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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).

Feb 14, 2018

The heart can think of no devotion, greater than being shore to the ocean

The heart can think of no devotion,
Greater than being shore to the ocean,
Holding the curve of one position,
Counting an endless repetition.  ~~~Robert Frost

Like everyone else, I began my time on the planet rounded into the oceanic shoreline of my mother’s womb. The way the Yoga tradition teaches it, “I” was breathed into being from the greater Ocean of One Heart to the inner ocean of my mother’s womb. Fractals -  all the way down and all the way up.

In that interior ocean it was dark with a steady pulse of heartbeat and breath from my mother, the tides of her circulation ebbing and flowing around me.
Then whoosh, the ocean breathed out and I breathed in and found myself - a packet of ocean water - on dry land, in bright light and beginning the work it would take to be a land dweller, an individual, building my own unique shore to the ocean.

Because of the way things are, I regularly forget the Ocean in the hard work of being the shore. And – because of the way things are – I get a regular call from the Ocean to remember – to align with the tides and bring my individual life into greater harmony with universal good. Yoga has been the most powerful way that this ongoing call has gotten through to me, making sure the call keeps coming in until I pick up. And on the other end of the line is the Ocean Herself, calling me to remind me that there is much more that than just the inland fortress of my embodied, individuated life; calling me to visit my Mother, to stand at the Ocean's edge. Or – as the Tao Te Ching so beautifully puts it, to “Return to the Mother, to Source”.

I answer this call imperfectly. Sometimes I am “too busy” and ignore it altogether. But when I do answer, (by, for example, stopping my work life and spending time on my Yoga mat or meditation cushion or out in nature) I feel an incredible, whole-body relief. As Mary Oliver writes in her poem “At the Ocean’s Edge”, I know this sound, saith the body. At the Ocean’s edge I can remember that I am part of a greater whole, that I cannot do my embodied life on dry land alone, nor am I meant to do it alone.

It is strong practice to be a shoreline while also remembering the Ocean. (one of the terms for this type of practice is “Non-dual tantra"; or "Enlightened duality"). To be pulled by the tide to remember Source - that which is greater than my individual self - means I must make some necessary sacrifices, surrender some preferences and my comforts. But/ And… to be alive and embodied here on the dry land of planet earth, means I must HOLD to this life, including holding on to some life affirming preferences (which include comfort and pleasure). It’s not one thing or the other. It’s both. It’s a breathing. I continue to breathe in with a holding on to life and my piece of shoreline, to people and places I love. And I continue to breathe out. To surrender my individual breath to universal breath.
Finally and in the long run of this life of mine, I hope to become increasingly awake and intentionally vulnerable to those times when there is shifting sand under my feet, and rather than reinforce the shore line, to let it go – to return to the Mer and swim in the fluid freedom of the Ocean (while still keeping my eyes on the shore…. for now).

Mary Oliver sums it up – as she always does so well: 
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go”


  1. Loved this. Deep bow. ����

  2. It's always nourishing to return to your writing. Again and again, it refreshes body, mind and heart with the vibrancy of practice with devotion. ♥