really very sacred- the particular poetry that I’m drawn to.

J. When did your interest in poetry start?

S: I think I loved corny poetry even in high school, like “The Highway Man,” because I love language and I love rhythm and I love cadence; that was all part of reading poetry out loud- the musicality of it; I love that. Then later on, I became more interested in the content.

J. Have you had a continuous relationship with poetry ever since high school?

S. Maybe intermittent- in college I was very excited about Garcia Lorca, the Spanish playwright and poet and the fact that he had salons where they read poetry out loud. (I was a Spanish major). He had these poetry readings and I thought, wow, reading poetry out loud, that was revolutionary to me. And then I just became more and more attracted to it in my twenties and thirties.

J. Did you ever write poetry?

S. Actually I did write poetry in high school, and I won a little award for a poem I wrote, but I never pursued it.

J. It’s more a passion for reading other people’s poetry?

S. Yes, its more a passion for sharing the immediacy of the poem with people now and having the forum to do it with yoga classes.

J. What’s the relationship for you between yoga and poetry?

S. I think its the quality of the language; it’s what I would describe as the mantric quality of poetry because the language is so intentional and its so potent; for that reason I feel like its a very high form of communication, because of its intentionality.

J. How do you integrate poetry into yoga?

S. For me, it’s really about being in the moment; and there’s something about when it works. There’s something about the choice of the poem for the tone of the moment- whether its a particular truth that’s resonating with me that I can communicate authentically to listeners or its the mood of the day. I can’t really explain it….. There’s a kismet there when it works.

J. Along that line… what’s resonating for you right now? Is there a poem that’s speaking to you today or this week?

S. The wonderful thing about being hooked into “Panhala” (see link below) is it does give you access to different poets. I’m very eclectic in my poetic appetite and I don’t have a favorite poet; I have favorite poems. And again, its that serendipity of the poem coming to me. The poem is a gift to me; its like I’m plugged in; they come to me and I can share them.

J. What is Panhala?

S. Panhala is a daily e-mail poetry group created by Joe Riley. He has a certain bias towards the metaphysical and I often resonate with his choices.

J. Do you think Panhala sometimes goes to “dark places?”

S. Dark places don’t scare me; those are the kind of places I think touch a common humanity. When we know other people are writing about them, I think it can be reassuring. Even Mary Oliver talks about death a lot, but it’s not something to avoid; it’s an inevitable part of life and so are the shadows.

J. It seems Joe Riley has been including many poems about aging lately, have you noticed?

S. Yes, (laughs) and I like that. I’m attracted to a lot of those poems. I’m attracted to Stanley Kunitz and I’m attracted to poems about getting old. Yeah, that’s ok with me- “Live in the layers not on the litter.”

J. Are you going to read me a poem? (smile)

S. I love and relate to this poem from Jane Hershfield called “Standing Deer.” The poem is about aging which is true for me in the moment.

Standing Deer

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

~ Jane Hirshfield ~

(The Lives of the Heart)

J. What struck you about this poem?

S. …the content, the form, the way she played with the paragraphs, the structure….

J. The feeling of stripping away….?

S. Yes, and finding the still point amidst all our distractions, like the pause between the appearance and disappearance of the deer…..

J. How do you integrate poetry into yoga classes?

S. I don’t always start a yoga class with a poem, (I often don’t), but students think I will (laugh), and they look forward to it. I guess in the moment it sets a tone. If I read a poem during Savasana, my hope is it will help people drop deeper into their Savasana, it will release them more deeply into their bodies, into the earth, into the moment, into their breath.

J. What has been your response from students?

S. I’m often asked for a copy of the poems I read in class. I think I’ve excited a lot of people about poetry over the last 10 years. I used to incorporate music- and its the same thing. All the musicians who I love are poets like Annie Lennox, Sting, James Taylor and John Lennon- they’re all poets. Their lyrics are very poetic.

J. Who is your favorite poet in the mystical tradition?

S. It changes depending on my mood…. I love the Sufi poets, Rumi and Hafiz; there’s something ecstatic about their poetry. I’m also drawn to the contrasting transpersonal kind of simplicity of the zen poems or haiku.  I love the sutra- like poems of Hanshan from “The Collected Poems of Cold Mountain.” Hanshan, which means cold mountain, was a legendary Taoist who was said to have lived in a cave on “Cold Mountain.”

J. Can you remember a favorite quote from one?

S. “Though face and form change with the years, I hold fast to the pearl of the mind.”   That’s what I tried to do- I would start to memorize little pieces of prayers or two or three lines of a poem and practice them until they became more readily available, so I would be able to access the words without having to read from a book like Rumi’s “The Guest House,” or e.e. cummings “I Thank You God for this Most Amazing Day.”

J. One of your students said she didn’t really like poetry before she came to your classes but you changed that.

S. Isn’t that amazing! I know some people’s ears and hearts and minds have been opened just from hearing it and receiving it when its appropriate or accessible- there’s a shift for people.

J. Have you ever thought of putting together an anthology of poetry?

S. No, but there are more and more available because people are really turning on to poetry now. Kim Rosen has written a wonderful book called Saved by a Poem and I’m struck by how I’m attracted to so many of the same poems that she loves and writes about.

J. Is it an anthology?

S. It’s more a consideration of poetry as medicine with references to poems.

J. Anything else you want to say about the essence of what poetry means to you?

S. I’ve had this conversation in my head and it was all so clear….. (laugh)

…this kind of echos what Kim Rosen talks about- for me poetry is medicine; it heals me. It transmutes my mood. It affords me the same kind of shift that an asana practice does. If I give myself over to a poem, if the poem is really taken in, it’s like medicine and it will shift my mood; its like a mini satori- a quick awakening.

J. That’s beautiful! I think I’ve heard you say that mystical poetry comes as close as you can to describing something that is hard to describe in words.

S. There’s this great line from a poem that says something like: “Poetry like music is tending towards silence.” It brings you right to the brink of a huge sea of silence. That’s where it drops you; its like the silence after the “OM.”

S.  I love this poem by David Whyte, he’s one of my favorites poets:

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with                        
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

– David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

Here’s the link to Panhala: http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Index.html                                       To subscribe to Panhala, send a blank email to: Panhala-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

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Teacher Spotlight: Interview with Judy Mortellaro about the newly forming “Spiritual Circle”

HDY: What inspired you to start the Spiritual Circle?

JUDY: I was thinking about how a lot of people have a spiritual practice, or maybe they don’t have a spiritual practice but they feel as though they’d like to have something deeper in their lives, but they’re not religious and they don’t want to go to a church. I felt like it would be a nice place for people to get together to meet and relate on a more spiritual level.

HDY: Is the group based on any particular religious or spiritual paradigm?

JUDY: No, there really is no paradigm. The first time we met we agreed on two ground rules: One- no proselytizing and two- confidentiality, anything personal shared in the group stays in the group. Also at the first group, we decided some of what we wanted to do and the members requested chanting and meditation. At the second meeting, I brought an old celtic chant to share because I thought the english would be easy to learn and it would be something we might all relate to on some level.

HDY: Since the group meets at a yoga studio, is the group based on yoga philosophy?

JUDY: No, although my practice is yoga, as far as I’m concerned spirit is spirit; however you come to your practice doesn’t really matter.

HDY: So for example, could someone who is Christian come to the group?

JUDY: Anybody can join!  Not only is everyone welcome, but it would be wonderful if people from all/any traditions would stop by to share and see what common ground we can find.   There’s a song called “All Are Welcome Here,” that’s the motto for the group. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are- we’re all connected through spirit. “All the animals, the plants, the trees- we’re all welcome here,” but we just don’t always practice that.

HDY: What might someone expect if they come to the group?

JUDY: First, not to have expectations would be good. (smile) We did start out with some ideas that included chant and meditation and we started doing a check-in with each other. The first week there was a bit of a problem with giving advice, but we’re not there to advise or counsel each other, we’re not there to have a coffee klatch. We can support each other maybe in a quiet, silent kind of way by holding sacred space. If you came in and you were very upset about something and you expressed it, we could just sit with it. So, our third ground rule became not to give advice.

HDY: Can advice seem like criticism?

JUDY: Yes, very much like criticism. Besides, who are we to say what would be good for someone else. If we look inward, maybe we’ll find the answers there.

HDY: Is there a leader in the group?

JUDY: There’s not really a leader; I facilitate it for now because I’m getting it going…..

HDY: If there’s not a specific philosophy or leader- what will you focus on?

JUDY: We’ve talked about the different ways spirit can be expressed through activities; where spirit is working through us rather than ego. One day I brought in some scrap material and needles and thread and we started putting them together on a background without talking. Some of us were inspired to take them home and finish. We didn’t have a plan when we started but as we watched our creations emerge and later shared them we said, “yes, this is what spirit is about.” It came more from deep within….

Last week someone brought a couple of poems to share from Mary Oliver and we meditated and talked about what soul and spirit is for us. Someone suggested that maybe spirit expresses itself through dance and maybe we could dance next week….Possibly some people won’t want to dance and they could just sit- so we’ll try dancing next time, but there’s no pressure to participate.

HDY: How has the group been going so far?

JUDY: We’ve just been getting started in the last few weeks- some are finding it challenging not to give advice. Maybe we can learn together as a group the skill of deep listening and communication. It takes a skill to be able to ask a question without trying to lead someone to think what you want them to think.

HDY: It sounds like the group has the potential to evolve into what the members want it to be.

JUDY: Exactly; within the guidelines of not proselytizing, not giving advice and keeping confidentiality.

HDY: What personal experiences inspired you to start this group?

JUDY: Having been ordained twice now, once as a swami and once as an interfaith minister, I used to gather with others to study and practice. When I returned home, I missed being able to share on that level with that kind of real connection- to be able to just hang out with others and let spirit guide you rather than permitting the ego, labels or appearances to guide you. I want to be able to relate to people and speak about things like spirit without someone thinking I’m crazy….. which a lot of people do (laughter) and that’s ok.

HDY: What’s unique about this group?

JUDY: Its not religion based- its a place to “be”, share and relate to others through spirit no matter what you call it- without preaching.

♥ The Spiritual Circle meets every Sunday at High Desert Yoga from 10- 11a.m. All are welcome!

“….To the winds I cast my fate and the remnants of my fear……..

…..Tears of gratitude I wept                                       I was welcome here…..”

excerpt from “All Are Welcome Here” song lyrics by Miten





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Mindfulness, Yoga and Dancing in the Now

contributed by High Desert Yoga Student and Substitute Teacher Ken O’Connor

I am amazed by the complexity of the human experience. We seem to build whole systems of beliefs and ways of relating based on our (often misguided) experiences as children. And yet, I have come to realize there can be so much more to life if we become mindful enough to examine our preconceived ideas; releasing what is no longer useful and allowing ourselves to live more fully in the “now.”

Earlier on, I followed a yearning to explore beyond my cultural/family defined boundaries. I read books by authors such as Ken Wilbur, Scott Peck, Yoginanda, C. Joko Beck and others to broaden my spiritual concepts. Their ideas inspired me to attempt to teach myself sitting meditation. To my dismay, sitting seemed nearly impossible because of rigid thought patterns which seemed to instantly take over my brain. My mind was filled with stories of the past, both recent and distant, evoking feelings of dissatisfaction. My mind would then leap to wild speculations about the future and how I needed to figure out a way to control it. All illusions, of course, but what was I to do?

Once again, reading about the experience of others like Ram Das, Kornfield and Goldstein inspired me to explore hatha yoga. Picking up Yoga The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira & Shynam Mehta, I began my home practice. (I really recommend finding a teacher; my practice improved greatly when I eventually did).  Practicing postures, focusing intently on alignment and the breath resulted in moments where all my thoughts dropped away. Soon, I discovered I could bring the focused experience of asana to sitting meditation. When thoughts occurred, I learned to gently acknowledge them without losing myself in mental dialogue. I learned how to allow judgment, planning and worrying to float past without attachment. Yoga became the vehicle to help clear my mind of the debris that clutters my awareness of “NOW.”

A few years ago, a few friends formed a weekly study group to read and discuss the yoga sutras of Patanjali. I found the sutras to be a fascinating manual for understanding the perceived dualistic nature of the world and how to begin to deal with it. Using the sutras as a guide, I was better able to observe my thought patterns. I became more aware of when old habits of thinking surface and want to drag me back into old behaviors. I’ve found I don’t need to abruptly try to change the pattern; the very action of bringing awareness to the pattern initiates the change.

Although teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Tara Brach explain it better then I can, it’s the moment of awareness that lets me identify the emotion. Whether it’s fear, feeling of lack, loneliness (or whatever the trigger is), once I can step back and see the emotion behind the feeling, it minimizes the power to control my reactions even as the event is unfolding. A while back I went out to go to work in the morning and my truck had been stolen. Part of me wanted to be angry, part wanted to play the victim, part wanted to blame others; instead, I took a few breaths and just did the next thing I needed to do. The more mindful I am, the less drama there is in life. And some days I am much more skillful than others.

A true test of the value of yoga is attempting to take the practice of mindfulness off the mat. Mindfulness developed through asana and meditation translates to giving me the space and freedom to make real changes in my thinking and life. Bringing this type of mindfulness to any action or situation, from washing the floor (I just spilled a quart of apple juice in the kitchen!) to dealing with difficult people, initiates the process of spiritual awakening.

Recently I have decided to try dancing, an interest my upbringing kept me away from exploring. I was taught by my family and religion both in overt and unspoken ways that dancing, especially for a boy, was somehow unacceptable behavior. I’m now embarking on the somewhat awkward process of learning how to move my body in unison with music without tripping myself or someone else – an activity that while innate to someone from a different background- I have avoided all these years. By choosing to do this, I am continuing the process of freeing myself from self limiting beliefs, freeing my mind (and my hips) to live more fully in the present moment. Since now is all there is, there is never a better time to explore.

Life simply IS. As humans there will always be times of joy and times of sorrow. But if we can be more present, we can free our minds from unnecessary limitations, open our hearts to new ways of relating and, most importantly, learn how we can truly be of service to those around us.

Ken, a regular student and substitute teacher at High Desert Yoga, has been practicing and studying yoga for 15 years. He completed the 500 Hour HDY Teacher training program in 2006. His education and work background span the fields of psychology, computers/electronics, and “fixing stuff.” He recently has been revitalizing his love of the outdoors, and has begun exploring everything from comic book conventions to folk dancing. He eagerly awaits other adventures still to unfold.

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The Klesa Asmita by Kim Schwartz

There is a classical text of yoga written by the sage Patanjali. In this text there are described the workings of the individuated mind. It describes modes of perception and cognition called vrttis of which there are five. It defines the purpose of yoga as establishing a sense of self that transcends these modes of perception. It also describes aspects of the mind that inhibit this process. These are called klesas of which there are also five.

Before we look at the klesa called asmita, let us first look at the individuated consciousness itself called citta,as a point of contrast. Citta is described in the yoga sutras as having three primary aspects- manas/mind, buddhi/ discriminative thought and ahamkara/ sense of self. The manas collects information from the senses that is then organized by the buddhi to help create the ahamkara or sense of self.

Patanjali describes asmita as Drk darsanasaktyoh ekatmata iva asmita. One possible translation for this is that asmita is the identification of the perceiver with the vehicles of perception. With this identification come the feelings of “ I am,” I see,” “ I hear,” “I have,” “ I want,” etc. With this sense of identification with the vehicles of perception comes a sense of self defined by what what one perceives to have relational to perception of self.

Both asmita and ahamkara describe an experience of self, but at contrasting ends of the spectrum. To help understand asmita, let us contrast it with ahamkara. Ahamkara refers to a sense of self that is relatively self-existent. That is to say, ahamkara is a sense of self that, though created by receiving information from the external environment, does not necessarily rely on its relationship to outer forms for its sense of worth or place in the world. The klesa asmita, on the other hand finds its sense of self and self worth in how we compare ourselves with the items of our external environment. In other words, ahamkara is more sense of self related to an internal experience whereas asmita is more self worth or self importance that is relational to external things.

We often approach this asmita sense of self by feeling that we are better or worse than someone or something else. To think that we are better or worse than anything else, necessitates self-importance. This quality is not categorically bad as it can help us to function with appropriately discriminative awareness in our agreed upon cultural contexts and social groups. In our day to day lives there is a hierarchy. We do need to make some things more and less important than others. This prioritization is the agreed upon reality of the social and cultural constructs in which we live.

However, the more dominant asmita becomes, the more we rely on our place in the world for sense of self. The more we rely on our place in the world for sense of self worth the more vulnerable becomes our sense of self. This is because the outer world changes exponentially more than our inner world; so when it changes our sense of self may feel threatened.

The more stable our internal sense of self, [ahamkara] the less self importance [asmita] we need to employ. It is only because of the self importance of asmita that we are able to become judgmental, angry, indignant, offended or self righteous. The primary reason we have these feelings is because our self importance feels threatened. Remember, asmita and ahamkara are both constructs of the mind. Neither is our true Self. Both are aspects of the mind that work to establish how we experience ourselves as humans.

In this process we use terms like right and wrong, better and worse, or good and bad. This discrimination can be appropriate in our daily lives because, as humans, our world is defined by duality. In our day to day lives we need to act sincerely and with thoughtful discrimination; as though our actions had purpose and relevance, at the same time knowing that, in the big reality, nothing is more important than anything else. This is part of the dance between asmita and ahamkara. This dance is part of the spiritual task we face as human beings.

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