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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 29, 2010

Just Stay

There's a teaching in the Yoga world about "holding steady" and not blowing off one's energy but choosing instead to contain and consolidate so that one's attention and energy it can be an offering  - like the ghee that is poured into the sacred fire.  The Sanskrit word is mouna. My understanding of this teaching is that there are circumstances in which the most grace-full thing to do is to "just stay".

I've been hard up against this teaching for the last 2 weeks. I decided to "just stay" here - and not go to the ashram - following the passing of my Teacher.  I have been so "worked"by this decision.  It's not like I got to make it once and be done. Instead, it has been like this:

I hear the news and get poised to go to Arizona to be with sangha - but then there's a wounded moose outside my meditation space. And I pause, and I take myself into deep asking - and I get it - clear as a bell: "just stay".

I feel very calm and certain about this for about a minute. And then my samskaras start to rise up - I feel worried that maybe I got it wrong - that I'm going to be outside of grace and left behind. But then I go inward again - and surface again - with the same clear command to "just stay".

Fast Forward a couple of days. I talk to a sangha friend who is at the ashram and I hear about all the goings on at the ashram. I can't quite believe I am not there - and I get poised to go.  And my husband, who knows me well and is always and only my ally, tells me again that  he thinks maybe I should stay and let the Influence flow into my life as it is - here. And again I take it into deep asking and get the same "clear as a bell" knowing that mouna - containment - is what is being asked of me.

I feel very calm and certain about this for about a day. And then my samskaras start to rise up again - I feel worried that I'm being lazy - or just introverted. (The ashram is an intense place with no particular way to meet personal comfort preferences. For example, last spring I shared a bathroom with 20 women and a small bedroom with 6 women.  It was great. It always is. But that doesn't mean that the self-concerned part of me can't recoil into resistance and a demand for personal comfort.)
But / And again - from a deeper place of connection, I know I must stay put.

I talk to more sangha - in India and Europe - other "outliers" like myself.  I know they would give their eye-teeth to be at the ashram with sangha. Hearing this in their voices - once again I am poised to go. And then I teach a class after which I get feedback from no less than 9 people - expressing deep and real gratitude for my steadiness, for my willingness to stay here and teach and in that way share the Teachings.

So that's how it has been - with a few more repetitions and variations on the theme of "Just Stay" (vs) "Oh No! Got to go!"

According to the Yoga tradition, each of us has our karma - our particular pattern of personality and spirit - and it is with that pattern that Grace - or the Guru principle - interfaces. Blessing Force meets you where you are. For me - that has been Here. It has not been so easy to "Stay Put" - to say the least - but I see clearly (except when I forget and flap around and get "poised to go") that such a lot of Work and refinement has happened in the process of my reluctant obedience to the principle of mouna over the last 2 weeks.   The biggest samskara is known in the Yoga tradition as the anava mala - (what Lee calls the "cramp").  My understanding of the anava mala is that it is a lived sense of constantly being in danger of being outside of Love, of being "left behind". These past 2 weeks this samskara  has undergone a big burn in me - hopefully a major burn-off.  (I'm keeping my fingers crosssed here- which makes it hard to type). I can't imagine what greater Blessing I could have received from my Teacher.


  1. I bow my head in reverence & gratitude for your wisdom. You are a bright light, and your writing today calmed my knawing indecision about heading back to Arizona this weekend to help Aurora.