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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).

Jan 26, 2015


I have not posted a blog since October. And of course a lot has happened. 
·     The Garden Street 500 hour group has completed 6 sessions (of 9). I cannot quite believe how fortunate I am to be in the good company of these A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Yogins.
·      In late November I attended week-long silent meditation retreat with Adyashanti. Lucky duck (me :).
·      In December was the Garden Street Solstice Retreat - a silent meditation retreat that spans 5 days from Dec. 19 to 23. Each year it gets better. Quieter. Deeper. 
·      I am growing my work into a new direction, which will include Garden Street but will not include continuing in the Counselor Ed program at Gonzaga. 
·      I am feeling so energized… excited… wide-awake…. full of vitality. Speaking of which…

In late November, on the silent meditation retreat, the teacher, Adyashanti, encouraged us to sustain an inquiry into vitality. The first step in this inquiry is to open to something greater than my own “do-er-ship” - and in that place of openness and surrender, to contemplate “what is connecting me to, or aligning me with, vitality?” Or, conversely, I could ask “what is blocking me from connecting to vitality?”

Connecting to vitality is like listening to “the still small voice”, or like holding on to a slender thread. (See William Stafford’s poem below as well as one with a similar theme by David Whtye).  To follow the shimmer of vitality is to sustain a connection to a subtle line of clarity that streams within my own heart and moves out into the world through work and love. 

Adyahanti spoke of the inquiry into vitality as a listening to, and following of,  “leanings” and subtle inclinations without rationalizing or making a plan. It is best, in other words, to avoid cross-examining the “still small voice” unless you want it to go silent.   As Lee put it, “Understanding is the booby prize”.  As Adyashanti put it: “Spirit doesn’t do “why”.

I carried my inquiry on vitality home from retreat and across the month of December. It was a great contemplation, clearly showing me which of my “doings’ connect me to vitality. They include:

·      Presence. Being present – fully – in relationship with whoever it is I am with, and to this end, deepening my study and practice of formal dialogue and voice dialogue.
·      Love – including sustaining an openhearted connection to the ever-changing conversation that is my marriage to Chris and my mother-ship to, and other-ship from, Eli and Leo.
·      More Love – including my relationship with my dad, especially now as he is 90 and getting older and as I am learning from him things I cannot learn from anyone younger or who does not love me so unconditionally as he does.
·      Yoga and sadhana (practice) including meditation, pranayama and chanting practices.
·      Food. I love good food.
·      Another kind of ‘good food” that I find in study (of a wide variety of subjects from spirituality to nutrition to bio-mechanics). And along the lines of study, I find great vitality in collaboration, study groups, cohorts, etc.
·      Teaching.  And being present – fully – when I teach.
·      Body-mindful exercise - Physical and somatic and body-mindful activities like walking and asana.
·      Garden Street – the students, the teachers and also my job of being secretary and janitor and curriculum writer and mentor and errand runner and graphic designer and so on and so forth)
·      Word crafting. (I would say “writing”, but honestly I do a lot of editing and talking and theme-work and class prep that is not exactly “writing” but is word crafting.

I wouldn’t say that all of the above are always enjoyable. Preparing to teach, for example, can be very uncomfortable for me  - full of procrastination and resistance.  Writing can be anxiety provoking. But in spite of resistance and anxiety, the things on my “vitality list” are alive for me and have a bright working edge.  

So – the flip side of this contemplation has been to look into which of my “doings’ are not infused with vitality.  It became clear as a bell that continuing in the Masters program in counseling was not – for me – following a thread of vitality. After the initial month or two of “newness” (which carried its own kind of vitality and bright working edge) the material and the process began to feel very thin and shallow and brittle, like words on a piece of paper rather than an alive and real, flesh and bone, study and practice.

I learned SO MUCH. But / and I was also disappointed that, for me, there was very little going on in terms of body-mindfulness or somatic awareness. Withdrawing from the program was not a quick or easy decision. I wavered for 2 months. But since body-mindfulness and somatic awareness is the source of  my my life work. I finally had to admit that continuing would not be an offering into greater vitality.   

Now, mostly in retrospect, I see also that I had been leeching too much of the life-blood-vitality of my attention away from Garden Street as well as from several other items on my “vitality list”.  For example, I only visited my Dad one time during the whole semester.

So!  I am a grad school drop out. Who needs a second masters anyway? Maybe what I need is a mistress.

The funny thing is, I don’t think that last semester was a mistake….just the opposite. It was a first step and a platform for what is coming next…..And that feels to me like a slender thread with a clear, bright vitality. (But it is way too early to hatch into words).
Stay tuned.
And thanks for reading.

The Way It Is  By William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Sweet Darkness By David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

1 comment:

  1. This is so beautiful. I am re-reading because I was presented with the view recently that the opposite of depression is not happiness but rather, the opposite of depression is Vitality!