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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (external link)
T.K.V. Desikachar
Shula Day-Savage (my humble offerings, which can't compare to those of the greats)
Amrit Desai (I don't endorse Mr. Desai but his teachings do form the foundation of the Kripalu tradition)

Miscellaneous - poetry and other stuff - Leonard Cohen, Mary Oliver, Marge Piercy...

Shula Day-Savage

Therapeutic Irritations

Gurdjieff was a 19th century teacher. Students came to live with him on his estate near Paris. There was one man in the community nobody could stand because he was a really prickly person. He complained constantly and any little thing might cause him to explode. People just wished that he would go away.

Gurdjieff liked to make people do things that were completely meaningless - of course, the purpose was to make people awaken to whatever was happening in the moment. It wasn't the meaningless tasks that were important, it was his students' inner experience of the meaningless tasks that mattered.

One day, one of the tasks was just too much for the person that everybody disliked, and he blew up, stormed off, and drove away, swearing never to return. The rest of the community was delighted. But when they told Gurdjieff what happened, he said “Oh, no!” and went after him.

Three days later they both came back. That night, when he was serving Gurdjieff his supper, his attendant asked, “Sir, why did you bring him back?” and Gurdjieff answered in a very low voice, “This is just between you and me; you must tell no-one. I pay him to stay here.”

Pema Chodron told this story at a meditation centre, and later the people at the meditation centre wrote her a letter saying, “We used to have two people and now we have four and the trouble is beginning. So every day we ask each other, ‘Is somebody paying you to be here?’”.

This annoying person, and people and experiences like him, are what my teacher Ann Greene calls life's therapeutic irritations. They exist to wake us up. Like the sand in the oyster that is the seed of the pearl, therapeutic irritations can stir a reaction in us. We can choose to resist them, or we can see them as chances to awaken. In your yoga practice today, make an intention to use these therapeutic irritations to awaken you to the areas in which you have shut the door, the areas you would most like to ignore, the situations you wish would just go away. In your practice, and perhaps even in your life, when you encounter such a barrier, perhaps you can ask it “Is somebody paying you to be here?”

Story from Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Shambhala, 1994
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Yoga Sutra 1:12: Abhyasa-vairagybhyam tan-nirodhah
“The restriction of these fluctuations is achieved through practice and dispassion.”

“To be detached is to stand in the middle of the marketplace, with all its confusion and noise, and to remain present to yourself and all that is.”
Judith Lasater, Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life.

What is it we are to be detached from?  Habits. Yogic philosophy has a name for habits; it calls them samskara. Most of us, in most aspects of our lives, are not fully present to what is occurring. We are thinking about all the stuff we have to do, or about how much we don't want to be doing what we're doing, or we're thinking that this good feeling can't possibly last... In other words, we're not consciously responding to what's happening around us.

     Unconscious responses lead to habituation of  action and perception. When we do things in the habitual way, then we experience avidya, which literally means incorrect comprehension. Avidya is a veil which obscures what's really going on; we relate to something, not as it is, but as we think it is. We misunderstand its nature.

     When you detach, you give up old habits, you give up the way you think things are. When you detach, you get out of your own way and can experience another perspective. Detachment removes avidya, the smoke screen of misunderstanding, so that what has always been present  - but obscured - is now revealed. Detachment is not about despair or disinterest. It is about total engagement with what is in front of you. Judith Lasater says, “When you allow yourself to see things as they really are, then - and only then - can you love yourself and others without hidden expectations. Detachment is the greatest act of love.”

     In your yoga practice today, step out of samskara, and into beginner's mind. Form an intention, now,  to detach from where you think your body should be, from what you think the so-called true expression of the asana is, from all judgement.... and be present to yourself and all that is. Om.
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Remember, we are all already awake.
Don't go back to sleep!


Rumi was a philosopher and mystic of Islam, but not a Moslem of the orthodox type. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less truth. Looking with the same eye on Moslem, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to men of all sects and creeds. Rumi founded the Mevlevi Sufi brotherhood, who used dancing and music as part of their spiritual method. They are know in the west as whirling dervishes.

When I first came to the Kripalu Centre, I was full of anxiety and apprehension at the unknown I faced. At the first sadhana I attended, this is the poem the instructor read to us. I continue to be struck by the truths it contains:

There is some kiss we want with our whole lives
          the touch of spirit on the body.
     Sea water begs the pearl to break its shell
and the lily, how passionately it needs some wild dark.
     At night I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine.
     Breathe into me....... Breathe into me.
Close the language door and open the love window,
     the moon won't use the door, only the window.
Close the language door and open the love window,
     the moon won't use the door, only the window.
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I and my classmates from the Kripalu teacher training program often struggle with how to confront challenges. This is a poem many people have mentioned during our discussions:

This being human is a guesthouse.
     Every morning a new arrival.

     A joy, a depression, a meanness,
     some momentary awareness comes
     as an unexpected visitor.

     Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house
     empty of its furniture, still,
     treat each guest honorably.
     He may be clearing you out
     for some new delight.

     The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
     meet them at the door laughing,
     and invite them in.

     Be grateful for whoever comes,
     because each has been sent
     as a guide from beyond.

     Welcome difficulty.
     Learn the alchemy True Human Beings know;
     the moment you accept what troubles
     you've been given, the door opens.

     Welcome difficulty as a familiar
     comrade. Joke with torment
     brought by the Friend.

     Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
     and jackets that serve to cover,
     and then are taken off.
     That undressing, and the beautiful
     naked body
     is the sweetness
     that comes
     after grief.

From "The Illuminated Rumi" by Coleman Barks
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The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
     Don't go back to sleep.
     You must ask for what you really want.
     Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the door sill where the two worlds touch.
     The door is round and open.
     Don't go back to sleep."

Rumi, Quatrian #91, trans. Coleman Barks

This quatrain has been adapted and used for lyrics on a track called "Don't Go Back To Sleep" from the Visions II CD "The Spirit of Rumi":

The door is open
     Let the beauty we love be what we do
     Don't go back to sleep,
     Don't go back to sleep."

You should hear how the woman on the CD does it - it is hypnotic and lifts your soul away with it.
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The clear bead at the center changes everything.
     There are no edges to my loving now.

     I've heard it said there's a window that opens
     from one mind to another,

     but if there's no wall, there's no need
     for fitting the window, or the latch.

from "Open Secret: Versions of Rumi" by John Moyne and Coleman Barks

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This just goes to show you how little of what happens in our lives is really under our control:

Do you think I know what I'm doing?
     That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself?
     As much as a pen knows what it's writing,
     or the ball can guess where it's going next.

     from "The Essential Rumi", translations by Coleman Barks      with John Moyne.

We are all already awake:

I have lived on the lip
     of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
     knocking on a door. It opens,
     I've been knocking from the inside!

     from "The Essential Rumi", translations by Coleman Barks      with John Moyne.

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Rumi links:
site dedicated to Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi which is owned by his family
Selections of Writings by and Essays about Rumi
Poetry of Mevlana Jalal-e-Din Mevlavi Rumi in English and Farsi, plus miniature picture gallery, and other info
Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet
Rumi page

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T.K.V. Desikachar 

"It is said in the Yoga Sutra (3.9) that people alternately experience waves of clarity and cloudiness when first beginning their yoga practice (Shula's note: or I presume any new application of yoga). That is, we go through periods of clarity followed by times in which our minds and perception are quite lacking in clarity. Over time there will be less cloudiness and more clarity. Recognizing this shift is a way to measure our progress."

     T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga.

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"A further meaning of the word yoga is 'to attain what was previously unattainable'. The starting point for this thought is that there is something that we are today unable to do; when we find the means for bringing that desire into action, that step is yoga. In fact,  every change is yoga. For example, when we find a way to bend the body forward and touch our toes, or learn the meaning of the word yoga with the help of a text, or gain more understanding of ourselves or others through a discussion, we have reached a point where we have never been before. Each of these movements and changes is yoga."
     T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga.

With his father, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar is the originator of Viniyoga. See these Viniyoga links and resources.

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Miscellaneous quotes and poetry 

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."
excerpt from "The Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver

Marge Piercy:

The Low Road

(One Voice)
What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up. They can
bust you. They can break
your fingers. They can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can't remember.
They can take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can't stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight.
You can refuse. You can
take what revenge you can.
But they roll over you.

(Two voices)
But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, and sex.

(Three voices)
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge.

(Four voices)
With four,
you play bridge and start
an organization.

(Six voices)
With six, you can
rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no seconds,
and hold a fund-raising party.
(Twelve voices)
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred can fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity
and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your
own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own
ten million, your own country.
(One voice)
It goes on one at a time.
It starts when you care
to act. It starts when you do
it again after they said "No."
It starts when you say "We"
and know who you mean and
day you mean one more.

From The Moon Is Always Female, by Marge Piercy Copyright (c) 1980 by Marge Piercy

Wage peace:

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion
and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening:
hear sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothespins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music,
learn the word thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.
Judyth Hill

Leonard Cohen:

You Have the Lovers

You have the lovers,
they are nameless, their histories only for each other,
and you have the room, the bed, and the windows.
Pretend it is a ritual.
Unfurl the bed, bury the lovers, blacken the windows,
let them live in that house for a generation or two.
No one dares disturb them.
Visitors in the corridor tip-toe past the long closed door,
they listen for sounds, for a moan, for a song:
nothing is heard, not even breathing.
You know they are not dead,
you can feel the presence of their intense love.
Your children grow up, they leave you,
they have become soldiers and riders.
Your mate dies after a life of service.
Who knows you? Who remembers you?
But in your house a ritual is in progress:
It is not finished: it needs more people.
One day the door is opened to the lover's chamber.
The room has become a dense garden,
full of colours, smells, sounds you have never known.
The bed is smooth as a wafer of sunlight,
in the midst of the garden it stands alone.
In the bed the lovers, slowly and deliberately and silently,
perform the act of love.
Their eyes are closed,
as tightly as if heavy coins of flesh lay on them.
Their lips are bruised with new and old bruises.
Her hair and his beard are hopelessly tangled.
When he puts his mouth against her shoulder
she is uncertain whether her shoulder
has given or received the kiss.
All her flesh is like a mouth.
He carries his fingers along her waist
and feels his own waist caressed.
She holds him closer and his own arms tighten around her.
She kisses the hand besider her mouth.
It is his hand or her hand, it hardly matters,
there are so many more kisses.
You stand beside the bed, weeping with happiness,
you carefully peel away the sheets
from the slow-moving bodies.
Your eyes filled with tears, you barely make out the lovers,
As you undress you sing out, and your voice is magnificent
because now you believe it is the first human voice
heard in that room.
The garments you let fall grow into vines.
You climb into bed and recover the flesh.
You close your eyes and allow them to be sewn shut.
You create an embrace and fall into it.
There is only one moment of pain or doubt
as you wonder how many multitudes are lying beside your body,
but a mouth kisses and a hand soothes the moment away.

"When you sit, sit. When you stand, stand. Whatever you do, don't wobble."

     Zen proverb.

"This is how a spirit-based practice (of yoga) works: the elements of change, grounding, and purification are in the form itself, so your challenge is only to find a way to practice that has integrity and loving-kindness."

     Phillip Moffitt in Sept/Oct 99 Yoga Journal

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