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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).

Dec 8, 2008

So Much Happiness

On Saturday we had our last Immersion meeting before the "Long Winter's Nap." This year the Immersion is all women for the first time ever. We had such a feminine day - really we were just like goddesses sitting around in a circle for most of the day. Or maybe witches - the good kind. We gave ourselves foot massages, ate wonderful food and WONDERFUL desserts, had a long restorative (Supta Baddha Konasana with our coconut-creamed feet joined together). It was a feast full of sweetness and kindness and a true liking of one another.

We did do some more formal Immersion studes - we covered Sutra 1.33 - the four Brahmahvihara - noble virtues.
Those four virtues are:
  • Maitri -Friendliness towards the presence of happiness (in yourself or in another)
  • Karuna - Compassion towards the presence of suffering (your own or anothers')
  • Mudita - Celebration and a congratulatory joy in the presence of success and goodness (yours' or anyone's)
  • Uppeksha - Equanimity when in the presence of wrongdoing and vice (yours or another's).
The Yoga tradition teaches that we must cultivate these qualities in ourselves. They don't come naturally. We have to hoe and rake and weed like sweat stained gardeners, steadily toiling, beginning again and again and again.

If we are true to our gardening, gradually but inevitably the fruits of the practice begin to ripen - Citta Prasadanam. This means a sweetness of the mind. Our minds and hearts become a sweet offering (prasad means 'offering'). And that offering is a source of deep nourishment, like a nectar to ourselves, to others and really to all of life. What we are is our offering to the world.

I was glad to have the Brahmahvihara, and in particular Maitri, fresh in my mind today. After several hours of being diligent at my desk work, I found myself sitting and staring into space and smiling with happiness at nothing much in particular. As soon as I noticed myself dong that, I had a knee-jerk reaction of "get back to work" - do you realize that you are leaving the country in less than 3 weeks and the To-Do list is up over the level of your eye brows?" But then I remembered Maitri - and just let myself sit and be happy. For no reason. Or for every reason.

Beth reminded us in class on Saturday of Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, Happiness. It is a wonderful expression of the spirit of Maitri. I'll end with that poem as I really do have a To-Do list up over my eyeballs. But as I let all that sort itself out and keep after it, I think I might be able to remember my most precious gardening job. And I want to report that I'm sitting here and smiling for no exact reason. Maitri has come to viist and I intend to be wildly hospitable!

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
A wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
And disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
And now live over a quarry of noise and dust
Cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
It too could wake up filled with possibilities
Of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
And love even the floor which needs to be swept,
The soiled linens and scratched records….

Since there is no place large enough
To contain so much happiness,
You shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
Into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
For the moon, but continues to hold it, and to share it,
And in that way, be known.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~

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