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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Nov 5, 2008

The "One Thing Necessary" - Be a Faithful Gardener

Today officially begins my year-long study program with philosopher Paul Muller Ortega. We are going deep into the art and practice of bhavana - the formal practice of contemplation. We'll also be learning and practicing a form of meditation called Neela Kantha and studying texts like the Shiva Sutra.

In his welcome e-mail, Paul wrote,
"What does it mean to be a real human being,
to live that huge heart of consciousness,
to live those spontaneous virtues, to be a gift to the planet,
to be someone who is a vessel of
Shakti and wisdom and service and love?
How can I do that?
In what way is the revelatory Grace manifesting in my life?
What do I have to do to bring it into focus?
This is our consideration."

I have - in less eloquent terms - been asking myself just this question. Life has been so busy that I sometimes have my whole day filled with taking care of the details of the business of family and Yoga studio - without ever stopping to do Yoga, eat mindfully, practice what I preach - you know, little things like that! So I have been asking, "How do I sort this all out? How do I find my way to remembrance of, as Thomas Merton puts it, "the One Thing Necessary":

"Each one of us has some kind of vocation. We are all called by God to share in His life and in His Kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the Kingdom. If we find that place we will be happy. If we do not find it, we can never be completely happy. For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God's will, to be what God wants us to be." ~~Thomas Merton

This past weekend, I had a rich opportunity to bring this contemplation into a dialogue with my good friend Sundari, who was here to teach a workshop at Garden Street. We had good and long talks about just what it is that we are doing in our practice and teaching. Sundari and I have known each other over many years and through many transitions in both of our lives. (By the way, she taught a WONDERFUL workshop, and by the way again, Sundari is also enrolled in the Year-Long study with Paul Muller Ortega).

Sundari has a different set of life circumstances which are making her look deeply into what is important - how she wants to practice and work and teach. But as for my own life circumstances, I have been feeling consistently overwhelmed by what I have NOT done.
Here's a
PARTIAL list of what I love and value and have not accomplished this past week.
  • Visiting my dear elderly parents who really love my visits and whom I really love to visit
  • Studying and reading
  • Daily Asana
  • Writing and Journaling (well, OK, I am blogging - but we'll see if I get it done and posted and if so, I can delete this item from my list).
  • Communication with several students
  • Doing a whole long sub-list of things I need and want to do to get ready to leave my business, my family and the U.S. of A in just a few weeks.
  • Walking outside in the fresh air.
All the things I should be doing can mount up until I can't see above the top of the pile - and I can't remember what's first - what's most important. Thus my rather insistent asking, ""How do I sort this all out? How do I find my way to remembrance of the One Thing Necessary?"
I voiced aloud my question or contemplation last week when I asked Chris, my husband, "How can I be less cranky while still doing, or partially doing, or not managing to do all the things that are on my list. How do I tend this wild garden and be, as Paul Muller Ortega put it, "someone who is a vessel of Shakti and wisdom and service and love?"
How can I do that?

Enter "The Guru Principle": There is a teaching in the Yoga world called the "Guru principle", which says that Grace - often in the form of answers to our questions - will pop up anywhere and everywhere, There is no lack of Grace - no lack of the Presence of the true Teacher - no lack of Blessing Force. There is just a lack of our ability to pay attention and hear the answer.

I didn't expect an answer and Chris didn't pop up with an answer - just listened. but when he was leaving for work a swoosh of Blessing Force came through. I was almost NOT paying attention. I was already in a busy and contracted cramp. But some ray of attention came through, I paused and said goodbye, with full attention, and that bit of attention and presence seemed to open a window through which I could hear something I needed to hear. He said to me, "I'm off - it's another really busy day. I will be a faithful gardener."

And off he went. to be a faithful gardener in his own wild garden of a work life.

And then another circumstance brought with it another swoosh of Blessing Force in answer to my question. Sundari arrived and taught. She repeatedly and sincerely expressed her amazement at the beauty and abundance of what she called our
GARDEN - the Garden Street Kula. She really just couldn't say enough. Those of you present at the workshop know what I mean.

Sundari's heartfelt praise and admiration of the
Garden that our Yoga Kula is, was a form of Blessing Force reflecting back to me that what is most important for me is to be a faithful gardener of Kula.

[Kula is the Sanskrit term for "family. In the broader sense a kula is not just a blood-linked family but a collection of members working and practicing together. In this sense, a body is a Kula , an community of practice is a Kula and a work group could be a Kula.]

When I practice Yoga and eat mindfully I am being a faithful gardener of the Kula that my body is. In all my various ways of working and teaching I can be a faithful gardener of the Kula that my family is, of the Kula that the Yoga community is. I love the image of "the faithful gardener" because it doesn't say I have to get everything done and get it all perfect. I just have to be a faithful gardener - to be in devotion to the Blessing Force that arises from the ground of being pushes up in an expression of beauty,
Shri. I am happy to be in devotion to that - to be a faithful gardener in the employment of That Blessing Force.

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