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7 The Path of “WE”

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I would like to tell you more about my people.

Our story may help you to see the world anew
and to discover the majesty that lives in the hills.

My people have been upon the earth
as long as time itself, or at least so it is told.

According to legend, the Creator made Mother Earth
and dressed her with light, wind, water, stone,
plants, and animals. Then he placed my people
among his creation.

It is said that all creation lived in harmony. In all that they
did, light, wind, water, stone, plants, animals, and my
people supported one another. They had become, in the
language of my people, “WE”—that is, “as one.”

This pleased the Creator.

But this harmony did not last. Some say that a dark cloud
enveloped the earth and turned my people from the path
of light. Other say they were bound by a great cord, keeping
their feet from the sure path of stone. However it happened,
the hearts of my people began to walk backward against
creation. Darkness reigned, and the harmony was broken.

Witnessing the strife among the workmanship
of his hands, the Creator shed tears as the rain upon the
mountains. Unless creation could again be made as one,
the children of Mother Earth would be lost.

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5 The Path of Plants

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

For all who have a desire to change their walking,
nature displays in abundance the way to do it.

The answer grows all around you.

Pardon me if it seems I speak in riddles.
For I do not mean to. Riddles are obscure,
while the path to forward walking is clear—
as clear as the flowers before you.

For plants, my young friend, know a secret—
the secret to forward walking.

It seems odd to say that plants walk forward, but they do.

And it is a shame that their knowledge of
forward walking remains a secret,
for they have been speaking of it to all
who would listen, from the beginning of time.

Listen to them, my young friend,
and they will show you the way.

You can hear the secret most plainly
when you are listening from a great distance.

For the secret of plants is most obvious in plants’ absence.

This is not another riddle
but simply recognition of what is sadly true:
man sees lack much more readily than abundance.

It is when plants are absent that we learn to see them.

My learning from plants began
as I wandered across a stark desert plain.

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Medium 9781609947972

Contents

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609947972

Six: The Fifth Limb: Withdrawal of the Senses (Pratyahara)

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The world within and the world without are
two entirely separate realities.
The external world dissipates energy,
but the internal world showers blessings
that fill the vacuum created by the world
.

Swami Rama

 

In the meditation hall, where hundreds of people sit in reflective silence, a woman begins to cry. The soft gulps of emotion soon escalate into deep, piercing sobs. The room begins to vibrate with bright tension as the outburst diverts others from their inward journeys, an unwitting and unwilling audience to the woman’s sensational drama. After a few moments, the person assigned to “hold space” for those meditating quietly but firmly says, “Please. Be quiet.”

Almost immediately, she is, and the room melts into silence.

Pratyahara combines the Sanskrit words prati, meaning against or away, and ahara, translated as food. This is a practice for gaining mastery over your senses and helps to develop the peaceful mind needed to achieve a deep, meditative state. Like the physical postures and breathing (asana and pranayama), it is a stepping stone. Many masters say that pratyahara is the most neglected limb of yoga, and yet it cannot be skipped on the way to meditation (dhyana) and absorption (samadhi). In the Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar says pratyahara is when “our senses stop living off the things that stimulate.” In Western society, it is a particularly challenging practice, since our environment has evolved into a state of perpetual sensory overload. David Frawley, founding director of the American Institute for Vedic Studies, says, “Pratyahara is the key between the outer and inner aspects of yoga. It shows us how to move from one to the other.”

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One: Beginner’s Mind: The Power and the Promise

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Yoga has less to do with what you can do with your body or
with being able to still your mind than it has to do with the
happiness that unfolds from realizing your full potential
.

Yogarupa Rod Stryker

 

More often than we can count, people have said to us, “I could never do yoga. I’m not flexible” (or “I’m too hyper”). That logic is like saying, “I can’t tend to my garden—it has too many weeds in it.” Or to use a work metaphor, “I can’t clean out my email inbox. It has too many messages in it.”

It’s understandable. The sheer amount of stuff we are asked to attend to in our daily lives can be overwhelming. But when people say they lack the physicality to put their bodies into yoga poses, they are not taking into account that it is the practice that develops flexibility, balance, and a quiet mind.

In any case, yoga on the mat is only one part of the practice—one-eighth, to be exact. To use one of Jamie’s favorite analogies, the physical practice (asana) doesn’t represent the spectrum of yoga any more than looking through a knothole in a fence and seeing a pitcher throw and catch a ball gives you a complete picture of a baseball game’s nine innings. Renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who received an honorary degree from the University of Calcutta, said, “Yoga practice would be ineffectual without the concepts on which yoga is based. It combines the bodily and the spiritual in an extraordinarily complete way.”

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The Uses of Muscle

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

When I was a boy growing up on the country roads of Tennessee and Ohio, the men I knew all earned a hardscrabble living with the strength of their hands and arms and backs. They raised corn and cows, felled trees, split wood, butchered hogs, mortared bricks and blocks, built and wired and plumbed houses, dug ditches, hauled gravel, overhauled cars, drove bulldozers and backhoes, welded broken parts. They hunted game for the table in season, and sometimes out of season. Some of them had once mined coal in Appalachia or trawled for fish in the Great Lakes. Many had fought in Europe or Korea. They arm-wrestled at the volunteer fire department, smacked baseballs over fences at the schoolyard, and at the county fair they swung sledgehammers or hefted barrels to see who was the mightiest of the lot.

A brawny, joking, red-haired southern charmer who often won those contests was my father. He had grown up on a farm in Mississippi, had gone to college for a year on a boxing scholarship, had lost the cartilage in his nose during a brief Golden Gloves career. After moving north to Chicago, where he met the woman who would become my mother, he worked by turns as a carpenter, a tire builder, and a foreman in a munitions plant, until he eventually graduated to wearing a white shirt and sitting all day at a desk. He never liked the fit of a desk or a starched shirt, however, so as soon as he came home from the office he would put on overalls and go to work in the shop, garden, or barn. He could fix every machine we owned, from the car to the camera, and he needed to fix them, for we rarely had enough money to buy new ones. Although he grumbled when the tractor threw a belt or the furnace quit, as soon as he grabbed his tools he began to hum. He took pleasure in using his strength and skill, and I took pleasure in watching him. Around our house, whenever anything heavy needed lifting or anything stubborn needed loosening he was the one to do it. He could tame a maverick horse, hoist an oil-slick motor out of a car, balance a sack of oats on his shoulder, plow a straight furrow in stony ground, transplant a tree with its root-ball bundled in burlap, carry my sister and me both at once in his great freckled arms.

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Under the Influence

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

My father drank. He drank as a gut-punched boxer gasps for breath, as a starving dog gobbles food—compulsively, secretly, in pain and trembling. I use the past tense not because he ever quit drinking but because he quit living. That is how the story ends for my father, age sixty-four, heart bursting, body cooling and forsaken on the linoleum of my brother’s trailer. The story continues for my brother, my sister, my mother, and me, and will continue so long as memory holds.

In the perennial present of memory, I slip into the garage or barn to see my father tipping back the flat green bottles of wine, the brown cylinders of whiskey, the cans of beer disguised in paper bags. His Adam’s apple bobs, the liquid gurgles, he wipes the sandy-haired back of a hand over his lips, and then, his bloodshot gaze bumping into me, he stashes the bottle or can inside his jacket, under the workbench, between two bales of hay, and we both pretend the moment has not occurred.

“What’s up, buddy?” he says, thick-tongued and edgy.

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Reasons of the Body

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

My son has never met a sport he did not like. I have met a few that left an ugly tingle—boxing and rodeo and pistol shooting, among others—but, then, I have been meeting them for forty-four years, Jesse only for twelve. Our ages are relevant to the discussion, because, on the hill of the sporting life, Jesse is midway up the slope and climbing rapidly, while I am over the crest and digging in my heels as I slip down.

“You still get around pretty well for an old guy,” he told me last night after we had played catch in the park.

The catch we play has changed subtly in recent months, a change that dramatizes a shift in the force field binding father and son. Early on, when I was a decade younger and Jesse a toddler, I was the agile one, leaping to snare his wild throws. The ball we tossed in those days was rubbery and light, a bubble of air as big around as a soup bowl, easy for small hands to grab. By the time he started school, we were using a tennis ball, then we graduated to a softball, then to gloves and a baseball. His repertoire of catches and throws increased along with his vocabulary.

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Wayland

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Two blacktop roads, broken by frost and mended with tar, running from nowhere to nowhere, cross at right angles in the rumpled farm country of northeastern Ohio. The neighborhood where they intersect is called Wayland—not a village, not even a hamlet, only a cluster of barns and silos and frame houses and a white steepled Methodist church. Just north of Wayland, the army fenced in thirty square miles of ground for their bomb factory, and just to the south the Corps of Engineers built their reservoir. I grew up behind those government fences in the shadows of bunkers, and on farms that have since vanished beneath those imprisoned waters. Family visits to church began carrying me to Wayland when I was five, romance was carrying me there still at seventeen, and in the years between I was drawn there often by duty or desire. Thus it happened that within shouting distance of the Wayland crossroads I met seven of the great mysteries.

Even as a boy, oblivious much of the time to all save my own sensations, I knew by the tingle in my spine when I had bumped into something utterly new. I groped for words to describe what I had felt, as I grope still. Since we give labels to all that puzzles us, as we name every blank space on the map, I could say that what I stumbled into in Wayland were the mysteries of death, life, beasts, food, mind, sex, and God. But these seven words are only tokens, worn coins that I shove onto the page, hoping to bribe you, coins I finger as reminders of those awful encounters.

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Silence

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Finding a traditional Quaker meeting in Indianapolis would not be easy. No steeple would loom above the meetinghouse, no bell tower, no neon cross. No billboard out front would name the preacher or proclaim the sermon topic or tell sinners how to save their souls. No crowd of nattily dressed churchgoers would stream toward the entrance from a vast parking lot filled with late-model cars. No bleat and moan of organ music would roll from the sanctuary doors.

I knew all of that from having worshipped with Quakers off and on for thirty years, beginning when I was a graduate student in England. They are a people who call so little attention to themselves or their gathering places as to be nearly invisible. Yet when I happened to be in Indianapolis one Sunday this past January, I still set out in search of the meetinghouse without street address or map. My search was not made any easier by the snow lilting down on the city that morning. I recalled hearing that the North Meadow Circle of Friends gathers in a house near the intersection of Meridian and Sixteenth Streets, a spot I found easily enough. Although I could not miss the imposing Catholic Center nearby on Meridian nor the Joy of All Who Sorrow Eastern Orthodox Church just a block away on Sixteenth, the only landmark at the intersection itself was the International House of Pancakes. Figuring somebody in there might be able to direct me to the Quakers, I went inside, where I was greeted by the smell of sausage and the frazzled gaze of the hostess. No, she’d never heard of any Quakers.

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Speaking for the Land

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

At the dedication ceremony for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in June 1934, the pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold began his remarks by declaring: “For twenty centuries and longer, all civilized thought has rested upon one basic premise: that it is the destiny of man to exploit and enslave the earth. The biblical injunction to ‘go forth and multiply’ is merely one of many dogmas which imply this attitude of philosophical imperialism.”

Leopold was not shy about making such grand claims, especially when, as in this brief talk, he wished to distill a complex argument into a few words. One could cite many examples of “civilized thought,” including the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Native American cultures, that do not advocate enslavement of the Earth. And one could cite biblical injunctions that urge us to be caretakers rather than exploiters of the creation. Still, there was ample evidence in Leopold’s time that the majority of his fellow citizens regarded the Earth as purely a source of raw materials, to be mined, dammed, deforested, plowed, paved, and otherwise manipulated to suit human needs, without regard for the needs of other species and with scant regard for the needs of future generations. This attitude of “philosophical imperialism,” which wrought so much damage in the Dust Bowl years, remains powerful in our day, and is now wreaking havoc on a global scale.

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Mind in the Forest

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

I touch trees, as others might stroke the fenders of automobiles or finger silk I fabrics or fondle cats. Trees do not purr, do not flatter, do not inspire a craving for ownership or power. They stand their ground, immune to merely human urges. Saplings yield under the weight of a hand and then spring back when the hand lifts away, but mature trees accept one’s touch without so much as a shiver. While I am drawn to all ages and kinds, from maple sprouts barely tall enough to hold their leaves off the ground to towering sequoias with their crowns wreathed in fog, I am especially drawn to the ancient, battered ones, the survivors.

Recently I spent a week in the company of ancient trees. The season was October and the site was the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 15,800-acre research area defined by the drainage basin of Lookout Creek, within Willamette National Forest, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. It’s a wet place. At higher elevations, annual precipitation averages 140 inches, and even the lower elevations receive 90 inches, twice the amount that falls on my well-watered home region of southern Indiana. Back in Indiana the trees are hardwoods—maples and beeches and oaks, hickories and sycamores—and few are allowed to grow for as long as a century without being felled by ax or saw. Here in Andrews Forest, the ruling trees are Douglas firs, western hemlocks, western red cedars, and Pacific yews, the oldest of them ranging in age from five hundred to eight hundred years, veterans of countless fires, windstorms, landslides, insect infestations, and floods.

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Chapter l. The Religious: Can It Be Defined?

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Magic versus religion. In contrasting the so-called “great religions’ and others, the term magic is often employed to describe the latter. In the past, this usage was popular because it seemingly supported the superiority of the “great religions.” There, a religious ceremony, so the argument went, was designed to elevate, to praise, etc., while a magical rite of savages was thought to be able, “falsely, of course,” to manipulate the objects and circumstances of the real world.

Even when a somewhat more balanced view of non-Western humanity began to dawn, the topic of magic proved to be surprisingly slippery, despite the fact that at first blush it seemed to represent an apparently neat and well-defined category. Recognizing the difficulty, social scientists tried repeatedly to redefine the difference between religion and magic. To the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, it lay in the fact that a religious rite was obligatory, while a magical one was optional. Frazer, also much quoted on the topic of magic, subdivided the category into types, such as “contagious magic,” “imitative magic,” etc. He considered magic “false science”: Science worked, magic did not. The British social anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, consistent with his view that all cultural behavior was “functional,” i.e., directed toward the goal of satisfying physical needs, advanced the suggestion that magic had a definite practical purpose, while religious rites were expressive without purpose. Harking back to Frazer’s “false science,” he felt that magical practices attempted to bridge the hiatus between knowledge and practical control, so that magic was applied when the practitioner felt that there was an element of uncertainty involved. In a now-famous example (1954), he described how in the Trobriand Islands, where he did fieldwork in the first decade of this century, no fishing magic was used to enhance the catch and provide protection within the lagoon. Such rituals were carried out only on the high seas.

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Chapter 5: The Dangerous Spirits of Japan

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

From the benevolent spirits experienced in possession by Spiritualists, Umbandists, and Pentecostals, we now pass on to another class of spirit beings, namely, the dangerous ones. Powerful, but neither absolutely good nor absolutely evil, they represent humanity’s horticulturalist heritage (see chap. 2). They can and most of the time do act in a friendly manner, and thus on the face of it there seems to be little to distinguish them from the kindly entities we have come to know. But if crossed, they may become threatening, and it is this potential for mischief, this perceived underlying threat, that marks them as qualitatively different. They may even start out causing harm, but then turn around and come to be helpful friends. To us Westerners, whose thinking is schooled by a pervasive good/bad categorization, it is sometimes disconcerting how in a particular story a spirit who to our way of perceiving the world is clearly up to no good can still be classed as benevolent. The ancient exu spirits of Umbanda retain some of this peculiar scintillation, but they are mainly known to anthropologists from their study of surviving small horticulturalist societies, for instance in South America. Of the large modern industrial societies, Japan is the only one where they still play an important role, appearing in many of the modern sects called in the literature the New Religions.

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Two: Getting in Touch with the Spirits: The First Discoveries

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In the Protestant Christian tradition in which I was raised, it was held that the only way in which a human could communicate with the beings inhabiting the alternate reality was by prayer. But in the view of the vast majority of other traditions, speech, as the mode of communication of ordinary reality, is singularly unsuited for this purpose. It is but a hardly audible knock on the very thick wall separating humans from the spirit realm. In fact, humans have to make a truly heroic effort to be noticed on the other side. Merely talking, falling into a worshipful mood, feeling “transcendent,” “numinous,” or “oceanic,” or whatever other pompous words are listed in the dictionary, simply will not do. Instead humans, if they have the urgent necessity or desire to squeeze through the chinks in that wall, need to change the very functioning of their bodies in the most radical way. The term summarizing these changes is religious trance, one of a large group of altered states of consciousness of which humans are capable. It is termed religious because observation shows that it is the one occurring in religious context, that is, when contact is made with the alternate, the sacred, reality. (For the problem of defining “religion,” see Goodman 1988.)

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