Theirs is a perfection of pure form.
Nobody but has his proper place and knows it.
Everything they do is functional.
Each foray in a zigzag line
Each prodigious lifting
Of thirty-two times their own weight
Each excavation into the earth’s core
Of a crumbly parapetted tower —
None of these feats is a private pleasure,
None of them done
For the sake of the skill alone —
They’ve got a going concern down there,
A full egg-hatchery
A wet-nursery of aphids
A trained troop of maintenance engineers
A corps of hunters
Is nothing without the others, each being a part
Of something greater than all of them put together
A purpose which none of them knows
Since each is only
The one thing that he does. There is
A true consistency
Toward which their actions tend.
The ants have bred and inbred to perfection.
The strains of their genes that survive survive.
Every possible contingency
Has been foreseen and written into the plan.
Nothing they do will be wrong.
Here the highways cross. One heads north. One heads east
and west. On the corner of the square adjacent to the
courthouse a bronze plaque marks the place where two Civil
War generals faced one another and the weaker surrendered.
A few pedestrians pass. A beauty parlor sign blinks. As I turn
to head west, I become the schoolteacher living above the
barber shop. Polishing my shoes each evening. Gazing at the
square below. In time I befriend the waitress at the cafe and
she winks as she pours my coffee. Soon people begin to
talk. And for good reason. I become so distracted I teach my
students that Cleopatra lost her head during the French
Revolution and that Leonardo perfected the railroad at the
height of the Renaissance. One day her former lover returns
from the army and creates a scene at the school. That evening
she confesses she cannot decide between us. But still we spend
one last night together. By the time I pass the grain elevators
on the edge of town I am myself again. The deep scars of love
already beginning to heal.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as
two or three, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail …
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome
and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the
companion that was so companionable as solitude …
If one advances confidently in the direction of his
dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has
imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in
common hour …
A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.
So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and
took advantage of every accident that befell us. Sometimes, in
a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my
sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the
pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and
stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through
the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the
noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was
reminded of the lapse of time.
It’s funny; in this era of e-mail and voice mail and all those things that even I did not grow up with, a plain old paper letter takes on amazing intimacy-
Its amazing what happens when we surrender to our true selves, being present and our breath. Healthy relationships gradually begin to enter our life, and the “things” we have been so diligently working on begin to bear new fruit.
I have been struggling with my breath for quite a while now. I show up to class, go through the motions during my home practice and never truly fall into rhythm during a nice bike ride or the rigors of daily life. Why? My breath has escaped me.
I believe the true cause is largely a matter of personal habit. Our lives, my life, is excessively filled with constant activity and incessant noise and distraction. I have grown accustomed to them, so mush so, that when they come to a halt, I feel uneasy. There’s a startling sense of emptiness, as if I’ve suddenly landed in a deserted corn field after being in the middle of a bustling city.
When I can resist the urge to plunge myself fully into an activity, I soon begin to surrender to solitude, silence and my breath. My agitated mind starts to calm. My thoughts start to slow down, and I feel a sense of re-attuning to myself, I feel a sense of connection – to my own self, and to the world as a whole.
When I listen to my breath, I begin to find a new balance and harmony in my life.
Out for a walk tonight,
the dog is throwing all her weight
against the leash, lunging toward
the fat tomcat
licking his black ankles
with a delicious, solemn attention
at the top of the neighbor’s steps.
Because this is what the dog
was made to do.
Because for some lucky animals
the space between the body
and what it wants
is all there is.
I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?-
How do we retain a balanced centre when all the structures we have centered our lives around appear to be falling away? Lately, I have been personally challenged on multiple fronts: My health, future decisions at work, and at home. In essence – I feel ungrounded.
It is important for me to preface that I had not practiced yoga seriously before, and that I did not understand the benefits a regular practice could afford me. I mention this because I want you to feel that I was, in certain ways, an unlikely candidate to be a “yoga” convert. Nonetheless, I discovered yoga when my friend Rachel instructed me during a physical therapy session (after one of my knee surgeries) to lie on the floor with my legs up against the wall. “Cool Jeremy?!?” she said. “We are going to breathe now.” In breath, I discovered a way to temporarily relieve the nausea like effects of severe pain and frustration, knowing I will never be who I was before. The kind of anxiety that cuts deeply, and shallows your breath.
In the months following surgery and slowly winding down therapy, yoga gifted a pathway for me to experience myself, in my body again. In a rich, inspiring-hued yoga studio, tucked away in West Omaha, lit in the evening with candles, with the sweet scent of Nag Champa dancing through the still air. I learned to stay in the moment, even as I yearned to escape it – To be outside training for the next race.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not escape the memories I associated with the abuse I put myself and those around me through – the warm spring air against my scarred, raw skin. The fact that I was still bruised and bleeding, the pale moonlight that flooded the cool sky at night. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the past and a lot of time wondering about the future. It is much more difficult to stay focused on what is happening right now in this beautiful moment. And still, in a pose, a flowing Asana, I could hold on.
The beauty of yoga is, is that it teaches us, that “things” do come to an end. The process of being immersed in a nurturing space and staying with whatever sensations emerge, and seeing how they come to an end is a profound process. To do this day, as I write sitting and standing due to being uncomfortable with my physical self. It has always been a source of shame to me that I have trouble being – Still – Not competing and comparing myself to others. Through yoga, I can express my true self in a good, a cool kind of way (even as a dude), my tense scarred face eases, and my heart feels wonderfully alive as though I could open it to the world, and I would just … Stay.
Lying on my wide, worn yoga mat early this past winter, I listened to my favorite instructor explaining the path of enlightenment to our warm class. Knowing the limitations of my own attention span, I don’t know enough about them to try exploring them here, but there was such exquisite beauty in her description of being released, unbound from suffering. My mind was scattered as my body was contorted on the grey mat – The whole of me was trying to emerge in this delicate moment. Like a blank canvas before the inspired artist, at first blank, then a beautiful image tremulously appearing.
What I discovered in me, the blank canvas early one Saturday morning, was enough (I’ll never be truly whole, but enough).
In the years since being introduced to yoga and mindfulness, my practice has ebbed and flowed, in so much that I don’t really practice “yoga” regularly in a studio now – the Asanas. Perhaps I will again soon? Perhaps not … Pausing, on second thought, I sit here smiling, knowing my devotion to yoga with immense gratitude for the true and singular comfort it brought to me. Through all of my suffering, the pain, the loss. It is necessary, to surrender, fully, to the things that sustain ones true spirit.