Last night I hung out with Mary Oliver in her flower garden-- in my dreams! She had created two large sections specifically for her peonies and her roses. While she was trimming back the roses, she spoke to me about the importance of the various shades of white and pink. She described these colorful variations in terms of fabric textures like silk and linen. She took me to her bedroom to show me all the flower arrangements she’d made that day. These lush bouquets were all in the various textures of white and pink.
Mary Oliver is, as many of you know, my guru, my muse. Her poetry has become something of an obsession for me. In many ways, she has ruined me. All other poetry exists only in comparison to hers. Hardly do I find other poets who consistently inspire and provoke me the way that Mary Oliver does.
Still, I read a lot of poetry, and I read and re-read the same poems again and again. Poems are like brown rice or kale-- or lemon bars! They are meant to be digested and enjoyed with regularity. (Well, maybe not so much the lemon bars.) Just like a healthy meal provides nourishment for the body, poetry nourishes the mind and spirit. I can read a poem one day, and it can bring me to elation; that same poem a month later may make me cry or terrify me. Poems are reflections of who we are in the moment; they speak to us directly about our condition and the circumstances of our current state.
And that’s exactly how it is with the practice of yoga. The asana (postures) are like these poems. They are meant to be experienced again and again; they are meant to bring us deeper and more fully into the present moment. One day we may rise up like the phoenix out of our own ashes and stand, one-legged, with perfect poise and grace. The very next day we might tumble, helpless and confused to the mat with that same posture. Yoga, as part of its intent, is meant to be practiced in the now; the practice, if we open ourselves up to it, mirrors who we are and where we need to place our attention.
Like any spiritual practice, there are certain immediate benefits, but the real progress is in the consistency with which we are willing to show up and practice regularly. No, there isn’t a prescription for how many days a week or hours a day we should practice. How much honesty and integrity can you bring to your practice? How willing are you to face yourself eye to eye in the mirror of your heart?